The following is a remarkable and well documented testimony (1) from a report chronicled in the Journal of Anthropological Research in 1983 by anthropologist and Professor Bruce Grindal (2). Grindal was an atheist who taught at Florida State University. He was also the co-founder of the Society for Humanistic Anthropology and founding editor of Anthropology and Humanism.
For over a year Grindal lived among the Sisala people of northern Ghana, and it was then and there that he witnessed a person being raised from the dead. The person raised, by the name of Ali, was a highly respected drummer in the tribe. A few days after Ali’s death, Grindal was invited to witness the burial ritual. He traveled five miles to the village and entered the compound where the corpse was prepared. According to Grindal, “the corpse was already putrid and oozing juices. An old woman was sitting next to the dead man with a fan even though the corpse had been washed about three hours earlier. The stench in the room was horrible” (3).
The burial ritual began the following day near midnight. Ali had been dead for three to four days and his corpse was seated upright against the wall where a group of singers began to dance around it. Grindal explains that he “saw the corpse jolt, and occasionally pulsating. The corpse, shaken by spasms, then rose to its feet spinning and dancing in a frenzy. As I watched, convulsions in the pit of my stomach tied not only my eyes but my whole being into this vortex of power. The corpse picked up the drumsticks and began to play. After a while the corpse was once again sitting against the left wall of the compound. In conclusion, I can say with intuitive certainty, that on the night of 23 October 1967 I witnessed the raising of the dead. This experience was real and was seen as such by those who sat to my right in the divination place. It was although everybody present simultaneously touched a live wire. No words were said, indeed, what could be said?” (4)
However, since this case is so threatening to a naturalistic worldview, one Atheist has tried to explain away Grindal’s testimony by claiming that he was hallucinating due to a lack of eating food (5). I’ve repeatedly noted that when one fails to provide an adequate explanation for phenomena on their worldview it is always easier to play the hallucination card… However, this is clutching straws due to the fact that it wasn’t only Grindal who witnessed Ali being raised from the dead. Hallucinations are subjective projections from within one’s own mind and thus cannot, or is extremely unlikely to, be experienced by other people, and especially by larger groups. Moreover, it stretches credulity that a man, who was an atheist, would hallucinate a dead person coming back to life and then only to begin playing the drums. Again, hallucinations are subjective projections from what already exists within one’s own mind and therefore, to an atheist, it is unlikely that he would hallucinate a dead man coming back to life since that doesn’t exist on his worldview. Christian scholar Mike Licona explains the significance of this, “Grindal was an atheist. He wasn’t after this experience. I have spoken with his widow, he died in 2012, I’ve [also] spoken with one of his former students, and they both say that this experience disturbed him for the rest of his life… he never wanted to talk about this experience after getting it put in writing.”
Since this article got some nice feedback from Christians and atheists alike I chose a handful of questions/challenges to answer here.
1. See, Hellweg, J. Englehardt, J. & Miller, J. 2015. Raising the Dead: Altered States, Anthropology, and the Heart of Sisala Experience. Magliocco, S. 2010. Witching Culture. p. 13. MacLean, H. 2012. The Shaman’s Mirror. p. 11.
2. Dr. Bruce T. Grindal. Available.
3. Grindal, B. 1983. “Into the Heart of Sisala Experience” in the Journal of Anthropological Research. p. 68.
4. YouTube. Jesus: History or Mistake? at CSU Sacramento [14:40 – 15:10]. Available.
5. Covington, N. 2015. Anthropologist Sees Dead Man Raised. Available.