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Posts Tagged ‘Heaven’

Have you ever glimpsed something so beautiful that your life changed?

Did you call it Heaven, Paradise, Nirvana, cosmic bliss, or something else? Did it matter what you called it? You know that names mean nothing now. Only experience teaches.

How did you get there? Did you fast for three days, eat a mind-bending plant, drag yourself on your hands and knees to Talpa, whip yourself into a frenzy, pray until you collapsed, or did you simply look deeply into the eyes of a loved one and see God? Does it matter how you got there? You know it doesn’t matter. It is in the finding it.

What did you see? Is it beyond words? Of course; but words are all I have, all you have, in this strange, disconnected world. Can you describe it? The world is glowing from a perfect Light, but most of the time we see through a glass darkly. There is perfect Love, but most of the time we can’t feel it. Life never ends, but we choose to kill ourselves, just a little, every day. Eternity is where we live, but we ruin our lives with clocks and fear, because time is terrifying when you see it with human eyes. There is a center to everything, and it’s still and quiet; there is a communion every day with every creation, and you could live there . . .

There is this place, which is not a place, there is this reality, which is nothing like reality, there is this state, which is constant, behind and over and through the buzzing craziness of us and the world we created, which is, which is, which is . . . something like the deepest love we ever felt, the freedom of when we were eight, climbing a tree and seeing every leaf as a novel, something like that, which now we can’t reach, can’t grasp, can’t see, can’t touch.

But we know it’s there.

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Maria marin

I was listening to “Maria Marin Live” (forgive the lack of accents; not sure how to add them here!) on AM 1020, as is my custom after my last class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. She pulls no punches and forces her callers to be direct, honest and sincere. Woe betide you if you can’t make your point or you’re full of B.S.; she will call you on it. I’m not sure how many of my readers listen to talk radio in Spanish, but I recommend you listen to what she has to say if you understand Spanish.

The topic of one of her recent shows concerned life after death, or more specifically, what her callers believe happens after death. There were those who had the quick answer, “you go to Heaven to be with God,” but when pressed on the details, became utterly incapable of providing any realistic descriptions or scenarios. Others, of course, said that nothing happens; and the majority stumbled around attempting to answer the question without the Heaven or the nothingness explanation, only to find themselves impaled on their own uncertainty. Ms. Marin did not provide them an easy out; she pressed them relentlessly to answer the question in a specific and meaningful way. When they couldn’t do it, she moved on to the next person.

I found myself in something of a panic, imagining that I was one of her callers and I had been pressured into answering the question. Even though this topic is my area of research and interest, there is NO WAY to spit out a quick answer to the question, ‘what happens after you die’. I realize that those who have had a near death experience might be able to answer this with the typical imagery: the tunnel, the white light, meeting relatives who have passed on, the life review, the inability to cross a certain boundary between life and death, and the final (usually unwanted) return to the body. However, this describes a transitional state between life in the flesh and the life of consciousness, not what happens after actual, physical death.

No one can answer definitively, since no one has died 100% in the flesh and returned to talk about it except Jesus, and well, there are some issues there, as well. My experience tells me that while there is no quick answer to the question, there is–at least–a concept that we can hold onto when forced to answer questions about life after death. In terms of scientific research, nowhere is there better evidence for the continuation of life than in the work of the late Dr. Ian Stevenson from the University of Virginia. His work on the past lives of children from around the world is legendary; I’ve discussed it extensively in other blog posts. What his work points to is that ‘life’ after ‘death’ is about the transference of consciousness from one body to another.

The best evidence points to the indestructibility of the conscious mind, spirit or soul (I do not think that these terms are interchangeable, but the differences between them are the subject of another post). It doesn’t disappear, but finds another body through which it expresses a self. How this happens is pure speculation, but it must happen at some point in fetal development. I remember my sister telling me–and she is nothing if not a skeptic–that she felt the precise moment when a spirit ‘jumped into’ my nephew while in the womb. He was pure potential and suddenly became a personality. This personality was, in his case, external to him and perhaps had nothing to do with our family and genetics at all.

