When Elizabeth Krohn headed to her Houston synagogue to attend a memorial service for her beloved grandfather on one afternoon in September 1988, she couldn’t have known that her life would be changed forever. As she drove the pleasant weather gave way to a downpour and fierce thunder and lightning soon followed. She arrived at the synagogue and, with her young son in tow, started to make her way from the car to the building. It was then that she was struck by lightning. Then things really turned strange. Elizabeth saw herself lying on the asphalt as she floated up to what she describes as a garden electrified with vivid, unearthly colors and infused with a sense of unconditional kindness and love. She felt herself communing with a spiritual being, while her sense of time was upended. She was given the choice of returning to her earthly life or remaining in the otherworldly paradise. When she was told that if she went back she would have a third child—a girl who had already selected her and her husband as parents—she rejoined her body and the temporal world. Then it got even stranger. After the lightning strike her life was changed forever. She began to have dreams about future events, developed synesthesia, started seeing auras, and sometimes had a sense of inanimate objects radiating a life force. Oh, and she also gave birth to a daughter. In CHANGED IN A FLASH: ONE WOMAN’S NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE AND WHY A SCHOLAR THINKS IT EMPOWERS US ALL (North Atlantic Books, October 2018, hardcover) Elizabeth recounts her wondrous and unsettling story.
But that’s only half of the book.
In the second part of CHANGED IN A FLASH Jeff Kripal, a noted scholar of religion and professor analyzes Elizabeth’s story, places it within the context of various religious traditions, and explains why we need to listen to people who have had such extraordinary encounters with the ineffable and the otherworldly. He also says that we need a framework other than rigid scientific skepticism and literal belief if we are to not only understand these bizarre, yet common, occurrences, but truly grapple with what they might suggest about human nature, the cosmos, and what we perceive as “ordinary” reality.
About the Authors
Jeff Kripal holds the J. Newton Rayzor Chair in Philosophy and Religious Thought at Rice University.
He is also Co-Director of Esalen's Center for Theory and Research and a key figure in consciousness studies within academia and beyond.
Kripal is the author of many books on religion and unexplained phenomena. These include The Super Natural: Why the Unexplained Is Real (with Whitley Strieber); Mutants and Mystics: Science Fiction, Superhero Comics, and the Paranormal; and Authors of the Impossible: The Paranormal and the Sacred.
Elizabeth Greenfield Krohn was a wife and mother of two young boys when she was struck by lightning in the parking lot of her Houston synagogue, and her most fundamental understandings of what the world is and how it works were completely transformed. She is now a grandmother living in Houston.