The 'Other Side': Doctor Describes Death, Encounter With Jesus
By Michael H. Brown
I'm reading a lot about near-death experiences and have come across the extraordinary case of a medical doctor named George G. Ritchie (left), who died many years ago at the age of twenty while in the military.
It's an extraordinary account because of Ritchie's credentials as an observer. He held positions as president of the Richmond Academy of General Practice in Virginia and was chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Towers Hospital. But far more impressive was what actually happened. Dr. Ritchie claimed to have had a dramatic encounter with Christ -- one that showed Our Savior to be far stronger and more manly than is commonly depicted by modern artwork, bringing to mind instead images of the Turin Shroud.
This is crucial because it is the over-softening and even feminization of Jesus' image that has almost certainly contributed to a drop in male church attendance during the past several centuries.
How does He really look? And how does the doctor know?
According to Dr. Ritchie, who wrote a book called Return from Tomorrow, he had his brush with death in an army hospital at Camp Barkeley in Texas in 1943 during basic training. Somehow he caught a pneumonia-like ailment just before he was to begin his education at the Medical College of Virginia -- something he had been dearly looking forward to. Unfortunately, his fever skyrocketed, he was whisked away for emergency x-rays -- and the next thing he knew there was a buzzing noise, a constant whir, and he found himself out of his body (though it took him a while to realize it).
Before that realization Ritchie found himself in a confused state as do so many who have a brush with actual death. What he knew was that he had to get to Virginia and suddenly he found himself hovering over the countryside -- out of the hospital and over the terrain.
How could he move so fast? How could he fly? Most perplexing, when Ritchie ran into humans, he couldn't get their attention. He could not interact with them.
Instead, he was whisked across the landscape -- on his way back to Virginia -- and halfway there found himself in a city he was later able to identify through an incredible "coincidence" as Vicksburg, Mississippi. For some reason he was in a strange town unable to talk with those he saw nor to affect anything physical. When he tried to lean on the guy wire of a telephone pole, his claimed "body" went right through it!
In a bit of a panic the young Ritchie decided he had to return to Texas and find his solid self. The mere desire for this propelled his spirit back to Camp Barkeley -- where after a search of the wards he was able to locate his body, which was completely covered and identifiable only because of a ring on one of two stiff hands poking out from the sheets.
Frantically Ritchie tried to uncover his body but wasn't able to budge the sheets. That was when he had an encounter with Jesus, Who came as He does so often -- whether visions or near-death episodes -- in an extraordinary light.
"I wasn't sure when the light in the room began to change," wrote Ritchie in his extraordinary book. "Suddenly I was aware that it was brighter, a lot brighter, than it had been. I whirled to look at the nightlight on the bedside table. Surely a single 15-watt bulb couldn't turn out so much light? I stared in astonishment as the brightness increased, coming from nowhere, seeming to shine everywhere at once. All the light bulbs in the ward couldn't give off that much light. All the bulbs in the world couldn't! It was impossibly bright: it was like a million welders' lamps all blazing at once."
In the middle of that came the thought that he was glad he didn't have physical eyes; for the light was so bright it would have destroyed his retinas. With his spiritual "eyes," however, he had no problem looking at it.
"No, I corrected myself, not the light," wrote Ritchie. "He. He would be too bright to look at. For now I saw that it was not light but a Man Who had entered the room, or rather, a Man made out of light."
Instantly, recounts Ritchie, a command formed itself in Ritchie's mind. Stand up! The words came from deep inside, along with the certainty that he was "in the presence of the Son of God," Whom he describes as "the most totally male Being I had ever met."
This was not the Jesus of his Sunday school books, notes Ritchie. It was not the Jesus that many artists portray. "That Jesus was gentle, kind, understanding -- and probably a little bit of a weakling," he notes. "This Person was power itself, older than time and yet more modern than anyone I had ever met."
Next: what Jesus was like and what He showed Ritchie
[Resources: Ritchie's book is Return from Tomorrow; see also: After Life, The Secrets of Purgatory, An Unpublished Maniscript on Purgatory]
Doctor Who Wrote About His Near-Death Had A Message: 'Time Now Is Very Short'
By Michael H. Brown
How do we get to Heaven? What's the best way to conduct ourselves?
