Dr. Lynn Johnson has kindly called my attention to an article that appeared in yesterday’s Epoch Times: “Depressed Woman Dies on Operating Table, Sees Heaven and Future Events, Returns to Life a New Person.” It’s a good example, and a pretty representative one, of a near-death experience, and I want to call attention to certain aspects of it:
At twenty-one, Tricia Barker was depressed and suicidal. In fact, she attempted suicide. But she woke up, still quite alive, thirty-six hours or so after ingesting a substantial dose of pills and alcohol. Trying to get herself back on track, she resolved to train for a ten kilometer race. After weeks of preparation, though, en route to the actual race itself, she was seriously injured in a head-on-collision. She suffered internal injuries, she couldn’t feel her legs, and her back was broken in multiple locations. Unfortunately, too, she was uninsured. So she lay in the hospital for nearly twenty-four hours without painkillers while a surgeon was located who was willing to operate on her.
When she finally made it to the operating table, she was placed under anesthesia. And, instantly, she had an out of body experience:
“’The anesthesiologist put the mask over me and then I was out of my body,’ she said, snapping her fingers to show how quickly it happened.”
This surprised her very much, because she was a religious agnostic and she didn’t have any particular expectation of a life after death. (Some critics of NDEs dismiss them as mere wish-fulfillment fantasies; we’ve been trained all our lives, they say, to anticipate life beyond the grave so, when we’re in some sort of near-death trauma, we imagine that we’re entering into the very postmortal realm that we had imagined. Tricia Barker’s is merely one among many, many cases, though, suggesting otherwise.)
“’At the time, I was agnostic and so I was so shocked the spirit goes on. I wanted to pop back in my body, wake up, and tell all my friends, ‘Hey, we do go on!'” she recounted in a video she made, sharing her experience.”
She saw her own body lying on the operating table. Her back had been opened up by the surgical team, and there was a great deal of blood. But that wasn’t all. Two angels appeared and helped to calm her down. She reports that she somehow saw them “send light” through the surgeons and into her body, which assured her that the surgical procedures would be successful and that she would be okay.
But then she saw the electrocardiogram “flat line.” Deciding that she didn’t want to watch that any more, she immediately found herself in the hallway of the hospital where her family had gathered to await the outcome of her surgery. While there, she watched her stepfather buy and eat a candy bar from a vending machine.
And that little detail, folks, is really quite important.
Why? Her stepfather was something of a health nut who would almost never eat a candy bar. Nervous, though, and perhaps both hungry and bored, he bought one this time. And he ate it. And she watched him do it. And he later acknowledged that, yes, he had bought and eaten a candy bar.
Such incidents — witnessed during out-of-body experiences and independently verified — are commonly called “veridical perceptions.” They are deeply significant because, if they are accurately reported, they constitute facts that the subject of the near-death or out-of-body experiencer could not have known through ordinary means. In this case, Tricia was unconscious, under anesthesia — in fact, “flat lining” — in an operating room while her stepfather purchased that candy bar out in the hallway. And yet she saw him do it.
The great Harvard psychologist and philosopher William James famously observed that all that is required in order to prove that not all crows are black is to identify one white crow. If even one case of “veridical perception” is true, then the doctrine that the mind is nothing more than the physical, localizable brain seems definitely false. If even one such case is true, it demonstrates that thought and perception are not reducible to the gray matter inside our skulls.
There are, however, many such cases on record. For example, Dr. Jan Holden, a professor at the University of North Texas and a long-time NDE researcher, has identified about one hundred instances of veridical perception.
Tricia Barker recalls that she also heard the silent but earnest prayers of her mother, her aunt, and others. They were so sorrowful, that she began to want to go back. But she was conflicted. Before her, she says, was a wonderful light, and it made her want to move toward it — and further away from mortal, earthly life. “The light was so incredible,” she says. “I had never felt any love like that — a mom’s love, romantic love, nothing could compare.”
She found herself in a field that, she reports, was more real and more beautiful than anything she had ever seen on Earth. And her deceased grandfather was there.
She experienced a “life-review,” seeing her interactions with others and feeling the effect that her own actions had had on others. Nevertheless, and although she felt remorse for some of the things that she had done, she didn’t feel judged or condemned.
Like so many others who have had such experiences, she didn’t want to return. But she was told that she must. And one of the reasons for that was that she was supposed to tell others that there is, in fact, an afterlife, and that people don’t need to fear death.
Unlike The Purchase and Eating of the Candy Bar, of course, hearing the prayers of others and seeing the wonderful light and the beautiful field and encountering a dead grandparent and undergoing a life-review, though intrinsically far more significant, cannot be independently verified. They may be instances of “veridical perception,” but we can’t objectively prove them to be so. However, that verifiable vending machine candy bar does definitely enhance their credibility,