Thousands of people have reported near-death experiences - the experience of floating free of their body during clinical death. There are so many reports from all over the world, some of them well documented, that serious researchers no longer doubt that NDEs occur. While some still argue that NDEs can be explained away as hallucinations, there is no materialist explanation that covers all the diverse phenomena reported. It seems increasingly likely that NDEs do indeed offer a glimpse of what happens after we die. In fact, anyone who has ever wondered what it feels like to die would be well advised to study the NDE literature - especially the work of respected researchers like Michael Sabom and Kenneth Ring.
That doesn't mean, however, that all the claims made by NDE survivors are equally credible. Sometimes the people who get the most publicity are the ones whose testimony is the least verifiable. A possible case in point is Dannion Brinkley, who has undergone a total of three NDEs. One of Brinkley's most publicized claims is that during his first NDE, in 1975, he was given detailed visions of the future. These visions were presented in his bestselling book Saved by the Light, which was published in 1994.
The first thing to note is that 1994 is a long time after 1975. Unless there is independent verification of Brinkley's claim that he predicted these events as early as 1975, we are justified in being a bit skeptical. After all, anyone can claim to have predicted something after the fact.
Even so, let's assume that Brinkley did indeed see these visions back in 1975. How accurate are they?
There were thirteen major visions, summarized here. (All quotes come from this summary, which appears to be taken directly from Brinkley's book.) We'll take them in order.
Visions One through Three "showed the mood of America in the aftermath of the war in Southeast Asia. [It] revealed scenes of spiritual loss in our country that were byproducts of that war, which weakened the structure of America & eventually the world."
But in 1975, America was already demoralized by Vietnam (and Watergate). So this vision hardly counts as a prediction of the future.
I could see America falling into enormous debt. This came to me as scenes of money going out of a room much faster than it was coming in. Through some kind of telepathy, I was aware that this money represented the increase in the national debt & that it spelled danger down the road. I also saw people waiting in long lines for the basics of life like clothing & food.
So far the national debt has not caused an economic collapse. Quite the contrary - America is the most prosperous country in the world (and our national debt is not that large as a percentage of our assets).
[I saw] people rioting & looting because they wanted more material goods than they had, kids shooting other kids with high-powered rifles, criminals stealing cars, young men firing on other young men from the windows of cars.
There were riots throughout the mid to late 1960s, so a prediction of further riots was not much of a stretch. The crime rate was already escalating markedly by the '70s - again, not much of a prediction.
I found myself facing the seal of the president of the U.S. I don't know where I was, but I saw the initials "R.R." emblazoned beneath this seal. Then I was standing in the midst of newspapers, looking at their editorial cartoons. One after the other, I saw cartoons of a cowboy. He was riding the range or shooting down bad guys in saloons ... The dates on the newspapers ranged from 1983 to 1987, & it was clear from the nature of the drawings that they were about the president of the U.S., who projected the image of being a cowboy to the rest of the world. I could also tell that the man in these cartoons was an actor, because they all had a theatrical look to them.
Of course, this could be a successful prediction of Ronald Reagan's presidency (although Brinkley says that when he was later asked to guess who "R.R." was, he thought it would be Robert Redford). If in fact Brinkley experienced this vision in 1975, then he got this one right.
Visions Four and Five were "scenes from the Middle East, showing how this area of eternal strife would reach a boiling point. Religion would play a large role in these problems, as would the economy."
Strife in the Middles East was nothing new in 1975, and religion and the economy were always involved. Brinkley gets no points for this prediction.
I heard a Being speak telepathically to me & say that the country of Jordan would exist no more. I did not hear the name of the new country.
[Israel created] a police force composed of Israelis & Arabs. This was a very harsh police force, cruel & unyielding. I saw them wearing blue-&-silver uniforms & having a tight grip on the people of this region. So tight was their grip, in fact, that world leaders became highly critical of Israel....
I could see Israel becoming isolated from the rest of the world. As things worsened, there were images of Israel preparing for war against other countries, including Russia, & a Chinese-&-Arab consortium. Jerusalem was somehow at the eye of this conflict ... These visions revealed Israel as being spiritually hollow. I had the sense of it being a country of strong government but weak morals. Image after image came of Israelis reacting with hatred toward Palestinians & other Arabs, & I was steeped in the sense that these people as a nation had forgotten God & were now driven by racial hatred.
Frankly, this sounds rather anti-Semitic to me, an example of the tendency to blame Israel for aggressive moves made against it by neighboring countries. In any event, Jordan has not changed its name or ceased to exist, Israel has not created a police force comprised of Israelis and Arabs, and so far there has been no war between Israel and a Russian-Chinese-Arab coalition. No points for this one.
[I saw] oil being used as a weapon to control the international economy. I saw images of Mecca & then of the Saudi people. While these images streamed before me, a telepathic voice said that oil production was being cut off to destroy America's economy & to milk money from the world economy. The price of oil was going up & up, said the voice, & Saudi Arabia was making an alliance with Syria & China....
I wondered where this alliance began, & I was able to see a close-up of Syrians & Chinese signing papers & shaking hands in a building that I knew was in Syria. The date that came to me was 1992. Another date came to me - 1993 - & with it came images of Syrian & Chinese scientists working in laboratories to develop a missile that could deliver chemical & biological weapons. Nuclear weapons were becoming things of the past, & these countries wanted to develop new weapons of destruction.
The last part is reasonably accurate. Chemical and biological weapons have become a focus of concern in the Middle East. But as far as I know, there was no Syrian-Chinese alliance in 1992, and Saudi Arabia certainly has not cut off sales of oil to the U.S.
In Vision Six,
[I] found myself in a cool, forested area beside a river. Next to the river was a massive cement structure, square & foreboding. I was fearful & didn't know why. Suddenly the earth shook & the top of this cement structure exploded. I knew it was a nuclear explosion & could sense hundreds of people dying around me as it took place. The year 1986 was given to me through telepathy, as was the word "wormwood." It wasn't until a decade later, when the Chernobyl nuclear plant exploded near Kiev in the Soviet Union, that I was able to associate these pictures with an event. It was then that I made another connection between the vision in this box & the nuclear disaster in the USSR. The word Chernobyl means "wormwood" in Russian.
If actually perceived in 1975, this was a successful prophecy. But the next part isn't:
[I saw a] second nuclear accident ... in a northern sea so badly polluted that no ships would travel there. The water was a pale red & was covered with dead or dying fish. Around the water were peaks & valleys that made me think I was seeing a fjord like those in Norway. I couldn't tell where this was, but I knew that the world was frightened at what had happened, because radiation from this accident could spread everywhere & affect all of humankind. The date on the picture was 1995.... The poisons released by these accidents were carried to the rest of the world through water, which was tainted forever by this nuclear waste....
Luckily, this didn't happen in 1995 or at any other time, at least so far.
As the images of this fear unfolded, I somehow understood that environmentalism would emerge as the world's new religion. People would consider a clean environment a key to salvation more than they ever had before. Political parties would spring up around the issue of a cleaner planet, & political fortunes would be made or broken based upon feelings about the environment.
This is partly true. The environmentalist Green Party has made large strides in Europe, though not in the United Sates. But the ecology movement was well underway by 1975.
From Chernobyl & this second accident, I could see that the Soviet Union would wither & die, with the Soviet people losing faith in their government & the government losing its grip on the people.
Well, the Soviet Union did die, but not as a result of Chernobyl, much less the "second accident," which never took place.
The economy played a strong role in these visions. I saw people carrying bags of money into stores & coming out with small bags of goods. People with military uniforms wandered the streets in Soviet cities begging for food, some obviously starving to death. People ate rotted potatoes & apples, & crowds rioted to get at trucks filled with food.
This is true of the last days of the USSR.
The word "Georgia" appeared in a Cyrillic script, & I could see a mafia developing in Moscow that I assume came from the state of Georgia in the Soviet Union. This mafia was a growing power that was in competition with the Soviet government. In scene after scene, I saw mafia members operating freely in a city that I think was Moscow. I felt no joy as I watched the Soviet Union collapse. Although Soviet-style communism was dying right before my eyes, the Being of Light was saying that this was a cautious moment instead of a glorious one.
The Russian Mafia has indeed played a major role in the post-Soviet era. These predictions, if actually made in 1975, are impressive. On the other hand, we have to remember that Brinkley's book was published in 1994 - five years after the fall of Soviet Communism.
In Vision Seven,
I saw [a man] from Russia as he talked with zeal about our need to heal the environment. People rallied around him quickly, & he soon became so powerful that he was elected one of the leaders of the United Nations. I saw this Russian riding on a white horse, & I knew that his rise would come before the year 2000.
No such figure has arisen.
In Visions Eight and Nine,
I saw border disputes & heavy fighting between Soviet & Chinese armies. Finally, the Chinese amassed their armies at the border & pushed into the region. The main battle was over a railroad, which the Chinese took in heavy fighting. They then pushed deep into the Soviet Union, cutting the country in half & taking over the oil fields of Siberia.
Certainly this hasn't happened yet.
After this, the visions become more apocalyptic and more bizarre.
[Visions Ten and Eleven] came in rapid succession. They revealed scenes of the economic collapse of the world. In general terms, these visions showed a world in horrible turmoil by the turn of the century, one that resulted in a new world order that was truly one of feudalism & strife. In one of the visions, people lined up to take money out of banks. In another, the banks were being closed by the government. The voice that accompanied the visions told me that this would take place in the 90's & would be the beginning of an economic strife that would lead to the bankruptcy of America by the year 2000.
[I saw] dollar signs flying by as people pumped gas & looked distressed. I knew this meant that oil prices were accelerating out of control.
Not really. Yes, gas prices have fluctuated and caused occasional distress, but, adjusted for inflation, gasoline is actually cheaper now than it was in the 1970s. This was true even when it briefly hit $3.20 per gallon.
I saw 13 new nations entering the world mark in the late 90's. These were nations with manufacturing capabilities that put them on a competitive footing with the U.S. One by one our European markets began to give their business to these countries, which slowed our economy even more. all of this led to a greatly weakened economy.
But the end of America as a world power came as visions of two horrendous earthquakes in which buildings were swaying & toppling over like a child's wooden blocks. I knew that these quakes happened sometime before the end of the century ... The cost of rebuilding these destroyed cities would be the final straw for our government, now financially broken that it would hardly be able to keep itself alive. The voice in the vision told me that it would be this way while the images from the box showed Americans starving & lined up for food.
Observe that this was supposed to happen "before the end of the century" - i.e., by the year 2000. It didn't.
[Next] came images of warfare in the desert, a massive show of military might. I saw armies racing toward one another in the desert, with great clouds of dust billowing from the treads of tanks as they crossed the barren ground. There was cannon fire & explosions that looked like lightning. The earth shook & then there was silence. Like a bird, I flew over acres of destroyed army equipment.... The date 1990 came into my head. That was the year of Desert Storm, the military operation that squashed the army of Iraq for occupying Kuwait.
Okay, we'll give him this one - although desert combat is not unusual in any era.
[Vision Eleven] began with Iran & Iraq in possession of nuclear & chemical weapons. Included in this arsenal was a submarine loaded with nuclear missiles. The year, said a voice in the vision, was 1993.
Fortunately neither Iraq nor Iran had nukes in 1993.
Chemical warfare played a role in a horrible vision of terrorism that takes place in France before 2000. It begins when the French publish a book that infuriates the Arab world. I don't know the title of this book, but the result of its publication is a chemical attack by Arabs on a city in France. A chemical is put into the water supply, & thousands drink it & die before it can be eliminated. In one brief vision, I saw Egyptians rioting in the streets while a voice told me that by 1997, Egypt would collapse as a democracy & be taken over by religious fanatics.
Nothing like this happened. There was no poisoning of the French water supply, and Egypt has the same government (not quite a "democracy") that it's had for years.
[I saw] visions ... like many images we now see of Sarajevo: modern cities crumbling beneath the weight of warfare, their inhabitants fighting one another for reasons ranging from racism to religious conflict. I saw many towns worldwide where desperate citizens were eating their own dead.
This is too vague to count for much. There are always "wars and rumors of wars," and you can never go wrong predicting them, as long as you stick to generalities.
Vision Twelve, the most outlandish of all,
addressed an important event in the ... decade of the 90's.... I watched as a biological engineer from the Middle East found a way to alter DNA & create a biological virus that would be used in the manufacture of computer chips. This discovery allowed for huge strides in science & technology. Japan, China, & other countries of the Pacific Rim experienced boom times as a result of this discovery & became powers of incredible magnitude. Computer chips produced from this process found their way into virtually every form of technology, from cars & airplanes to vacuum cleaners & blenders.
Well, we have certainly seen a computer revolution, with computer chips becoming ubiquitous, but so far no one has engineered a biological virus that will manufacture these chips.
Before the turn of the century, this man [the bio-engineer] was among the richest in the world, so rich that he had a stranglehold on the world economy.
Nope. You might say, What about Bill Gates? But Gates is not from the Middle East, is not a biological engineer, is not (quite) the richest man in the world, and does not have a stranglehold on the world economy.
Still the world welcomed him, since the computer chips he had designed somehow put the world on an even keel. Gradually, he succumbed to his own power. He began to think of himself as a deity & insisted on greater control of the world. With that extra control, he began to rule the world.
Starting to sound like very bad science fiction now, don't you think?
His method of rule was unique. Everyone in the world was mandated by law to have one of his computer chips inserted underneath his or her skin. This chip contained all of an individual's personal information. If a government agency wanted to know something, all it had to do was scan your chip with a special device....
There was an even more sinister side to this chip. A person's lifetime could be limited by programming this chip to dissolve & kill him with the viral substance it was made from. Lifetimes were controlled like this to avoid the cost that growing old places on the government. It was also used as a means of eliminating people with chronic illnesses that put a drain on the medical system. People who refused to have chips implanted in their bodies roamed as outcasts. They could not be employed & were denied government services.
Obviously nothing remotely like this has taken place. It sounds a little like the movie Logan's Run, which came out in 1976.
Vision Thirteen, the final vision, seems to fudge a bit on the earlier prophecies:
Through telepathy, I could hear a Being say, "If you follow what you have been taught & keep living the same way you have lived the last 30 years, all of this will surely be upon you. If you change, you can avoid the coming war."
So if the visions don't come to pass, it's not because the prophecies were wrong; it's because we altered our course. But then how can any visions ever be wrong?
Scenes from World War III came to life before me. I ... saw a world filled with fighting & chaos. Somehow it was clear that this final war, an Armageddon if you will, was caused by fear....
I also saw scenes that were not of war, including many visions of natural disasters. In parts of the world that had once been fertile with wheat & corn, I saw parched desert & furrowed fields that farmers had given up on. In other parts of the world, torrential rainstorms had gouged out the earth eating away topsoil & creating rivers of thick, dark mud.
People were starving in this vision. They were begging for food on the streets.... I saw civil wars breaking out in Central & South America & the rise of socialist governments in all of these countries before the year 2000.
Actually, socialism has been on the decline in Latin America since the 1980s.
As these wars intensified, millions of refugees streamed across the U.S. border, looking for a new life in North America. Nothing we did could stop these immigrants. They were driven by fear of death & loss of confidence in God.
I saw millions of people streaming north out of El Salvador & Nicaragua, & more millions crossing the Rio Grande into Texas. There were so many of them that we had to line the border with troops & force them back across the river. The Mexican economy was broken by these refugees & collapsed under the strain.
Certainly there are a lot of Latin American immigrants crossing our border, but not because of a regional collapse or mass starvation or World War III. Maybe he gets partial credit for this one.
On balance, with a few exceptions, these visions are not very impressive. Many of them are dead wrong. Some, like the flesh-dissolving computer chips installed under our skin, are just silly. For the most part the predictions are standard apocalyptic talk - wars, pestilence, famine, natural disasters, fear, despair, the fall of governments, the rise of chaos. People have been making such predictions for thousands of years, but the human race manages to muddle through. If anything, the world has become a safer, freer, and better place since 1975.
So how do we evaluate what Dannion Brinkley says he saw? That's hard to say. On the one hand, he seems to be quite sincere about his NDEs. He has been active in the hospice movement and has logged thousands of hours as a hospice volunteer. People who've met him report that he has a serenity and cheerfulness that they find uplifting. And he has managed to survive three near-death episodes.
On the other hand, what the Beings of Light supposedly showed him does not seem to reveal an omniscient intelligence at work.
Here's one possible solution. There is a tradition - at least as old as the Tibetan Book of the Dead - that what we encounter in the afterlife depends largely on what we expect to find. Our own conscious or unconscious expectations, fears, and hopes are objectified in our experience. If we expect to see demons and hellfire, we will. If we expect to see angels and pearly gates, we will.
In this respect, it is worth mentioning the book 90 Minutes in Heaven, an account of an NDE by a fundamentalist Christian, Don Piper, who did indeed encounter winged angels singing hymns, "pearlescent" gates, and a crowd of eager Christians ready to lead him to streets of gold. Meanwhile, deathbed visions from India, reported in this study, often involve images of Hindu deities.
In other words, people see what they are conditioned to see. My guess is that Dannion Brinkley had unconscious expectations of fuel shortages, economic collapse, and World War III. Such fears were very much in the air in the 1970s. He brought these expectations with him on his NDE, and when he tried to look into the future, he saw only what he expected to see.
Who, then, were the Beings of Light who showed him the visions? Perhaps they were aspects of his own consciousness, which he misinterpreted as higher spiritual authorities. Perhaps they were objectifications of his own secret fears.
At any rate, when people claim (as they sometimes still do) that Brinkley's prophecies were uncannily accurate, it's worth remembering that they really weren't. It's all well and good to be "saved by the light" - but let's not be blinded by it!