If you listen to Dr. George G. Ritchie, a medical doctor who "died" in 1946, at the age of 20, and recounts it in a book (Return from Tomorrow), crucial is that we "die to self." Just as he supposedly encountered Jesus when he physically "died" (during a severe bout with pneumonia), so do we encounter Christ once we have gotten rid of our ego and self-centeredness and died to selfishness.
The afterworld he was shown before he revived in a Texas army hospital can be both infinitely brighter than this world -- or infinitely more savage and terrible. In his book Dr. Ritchie describes Jesus taking him to various places in the afterlife and showing him at one level how countless souls were earthbound. Though invisible, they were still mingling on our plane because they had sins to purge or were overly attached to earth through their pride, avarice, and obsessions.
Was this what Catholics call purgatory or was it hell? Ritchie does not get into distinctions. We believe he glimpsed aspects of both purgatory and hell. In one case he said he saw discarnate spirits filling a seedy bar and trying to grab drinks or enter the bodies of drunken soldiers. He said these spirits were bound to that situation because they had not yet purged their alcoholism. This reflected on the Scriptural passage from Christ that warns, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth! For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also!" Others were in a place where they were writhing, gouging, or punching each other -- yet causing no real effect because they were already dead.
"Although they appeared to be literally on top of each other, it was as though each man was boxing the air," wrote Ritchie, a psychiatrist who later became president of the Richmond Academy of General Practice in Virginia. "At last I realized that of course, having no substance, they could not actually touch one another. They could not kill, though they clearly wanted to, so they hurled themselves at each other in a frenzy of impotent rage."
These were souls attached to violence, attached to anger. Creatures seemed locked into their habits and destructive thought patterns. In the afterworld, said Ritchie, no thoughts are secret. As soon as a soul has a thought, it materializes in a way everyone can see. Thus, purity of mind -- constant, all-pure thinking -- is another key to paradise. "Those with negative thought patterns may flee the light of God at death because they are too ashamed or too afraid to have their inner thoughts and negative natures revealed to everyone," he says.
Ritchie describes seeing thousands of "non-physical" beings inhabiting normal space. This ties into the famed mystic St. Padre Pio's recollection of souls doing their purgatory on earth and also the testimony of mystic Maria Esperanza -- who says that many souls are earthbound because they have not yet found the Light.
In one house, says Ritchie, a younger man followed an older one, begging for the forgiveness of the older man. "I'm sorry, Pa!" he kept saying. "I didn't know what this would do to Mama!" It was said endlessly -- yet of course the living father could not hear his deceased son. Others were likewise trying to make up to the living. "They are suicides, chained to every consequence of their act," came a thought from the Light of Jesus, Who was allegedly accompanying Dr. Ritchie.
There was a common denominator, says Ritchie, between all the bad places. "It was the failure to see Jesus," he noted. "Whether it was a physical appetite, an earthly concern, an absorption with self -- whatever got in the way of His Light created the separation."
How did Ritchie see Jesus?
As strong, as the most powerful Man he had ever seen, as tremendously masculine. But also overwhelmingly compassionate. "Above all, with that same mysterious inner certainty, I knew that this Man loved me," Ritchie writes. "Far more even than power, what emanated from His Presence was unconditional love. An astonishing love. A love beyond my wildest imagining."
"This love knew every unlovable thing about me -- the quarrels with my stepmother, my explosive temper, the sex thoughts I could never control, every mean, selfish thought and action since the day I was born -- and accepted and loved me just the same.
"When I say He knew everything about me, this was just an observable fact. For into that [hospital] room along with His radiant presence -- simultaneously, though in telling about it I have to describe them one by one -- had also entered every single episode in my entire life. Everything that had ever happened to me was simply there, in full view, contemporary and current, all seemingly taking place at that moment."
Ritchie says he relived his own birth -- viewed the scene in the delivery room -- and for the first time, saw the mother who had died giving birth to him! He also viewed other important junctures of his life: himself as a toddler, his relationship with relatives, receiving his Boy Scout Eagle badge. There were scenes, hundreds, thousands of them, in this place where time as we know it ceased to exist.
