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Posts Tagged ‘reincarnation’

It’s instructive to look at what a culture believes and completely deconstruct it. I find that we are lied to by the dominant culture on a regular basis; social media, media in general, all the images and words that we process in infinite doses teach us a version of reality which, I suspect, is skewed at best and completely false at worst.

One of the biggest assumptions that we carry around with us concerns the afterlife. You are taught to fall into two camps: the ‘scientist,’ who believes there is no rational basis for a belief in the continuation of consciousness, or the ‘believer’ who is either following a religious doctrine based on faith and ancient scripture or the ‘New Ager’ who has dragged the consciousness raising, flower power philosophies of the 1960s and 1970s into the present day. In the latter cases, you are considered by academics, intellectuals and amateur, ghost hunting ‘scientists’ nominally following a method, to be gullible or simply ignorant.

Is the choice really a scriptural ‘Heaven’, total obliteration or some fuzzy ‘white light’ scenario where you are kindly judged by a benevolent God who gently leads you into a non-denominational paradise where your loved ones await you? Do any of these versions make sense of the life you are living? For me, these are not real alternatives but fantasies generated by tradition or desire. I see things quite differently. For one, I tend to think that Heaven and Hell were always meant to be allegorical, describing a state of mind rather than a state of being ‘somewhere else.’ We create Hell on Earth on a regular basis. In fact, it is relatively easy to find Hell if you listen to the news or frequent social media sites. As you navigate the photos of starving children, abused and beaten dogs and melting ice populated with dying polar bears, it seems that God took off a long time ago.

Unless Hell is right here, right now. Why are some of us in Hell when others are so close to Heaven? I don’t know. Maybe God is watching to see what we do. Do we ignore evil in all of its forms? Do we make an attempt, no matter how seemingly futile, to provide comfort and aid?

If Hell is here, surely Heaven is, too. We know that when we hold our child or sleep surrounded by our devoted pets or when we simply contemplate the stunning beauty of nature. Both Hell and Heaven are states of mind that lead to states of being. We can visit both places whenever we want. Sometimes, you can visit Hell simply with one, destructive, pernicious thought. The opposite applies, too.

The Afterlife is not After. It is right here, right now, all of the time. Death, that big, scary concept that keeps us all running in a million directions attempting to evade or outwit it, is a minimal experience that has deluded us all. I remember death. I revisit past deaths in dreams. I have a repeating dream where I realize that I am about to die, and I experience all the terror of the death, usually the one where a giant wave sweeps me out to sea and drowns me. The fascinating aspect of those dreams is that after I die, I realize that I didn’t die. There is this huge sense of relief of having endured the physical death only to come out of it as alive, or more so, that I was before. The second life is completely devoid of fear. I realize that death is an experience, but not a final reality. When I realize this in these repeated dreams, I also feel that I wasted most of my life fearing something that didn’t change anything about me at all.

Piecing together dreams and memories of before I was born, it seems that we ‘wake up’ to a very similar reality with exactly the same identity and personality blueprint. The circumstances are different. But I am the same. Or, as Ortega y Gasset put it, “Yo soy yo y mis circunstancias” (I am myself and my circumstances). I find this to be the most succinct and perfect way of understanding identity. You have always been, and always will be, you; only your backdrop changes. The fact that I can’t explain how this works–whether this is reincarnation, transmigration of souls, or something else–does not invalidate it. There are some things you know on the deepest level of your soul, at the level of your basic humanity, in the blueprint that God (or Spirit) created and that you spend lifetimes attempting to figure out.

There is this deeper reality that invalidates death. I think we all know that it’s there, like a memory that we intuit but can’t capture, an experience we had but can’t put into words. It’s that feeling when you walk down a street you have never seen in this life, yet you can predict every landmark around the bend. It’s when you know something before it happens. It is also when time seems to be the strangest illusion of all, always appearing to move forward, even as you float in a matrix of eternity.

