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Excerpted from Reaching to Heaven by James Van Praagh. Copyright 1999 by James Van Praagh. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Putnam, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"I believe that within each of us lie the answers, in that invisible, undefined part called the soul."

James Van Praagh
Reaching to Heaven
, Part 1

"Where do I come from?" How many times have you thought about your existence? Have you found a satisfactory explanation to your inquiry? Throughout the ages, philosophers, scientists, scholars, and religious teachers have tried to give satisfactory answers to the question of existence. For centuries pilgrims have traveled thousands of miles over treacherous snow-covered mountains for an audience with a sacred lama in hopes of learning the secrets of life. Others have searched for meaning in the galaxies or in the laboratory. Today, many of us seek such answers in churches, synagogues, and mosques, relying on our priests, ministers, and rabbis to supply such revelations.

And yet, I believe that within each of us lie the answers, in that invisible, undefined part called the soul. The soul is our spiritual core, the divine spark within us that was, is, and always will be. It has traveled the width and breadth of the universe, through all the eons of time, recording within it the lessons of a never-ending existence. It is the quintessence of who we are.

Unfortunately, all too few of us know how to tap into that light that burns so brightly inside us. Could it be that we've forgotten something so profound? Or have we been distracted, wandering in a labyrinth, validating our existence and measuring our self-worth by unhealthy family conditioning and distorted societal values? To reconnect to our true selves, we must escape this maze of external expectations. We must turn inward to listen to the voice of God - a voice that, once realized, gives meaning to life. We must recover our "sense of soul."

With that in mind, I have written this book as a sort of "portrait" of the soul as it journeys through life, death, and rebirth. In the first part of the book, I explain what it means to be spiritual, to be a soul living a physical existence, and how the mind creates its experiences. We will look at the various layers of the soul and how these parts contain a record of all its existences throughout time. The journey continues through the process of death. I will explain what happens when you die, where your soul goes, and the levels of existence that you may encounter in the spirit world, which vary with each individual. My purpose is to show that death is painless and natural and that there is nothing to be afraid of.

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