"a figure in white spoke to him . . ."
Justin Gillis, writing for the NYT, recently published an article, "A Climate Scientist Battles Time and Mortality" (July 2, 2012), on the geologist Lonnie Thompson, who studies tropical ice, which turned out to be a race against time:
One day in 1991, high in the thin, crystalline air of the Peruvian Andes, Lonnie G. Thompson saw that the world's largest tropical ice cap was starting to melt. It was the moment he realized that his life's work had suddenly become a race.His life's work? What sort of work? This sort:
Hauling six tons of equipment to South America, Africa, Asia and Europe, he and his small team raced to recover long cylinders of ice from glaciers that had built up over thousands of years. The layers in those cylinders contained dust, volcanic ash, subtle variations in water chemistry, even the occasional frozen insect -- a record of climatic and geologic changes that could be retrieved, preserved and interpreted like a series of tree rings.Recently, the race became one against mortality:
[L]ast October, the race against the clock became much more personal . . . . [when he] woke up in a Columbus hospital room, a strange dream rattling in his brain. He looked down. "Wires were coming out of my chest," he said. Machinery had been implanted to keep him alive. Longer term, doctors told him, only a heart transplant would restore him to full health.But what was the "strange dream"? This:
It was deep in one of his comatose periods, he figures, that he had the dream. He described jumping through space and landing in a beautiful spot filled with flowers and streams. There, he said, a figure in white spoke to him.Fascinating. In general, very much like many other anecdotes of near death experiences, but quite different in several details, e.g., nothing about passing through a dark tunnel toward a light. The greatest similarity lies in the renewed sense of purpose to one's life. As I said, fascinating. Also intriguing. But who knows what to make of such stories? I read a lot about these sorts of near-death 'encounters' twenty years ago in Tuebingen for a seminar taught by Hans Kung, who expressed skepticism about them as real experiences of death, else there would have been no return, but the near universality of such experiences is disconcerting, to say the least!
"It's not your time," the figure told him. "You have another purpose."
Dr. Thompson is not a particularly religious man, and he does not try to explain the dream, but his memory of it is vivid.
One test for the authenticity of Thompson's vision would be to see if he does accomplish some great purpose . . .