In Ritchie's retelling, what he had thought important -- the Eagle badge, the acceptance into medical school -- were not a big deal to Christ. That glorified you, came the words from Jesus. "I started to point out my pre-med courses, how I was going to be a doctor and help people," says Ritchie, "but visible alongside the classroom scenes was that Cadillac car and that private airplane -- thoughts as observable as actions in that all-pervading light."
The same was seen of his smug attitude toward religion. He saw the way he thought he was superior to others because he had a perfect church attendance record. It wasn't really Jesus Who was judging, says Ritchie; he was judging himself! He saw all the times he had the wrong thoughts. He felt his effects on others. He saw where he had been self-centered. He realized that souls not yet in Heaven were souls that had fled the Light because they did not want to be seen for their darkness.
Yet not even those bound to dismal parts of the world, those who were writhing, had been abandoned by Jesus. At higher levels Ritchie claims he saw an impossibly large "library" that contained "all the important books of the universe" and souls wearing loose-flowing hooded cloaks that put him in mind of monks. They were souls that were still evolving but had lost the sense of self and "clamoring ego." At a distance he caught glimpse of an incredible city that it was made known to him was a high reach of Heaven.
He never got there, but he came back with a critical message. "As for what we'll find in the next world, I believe that what we'll discover there depends on how well we get on with the business of loving, here and now," Ritchie wrote in a little book we highly recommend. "God is busy building a race of men who know how to love. I believe that the fate of the earth itself depends on the progress we make -- and that the time now is very short."
Doctor Who Claims He Saw Christ Quotes Prophecy That Ties To Recent Disasters
By Michael H. Brown
Last May we carried several stories (above) about a psychiatrist named George G. Ritchie of Virginia who had what some have described as the best-documented near-death experience, with physicians signing notarized forms saying that indeed he seemed to have returned from the dead. "Speaking for myself, I feel sure that his virtual call from death and return to vigorous health has to be explained in terms of other than natural means," noted one of them, Dr. Donald G. Francy, who was in charge of the medical ward where Ritchie suffered a severe bout of pneumonia while in the military, and was twice declared "dead."
Ritchie himself was soon to go on to become a physician, before moving on to psychiatry. At the time of his experience, he was a soldier stationed out in Texas. We have written about Dr. Ritchie's descriptions of the afterlife, and his remarkable encounter with Jesus. We have covered what he said about an "in-between" zone, a place he says may have been purgatory. He wrote about it all in a book called Return From Tomorrow, (in our bookstore) which we enjoyed immensely.
Since that time, Dr. Ritchie, now retired and in his eighties, has penned another book, and the first part of it, a rehash of his experience, but with new details, is extremely profound. Like alleged apparitions, near-death cases are difficult. Many are those who have them and then come back and put their own spin -- their own belief systems -- on what they encountered. Unfortunately, in this domain, a good number of researchers tend toward the New Age and have influenced the views of those who have had the near-death experience. Although he remains a Christian, we fear this has happened to Dr. Ritchie. That's our take on his most recent book (entitled Ordered To Return): the first two-thirds are enthralling, the last part a criticism of organized religions and a positing of radical ideas.
When it comes to mysticism, it is always a case of testing what is good and leaving what one does not think is good and fortunately there is much good and interesting in his experience.
"What have you done with your life," said Jesus, who appeared to Ritchie in a magnificent white robe and was possessed of a "powerful, muscular frame" -- unlike many softer, almost feminine images that artists have created. "He had blue eyes with chestnut-brown hair parted in the middle," claims Dr. Ritchie, who, after his experience, helped to found the Peace Corps. He describes Jesus as "ageless" and yet appearing "about 35 years of age."
During his experience, which occurred in 1943, Dr. Ritchie says that Jesus not only showed him various levels of Heaven and purgatory, and not only reviewed Ritchie's life (admonishing him not to care about the material world), but also showed him two paths to the future. This is why we're writing about him again: the two paths were not directed to Ritchie's personal life -- but to the entire world.
