Implications of the Near-Death Experience with Barbara Harris Whitfield

Barbara Harris Whitfield is the author of many books, including The Natural Soul, Full Circle: The Near Death Experience and Beyond, Spiritual Awakenings: Insights of the NDE and Other Doorways to Our Soul, and Final Passage: Sharing the Journey as This Life Ends. She is a therapist in private practice in Atlanta, Georgia. She has been on the board of Directors for the Kundalini Research Network and was on the faculty of Rutgers University’s Institute on Alcohol and Drug Studies for 12 years. She also spent six years researching the aftereffects of the near-death experience at the University of Connecticut Medical School. She is a consulting editor and contributor for the Journal of Near-Death Studies.

Here she describes her own near death experience that took place more than forty years ago, including a feeling of being embraced by the divine and also including a detailed review of her life up until that moment. That was a transformative experience that set the pattern for the rest of her life. As a result she became associated with researchers Kenneth Ring and Bruce Greyson at the University of Connecticut. There she discovered the correlation between near-death experience and early life trauma. She likens her particular path to “the hero’s journey” as described by the mythologist, Joseph Campbell.

New Thinking Allowed host, Jeffrey Mishlove, PhD, is author of The Roots of Consciousness, Psi Development Systems, and The PK Man. Between 1986 and 2002 he hosted and co-produced the original Thinking Allowed public television series. He serves as dean of transformational psychology at the University of Philosophical Research. He teaches parapsychology for ministers in training with the Centers for Spiritual Living through the Holmes Institute. He has served as vice-president of the Association for Humanistic Psychology, and is the recipient of its Pathfinder Award for outstanding contributions to the field of human consciousness. He is also past-president of the non-profit Intuition Network, an organization dedicated to creating a world in which all people are encouraged to cultivate and apply their inner, intuitive abilities.

(Recorded on March 1, 2016)

Do Angels Really Exist?

