The world still mourns the loss of Robin Williams' light in our lives and we miss the laughter he shared with us throughout his life. Robin took his life on the morning of August 11, 2014, at his home in Paradise Cay, California. His ashes were scattered in San Francisco Bay on August 12. Now, in the aftermath of his death, many fans still wonder about his beliefs and interest in the afterlife. In the studies of an afterlife in suicide attempts and ensuing near-death experience stories, it is important that we consider one's relationship to those experiences – particularly in spiritual beliefs.
With the number of recent deaths attributed to suicide, especially Robin Williams, there is the question, “What happens to us when we die by suicide?” There are as many beliefs as there are religions and forms of spirituality. What did Robin Williams believe about death, the afterlife and the spiritual consequences of his desperate action?
Robin Williams was a member of the Episcopal Church. Williams’ father was Episcopalian. The Episcopal Church does not believe suicide is a sin. His mother was a devout Christian Scientist follower with the same beliefs in suicide the Christian Science website says, "The tragedy is a snapshot in time, but it is not the end of their life story. God is both just and merciful and does not condemn anyone to everlasting punishment or unfulfilled purpose. Life is eternal, and eventually we will all awaken to our true spiritual nature as the loved and living children of God." This would have left Robin with a very different view of suicide and death. Robin described his denomination in a comedy routine as "Catholic Lite -same rituals, half the guilt." He also described himself as an "honorary Jew," and on Israel's 60th Independence Day in 2008, he appeared in Times Square along with several other celebrities to wish Israel a "happy birthday. He seemed to be open to many spiritual interests.
He was plagued with drug and alcohol addiction and financial struggles throughout his career and most definitely in the throes of the most severe form of depression at the time of his death for many reasons, specifically the cancellation of his show, The Crazy Ones. Tmz.com reports that according to sources, who frequently interacted with Williams during the last month of his life, Williams viewed the cancellation as a "personal failure". Tmz.com also reports that according to sources, who frequently interacted with Williams during the last month of his life, the cancellation after only 1 season sent Robin into a tailspin -- as one person said, "It hit him hard" -- and that's why he entered the Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center last month -- not for substance abuse, but for depression. Tmz also revealed that Robin knew he had early stage Parkinson's disease for 5 months and "was told by doctors the medications were so great he wouldn't even start to show symptoms for 6 or 7 years."
In this desperate situation, how did Robin consider his spiritual beliefs? There were certainly influences of another belief such as reincarnation? A most intriguing claim by Walter Semkiw, MD, creator of and researcher for the Institute for the Integration of Science, Intuition and Spirit, hints at Robin’s possible interest in reincarnation.
Walter Semkiw, MD, creator of and researcher for the Institute for the Integration of Science, Intuition and Spirit, claims that in 2013, a hi-tech entrepreneur friend who was interested in funding Dr. Semkiw’s research and seeking others to also buy into the doctor’s endeavors. In the article, Dr. Semkiw explains that his friend lived in the Sea Cliff neighborhood of San Francisco. As they talked one day, the friend told him of a neighbor and potential investor who was very interested in the afterlife and the research into karma, past lives and reincarnation. The neighbor was none other than Robin Williams.
Dr. Semkiw says that his friend and Robin would get together at least once a month, smokes cigars, discuss life and both had a mutual interest in reincarnation research. We can imagine Semkiw’s excitement to this revelation. The friend stated that he was sure that Robin would contact him because of his interest in the subject. However, Robin Williams never did contact Semkiw. Was Robin truly considering reincarnation as a possibility? (Robin Williams did indeed live in Sea Cliff at that point in time in 2013, but he subsequently moved to Tiburon, where he committed suicide in August 2014.)
In near-death studies, those who have “died” by their own hand and survived relay stories to us. Almost all survivors claim to be telepathically “told” in this journey it was “not their time,” and they are given a glimpse of Heaven and often Hell. Most all who experienced a near-death experience by attempting suicide, came back with a new passion and love for God and understand the value of the gift they attempted to give back, when it was “not their time.” There are several indications that God loves, understands, forgives, and assists everyone—even those who take their own lives. This is especially the case for people who suffer intractable physical pain, severe emotional distress, or mental confusion because of alcohol/drug abuse or abnormal brain chemistry.
