Archive for January, 2010

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Make sure to read Ms. Lichtenberg’s response to my previous blog post (see comment #5–it says “thupancic” but it’s her response). It is most interesting! I invite you all to join the conversation–I look forward to hearing from you.

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The following observations from Jacqueline Lichtenberg fascinate me:

“As I see our “reality,” humans are an integral part of the physical universe. Humans have free will, the freedom to choose our course through life. A natal chart limits your options, of course, but it also provides unique new options. We craft our life through free will choices – choices make a difference. But no matter what course we choose, we are on a journey toward soul maturation, toward wisdom.

Thus while I love a good alternate universe story, based either on the theory that there are either exactly eleven alternate universes or on an infinite number, I can’t see how alternate universes work in terms of soul growth from experiencing the consequences of choices and actions.

That is, if at every point of choice in your life you actually make all possible choices, generating a plethora of alternate universes – are you splitting your soul? Generating new souls? How does one soul learn if there are no definite consequences of choices, i.e. all choices get chosen?

In such alternate universes, you may meet alternate versions of yourself – or “you” might be dead, or never born. So what of your soul?

Vertical time travel, forward or backward, likewise poses me philosophical problems, but has more room to combine reincarnation with time travel. Perhaps you go back to teach yourself a lesson, or pay the price for misbehavior, or rescue a soul-mate, or even to change history to fix your current life.

Which brings us back to the problem of alternate universes – if you travel back in time, every decision you make back then splits off more alternate universes. How can a soul learn anything in all the confusion?”

Jacqueline Lichtenberg (http://www.simegen.com/reviews/rereadablebooks/columns/0207.html)

Ah, such a good question. I think the underlying assumption of so many books on survival of consciousness, analyses of religious traditions, and the observations of  “New Age” philosophies is that our soul is destined, or somehow intended, to “progress”.  The concept of karma depends on the notion that questionable past behavior, misdeeds, unkindness, or cruelty of any kind will result in judgement and retribution in a future life. Most of what I have read on Near Death Experiences involves a stage where the soul must face his/her “life review” and confront the pain that he/she has caused others. There are entire books dictated from the “Other Side” where this process is revealed, and a multitude of authors in diverse fields of specialization seem to be in agreement that your actions in this life determine your future life, either on earth or in some nebulous “in-between” state.

I am profoundly uncomfortable with that assertion. If it is true that those who suffer in this life are simply working out bad karma, then we could reassure ourselves that when disaster strikes in Haiti, there is a cosmic purpose to it all, and the dead and dying are working out their debts from previous lifetimes–therefore, we don’t have to feel guilty or compelled to try to help, since this is all pre-ordained and pre-determined by forces greater than ourselves. Who are we to interfere with the justice of the Universe? On the other hand, I suppose, one could argue that if we don’t help or extend ourselves, we are damaging our own karma. The next time around, it might be us desperately clinging to life after a catastrophic natural disaster.

The problem with the entire concept of karma is that there is really no evidence for it. The late Dr. Ian Stephenson and Dr. Jim Tucker from the Division of Personality Studies at the University of Virginia carried out–and Dr. Tucker is still active in this area–the most extensive research into reincarnation anyone has ever attempted. Their findings after decades of research in multiple countries, do NOT support the notion of karma. There is no connection between one’s fortunes in a past life and one’s current situation. In other words, when this issue is studied in-depth, the entire idea that we progress spiritually over time is called into question. While the concept of cosmic justice is very appealing to us all, we have to base that belief on faith, since the evidence shows otherwise.

This brings me to a second common assumption: we have free will, and we can choose when, how, and why to act. Therefore, we can control our destiny. Recently I read a fact that floored me in Dr. John Turner’s Medicine, Miracles, and Manifestations: A Doctor’s Journey Through the Worlds of Divine Intervention, Near-Death Experiences and Universal Energy, which leads me to believe that perhaps there is no such thing as free will. Brain and consciousness research have demonstrated that our brains decide to act fractions of seconds BEFORE we are consciously aware that the decision has been made. In other words, the brain is actively plotting out our next moves before the action occurs, before we can initiate the behavior or the action, and certainly before we are aware of having made a choice to act. For Dr. John L. Turner, a neurosurgeon, consciousness has not been demonstrated to exist within the brain–he believes it comes from without, not within, and his conclusion is upsetting: our decisions are pre-programmed. Free will, as we are consciously aware of it, does not exist.

