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?
"This book is a thunderbolt!" writes Dr. Rabbi Meir Sendor.
And a priest comments in an article that appears in the Huffington Post, Eben Alexander, Harvard Neurosurgeon, Describes Heaven After Near-Death Experience a(VIDEO):
"I stood at Eben’s bedside ready to read Last Rites," writes Rev. Michael R. Sullivan, Rector, Holy Innocent’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta, Ga. "With vivid detail and description, he invites you to walk with him to that place none of us has experienced yet in our humanity we know we shall one day certainly travel. Having survived a near death experience and brought his neurological expertise and background to it, we gain both the insight of the mystics in his poetic words and the reality of the physical world in his scientific explorations."
And as Eben Alexander, himself, explains it in Newsweek. It is the Newsweek cover story:
Although I considered myself a faithful Christian, I was so more in name than in actual belief. I didn’t begrudge those who wanted to believe that Jesus was more than simply a good man who had suffered at the hands of the world. I sympathized deeply with those who wanted to believe that there was a God somewhere out there who loved us unconditionally. In fact, I envied such people the security that those beliefs no doubt provided. But as a scientist, I simply knew better than to believe them myself.
In the fall of 2008, however, after seven days in a coma during which the human part of my brain, the neocortex, was inactivated, I experienced something so profound that it gave me a scientific reason to believe in consciousness after death.
I know how pronouncements like mine sound to skeptics, so I will tell my story with the logic and language of the scientist I am.
The question that many will ask is how this relates to the other big NDE story reported on here about a year and a half ago, Akiane’s Jesus, Heaven is for Real and the Man in the Turin Shroud.
Certainly, the “witnesses” to heaven are different. How different are the descriptions? How different are the criteria for judging the truthfulness of the stories. We will need to read Alexander’s book when it comes out. In the meantime we have this by Raymond Moody, MD, PhD, author of Life Beyond Life, 1974:
Dr Eben Alexander’s near-death experience is the most astounding I have heard in more than four decades of studying this phenomenon. In my opinion, Dr Alexander is living proof of an afterlife. The extraordinary circumstances of his illness and his impeccable credentials make it very hard to formulate a mundane explanation for his case. For me, it is difficult to shake the feeling that his experience was somehow divinely ordained. Dr. Alexander’s book Proof of Heaven deserves to be a major international bestseller, and I believe it will be.
I am confident that Dr. Alexander’s story will capture worldwide interest. It will inspire many to accept that there really is life after death. I suspect his book will be a global game-changer. It has seismic implications and may help humanity arrive at a more accurate understanding of life’s true meaning and purpose in the larger sense.
Dr. Eben Alexander’s near-death experience stands as perhaps one of the crown jewels of all near-death experiences. The knowledge of what he experienced raises the bar for serious investigators and pundits. It marks the beginning of a new era of rational investigation of humankind’s deepest mystery, life after death."
And many more reviews at Life Beyond Death: Consciousness if the Most Profound Mystery in the Universe
More than a year ago (February 23, 2011) I wrote what turned out to be the most popular posting on this blog: 160,000 page views this year alone, 522 comments with little subject drift, numerous emails, etc.
Well, this morning a reader writes:
Last year, I wrote to you after reading the book “Heaven is for Real.” You said my letter threw you for a loop. But you published it and I have since had the most wonderful opportunity to read and think about the hundreds of comments that followed. Thank you. Did you happen to notice “Heaven is for Real” is still on the New York Times list of non-fiction bestsellers.
No, I hadn’t noticed. But now I see that it is #3. It has been near the top for over a year, which must be some sort of record. Here is what I wrote a year ago. Read More below or click over to Akiane’s Jesus, Heaven is for Real and the Man in the Turin Shroud to see it as I posted it.
