Top positive review
Remarkable despite imperfections
on 7 April 2010
This account of visitations by angels and/or deceased relatives days or weeks prior to death is quite remarkable and very moving.
I nevertheless have a few negative comments. Dr. Lerma sometimes emphasizes that he is a scientist, but as a neuroscientist myself I found several of his comments rather imprecise (e.g. on p.196). Also, I wondered about the selection of the patients: he mentions on p.227 that he interviewed more than 500 of them, so were the 16 described in the book typical, or were they selected as outstanding cases? I was also puzzled by apparent contradictions. On the whole the angels were beings of light without wings, but in chapter 5 they have feathers and one left a large 8-10 inch feather that later shrank magically and finally disappeared. I find this hard to believe. I also think it is a pity there was no attempt to document independent witnesses of the same patients.
But ultimately these problems may not matter much, because there seems to be sufficient independent evidence for these visitations. In the short final chapter Dr. Lerma mentions previous reports that broadly match his own, including a 1926 book by Sir William Barrett, a Dublin physics professor, and another in 1977 by Dr. Karlis Osis. I find it remarkable that there was good agreement on the overall percentages of visitations between the surveys of Osis (1961: 80%) and Lerma (2005: 75%). I find it quite amazing that so many people have visitations. Can it all be explained away as delusions due to brain disturbances at death? I'm still not sure, but the evidence mentioned (e.g. lack of correlations with fever and death) goes against this. Moreover, the sheer loftiness of some of the patients' accounts (e.g. 9 year old Matthew in chapter 1) seems hard to explain by brain dysfunction.
I'm glad I bought and read this book.