Is this baby proof angels really do exist? Lily was trapped after car crash that killed her mother – but was saved from icy river when cops heard mysterious voice calling for help
Emergency workers heard a mysterious adult voice at the scene of a crash. They soon realized only 18-month-old Lily was left alive inside the car. Suffering from hypothermia, Lily was successfully revived at hospital.
By Tom Leonard for the Daily Mail
Published: 18:57 EST, 3 February 2016  | Updated: 03:02 EST, 4 February 2016
At 10 o’clock on a Friday night in March last year Jennifer Groesbeck veered off a road in northern Utah as she drove back from dinner at her father’s home and hurtled into the icy waters of the Spanish Fork river.
What caused her to swerve remains a mystery but, unluckily, the front wheel of her car caught the edge of the bridge’s concrete wall, causing the vehicle to flip over it and crash down into the river. It landed upside down in the shallows with such force that the windscreen was blown out and the roof crushed as if it had been cardboard.
Out of sight from the road, the red Dodge hatchback sat in chest-high foaming water for 14 hours until it was spotted by an angler, who reported seeing a hand dangling out of a broken window.
Jennifer Groesbeck, above with her partner and 18-month-old daughter Lily, veered off a road in northern Utah and hurtled into the icy waters of the Spanish Fork river. Out of sight from the road, the red Dodge hatchback sat in chest-high foaming water for 14 hours until it was spotted by an angler.
Four local police officers arrived first, their sense of urgency captured by the body camera one of them had switched on and whose footage has since been watched thousands of times on the internet.
They dash into the water – so cold that a total of seven policemen and firemen were later treated for hypothermia – and desperately try to get inside the crushed vehicle. Then, about two minutes into the body camera footage, its microphone picks up the faint sound of an adult voice, sounding urgent. It is unintelligible on the footage but appears to be a plea for help as Officer Jared Warner responds: ‘We’re helping, we’re coming.’
Something very odd had just happened, although the emergency responders weren’t to realize it at the time. With visibly new urgency, the rescuers turned the waterlogged car on to its side and discovered the 25-year-old driver was long dead.
But there was a baby in the back seat, Mrs. Groesbeck’s 18-month-old daughter, Lily. Upside down and strapped into a child seat that had kept her out of the water and – crucially – kept her clothes dry, she had remained there for an age, her face suspended just above the churning river.
Unconscious and suffering from hypothermia, Lily was successfully revived at hospital.
Her miraculous survival made headlines around the world, and it wasn’t until later that the four policemen discussed those frantic minutes and realized there was something very puzzling about them.
If the mother had died in the initial impact of the crash and the baby was unconscious, whose was the female voice they each swore they had heard coming from the car?
One of those policemen, Tyler Beddoes, believes he knows the answer: Lily was saved by a heavenly guardian who had comforted her during that bleak, freezing night in the half-submerged car and then called for help as her life hung in the balance.
The 25-year-old driver, above with her daughter and partner, was dead but there was a baby in the back seat, Mrs. Groesbeck’s 18-month-old daughter, upside down and in a child seat that had kept her out of the water.
In a new book, Proof Of Angels, Beddoes – an officer with ten years’ experience – describes how the rescue has solidified a religious faith he previously hadn’t really felt.
One doesn’t have to be a skeptical atheist to wonder whether someone might be trying to find a religious message here that isn’t warranted. Beddoes is a Mormon, a religion that believes we all have a guardian angel.
The Lily Groesbeck case, nevertheless, defies any easy explanation. One impressionable or superstitious officer could decide to believe he heard a mysterious voice. But four witnesses are harder to dismiss, especially with video footage capturing a muffled voice and the officer’s response to it.
Quizzed later, each of the rescuers concurred in what they had heard.
If the mother had died in the initial impact of the crash and the baby was unconscious, whose was the female voice they each swore they had heard coming from the car?
Was Lily saved by a heavenly guardian who had comforted her during that bleak, freezing night in the half-submerged car and then called for help?
Officer Bryan Dewitt said: ‘We were down on the car and a distinct voice says: ‘Help me, help me.’ ‘
Jared Warner, the policeman who was in the video saying they were doing their best, said a few days later: ‘All four of us can swear that we heard somebody inside the car saying ‘Help’.’
‘I think it pushed us to go harder a little longer. I don’t think that any one of us had intended on flipping a car over that day.’
Beddoes soon became the spokesman for the four, as his colleagues grew wary of being labelled as naïve – or mad.
But it appears that more people believe in angels than we might imagine. An online survey in the UK by the Bible Society and ICM reported that 31 per cent believed in angels and 5 per cent insisted they have seen or heard one.
In the U.S., a 2008 survey by Time magazine found 69 per cent of Americans believed in angels, with almost a third of them saying they had directly encountered one. Mystical experiences are widespread, but are a taboo subject even in a more religious country like the U.S., say academics.
Certainly, claims that some unexplainable presence – supernatural or otherwise – has come to people’s aid at times of dire peril are so frequent that scientists have given the phenomenon a name: the Third Man Factor.
Inevitably, religious types have been more likely to explain this presence as angels, although even some non-believers have discovered a new spirituality after the event.
The experiences are reportedly so intense that not only do most know the gender of their ‘angel’ from their voice, but also feel their presence so strongly that some recall the pressure of their hand being held. The ‘angel’ is always benevolent and guiding, often giving specific instructions that the person insists he or she would never have considered. In many cases, including with Officer Beddoes, the experience is so profound it has been life-changing.
Those who claim to have experienced a Third Man include the victims of shipwrecks, bank heists, car crashes and shark attacks. Climbers, divers, even astronauts and polar explorers have told strikingly similar stories about encountering an invisible companion at a moment of intense physical hardship and mental stress.
