The Brain: The Power of Hope

http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1580392-1,00.html

By Scott Haig M.D. Monday, Jan. 29, 2007

David’s head was literally stuffed with lung cancer. I was called in to take care of his hip and pelvic bones broken by the growing metastases. His seeming nonchalance about the pain and the surgery was clearly out of concern for his beautiful, young family–his wife Carol, a nurse, and his three kids, who were there every night. He couldn’t keep up the carefree charade over the next two weeks, though, as his speech slurred, then became incoherent. He stopped speaking, then moving.

I dreaded making rounds on a patient for whom there was no good news, no good plan. When his doctors rescanned his head, there was barely any brain left. The cerebral machine that talked and wondered, winked and sang, the machine that remembered jokes and birthdays and where the big fish hid on hot days, was nearly gone, replaced by lumps of haphazardly growing gray stuff. Gone with that machine seemed David as well. No expression, no response to anything we did to him. As far as I could tell, he was just not there.

It was particularly bad in the room that Friday when I made evening rounds. The family was there, sad, crying faces on all of them. I fussed with the hip a bit. His respirations had become agonal–the gulping kind of breathing movement that immediately precedes death. I knew Carol had seen this and that she knew what it meant. I said something inane and slid out the door fast, looking importantly at the papers in my hand, striving for the nice, empty corridor. But Carol came after me, needing to catch me away from the kids. Her eyes red-rimmed, she asked me where her husband was. I had noticed the cross around her neck. I said I wasn’t sure where he was, but I was pretty sure where he was going. She wanted to believe me, and I think she did.

Saturday morning the sun poured in as I checked the room. The bed was at chest height, made up and empty, with clean, fresh sheets over the vinyl mattress. As I turned to leave, I was blocked by a nurse, an older Irish lady with a doleful look on her face. She had taken care of David last night.

“He woke up, you know, doctor–just after you left–and said goodbye to them all. Like I’m talkin’ to you right here. Like a miracle. He talked to them and patted them and smiled for about five minutes. Then he went out again, and he passed in the hour.” My eyebrows went up.

Two weeks later I saw Carol in the lobby. It was busy and very public. But before her last “God bless you,” I couldn’t help asking, “Uh. Carol, did …?”

She knew my question. With a wide, knowing smile, she nodded and said, “Oh, yes, he sure did.” And I believed her.

But it wasn’t David’s brain that woke him up to say goodbye that Friday. His brain had already been destroyed. Tumor metastases don’t simply occupy space and press on things, leaving a whole brain. The metastases actually replace tissue. Where that gray stuff grows, the brain is just not there.

What woke my patient that Friday was simply his mind, forcing its way through a broken brain, a father’s final act to comfort his family. The mind is a uniquely personal domain of thought, dreams and countless other things, like the will, faith and hope. These fine things are as real as rocks and water but, like the mind, weightless and invisible, maybe even timeless. Material science shies from these things, calling them epiphenomena, programs running on a computer, tunes on a piano. This understanding can’t be ignored; not too much seems to get done on earth without a physical brain. But I know this understanding is not complete, either.

I see the mind have its way all the time when physical realities challenge it. In a patient stubbornly working to rehab after surgery, in a child practicing an instrument or struggling to create, a mind or will, clearly separate, hovers under the machinery, forcing it toward a goal. It’s wonderful to see, such tangible evidence of that fine thing’s power over the mere clumps of particles that, however pretty, will eventually clump differently and vanish.
Neuroanatomy is largely concerned with which spots in the brain do what; which chemicals have which effects at those spots is neurophysiology. Plan on feeding those chemicals to a real person’s brain, and you’re doing neuropharmacology. Although they are concerned with myriad, complex, amazing things, none of these disciplines seem to find the mind. Somehow it’s “smaller” than the tracts, ganglia and nuclei of the brain’s gross anatomy–but “bigger” than the cells and molecules of the brain’s physiology. We really should have bumped into it on the way down. Yet we have not. Like our own image in still water, however sharp, when we reach to grasp it, it just dissolves.

But many think the mind is only in there–existing somehow in the physical relationship of the brain’s physical elements. The physical, say these materialists, is all there is. I fix bones with hardware. As physical as this might be, I cannot be a materialist. I cannot ignore the internal evidence of my own mind. It would be hypocritical. And worse, it would be cowardly to ignore those occasional appearances of the spirits of others–of minds uncloaked, in naked virtue, like David’s goodbye.