So far, we have evidence for two theories: karma does not actually exist, and we do not possess free will. To these, I will add a third from Ms. Lichtenberg’s quote above: quantum mechanics postulates the existence of multiverses, where various versions of “us” exist in different states of being. We are split into various levels–or dimensions, or fields–of existence based upon choices we make. If every decision splits us into sub-categories of universes, then there are infinite numbers of us out there, following different tracks. What does that mean for free will? If we are free to make any decision we wish, but that decision creates a division and a new reality for the person who made said decision, then we have countless versions of “us” evolving differently. How can those other versions possess anything like a soul or an identity? There can be no “original” of us, since this process of undifferentiated splitting has been going on continuously since we came into existence, or since we were able to make decisions–which begs the question, how do we define the term, and at what point in our development were we capable of consciously “making a decision”?

I have my issues with the “multiverse” theory in quantum mechanics, but let’s allow that it could be true. If we are not held accountable for our actions in another life, then what happens to us after death is fairly random or determined by human decisions regarding such mundane issues as a desire for revenge, a need to continue a relationship with a particular person, an obsession with a place or family member, or some secret motivation that has nothing to do with progression towards the Divine. Now, if it’s true that the brain is somehow receiving signals from an outside source (non-local consciousness) and that we are not aware of the programming but simply following the Plan (from whence, I wonder, does this pre-programmed Plan come?), then we do NOT make free choices, but follow a script that was already written for us. Who or what wrote that script is beyond my capacity to theorize. If we are blindly following a pre-written Plan, then we do NOT control our destiny, we cannot assert that we are moving towards soul evolution, and we can only hope that someone or something provided us with a decent template for our lives. Otherwise, we’re just screwed.

Now add to all this the idea that there are multiple versions of us in countless splinter universes, and the belief that we are evolving over time or that we are becoming closer to the Divine is simply untenable. For one thing, there are apparently many of us, without awareness of the future or an ability to control it, and without a system of rewards or punishments for our behavior and actions. What are we left with? I’m not sure, but it’s not Heaven and it’s not Nirvana. It appears to be an endless recycling of consciousness following a track, a plan, or a cycle over which we have no control or input. However, if my decisions split me into different possibilities, then the idea of free will creeps back into the picture. Maybe one particular version of me is a lazy, depressed and narcissistic another version of me is productive, happy and deeply engaged with the world; but that would require the lazy, depressed version of me to make a decision to be otherwise–in which case, am I the living result of a conscious decision that another version of me has made?

OK, so my head hurts now, and I should probably end these speculations. What makes sense to me at this point is that we shouldn’t expect life after life to appear radically different from what we are experiencing now. Reincarnation is not necessarily a moral evolution or a compass that leads us to a better self, or to God. If we experience life as chaotic, random and unjust, we will probably experience the next life in the same way. If we experience this life as purpose filled, divine and awe-inspiring, it makes sense that we would continue to experience life that way. Whether or not we control the blueprint of our existence(s) may not be as important as how we perceive our reality, for our perception of ourselves and our lives will certainly create all the worlds we inhabit down the line, as it determines the content of our world as we are living it now.

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I was in the hospital room when my friend died from advanced breast cancer. Actually the story starts from the night before when I went to visit her room but the hallways were packed with people…I mean over 100. I had been visiting nightly and the most we ever had visiting was about 10. Apparently a ‘psychic’ message had gone out..everyone showed up. I spoke to her husband and he couldn’t understand why everyone, even people they barely knew came that night. He asked a few if they had been called and they said they had dreamed about Sandra the night before. I left, it was too much for me.

The next morning I went to work and couldn’t stay. I left and drove to the hospital. It was the way it always was, Sandra’s husband, mother and sister-in-law. The nurse came to clean Sandra so I stepped outside soon to be followed by her husband.

He just started talking. Talking about everything. Everything intimate, couple/family problems Sandra used to share with me. Everything he knew he could have done differently. Everything Sandra had said that she would never be at peace until he realized what he had done. As soon as he was finished, the nurse came out and told us she was cleaned up. We went back in and within 2 minutes she was dead. She started breathing erratically, then there was the pause between breaths, then she stopped. We were all holding some place on her body (I took the feet) and just praying. The doctor came and checked her, pronounced her dead, turned off the machines…but she was still there. All of a sudden everyone looked up at the same time, and in unison said, “She’s gone”. We felt her leave! As soon as she left her body, she looked like just an empty sack.

