How is this possible? Well, remember that during an NDE there is no sense of time. NDErs leave the illusory prison of earthbound time and enter the freedom of eternity, which is not everlasting time, but timelessness itself. In short, during their NDE, they have transcended the limitations of earthly time. And given that, it becomes theoretically possible for them to see into the future, and to experience future events in their lives before they happen. But when they do occur it is often with a sense of déjà vu. For instance, as a child a boy sees the woman he is to marry. He understands that this woman is to be his wife. And when he meets that woman much later in life, he not only recognizes her, but knows he is to marry her. Same with his kids. He has seen them too.
Personal flashforwards (PFs) usually occur within the context of an assessment of one's life during an NDE, although occasionally the PF is experienced as a subsequent vision. When it takes place while the individual is undergoing an NDE, it is typically described as an image or vision of the future. It is as though the individual sees something of the whole trajectory of his life, not just past events. The understanding I have of these PFs is that to the NDEr they represent events of a conditional future—i.e., if a person chooses to return to life, then these events will ensue. In this sense, from the standpoint of an NDEr, a PF may be likened to a "memory" of future events. For him, however, it is seemingly a part of his "life design" that will unfold if he returns to physical life.
In other cases an individual will report awareness of knowledge of a future event after the NDE itself. In some instances, the knowledge will manifest itself (again, usually visually and vividly) shortly after an NDE; in other cases, the individual will recall the knowledge only when or shortly before the actual event happens. In such instances (this kind of occurrence has been related to me by several NDErs) it seems the event itself jars the memory of it, bringing back the NDE context in which the original perception was given. At such moments there is usually an uncanny sense of déjà vu; the event that had already been experienced is now fulfilled in fact, and its realization is accompanied by the shock of absolutely certain prior knowledge of its outcome.
Some case histories of personal flashforwards
It concerns a man named Bill McDonald who had a profound NDE at the age of eight when he was in the hospital suffering from multiple health issues so severe that his parents were warned that their child was not likely to survive.
Here is how Bill summarizes what he experienced at the time:
"I found myself sitting up in this big ball of light. The room was nothing but light, bright light. I was shown things and taken on a journey … I was shown things, and everything that I learned actually transpired 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, even 50 years plus later. In fact, I was shown a whole panorama of the major events in my life up to the age 59. It only went to age 59. Where I was living, who I was going to marry, the Vietnam War."
He then goes on to elaborate:
"I’m seeing all these scenes. The John F. Kennedy assassination, though I didn’t know who he was. This was in 1954 or 1955. [Kennedy was killed in November, 1963.] And I was seeing the Vietnam War with battle scenes and helicopters … I’m seeing my future houses, jobs. I’m seeing my wife. I was eight years old. I hadn’t met her yet! [I knew] I’d recognize her, and I did. My wife, I saw my children. I was going out in my life about fifty years. The next fifty years was like a constant déjà vu."
I’ve investigated other cases that provide much more detail about these life previews. In what follows I will select three from my own research.
A case that will serve to illustrate several of the typical features of these PFs was provided to me by a woman who lives in the Midwest. Please note just how specific were her glimpses of her life to come.
Her near-death crisis resulted from a torn cervix while giving birth to her youngest child in 1959. During her NDE she was met by various beings who conveyed knowledge to her. In particular, she noted:
"I learned that there is a time for me to die, and that particular time when I was giving birth was not it. Those beings showed me that if I continued down the path I was on at that time (it seems that I have complete freedom of choice) I would later be living HERE and DOING THIS. I found myself in a place that was not [the town I expected to move to] and all three of our children were grown up. My husband and I had become middle-aged, and the entire scenario went like this:
"I was in a kitchen tossing a salad, dressed in a striped seer-sucker outfit. My hair had streaks of silver in it, my waist had thickened some, but I was still in good shape for an older woman. There was a strong feeling of peace of mind about my bearing, and I was in a joyful mood, laughing with my older daughter as we prepared dinner. The younger daughter (the newborn) had gone somewhere with some other children. This daughter was grown up too, but still there were some small children involved who were not in the picture at the moment (i.e., in 1959). My husband had just come out of the shower and was walking down a hallway wrapping a robe around him. He had put on more weight than I had and his hair was quite silver. Our son was mowing our lawn, but both offspring were only visiting. They didn't live with us.
"During this scene was the only time an exception was made regarding the five physical senses. As I gained the knowledge of what our family would be like in the future, I could see, hear, and smell. Particularly striking was the smell of the salad I was producing (cucumber) mingled with the smell of evergreens growing around the house and the odor of freshly cut grass. Also I could detect my own cologne and soap from the shower my husband had vacated. This picture was only a glimpse, but it made one huge impression on me. I must have vowed right then to never forget it, because I certainly have not."
