George Ritchie writes – “It was the end of September 1943, and I was on my way out to Camp Berkeley, Texas, for basic training. I was 20 years old, tall, skinny, a pretty typical kid of those days, full of idealism about winning the war and whipping the Nazis. The only thing I hadn’t been prepared to fight was dust.”
He went on to recount the devastating experiences he had at that camp, due to the weather. Eventually, the dust, the cold, the exercises, everything reduced him to a state of health that allowed a severe condition to develop within his lungs. Running a fever, he was taken to the camp hospital, where on December 20th he died.
Some nine minutes later he returned to the land of the living, having received an incredible “out of body” experience, of meeting the Lord Jesus, and being taken through several different regions of the afterlife. He witnessed the misery of suicide cases, the craving of alcoholics in a bar, the grisly fighting of people still full of hatred, but then a change came, as he was taken into a massive University-style area. This is where our present interest lies, and we can listen to his account of what he found there.
We were moving again. Or rather, the scene in front of us was changing somehow. Opening up. It was the quality of light that was different, as though the air had suddenly become more transparent, enabling me to see what had apparently been there all along. Again, it was as if Jesus could reveal only as much as my mind could grasp. First He had shown me a hellish realm, filled with beings trapped in some form of self-attention. Now behind, beyond, through all this I began to perceive a whole new realm! Enormous buildings stood in a beautiful sunny park and there was a relationship between the various structures, a pattern to the way they were arranged, that reminded me somewhat of a well-planned university. Except that to compare what I was now seeing with anything on earth was ridiculous. It was more as if all the schools and colleges in the world were only piecemeal reproductions of this reality.
We seemed suddenly to have entered an altogether different dimension, almost another kind of existence. After the clamor of the wartime cities and the shrieking voices of the plain, here was an all-pervading peace. As we entered one of the buildings and started down a high-ceilinged corridor lined with tall doorways, the air was so hushed that I was actually startled to see people in the passageway.
I could not tell if they were men or women, old or young, for all were covered from head to foot in loose-flowing hooded cloaks that made me think vaguely of monks. But the atmosphere of the place was not at all as I imagined a monastery. It was more like some tremendous study center, humming with the excitement of great discovery. Everyone we passed in the wide halls and on the curving staircases seemed caught up in some all-engrossing activity; not many words were exchanged among them. And yet I sensed no unfriendliness between these beings, rather an aloofness of total concentration.
Whatever else these people might be, they appeared utterly and supremely self-forgetful, absorbed in some vast purpose beyond themselves. Through open doors I g1impsed enormous rooms filled with complex equipment. In several of the rooms hooded figures bent over intricate charts and diagrams, or sat at the controls of elaborate consoles flickering with lights. I’d prided myself a little on the beginnings of a scientific education; at the university I had majored in chemistry, minored in biology, studied physics and calculus. But if these were scientific activities of some kind, they were so far beyond anything I knew, that I couldn’t even guess what field they were in. Somehow I felt that some vast experiment was being pursued, perhaps dozens and dozens of such experiments.
“What are they doing, Jesus?” I asked.
But although Knowing flamed from Him like fire, though in fact I sensed that every activity on this mighty “campus” had its source in God, no explanation lighted my mind. What was communicated, as before, was love: compassion for my ignorance, understanding that encompassed all my non-understanding.
And something more. . . . In spite of His obvious delight in the beings around us, I sensed that even. this was not the ultimate, that He had far greater things to show me if only I could see.
And so I followed Him into other buildings of this domain of thought. We entered a studio where music of a complexity I couldn’t begin to follow was being composed and performed. There were complicated rhythms, tones not on any scale I knew. “Why,” I found myself thinking, “Bach is only the beginning!”
Next we walked through a library the size of the whole University of Richmond. I gazed into rooms lined floor to ceiling with documents on parchment, clay, leather; metal, paper. “Here,” the thought occurred to me, “are assembled the important books of the universe.”
Immediately I knew this was impossible. How could books be written somewhere beyond the earth! But the thought persisted, although my mind rejected it. “The key works of the universe,” the phrase kept recurring as we roamed the domed reading rooms crowded with silent scholars. Then abruptly, at the door to one of the smaller rooms, almost an annex: “Here is the central thought of this earth.”
Out we moved again into the hushed and expectant park. Then into a building crowded with technological machinery. Into a strange sphere-shaped structure where a catwalk led us over a tank of what appeared to be ordinary water. Into what looked like huge laboratories and into what might have been some kind of space observatory. And as we went my sense of mystification grew.