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD/PHW

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Dr. Alan Hugenot is a medium who is also an engineer and a classically trained physicist. I don’t like long quotes, but if I’m going to reference someone as an authority on something as important as life after death, make sure that your readers know who this person is. Here is his own bio on LinkedIn, but you should read more on your own:

alainhugenot

Dr. Hugenot is a semi-retired, Naval Architect & Marine Engineer, who often works as an expert witness in maritime cases. After surviving a Near-Death experience in 1970 which occurred during a 12 hour coma, he has made a 45 year, scientific study of Consciousness Survival and Evidential Mediumship. The NDE “opened” his consciousness to intuitive communications, and after completing studies with the Morris Pratt Institute (NSAC), and Arthur Findlay College of Psychic Science (SNU), He currently serves as research medium with the Consciousness Research Lab at IONS (Noetic.org) with Dr. Dean Radin, Ph.D and Dr. Arnaud Delorme, Ph.D, and also with Dr. Gary Swartz (University of Arizona). He currently serves on the Board of Directors for both the International Association for Near Death Studies (IANDS.org) and the Academy for Spiritual and Consciousness Studies (ASCSi.org). He is fascinated with parapsychological science and the physics of consciousness, consciousness survival in an afterlife, mediumship, remote viewing, and out of body experiences. Trained in classical Newtonian physics, but having also experienced the phenomena of consciousness survival and out-of-body consciousness, he realizes that our materialist paradigm is an extremely restricted aperture for viewing the larger reality of the Conscious Universe, yet he also comprehends the skeptic’s perceptive difficulty that, “Consciousness survival can never be observed unless the observer first infers that it could be possible”. He speaks several times each month at various conferences on Death, Consciousness Survival and Mediumship Science in North America at local IONS and IANDS groups and at various Unity and Spiritualist churches. He also holds workshops on Evidential Mediumship. He is available, by prior arrangement, to speak and hold workshops throughout Europe and the British Commonwealth.

What I like about Dr. Hugenot: He made a decision to become medium via intense study and preparation, discarding the notion that the scientist or the observer must keep herself at a skeptical distance in order to draw conclusions or gather evidence about survival of consciousness. The preponderance of the evidence is in favor of the existence of ‘discarnate entities’ who communicate with us via signs, direct voice, writing, channeling and other means. It is NOT that we don’t have enough evidence to support our beliefs in the afterlife; the issue is that we can’t convince the majority of the scientific community to examine the evidence because they refuse to consider the question. If you refuse, a priori, to study the evidence because it concerns an issue that requires you to abandon materialism, then you cannot convince a skeptic. Oddly enough, this has led to an anti-scientific attitude among the materialists, since they will not consider the results of studies carried out at universities and government agencies that followed scientific protocol. Dr. Hugenot joins the ranks of Dr. Morse, Dr. Stevens, Dr. Mona Schultz, Dr. Parnia and so many others who have found reasonable grounds for accepting the continuation of consciousness. We need to be reminded: science has not proven that consciousness arises from brain function, an assumption upon which materialists rely.

Another fascinating theory that Dr. Hugenot proposes: the ‘near death’ experience is an actual ‘death experience.’ Therefore, the question of reincarnation has been solved: if you return to your body after you died (Dr. Sam Parnia discusses this in depth–he has resuscitated patients who he considered dead–no less dead than those who don’t return to their bodies), you HAVE REINCARNATED. Not, clearly, into another body, but back into the one you had before. That fact alone is enough to upend any thinking person’s world view. Several of us wandering around right now have returned to our bodies after death. We have reincarnated. If we could do it once, why could we not do it again in a different body?

There is much more that you need to hear. Go to his page and listen to the videos. They might just change your life.

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD

 

 

 

