March 22, 2022

The Shape of Things to Come – According to NDErs

By Kenneth Ring, Ph.D.

[Author’s note: This will be my last blog for a while. I’m going on my spring break, the staycation variety.]

In the fall of 1980, I was thoroughly and undeniably pooped. Late that summer my first book on NDEs, Life at Death, was published, and since my publisher had invested a fair amount of money on that book – and me – she wanted to make sure she got her money’s worth. So she set up an extensive multi-city book tour that took me away from home and all over the country for several weeks. In those days there were quite a few popular talk shows for authors, and I seem to have been on them all – Good Morning America, The Today Show, Donahue, The David Susskind Show, The Regis Philbin Show, and various others. In addition, I appeared on any number of call-in radio programs, and was frequently interviewed by print journalists. There were even articles about me and my work in The National Enquirer, which did not please my department chairman.

But at that time stories about NDEs were becoming quite well known, the public seemed to be fascinated by them, and TV producers were eager to court people like me because shows about NDEs were good for ratings. So, frankly, I was a hot ticket then and mostly enjoyed my fifteen minutes of minor celebrity.

But when my whirlwind tour was over, I was more than ready to hunker down, spend time with my family again and begin to catch up on the voluminous pile of mail that had accumulated in my absence. Plus, the fall semester was about to start, and I had to begin to prepare my classes.

At that time I was happy to have published my book and receive all that attention, but I couldn’t conceive of continuing in that way. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to do any more NDE research. Leave it to others!

But life had other plans for me.

Late that fall, my friend John Audette, who had introduced me to Raymond Moody and a few other researchers who had become interested in NDEs, came to Storrs, Connecticut, where the University of Connecticut is located. He came to ask me a favor. Would I be willing to take over the fledgling NDE organization he had been running so that he could conduct his own NDE research? I agreed, but only if I could rebrand, expand and rename the organization. Thus was IANDS – The International Association for Near-Death Studies – born. John and Bruce Greyson were very much a part of this undertaking – it wouldn’t have happened without their involvement – but it was my responsibility to set it up, recruit volunteers to help me run it, find space for it at the university and oversee its day-to-day operations as well as edit the NDE journal that I had launched. My hands – all four of them – were full to overflowing.

Not long afterward, when John paid another visit to the university, he told me something that really intrigued me. He happened to mention that Raymond Moody had come across some NDErs who claimed to have had visions during their NDEs not just of their personal future, but that of the planet.

But what was particularly compelling to me was that these visions apparently were all pretty much the same, as if different people were somehow “tapping into” the same future scenario for the earth. Not only that, but what they were reporting was alarming.

Of course at that time many people were concerned about such things as nuclear war (the Cold War was still causing such anxieties) or environmental degradation of various kinds, but what Moody was finding was different – his sample of NDEr visionaries claimed actually to have seen the shape of what was to come, and it spooked them. I listened to John’s riveting account of some of these visions, and I remember thinking, "Hang it, I’ve got to look into this." I didn’t care how busy I was. I would find a way to check this out.

Nevertheless, I would have to wait a bit. Not only did I have to spend many hours at the helm of the ship of IANDS, but I also had to honor my teaching and other academic obligations. I would have to wait until our spring break when I could get away for a while. But I had already reached out to Raymond to tell him of my interest to talk to some of the NDErs who claimed to have these planetary visions. No one had really begun systematically to investigate and collect these putative visions, and I was eager to volunteer. Raymond was delighted to furnish me with the names and contact information of a few of these people so come March of 1981, I was off to the south to check them out.

My first stop was to Aiken, South Carolina, where I first met Dannion Brinkley (you’ll remember I mentioned him and that meeting in my previous blog). After that, I travelled to Georgia where I was able to meet Belle and learn to love grits. But there were others down that way whom Raymond also had put me in touch with. For example, there was a fellow named Andy who, like Dannion, had had an NDE as a result of being struck by lightening. He was less fortunate than Dannion, however, losing an arm and having to use a wheelchair. Andy was another fascinating character, however. He was uneducated, but he came back with a seemingly unquenchable thirst for knowledge, as other NDErs often report. And he, too, had been given a vision of the earth’s future. I really liked this guy and his girlfriend whose name I never learned but whom he called “Snow White.” Snow White, a coy and fetching blonde, seemed to subsist mainly on sugar cubes and Coca-Cola (remember I was in Georgia, the birthplace of Coca-Cola). There were times when I felt I had walked into Erskine Caldwell’s God’s Little Acre and was meeting characters from that novel. Honestly, I had a ball on that trip to the south; everyone I met had enchanted me.

But I was also learning a lot about these planetary visions, and they were the opposite of enchanting. We will get to that soon.