Nice perspective by Lindsey K Rietzsch over at Stand a Little Taller on four images of Jesus: 1) "Christ in Red Robe" by Del Parson, 2) "Prince of Peace" by Akiane Kramarik, 3) Scientific Rendering "the Real Face of Jesus Christ" (as featured on the History Channel) by Ray Downing and 4) "Christ’s Image" by Heinrich Hofmann.
I have recently been drawn to various depictions of the Savior Jesus Christ especially those claimed to be the most accurate images of his face. It’s been spiritually uplifting for me to compare the similarities of these images and learn the stories behind the artists and their artwork. Here are the four I found to be most fascinating. At the bottom of this blog post I share with you my thoughts and feelings about the real face of Christ.
In your blog entry, “Akiane’s Jesus, Heaven is for Real and the Man in the Turin Shroud” as well as the two follow-up entries, you fail to note a passage from the wonderful book, Akiane: Her Life, Her Art, Her Poetry:
Many months later, thousands of people were discussing the two portraits of Jesus. Among them were scientists from Russia who noted that Akiane’s Prince of Peace had a remarkable resemblance to the mysterious image taken from the very Shroud of Turin.
That mysterious image was probably the Ariel Aggemian painting based on a photograph of the shroud.
The Jesus we see in Akiane’s painting looks just like the Aggemain’s painting of Jesus. The computer generated image of Jesus prepared by Ray Downing for the history channel is further confirmation of something going on here. I’m just not sure what that is.
Nor am I sure what that is. But the resemblance is quite amazing. Also see these two follow up postings:
EASTER 2014: Important new open discussion on this blog:
- Akiane’s Jesus, Heaven is for Real and the Man in the Turin Shroud
- More on Akiane’s Jesus, Heaven is for Real and the Man in the Shroud
Alice Miller writes:
To say that Akiane Kramarik is a religious visionary is certainly proper if you believe it. That she is also a gifted artist and a child prodigy goes without question. Given that her “Prince of Peace” looks so much like shroud-inspired pictures of Jesus in a sort of “it’s the same person” sense and given that little Colton Burpo in “Heaven is for Real” identified Akiane’s “Prince of Peace” as the person he saw in heaven warns us to be careful with what we really mean. For instance, how graphically valid is a religious vision? An article in Christianity Today is very telling:
“It wasn’t just art that was happening. Simultaneous with art was a spiritual awakening,” says Akiane’s mother, Forelli Kramarik. “It all began to happen when she started to share her dreams and visions.”Prior to that time, Forelli had been raised as an unbeliever, in an atheistic family from Lithuania.”And my husband was a former Catholic and did not share in the family beliefs. We didn’t pray together, there was no discussion about God, and we didn’t go to church. Then all of a sudden, Akiane was starting to talk about God.”
Forelli’s young daughter was homeschooled, she had no babysitters, and the family watched no television.”We were with the kids all the time, and so these words from Akiane about God didn’t come from the outside — we knew that. But there suddenly were intense conversations about God’s love, His place [in our lives], and she would describe everything in detail.”
In the beginning, Akiane drew pictures of family members and pets, but her interests eventually shifted to the creation of faces. She started “scribbling” more and more faces. She tries to recreate visions that she says God gives her in her dreams.
“I wake up after I have had many dreams. I wake up and I pray, and then I see visions and I explain all those to my mom, and I say, ‘This is what I want to paint.’ And my mom says, ‘I’ll give you a canvass so you can paint it.'”From her dreams Akiane began to compose what she calls the “Jesus” paintings, which took her more than 75 hours to complete. She has so far painted two oils of Jesus. She calls the first one “The Prince of Peace,” and the second is titled “Forgive Them, Father.”
“I always think about Jesus and talk about Him,” she says. “I was looking for a [Jesus] model for a long, long time, and when I couldn’t find anyone, one day I suggested to my family to pray all day for this model so God would send the right one.” The day that they prayed, a very tall carpenter — yes, a carpenter — came to their door looking for work. When he showed up, Akiane nearly fainted. “I told my mother that that was him. I want him to be my model,” she recalls.
