Brinkley, Danion (1950– )
Danion Brinkley, a contemporary personality in the postNew
Age community, has attained a level of fame as the result
of his best-selling autobiography centered upon his near-death
experiences, a dramatic narrative that rivals the account of
psychiatrist George Richey in its impact. Brinkley grew up in
the 1950s in South Carolina. He emerged in school as somewhat
of a bully who was proud of his ability as a fighter. After
high school he joined the Marines and was assigned to an intelligence
unit in Cambodia and Laos. For a time he worked as
an assassin. After his tour of duty, he retured to Aiken, South
Carolina, where he entered into several business ventures.
Brinkley’s life changed on September 17, 1975, when a bolt
of lightning struck the telephone line as he was engaged in a
conversation. He was electrocuted. His wife, Sandy, called an
emergency unit, but on the way to the hospital, he was pronounced
dead. He revived some 28 minutes later in the
morgue. As he later recounts the story, he was initially thrown
out of his body by the electrical jolt and saw the arrival of the
CPR unit and their attempts to revive him in what was a classic
out-of-the-body travel experience. However, as he was pronounced
dead, he began a more spectacular adventure.
According to Brinkley’s later account, he was whisked
through a dark tunnel to an encounter with a spirit being and
was taken into a crystal light city. He also was engaged in a review
of his life and met with 13 angelic beings who told him of
events that were to occur over the next quarter of a century. Included
were the nuclear accident at Chernobyl, the Gulf War,
and the economic crisis during the Bush administration. The
lengthy recovery from the effects of the lightning wiped him
out financially even as the near-death event profoundly affected
his spiritual life.
A short time after returning home, he learned of the work
of Raymond Moody on near-death experiences and made an
effort to meet him on the occasion of Moody’s delivering a lecture
at the University of South Carolina. His meeting with
Moody helped him deal with the trauma of his death and gain
some perspective on his life. He also learned that many others
had had similar experiences. Following the publication of Life
after Life, the book that turned Moody into a celebrity figure,
Brinkley went to work assisting him. During this time he discovered
that he was also experiencing a psychic awakening.
In 1989 Brinkley had a second near-death experience when
his heart gave out while he was sick with pneumonia. He again
visited the crystal city. He was given a vision of a new direction
in his life that resulted in his going to work in a hospice caring
for and helping dying people. He published the story of his life
in 1994 and has subsequently become a popular guest on radio
and television talk shows, including multiple appearances on
the popular late-night show hosted by Art Bell. He now lectures
widely on the near-death experience, works with various forms
of alternative medicine, and heads Compassion in Action, an
organization to train volunteers to assist the dying founded in
Brinkley, Danion. At Peace in the Light. New York Harper,
———, with Paul Perry. Saved by the Light. New York Villard
Books, 1994.

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