Dr. Haig is an assistant clinical professor of orthopedic surgery at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons

The children who swear they’ve lived a previous life…

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3375722/The-children-swear-ve-lived-previous-life-details-astonishing-hard-dismiss-make-believe.html
When she was three years old, a friend’s daughter announced that her real name was Joseph.
At first, her parents thought this was comical, if also slightly puzzling.

But it became alarming as the girl, Sally, insisted she was a boy and that her parents, Anna and Richard, weren’t her real parents and their home city wasn’t her real home.

She was convinced that, as Joseph, she lived in a little house by the sea, with lots of brothers and sisters.

‘She seems so certain,’ Anna told me.

‘Initially, we thought she was playing a make-believe game.

But this isn’t imaginary — it’s almost as if she has memories of when she was a boy called Joseph.

Memories Of Heaven: The book is compiled from letters and emails sent to motivational speaker Dr. Wayne Dyer and his assistant Dee Garnes

She keeps asking to see the ships, and we’ve never taken her to the seaside in her life.’

It should be pointed out that Sally’s birth was almost a miracle — coming after her parents had been vainly trying for a child for years, undergoing a series of failed IVF treatments.

Whereas dad Richard was a no-nonsense chap who found this behaviour hard to take, mum Anna knew that their daughter wasn’t playing tricks.

She felt strongly that Sally’s memories were, in some way, real.

The possible explanations — some kind of mental illness, reincarnation or ghostly possession — all seemed equally unnerving.

But of her daughter’s truthfulness she had no doubt.

For her part, Sally was frustrated because the grown-ups didn’t take her seriously.

We advised Anna not to let Sally see that she was worried, and to wait and see what developed.

Sure enough, six weeks later the little girl had stopped talking about Joseph and the house by the sea, and seemed to have forgotten those ‘memories’.

I have a mother I remember, but it’s not you 

But I never forgot about it.

Earlier this year, a book appeared that set me thinking about what had happened.

Memories Of Heaven, by the motivational speaker Dr. Wayne Dyer and his assistant Dee Garnes, collects dozens of similar stories — proving that, whatever the explanation, there was nothing unusual about Sally.

The book was compiled when Dr. Dyer had been ill with leukemia for years, and he died of a heart attack before it was published.

Certainly, there is often an annoying shortage of detail in the accounts, which are printed verbatim from letters and emails sent to him by readers.

But what the testimonies lack in background and research, they make up for with their apparent honesty.

These stories come from dozens of independent sources, yet often tell of phenomena so similar that they seem to be describing the same events.

One-off accounts of supernatural oddness, however convincing, can be dismissed as anomalies.

But when scores of parents report the same experiences with their children, perhaps we should take notice.

Zibby Guest, from Chester, writes that her second son, Ronnie, was 16 months old when he started talking, and would often refer to his ‘other house’, where he was ‘a grown-up’ with another mummy and daddy.

And Susan Bowers, from the U.S., didn’t know whether to gasp or laugh when her three-year-old looked up from struggling with his shoelaces and grumbled: ‘I used to be a man before, but I guess I’ll have to learn how to do this again.’

Ann Marie Gonzalez, another American, was ‘a little freaked out’ when her daughter on her lap stopped singing in mid-song and asked if her mother remembered ‘the fire’.

Ann Marie asked what she was talking about, and the little girl very slowly described a blaze that had killed both her parents and left her an orphan, living with her ‘Grandma Laura’.

Another small child, the youngest daughter of Heather Leigh Simpson in Indiana, couldn’t bear the sound of sirens. They reminded her of the awful day when men came and took her mother away, and never brought her back.

When her puzzled mum pointed out that she was still there, her daughter said: ‘No, the mummy before you.’

Other accounts contain rather more detail.

A four-year-old American called Tristan, for example, was watching a Tom and Jerry cartoon on TV while his mother, Rachel Martin, was cooking.

He wandered into the kitchen and asked her: ‘Do you remember, a long time ago, I used to cook in George Washington’s [the first U.S. president] kitchen? I was a kid.’

Humouring him, his mum asked if she had been there, too.

He replied: ‘Yes. We were brown people. But later I died — I couldn’t breathe,’ and he gestured with his arms wrapped round his throat.

Intrigued, Rachel read up on George Washington and discovered that his cook, Hercules, had three children: Richmond, Evey and Delia.

Discussing her findings with her son, he said he remembered Richmond and Evey but couldn’t think who Delia was.

