It was over 600 years ago that Julian of Norwich had this amazing revelation – “All Shall be Well.” When we look around us, we can easily question the audaciousness of her vision’s hopefulness and serenity: how could all things possibly “be well” when we’re are surrounded by violence, savage acts of terrorism, mass murder, and war?
In this post, I want to do two things. First, Julian’s dictum is bolstered by the paranormal evidence. Her mystical truth is borne out: on the other side, all is and ever will be “well,” and that has ramifications for us in the here-and-now. Second, expanding this truth – the hopefulness, trust and serenity she offers – to today’s troubled world is not only possible and desirable but imperative.
First, a little about Julian’s life and times.
If we in 21st-century America think we have it bad, consider that Julian (1342-1420) lived much of her life during the Thirty Years War between England and France! To quote Obbard, “The plague ravished the city of Norwich when Julian was six and again when she was nineteen. More than half the population died, and the town was filled with heaps of stinking bodies… Scarcely a family remained untouched by the tragedy.”
We do not know much at all about Julian’s life, except what she has left us (as the “first lady” of written English), but we can assume that she was occupied early on by the usual chores of women of the time – weaving, cooking, sewing, food preserving and the like. We do not know her marital status, but we do know that, after a severe life-threatening illness in 1373, she became an anchoress (more on this below). This illness, which brought her great pain and a creeping paralysis, caused her to be offered the Last Rites of the church. But she did not die; instead, over the course of two days, she experienced a “‛Revelation of Love’ comprising sixteen Showings (or insights) revolving around the love of Christ.” The conclusion that is most important for our purposes is that, “while sin is part of the picture in all our lives and in the history of the world at large, in the end ‘All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.’”
Julian came to fame in her own time as an anchoress, living apart from others in the midst of Norwich’s business district. Probably assisted by a maid in her employ who ran errands and served as a go-between with the outside world, Julian most likely earned her living through sewing or other handwork. However, her primary occupation was to counsel the many men and women who came to her, one of whom was the English mystic Margery Kempe. While Julian’s context is decidedly Christian, her wisdom encompasses a broad spectrum of humankind.
Parallels with Paranormal Insights
As I conducted research on the afterlife, I came across the affirmation from all four types of evidence – scientific, near-death experiences, reputable psychics and mediums, and out-of-body experiences – that what we might refer to as heaven is eternal. The domain of souls, those who have gone before us in “death,” we ourselves when we die, and beings that have never lived on earth, is a place of love, peace and joy. There is no beginning and no end. In other words, all (everything) will be OK (for eternity).
A few examples from the paranormal literature will suffice.
Eben Alexander, author of Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, describes a “place” of indescribable beauty where vital lessons are learned. He reported three teachings: “You are loved and cherished. You have nothing to fear. There is nothing you can do wrong.” Unconditional love, he discovered, was at the base of all existence.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, further, came through to a medium for two years after his death, and his observations are recorded in Ivan Cooke’s Arthur Conan Doyle’s Book of the Beyond. Among many other things, Doyle reported that the truly great person is the one “who recognizes, not his own desires, but the infinite and eternal power of love.” This insight tells us about God: We “do not see a God vindictive or cruel, but an infinite love, a divine and compassionate intelligence.”
Tom and Lisa Butler, directors of the Association TransCommunication, have extensive experience communicating with souls that have crossed over. Their conclusion: “there is no death, and there are no dead.”
Finally, a paranormal group in Germany received a clear etheric telephone message in 1987 from a paranormal investigator who had crossed over a few years earlier. The message read in part, “You will have eternal life after you pass over. . . Do not be afraid of dying, for there is no death.”
Julian’s “all shall be well,” then, is confirmed widely for us in our own day, if we know where to look. Can we harness that truth in our own lives? And, taking it beyond the individual, can we use it in the service of the world?
