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Posts Tagged ‘“Dinesh D’Souza” “Life After Death” reincarnation death afterlife soul God spirit Creator “quantum mechanics” mediums psychics ESP Christianity “Rick Warren”’

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The images for this post were taken at random from a Google search for ‘afterlife’ and ‘reincarnation’. They are revealing insofar as they represent visually our belief systems.

George Anderson has my respect and my admiration for the work that he does; he is probably the world’s greatest living medium. I read his book We Don’t Die and expected to feel tremendous excitement about the life of perfect peace that awaits me after death. No matter how inspirational and lovely his vision of the afterlife appears, I simply can’t believe everything is so perfect and luminous, not only because I have a different approach to survival of consciousness, but because the world he describes is foreign and frightening to a human who defines herself through struggle and spiritual engagement that is often painful.

I read constantly, every day, the research on and related to the survival topic. I believe this is necessary for a writer on this subject to be taken seriously. However, in the end, what I study must match my intuitive experience of life and consciousness for it to become incorporated into my understanding of how life works. I have rejected the theory that consciousness is a result of brain processes not only because no one has proven it to be true, but because it doesn’t match my experience of conscious awareness and memory.

I think that we need to return to our experiences as children to answer our questions, or we need to incorporate them into our overall life philosophy along with the research. When I return to my childhood understanding of life and death, I realize that as I child I understood intuitively the realities that I am now attempting to both remember and recreate. The glorious visions of the afterlife that many religions and some mediums promote as our final destination do not make sense with my childhood wisdom. The afterlife is not static, consistently positive and life-affirming, free of negativity or an eternal resting place for the weary soul. I doubt that it looks much different from the current reality you and I are living.

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As a society (Western, in general), we do not take children seriously. With a few notable exceptions, such as Dr. Ian Stevenson’s work with children who remember past lives, we ignore what children say, remember, and how they experience death and rebirth. What I remember and what most children I know experience is nothing like Mr. Anderson’s trouble-free afterlife. In fact, although I don’t dispute that there could be a comforting zone between lives, much of what we experience before and after this life is fairly mundane and occasionally, terribly painful. If we truly listened to our children as they recount scenes from a life already lived, we would learn more about life than through the reading of countless books. To read and absorb information is one thing, but to watch reincarnation in action in your own child is an existential awakening like no other.

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The following is a brief list of what children know that adults ignore, suppress or ridicule:

1: The living creature doesn’t die with the body.

When I was a child, I remember knowing that a dead body had no identity as the person or pet that I had loved. The first death that I recall was that of my rat, Sir Bell. Sir Bell died, as rats are wont to do, after a few months with us. I saw his body one morning, and I knew that Sir Bell had left. The stiff little carcass in the rat house was not my pet. Yes, I was sad, because I couldn’t hold, pet or play with him anymore, but not because Sir Bell had died in his body, but because my rat didn’t HAVE a body anymore. I knew the difference completely, at age four.

Even though my parents desperately attempted to keep me away from death (probably because I had had several brushes with death myself by age 5), I managed to glimpse it anyway. More recently, when we lost Kenny the Sphinx, I had a similar experience that reminded me of my long-ago lost pets. Kenny was the most adored feline on the planet, and when he succumbed to heart disease in July of 2010, I was terrified of seeing his body. I suppose that I had forgotten the earlier lessons of childhood; but when I did see what was left of him, it was immediately, instinctively apparent to me that Kenny was not in that cold cat body. He simply was NOT there; that didn’t mean that he wasn’t ANYWHERE, but that I was looking at lifeless flesh, not Kenny.  On many occasions, our other cats will play and chase Kenny around the house. Their behavior is clearly, for anyone who understands cat behavior—playful, and they are playing with Kenny where he used to hang out.

Can I prove that my two living cats are playing with the spirit of Kenny? Of course I can’t; but over two and a half years of watching this behavior, I am very comfortable affirming that Nod and Bingo are playing with the Kenny without the body.  Every time I saw the dead body of an animal as a child, I knew without anyone telling me that the spirit of that creature no longer resided in that flesh. I could not have explained where the spirit went, or even what a spirit was; but I knew that my pets were not alive only in my head or in my memories of them. My sadness and frustration was about not being able to find them, not about losing them forever. This was in contradiction to what my parents taught me about death. They maintained that we—everything that we are, including anything like a soul, in addition to our consciousness—dissolved into the earth recycled itself through another life cycle. My parents were not religious; there was no afterlife for them. They also did not expand their spirituality to include survival of a spirit.

What I knew was intrinsic to me, learned through experiences I could not consciously recall.

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2: You don’t have to stay with your body all of the time. You can leave and come back.