Remarkably, they have to do with natural disasters. "Jesus opened a corridor through time which showed me increasing natural disasters coming upon the earth," writes Ritchie. "There were more and more hurricanes and floods occurring over different areas of our planet. The earthquakes and volcanoes were increasing. We were becoming more and more selfish and self-righteous. Families were splitting, governments were breaking apart because people were thinking only of themselves. I saw armies marching on the United States from the south and explosions occurring over the entire world that were of a magnitude beyond my capacity to imagine. I realized if they continued, human life as we have known it could not continue to exist."
This is "remarkable" not only because it coincides with many prophecies from alleged apparitions of the Blessed Mother, and with other near-death cases like those of former nightclub owner Ned Dougherty (who foresaw September 11) and a former atheistic professor named Howard Storm (now a minister), but because of the time frame.
"It is left to man which direction he shall choose," he quotes Jesus as saying. "I came to this planet to show you through the life I led how to love. Without our Father you can do nothing, neither could I. I showed you this. You have 45 years."
This is galvanizing stuff. Forty-five years? Consider that 45 years from 1943 brings us to 1988 -- which we have long cited as the time when natural disasters began to increase. In 1988 a great run of wildfires began, and in 1989 was the Loma Prieta quake in San Francisco, which seemed to spark a truly astonishing run of natural disasters that continue to our day. It was quickly followed by floods in New York City, record northeasters, the "perfect storm," Hurricane Andrew, the flooding of the Mississippi, an historic blizzard, the earthquake in 1992 in L.A., great floods in Canada, terrific typhoons, enormous hailstorms from Australia to Texas, unusual tornado activity, record hurricane seasons, heat waves in the U.S. and Europe, extensive wildfires, floods in China, in India, unprecedented El Ninos, a terrific natural disaster in Nicaragua, and a climate swerve that all but a few diehard skeptics now acknowledge as unlike any since the Middle Ages (September 2003 was the warmest September on record -- as just one example).
Thus, we have to say that mankind has thus far chosen the first option that Dr. Ritchie says he was shown by the Savior. Can we believe it? It is as hard to believe as it is compelling. We note that it began in the very same decade that Venerable Anne Catherine, the German mystic, foresaw as the start of a satanic era.
Woe to those who don't see the signs of the times -- and who ignore the prophetic pulse!
But let us also know this: Ritchie was shown a second option. Perhaps there is still time. We have to believe there is. We have to believe that we can still reverse the incredible pride and selfishness that created a society in which abortion and euthanasia and cloning are even options, a society in which there is unremitting lust -- the using of others -- and hatred.
"Suddenly the corridor was closed off and a second corridor started to open through time," writes Ritchie. "At the beginning they appeared very similar but the further the second one unfolded, the more different it became. The planet grew more peaceful. Man and nature both were better. Man was not as critical of himself or others. He was not as destructive of nature and he was beginning to understand what love is."
That was the option in a world or prayer and unselfishness.
We submit this all for your discernment.
"He then gave me orders to return to the human plane and mentally said, 'You have 45 years.' I had no understanding at that moment what he meant by forty-five years," says Ritchie -- although now, looking back, if we have eyes to see, we see the pattern.
When Doctor 'Died,' The Key Question Was Simply 'What Did You Do With Your Life?'
A priest we know points out that when one loves, one is "lifted out of his body," according to St. Paul. On a higher level, the elevation is due to such intense love of God that saints literally levitated off the earth! (See St. Joseph Cupertino.)
This we are to seek. It should be the goal of life!
Not levitation, but the elevation of love -- the love that transcends this earth and prepares us for the Vision of God.
Ask Dr. George G. Ritchie, a psychiatrist who, as a young man at Camp Barkeley in Texas, "died" for nine minutes during a horrible bout of pneumonia and claimed to have been shown the afterlife by none other than Jesus. You discern. We wrote about him a while back and feel compelled to revisit aspects we could not focus upon back then, for the experience was powerful at many unexplored levels.
When he saw Jesus, wrote Dr. Ritchie, it was a far more masculine power than he expected, not the meek image so often presented to us through artwork and yet at the same time a Presence filled with "astonishing love."
"A love beyond my wildest imagining," wrote the psychiatrist.
It's that love -- often such an alien concept to masculinity -- that we want to focus upon.
