With the movie, “Heaven is for Real,” in the theaters, the book of the same title is back on the New York Times Bestseller List; that is 134 weeks, on again – off again, that it was a bestseller in the non-fiction category. It is about the near death experience (NDE) of a four year old boy, Colton Burpo. I haven’t seen the movie but the reviews are in and it seems to be fairly good. All the syndicated big name reviewers and all the major newspapers covered it. Here is what Ty Burr wrote in the Boston Globe:
Room For Discussion
“Except that ‘Heaven Is for Real” turns out to be about cynicism and doubt for a sizable chunk of its running time — the struggle within those who already believe rather than the conversion of unbelievers. That makes it a surprisingly nuanced entry in the Christian film genre, even if the movie finally and firmly comes down on the side of angels, Day-Glo Elysian Fields, and Christ as nice guy incarnate. The faithful should welcome it warmly. Others may come away unconvinced while appreciating the film’s sincerity and lack of anti-secular axes being ground.
Why is this a big deal, here, in this blog? Back in February of 2011, I blogged about this after receiving an email from a reader:
I just finished reading “Heaven is for Real.” I am thinking that the Akiane Prince of Peace is very similar to the man in the Turin Shroud. STURP and now the Shroud Science Group with all its scientific books and journals cannot begin to match the power of this story. Four-year-old Colton Burpo left the hospital operating room and went [to] heaven where he saw Jesus. Later, he confirmed that Jesus looked like the Akiane Jesus. The Akiane Jesus looks like the Turin Shroud.
I wrote at the time:
The Akiane Prince of Peace? The book, Heaven is for Real? A kid who saw Jesus in heaven during some sort of purported near-death experience (NDE)? Really? And does this visionary picture look like the man in the Shroud?
I also wrote:
Akiane Kramarik seems to be a child visionary. Growing up in a home with an Atheist mother and a lapsed Catholic father, she apparently began having “divinely inspired visions,” which she translated into poetry and art. By age four (Colton’s age) she was painting and writing poetry. There can be no denying, at least, that she is a prodigy. She appeared on CNN, World News Tonight and the Oprah Winfrey Show. Forget that she is a child; her work is amazing.
She was just eight-years-old when she painted Prince of Peace, her first portrait of Jesus. This is the painting Colton said was right. It is reproduced in the back of every copy of this best seller. . . .
. . . Yes, I’m sure that such a popular image, if indeed many people think it is similar to the image of a man on the shroud, will have an impact on belief about the shroud. Nonetheless, the goal of the Shroud Science Group (as was the goal of STURP) is not to sway opinion. It’s purpose is to pursue the scientific and historical truth about the shroud, whatever it may be and wherever it may lead, and to disseminate that information in a responsible way.
That said, I say go read the book and make up your own mind. I’m intrigued but not swayed. Then again, it took me five years to conclude that the Shroud of Turin was probably real.
Now, I should probably add, go see the movie.
And now to the crux of the matter: Phil Dayvault, whose work has been discussed on this blog and who has participated with his own comments, has a new (or updated) web page, The ISA Tile and the “Prince of Peace” and a video that you should watch (you may need to hit the pause button if, like me, you are a slow reader of white on black).
YouTube Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UisIxFV_M6M
There is room for a lot of discussion here. How good are Dayvault’s methods? Can they be reproduced by others? Can the software be revealed and examined? I didn’t see any obvious morphing going on, but is there any? Tilting? Angling back to front? Changing horizontal and vertical proportions? Any other Photo Shop stuff I didn’t think of? Any control work with other faces?
It is a pity that Dayvault’s Isa tile appears to be wholly without provenance or authentication, and that the only picture of it is the one one his website. Still, taking it at face value, and using as guide marks the centre of the eyes and the lower margin of the lower lip, it is clearly longer and thinner than the Akiane picture. Not a lot, it is true, and it is difficult to see on the video as one image fades into another, but it’s perfectly clear if you try to merge them in a document (http://imgur.com/kivu30L).