“Is this. . . . heaven, Lord Jesus?” I ventured. The calm, the brightness, they were surely heaven-like! So was the absence of self, of clamoring ego. “When these people were on earth did they grow beyond selfish desires?”
They grew and they have kept on growing. The answer shone like sunlight in that intent and eager atmosphere. But if growth could continue, then this was not all. Then …there must be something even these serene beings lacked. And suddenly I wondered if it was the same thing missing in the “lower realm.” Were these selfless, seeking creatures also failing in some degree to see Jesus? Or perhaps, to see Him for Himself? Bits and hints of Him they surely had; obviously it was the truth they were so single-mindedly pursuing. But what if even a thirst for truth could distract from the Truth Himself, standing here in their midst while they searched for Him in books and test tubes. …
I didn’t know. And next to His unutterable love, my own bewilderment, all the questions I wanted to ask, seemed incidental. Perhaps, I concluded at last, He cannot tell me more than I can see: perhaps there is nothing in me yet that could understand an explanation. The central fact, the all-adequate one, remained this Personality at my side. Whatever additional facts He was showing me, He remained every moment the real focus of my attention.
Which is why, perhaps, I was not aware of the precise moment when we left the surface of the earth. . . . . .
[End of quote]
Interesting, and as fascinating, as this account is, the reason for bringing it into the discussion of pre-existence has not yet been detected. We need to go back to Ritchie, and see what he had to say near the end of his book, “Return from Tomorrow.”
One winter evening in 1952 -it was around the middle of December because we had just had our annual Christmas party at the Richmond Academy of Medicine which I had recently joined -I sat in the living room reading a copy of Life magazine. The issue was full of ads for brand name turkeys and hams, with jolly Santas on every other page, and I was flipping through it without much interest when suddenly my fingers tightened.
On the page in front of me was a drawing of a gigantic sphere-shaped structure cut away to reveal men and machines inside it. There was a kind of travelling crane mounted on steel girders, turbines, a huge circular tank, stairs, catwalks, down in one corner a small control room.
What set my heart pounding in my throat was not the strange futuristic appearance of these objects but the certainty that I had seen all this before. Not recently, either. Somehow, years ago, I had stood staring, not at a drawing of this enormous sphere, but at the thing itself. I had wandered about that peculiar interior too; I had seen the stairway just there, peered into that vast tank of water.
But I couldn’t have! Skimming the text I saw that what I remembered was impossible:
Last week the Atomic Energy Commission partially lifted its veil of secrecy and allowed Life’s artists to make a drawing of some details of the prototype of the second US atomic submarine engine and the strange house that holds it. The building, now going up near Schenectady, N. Y., will be the world’s largest man-made sphere, a $2-million, two hundred and twenty-five foot steel shell.
The article went on to say that to avoid possible radio-active contamination scientists would build the submarine engine inside the sphere, then submerge it for tests in the giant tank. Baffled, I lowered the magazine to my lap. I had felt so certain I’d seen this whole operation, yet I had never been to Schenectady. Anyhow, what I recalled was some time ago and this was just now being built. The thing I had seen was finished and operating, though I hadn’t had any idea what-
Then I remembered. It was in that tranquil campus-like realm inhabited by beings wrapped in thought as monks are wrapped in robes, that I had stood in 1943 as the earth measures times, staring at a huge sphere-shaped building, walking through its intricate fittings. What was that realm? In what mysterious way was it related to the life and thought of the world where I sat in 1952, with Marguerite talking on the telephone in the hall and Christmas cards lining the mantelpiece? I did not think about it very long, except to wonder if philosophers are right when they say that certain ideas seem to drop into widely scattered areas of the world from “somewhere” simultaneously. I had grown wary of inquiring into super-terrestrial areas on my own. As long as Christ had been my guide, there had been nothing to fear. But since my out-of-body experience nine years before I had come across individuals who had become so fascinated by the “spirit” world that they seemed to have lost sight of the Spirit Himself. [End quote]
What was being revealed to George Ritchie in 1943, that only became earth-reality in 1952? Who were the beings in that heavenly environment? Were they actually planning something that was to become real on the earth at a later date? And if so, what does this tell us about life now? Does this experience of Ritchie’s explain why certain people seem to be able to forecast the future with some degree of accuracy? These and many other questions invade the brain, and require answers.
However, Ritchie’s final comment is of great importance. He realised that there is the possibility of being fascinated with everything to do with the Lord, and everything relating to the future, and yet fail to focus the spiritual eyes on the Lord Himself. One is reminded of the words Jesus spoke 2,000 years ago to the Pharisees. “You search the Scriptures, because in them you think you have eternal life, and they are they which testify of Me, but you will not come to Me that you might have life.” (John 5:39-40)