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Jim Tucker

You know that a book is important to me when I still have 15 pages left and I can’t wait to write about what I have read so far. I am a big fan of Dr. Ian Stevenson’s research and Jim Tucker’s work as well (see: Life Before Life). The late Dr. Stevenson worked out of the University of Virginia in the Division of Perceptual Studies where Jim Tucker continues his work on reincarnation. Drs. Stevenson and Tucker are the world’s leading authorities on children’s past-life memories along with Carol Bowman, who is a non-scientist studying the phenomena in depth.
Return to Life picks up on Dr. Tucker’s American reincarnation cases and offers several examples of apparent past lives lingering well into a current life. Typically, children start forgetting these memories at around age 5, but some remember key features of a past life well into adulthood. One of the stories recounted is quite well known already—the case of young James who remembered a life as a WWII pilot shot down over Iwo Jima—and is well documented in Soul Survivor, a book his parents wrote after documenting his case for many years.
One of the chapters is particularly interesting to me: those cases where there is little hard, objective evidence that connects one person to a previous personality but where the child (or adult) continues to exhibit behaviors, phobias and emotional reactions that are not easily explained by current life situations or childhood traumas. I fall into that category myself, and to this day struggle with emotions and reactions that don’t appear to originate in this life.
I have discussed this elsewhere in this blog, but I still have more to talk about when it comes to the topic of past lives. In my case, my childhood was remarkable for the ‘weird’ remarks I would make and the odd behavior I would display, for no apparent reason. Lately, I have been reinterpreting stories and memories from the past and wondering if my experiences had something to do with breakthrough memories from the past. All of this, of course, leads me to wonder what the ‘self’ really is, and what part of Kirsten has come back this time around. One of the children in the book explains it as having a different personality, but a same self. That might take me hundreds of pages of writing to unravel (sorry, Soulbank readers, but sometimes I just have to write it out!).
When I was around five years old, I remember feelings of terror regarding drug use (illegal drug use). Anytime someone tried to make me take a pill or give me a shot, I would lose my mind. This was especially difficult for me, since I underwent two major surgeries at age five for unrelated issues and was often forced to deal with prescription drugs. I also had asthma and spent a fair amount of my childhood attached to an inhaler and prescriptions for steroids. However, I did know that there were medicines that one had to take for illness and drugs that people took for fun or to alter their consciousness. The idea of taking or being forced to take a drug to alter my consciousness terrified me to the point of trauma.
When I discovered joints hidden at the bottom of a drawer (I was seven or eight at the time), I lectured my parents about drug use even though they had never discussed the topic with me and were shocked that I knew what a joint was. I was obsessed with marijuana plants, hating them intensely and trying to keep my parents away from them (they did have one on the deck of one of our many apartment buildings, and no matter how much they lied to me about what it really was, I KNEW it was a ‘bad plant’). The 1960s psychedelic culture created total panic in me, even though I was not directly exposed to it. My parents listened to Cream and The Beatles, and even though there were psychedelic elements to some of the music, it was not their interest and there is no good way to explain my trauma around a certain aspect of 1960s hippy culture.
My fear of psychedelic music, images or lyrics had to do with the fear of losing consciousness. I associated that kind of experience with death. I know that the 1960s were obsessed with alterations in consciousness, but as a four and five year-old, it was odd that I was in full panic mode over any alterations of my consciousness produced by certain music, sights or sounds. To this day, I suffer from severe anxiety over anything I ingest that I don’t feel is 100% tested and safe for me. I am terrified of any kind of drug; I don’t even take Tylenol without extensive soul searching and fear. In high school and college, I would drink alcohol to excess—there was no panic over that unless I started to feel like I was seriously altering my consciousness—but I would not touch any pill or illegal drug even though everybody around me had no such qualms.
Even now, falling asleep is scary because it involves alterations in consciousness. A threat to my conscious awareness can come in almost any form, but I struggle attempting to remain in control of my faculties and not drift off, never to return. I remember an incident at 15 that triggered a very old memory. I was watching “Major Tom,” performed by David Bowie, on our old television in the living room. It was 1980. As I watched him and listened to the song, I had an out of body experience and a profound alteration of consciousness that so terrified me that to this day, I cannot watch Bowie perform the song without profound feelings of fear. I felt that this music would, somehow, kill me or take me so far out of my normal, rational experience of life that I would be mad or drugged and not be able to return.
The fear of drugs seriously affected my friendships. I would cry if a friend smoked a joint. I would lecture fellow college students on the dangers of drugs and make myself an unwelcome guest at many school parties. Anything, even an aspirin, seemed to contain the horrendous possibility of a slow, downward spiral into unconsciousness. As I have written about before, I ‘knew’ the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco not from a tourist point of view, but from the standpoint of a drug addicted, teen-aged prostitute.
That, of course, is speculation. However, it fits with certain behaviors, automatic reactions and responses, emotional trauma and general life perspective that doesn’t make much sense unless I lived a certain kind of life in my distant, previous-personality past. There are other aspects to my life as a young adult that point strongly in the direction of the past life that I mention above, but the details are so personal and painful that I don’t wish to relive them in a blog post. The most I am willing to say is simply this: I knew what it felt like to prostitute myself for money and drugs without ever actually doing it. I would talk to myself about my life as a prostitute, the narratives rich with detail, yet I should not have known or understood the content of those narratives. I have repeated those stories for years, for decades, even.
As weird as that sounds, I know that my instinctual reaction of nausea, sadness and depression simply writing about it validates that it did happen, and not in my current lifetime. Psychologists are the enemy of reincarnation theories, since they would always say that the roots of this narrative are in my childhood, and that I repressed the memories that would lead me to understand myself a certain way. Of course, when an entire profession bases its authority on key evidence that the individual cannot, by definition, access—repressed memories resulting in unconscious behaviors—there is no way for me to claim my life as within my understanding. The mental health profession cannot prove their theory nor can I prove mine; but how many key aspects of our lives can we not prove yet know to be true? Most, I think.