Hugh, The ISA tile is reproduced in Ian Wilson’s 2010 book “The Shroud” as Plate 19a. It is sub-titled “Mosaic Face of Jesus, Fragment from an unidentified location in Sanliurfa (=Edessa)”. As early as pp 1-2 of his book, Wilson explains how he and Mark Guscin were advised by archaeologist Dr Mehmet Onal of the presence of the mosaic in the Sanliurfa museum. The museum director Erman Bediz explained that it was an 8in x 6in fragment discovered by a local citizen making structural alterations to his house. He “hacked” it out and sold it to the museum on a “no questions asked” basis. The museum did not have it on display but only in storage, but it was viewed by Wilson & Guscin. Requests to photograph it were met by the response that Ankara would need to be consulted, but they never heard back from the museum before publication. The plate they used was copied from a photo in a Turkish journal, cited in his picture credits list.
From their extensive survey of Mandylion representations, Wilson & Guscin identified it as 6th-7th century. It is probably the sole surviving representation of what must have been innumerable copies of the image within Edessa itself before the Turks destroyed everything Christian after taking Edessa in 1146.
Ah, yes. Thank you.
That’s right, Daveb. Only, Phil saw the mosaic before Wilson and Guscin did, but his research paper came after Wilson’s book was published. Phil is a serious Shroud scholar and a former FBI Special Agent and his work was in the field of forensic analysis. He would not work on anything “wholly without provenance”.
I’d like to see a comparison with a picture of someone who isn’t Jesus, An Abe Lincoln or even Charles Manson, demonstrating the technology disproves visual association as well as proves.
This is not how facial matching works at all. Dayvault should know better. Moreover you are comparing art to art, a primitive mosaic to what may be an idealized painting. Give me a break. Even the best facial matching software, which is not what Dayvault is using, is vastly inferior to a human being’s ability to identify faces. Having said all that, I think Akiane’s painting looks like the man on the shroud. The ISA Mosaic is a slight maybe to my eyes and brain. The St. Catherine icon is a much better fit, I think.
So let’s say Akiane had a vision via a model. So let’s say Burpo saw Jesus in his NDE and it looked like the Akiane painting. It could be, just could be, a human gut feeling match to the man of the shroud, assuming much, that is. Nothing more.
The non-Christian Dr. Onal told IW that he had an “Issa” (Jesus) icon to show him, so we at least know that it is Jesus, bringing us closer to the Image of Edessa story.
We must hope that the situation at Saint Catherine, where the encaustic icon is preserved, will improve:
I am confident that if we were to overlay the Shroud over the image almost anyone, we would find 40-50 points of congruence. However, at some level, the points of congruence must become statistically significant as in the case of the Justinian coins–particularly the Tremesis coin, and the Sinai Icon from the Monastery of St. Catherine. These are at the 180 range regarding points of congruence and my view must be considered more than random or accidental.
What is the scientific definition of a point of congruence?
Phil Dayvault uses the polaroid overlay method developed by Dr. Alan Whanger:
I think I’d like to see the 180 “points of congruence” listed or marked on an image before I thought any two images of a face were irrefutably derived one from the other.
In plate 19.c in IW’s book we can see the detail from the icon of Saints Sergius and Bacchus preserved at the Kiev Museum in Russia and formerly at Saint Catherine, Egypt. It is dated to the 6th century and is not very different from the mosaic.
There appears to have been a tradition of mosaic work in Edessa, probably dating from well before the 2nd century. Markwardt in his 2008 paper, “Ancient Edessa and the Shroud” gives three such examples Fig 14 “The Family Portrait Mosaic”, Fig 15 “The Tripod Mosaic”, Fig 16 “Funerary Couch Mosaic”, pp 21-23, all from ‘Vanished Civilizations’ edited by Edward Bacon, 1963, and cites the primary authority on Edessa, J B Segal. They are said to date from the 2nd-3rd centuries. The men of that time are all depicted with beards, and bushy hair, one or two wear turbans, the women are “golden robed and golden sandaled”.
