A friend of mine invited me to watch a movie with her. She said it was something she had seen when it first came out and, knowing I hadn’t seen it, thought I would really enjoy it. That’s all she said. She wouldn’t give me the title, tell me who starred in it, or even give me a synopsis of the plot. Deciding to humor her (and wanting to spend time with her, anyway), I agreed to her “movie night”.
The movie she chose was “What Dreams May Come” starring Robin Williams. And to say I was surprised by the movie is an understatement. It was like watching my own book, “Escorting the Dead: My Life as a Psychopomp”, come to life.
The movie was based on a book by Richard Matheson, author of such books as “Bid Time Return” (which became the movie, “Somewhere in Time”) and “I am Legend” (which also became a movie with the same name). I had loved all the movies made from Mr. Matheson’s books, including this one that I had just seen, so I went to the library and got copies of his books.
Reading his words pulled at something deep within me. It was as if we were connecting on a soul level. It made me wonder just who was Mr. Matheson and how did he come to write these books; what was his inspiration. Did he have a near death experience of his own? Was his just a finely tuned imagination or was there some “secret” knowledge there?
What I found was that he wasn’t all that different from me in his beliefs and in how he built his spiritual foundations.
Fascinated by parapsychology, the paranormal, and metaphysics since boyhood, Mr. Matheson used his storytelling platform to explore and express his beliefs. Having read everything from Emanual Swedenborg and Harold Percival to Raymond Moody and Kubler-Ross, Mr. Matheson compiled his own spiritual belief system which he published in a book called “The Path”, a non-fiction account of his ideas and concepts.
That same belief system was used as the basis for “What Dreams May Come” but was expressed as a story; however, in an introductory note to the book, Matheson explains that the characters are the only fictional component of the novel. Almost everything else was based on research, and the end of the novel includes a lengthy bibliography.
Placing the material in a fictional, story-like format allowed Mr. Matheson to reach a wider audience with his ideas of how life (and death) works. His book explores a range of paranormal and spiritual concepts and puts forth his philosophy of mind over matter, that ideas are the basis of creation, and his beliefs that the human soul is immortal and that a person’s fate in the afterlife is self-imposed.
The book, which was originally published in 1978, received mixed reviews. However, Mr. Matheson considered it one of his greatest achievements and was quoted as saying, “I think ‘What Dreams May Come’ is the most important (read effective) book I’ve written. It has caused a number of readers to lose their fear of death – the finest tribute any writer could receive.”
That quote also fits me. I may not sell very many copies of my book, but that’s okay; because if my book can give even one person some comfort regarding their death or the death of someone they love, than that’s what counts. It’s really the reason why I wrote it.
So, in our own way, I guess Mr. Matheson and I do have a connection. We both developed similar belief systems and have tried to express those beliefs through our writing. It’s nice to have validation of how you think the world functions, and it’s even nicer when that validation comes to you unexpectedly and without strings.