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