As I have written about before on soulbank, I left my body during surgery when I was five years old. I was up near the ceiling and saw, quite contrary to my wishes, that I had a mask over my face. Before this surgery, a nurse asked if I wanted the needle or the mask to put me to sleep. I had been adamant that I wanted no mask over my face. She had agreed. The nurse had lied to me. I don’t remember anger over this, but I was planning on bringing this up later. I experienced no internal contradiction over the fact that I was two places at once. I knew that the little girl on the table was me, but the ‘real’ me was up near the ceiling; of that there was no doubt. To this day, the strongest lesson from that experience was the fact that my identity and consciousness were in no way connected to that body on the table.  I was not afraid of that fact, nor anxious in any way about the fate of the girl below. I was safe up on the ceiling and very calm.

Later, I did bring up the mask issue to my doctor, to the nurses, to anyone who would listen. Beyond a few strange looks, they never addressed my concerns. In fact, everything I said to anyone regarding that incident was written off as a hallucination. After that incident, I would occasionally glimpse people and images that others couldn’t see, as if I had been granted temporary access to another world. Every single time I attempted to explain who I was seeing, I was told that I had an overly active imagination, that I was prone to fantasy, or that I was getting sick. Sometimes, the adults would accuse me of manipulating reality for my own entertainment, or as an aggressive game that no one else could play. I learned to shut up whenever I saw, felt, heard or experienced anything out of the ordinary. What a sad lesson.

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3: Most adults and most of your peers will think you’re crazy or odd if you say anything about perceiving animals or people who supposedly aren’t there.

The adjective that everyone used to describe me—both family members and friends—was “weird”. That epithet clung to me like a dark cloud. I could never shake the accusations that I “made stuff up,” “lived in a fantasy world,” “created reality,” or “had a vivid imagination.” Every single time I attempted to communicate how I saw the world, I was shot down. If I felt that a passed relative or friend had communicated with me, I was told that I was engaging in wish fulfillment. Unless you have lived through this yourself, you can’t know how painful it is to see the world differently and be told that you are stupid, crazy or deluded.

Much of what was leveled at me was based in fear and ignorance. My memories of a past life were so vivid that much of my behavior as a young child was driven by them. To this day, I have phobias and behaviors that are traceable to a past life. At this point, I don’t care if I can “prove” that to anyone; it’s simply a part of my reality that I have to accept, just as I have to accept my experiences as a child, a teen and an adult as part of who I am. There is no difference. I certainly didn’t choose to be involved in drugs and prostitution as an ideal past incarnation, but we don’t always get to choose, or maybe we never do; in any case, I remember—I will always remember—the shame and sadness of that life, a life that I have spent 47 years attempting to reconcile with my current life. Anyone who tells me that past lives don’t exist has not spent her entire life attempting to overcome the last one. I don’t care what the scientists say, or the academics, or the average Joe: my evidence for reincarnation is, quite simply, who I am.

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4: Children come into the world with baggage.

Genetics and heredity do not explain what most parents experience with their children: they come into the world with complex emotions, inexplicable behaviors, preferences, personalities and desires that often confound and confuse their bewildered parents. Almost every parent would say that their child was unique in ways that were not explicable by random combinations of genes. No one has been able to prove that what makes us who we are in terms of personality, memories, identity, sense of self, values, beliefs, attitudes or ideas can be reduced to genetic codes. Where is the code for an intense fear of substance abuse in a four year old?

When I first looked into my nephew’s eyes, I saw a world weariness and a sadness that was centuries old. This was not the infant as blank slate, which was in fact what I was expecting before I looked into his eyes. What I saw, what my sister saw, was a soul that had already lived many times before, and was back for another round. We used to joke that he cried so intensely and with such emotional pain because he couldn’t believe he was a baby again, that he was ‘back’ again. It really isn’t a joke; not to those of us who still remember the long-ago struggles of our lives. It’s easy to laugh, but what is more heart-wrenching than seeing your baby and your toddler struggle with traumas that you had no hand in creating and can’t fix?

So: when mediums write about the afterlife as glorious and trouble free, or when religion paints Heaven as a place of eternal repose and joy, forgive me for remaining skeptical. My experience tells me that life is one, giant recycle bin where consciousness expresses itself over and over again in different bodies. It’s common and constant. We think it’s such a big deal to be born or to die, but consciousness neither comes into being nor goes out; it simply changes venue.