In Life After Life, Dr. Raymond Moody, considered the “father of near-death experience studies and the person who first coined the phrase near-death experience, discussed NDEs as a result of suicide attempts: “These experiences were uniformly characterized as being unpleasant . . . the conflicts they had attempted suicide to escape were still present after they died, but with added complications. In their disembodied state they were unable to do anything about their problems, and they also had to view the unfortunate consequences which had resulted from their acts.” They felt a long stay in an unpleasant limbo state was “their penalty for ‘breaking the rules’ by trying to release themselves prematurely from what was, in effect, an ‘assignment’—to fulfill a certain purpose in life.”
While assisting subjects to recall their time spent in their near-death experience time, Michael Newton, Ph.D., author of Journey of Souls, he asked a deeply hypnotized subject who committed suicide in a “past” life: “When a person kills himself on earth does this mean they will receive some sort of punishment as a spirit?" Subject: "No, no, there is no such thing here as punishment—that’s an earth condition. . . . By choosing to die as I did, means I have to come back later and deal with the same thing all over again in a different life. I just wasted a lot of time by checking out early.” A growing Western thought sees reincarnation as the soul’s eternal progression to higher planes of spiritual knowledge and understanding and past lives - a milder version of Eastern doctrine of Buddism (never coming back as a human) and Hinduism (Karma and spiritual elevation.)
In September 2013, Robin Williams participated in a Reddit AMA. Fans could ask anything they wanted. Robin was asked “What was the most valuable thing you learned about your acting from that movie (What Dreams May Come) and what criticism stuck with you the most afterwards?” Robin replied, “That every moment in life is precious? That the gifts of your relationships with others don't miss it. That was one of the hardest movies I think I ever did in my whole career. Every day was literally hell, because of the nature of the subject matter, dealing with death and being in hell literally. When I watched the final movie, I felt it was extraordinarily beautiful but I felt disappointed by the ending. There was a different ending that they shot that I felt was much truer to the story. It was about reincarnation, basically, that they were going to meet again. (Again, Robin's disappointment in the movie's finalization in a serious ending of proof of reincarnation.) He continued, "The movie ended with two babies being born simultaneously, one in Bombay and one in the United States, they held them up, and then the screen went to black. “
One would hope that for Robin, the final death experience would be much like Dr. Chris Nielsen (Williams) his character in “What Dreams May Come,” but, without the trip through Hell. The movie does have to do with reincarnation. The film was among a group of titles from Williams’ roughly 50-film career that quickly rose to the top of the charts on both Amazon and iTunes. As of this week, What Dreams May Come was the 45th most-downloaded movie on iTunes, and the 40th top-selling movie on Amazon. Interestingly enough, What Dreams May Come author Richard Matheson was raised in the ways of Christian Science. It was apparent in Richard Matheson's book and the movie reflected Hindu thought and its explanation of cremation.
Unfortunately, we will never know what our beloved Robin truly encountered in the afterlife until it is “our time.” No one was privy to his last moments and perhaps his final conversation with God. "I like to imagine Robin Williams is in the heaven he goes to in What Dreams May Come, just painting a perfect landscape with his true love," wrote a fan named Ryland. “He was great in "What Dreams May Come" and now he gets to find out if his Heaven is exactly as he made it,” tweets The Partridge Family star Danny Bonaduce.
To quote Robin Williams playing a character quoting Walt Whitman: “What good amid these, O me, O life? Answer. That you are here — that life exists.”
The most essential moral at the end of these kinds of sad, terrible stories is that we are meant for joy and love. We are all meant for life. Moreover, as long as we can still draw breath, there is joy and love here. These are the forces that brought the whole universe into being and the forces that sustain it, us and all life. Life exists, and we are made to live it.
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, please never give up the precious gift of life. There is hope, there are people who care and have been in your situation. Talk to someone. If you feel like prayer and if friends and family aren't enough, there are counselors available at these hotline numbers or websites to talk to you about how you are feeling:
National Suicide Prevention Hotline:
Deaf Hotline: 1-800-799-4TTY (1-800-799-4889)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: