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The Afterlife Chronicles, Part 1

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The Afterlife Chronicles, Part 1

A look at near-death-experiences from the files of the River Journal's Surrealist Research Bureau

I’ve just finished reading the Clark Fork Library’s latest acquisition, “Heaven is for Real,” by Todd Burpo (Thomas Nelson Books, 2010), a reportedly non-fiction account of a glimpse of the afterlife as recalled by a four-year-old child undergoing an emergency appendectomy. His “visions,” not surprisingly, seem to mirror the beliefs and expectations of his evangelical Christian father. While children are thought to be more truthful witnesses, the sad truth is that just as many of them report seeing Power Rangers or superheroes in the afterlife as those seeing Christ or the angels. Further, just as many kids in the Middle East or Asia recall seeing Buddha or Muhammad.

The most blatant (to me) misuse of these afterlife chronicles is that of D. Bannon’s “Saved by the Light.” He claims he was struck by lightning and died for several minutes before being resuscitated, experiencing several visions and prophesies, which I’ll get to in a moment. In the chapters of his book detailing his life previous to his “visions” he brings up his experiences in Vietnam operating as a one-man army. According to him, the military brass somehow recognized his unique capabilities and would often send him out on solo search-and-destroy missions where, armed with nothing but a rifle and a bowie knife, he’d stroll back to base a week or two later and nonchalantly claim three or four kills and get ready for his next stealth mission. 

Now, as a two-and-a-half-year combat veteran and ex-paratrooper, I knew this was total bullshit. We long-range patrol grunts couldn’t get by without carrying a couple gallons of water; sometimes we’d walk hunched over by the weight of our supplies, trip flares, claymores, dynamite... the list is endless. Times were, in jungle so thick we’d be lucky to machete and hack our way a scant hundred yards a day, to even suppose that some yahoo is given a rifle and bowie knife and told to go out into the jungle alone is simply madness.

So, with his Vietnam claims so blatantly false (to me) I took a skeptical, dimmer view of his other claims. (More so when I discovered later some of his service-mates came forward with statements that he’d spent his entire service career in Georgia as a truck driver.) Bannon, of course, now claims that his army records were falsified to hide his work for the CIA. I suspect, though cannot prove simply out of a lack of desire to re-read his nonsense, that in more recent editions of his books he’ll downplay, if not omit, his army “career.”

Likewise his “prophecies” of such things as the gulf war or the Chernobyl disaster, as these “visions” seem only to appear in the later editions of his books, after the incidents they describe. As an example, I’d like to go out on a limb and publicly proclaim the election of our first black president and ohhh.., an attack on the WTC on 9/11!

Betty Eadie’s book, “Embraced by the Light” (1992), is similarly plagued by differing accounts depending on which part of the country it’s sold in. After receiving $150,000 for the paperback rights, she deleted references to God’s approval of abortion outside of her native Utah, as well as the fact of the angel’s denial of Christ as God (another of her Mormon faith’s tenets).

To my mind, the best of the after-death chronicles is still one of the earliest, George Ritchie’s 1978 “Return From Tomorrow.” I lean towards agreeing with Ken Ring, Whitley Strieber and others that what we tend to think of as ghosts, UFOs, ESP, and Near-Death Experiences are all part of a single, as yet unexplained, phenomenon. 

I’m reminded somewhat of our SETI program (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence); we beat on drums sending messages through a small part of the jungle, unaware that a vast array of unseen or unheard radio and television transmissions are going on around and even through us, yet still we beat on our hollow skin-drums, listening in the dark night in vain for an answer. 

‘til next time, keep spreading the word; Soylent Green is People! All Homage to Xena! 

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Author info

Jody Forest Jody Forest When he's not hidden behind the palatial gates of his Dover estate, Casa de Bozo, Jody is out using outdated and corny pickup lines on various gullible women.

Tagged as:

Surrealist Research Bureau, afterlife, near death experience, Heaven is for Real, Saved by the Light, Embraced by the Light, Return From Tomorrow, SETI

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