Consciousness finds a way to continue, whether it be through reincarnation or through some other mechanism, such as inhabiting another dimension or alternate universe as posited by some quantum theories. One of these alternate dimensions of reality might look and feel much like the Heaven that the faithful expect to experience. Many Eastern religions posit the twin existence of soul and spirit, each living out separate existences as the same personality: the “spirit” continues to reincarnate with limited or absent memories of the previous existence, and the “soul” inhabits a timeless dimension where the expected rewards and/or punishments are experienced as expected. Some quantum theories posit that there are infinite versions of us in infinite universes, so that when one of us dies in one world, we simply skip over to another and pick up our lives there, either in the ‘present’ moment or a past or future moment.

It doesn’t work to think of time as important to consciousness after death, since it is a biological concept useful to understand what we perceive as forward movement towards a goal, but it is not an independent entity necessary to understand reality (at least as far physics is concerned–time could just as easily move backwards as forwards, and we only need the ‘arrow of time’ for formulas concerning entropy, which some physicists think doesn’t exist as an independent measure of anything, anyway). You can see why, by now, there is no way to answer Maria Marin’s challenge in a one-minute phone call. When you are discussing issues concerning consciousness–that great mystery–it doesn’t make sense to explain exactly what will happen, since that requires us to know exactly how our minds will perceive reality when we are no longer dependent on a brain or a body to filter and limit our experiences.

Since Ms. Marin requires total honesty, I will say this: I am afraid that the best evidence points to a recycling of consciousness that does not involve karma, reward, Heaven or eternal rest. It seems that our personalities are transferred to another human being, and we drag our baggage along into another life–whether in the form of unconscious trauma or conscious memories. I do think there is room for spiritual evolution from life to life, but that is not the same concept as karma or reward. Our suffering in one life might purify us and lead us closer to God, but it certainly doesn’t mean our next lives will be easy, fun, interesting or rewarding. The most spiritually evolved person might appear to have the worst material circumstances.

For what it’s worth, that’s my answer to Ms. Marin, if I had called in. We come back, again and again, working towards a nobler, more refined relationship with God. What that looks like for each individual is unknown. So, I take my last breath, I might have a transitional period where I’m in the Light and meet up with those long gone, and then I probably black out or go to sleep and wake up screaming, inhaling that first breath again, remembering or not that I was here before, and here I go again.

Yours on the journey,

Kitty Soul bank Post

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD

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Today is Nana’s birthday. She would have been 92 years old today. She died in January, 1999, when she was only 80. There was a time when 80 would have seemed a venerable age; now, with my 70-year-old parents, 80 is not old. It certainly doesn’t seem like the right age to die.

I have tried to hang on to her in various ways over the years. I expected her to visit me in dreams; she did not. I hoped that she would appear at the end of my bed; she never did. I figured that with all the ghost hunting and spirit chasing, she might decide to make contact; my expectations came to nothing. I have talked about her jewelry box before, exclaiming how her perfume is extra strong when I think about her and talk to her—but someone pointed out that the old scent simply accumulates over time when the box is closed, so there’s no mystery there. The more often I open it, the less perfume escapes. I even went so far as to use the IOvilus to attempt to make contact with her—all to no avail.

I swallowed my doubts and consulted a medium in Idyllwild, waiting anxiously for a meaningful message. All she told me was that Nana was completely confused by her death, not expecting it, and felt utterly lost when she passed over. That was not comforting. That did not prove nor disprove anything, but left me with a certain sadness for my grandmother, who never seemed very happy in life, and– if I were to believe the medium–was now lost and overwhelmed by death.

I really did expect, over the last 11 years, that Nana might come back in some form to comfort me, or simply to remind me that she’s still around. The fact that—besides some interesting dreams of other family members—Nana appears to be truly gone, scares me and raises some old specters (pardon the metaphor). I became involved in the paranormal because I wanted to explain to myself, if no one else, why I experienced contact with some people (such as Grandpa Joe) and not others. The person I most wanted to connect with was simply not there. We all fear oblivion, some of us more than others, especially because it turns our lives into hourglasses, a waiting room for death. I don’t believe that nothing remains of us after we pass over—anyone reading soulbank knows that—but I am at a total loss when it comes to understanding the data and making sense of my experience.

