Tunnel Vision

Posted October 29, 2009 in Feature Story

September 17, 1975, is a date that forever changed Dannion Brinkley’s life. That’s the day it nearly ended. In the middle of a South Carolina thunderstorm, the then-25-year-old Marine was on the phone in his hometown of Aiken when a searing bolt of lightning singed through the power lines and straight through his body, literally zapping him to death. 


After being pronounced dead at an area hospital, Brinkley was miraculously resuscitated after 28 minutes with no pulse. With over two years of intensive recovery, he later described going through a profound spiritual journey in which he hovered above his body then traveled into a tunnel of light—and beyond.



Brinkley had what is referred to as a Near Death Experience (NDE), in which person dies, or comes close to physical death and yet survives and experience the sensation of floating above their body and into unearthly realms. 


Though met with skepticism and not entirely accepted by the medical/scientific establishment, the subject has been a topic of serious research for over three decades. In 1975, Dr. Raymond Moody coined the term “Near Death Experience” with his seminal book Life After Life, a detailed comparative analysis of 150 cases, where dying patients reported having such an experience. 


Moody noted that although each case varied slightly, most shared common features, including a tunnel of light, seeing their entire lives flash before them and reuniting with deceased loved ones. Moody also concluded that survivors often went through dramatic personal and spiritual changes after the experience and reported an emotional need to share their stories with others.


This is where Anaheim resident Angel Powers comes in. She runs two support groups for those in the IE who say they’ve survived such an encounter with the Grim Reaper and lived to tell about it. The monthly meetings are held on the first Saturday of the month in San Bernardino County and the third Saturday of the month in Riverside County. Powers says the meetings offer not only comfort but fellowship for those affected by this amazing phenomena. Each session lasts three hours and can include open discussion groups, sharing between members and sometimes guest speakers.


“I’ve found that people are grateful to find others with similar experiences,” says Powers, who also owns Angel’s Honey Farms, an online honey and bee product store. “We all treat each other with respect and listen to one another.”


Powers says her curiosity of the “paranormal” drove her to study NDEs. She found the website for the International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS), and noted that there were listings for support groups, including one in West L.A. So she decided to start one in Orange County then eventually in the Inland Empire.



One San Bernardino support group attendee is 53-year-old Lake Arrowhead resident Ray Kinman, who says he “died” at the age of 10 after a horrible wrestling accident. “My buddy wanted to show me an easy way to knock someone unconscious,” Kinman recollects. “He rolled me over his shoulder and all I remember is going head first into concrete. I never experienced such searing pain in my life.”


Kinman, like many others, recalls floating above the accident scene. “My body was going into convulsions then I stopped breathing. I could see paramedics doing CPR on me,” he says. “Then suddenly I was sucked into this swirling tunnel of consuming white light, which to me was God. I felt endless waves of beauty, compassion and, most of all, love.”


He next felt pulled back into his body, where he was revived. “I just opened my eyes and saw kids and paramedics everywhere. My mother was sobbing. I felt like I had been [dragged] through mud and stuffed back into a body filled with pain. I was later told by my mother that I had been dead for 12 minutes.”


The monthly meetings in San Bernardino offer Kinman a therapeutic chance to get emotions related to his NDE off his chest. “For many years, I felt isolated and alone,” he reveals. “I was carrying this burden of what happened to me, it’s a great relief; now I can talk to anyone about it, but before I felt like a lone ranger.”



But according to Brinkley, the fear of sharing is an unfortunate part of the NDE phenomena. More often then not, many survivors are reluctant to share their stories, for fear of being labeled insane.


“The more people that share these experiences the merrier,” says Brinkley, the author of the New York Times Best Seller Saved by the Light and At Peace in the Light, which chronicle his amazing visions and experiences from the other side. 


“After I was struck by lightning, I traveled to a crystal city where 13 benevolent beings of light showed me my entire life,” Brinkley says. “I turned into everyone I ever had contact with and literally reaped what I sowed, and that is why I’m the person I am today.” 


This life review had an enormous impact on Brinkley due to his past violent tendencies. “I was a real asshole before my NDE,” he admits bluntly. “I thought the way to deal with things was by knocking them out; I was a self-centered megalomaniac.”


Today, Brinkley is a new man, known around the world as a spiritual counselor and expert in Near Death studies. After spending hundreds of hours counseling those near death, including many veterans, Brinkley founded the non-profit charity organization The Twilight Brigade in 1997, which gives support to veterans and the terminally ill during their last days.


“I’ve been doing this for over 30 years,” Brinkley explains. “I’ve been with 1,800 people in the various stages of death, including 374 for their last breath.”