The idea that these are memories of past lives is given some credence by the fact that children often describe dying, even though they might be too young to have learnt about death.

Take the story of Els Van Poppel and her 22-month-old son, Cairo. They were about to cross a road in Australia when Cairo said they should be careful ‘otherwise I’ll die again’.

Shocked, his mother listened as he added: ‘Remember when I was little and I fell and my head was on the road and the truck drove over it?’

Els is convinced Cairo had never seen anything so gruesome on TV, nor heard it discussed. Equally, she was sure he hadn’t dreamt about it.

Memories Of Heaven author Dr. Dyer, himself a father of eight, had a similar experience.

There are dozens of stories in Dyer’s book, from a girl who remembered being a wartime soldier with a blue-eyed daughter and a swastika on an armband, to the boy who regularly recalled being an old man in a chair by the hearth, under a thatched roof

He says his daughter, Serena, often talked in an unidentified foreign language in her sleep. Once, she told her mother: ‘You are not my real mother. I have a real mother that I remember, but it’s not you.’

There are dozens of such stories in Dyer’s book, from a girl who remembered being a wartime soldier with a blue-eyed daughter and a swastika on an armband, to the boy who regularly recalled being an old man in a chair by the hearth, under a thatched roof.

Of course, most people reading such stories will say there is a simple, rational explanation. Perhaps the child has glimpsed something on TV, just for an instant, and that notion has been growing in the subconscious infant mind.

But much harder to explain are the recollections of past lives that match a child’s family history, with them seeming to know about relatives who died before they were born.

For example, Jody Amsberry became pregnant about two years after her mother suffered a late miscarriage.

The stillborn child was named Nicole, and Jody decided that her own baby girl would be called Nicole.

When she was five, Nicole said to her mum: ‘Before I was in your tummy, I was in Granny’s tummy.’

Anna Kiely tells a similar story about a friend, whose first daughter died before she was a year old.

Before I was in your tummy, I was in Granny’s 

Jody Amsberry’s daughter Nicole, aged 5

The woman was devastated, of course, and it was seven years before she had another baby.

The second time around, fearful of Fate, she was reluctant to do the same things she had done with her other child.

She sang different lullabies, for example.

Yet, when her daughter was four and heard a song that her mother had sung to her dead sister but not to her, the child announced that she recognised it.

She said: ‘Mummy, you used to sing it to me.’

Similarly, Judy Knicely was dumbstruck when her three-year-old daughter announced that she used to be a boy, and that her grandmother had been her mother: ‘I was her little boy and I died when I was almost four.’

Sure enough, her grandmother had lost a son just before his fourth birthday.

Some of these stories involve a child claiming to be a much older relative.

One woman reports how her two-year-old son twice told her that he used to be her father.

Another was telling her two-year-old granddaughter about her own grandmother, who had brought her up and died 50 years earlier, when the little girl said: ‘I know, because I am her.’

Then there was Suzanne Robinson, who fell asleep, only to be woken by her three-year-old daughter smoothing her hair in a caring, maternal way and saying: ‘Don’t you remember? I used to be your mother.’

One fascinating implication of these apparent stories of reincarnation is that it does not happen at random.

Such cases normally involve children claiming to be someone who was a family member in the past.

This suggests that there is an element of choice in where they get reborn.

The theory is borne out by letters collected by Dr. Dyer.

Tina Mitchell in Blackpool, for example, writes vividly of a car journey she was making with her five-year-old, Mather, when he pointed to a cloud and said: ‘When I was zero, before I was born, I stood on a cloud like that with God, having fun.’

A few weeks later, he repeated the claim, adding: ‘When I was standing on the cloud, God told me to pick my mummy.

‘I looked down and saw mummies everywhere. They all wanted me to pick them, and they were all reaching for me. Then I saw you.

One mother says her daughter claims to remember sitting in a ‘ring of angels’, throwing a ball around the circle

‘You were alone and sad and you couldn’t find your little boy, and I knew I loved you and you loved me, so I told God that I wanted you.’

The fact is that his mother was single and alone at the time she adopted Mather, when he was just a few hours old.

Sometimes, such ‘memories’ of children choosing their parents stay with people all their lives. Judy Smith, who is now in her mid-70s, remembers telling her parents when she was three that she had picked them.

‘I was somewhere above the earth, looking down at a gathering of several pairs of people,’ she writes.

