To Die is Gain: Near-Death Experience and the Art of Dying Before We Die
Johann Christoph Hampe
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“If dying is not oppression, my knowledge that I am going to die will no longer oppress me. Instead of making me feel melancholy it will expand and deepen me.”
Simultaneous with Raymond Moody’s landmark book Life After Life, Johann Christoph Hampe independently “discovered” near-death experiences in the 1970s. Though both authors explored the phenomenon as possible evidence for life after death, Hampe took a very different approach and produced a profound, thoughtful, meditative exploration of “dying before we die.” Hampe wrote To Die is Gain after he himself recovered from temporary clinical death caused by a serious illness and had personally experienced “dying seen from within,” as he put it. This lends weight and poignancy to his reflections, particularly concerning the implications of NDEs for our time here on Earth. Hampe shows how we can gain a new vision of life from a deeper knowledge of dying, and coming to terms with our own death.
The book created a great stir on its first appearance in Germany, though this translation appeared only after the NDE “boom” in the English-speaking world, when the focus of research had already been established. To Die is Gain is thus an important though neglected classic on the spiritual and philosophical meanings of NDEs, unique for being wholly uninfluenced by contemporary near-death studies. In other circumstances, for its insight and social significance, the book might have rivalled Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s On Death and Dying.
To Die is Gain is a remarkable look into the dynamics, emotions, myths, and human concerns with death, dying, and beyond. Many of the NDE case studies Hampe presents will be unfamiliar to readers, and are drawn from a wide range of sources and interviews.
Praise for To Die is Gain
“The accounts of the dying which he has surveyed and included in the text provide an empirical foundation, for all who are open to recognize it, for understanding the peacefulness and joy of dying.” ~ Prof. George Fitchett, author of Assessing Spiritual Needs and Professional Spiritual & Pastoral Care.
“Hampe attempts to illustrate the experience of death as lived from within. He came to the conclusion that, far from being anticipated with fear and dread, death should be experienced as a gain. The presence of some commonalities in the accounts he collected made him conclude that these experiences were something more than dreams and hallucinations.” ~ Prof. Ornella Corazza, author of Near-Death Experiences: Exploring the Mind-Body Connection.
“… an interesting book which examines, among other things, the testimony of some people who have clinically died and been brought back to life. ... Hampe seems justified when he states that our present fearful attitudes to dying are not justified. It can be a release into a new and inspiring order of being. Most of his case histories are of people who expressed real regret at being ‘brought back.’” ~ William Purcell, Expository Times.
“Hampe’s unjustly neglected work represents the very first attempt from within the context of theology to investigate the phenomenon that only later became known as the ‘near-death experience.’ The book contains a number of virtues which might be expected to be of interest to anybody concerned to take such experiences seriously, especially theologians and philosophers. Hampe was the first to consider the implications of such experiences for our evaluation of mind-body dualism, the first to consider such experiences in detail in the light of Biblical teaching, the first to suggest that such experiences may be used therapeutically with the dying and the bereaved, and the first to posit the possibility that such experiences may have enormous implications for theologians more generally grappling with the problem of the meaning of death.” ~ Mark Fox, PhD, author of Religion, Spirituality, and Near-Death Experience.
“Hampe challenges some of the traditional fears, presuppositions, and definitions concerning death and dying. The reader will find much of value in the first two chapters, in which the author draws together an excellent compend of reactions to death from a number of different disciplines and viewpoints.” – Concordia Theological Quarterly.
“Well-constructed and lucid.” ~ Prof. Ursula King, University of Bristol.
“Offers good practical steps for dealing more fairly with dying…No matter how we have lived in thought and deed, death is a beneficent leveler for everyone.” ~ Prof. Ludwig R. Dewitz, Columbia Theological Seminary.