Recently on "Super Soul Sunday," Oprah talked with American philosopher Jean Houston, author of The Wizard of Us. Here are the thought leader's wise answers to a few of Oprah's biggest questions -- about love, life... and the afterlife.
OPRAH WINFREY: What is the soul?
JEAN HOUSTON: I believe that the soul is the essence of who and what we are. It transcends our leaving this mortal coil. It is also a pain in the neck because it says, "Wake up. Don't go to sleep." I think it is also the lure of our becoming.
OPRAH: Wow! Got to take that in a minute. "The lure of our becoming." How did you even come up with those words? "The lure of our becoming." That's fantastic. Next question: What happens when we die?
JEAN: Well, I've nearly died on several occasions. When I was 19, I used to jump out of planes. One day, I hadn't packed my parachute well. And I was pulling and pulling on it and nothing was happening. My whole life from 0 to 19 went by in its own time. Not every little pork chop and Hershey bar, but.... [Then the parachute opened.] Once I had typhoid fever in Crete, and nearly died. But I had a profound sense of continuity. So I really believe that we are continuous in one way or the other....
OPRAH: In each of those examples -- at 19, with the jumping out of the plane; with the typhoid -- were you afraid of death in that moment?
JEAN: I have never been afraid of death. I've always had a sense of continuity from the time I was a child.
OPRAH: I think it was Joseph Campbell that said we're not afraid of dying, we're afraid of how we die. So, you sensed the continuity from the time you were 6 years old.
JEAN: I think it's a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. So I think we're always in process. I seem to be a verb. A becoming. And it's the lure of becoming that keeps us going on.
OPRAH: Wow. What is your definition of God?
JEAN: It varies from day to day. When I was a little girl, it was a very personal person. As I got older, it became the universe -- the universe in us. But mostly I think it is the wonderful words from Dante: "The love that moves the sun and all the stars, and moves in my heart and in yours."
OPRAH: Do you pray?
JEAN: All the time.
OPRAH: What is the central focus of your prayer?
JEAN: The first thing I ever say in the morning is, "Dear God" -- I still use that language -- "please make me be a benefit to someone or something today."
OPRAH: Yeah, mine is the same. “Use me. Use me.” Can you complete this sentence? "The world needs..."
JEAN: The world needs the sense that we are all in it together. I believe that we are here with deep purpose to become all that we can be. I believe that we are headed ultimately in the right direction. I believe that we have been given sufficient stress, crisis, complexity and consciousness to do things that are beyond our imagination, larger than our aspiration, more complex than all our dreams. I believe in love, I believe in you, I believe in me. I believe in this the most potent moment in human history.
Click through the slideshow to see other famous folks who had near-death experiences.
Liam Hemsworth faced his near-death experience in the sea. "When I was a kid, one time I got my leg rope wrapped around my whole body like a ball, under water," he told Men's Health. "Couldn't get up. I was in waist-deep water, but I almost drowned. You know, I've had a few times."
Gerard Butler had a brush with death and was seriously injured while filming the new surfing drama "Chasing Mavericks" in 2011. "It was a pretty close call. It look like a tsunami coming in. I was down. I just didn't come back up, really. I just started to think, 'Wow, I'm going to die making a movie.'" the actor told UK talk show host Graham Norton.
Eminem revealed that he came close to death when he overdosed in 2007: "I had overdosed in 2007... I pretty much almost died. I pulled through and went home and relapsed less than a month later and I literally shot back up to the amount of pills I was taking, shot right back up to where I overdosed... I scared myself, like, 'Yo... I need help. Like, I can't beat this on my own'." Read more: http://www.aceshowbiz.com/news/view/w0003987.html#ixzz2CJvCuJRp
Rocker Ozzy Osbourne has admitted that he "should’ve been dead a thousand times," but he also claims he "died" twice after an accident on a quad bike that left him in a coma for eight days in 2003. "It's all patchy. I would drift in and out of consciousness. One minute I would be walking down Beaconsfield High Street and the next I would be in Auckland, New Zealand. Other times I could step from Monmouthshire to fucking California. I went everywhere: Switzerland, Amsterdam... At one point I was convinced I was with a group of Asian fisherman off the coast of Wales. How mad is that?" he revealed, adding: "Other times there would be a white light shining through the darkness, but no f**king angels, no one blowing trumpets and no man with a white beard."
Elizabeth Taylor once spoke about her experience of having died on the operating table while undergoing surgery. The legendary actress revealed that she died for seven minutes on the operating table, and claimed that while she was clinically dead she had encounter with one of her former husbands. Taylor said Michael Todd told her that she had work and life ahead of her, and he “pushed me back to my life.”
In 1988 Gary Busey was in a serious motorcycle accident that cracked his skull and left him in a coma for a month. "I saw angels," Busey told Larry King back in 2005 of the operation that literally left him unconscious for several minutes. "I was surrounded by angels. And they don't look like what they look like on Christmas cards. They're big balls of light that float and carry nothing but love and warmth."
in 2010, Leonardo DiCaprio was on a Moscow-bound flight that had to make an emergency landing in New York after one of the plane's engines shut down.
Johnny Depp thought his days were numbered when he was on a plane and all of the sudden "the sound of the engines stopped. There was silence." "Oh s--t! This is death; I guess this is how it goes down," Depp told Live magazine of the experience.
A wet Chevy Chase was almost electrocuted on the set of "Modern Problems" when prop lights that were attached to his arm were turned on.
When Jane Seymour was 36, she learned the hard way that she was allergic to penicillin. "I literally left my body," she said of her near-death experience. "I had this feeling that I could see myself on the bed, with people grouped around me. I remember them all trying to resuscitate me. I was above them, in the corner of the room looking down. I saw people putting needles in me, trying to hold me down, doing things. I remember my whole life flashing before my eyes."
In 2010, Cheryl Cole was near death after contracting malaria while vacationing in Tanzania. "It opened my eyes to health and things I hadn't focused on before," she said of the health scare.
Sharon Stone had a near death experience when she suffered from internal bleeding after an artery at the base of her skull was torn. "When it hit me I felt like I'd been shot in the head," she told Katie Couric in an interview. "That's the only way I can really describe it. It hit me so hard it knocked me over on the sofa ... This kind of giant vortex of white light was upon me and I kind of - poof! Sort of took off into this glorious, bright, bright, bright white light and I started to see and be met by some of my friends. But it was very fast - whoosh! Suddenly, I was back. I was in my body and I was in the room."