This is neither comforting nor upsetting to me. It just is. Even though I welcome struggle and transcendence, I certainly do not welcome the ugly realities of inhabiting a body that is riddled with disease or addictions. I don’t look forward to a life whose pains and pleasures I cannot predict or even understand right now. Maybe there is a ‘life between lives’ that is pure bliss, but I don’t remember experiencing it. Eastern religions teach that eventually, the cycle of birth and death is overcome and Nirvana awaits; for me, that is wishful thinking. There are infinite lives, in infinite time periods, in infinite circumstances, that one can move through. There is no ‘before’ or ‘after’ when you are discussing consciousness and identity, so ‘coming from’ Heaven or ‘returning to’ Heaven is a meaningless concept.

Listen to your children when they tell you stories of who they were ‘before’. Attentive parents understand the difference between children’s creative fantasy play and real memories. They are essentially different modes of expression. If you are struggling with this as a parent, please go here: http://www.childpastlives.org/

If you are struggling with this issue as an adult, well, that’s the point. It’s all part of your journey.

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Contrary to the title of this picture, I will not discuss what the Bible says about the Devil. I will, however, tell you what my subconscious mind says about him, or her, as the case may be. It was 3:00 AM, and I was not fully asleep when a vision took over my mind. It was not a dream; it had none of the bizarre, disjointed features of a dream. It was a lucid presentation of an event–just how to classify such an event is beyond my skills to describe. Suffice to say that I saw an old, old woman–revealed to be 96 years old, the age of my death as foretold by a gypsy–who approached me, smiling. I was happy to see her at first, until I realized that there was something terribly wrong with this old lady. She grinned at me, up close, and I saw a mouthful of rotten teeth as the stench of her breath hit my face. “I am the Devil,” she hissed, and then lifted her arm and attacked me with a pitchfork, stabbing me again and again in my side.

I knew she had come to take me away, and I was terrified. The vision faded, and I forced myself to fully return to my normal, conscious state. My first thought was: I can’t go out ghost hunting anymore. Pursuing phantoms in the dead of night is messing with my head. My second thought was: I am possessed, or about to be, and I’m scared that I might end up committed at a place quite similar to the one I investigate on a regular basis. Thank God such asylums are not longer legal . . . my third thought: GET THEE TO A YOGA CLASS at the crack of dawn. So away I went, early in the morning, to a yoga class that included a meditation that seemed designed for me and my particular needs (i.e., escaping the Devil). We were instructed to sit across from an image of the Divine and he/she directed a beam of light to explode the dark kernels of fear and bad karma that we had accumulated. Those dark seeds turned to ashes and were blown away by the divine wind of love and unconditional acceptance. All the corners had been illuminated, and I need not fear. I was crying like a child by the end of that meditation, and most importantly, I no longer felt as if the Devil were trying to take my soul.

Ghost hunters are a hardy bunch. We stare death in the face and record what is left over. We listen to hours of audio that might include something we don’t want to hear, and don’t wish to invade our lives. We don’t know what responds to us late at night in the old mental hospital, but we’re OK with that. Most of the time. The last time I was at Cam, Louis captured an EVP that could be life changing–yet again. At the time we heard nothing but the insane, incessant banging of the pipes with their attendant odd after-effects that sometimes seem to carry the voices into the atmosphere. I don’t remember exactly what Louis said, something like “do you remember me?” and the response that we heard, huddled around his digital audio recorder in a courtyard, was: “Is that all you want?” No, it was not vague or distorted; yes, we ALL heard it, and Ty (my husband) verified on video that none of us was talking at the time. It was so clear that we could all identify the words quite easily, without headphones or any audio enhancement programs. The voice was . . . tired, and slightly metallic, and perhaps a little sarcastic. He, whoever this was responding to us, wherever he might be–did not believe that all we wanted was an answer to our usual, repetitive questions. Of course we ask the same things over and over, because we are not engaged in a real conversation–we don’t hear the response until hours, days, or weeks later. The voice appeared to know something that even we do not–no, that is not all we want, we want so much more than to know whether or not you recognize us, or know us, or even what you think about our activities in these hideous hallways . . . we want to know more . . . we want to know if you are really the soul of a dead man, and if so, where the hell are you that you can talk to us, why in the name of all that’s holy are you still at Camarillo, what kind of afterlife is that, and the scariest question of all–is there no Heaven? Because if there’s a Heaven, then why are YOU, whatever you are, STILL HERE, inhabiting one of the worst places on Earth?

If a little girl’s spirit can find itself trapped in a place like this, then what is going to happen to me? What if I happen to die somewhere that I really don’t wish to, such as a hospital or a crappy hospice center somewhere in South Dakota? What about reincarnation? I thought we had a choice. Some of my sappier, New Age tomes on the afterlife talk about the fields of flowers and the Being of Diving Love who reunites us with all the people we loved and who loved us, and it’s one, big party until we have to decide whether or not to move on to Higher Spiritual Realms or choose another life to live on Earth. It’s all good, right?

