I recently read Stafford Betty's new book, Heaven and hell Unveiled, a follow-up to his earlier effort, The Afterlife Unveiled (discussed here). In both books, Professor Betty, who teaches religious studies at California State University in Bakersfield, compiles excerpts from channeled literature to provide an overview of the next world.
It's an interesting read, and I recommend it. Though I've read a fair amount of channeled material, much of what Betty includes was new to me. I was particularly intrigued by an extended excerpt that purportedly originated from a soul who'd experienced hellish conditions. The case was that of a spoiled young woman who deliberately sabotaged a female friend's marriage out of spite, and ended up wrecking three lives. After passing on, she finds herself trapped in darkness with only her thoughts as companions - a fitting state of affairs for someone whose earthly life was characterized by narcissistic self-absorption. After a very long time in the dark she is able to approach the still-living man whose marriage she broke up, only to find herself unable to communicate with him. This, for her, is an agony worse than solitude. We are told that she eventually found a path to redemption, though the details are not specified. The whole narrative, as a depiction of a soul trapped in a prison of its own making, strikes me as far more credible than the gruesome tableaus of torture and fire offered by evangelical preachers and Dante's Inferno.
For more details on the book, I'd suggest reading Michael Tymn's excellent review at the Amazon sales page.
On a personal level, I have somewhat mixed feelings about channeled material of this kind. By its nature it cannot be verified; it lacks the evidential qualities of mediumistic communications about earthly matters. Though there is a fair degree of consistency in the reports, there are also glaring inconsistencies, as Betty concedes; most notably, there are considerable differences of opinion on reincarnation. There also are details I find hard to accept - the idea, for instance (not specifically mentioned in Betty's excerpts, but often found in the literature), that spirits spend their leisure time attending new plays by Shakespeare and new symphonies by Mozart. I suppose this is not impossible (though it would be interesting to know just who they mean by Shakespeare), but it strikes me as a bit silly, almost like a child's conception. Then again, Jesus said one must be like a little child to enter the kingdom of heaven ...
The overarching point stressed by Heaven and Hell Unveiled is that the ultimate purpose of souls is loving service to others. This is another aspect of the channeled literature that leaves me somewhat nonplussed. There is, for one thing, a certain worrying circularity to it: if A's purpose is to serve B, and B's purpose is to serve A, then what overall purpose is there? On a more personal note, I find the idea of ceaseless service rather off-putting. As someone who has spent an inordinate amount of time in recent years caring for ill relatives, I'm not sure I would look forward to an eternity of altruism. There's such a thing as caregiver burnout, even when the care-giving lasts only a decade or so. A trillion millennia of it would exhaust even the most bountiful spirit, I would think. Isn't there any room in the next world for creative work, artistic inspiration, scientific discovery? Well, maybe that's where those Shakespeare plays and Mozart symphonies come in. But then we're back to the "boggle threshold," at least in my case.
For me, the bottom line is that much of this material probably reflects some kind of existential reality, but it has probably been contaminated by subconscious beliefs and prejudices, and possibly by telepathically or clairvoyantly acquired information, as well. Just how much of it is trustworthy, and how much is an imaginative construction built on spiritualist tropes that go back at least as far as Emanuel Swedenborg's writings, is impossible to say.
In the 19th century it was the practice for newspapers to print reports that could not yet be verified under the disclaimer, "Important If True." The Victorian writer Alexander Kingslake opined that churches should have the same motto chiseled above their entrances. I'd argue that the words apply equally well to channeled scripts that lack any empirical means of verification. They probably do point in the general direction of the truth - there is enough consistency in them, and enough consistency with NDEs and deathbed visions, to suggest that much. But when it comes to the details, even details as large as reincarnation and the ultimate purpose of existence, we may just have to wait to find out.