My strongest evidence comes from the memories that I do indeed have access to, and no ‘logical’ explanation for. My highly precocious childhood and my abnormal understanding and knowledge of a world I never lived in is proof enough for me. In many ways, I am still struggling to overcome the legacy of that past life. I believe that it continues to traumatize me to this day, but since I can’t find a mental health professional who treats past life trauma (wait—I’m in L.A.—they are probably everywhere), I will continue to work on the details of this life the best way I know how: bringing these issues into the light.
Back to Jim Tucker’s book; I DID finish it as of this writing, and I have to say that I am slightly disappointed with the theories he proposes that explain reincarnation. It is common in the last several years to use quantum theory as a tool to understand everything anomalous, but dare I say we lay people might not understand quantum theory well enough to make such sweeping connections to phenomena such as reincarnation? Yes, it’s true that particles behave strangely in quantum physics, so much so that an observer is required to bring a result into reality; it is also true that particles can exhibit backwards causality, where an observer can determine in the present the outcome of something that supposedly already happened.
It’s fun to go in circles with quantum mechanics and speculate on what it means for consciousness, but until there is some definitive proof that consciousness is required in the observation process in order for a present reality to coalesce, I have to take all this as interesting but not necessarily compelling. OK, so Dr. Tucker does say that important figures in the field of quantum physics have stated that the conscious observer is necessary for the outcome of present reality, but I need to read the original sources in order to accept that. My fear, of course, is that I will not be able to comprehend the original sources at the depth necessary to be able to make any true statements.
Dr. Tucker admits that he is speculating based on some commonplace tropes in quantum physics (I am really tired of the double-slit experiment and Schrödinger’s stupid cat), but I keep coming back to a basic problem with the idea that the universe and everything in it does not exist without my conscious observation (or someone’s conscious observation). It sounds too much like solipsism, the notion that the individual creates his own reality with every act of observation, and therefore the moon is not there if I do not look at it. Dr. Tucker does address that briefly, but doesn’t satisfy my objections.
Maybe this sounds stupid and reduces my credibility, but this little story doesn’t seem to have a good answer for me: the other day, I was looking up at the balcony and I tripped over a clump of grass that I had no idea was there. I fell and was injured. I did not observe that clump of grass, but it was there nonetheless. This sounds a lot like the disagreement between Bishop Berkeley and Samuel Johnson, which goes like this:
Refutation of Bishop Berkeley
After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley’s ingenious sophistry to prove the nonexistence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it — “I refute it thus.”
Boswell: Life
It appears that quantum physics is being used to prove the validity of what I see as sophistry: matter only appears to exist because we perceive it to exist. I don’t want to start walking down this long road of philosophical debate, because, frankly, it exhausts me. If the universe is a great thought, and our lives are successions of dreams, then there really is something pointless about existence itself, since it is not REAL (and here, drum roll please, is where I am supposed to ask ‘what is real,’ but let’s hold off for a moment on that one). Dr. Tucker disturbs me when he compares lives we live to dreams. He finds that metaphor most apt to understand our multiple incarnations, but for me the metaphor falls flat. Most dreams have very little in common with what it feels like to be alive in the world. He quotes a communicator through the famous medium Leonor Piper who, when asked what the afterlife is like, states that she was most shocked at how REAL it was, how everything had substance and weight. Reports on the afterlife via reputable mediums coincide on this observation; there is nothing vaporous, illogical, bizarre or contradictory in the afterlife. It seems just like a natural extension of this life.
Therefore, the extended comparisons to dreams don’t make much sense to me. If incarnations are us dreaming new existences, then it sounds like our lives are rather inconsequential. We are working out our spiritual development, but to what end? In which world? With what consequences? Dreams are experiments in reality that are not, in the end, real; dreams are psychological in nature when not precognitive, lucid or visionary or facilitating contact with the spirits of the deceased. Most dreams, probably 99% of them, are not indicative of a new reality but are rehashing our current one. No one can argue that most dreams feel like dreams, and that wandering around in the world of the awake is very, very different—very predictable, for one thing.
So while the dream analogy falls flat for me, I do understand why Dr. Tucker has to follow that route. If you accept that reality is created by the observer, you take away an external, objective world that forces people to interact and engage with challenging situations. If you believe that the world only exists as your projection of consciousness, then you run the risk of believing that you have no obligation to change it for the better, unless it’s to work on your personal, spiritual evolution. There is no suffering ‘other’ that needs you, just endless projections of you, everywhere you look. Take away the suffering other, all that which is NOT you, and you are left with a world saturated with your consciousness alone, your giant ego in search of self expression. It makes you God. And that makes me very, very uncomfortable.
I suppose that is the crux of the problem. These “we create the universe” theories turn the self into the Creator. Whether or not you believe in a Creator separate from you is not the issue; do you believe in anything that is not an extension of you? If you don’t, you’re probably two years old or a certain kind of scientist. I might have misinterpreted Dr. Tucker’s intentions or analyses here, and if I have, I hope he or someone who knows his work better than I do will set me straight.
We may not ever be able to “prove” reincarnation as scientific fact. I am dismayed by the fact that science is considered the ONLY way to prove an assertion. The statement “we live more than one life” can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt through other venues besides hard science. It can be proven using legal definitions of ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.” Once you have accumulated enough anecdotal and circumstantial evidence that it becomes preposterous to reasonably believe anything else, you can declare your case proven for the vast majority of the population. Why is it that we are so obsessed—especially in the study of the so-called ‘paranormal’—with proving via the scientific method something which hard science CANNOT EVER ACCEPT AS PROVEN?
The blessings of neuroscience or psychiatry will not be forthcoming. We can use their language and their methods to explore issues of continuation of consciousness, but we are not going to be invited to their awards ceremonies or ever find a place at their table.
That does not change the fact that reincarnation is the closest theory that fits the truth of so many people’s experiences. It does not change the truth of my life or the truth of the lives that I lived before, or the reality of the lives I have yet to live.
–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD
Kirsten with glasses

