Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A World War II private claims to have toured heaven and hell during one of the most elaborate near-death experiences on record

On December 20, 1943, George G. Ritchie collapsed from pneumonia and allegedly left his physical body behind in a hospital room at Camp Barkeley, Tex. At first, Ritchie didn't realize he was in spirit form until he "passed through" an oblivious orderly in a hospital hallway. Ritchie saw a dead body covered with a sheet, and his fraternity ring on a hand sticking out. Instantly, it struck him that he was looking down on his own body.

"I thought suddenly: This is death... this splitting up of one's self," he recalled in his book Return From Tomorrow.

Next, a being of light flooded the room with brilliance. "It was a presence so comforting, so joyous and all-satisfying that I wanted to lose myself forever in the wonder of it."

Ritchies's life flashed before his eyes, and this spiritual presence asked him: "What did you do with your time on earth?"

The being of light led Ritchie on a tour of different spiritual worlds. Ritchie said he saw a dim spiritual realm co-existing with the physical world. It was filled with deeply unhappy earth-trapped spirits, apparently clinging to earthly obsessioins. "Each grief seemed diffrerent."

At another point, Ritche said he came to a hellsh dimension where arrogant and enraged spirits were in perpetual combat, unaware of angel-like beings of light who were trying to help. As Ritchie "ascended" -- like Dante up from the Inferno to Paradise -- he saw bright light replacing  the dark gloom.

Now, he was in a heavenly world of thinkers and philosophers who studied and invented, a realm filled with universities, libraries and labs 'that surpassed the wildest inventions of science fiction."

Higher still, he glimpsed a city of light "infinitely far off."

After that, the being  of light, he said, escorted him back to his body, and he lost consciousness.

All this time, Ritchie's heart had stopped for around nine minutes. But a ward boy about to prepare Ritchie's body for the morgue noticed slight movement. An adrenalin shot to the heart restarted a heartbeat.

Months later, Ritchie drove through Vicksburg, Mississippi and was startled to realize that this was the unidentified town he had visited as part of his elaborate pre-Christmas out-of-body journey. Although this was his first time -- physically -- in Vicksburg, Ritchie knew the town's layout and had no trouble recognizing the white frame cafe with neon letters and a Pabst sign in the window, where he had earlier seen the spirits of dead alcoholics moving into the bodies of living drinkers for a vicarious pursuit of their cravings.

"My return to life, (the doctor) told me, without brain damage or other lasting effect, was the most baffling circumstance of his career," Ritchie noted.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A think tank that studies goodness gets $50K from the Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama has put his money where his heart is.

Doing an end-run around stem cells and gene-splicing, His Holiness has donated $50,000 in research money to a Wisconsin neuroscientist to study – kindness and compassion.

The feel-good largesse goes to the University of Wisconsin’s Richard Davidson, who runs a different kind of think tank – The Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at Madison.

Back in the primeval 1970s, Davidson, then a Harvard doctoral student, made the mistake of telling advisers he wanted to study the power of meditation.

“They patted me on the knee and said, 'Richie, this is not a good way to start a scientific career,' " Davidson wryly recalled in an interview with New York Times reporter Dirk Johnson.

Despite that bumpy start, Davidson has been researching whether meditation promotes compassion and kindness.

Currently, he’s teaching meditation techniques to Madison fifth-graders. They’re taught to concentrate on loving thoughts toward family, strangers, and even enemies.

Once the kids reach Middle School, the researchers compare the regular meditators’ behavior with a control group. Davidson, a 58-year-old Brooklyn native, says he focuses on the Middle School years for testing, because that time period is often a crossroads of character development.

Davidson embarked on his mission after a 1992 meeting with the Dalai Lama in the Himalayas, where the Buddhist spiritual leader encouraged Davidson to use sophisticated tools to research spiritual traits.

"It's about changing habits of the heart," Davidson concluded.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A butterfly saves two miners’ lives in Chile; was it a mere insect or an angel?

Copiapo, Chile – A white butterfly saved the lives of two miners caught in the middle of a collapsing mine in Chile. Was it just an insect sucked deep into the mine by a sudden downdraft caused by collapsing rock? Or was it a guardian angel, as the families of the miners believe?

Just before the mine cave-in on August 5, Jorge Galeguillos was riding a pickup truck down into the mine with friend and former soccer star Franklin Lobos.