The carpenter agreed to it at first, but he called a week later to back out.
“He said that he wasn’t worthy to represent his Master,” Akiane says. “He’s a Christian, and he’s a humble person. But I prayed that God would change his mind and that he would call back.” And the mysterious carpenter, who wished to remain anonymous, did call Akiane back, saying that God wanted him to pose for the painting, although he felt it was unusual.
Akiane took pictures, studied his face, made sketches, used her imagination and photo references, and the result was the “Prince of Peace.”
Akiane’s day is a little different from other children her age who are homeschooled. When she wakes each morning she has a drink of water, exercises, prays, and then she paints.
“And after I paint, I write poetry,” Akiane adds. “And I write Russian, and then I write and read Lithuanian, after which I read the Bible.”
When asked how she knows that it’s God who is speaking to her, she replies, “Because I can hear His voice. His voice is quiet and beautiful.” Although she was 3 at the time, she’ll always remember God’s first message to her. “He said, ‘You have to do this, and I’ll help you.’ He said, ‘Now you can help people.’ I said, ‘Yes, I will.’ But I said it in different words in my mind. I speak through my mind to Him.”
Akiane also has another dream that she believes God has given her — only this one is one that she dreams during her waking hours.”I really want to help needy people in Africa and other places,” she says. “Especially the Lithuanian people — the ‘garbage children’ is what they are called. They live in the garbage, and 2- and 3-year-olds are being killed for the first place in the food line,” she says. “Lithuania has the highest suicide rate in the world. They need help with food and medicine, and a free hospital. I really want to build a free hospital for them.”
Akiane hopes to fund such projects with the sale of her paintings and poetry. According to her agent, Akiane soon will embark on a world tour to raise money for the African AIDS crisis.
“We don’t have an answer as to why this is happening. We don’t have a clue,” Forelli Kramarik says about her daughter’s unfolding ministry. “We’re just thankful to God.”
But Akiane does seem to have an answer. When her mother asks her why she thinks she received her gift, the 10-year-old replies: “I have been blessed by God. And if I’m blessed, there is one reason and one reason only, and that is to help others.”
I don’t know what to think at this time.
EASTER 2014: Important new open discussion on this blog:
- Akiane’s Jesus, Heaven is for Real and the Man in the Turin Shroud
- Still More on Akiane’s Jesus, Heaven is for Real and the Man in the Shroud
These comments pertain to Akiane’s Jesus, Heaven is for Real and the Man in the Turin Shroud.
One reader writes:
Can you imagine what might have happened if the 4 year old kid had been shown a picture of the shroud and said, “Yep, Dad, that’s him.”
Another reader writes:
This idea that the Akiane portrait looks like the Shroud face or the face developed by the History Channel assumes that Jesus had a haircut or a full salon treatment sometime between the time he was in the tomb and the time that Colton saw him. I’m dubious of the account in the book but I can’t rule it out. There is a resemblance.
Actually, the image was developed by Ray Downing and his team for the History Channel.
I think the painting of Jesus by Akiane Kramarik looks like the Shroud inspired painting of Jesus by Ariel Aggemian. Given that I have reservations about such visions or near death encounters, I find it very spooky.
The Akiane looks like the St. Catherine Pantocrator with a new hair style.
And finally one reader of this blog wrote:
Maybe Akiane’s vision was the face on the Shroud. Remember that a vision is just that, a vision. It could come from a book or a picture in the news. The memory of a seven-year-old child being asked over and over to remember what he saw at age four is also something to take with a grain of salt. But they do look similar.
You all see a bit more than I do. But, yes, there is some resemblance. Anyway, here is a key to the images: The man with short hair and white clothing is the Akiane painting. The sepia toned image is the Ariel Aggemian inspired painting. The one with the deep blue shadows was created by Ray Downing for History. And, of course, the Pantocrator, almost certainly inspired by the Shroud of Turin, is the one with the big golden halo.