‘I then heard a voice asking me which ones I wanted as my parents. I was told that whichever couple I chose would teach me what I needed to learn. I pointed to my parents and replied: “I’ll take them!”’

But such a ‘selection process’ is not always quick.

Chris Sawmiller’s four-year-old son, Lucas, complained to her: ‘Do you know how long I waited for you to be my mum? A long, long time!’

Lucas has told the story several times and always emphasizes how long he waited. He says he made the right choice: ‘I picked you to be my mum because I love you so much.’

A similar story is told by Robert Rinne, whose five-year-old son told him and his wife that he had picked them to be his parents while he was in Heaven.

Mum, when am I going to get my wings back? 

Susan Lovejoy’s son Joseph, aged 5 

Apparently, he went through one door to inspect the mothers and fathers, and another to see who his siblings would be.

Sometimes the stories are agonizingly poignant.

Marie Birkett, of Southampton, had to terminate a pregnancy while she was being treated for back problems.

Years later, after she eventually became a mother, her two-year-old daughter said: ‘Mummy, you sent me back the first time because you had a bad back, but I came back when your back was better.’

Descriptions of Heaven are blissfully childlike.

One mother says her daughter claims to remember sitting in a ‘ring of angels’, throwing a ball around the circle.

Another claimed her son was adamant that Heaven was ‘all parks’.

The mother of a girl called Amy Rattigan had two miscarriages before giving birth to a sister for Amy.

When that girl reached three, she told her mum that she ‘missed’ her unborn siblings because they had all played together in Heaven.

Often these games involved flying on angel wings.

Similarly, Sandra McGleish told Dr. Dyer’s daughter that at night an angel would take her on ‘flights’ to see her grandfather, who had died ten years earlier.

The old man was apparently growing yellow roses for his wife, who was still alive.

Wings, it seems, are what children miss most about Heaven.

For instance, Trina Lemberger’s grandson was snuggling up to her when he said sadly: ‘I’m forgetting how to fly.’

Meanwhile, after Susan Lovejoy’s five-year-old, Joseph, broke his arm trying to make a jump, he complained to his mum: ‘When am I going to get my wings back?’

She explained that only planes have wings and he sobbed pitifully, saying that God had told him that when he ‘returned’ to earth he would have his wings back.

Of course, all these stories may be childish fantasies.

But as I read them, I thought about my friends’ daughter and those ‘memories’ of a life before this one, seemingly impossible yet so vivid and sure.

And I found myself wondering whether it’s these children who know the truth — and we adults who have forgotten it.

  • Memories Of Heaven, by Dr Wayne Dyer and Dee Garnes, is published by Hay House at £9.99. To order a copy for £7.99 (offer valid until January 2; P&P free on orders over £12), call 0808 272 0808 or visit www.mailbookshop.co.uk.

Have you had a similar experience? If so, email your story to: memories@dailymail.co.uk

University of Virginia scholar explains child reincarnation

 

Tales of the Dead Come Back: How Modern Medicine Is Reinventing Death

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/09/140903-near-death-experiences-bachrach-neurology-booktalk/

judybarachThanks to CPR, people can be revived after being dead for up to an hour. Author Judy Bachrach calls them “death travelers” in her new book.

They can fly through walls or circle the planets, turn into pure light or meet long-dead relatives. Many have blissful experiences of universal love. Most do not want to return to the living. When they do, they’re often endowed with special powers: They can predict the future or intuit people’s thoughts.

Many end up unhappy and divorced, rejected by their loved ones or colleagues, burdened with a knowledge they often dare not share. They are the “death travelers.”

If this sounds like the movie Flatliners or a science fiction novel by J. G. Ballard, it isn’t. These are the testimonies of people who have had near death experiences (NDEs) and returned from the other side to tell the tale.

Journalist Judy Bachrach decided to listen to their stories, and on the way cure her own terror of death.

Here she talks about how advances in medicine are enabling us to raise the dead, why the scientific and religious communities are hostile to the idea of NDEs, and how a British traffic controller returned from the dead with the ability to predict the stock market.

Your book, Glimpsing Heaven: The Stories and Science of Life After Death, opens with you volunteering to work in a hospice. Why?

The person who put the idea in my head was former First Lady Barbara Bush, whose own daughter had died in hospice at the age of four. One of my best friends was dying of cancer. We were both at the time 32 [years old], and I couldn’t get over it. I was terrified of death, and I was terrified of her dying. So I decided to start working in a hospice to get over my terror of death.