In any event, after that excursion I was to find quite a few other people who had had planetary visions, some of whom I was able to interview. But when I couldn’t arrange to see them, I could still gather relevant information through phone calls, cassette tapes and correspondence. By the end of the year, I had managed to locate sixteen people who were able to describe for me their vision of the planet’s future.

Over the next few years, I continued to find several more such accounts and by 1988, I had about two dozen in my collection. Meanwhile, some other researchers were following my lead. An English researcher I knew, Margot Grey, reported a few more in 1984, and her findings were virtually identical to mine. More recently, several other researchers have also collected and collated such cases and all of them likewise have confirmed my initial findings. We all were hearing the same stories. If you’d like to look into these more recent studies, you may wish to download an ebook from by Robert and Suzanne Mays based on their 2019 presentation entitled “Prophetic Visions in Near-Death Experiences: Warnings For Our Times.” There is also an excellent compilation of and commentary on these cases by my webmaster, Kevin Williams, on his website that can be found here: https://near-death.com/future/ And while you’re at it, you may also want to visit Kevin’s splendid website itself, which has loads of fascinating content. You can check it out at  https://near-death.com/

In my own publications on this topic, I have generally used the generic term prophetic visions (PVs) when discussing these experiences and I will use that terminology for the remainder of this blog. So what have we learned about PVs?

To begin with, PVs differ from PFs (personal flashforwards) in two principal ways: (1) PVs refer to future events that have a global rather than a personal focus; and (2) they are highly consistent from person to person. This latter characteristic makes them especially remarkable. That is, just as NDEs mostly seem to reflect a prototypical pattern, first identified by Raymond Moody, so do PVs. Indeed, I personally have not found a single exception to this general pattern of PVs, which I will delineate in a moment, nor, to my knowledge, have other researchers. It is not just this overall consistency, however, that makes PVs so remarkable. Rather, it is their specific apocalyptic content that arrests one’s attention as well as arousing one’s anxieties about the future.

So, finally, what is the general scenario that is recounted by people who experience these PVs?

I have already indicated that the broad outlines of PVs are much the same for different individuals. Indeed, PVs—as an aspect of NDEs—are analogous to NDEs as a whole in the sense that though no two are identical, the elements that comprise them occur again and again and form a coherent pattern. Here now is a succinct delineation of that pattern:

There is, first of all, a sense of having total knowledge, but specifically one is aware of seeing the entirety of the earth's evolution and history from the beginning to the end of time. The future scenario, however, is usually of short duration, seldom extending much beyond the beginning of the twenty-first century. The individuals report that during this period there will be an increasing incidence of earthquakes, volcanic activity, and generally massive geophysical changes. There will be resultant disturbances in weather patterns and food supplies. The world economic system will collapse, and the possibility of nuclear war or accident is very great (respondents are not agreed on whether a nuclear catastrophe will occur). All of these events are transitional rather than ultimate, however, and they will be followed by a new era in human history marked by human brotherhood, universal, love, and world peace. Though many will die, the earth will live. While agreeing that the dates for these events are not fixed, most individuals felt that they were likely to take place during the 1980s, particularly around the year 1988.

To give one specific example, here’s a brief summary from one of Margot Grey’s respondents:

There are going to be a lot of upheavals such as earthquakes and volcanoes occurring in the next few years, which are going to get increasingly worse. I was given to understand that these activities are a reflection of all the social upheaval and violence that is going on all over the world at the moment.

Among the many volcanic eruptions that are going to occur, I saw the one that just occurred in Hawaii. As I saw the pictures on the television, it was really quite uncanny, as I had already seen it taking place during the vision I had seen at the time of my NDE.

There are going to be serious food shortages around the world due to droughts in many places. This will push the price of food up so that many people will have to start going without things that they have always taken for granted.

There are going to be very severe droughts in many countries. Others are going to suffer from freak storms that will cause tidal waves or flooding to happen as a result of unnaturally heavy rainfall … All in all, the weather is going to be very unpredictable from now on, in fact these disturbances in the weather patterns have already started.

This PV was reported during the 1980s, almost forty years ago, but it easily could have come today from watching the weather reports on your favorite network’s daily news program. That’s what makes these PVs seem so eerily prescient.

Here are a few more brief comments from my own sample of PV cases that also seem to reflect what is currently happening in our world. The geophysical changes they report would naturally be expected to bring about a host of meteorological disruptions in their wake. These changes, too, have been glimpsed by near-death survivors who report PVs. 

Oh, my God, that's going to be terrible. The weather is going to go crazy. We're just as likely to have snow in the middle of the summer as one-hundred-degree weather … I see droughts in other countries. 