Brinkley’s new book, Secrets of the Light, focuses on the visions of the future he said were given to him by the beings of light along with the message that love, not hate will end our planet’s many conflicts. “In this time of war the message of compassion and peace is even more important. War is insane and the damage it causes to our fellow human beings is immoral, and the only way to combat it is with pure love and as people come into this global spiritual awakening, love will win.”



Fifty-year old Palm Springs resident Peter Anthony said that his NDE in 1987 left him with virtually the same underlying message of love and harmony. 


 Anthony, who attends the IE support meetings, is the author of the self-published Key Master, a critically acclaimed, spiritually enlightening novel based on real events, including his NDE on an operating table that was the result of complications during surgery and involved massive internal bleeding. 


“I was diagnosed with Chrohn’s disease and was sick for a few years with intense bleeding, agonizing stomach pains and weight loss,” Anthony reveals, adding that during surgery he flatlined for several minutes. 


“I definitely saw the white light and felt that there was no sensation of time,” Anthony adds, going on to say that he witnessed his body opened during surgery from above and could view the room from a panoramic perspective.


“The entire time I felt like I had soaked up an eternity of knowledge and saw humanity’s greed [and] corruption,” he recalls. But he insists that the overall “message” of his experience is about ending all judgment, damnation and fear. “Fear is on our spirits, and it’s the wrong way to live life,” he says. “That is what these support groups are so great; they can help us tremendously with fears.”


Anthony said that the support meetings are also a great way to make sense of his experiences and share his wisdom with others. “It is sure a welcome feeling to know other people have experienced this it and that’s very emotional for me.”


Anthony’s advice to anyone out there who has lived through an NDE is plain and simple. “You should not feel like you’re crazy because having one of these is a gift from God.”


But are these experiences real? What would constitute a scientific study to test if a person’s consciousness can survive after death? It just so happens that in the past few months many mainstream media outlets have asked that same question and many more.



During a Sept. 28 broadcast of NBC’s The Today Show, a NewYork Presbyterian Hospital doctor detailed an ongoing experiment at more than two dozen medical centers in the U.S. and Europe, called the “AWARE research project.”


In the study, hospitals will hang certain colored panels near the ceiling, at a height which only someone floating above it could view. If any patient is near death or dies and is revived, and reports having an NDE—investigators can see if they accurately report what’s on the panel. Because the patients are being carefully monitored in these experiments, researchers will also be able to determine whether there are physical differences in oxygen levels among people who report NDEs and those who don’t. 


Earlier this month, CNN reported that Kevin Nelson, a neurologist at the University of Kentucky, is proposing a new theory that the NDE could be triggered by the same type of REM activity linked to dreaming, which can be caused by lack of oxygen. 


But Dr. Jeffrey Long would disagree. Long, a radio oncologist, served on the board of directors of IANDS and is actively involved in NDE research, which Long said should speak for itself. 


“There is a huge amount of literature on this subject,” Long says. “The results are all consistent, with many studies conducted worldwide over the last 30 years in over 200 scholarly journals and publications.”


Long says that despite this, most doctors will never take the NDE seriously. “It is such a radical challenge to the belief that all consciousness is within the brain, and as a result most in my field are quick to reject NDE or study it credibly, and that is a shame.”


Of the most compelling evidence that Long has studied for his upcoming book, Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of NDE, are cases of NDEs reported by blind people. “These experiences have been documented in numerous cases where people were blind from birth and still described accurately what was happening to them,” Long says. “Also we have cases of NDE occurring during general anesthesia. NDEs have occurred under general anesthesia. Any conscious experience under anesthesia defies medical science.”



As a medical doctor, Long is not afraid to admit that his research into the NDE has changed his paradigm on the afterlife. “It has absolutely affected my beliefs dramatically,” he says. “ I believe the evidence would be acceptable to a reasonable person based on the research and data we collected, which was from over 2,000 people in the last 11 years.”


Long’s bottom line is clear: medical science can’t explain certain NDE cases. “When someone has zero blood pressure and no pulse for more than a few minutes, and is able to survive with no damage to the brain, that defies everything we know as doctors. It is 100 percent inexplicable.”


Brinkley agrees and says that no matter how much certain experts try to rationalize these experiences, they are, in fact, a real phenomena that should be embraced by survivors and studied scientifically by experts. “People need to understand that we are all spiritual beings,” says Brinkley.


Anthony added that survivors should not fear sharing their experiences, and will definitely see a positive impacts if they keep an open mind about the support groups. 


“Find these groups and get involved, and most important don’t doubt yourself, because no can tell you your experience was not real,” Anthony says. “If only we all died at once and came back, the world would absolutely be a different place.”


For more information on the Near Death Experience, go to www.iands.org or contact Angel Powers at (714) 606-9539 or angelshoneyfarms@hotmail.com.


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