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Abstract:
Literature search and research notes on the Baha'i Faith and death, near death experiences (NDEs), and the afterlife.

Near Death Experiences and the Bahá'í Faith

compiled by Steven Kolins.
2012/2014
Three people who later became Bahá'ís had extensive NDEs and have shared their stories publicly. Each have mentioned that the Faith fits with their view of life after their experiences. There are also a couple references to people associated with the Faith processing their experiences connecting to the Faith or in light of the Faith. And there have been a number of books published reviewing the Faith's scriptural views that might relate to NDEs.

Three documented cases

Marie Watson, 1890
A book of the pilgrim experience of Marie Watson in 1921 was published in 1932. In it she describes an incident of a car accident circa 1890 and a vision while being unconscious some time. She later wrote ''Two Paths'', a work of fiction, which includes a narrative of a trance vision, in 1897 and joined the Faith in 1901 according to her narrative. The book of the pilgrim experience is named "My Pilgrimage to the Land of Desire", published by the Executor of the estate of Marie Watson and the Bahá'í Publishing Committee of New York. See pages 13–14:
In the year 1890 I was a victim of a car accident in the city of Washington, D. C. The injury was so severe that life was thought to be extinct for several hours. The spinal column was twisted and pushed out of alignment to such a degree that a portion of the vertebrae lay upon the left ribs, forming a protrusion the size of an infant's head. The right ribs were crushed and splinters of bone were removed. The right hip was out of the socket, not perceived at first by the doctors, and the left arm could only be partially raised. I lay unconscious at the hospital for many days, taking no nourishment whatever, not even water, and undoubtedly would have been buried, had the period lengthened, but for the fact that some friends informed the physicians that in childhood I had also been "in a trance" for nineteen days, so the interment was postponed.

During this unconscious period, that is to say unconscious to all earthly surroundings, my soul was very much alive on inner subjective planes. In these experiences I met with a Wonderful Being,— whom I afterwards learned was 'Abdu'l-Bahá, who gave me spiritual instructions and taught me the mysteries of life, saying: "Many of these things thou dost comprehend only in part, for thou must live them and then teach the people of the world. This is for future harvesting." (From "The Two Paths.")[ed. this inclusion of "From The Two Paths" is in the book, not an editor addition]

Reinee Pasarow - experience in 1960s
Reinee Pasarow (spelling of "Reinee" varies) has presented her experiences and an extended talk which was filmed and is available online in a couple places: bahaivideo.com/media/renee1.swf - Part 1, bahaivideo.com/media/renee2.swf - Part 2, and lightafterlife.com

These are excerpted from a community cable channel broadcast of the talk which is not available online. Some parts of the video were written down in a partial transcript at www.near-death.com/forum/nde/000/64.html, and the talk has been analyzed from a religious point of view in a commentary at www.globalperspective.org/videos.html and as part of the paper called "The Exploration of Life After Death" at www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/updates/baracao/paper19.htm. There is also an audio file of a similar but not identical talk at bahaitext.info/xyaudiodown.htm. Renee's experience was commented on on a number of TV programs according to the introduction and a few comments in the talk but the specifics have not been found.

Ricky Bradshaw - experience in 1975
From Coming Back to Life; Revised and Updated, by PMH Atwater, 2001, pages 111-112:
Another example is story of Ricky Bradshaw. I was at a meeting in 1984 where Ricky talked about his near death experience. The torso of his body had been literally cut in half when he was involved in a pedestrian/automobile accident in 1975. He was clinically dead for over an hour before any pulsebeat was registered and he went on to endure twenty-four surgeries in two years. His survival is one of the most miraculous in all medical history and he was featured in the television series "That's Incredible." Ricky cofounded the International Association for Near Death Studies with Dr. Kenneth Ring and has been written about in several books. While dead, he had both an out-of-body experience and a near death scenario, which was long and complex. He was given a choice during the scenario as to whether or not he wanted to return. When he choose yes the "Being" in charge gave him as a gift the right to view evolution and history from beginning to end. Although he recalls some of what he was shown, most has been forgotten or he refuses to discuss it.

The talk he gave that day was inspiring and filled with love, as is Ricky. When it was over, however, a medical doctor in the audience asked how anyone might gain Ricky's degree of spiritual enlightenment without dying to do it. Ricky's answer was honest and insightful: "Having a near-death experience does not make you enlightened. It is an introduction, perhaps more a hindrance than a help!"

He went on to clarify "hindrance" as having to live with the knowledge that "here" is not the same as "there," that now he has a basis of comparison he did not have before. It is all to easy to get so wrapped up "remembering" that ordinary life loses its luster. Ricky has remarried and with his new wife has joined the Bahá'í Faith, feeling it closer than anything else he has studied or heard of in furthering what he learned while on "The Other Side." The Bahá'í Faith is very important to him as is his growing appreciation of the opportunity he now has to reach out to others and spread joy and love. Although Ricky is doing fine, his relatives do not understand his point of view nor do they appreciate his choices.

The short segment from "That's Incredible" has been found as is online at www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiRtmHeRxC0.


There is a brief outline also covered at in a "Review of P.M.H. Atwater: The Big Book of Near-Death Experiences" online at www.sgmt.at/BookReviews/Review4.htm.

In 1975, Ricky Bradshaw was nearly cut in half when he became trapped between two cars backing into each other. He was pronounced dead at the hospital, where a group of medical students asked to be allowed to experiment with a fresh corpse. After an hour (WELL beyond the time where a brain can normally recover from the lack of oxygen) they began to see beeps on the heart monitor and called for a physician.

