Barry Eaton

"Afterlife"

(Allen & Unwin)

By Nicola Silva

Recently, an acquaintance phoned me out of the blue; he was struggling, he said. About 12 months previously, he had lost his wife to cancer and understandably still missed her dreadfully. Although glad that his wife was finally at peace after suffering for so long, nevertheless, he and his teenage daughter remained overwhelmed by their loss. To those on the outside it appeared that the family was coping bravely; he knew it was finally time to reach out for help. At the time I hadn't read Barry Eaton's book Afterlife but anyone who is grieving for a loved one will find in its pages both hope and comfort.

It takes a certain amount of boldness to write about life after death, for this is an area of strongly held beliefs and deep emotions. Those who speak with authority on the afterlife are usually the leaders and ministers of established religions. Barry Eaton is an astrologer, medium, broadcast journalist and presenter of an Internet radio program with the intriguing title, "Radio out there". His comments on the afterlife are not gospel, but surely that's the point?

How do we discover the afterlife and interact with those on the other side? The ancient Greeks used mythology; religious people find consolation in their particular set of beliefs, but inevitably we seek simple human reassurance as we come to terms with our bereavement. How are our loved ones faring? What does dying feel like and what really happens after death?

Eaton answers these questions through the lens of his own past life experience as Brian, a 19 year old soldier fighting in the devastating Battle of the Somme where 58,000 British troops were killed on 1 July 1916, the first day of the encounter. Eaton paints a vivid picture of the terrors and degradations of trench warfare and the impact this has on an individual's psyche continuing after death.

As the reader follows Brian's shade beyond the battlefields, Eaton unravels the process of dying with sensitivity. It is comforting to read that the crossing from this life to the next is not lonely. Loved ones, guides, even pets who have already passed are often there to greet and guide the new arrival.

Eaton's vision of the afterlife is blissful and peace-filled, particularly in Brian's case as he requires much healing to overcome the trauma of his war death.

There is, however, no getting away from accounting for one's past actions while alive. The surprise here is that small details and passing acts of generosity and kindness are profoundly important because these are often moments of unconditional love: "We come to see that these were the gestures that mattered, because they were loving in nature."

Although I don't agree with everything Eaton says, I thoroughly enjoyed reading his book. Using a range of reports, anecdotes, exploratory research, his work as a medium and past life regression, Eaton weaves together a plausible picture of life beyond the veil. If you ever wanted to know what people do in the afterlife you will be pleasantly surprised. He also expounds on experiences in the tunnel, karma, soul groups, the Akashic Records and the inter-life period.

Many people are uncomfortable with the idea of death or afraid of what it potentially represents - the end of all we have known, experienced and loved on earth. Eaton treats death as if it were a new beginning and this is deeply comforting. I don't want to sound morbid but some day we will encounter the great unknown for ourselves. Till then, though, books such as Afterlife add to our collective knowledge of life beyond the grave.

Nicola Silva

Nicola Silva is a journalist and writer based in Sydney