A recent Mail Online article reported that a boy who almost died from a ruptured appendix, has said he met the dead sister he did not know existed, the story has gained widespread attention and already there is a book out. The extraordinary claims by Colton Burpo, aged four, came after twice undergoing emergency surgery. Colton soon recovered and then told his astonished parents, that he had met the sister his mother miscarried a year before his own birth, what made this even more remarkable was his parents had never spoken to him about her.
I posted the article on South African News 24, and the response was rather cynical, the readers commented. There’s been many of these types of claims, and none of them has added up to the faintest shred of proof, that heaven or God exists. At most it proves how receptive children are to suggestion –and often downright intimidation- from their parents. This just smacks of the Marjo Gotner type of hyped up American religiosity, that’s always been a ticket to a easy buck.
Marjoe Gortner was the former revivalist who first gained fame in the late 1940s, when he became the world’s youngest ordained preacher at the age of four, it was later discovered he was driven by his religious parents who would half drown him in order to force him to perform. Although I’m sure this did not happen in the Colton Burpo case, I’m inclined to agree that it sounds a bit orchestrated, some of the revelations are just too pat. Sitting with Jesus, singing angels and colourful landscapes, even the predictable Streets of Gold are conveniently accounted for.
It may be true that Colton Burpo was coached by his preacher father, yet a recent Gallup poll reveals that eight million Americans claim to have had a near-death experience, and many recounts are amazingly similar. The common tunnel experience, a feeling of being removed from the world, the sense that you are approaching a border. Encountering beings of light or dressed in white, being reunited with deceased loved ones. then a reluctant decision by oneself or others to return to one’s body. Many famous people have been in near death situations, some recounts have been captured in a book titled Death’s Door by Jean Ritchie, the accounts are amazingly similar and they can’t all be lies.
Elizabeth Taylor went to that tunnel and saw the white light, the great love of her life Mike Todd was standing there, and he told her to go back. Sharon Stone saw a giant vortex of white light, and took off into this glorious white light, she started to see and be met by some of her deceased friends. Donald Sutherland floated above his body, surrounded by a soft blue light, he began to glide down a long tunnel but suddenly found himself back in his body. Jane Seymour promised God never to take His name in vain again, Peter Sellers remembers seeing a white light which he was convinced was God, while William Petersen saw a long tunnel and a lot of white light. Outside of Peter Sellers none of the others claimed to have seen God, but the common experience was travelling on a journey, which indicated there was some other place.
Pretty convincing evidence from some really famous people, the remarkable thing is the similarity of their recollections, and there is more to come. Larry Hagman didn’t see the light some people see, perhaps he had played JR Ewing for too long, but Larry did have a wonderful feeling of bliss and warmth. Motorcycle cop Eric Estrada was in a long corridor with bright lights, beautiful music, and a feeling of great peace. Tony Bennett wrote in his autobiography of, “a golden light that enveloped me in a warm glow, I had the sense that I was about to embark on a very compelling journey. But suddenly I was jolted out of the vision … I knew I had to make major changes in my life.” Once more the journey, but to where we must ask, what lies at the end of the tunnel that everybody must traverse?
Rock star Ozzy Osbourne “died twice,” after an horrendous bike accident, which left him in a coma for eight days. Ozzy described the confusion he had felt on gradually coming around from his coma. “I didn’t know where I was or how long I’d been there. I would drift in and out of consciousness. Other times there would be a white light shining through the darkness, but no f—king angels, no one blowing trumpets and no man in a white beard.” Perhaps Ozzy should consider cleaning up his act, ask himself why other dead people were assisted by heavenly beings and not him, Peter Sellers was absolutely convinced that he had seen God.
Some doctors argue that the hallucinatory effects of Near Death Experiences, are due to high concentrations of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream, but disagreeing with this is the neuropsychiatrist Peter Fenwick of the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College London. He maintains that with cardiac arrests, everybody has high CO2 but only 10 percent have an NDE. Peter Fenwick believes that “near-death experiences, are evidence of consciousness becoming separated from the physical substrate of the brain, possibly even a glimpse of an afterlife.” I’m inclined to agree with the neuropsychiatrist, why on earth would all those famous actors lie about their experiences, and why is there so much documentation and research on Near Death Experiences (NDE)
Amongst the many websites covering NDE, one site called the NDE Research Foundation (NDERF), documents near death experiences in 20 languages. This is just one of dozens of websites on NDE, and there have been numerous studies done on the subject, NDE has certainly aroused the interest of many people. The BBC reported that in September 2008 Doctors at 25 UK and US hospitals, began a study of 1,500 survivors to see if people with no heartbeat or brain activity, can have “out of body” experiences. The study will take three years to complete, so the results should be out this year, and it will be fascinating to see the results. There is already a wealth of evidence on near death experiences, although some reports appear to be embellished, there are some authoritative voices backing NDE.
If you go to the different Websites you will discover, thousands of documented NDE cases, along with some solid supporting evidence. Cardiologist Michael Sabom described a near-death experience, where the patient described happenings in the operating room with amazing accuracy, she also mentioned a distant cousin whose death had been unknown to her. Dr. Bruce Greyson documented perhaps one of the most compelling examples of NDE, Doctor Greyson was startled when the patient described the surgeons flapping arms, the patient had been comatose under anaesthetic yet he had witnessed this idiosyncrasy of the surgeon. Doctor Kenneth Ring documented the case of a blind woman by the name of Vicki Umipeg, whose optic nerve had been completely destroyed at birth, yet she was able to see during her near death experience.
Who knows what really happens after we die, but there is enough anecdotal evidence to make me believe, there is definitely another world after death. The common tunnel experience, a feeling of being removed from the world, the sense that you are approaching a border. Encountering beings of light or dressed in white, the similarity of the stories are too frequent to be a coincidence, so what I try to do is make sure I’m always ready for the afterlife. I agree with the seventeenth-century French philosopher Blaise Pascal, who postulated the famous Pascal’s Wager, which compares belief in God against unbelief. Pascal’s Wager posits that a rational person should live as though God exists and seek to follow God, because if God does not exist such a person will have only a finite loss of some pleasures or luxury, but if God does exist then the prospect of Hell is truly terrifying.