"Two years and twenty-four surgeries later, Ricky's survival made medical history. His case is termed 'unexplained' by the medical community."

"He had a 'humdinger' of an NDE, one that featured an out-of-body-experience, brilliant light, loving voices, and being able to view all of history from beginning to end."

I simply love how divine grace and human travails worked together here to accomplish the apparently impossible! So often we see our best efforts go to waste, but in this case they were rewarded against all odds.


There was a 1992 interview mentioned in Religion and Healing in America (paperback edition) ed. by Linda L. Barnes, Susan S. Sered, see p. 399-400, from chapter/paper "Taking Seriously the nature of Religious Healing" by Edith Turner at books.google.com/books?id=Uo5iIkzuSfEC&pg=PA399.

The following description was given by Rick Bradshaw, on November 14, 1992 (personal communication), about the key event in the middle of a near-death experience that he had undergone:

Then another being entered, "The Being of Light." Each individual uses different words, Buddhists, Christians, and so on. The light of this being was so intense that his light preceded him. I could actually "feel" the light, it was warm, it was love. I felt insignificant and wanted to crawl under the podium, and I wanted to hug him. I was still tense.

He says, "Do you know where you are?"

"Yes."

"What is your decision?"

The unused nine-tenths of my brain opened up, and I saw the whole of my life. I recognized the truth. How to react with animals, other beings. In life we block off, close them off. I was looking back at my life. Was such and such sin? That wasn't so bad. Treating others badly was the worst sin. Love for others was the most important thing, as he loved me. There was instilled a fire within myself to continue to grow, to know to search.

I said, "I didn't really show others the love I should have." You get what you deserve. I didn't deserve this beauty. I said, "I must return."

He said, "Why? Aren't you happy hear?"

I said "I must give love to those who have me love."


There are references to Bradshaw publishing his story in some early journals not online. See books.google.com/books?id=_6tVwVF6w10C&pg=PA237 indicating it was published in an early version of an NDE journal named (at the time) Anabiosis: Journal of Near Death Studies, August 1979, page 11 which is also mentioned in #112 at bahai-library.com/sharon_death_dying_bahai (online access to pre-1987 not available.)


Coming Back to Life, by P.M.H. Atwater, takes several novel approaches to the subject. In here Atwater claims Ricky Bradshaw co-founded IANDS with Dr. Ring. See a citation and cover image for this book.

Two more cases

In addition to the above, two others have reported NDEs and have some relationship to the Faith.
P.M.H. Atwater
In P. M. H. Atwater's more recent book Near-Death Experiences, the Rest of the Story: What They Teach Us about Living and Dying and Our True Purpose; see books.google.com/books?id=zyAttorNyXMC&lpg=PP1&pg=PA242. On p. 242 Atwater records an anecdote of another reference to the Faith.

"It is my opinion," said Teri, "that Michael has been living with the aftereffects since childhood. One afternoon he called me and asked if I wanted to go to church with him. I said no, but I would love to take him to Bahá'í Temple in Wilmette. After climbing the stairs to the Temple, together we walked in a circle, reading inscriptions over the doors. Over one set of doors, facing East, we paused to read, "Ye are the fruits of one tree and the leaves of one branch.' I looked up at Michael as tears welled in his eyes. I could feel his pain and frustration. It was the kind of frustration that comes with the knowledge of having crossed over, of having been 'there', of having returned from the threshold of death carrying his message for mankind with a remote memory of 'the other side'."

Nina Lembcke Holte Harvey
Nina Lembcke Holte Harvey has been interviewed by Warren Odess-Gillett on "A Bahá'í Perspective" about her NDEs in her childhood. See www.bahaipodcast.com/assets/mp3/abp-246.mp3.

Bibliography of books that cover Death/NDE/Afterlife from a Bahá'í perspective

A review of the Bahá'í point of view of death may be seen in Moshe Sharon's "Death and Dying in the Bahá'í Faith" which can be accessed online at bahai-library.com/sharon_death_dying_bahai.

Life after death: a study of the afterlife in world religions is by Farnáz Maʻsúmián. Ma'sumian is a Bahá'í professor in Texas. This book surveys religion writings/scriptures looking for discussion on the early phases of death. It does mention the Bahá'í Faith. See books.google.com/books?id=dI1WEwE2W90C.

Glorious Journey to God - recent publication from the Bahá'í Publishing Trust. More exhaustive than "Light After Death" but only reviews scripture - not linked to NDE research per se. See www.amazon.com/gp/product/0937661023.

Light After Death, by Alan Bryson. A smallish Bahá'í book mostly free online at books.google.com/books?id=WSEsWN-6BUEC. It covers NDEs from a Bahá'í point of view and compares with scripture, but does not mention Renee or Ricky or any specific cases.

There is a provisional translation of a Tablet by Bahá'u'lláh deal with matters of justice between this world and the afterlife. There is a general discussion of the issue atbahai-library.com/lepain_lawh_haqqu_nas as well as the tablet itself at bahai-library.com/ghassempour_lawh_haqqu_nas.

'Purpose of Physical Reality, by John S. Hatcher, has a chapter on the Bahá'í teachings in relation to NDEs - ''The Eternal Consequences of the Physical Experiences" p. 118 - 154. It is different than Bryson's in that it discusses negatives in the afterlife and while it correlates NDEs with Bahá'í Writings it does so with more discussion.

Journey of the Soul - Life Death and Immortality is a compilation by Terrill Hayes, Betty Fisher, Richard Hill and Terry Cassiday. It has no discussion of NDEs.

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