Taking the High Road: A Sampling of Recent Diplomatic Victories
If we are still not convinced that “all shall be well,” and that it is a silly, naïve and futile belief, let’s ask ourselves: what is the alternative? Do we want to continue in the despair, fear and hopelessness that is all around us? Or can we dare to look inside our situation, with honesty, and see how we might live into this sublime wisdom? Are there things that Julian of Norwich, along with the paranormal evidence, can teach us about resting in hopefulness and trusting in the eternal good? What might “all shall be well” mean in our culture and on the world stage?
If we can get beyond the negative headlines and look back in recent history, we can ponder some instances when it has been diplomacy, cooperation, collaboration and mutual trust – a national- and international-level hope and trust – that have triumphed and brought peace. We might also be able to see that in no ways were nations “weak” when these accomplishments took place; rather, they showed the greatest kind of strength, the best hope for humankind and the common good.
- The Marshall Plan. As most of us are aware, World War II took the lives of 60-80 million people worldwide and decimated hundreds of cities, including their irreplaceable monuments and antiquities. The victors could easily have done what so many other cultures have done in the past and brutally suppressed the vanquished. Rather, the allies and the United Nations immediately began offering aid and, in 1947, US Secretary of State, George Marshall, and others crafted the European Recovery Program, later known as the Marshall Plan. “Sixteen nations, including Germany, became part of the program and shaped the assistance they required, state by state, with administrative and technical assistance provided through the Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA) of the United States. European nations received nearly $13 billion in aid, which initially resulted in shipments of food, staples, fuel and machinery from the United States and later resulted in investment in industrial capacity in Europe. Marshall Plan funding ended in 1951.”
- Despite what so-called “euroskeptics” say, the alliance known as the European Union also arose out of the ashes of World War II – but things could have gone very differently. The leaders of France and Germany, primarily, decided that it was time for them to stop killing each other, so they, along with Belgium, Holland, Italy and Luxembourg, formed an area of free trade for the coal, steel and iron ore resources, chosen for their key role in industry and the military. The EU has its weaknesses and drawbacks, but it has prevented major conflicts on the European continent for 70 years, and its basic ethos is one based on humanitarian, peaceful and trusting principles.
- Camp David Accords. I personally am somewhat pessimistic that the Middle East will ever become a peaceful corner of the world – the problems just seem to be too intractable – but trying to bring peace is certainly a worthy goal. (Again, in a nuclear age, what are the alternatives?) Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and US President Jimmy Carter signed the Camp David Accords on September 17, 1978, in Washington, DC. The Accords were not perfect, and Sadat and Begin were both tragically assassinated, but the agreement ended decades of conflict and was a monumental step forward in trust, hope and peace-building.
- The Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia is another example of a peaceful transition from one way of governance to another. While the riots of November 1989, sparked by protests led by university students, became violent when riot police blocked escape routes, subsequent near-daily protests led to “the appointment of the country’s first non-communist government in more than four decades and the election of Vaclav Havel, a playwright turned dissident, to the post of president.” The whole event lasted only 10 days, with the defeat of the communist government. While this is not an example of diplomacy per se, it is one of courage, persistence, trust in non-violent measures, and hope that there is a better way.
- Iran Nuclear Deal. While it is early yet, and things could still go wrong, we will add the recent pact between the US, United Kingdom, France, China, Russia, Germany and Iran to this list. Secretary of State John Kerry and his counterparts worked tirelessly for months to work out the plan’s details, and the State Department reports in July 2016 that it is “fragile but working.”
Can we make a pact among ourselves in America that the next time we fall into despair, instead of wringing our hands, calling for more violence, and ramping up the rhetoric we think of Julian of Norwich and ponder how we can tap into the sublime wisdom of “All shall be well”? By keeping level heads and trying out sanity, rationality, and the “higher road,” trust, hope and peace might actually prevail.
Abrahamsen, Valerie A. Paranormal: A New Testament Scholar Looks at the Afterlife. Manchester Center, VT: Shires Press, 2015.%