It is tempting to identify the ISSA mosaic as a copy of the Mandylion, particularly as Louis makes the point concerning similarity in the detail of the Saints Sergius & Bacchus in Kiev museum. Also archaeologist Dr Onal identified it as an “Issa” (= Jesus) icon. In view of the tradition of mosaic work among notable families, I suppose it is just possible it may represent someone else, perhaps in much the same way as modern families display family photographs. Not knowing the specific location of where the mosaic was found might perhaps be considered a problem in confirming it as a Jesus icon. The fact that it survived aftr everything else Christian was destroyed might raise the suspicion that it was not recognised by the invaders as specifically Christian.
It is always possible, Daveb, so we will have to wait and see what more Phil can produce that will convince sceptics. IW certainly places a lot of hope in the excavations, as the Christian city was “buried” after the invasion.
On “Heaven is for Real”
Two questions: Were Colton Burpo’s experiences while in the coma state veridical? This question must be asked since the mere having of an experience is no guarantee of the reality of its object. The second question is whether the experiences, veridical or not, occurred wholly independently of brain functioning. The two questions are connected. If it could be shown that the experiences were generated by a minimally (mal)functioning brain, then then this would be a reason to doubt the veridicality of the experiences. (Analogy: if I know that my unusual experiences are the result of the ingesting of LSD-25, then I have reason to doubt the veridicality of the experiences.)
Another concern of mine is this. How does Colton Burpo’s father know that son’s wonderful experiences didn’t suddenly arise just as the cortex was coming back into action just before his eyes popped open? So even if his cortex was for a long time completely nonfunctional, the experience he remembers could have been simply a dream that arose while the cortex was coming back ‘on line.’
My point is not that the book has not given us evidence that mental functioning occurs in the absence of brain activity; I believe he has. My point is that the evidence is not compelling (as of now).
Corrected Sentence: I believe IT has.
Going theological for a moment…could we really expect the Resurrected Christ to look the same as the MoS? Similar, sure, but wouldn’t there be significant differences? Setting aside the when and how of image formation, the image is clearly that of a corpse. Post-Resurrection, we have the experience of Mary Magdalene (John 20:1-16) — who didn’t recognize Jesus standing right in front of her, so different (transfigured?) was his appearance from what it had been.
Frankly, this questions strikes me as an angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin kind of argument. There are just so many variables we can’t even begin to fathom, never mind account for. Personally, I look at these images and say “Close enough.” Or, so sound a bit more pedantic (as we must when debating the obvious), the Akiane Jesus is “not inconsistent” with the Shroud.
For the few doubters of Colton Burpo, might I remind you of St. Catherine of Sienna, who at age 6y/o was walking with her brother when she saw an apparition of Jesus…her story is amazing and wonderful…Jesus and Mary have routinely visited children in the past, and those children were very much alive…I believe Colton, when I was in second grade at Catholic grade school, I had a very kind and sweet nun. One day we asked her what did Jesus look like. She said “He was about 6ft tall and light complected”. We didn’t think to ask her how she knew we were too busy trying to envision what she said…most likely it was from people she knew that had NDE…that was almost 50yrs ago and that nun was almost 70y/o…just saying. Remember Colton isn’t asking you to believe him, he’s just sharing his story.
The first reason i disbelieve this is bcause this is a modern face. People even from 100 years ago didn’t look like this, unless…Jesus is really trying hard to keep up with the times. There are other pictures too, by people who’ve claimed to have seen him, photographed him, etc., that don’t comply with this one. So which is the real image of Christ is anyone’s guess.
My personal first reaction of Akiane’s painting “Prince of Peace” is that it does not resemble a man who is Jewish. It has more “European” features, probably picked up from the man that she used as a model for the painting. Perhaps she saw some similar features to what she thought she saw of Jesus “in her visit to her heaven”. I am a graphic artist and have studied 3 years of art. When the image of the shroud is placed over the “Prince of Peace” painting, I can clearly see that the features and proportions do not match.