This correspondent added this intriguing follow-up commentary:
1. We look exactly like that right now (in 1981).
2. Our kids look like that picture too.
3. The rapport in our family is now as I've already described. We have a ball whenever we get together, talking and laughing.
4. Our older daughter has been married, had two daughters of her own, and been divorced. While she was being divorced and making a new life for herself with a job, I've helped her with raising the two small girls by babysitting every day for two years. They are very much a part of our family.
5. Our home here in [the town she lives in] could fit that description too. I only wish I had paid more attention to the way the house was built.
What makes this individual's experience noteworthy is what happened to him afterward. He writes:
"After the operation, when convalescing, I was aware that there were some strange memories—and that's what they were—concerning events in my future life. I do not know how they got there … they were just there … However, at that time , and indeed until 1968, I simply did not believe them."
His letter goes on to describe five specific "memories" of the future he had been aware of as a child. He claims all of them have actually come about as events in his life, except for the last (which pertains to his age at and circumstances of his death). I shall quote his account of the first two of these flashforwards.
1. You will be married at age twenty-eight.
"This was the first of the 'memories,' and this was perceived as a flat statement—there was no emotion attached to it … And this did indeed happen, even though at [my] twenty-eighth birthday I had yet to meet the person that I was to marry."
2. You will have two children and, live in the house that you see.
"By contrast to the prediction, this was felt; perhaps 'experienced' is the correct term. I had a vivid memory of sitting in a chair, from which I could see two children playing on the floor in front of me. And I knew that I was married, although in this vision there was no indication of who it was that I was married to. Now, a married person knows what it was like to be single, because he or she was once single, and he or she knows what it's like to be married because he or she is married. But it is not possible for a single person to know what it feels like to be married; in particular, it is not possible for a ten-year-old boy to know what it feels like to be married! It is this strange, impossible feeling that I remember so clearly and why this incident remained in my mind. I had a 'memory' of something that was not to happen for almost twenty-five years hence! But it was not seeing the future in the conventional sense, it was experiencing the future. In this incident the future was now."
(He then provides a floor plan of the room he and his children were in and refers to it in what follows.)
"In this 'experience' I saw directly in front of me, and to the right as indicated. I could not see to the left, but I did know that the person that I was married to was sitting on that side of the room. The children playing on the floor were about four and three years old; the older one had dark hair and was a girl (adopted, as it turned out); the younger one had fair hair, and I thought it was a boy. But as it turns out, they are both girls. And I was also aware that behind the wall ... there was something very strange that I did not understand at all. My conscious mind could not grasp it, but I just knew that something different was there.
"This 'memory' suddenly became present one day in 1968, when I was sitting in the chair, reading a book, and happened to glance over at the children ... I realized that this was the 'memory' from 1941! After that I began to realize that there was something to these strange recollections. And the strange object behind the wall was a forced-air heater. These heating units were not—and to the best of my knowledge, are still not—used in England. This was why I could not grasp what it was; it was not in my sphere of knowledge in 1941."
In rare instances, however, a way can be found to circumvent this problem by compiling external corroborative evidence that independently supports the claim made by an NDEr. Fortunately, I have such a case involving a PF that I personally investigated some years ago when I was conducting some research in Georgia. At that time, I was to meet a woman I’ll call Belle who had been referred to me by Raymond Moody.
I wound up spending two days with Belle, and I will always be indebted to her, not only because of what she told me about her NDE, but because she introduced me to grits, which were delicious! I was then able to appreciate why many southerners rave about grits!
Anyway, here’s what you need to know about Belle besides her culinary skills.
During her NDE she encountered guides who gave her considerable information about the future. What makes her NDE unique and of particular value here is precisely what she was shown.
Belle has lived her entire life in a small southern city, residing since 1971 in a home on a street one block long. Approximately eighteen months after her NDE, Raymond Moody, who was then beginning his medical studies, and his then wife, Louise, moved to the same city where Belle had grown up. To the same street! But since the Moodys lived at the other end of the block, years passed without any meaningful interaction between the Moodys and Belle.
Finally, four years after Belle's NDE, on Halloween night of 1975, Louise was preparing to take her elder son, Avery, trick-or-treating. Her husband had asked her, however, not to take him to any home unfamiliar to them. Meanwhile, up the block, Belle, who was feeling poorly, was saying to her husband:
"Look, I placed these things [candies] there for the children when they come around, and no matter how cute you think they are, don't call me because I do not feel well tonight and I do not want to be bothered."