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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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afterlife4

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.

afterlife3

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.

afterlife6

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.

afterlife 1

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.

afterlife5

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.

afterlife7

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.

soniathorpe.com

soniathorpe.com

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I created a persona awhile back named “Ms. Kitty”. She existed then and continues to exist now as a guide and mentor for teenagers. I work with teens all day long and am the parent of one, as well. Although Ms. Kitty was created for teens, she also speaks to adults. The reason I decided to post something my alter ego wrote was simply because she speaks to the soul. We all have an ongoing consciousness that will continue on after our current incarnation has ended. My goal and my hope for those I love is that we are all engaged in a spiritual evolution that will lead us to the next life. Our job in the here and now is to learn how to speak the truth without fear, love without barriers, fix what is broken in us, and reach out and heal the wounds of others in our human community. If we can do that well in this life, the next one will not wound us nearly as profoundly. We come into the world destined to experience pain; but the purpose of pain is to teach, not cripple. I try to tell teenagers that their suffering is real, but not defining or permanent. There is resolution to all unhappiness through action and “reperception;” sometimes, a simple realignment of our perspective and thoughts can create a complete breakthrough in our emotions. Although for most teens their emotions become their reality and identity, they (and we) can learn to change that and see emotions as a temporary result of often misguided thoughts and perceptions. We can, and do, change our reality day by day; choose to see the solutions and they will present themselves as if by magic.

Ms. Kitty hopes that you will find some wisdom in what she says, even if you think the Teenagers’ Dilemmas don’t apply to you.

Dear Ms. Kitty,

I think I have an eating disorder. What do I do?

First and foremost, see your doctor and tell your parents.

Here are my thoughts on the matter: an eating disorder is a form of self-punishment and expresses a need for control. It is also about denying emotions that are painful and somehow unacceptable, especially anger. Starving, binging, alternating between the two, even cutting yourself or using drugs and/or alcohol are different heads on the same monster.