It is for you to believe or not. The Akiane painting is a resemblance-any painting or image made by a person will never truly be a perfect and completely accurate rendition of Christ. However, there are many images of Christ that are very much alike to one another as well as the image on the Turin shroud. As God said, it is faith and only faith that will lead you to him. Physical proof will not be the purpose of God, he spread the word through Christ, he founded the new covenant, belief and faith is based on one’s own prayers and willingness to open one’s heart to Christ. We must find him, he already has found us. God sent his only begotten son to us in human form so we could relate to him. He also sent him, knowing that he would be the most mistreated and tortured man in the world by human hands, for the potential forgiveness of sin. I have had many strange and eye opening experiences myself, near death in the womb, forced early birth so I wouldn’t die, sick for a month in an incubator. I have experienced God’s grace through many near death moments. I have seen angels, God has chosen for me to go on, I have seen my grandfather after he died, my father communicated with me for years after he died, I have seen myself from above my body and looked down on the worried people around the bed, it is not for us to question God’s will, it is for us to find our way to him and love him without expectations. Read the bible and meditate over the words and messages, pray for guidance and understanding. God will show you the truth if you seek it unselfishly.
Perhaps there were some issues in the book Heaven can wait, but that shouldn’t matter, what matters is the message the book has as a whole conveyed;. GOD exists, Jesus exists, Angels Exist, HEAVEN exists as well as HELL.Your salvation is within yourself by choosing Christ. The formula for life is the same in every element of this planets and Universe.God created the formula for all life, how it evolved and progressed was also his doing.
Find a moment to sit and be still, mediate or pray in silence without interruptions-think back and reflect. There may be an answer hidden in your own buried memories or subconscious mind, a memory of an unexpected fulfillment to a need, a recovery, an accident that could have led to paralysis or death that didn’t. You may be surprised. There is not such a thing as “coincidental”. We use that word because we are lacking in deep knowledge and wisdom as humans, despite our education. “GOD works in mysterious ways”, how true, so many coincidences are not coincidences. God works to help us, he sends us help when we need it, we think we do everything on our own. We don’t, anything we have, is because God has chosen to give it to us.Give God credit, Christ came to us with a message, and we are to listen to that message and accept him as our Savior. Those who need proof, unfortunately will never find it in physical proof, the proof is in his word and his promise of eternal life in Heaven for those who have found him. God also warned us that there will be many who will attempt to lead us astray, there will be many who will use his name in vain. The 4 year old Colton did none of this, most children of that age do not embellish nor lie. He spoke the truth, and it is a message. “Wake up people, God exists, Christ exists, Heaven and Hell exists. It is your choice to decide which one of these two eternal places you wish to spend your eternal life in. Life after our physical death is real. Our physical bodies are needed for our soul so that we may learn to grow spiritually for the sake of our souls. Anger and negativity will never help us to grow in our soul. Without the chance for our souls to learn and grow in goodness, we would never have a change to enter Heaven.
Instead of criticism find reflection!!!
By the way, have any of you thought about the idea that during the time of the Crucifixion they tied all men by rope around the feet and hands to the cross? With that in mind, the weight of Christ body would not be held up by the nails alone. In so doing, it is doubtless that the nails were through his hands and feet, not to break bones and not bearing his whole weight alone on the cross. Think about that.
Thank you, your comment is much appreciated. Heaven is for Real and I cannot wait for that day to be finally home.
Wellington Dominion Post Oct 8, has just published a news item on largest major study on N.D.Es.
Scientists at Southampton University spent more than four years studying 2000 people who suffered cardiac arrest at 15 hospitals in UK, USA and Austria. Nearly 40% of those who survived described some kind of “awareness” during the time they were clinically dead before their hearts were restarted. They includes ‘out-of-body’ experiences and descriptions of the actions of nursing staff in detail. Typically the brain shuts down 20-30 seconds after heart stops beating, but reports of awareness continued for up to 3 minutes afterwards. The study was led by Dr Sam Parnia, former Southampton Research Fellow, now based at state University New York. The study was published in the journal “Resuscitation”.