I think around 1984, 1985, possibly even sooner, [we'll see] the beginnings of droughts. I guess we are even suffering some of that now [1980].

Such drastic changes in the world's physical state will necessarily disrupt commerce and, indeed, every aspect of global life. Famine, social disorder, and economic collapse will be the result. 

Here is just one brief summary by one of my respondents of these foreseen effects: 

We'll start getting more droughts, which will bring about shortages in crops, and the shortage in crops will cause food prices to rise, which will cause a strain on the economic situation, which is already going downhill. Also, at the same time … because of the shortage of food and the failing economy, I see a strengthening of arms, which causes tension ... These kinds of hostilities and [increasing] inflation start more hostilities.

And to amplify this last point and bring it to bear on what is happening today in Ukraine, this is what Dannion Brinkley had to say forty years ago:

Watch the Soviet Union. How the Russian people go, so goes the world. What happens to Russia is the basis for everything that will happen to the economy of the free world.

Before we tackle the possible significance of these PVs for our own time, there is one more facet of these PVs I need to discuss.

One really fascinating aspect of my research on PVs – and Margot Grey found the same thing in her study – is that many of the reports we were given tended to focus on one single year, 1988, when a lot of these catastrophic effects would culminate. Even George Ritchie who had his NDE in 1943 made a point of mentioning the year 1988, which obviously was forty-five years in the future at that time.   One has to wonder why so many of these PVs tended to converge on this particular year. What was it about that year, 1988?

I happen to remember it well. That summer I drove across the country from Connecticut to Colorado with my then wife, Barbara, who had taught for ten years at the University of Colorado University, which is located in Boulder. We spent the summer there, often hiking in the Flatirons around the city. It was uncommonly hot that summer, and I remember on our way home, in our non-air-conditioned car, how beastly and oppressively hot it was. Everybody was talking about the heat that summer. And, incidentally it was that same year that James Hansen, the now famous climate scientist, first warned us (and Congress) of the dangers of what was then called "global warming." I also remember reading an article a few years later that presented evidence that there was in fact an unusual amount of volcanic and other geological activity that year.

Had Margot’s and my PV experiencers somehow been able to “tap into” these portentous weather-related disruptions – clearly the precursors of things to come that have now arrived in our own time like one of the avenging horsemen of the apocalypse?

Of course, the worst of these PV prophecies did not manifest in 1988, but, still, that year did seem to mark the beginning of our dawning awareness of the perils of climate change. Did we somehow manage to “dodge a bullet” that year, only to have it come speeding our way in the decades since?

After all, as Kevin Williams astutely points out in his 2019 article on the subject:

A successful apocalyptic prophecy is one that doesn’t happen.

The goal of apocalyptic prophecy is to warn people to prevent it from happening. The reason prophecies are given to humanity is to change current trends and change enough people so that the prophecy will be diverted. Well-known prophecies that were foretold to occur around the millennium have not happened. Skeptics point out that this proves these prophecies to be false, but … because the prophecy gives an exact date, the prophecy may still be valid and the date may be wrong.

This is an important point. Remember how much emphasis I have already given to the fact that in NDEs there is no time. There is no real way to accurately translate into an earthly time frame events that appear to a person undergoing an NDE or a PV. So it is at least possible that the persons I interviewed back in the early 1980s were truly tuned into the shape of things to come, but had been in error about when they would manifest. From everything I have presented in this blog, there is an almost inescapable presentiment that that time is – now.

But hold on. Let’s pause the talk of earthly doom and destruction for a moment. We still haven’t discussed what to make of these experiences. In my book, Heading Toward Omega, and in some of the articles I’ve written on this topic, I consider a range of interpretative possibilities for these PVs. For those, I will have to refer you to my book; we don’t have the space for such an extended discussion here. Instead, I will just offer a few final points for your consideration and possible subsequent rumination.

First, many, if not all, persons who have experienced a PV are agreed that our planetary future is not absolutely fixed. (Kevin Williams provides many such examples of this view.) PVs have the form, if x continues, then y is likely, but if x changes, so does y. Planetary cataclysm isn’t fated to occur; it can still be averted. Our current dark time doesn’t necessarily have to turn to black.

Second, when I first was researching this topic, I myself did not take these PVs literally. I thought there were other ways that they could be understood. The fact that these people were agreed on the globally cataclysmic events that they foresaw in their visions certainly had to be acknowledged and confronted, but I could not persuade myself that we were locked into some kind of doomsday scenario. And I still can’t.

To be sure, the future of our planet now does not look inviting. How many of us who have a chance to live until the year 2050, say (count me out; I will be long gone by then), look forward to life on an increasingly, perhaps unbearably, hot planet then? 