Ron DiFrancesco, a financial trader at New York’s World Trade Centre on 9/11, was on the South Tower’s 84th floor when the second hijacked plane hit the 81st floor. As others were overcome by smoke as they tried to escape down a staircase, he lay down – only for something to grab his hand and lead him to safety through the flaming building.
“Climbers, divers, even astronauts and polar explorers have told strikingly similar stories about encountering an invisible companion at a moment of intense physical hardship and mental stress”
DiFrancesco recalled an ‘insistent’ male voice accompanied by a vivid sense of a physical presence which he called an ‘angel’. He was the last person to leave the tower before it collapsed.
Stephanie Schwabe, a German scientist, was cave-diving in the Bahamas in 1997 when she mislaid her safety line – the only way she’d find her way back to the surface. With just 20 minutes of oxygen left, MS Schwabe, whose husband had died in an undersea accident months earlier, sat on the cave floor and cried with rage and frustration.
Suddenly the cave grew light and she vividly felt the presence of another being. She was convinced it was her husband and she heard his voice urging her to calm down. She did so and, after scrutinizing the cave, found her white line with just five minutes oxygen left in her tank and swam to safety.
In 1983, scientist James Sevigny was hurled 2,000ft down a Canadian Rockies mountain by an avalanche, breaking his knees and his back. He curled up in the snow to die, like his companion nearby, when he felt someone behind him and heard a female voice urging him to get up. It gave him a stream of practical advice that got him back to his campsite.
For two years, he couldn’t talk about his experiences. ‘It made me cry. It was so powerful. I just couldn’t tell many people,’ he said.
The aviator Charles Lindbergh reported sensing a presence in his cockpit during his famous solo transatlantic flight in 1927.
And in 1933, British explorer Frank Smythe narrowly missed becoming the first man to scale Everest when he pushed on alone as the rest of his party gave up. He recalls handing a piece of Kendal Mint Cake to his companion – only to realize there wasn’t one.
The feeling he was with someone ‘was so strong that it completely eliminated all loneliness I might otherwise have felt’, he recalled.
John Geiger, a Canadian writer who has documented hundreds of ‘Third Man’ cases, says people have usually been very specific about their ‘companion’.
More people believe in angels than we might think. A survey in the UK by the Bible Society reported that 31 per cent believed in angels.
More people believe in angels than we might think. A survey in the UK by the Bible Society reported that 31 per cent believed in angels. Pictured above: Jennifer Groesbeck with her partner and 18-month-old daughter Lily
And it hasn’t always been solitary people. Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton wrote of experiencing a benign ‘divine presence’ walking unseen with him as he and two companions struggled over mountains in South Georgia in 1916. ‘What was remarkable is that all three men independently said they had a very powerful sensation that there was another with them,’ says Geiger.
Similarly, Harry Stoker, a celebrated World War I Royal Navy submarine commander, described sensing an invisible fourth man after he and two others escaped from a Turkish Pow camp. Curiously, so did both of the others.
Very occasionally, large numbers of people have claimed to see angels. Proof Of Angels recounts the bizarre case of the 1986 Cokeville elementary school hostage crisis in Wyoming, where a deranged ex-policeman and his wife took 136 children and 18 adults hostage.
When their homemade bomb accidentally detonated, miraculously only the two intruders were killed. The children claimed to have been helped by white-clad angels. The angels, they said, had told them to go near the window just before the bomb went off – an act that ensured they escaped with only minor injuries.
Little children in a Bible-bashing community may not be the most reliable witnesses. But what has made the Third Man syndrome so credible, says Geiger, is that so many of those affected haven’t been superstitious types but level-headed adventurers and military types.
Sometimes, people believe they have sensed not their own guardian angel but someone else’s.
“Whether it’s a case of guardian angels or simply finding a side of our consciousness we never knew existed, perhaps we’re not as alone as we think”
In 2008, 14-year-old Chelsea Banton lay dying of pneumonia in a North Carolina hospital room. Told there was no hope for her daughter, Colleen Banton had just instructed doctors to turn off her life support when she glanced at the room’s security monitor and saw what she insists was an angel, complete with wings.
Mrs. Banton kept the machine switched on and Chelsea’s condition started to improve within an hour – a recovery doctors were unable to explain.
Scientists have yet to properly explain the Third Man phenomenon rationally. There are many theories, including extreme sleep deprivation. The concept is that the brain is divided into two halves, one which ‘speaks’ and the other which listens – this serves as a sort of neurological coping mechanism that kicks in when someone is suffering extreme physical and mental privation.
But none of these explain why people feel such an overwhelming benevolence from their companion, say sceptics.
Geiger notes that two of the factors – extreme cold and intense stress – common in many Third Man cases were present with the Utah policemen rescuing baby Lily.
As to why they all agree on what they heard, he says it’s possibly an instance of subconscious suggestion, in which one of them inadvertently puts the idea in the mind of the others.
That’s easy to imagine in some situations, but this particular rescue is surely different. There’s that sound of a voice on the video footage, not to mention the obvious fact that at least one of the officers reacted to it immediately. There was no question of his imagining he heard it later.
One day, science may provide an answer for why so many people suddenly feel they have a powerful and life-saving friend when they are most in need of one. Then again, the phenomenon may never be explained.
Whether it’s a case of guardian angels or simply finding a side of our consciousness we never knew existed, perhaps we’re not as alone as we think.
Proof Of Angels by Ptolemy Tompkins and Tyler Beddoes is published by Simon & Schuster on February 11. Price £7.99 paperback, £17.34 hardback.
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The Brain: The Power of Hope,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