What is the monster? Overwhelming feelings that demand to be understood and acknowledged, but are, instead, ignored. Anger is a big part of the problem: women are taught, usually by example, that expressing anger is unacceptable. However, anger is a natural emotion, and inevitably situations arise that rouse your anger: your friends betray or reject you; your parents have expectations of you that you don’t feel you can manage or achieve; you want yourself to be perfect, to please everyone, and you can’t; you try to ‘save’ a friend from destructive behaviors, and he/she refuses to listen to you; and the list can go on and on.

Imagine how difficult it could be to confront friends who have hurt you and say, “I am angry with you for ignoring me, for making me feel insecure and unhappy, for not being there when I needed you the most”. That’s hard to do. You risk upset and more rejection. Imagine saying to your parents, “I know you want me to be a straight-A student and go to a prestigious college back East, but I can barely manage to survive school every day, much less plan my entire academic future”. You risk facing their disappointment or possible disapproval; or worse, you might end up arguing with them about the ‘reality’ of what you know you feel. Imagine having to admit to yourself that you have let people down, that you are so imperfect that you have hurt others without meaning to. It’s a risk confessing your own imperfection, your inability to be who they want or need you to be, and your fear that they will reject you if you don’t manage to be the person that they expect. Finally, imagine having to admit to yourself that someone you loved, someone you tried to save from her/himself is beyond your help. Admitting that you cannot save someone who you love is difficult, sad and frustrating. You might even feel angry towards this person, and then immediately feel guilty for feeling angry.

So what do you do instead of facing all of these challenges head on? You create a distraction, a way for your mind to focus on something that you can control. Once you realize that you can’t control anyone else, and that your anger about that fact is unacceptable to those who love you, you skip lunch instead and go hungry. That will hurt those who love you, and hurt you: perfect for someone who can’t directly express her anger or other strong emotion, or who doesn’t want to face a painful situation head-on. Or, you can eat three bags of chips, get sick, barf, and start over. You will be so preoccupied with your particular cycle that you won’t have time or energy to deal openly with the people and situations that hurt you. You could also cut yourself, and substitute physical pain and injury for emotional pain and injury. You might opt to take drugs or get drunk, thereby temporarily numbing your anger and pain. There are probably many other ways you could accomplish the task of distraction: stuff your feelings with food until you are obese and physically ill; gamble until you’ve lost your savings; have sex with multiple partners to ensure no one, single person ever really gets close to you; or even decide that you are going to lose yourself in work so that you never see the people that you say you love. 

The monster has many, many heads. We can cycle between self-destructive behaviors, but don’t get distracted by what creates the distraction in the first place. Understand WHY you are running from your emotions. If you’re afraid of your own anger, realize that you must find the truth in order to help yourself, and that sometimes, you have to get angry in a useful and intelligent way in order to get to the bottom of things. Perhaps an example from my own life will help you to see what I mean. Ms. Kitty has trouble still expressing her anger. She thinks that if she gets mad, the people she loves will reject her. That’s not a rational thought, but that’s what her ‘fear body’ has fooled her into thinking. Ms. Kitty was wandering the aisles of a Halloween store with her husband looking at the ridiculous costumes that they sell to adult women. One picture showed a woman with impossibly skinny and long legs wearing a maid’s outfit. Ms. Kitty wondered if she was expected to dress up like this for Halloween. Her husband laughed and said, “You don’t have the legs for it.”

After that, I refused to wear skirts and only wore jeans. I also convinced myself that I needed to stay at a certain weight, or my husband would find someone else. For years, I didn’t buy skirts or wear them, always remembering that “I didn’t have the legs for it.” Also, more importantly, I was furious that my husband would make such a remark and force me to stay at an unreasonable weight and not wear what I wanted to. Secretly, I feared he was intolerant and too focused on looks, and I wondered if our relationship could last if that were the case. Pondering that caused me to panic, thinking I was about to be abandoned. That, in turn, sent me to the gym in the quest to make my legs good enough for a skirt. Finally, one day, my husband asked me why I never wore a skirt. I told him the story I just told you. He was horrified. “That’s not what I meant!” he cried, “the legs on that model were freakish and Photo shopped! NOBODY HAS THE LEGS THAT SHE DOES!! I NEVER wanted you to look like that!” I think he cried when he finally understood why he never saw my legs.