I have never been so clear about spirit. I believed, I have always had faith…but I have never been so clear. Almost too clear, so much so that all of the little skeptical voices in my head waited until I got home to talk me out of my experience. I think the skepticism came out of fear… I didn’t want to see Sandra in my bedroom at night, I didn’t want to feel like anyone was with me. So if I could change the happenings in my head and doubt them, then I would be safe.

–Staceylee Longmore

Editor’s note: I want to thank Staceylee for her submission and for the honesty she conveys regarding her feelings. It’s terribly hard to lost someone you love, and not knowing exactly what has happened to them after death can be a frightening and confusing experience.


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Consider this quote:

“When we are faced with information that contradicts beliefs we hold, we tend to reject the information or interpret it in a way that allows us to keep our beliefs: ‘in everyday thinking, the mind is very good at brushing aside information that a logician would regard as being of the utmost importance to correct thinking’ (Campbell, 1989:238).”

It’s funny. I spend much of time attempting to uncover the mysteries of existence and consciousness. I read about the paranormal until my eyes dry up; I devote hours a day to untangling the unfathomable, to trying to make real what seems so unreal. I “ghost hunt” in really scary places, and I find things that I cannot explain. There is so much “evidence” out there that it seems the conclusion is obvious: our consciousness, what makes us who we are, survives death and moves on, either to some alternate plane or dimension or quickly jumps into another body to start the adventure all over again. If you really want evidence, truly, then it is out there in abundance, from credible sources, conducted in scientifically rigorous environments. Trust me. If you want to know if this is all true, not just our collective fantasy of immortality, just read. I will provide the bibliography, but I warn you–it’s extensive. I can’t get through it all, but I’m working on it.

My point is this: it doesn’t seem to matter sometimes that survival has been proven, over and over, in many different fields of research over the last 150 or so years. It doesn’t matter, because if you decide it’s impossible, then nothing will ever convince you. Ever. The science of belief is fascinating, insofar as it shows us to what extent we are capable of denying the obvious, refusing to accept the proof, even when the evidence was collected in a way that we sanction; even if we designed the tests, and they still told us the impossible. When faced with the results of J. B. Rhine’s experiments on ESP that conclusively demonstrated, over and over again, that minds could and did influence each other regardless of distance, a professor who knew Rhine well stated, “Even though the evidence is irrefutable, I refuse to believe it.”

Even as I write this, I can hear the voices of the skeptical crying out that I have made a false claim; yet, if I asked them if they had read any of the texts that studied survival of consciousness, their answer would invariably be “no”. The answer of the skeptic is usually “I don’t need to read books about something that is a priori impossible.” We often do not make decisions based on logic or evidence. In fact, most of the time we make decisions based on security, comfort and familiarity. If something contradicts the beliefs that make us comfortable in our world, we simply will not accept it as true, evidence be damned. We see this phenomenon in politics all the time. When we hear that have lost our civil rights, and are about to lose more, we deny that it could be true. When we hear that the U.S. is defying the Geneva Convention and torturing prisoners, we negate the possibility. After all, we don’t do that. Since we don’t torture, it’s not happening.

Perhaps it’s a form of denial, such as our initial resistance upon hearing that a loved one has died. The first stage is denial, although denial comes and goes throughout the grieving process. We won’t believe it, we can’t: our mind is saving us from the trauma and shock of the truth. Our mind protects us. Eventually, however, if we don’t accept reality, we run the risk of becoming mentally ill, disconnected from the world around us. At some point, it behooves us as sane human beings to accept reality, to weigh the evidence, realize that it points in a particular direction, and adjust our beliefs accordingly. If the preponderance of evidence points to survival of death, then why in the world continue to doubt and question?

In my case, I wrestle with the skeptics in my life and the critic in my head. The critic reminds me that anyone who believes in such things as life after death is deluded and pathetic, an uncritical thinker looking to relieve her dread of non-existence. That voice is very powerful–I grew up with academic materialists, who viewed people like my current self as uneducated and gullible. Some people who read this blog find the whole topic amusing and silly; although I shouldn’t care and it shouldn’t matter, the fear that I could be seen as frivolous or illogical keeps me from fully accepting the consequences of what I know to be true. I hide what I know, or I pretend that my paranormal investigations are “just for fun”–because if I am too sincere in my belief, if I live my life with the knowledge that life doesn’t end, then I open myself up for ridicule.

And that, my dear readers, is scarier than any ghost could ever be.

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