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A woman whose book on a near-death experience sold in the millions and raised hot controversies for tending to the "New Age" now points out that the majority of those who have such an experience encounter Jesus.

The woman, Betty Eadie, of the Seattle area, has long drawn fire for several statements indicating what many Christians saw as Mormon-like or even neo-pagan interpretations of what occurred to her in 1973, when, at the age of 31, she "died" during surgery and later reported what is widely viewed as the most extensive such episode on record. In it, she discusses being embraced by the Lord -- and dedicated her book to Him. Her experience has been criticized, however, for her stands on pre-existence, reincarnation, and hynotherapy.

Born on an Indian reservation in Nebraska, Eadie had Catholic schooling and was later brought into the Church of the Latter-Day Saints. She currently identifies with no mainstream religion.

But in her latest book, The Ripple Effect, Eadie appears to have returned to a more orthodox perspective and in fact has detailed the experiences of many who have written to her indicating that Jesus is more prevalent in these experiences than is generally reported by the many medical researchers and others who have written about near-death episodes. In fact, Eadie's book -- though still subject to debate -- is in some ways an antidote to the many that have ignored the Lord during such episodes.

"I was told that all truth eventually leads to Christ -- even if we have to find Him in the [afterlife]," she says. "Each person returning to [Heaven] will come to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He was sent by Our Father to restore His Truth. Jesus is known by many names around the world, but what we call Him is not as important as what He represents, especially in the sacrifice He made to bring us home to Our Father. Christ came to earth to take superstition out of religion. Then by dying on the Cross, He opened the gateway to Heaven, showing that love will ultimately take us back to the Father."

There are still those who might take exception to Eadie's approach, noting that His Name is crucial (at it, every knee shall bend) and that it's unclear whether finding in the "next life" means the afterlife or another lifetime (the later concept forbidden, of course, by Christian teaching). She has also downplayed hell in the view of traditional Christians (though she has described a state of being similar to both hell and purgatory). Thus, we urge caution [see 1 Corinthians].

But valuable are the cases she cites that demonstrate how very central Jesus is to many near-death episodes -- which elsewhere have been portrayed more neutrally.

"I have received thousands of letters and have met many people who have visited the spirit world and met Christ there as I have," she notes. "In all my journeys I have not met a single one -- in any religion -- who has denied Christ after meeting Him on the other side.

Eadie notes -- as have researchers -- that Jesus is not always the first person met upon death. Many report angels or deceased loved ones. But there is only one Mediator, and most do swiftly encounter His Light. "Those who had not believed in Him before, often come back to find their worlds turned upside-down," she said, adding, however, that no one should judge another religion harshly.

One Jew who did not believe in Jesus saw the Lord at the end of a tunnel. "He placed His hands on my shoulders and said, 'Go back, My son; your work is not done," testified this man, who later became Catholic.

"God is pouring knowledge of His Son upon the earth," says Eadie, a mother of eight and grandmother of 15. "The awakening is for all people of all faiths. While in New York I met an Iranian Muslim. During the war between Iran and Iraq he was fatally injured. What he experienced on the other side changed him forever. He had believed all his life that Allah, or God, was divine but that Jesus was simply a good man, perhaps a prophet, who had begun a new religion. Now, as he entered the spirit world, he met Jesus and learned that He was more than a prophet; He was the literal Son of God. The man was filled with joy and was given a message to bring back to his family and friends: that Jesus Christ always awaits us with love and that we will find greater joy in turning to Him than in any other way."

[resources: The Spirits Around Us and The Other Side]

[see also: Lenten books]

[Photo above at left is Eadie with actor Kevin Costner]

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