No, it’s not all good. Sometimes, it’s sad, tragic, upsetting, scary and a touch evil. We don’t know shit about the afterlife, really. Of course, if you are devoutly religious, then you DO know, and I admire your faith and divine knowledge–I mean that sincerely–but if you are unlucky enough to not feel that kind of faith to the marrow of your bones, you go out searching for your own answers.

Sometimes you get laughter and humor.

Sometimes you get confusion and sadness.

Sometimes you get the Devil, and he tries to take your soul.

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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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Dinesh D’Souza recently discussed and debated the arguments in his new book, Life After Death on KPCC’s AirTalk (http://www.scpr.org/programs/airtalk/2009/12/16/life-is-that-all-there-is/). I, of course, had to run to the computer and order the book. I read it quickly–he is gifted with an ability to write clearly and persuasively, and his humor–although quite biting and even sarcastic at times–was actually quite refreshing in a field that takes itself very, very seriously. I admit that I was initially worried about his openly Evangelical background and the endorsement of pastor Rick Warren, who runs a Christian empire in the O.C. I am nervous about the kind of Christian that D’Souza openly professes to be: a fundamentalist who sees little gray area in life, death and the afterlife. For me, the gray areas are all I have been able to find; the more I know, the less I know–but D’Souza could always claim that is where I lack faith, or I am simply not sufficiently persuaded by his arguments.

For one thing, there are some obvious flaws with his approach to the evidence. They are:

  • A total dismissal of what he calls “spooky stuff,” namely anything in the field of parapsychology. With one line, he brushes aside all of the work of the SPR and the ASPR of the last 150 years or so–in fact, he doesn’t even mention them at all or any of the voluminous work they carried out on mediumship, deathbed visions, apparitions, ESP, and all the other areas of study they engaged in (by “they”, I refer to the distinguished founders and those that continue to carry on the work). This makes sense, I suppose, since Christians do not believe in contact with the dead. The Bible prohibits such contact on the grounds that souls cannot be reached from the afterlife, and any purported communication with souls is in reality a tool of the Devil to trick the unsuspecting and gullible.
  • A  refusal to explore in depth the most heavily researched area into life after death of the last 50 years, namely, Dr. Ian Stevenson’s unbelievably thorough and exhaustive research into children’s past life memories. The work he did was so meticulous that one can barely wade through the details, but taken as a whole, the evidence clearly points to reincarnation as a fact. D’Souza, however, refuses to go into any depth on the issue for the rather unconvincing reason that not enough children remember lives from other countries. This is an interesting fact, but by itself does not in any way invalidate the claims of reincarnation. Again, this makes sense for a fundamentalist Christian: reincarnation is not what is supposed to happen to the soul after death. It’s either Heaven or Hell, not the Eternal Return. Interestingly, later in the book D’Souza seems to accept the reincarnation possibility as part of his argument, but he appears uncomfortable with the implications.
  • A complete dismissal of the “multiverse” theory of quantum physics and a general superficial glossing over of what quantum mechanics has to say about other dimensions where consciousness could reside. He doesn’t even mention consciousness and its centrality to the most famous experiments in quantum physics. I don’t think he fully understands that branch of science, and certainly I don’t, but I have read enough to know that D’Souza has more homework to do. He should at least discuss Shrodinger’s infamous cat!! And if, as quantum mechanics maintains, there are multiple dimensions beyond the ones we able to perceive, then why in the world could it not be possible that life continues or replays itself within the folds of an 11th dimension, a place–or many places–that all of our alternate possibilities as humans play themselves out? D’Souza brings up String Theory, but hardly attempts to explain it. You just can’t gloss over such fundamental theories of reality without weakening your argument. Again, if you want to preserve a place for God, you have to drop-kick quantum mechanics out the window, for it says nothing about God or a Creator.

Given all the above, I am not sold on D’Souza’s arguments, but I am impressed by his passionate reasoning. I wish that he were not so willing to ignore or under-analyze areas of inquiry into consciousness with which he does not agree, or with which he is not comfortable. But then again, D’Souza is less interested in survival of consciousness and more interested in God and His afterlife.

I understand that, but without faith, D’Souza won’t make you believe. He would argue that his book does not require faith, since it proves by a preponderance of the evidence that God exists and life after death is a fact. I want to be converted, yet D’Souza needs to write a few more books on the topic and be willing to include the “spooky stuff” if he wants to do justice to the topic and win over intelligent readers who need more proof and less metaphysics.

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