The voices I capture during EVP sessions and the messages I get in various ways (IOvilus, mediums, psychics, dreams, etc.) do not point to a coherent picture of the afterlife. In fact, it often seems that messages are fragmented, strange, purposefully cryptic or simply bizarre. Of course, if you look for spirits in places like Camarillo, what do you expect? Even so, it appears to me that what we “capture” are more like echoes and memories than actual lives. Is there a place after death where our identities and memories remain intact? Do we really continue to evolve? To we return to life in a new body? Does it matter that we progress spiritually, or does the same fate await us all?

I just finished a fascinating book by David Kessler: Visions, Trips and Crowded Rooms. Apparently, medical personnel (especially nurses and hospice workers) are well aware of the visions their patients experience before death. Many of them are greeted by their deceased loved ones; so many loved ones, in fact, that it’s a common to hear the dying make reference to how crowded the room is. It is all but proven that these visions are not hallucinations,  side effects of drugs or oxygen deprivation. Exactly what is happening is a mystery, of course. Most doctors refuse to believe that what their patients see and experience is “real”; this calls into question the very notion of “real”. If the dying insist that their loved ones are REALLY, TRULY in the room, then who are we to say that they are not? Kessler makes an interesting point in one of his chapters: legally, the words of the dying are given special status in courts of law. In other words, the declarations of the dying are given MORE weight than those who are not actively dying.

If we believe what so many patients report, we certainly do not die alone, and there is a “place”—God knows where (literally)—where everyone we ever loved continues to exist. This seems impossible and fantastic, a true wish-fulfillment fantasy . . . but that doesn’t make it untrue. I wonder, sometimes, if my attempts to call on Nana are somehow forbidden by certain laws of which I am unaware. Perhaps contacting me is the last thing on her list of goals in the afterlife. She knows already that she’ll see me in 51 years (an old gypsy told me I would live until the age of 96), which to her might seem like five minutes. Time, so they say, is irrelevant after death.

But I miss her. I miss her so much that sometimes I simply cannot resist the temptation to see if maybe she will say hello, or tell me that she loved me, or just reassure me that she is fine and even happy. Maybe she would contact me if she knew how sad I am without any grandparents. Maybe she will . . . if I try hard enough.

If she doesn’t, then I still have her little jewelry box with the perfume and my memories; but both are starting to fade with time, and that hurts more than anything.

If you are out there and can read this, I love you Nana. I miss you. I will keep trying to find you. I don’t know what else to do.

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Sam Parnia, M.D., Ph.D., is the U.K.’s leading expert on Near Death Experiences, and a Fellow in pulmonary and critical care medicine. He makes a very strong case for the survival of consciousness after death, and he has considerable authority to make that claim. Let me quote him directly from his most recent book, What Happens When We Die (2008):

“So, in essence, there are two sets of data available that when put together become very significant. One suggests that the human mind and consciousness can continue functioning during cardiac arrest and hence during clinical death, while the other states that the human brain itself does not function during this time. This happens because despite the best available medical care, we are still unable to get adequate blood flowing to the brain during cardiac arrest. If both of these sets of data are absolutely correct, then this would suggest that the human mind and consciousness continue to function even when the brain does not work and when we have reached clinical death. This would then imply that many of our assumptions about the relationship between the brain and the mind are not correct.” (178)

Dr. Parnia spends most of the book providing evidence for the above statement. I believe that he succeeds admirably and comes close to convincing me that his central thesis is true: the mind is not an epiphenomenon of the brain. In other words, the brain does not “produce” the mind, any more than the television “produces” the shows we watch. I suppose I was a convert to that belief long before I read this book, but I continue to search for scientists, doctors, and other professionals interested in the survival of consciousness who can provide compelling data on this fundamental issue.

He joins a growing community of medical professionals who are finally “coming out” about their patients’ experiences and how their materialist beliefs have been seriously challenged by those experiences. What I find so compelling about this new genre of medical essay–unfairly relegated to “New Age” sections of the bookstores–is simply that what we experience as patients at the point of death is finally being taken seriously, not simply dismissed as a hallucination or the product of a diseased brain.

So, dear readers, consider reading Dr. Parnia’s book carefully. If you already believe in consciousness after death, it will give you scientific ammunition for the skeptics. If you are a skeptic, it will seriously challenge your beliefs about a materialist universe. And then, of course, write to me and let me know what you think.

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