Suddenly, a rock slab caved in just behind them. Immediately ahead, Galeguillos wrote later in a letter to his brother, “I saw a white butterfly." Despite the rock falling behind them, the two men slowed their truck momentarily out of curiosity over the insect.

Then, within seconds of that braking of the truck came a furious, blinding avalanche as the tunnel began collapsing.

Immediately, a gigantic slab of rock fell down and blocked the way back up the shaft. That also set off other cave-ins below them.

When the dust cleared, Lobos and Galeguillos, fighting for their lives, resumed their downward drive through what was left of the crumbling shaft, dodging fallen rocks. Eventually they were able to reach 31 fellow miners who had fled to a 50-square-meter refuge on Level 100, more than a half-mile underground.

The surviving miners remain entombed to this day as rescuers seek to construct a new shaft to free them. Meanwhile, anxious loved ones wait on the surface in a makeshift tent city called “Camp Hope.”

From his subterranean refuge, Jorge eventually wrote a letter about the butterfly and his harrowing escape from death, a letter that was hoisted up to the surface to his brother, Eleodoro, who is at a loss to explain how a tiny white butterfly managed to get about 1,500 feet below the surface.

"In the countryside, our grandfathers, who were peasant farmers, knew it was a good omen to come across a white animal in the dark of night," Eleodoro was quoted by CNN as saying.

"Down in the mine, I don't really know what that butterfly was. Maybe it was a little angel passing in front of them, or a little god saying, 'Hurry up, there's danger down here.

“They were saved by the skin of their teeth. The cave-in was going on above and below them. It was already burying things all along the tunnel," explained Galleguillos, who is certain that the butterfly protected the desperate pair as they fled for their lives toward the refuge where other miners had taken shelter.

Mining consultant and rescue expert Miguel Fortt explained that small white butterflies do  flutter around certain purple flowers blooming for only few hours in the Atacama desert at certain times of year. But the nearest patch of such flowers is more than a mile from the mine. And Fortt adds that it would be extremely unlikely that a butterfly would flit its way 1,500 feet deep into a mine.

Searching for logic to explain the butterfly, Fortt allowed that it could have been sucked into the mine's ventilation chimney in a downdraft induced by the sudden collapse. However, he didn’t appear convinced by this theory to his interviewer.

Whether it was help from the beyond or a logical coincidence, Fort said the butterfly did in fact save the two miners’ lives, because they slowed their truck to get a better look at it. And that hesitation prevented them from being under the first extensive rockslide a few seconds later.

Galeguillos' letter about the butterfly has brought tears to the eyes of the miners’ loved ones who are still waiting anxiously on the surface as a weeks-long rescue operation seeks to free the workers from their rock prison almost a half mile underground.

Warming themselves around campfires, the families continue to pass along the story of white butterfly that they believe is really a guardian angel.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Norwegian bishops and royals clash over princess's remarks

Princess Martha Louise ruffled feathers among some of Norway's bishops and other leaders of the state Lutheran Church when she told reporters she can communicate with the dead. Before that, she claimed to be able to get in touch with angels.

The princess and co-author Elisabeth Samnoy have a book out on how people can find their guardian angels.

The princess, daughter of King Harald V and Queen Sonja, told the newspaper Stavanger Aftenblad that “it’s not difficult to come in contact with the dead, in the same way with angels. We can also make contact whenever we want, when we want to.”

Things heated up when bishops approached Norway's media, upset that Princess Martha Louise's comments about contacting the dead allegedly went against the doctrines of Norway's state church.

Laila Rikaasen Dahl, a Norwegian bishop speaking on behalf of other bishops, complained to NRK: “...(the dead) belong to God and should be allowed to rest in peace," adding that  they should be remembered, not contacted, and trying to communicate with them might "open up for the powers of the occult..."

For her part, the princess said her remarks were taken out of context: "We operate with personal development... not with conjuring up the spirits."

On Sept. 8, Crown Prince Haakon stepped into the fray to defend his sister. Criticizing what he referred to as backbiting, he said obliquely: "I have a very good sister,” he said. “She is caring and genuinely concerned with taking care of other people. I won’t go into more details about that, because you know what I’m talking about.”

Princess Martha Louise remains fourth in line as an heir to the throne.

Views and News from Norway

Views and News from Norway