"This love knew every unlovable thing about me -- the quarrels with my stepmother, my explosive temper, the sex thoughts I could never control, every mean, selfish thought and action since the day I was born -- and accepted and loved me just the same," recounted Dr. Ritchie.
"Every detail of twenty years of living was there to be looked at. The good, the bad, the high points, the run-of-the-mill. And with this all-inclusive view came a question. It was implicit in every scene and, like the scenes themselves, seemed to proceed from the living Light beside me: "What did you do with your life?"
That was the main thing Jesus wanted to know. That was the "bottom line" of accomplishments. How would we respond?
The question could also be phrased: what did you accomplish with the precious time you were allotted, those passing earthly moments, notes the psychiatrist -- who after his experience founded the Universal Youth Corps.
What was lasting in your life? What was important?
What was done with purity -- the purity of selfless love?
What have we done for God and the glory of Heaven instead of ourselves?
Those are questions, says Dr. Ritchie (in a dynamite little book called Return from Tomorrow), that are on God's Mind. It seemed to Dr. Ritchie, who ended up practicing medicine in Richmond, Virginia, that it was more a question about values, not facts.
"What have you done with your life to show Me?"
For many, our accomplishments will be with children, friends, and family.
"He wasn't asking about accomplishments and awards," said Ritchie. "The question, like everything else that came from Him, had to do with love. How much have you loved with your life? Have you loved others as I am loving you? Totally? Unconditionally?"
He saw his life from infancy up -- the way he related to others, those he had spurned, hundreds, thousands of scenes, "all illuminated by that searing Light, in an existence where time seemed to have ceased.
"It would have taken weeks of ordinary time even to glance at so many events, and yet I had no sense of minutes passing," says the doctor.
There was the time he turned away as he stepmother leaned over to kiss him. There was the time he flew into a rage at a three-year-old who broke his model airplane. There were episodes from high school years -- dates, exams, running the fastest mile in his school, graduating into the University of Richmond.
And there was also that constant question: What did you do with your life?
As he reviewed his life with the Lord, said Dr. Ritchie, what he was shown was a wholly new perspective and "an endless, shortsighted, clamorous concern for myself." When he mentioned that he had been an Eagle Scout, for example -- trying to indicate a good deed -- the Lord dismissed this seemingly worthy achievement by saying, "That glorified you."
When they reviewed his religious practices, Ritchie was shown that those practices had turned routine with a smugness and self-esteem that made him think he was better than others because he never missed a Sunday, when he was not praying sincerely.
What else had he done with his life?
It got tough.
"I started to point out my pre-med courses, how I was going to be a doctor and help people," recalled Dr. Ritchie. But visible alongside the classroom scenes were the material rewards he looked forward to as a result of his profession -- "that Cadillac car and that private airplane, thoughts as observable as actions in that all-pervading light."
It was not good enough. Christ saw everything -- from every perspective.
In a way, said the psychiatrist, it was like arriving at a final exam and discovering that he was going to be tested on a subject he had not studied.
How was he to know, he cried in his mind? How could he have prepared?
"I told you by the life I lived," came back the words from Jesus. "I told you by the death I died. And if you keep your eyes on Me, you will see more..."
The love that came from Jesus was like nothing Ritchie could describe. Others say the same. The Lord was not judgmental but rather displaying the Truth of the Light.
We will all enter that Light, and we will all see our lives in review. We will all feel the incredible kindness of Jesus yet also His strength. "Far more even than power, what emanated from this Presence was unconditional love," said Dr. Ritchie, to repeat.
It was a selfless love. It was a pure love that we are to emulate. It was putting God above everything and everyone and as the goal of every action. This is the key to Heaven!
This is what elevates us.
This is how we all "levitate."
And what we seek to rise toward is the Being of Jesus -- Who, as Dr. Ritchie found, is different than we think in the way of goodness, in the way of selflessness, and certainly in the way of what love brings: power.
"This was the most totally male Being I had ever met," noted Dr. Ritchie in his splendid little memoir. "If this was the Son of God, then His Name was Jesus. But... this was not the Jesus of my Sunday school books.
"That Jesus was gentle, kind, understanding -- and probably a little bit of a weakling. This Person was power itself, older than time and yet more modern than anyone I had ever met."
[Resources: Return From Tomorrow]
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