For full Wellington Dom-Post report, see:
Dr. Parnia has written 2 books on this subject. In his second and latest book, “Erasing Death: The Science That Is Rewriting the Boundaries Between Life and Death” includes an update on his AWARE study, but I found nothing new in it as far as this study goes.
Some people claim that during this NDE they float above their bodys and look down and see what the doctors are doing. And one of the things they have done in the four year study is place signs high up so the only way you can see them if is that you are floating up above. So far there is no claim that someone has reported seeing them.
There are a lot of problems with the claim that people have seen the afterlife. Some people see Jesus, or whatever god they believe in, some see friends that are still alive and sometimes kid meet a man in a red suit (maybe Santa).Many people see Jesus and Jesus allows them to Judge themself rather than have God do it as in the Bible.
After all the book I’ve read on this on this subject I now believe it’s something that’s is created in the mind but I’ll await the final release of the study(which we been promised for years) before I make up my mind.
PS Some Christains believe that this is the work of the Devil (Well, NDE’s not my post) because some bad people go to heaven and sometimes good people go to hell.
This is actually not new, Parnia had hinted that they had one case where they used external stimuli to gauge if the “experience” took place when the brain was “off” instead of “rebooting” (or going “shutting down”) and determined that it actually happened during the “off” phase. That was back in December:
I have a few issues with the AWARE methods… First of all, if there are real OBEs, simply placing something above and out of view does not mean that the patient would see it. Heck, if I suddenly found myself outside of my body, I would place all of my focus on one thing: my lifeless body and the doctors working on it.
AFAIK, most of the patients reporting OBEs report seeing themselves. So, if I was handling the study I would certainly focus on placing something near the patient’s body during the cardiac arrest. If doesn’t need to be something instrusive, but the focus should be the patient instead of the ceiling.
Well I agree. If I had a NBE and was looking down on my body the last thing I would be looking for is a sign. I would be flying around the hospital looking for more doctors!
Not only that, but the paper makes it clear that the methodology was flawed. The “shelves” with the objects were not placed in each of the rooms, which means that only 22% of the surviving patients were attended in a room that had one. Only two reported an OBE and neither was attended in one of the rooms with one of these shelves installed. Even if these OBEs were real, there was no way that the patient could report seeing the objects.
So, we are basically left with one intriguing case where a 57 y.o. patient reported verifiable events while he was proven unconscious via stimuli and several anecdotal cases. That one case is interesting and promising, but hardly the “boom” that a “proven” OBE could have been and all of it is thanks to flawed design. If they are going to continue (which seems likely, they just go another grant from Templeton) they should shrink the sample size to include only the patients attended in the retrofitted rooms or as I said above, reconsider the placement of the “signs”.
Extraordinary methodology. Assuming the patient was comatose, wouldn’t placing a sign on his chest do just as well, or were they trying to find out how high the NDE flyer could reach?
It may get in the way of them trying to bring the person back and they wanted it was no one else could see it and tell him what the sign said I guess.
I think when the person go code blue it’s quick and they would not have the time to run around looking for a sign.
Good one, Hugh. But a sign on the chest would be in the way of resuscitation efforts. I believe, from what I’ve read, that out of body experiencers speak of being near the ceiling of a room and having 360 by 360 vision (hard to imagine). Often they speak of leaving the room and seeing things in other rooms, etc. Interesting stuff, maybe, but pretty much limited to personal testimonials in lieu of evidence.
The entire lower body does not interfere, I could think of a few methods to place something “unusual” there. The most simplistic would involve a psychedelic-colored sheet which would be placed on the legs of the patient by one of the nurses and quickly removed once a pulse is found.
Alternatively, something could be worn by a member of the staff. Would wearing a clown wig while trying to revive someone be considered inappropriate?
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