No. 110: Mar-Apr 1997
(Top) Global nuclear arsenal in thousands of warheads. (Bottom) number of peace-keeping missions.
It is difficult to move from the universe of hard objective facts into the shadowy world of Near-Death Experiences (NDEs). Nevertheless, NDEs have elements of consistency across a wide spectrum of percipients. Mainstream scientists always explain NDEs in reductionist terms: they are merely the consequence of physiological changes taking place in the dying person's brain. Parapsychologists are more open-minded. They wonder if being near death breaks down a barrier separating the everyday, objective world from a spiritual one. If their intuition is correct, there is the thought that, by breaching this barrier during NDEs, the percipients might transcend our usual confines of time and space. At these moments, "planetary visions" beyond the moment might occur; that is, prophecy!
Before chucking this issue of SF, "hard" scientists should recognize that the foregoing surmise can be tested, not as rigorously as measuring the electron's charge, but still a test of sorts.
K. Ring has collected testimonies of these so-called "planetary visions" from individuals who had been clinically dead for more than 10 minutes, but who were subsequently revived (obviously!). Typical of Ring's collected testimonies was this from a 17-year-old NDE percipient:
"I was informed that mankind was breaking the laws of the universe and as a result of this would suffer. This suffering was not due to the vengeance of an indignant God but rather like the pain one might suffer as a result of...defying the law of gravity. It was to be an inevitable educational cleansing of the earth...
"At the end of this general period of transition, mankind was to be "born anew" with a new sense of his [or her] place in the universe."
Surveying his collection of like testimony, Ring generalized:
"Surprising commonalities in these visions predicted a rising tide of natural, economic, and political crises culminating around 1988. Unless human beings turned toward God, took better care of the planet and each other, an apocalyptic cleansing would occur, possibly including a nuclear war, followed by the long promised New Age."
1988 has passed and we are still here. Is there objective evidence that humans mended their ways and averted the promised "cleansing? A.S. Alschuler, the author of this provocative paper thinks so, and he produces four graphs to prove his point. Each addresses a concern transmitted via people who experienced NDEs: (1) production of chlorofluorocarbons; (2) nuclear arsenal levels; (3) weapons exports; and (4) the number of peacekeeping missions. (We reproduce only two of Alschuler's graphs.) All four graphs show global "sea changes" commencing about 1988! In other words, collective humanity did reform enough to avert disaster! But how were these atypical human actions initiated and organized? Alschuler suggests "collective psychokinesis."
(Alschuler, Alfred S.; "When Prophecy Succeeds: Planetary Visions Near Death and Collective Psychokinesis," American Society for Psychical Research, Journal, 90:292, 1996.)
Comment. Alschuler evidently supposes that the Gulf War and massacres in Bosand Africa are merely "ripples" following the 1988 "sea change"!
From all this, we have to recognize that human inquiry exists in many guises -- and they are certainly not all alike in their approach to the unknown. NDEs and collective psychokinesis are just as valid concepts in parapsychology as electrons are in physics.