Until the 20th century, death was determined by holding a mirror to a patient’s mouth. If it didn’t mist over, the person was dead. We now live in what you call the “age of Lazarus.” Can you explain?

Everybody who’s been revived by CPR, cardiopulmonary resuscitation—and there are more and more of us—is a formerly dead person. We walk every single day among the formerly dead. Death is no longer simply the cessation of breath or heartbeat or even brain stem activity. These days people can be dead for up to an hour and come back among us and have memories. I call them “death travelers” in the book.

One scientist you spoke to suggests that NDEs may simply result from the brain shutting down, like a computer—that, for instance, the brilliant light often perceived at the end of a tunnel is caused by loss of blood or hypoxia, lack of oxygen. How do you counter these arguments?

The problem with the lack of oxygen explanation is that when there is a lack of oxygen, our recollections are fuzzy and sometimes non-existent. The less oxygen you have, the less you remember. But the people who have died, and recall their death travels, describe things in a very clear, concise, and structured way. Lack of oxygen would mean you barely remember anything.

Most death travelers don’t want to return to the living, and when they do, they find it is a painful experience. Tell us about Tony Cicoria.

Tony Cicoria is a neurosurgeon from upstate New York. He was like the rest of us once upon a time. He believed death was death, and that was the end. Then he got struck by lightning. He was on a picnic with his family, talking to his mother on the telephone, when a bolt of lightning hit the phone. The next thing he knew, he was lying on the ground saying to himself, “Oh, my God, I’m dead.”

The way he knew he was dead is because he saw his mother-in-law screaming at him. And he called out to her and said, “I’m here! I’m here!” But she didn’t hear anything.

Next he was traveling up a flight of steps without walking. He became a bolt of blue light and managed to go through a building. He flew through walls, and he saw his little kids having their faces painted. Right after that, he felt somebody thumping on his chest.

A nurse who was in the vicinity was thumping on his chest. But he did not want to come back to life. Very much like other death travelers, he wanted to stay dead. Being dead is evidently a very interesting experience. And exciting.

You suggest there is a difference between brain function and consciousness. Can you talk about that idea?

This is an area where a lot more scientific research has to be done: that the brain is possibly, and I’m emphasizing the “possibly,” not the only area of consciousness. That even when the brain is shut down, on certain occasions consciousness endures. One of the doctors I interviewed, a cardiologist in Holland, believes that consciousness may go on forever. So the postulate among some scientists is that the brain is not the only locus of thought, which is very interesting.

You coin several new terms in the book. What’s a Galileo?

I call the scientists who are involved in research into death travel “Galileos” because, like Galileo himself, who was persecuted by the Inquisition for explaining his theories about the universe, scientists involved in research into what occurs after death are also being persecuted. They’re denied tenure. They’re told that they’re inferior scientists and doctors. They’re mocked. Anthony Cicoria, the man who was struck by lightning, didn’t tell any of his fellow surgeons about his experience for something like 20 years.

Why do you think the scientific community is so hostile to the idea of NDEs?

It’s a really good question. I think the scientific community is very much like I used to be. Journalists tend not to be very religious, we tend not to be very credulous, and we tend to believe the worst possible scenario, which, in this case, is nothing. The scientific community is very materialistic. If you can’t see it and you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist.

When I gave a speech at the NIH [National Institutes of Health], I talked with the top neurologist there. I said, “Are you doing research on what used to be called near death experiences?” He looked at me like I was crazy. He said, “Why? Does it cure anything?”

The Christian Church is also not very keen on this area of inquiry. Why is that?

I think that religion, very much like science, likes to rely on everything that’s gone on before. If your grandfather believed something, then you want to believe it. If the scientists who came before you want to believe something, then you believe in it. Because the options for those who deviate are very scary.

Most of the people I interviewed got divorced. That is not uncommon among death travelers. You come back and tell your husband or lover or wife what went on, and they look at you like you’re nuts. It’s a very scary thing to come back and say, “I remember what happened after death.”

The Christian Church, or the Jewish faith, whichever we’re talking about, also have very specific views of what life after death should involve. Everybody I interviewed deviated from the traditional theological views. They didn’t see angels necessarily. They don’t float in heaven. It’s not some happy-clappy area of the universe. It’s far more complicated—and interesting—than that.

One of the curious facts I discovered reading your book is that women are far less optimistic about their chances of going to heaven than men are. Why is that?