Nevertheless, individually and collectively, we human beings have agency. We do not have to be fatalistic and passive about the future. We can – and we must – take action to spare our dear and precious earth from the peril it now is in. So I suggest that we take these PVs as warnings, not as forecasts of something inevitable. The fate of the earth may now be threatened by disaster, but if we have the will and the courage, we can still change the shape of things to come.

8 comments:

  1. I tend to think these visions center around that mankind is fairly always certain that their generation is the last to live on the planet. Can you imagine what near death experiences were like during say, 1929 through 1945? Surely there would be no possibly chance that the world could continue to exist! I think if you pluck a human from any era, they will always have visions of cataclysms...it's in our DNA, from hundreds of thousands of years of trauma.

    Does it mean that these visions are bunk and false? No, but could it also mean they are being "accentuated" perhaps? Or rather, playing out more dramatically and suddenly than they actually happen? In other words: since the 80s, we've had droughts, famines, wars, plagues, earthquakes, volcanos (Tonga, anybody?)...you name it. Yet, the world persists.

    So, I think these PVs that people experience are legitimate views into what "is coming", but not only is their timing off, but their perception of the speed at which these events occur, is also off. Which doesn't surprise me, as they are viewing them from a very "birds eye view" from that spiritual realm, where time is essentially meaningless.

    I do not think we're heading towards "doomsday", nor do I think we're heading towards a "golden age." I think we're progressively inching towards one or the other, or some weird mix of the two, and is a progressive/gradual process.

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    1. Brian Anthony KraemerMarch 22, 2022 at 2:01 PM

      MassivelyUnderstated, I think yours is a brilliant response. Too bad you are anonymous.

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    2. The later reported story is no longer in that "no time" space... but back in ordinary defined mind-language-measuree time/space.

      The visions experienced/ seen / felt are as 'real' in those in-describe-able space-time-'locales'.

      The translation may come with 'baggage' and fears and re-tellings that also then change what was 'known' or 'experienced' in another fame-work.

      The contradictions are in trying to put together-what-is-not-in-same dimensions ? perhaps.

      Tho it is good to explore, share, and wonder further instead of being sure to be scared and thus 'stopped' a bit,...

      tho that may not even happen after a body-mind death?

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  2. This is very interesting as some obscure Native American prophesies also see a time of great upheaval for the earth and a lot of death, followed by an era of increased environmental awareness (modern interpretation) and a more universal bonding of humanity. And some other aspects of these prophesies have clearly come to pass over the last roughly 30 years, starting in the mid-90's.

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  3. It means that the most advanced spiritual masters who are guiding these changes have delayed it.

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  4. If we have the will and the courage, we can still change the shape of things to come. So... roll up our sleeves!

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  5. Brian Anthony KraemerMarch 22, 2022 at 2:23 PM

    Everyone loves a great doomsday scenario. Whether its the Antichrist at the battle of Armageddon or Luke Skywalker destroying the first Death Star, there's something fascinating about the noble Rebel Alliance following the Light Side of The Force standing against the evil Emperor Palpatine. Most every great film is a retelling of the same story.

    We are eternal consciousness, incapable of being created and incapable of being destroyed, only transitioned so each "moment" offers us the opportunity to trust the Light, to manifest Love, and to be Light in a dark place. Since precognition appears to be a reality, it seems likely that what we call past and future is eternally present and we are always exploring the infinite possibilities. Like a baby crawling across a Persian carpet of infinite possibilities, everything ahead of the baby is his "future." Everything behind the baby is his "past" but the fullness of the tapestry is already in place.

    I look forward to anything Ken writes. He and Larry Dossey are my two favorite authors. When we stand by the ocean's edge and each wave rolls up around our bare feet we are overwhelmed by the grandeur of that which is much larger than ourselves and I cannot speak for others, but I am calmed to the core by this grandeur. So too by rocking a baby to sleep in my arms or standing under a star-filled sky.

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    1. Yes, well stated ... and /but it is hard to continually remember + recognize + live in that no-time-no-dangers-state ....

      while living with-in our usual common body-mind... with other humans too.

      & while we are more mostly immerse- d in most ordinary real-ities where we live + with others who do not 'think' nor contemplate your way.

      as often revealed: 'change' is constant, continual, and no-time-space not accessible w/o [ those chemically-induced.... or certain trance-meditation-unconscious-dream ways]...

      so we mostly 'live' in this group-run world, where dangers, fears and threats do exist.

      But - glad this is always better to be reminded of the other 'grander' graneurs =
      tho rarely available to most of us. ...on daily, often, regular living - & where computers exist too.

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