Glimpsing Heaven: The Stories and Science of Life After Death

by Judy Bachrach
National Geographic Society

The first word: Review by Nancy Evans Bush

It takes a gifted author to produce a fresh, interesting look at NDEs at this stage in the game. Fortunately for readers, Judy Bachrach brings years of experience as a top-flight journalist to the assignment, and in Glimpses of Heaven: The Stories and Science of  Life After Death she has done just that. Some paths she follows are well-worn, but in her hands they take on new and absorbing perspectives.

Three points:

  • What makes the book easily worth recommending is that it is so well researched without being ponderous; while some other works display more data, this one provides a stable platform of trustworthy essentials along with rarely reported insights of major researchers.
  • What makes the book special is that Bachrach has structured it around her own life experience as a skeptical journalist who undertakes hospice volunteering as a way to deal with her own severe death anxiety while her mother is succumbing to Alzheimer’s disease.
  • And what makes the book a joy is its effortless readability and absorbing personal insights. The result is both a first-class primer on near-death and related issues as well as a thoughtful and believable reflection for others in the clutch of apprehension about death and dying. It would make a splendid gift—excellent and accessible information for explorers and a good, updated read for NDE veterans who think they’ve heard it all. Highly recommended.

The Last Word: Review by Henry Brand (“RabbitDawg”) *

I don’t know if you’re familiar with an influential Black Power poet from the early 1970’s named Gil Scott-Heron, but he was famous during his day for his poem/song, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” Today it would be considered soft jazz rap, and I kinda like it, but Scott-Heron’s point is what’s pertinent to this review. The gist of his message is, when social paradigms are changed, they are changed from within. The gatekeepers are ultimately ignored.

I firmly believe that a revolution in the public’s perception of spirituality and the paranormal (among other things) is happening right before our eyes (the SPR Wiki project is one of the cogs in that social change machine). Responsible, professional journalism will be the driving force that will make it happen. Books and websites by scientists are good, but it takes talented writing to bring the message home.

All of this is my roundabout way of bringing your attention to yet another at-first-I-was-a-skeptic-but-now-that-I-have-researched-the-topic-I-am-a-believer book by a pedigreed journalist.

Here’s the kicker—it’s published by National Geographic. And it’s paranormal friendly. Admittedly, National Geographic isn’t a prestigious peer reviewed organ like Nature, JAMA, or the British Medical Journal, but it does command a great degree of intellectual respect in certain quarters, and it normally tends to have a materialist verve. The book Glimpsing Heaven has a standard cover showing doors opening into the sky (why do they keep doing that?), and the title sounds like so many other books; but author Judy Bachrach is no slouch, as you can see by her creds at the Amazon link. I have not yet finished reading the book, but I am hooked.

I firmly believe that a revolution in the public’s perception of spirituality and the paranormal …is happening right before our eyes

Bachrach avoids the term near-death experience as much as possible because she considers it inaccurate. The experiencers were actually temporarily dead. Rather, she uses phrases like death experiencers or death travelers. For those of us comfortable with the NDE phrase, this can be a little jarring at first, but I get her point.

The real difference here is how well she drills down with her research interviews.

For example, we’re all familiar with the now deceased Pam Reynolds story. Ms. Bachrach takes it deeper. She interviews family and friends and walks away with a richer picture. Did you know that Pam Reynolds suffered a stroke shortly after her stand-down surgery was completed? She recovered nicely. Her psychic and healing abilities were legendary among those close to her, but she never wanted to make it publicly known. This ability was both humorous in hindsight, yet tragic in other ways. Her daughters remember teenagehood as an affectionate nightmare because they always had to tell the truth, Mom knew what they were thinking anyway. If they tried to sneak out of the house at night, Reynolds would wake up and catch them. They were frequently embarrassed when their Mother would spontaneously embrace a stranger in public, whisper something in the stranger’s ear, and then both of them would start crying. Empathy on steroids.

On the other hand, Pam Reynolds didn’t venture far from home unless she had to. She was distressed by the darkness of the thoughts she could read going through the minds of so many passers-by. She wasn’t clinically depressed—in fact she was usually cheerful—but she was also fragile, forever changed by what she called her “transcendent encounter with The Knowing.”

Then there was the time when one of her daughters friends lost her purse, Pam inexplicably “knew”it could be found in another girls hall closet underneath some coats. Or the time Pam visited a teenage boy in a hospital while he was in a coma and whispered, “I don’t know about you, but I want to call the pizza dude and get some slices, because I hate the food here.” The boy woke up, smiled, and recovered.

This link is to the US Amazon site, where there are significantly more reviews. [Just under 100, most of them rated 4 and 5 stars.] The UK version isn’t available for Kindle yet, and there the book only has one three star review. (The reviewer is bitchin’ because Ms. Bachrach failed to talk about Muslims and didn’t attempt to offer solutions to current world problems. Sigh)

It may take another generation, maybe two, but I doubt it will take much longer for the general public to become more comfortable and outspoken about their paranormal and spiritual experiences, despite Dawkins and Randi. Journalists, at least successful ones, are in touch with the beat of the street. I like to compare the information explosion happening right now with the internet and e-publishing with the invention of the printing press. [Openness about the paranormal] might be getting off to a shaky start, but as folks discover that they aren’t alone, they will seek out more information and the company of like-minded others to share their experiences and thoughts with, and change will happen. I bet the farm on it.

Okay, I don’t own a farm, But if I did, I would.

[Responding to a reader’s comment, he adds:]

The most intriguing aspect of the book (to me) was how Bachrach digs into the personal effects in the experiencer’s lives, post-NDE.

Nancy Evans-Bush’s thoughts about confronting God more directly when her next trip to The Beyond comes around (she had a deeply distressing NDE) was both poignant and humorous. I always thought that lightning-struck NDEer Anthony Cicoria (who is famous in NDE circles for his NDE-themed piano concerto) was blessed with his abilities because of his transcendent experience, after perhaps a few lessons. No. His NDE gave him an obsession with music, but it took many, many lessons for him to develop his skills.

The point is, without New Age puffery or clinical distancing, Bachrach presents a level headed, yet engaging investigation. And I believe her when she emphasizes that what she discovered in her investigation changed her skeptical mind.

Expect to see more articles and books like this in the future from other mainstream sources. You can bet that National Geographic didn’t decide to publish this book without careful consideration of how it could affect their credibility as an organization. Yet the dispassionate facts were clearly laid out, so they took the plunge.

I’m convinced that online journalism and electronic publishing are what’s going to turn the tide on reductionist materialism doctrinal dominance. There is a hunger out there for spiritual straightforwardness and truth. The printing press brought us the Age of Enlightenment, didn’t it?

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* Abundant thanks to Robert McLuhan and his blog Paranormālia for sharing this insightful review. And thanks to RabbitDawg for giving this writer a boot back into the world.