This was told to me by a monk who died by drowning and then returned. Obviously, he’d had a good deal of experience with people confiding in him and confessing. I think it’s because women are very self-critical. We’re very hard on ourselves. Nothing is ever good enough about us. We’re not smart enough. We’re not beautiful enough. Look at what we do to our bodies and our faces in the name of perfection! And I think that applies to our chances of getting, if you will, into heaven.

For her new book, journalist Judy Bachrach collected the testimonies of people who had near death experiences and returned to tell the tale.

Why is it important for you to believe that there is life after death?

It was not important for me, at all, to believe. I’m a journalist. I don’t go around thinking, “I really hope there’s life after death.” Indeed, at the beginning I was the opposite—I didn’t want to believe. Yes, death was a source of terror. For me, the worst thing that could happen was nothingness. I would have far preferred to hear that Satan was waiting for me than to learn that there was nothing. But I was absolutely positive that there was nothing after death—that the curtain descends, and that’s it. Act III. It’s over. The stage is black.

And when I first ventured into this strange area of research, I was pretty sure, just as you said, that it was all the result of oxygen deprivation and that these were hallucinations. It was only after I discovered that it can’t be the result of oxygen deprivation, and these were not hallucinations, that I realized I had to change my views. That’s a very difficult thing to do, particularly when you’re past adolescence. But every bit of evidence, every single person I interviewed, forced me to change my views. It was something I did quite unwillingly and with a good deal of skepticism.

What I tried to do, as a journalist, was simply record what these people say happened. All I know is what I’ve reported, which is, when you die, that is not the end. Stuff goes on. That, to me, is weird. But it’s true.

Did engaging with this research make you want to die?

No! Nothing makes me want to die! But it did make me less fearful of dying. It was a long process, though. After the first 20 or 30 interviews, I was still terrified of death. All these people were telling me stuff that I never believed could happen. But gradually I came to accept that what they said was true. So I’m a little less terrified of death now.

You say that having an NDE often invests people with special powers. Tell us about the British air traffic controller.

[Laughs] The British air traffic controller makes me laugh. He told a person I interviewed, a British neuropsychiatrist named Dr. Fenwick, that he had a death experience. Oddly enough, as a result of this death experience, he became terrific at picking and choosing stocks. [Laughs]

The psychiatrist goes, “Uh-huh.” The guy says, “Yeah, you really should invest in British Telecom.”

Dr. Fenwick says, “Uh, yeah. Right.” And of course the stock soars right after that!

Usually these powers involve perceptual abilities, though, [such as] the ability to know what other people are thinking, the ability know what’s going to happen next. So they’re usually less materialistic than this gentleman’s powers. [Laughs] But, hey, whatever floats your boat.

NDEs are, surely, not the same as a complete death experience. These are generally short episodes not lasting more than an hour and often in hospital settings. No one, as far as I know, has returned from the dead after a long period of time and told us about it. Do we know any more than we did before about what will actually happen when we die?

What’s happening now is revolutionary. If you’d told somebody a hundred years ago that they could die for an hour and come back and tell you what happened, that would have been in the realm of theology or philosophy. But now it’s in the realm of the real world.

It’s absolutely true that we don’t know what happens, say, after six days being dead. All we know now—and that’s one of the reasons I think it’s important for scientists to investigate far more—is what happens up to an hour.

How did your friends and peers in the journalistic world react to you writing this book?

It depends who they are. Some of them looked at me like, “Oh, OK. You’re nuts. I never really thought you were before. But now I know you are.”

Others, because National Geographic is publishing the book, said, “Oh, National Geographic! It must be true then.” [Laughs] My religious journalist friends said, “Thank God you’re doing it. You were always such a skeptic and a cynic.”

I have to say that I fall into none of those categories. I’m just a journalist doing what journalists do. I’m interviewing people and trying to find out what is true.

After writing this book, can you say with any more certainty what death is?

Yes, I can. I can say that death is an adventure, which to me is the oddest thing in the world. It takes you from this Earth, this ordinary Earth, into extraordinary places.

One of the experiences I describe is of the renowned psychologist Carl Jung, who died when he had a heart attack in his 60s. He was ultimately revived, and came back describing, in great detail, how he had seen the universe.

One of the people I interviewed had a similar experience. And that shocked the hell out of me because that’s the kind of experience I would love to have. Like an astronaut’s delight. You’re up there. You can move toward planets or away from planets. You can see the Earth. It’s gorgeous. It’s interesting. And it doesn’t cost a thing.