Belle describes what happened next:
"He said OK, and sure enough, someone knocked on the door ... Louise didn't listen to Raymond, [and] Bill [her husband] didn't listen to me, so when the knock came on the door, my husband said, ‘Belle, you told me not to call you, but you've got to see this one!’ ’Oh, boy,’ I said, [and] I got up and went up front. I don't normally ask the children where they are from or who they are because I usually know them, but this one I did not know and I said, ‘What's your name, child?’ He looked up at me and said, ‘I'm Raymond Avery Moody, the third.’ Immediately his father appeared in my mind and it says ... now!"
The outcome of this strange encounter was that shortly thereafter Raymond Moody was able to interview Belle, whose NDE is featured in his second book, Reflections on Life After Life. Ironically, at the time of their meeting in 1975, Moody's best seller-to-be, Life After Life, was still at the printer's, and Belle herself had no idea that she had just met the man whose name was destined to become synonymous with the study of near-death experiences. Furthermore, at the time Louise Moody independently confirmed all the essential details of Belle's reconstruction of this event.
Belle herself concluded her account of this episode with these words:
"It was two days before we got together and this was in November of 1975, and they left in April of 1976. We had become very close and loving friends from that point on. It seemed to be a heck of a waste of time not to have known him from 1971!"
Some implications of personal flashforwards
Let me begin with one historical account that I believe offers us a significant clue to this mysterious phenomenon.
Those of you who remember reading one of my blogs about Helen Keller may recall that in one of them I mentioned the great Swedish scientist and seer, Emanuel Swedenborg. In any case, Swedenborg had many qualities in common with NDErs, including being extremely psychic. Because he was famous, most of his psychic experiences were well documented and verified. He really was able to see into the future.
Many of these stories can be found in Wilson van Dusen’s book, The Presence of Other Worlds, which is an excellent introduction to Swedenborg’s life, work and religious teachings. Here I will just quote one such story which is particularly apposite to PFs. Van Dusen sets the scene this way:
[In February, 1772], John Wesley was preparing for a religious speaking tour and the Reverend Samuel Smith and others were assisting him. The gathering was interrupted by the arrival of a letter that Wesley opened and read with evident astonishment.
have a strong desire to converse with me; I shall be
happy to see you if you will favor me with a visit.
I am, sir, your humble servant,
How did Swedenborg know the exact day he was destined to die? I say "destined" because it seems that he was particularly aware of something that may be true for all of us. Namely, that our lives seem to have some kind of pre-set "design" or life plan, and that when NDErs transcend time, some of them get glimpses of what’s in store for them, just as we have seen in the PFs we have reviewed. How the trajectory of our lives is orchestrated in this way – and when (for example, before we are born?) – is something we can only speculate about. But that our future has already been "laid out," at least in its broad outlines, seems quite plausible in the light of these PFs.
Of course, it’s not that everything is fixed. It can also be that some things can change depending on the choices we make. There could be, for example, alternative pathways through our lives depending on those decisions, as seem to be suggested by some NDEs I have examined. For example, during some NDEs, a person might be shown what would happen if he choses to remain in the Light rather than return to his body and physical life.
Here’s another way to understand this. Imagine that you, a woman named Sarah, are actually a character in a novel. As that person, you undergo certain experiences. Say, you get pregnant in high school, have an abortion at seventeen, marry at twenty, have several children, divorce at thirty-five, develop breast cancer at forty-seven, and so on. You go through these experiences, but of course, you have no foreknowledge of them.
But now suppose that, for a moment outside of time, you have the perspective of the author. As the author of Sarah’s life, you know exactly what she will experience, even if she doesn’t. In a PF, it’s as if you suddenly see your life from that perspective because you are no longer trapped in time and your little local awareness. What seems to be your future from a limited earthly point of view is understood in an entirely different way when you have transcended the illusion of time. It’s then that you can see events that are a part of your destiny, just as Swedenborg was able to know his exact death day.
To conclude, some final brief cautionary tales.
Second, and then there was "the man who knew too much." I refer to a case that was sent to me about a man who was shown “the book of his life“ during his NDE, but was told he must not look at it. But, like a modern Orpheus, he disobeyed and saw various events in his life that came to pass. He very much regretted having looked at that book; he said it really ruined his life. It was as if he had already lived it and had to go through it all over again. Nietzsche’s "eternal return" as hell.
Finally, some NDErs not only have something of a preview of their personal life, but seem to tap into knowledge of the planet’s future. And what they see tends to be deeply troubling, even frightening. I’m afraid we will have to acquaint ourselves with these prophetic visions in my next blog. What we all are going through now in our world seems to have been foretold in these visions.