I had changed my wardrobe, worked out my legs until my knees ached and occasionally skipped meals (although, to be honest, Ms. Kitty loves to eat, so she would usually make up for a skipped meal later with a bag of stuffed jalapeños) so that I would ‘have the legs’ to wear a skirt. More importantly, I re-defined myself as someone with ‘bad legs’ all due to a remark that I had MISUNDERSTOOD. If had expressed my anger at the time it was appropriate to express it, if I had said: “What do you mean I don’t have the legs for this skirt? That’s rude and cruel; how DARE you tell me something like that?” my husband would have immediately corrected my misperception, and I would have been spared years of insecurity about my body.

Now, imagine that the consequences are much bigger than hiding your legs. Let’s say that you tell your friends something very important about you, you confide a secret to them, and they betray you by telling someone else or by not supporting you. That’s much worse than a misinterpreted remark. You have the right to be angry; very angry. You must confront those who hurt you, and tell them why you feel the way you do. You must do this in an intelligent fashion; no need to be aggressive or nasty. You must tell them the truth and let them ponder it. Once the truth is out, there is no need to create a monster for yourself; there is no need to cut, starve, binge, barf, pierce everything, avoid everyone or gamble your life savings. The truth creates freedom, because you shift the burden of your emotions from you to the people who need to feel what you feel, because they, in part, have created the crisis. Sometimes people are utterly clueless that they have created a crisis or hurt you; your job is to let them know, sometimes gently, sometimes with force. If those people don’t want to understand or react poorly, then walk away and consider yourself fortunate that toxic friends or family are out of your life for awhile. If they can face their part in your pain, then maybe you can let them back in. If they can’t, turn the other cheek, don’t hate or turn on yourself, and find that community of people that will not judge, criticize, label or ignore you. Those people are everywhere. You are more loved, by the way, than you probably fully understand or realize.

Every time you face the truth and feel the appropriate emotion for the situations you find yourself in, you will slay the monsters of self destruction. Those monsters only turn on you, because you are not turning to the people who can help and turning away from the people that hurt. Sometimes, the truth can make other people uncomfortable. Well, that’s just too bad. We all have to face reality and come to terms with the fantasies we create in order to protect us. Adults have to realize that we create more subtle monsters, such as losing ourselves in an obsession that we call a hobby, or becoming zombies in front of the television or computer. We’re afraid of the world out there and of the power of our own emotions and thoughts. The world out there will find a way in, and our emotions will find a way out; let’s make sure that we’re healthy enough to handle both.

And, by the way, I bought a bunch of skirts. I discovered that I don’t really like skirts, because I like to sit in unladylike positions. I NEVER skip a meal unless I have the flu, and I go to the gym only to stay reasonably strong. I have the legs and the guts to take care of myself, and maybe help you, dear reader, as well.

–Ms. Kitty

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In the interest of objectivity, I have decided to include an article that seeks to debunk reincarnation memories in adults as a result of faulty recall or a “source monitoring error,” as the memory specialists call it. Here’s the brief article (my comments on this follow):

“People who believe they have lived past lives as, say, Indian princesses or battlefield commanders are more likely to make certain types of memory errors, according to a new study.

The propensity to make these mistakes could, in part, explain why people cling to implausible reincarnation claims in the first place.

Researchers recruited people who, after undergoing hypnotic therapy, had come to believe that they had past lives.

Subjects were asked to read aloud a list of 40 non-famous names, and then, after a two-hour wait, told that they were going to see a list consisting of three types of names: non-famous names they had already seen (from the earlier list), famous names, and names of non-famous people that they had not previously seen. Their task was to identify which names were famous.

The researchers found that, compared to control subjects who dismissed the idea of reincarnation, past-life believers were almost twice as likely to misidentify names. In particular, their tendency was to wrongly identify as famous the non-famous names they had seen in the first task. This kind of error, called a source-monitoring error, indicates that a person has difficulty recognizing where a memory came from.

Power of suggestion
People who are likely to make these kinds of errors might end up convincing themselves of things that aren’t true, said lead researcher Maarten Peters of Maastricht University in The Netherlands. When people who are prone to making these mistakes undergo hypnosis and are repeatedly asked to talk about a potential idea — like a past life — they might, as they grow more familiar with it, eventually convert the idea into a full-blown false memory.

 

   

This is because they can’t distinguish between things that have really happened and things that have been suggested to them, Peters told LiveScience.

Past life memories are not the only type of implausible memories that have been studied in this manner. Richard McNally, a clinical psychologist at Harvard University, has found that self-proclaimed alien abductees are also twice as likely to commit source monitoring errors.

Creative minds
As for what might make people more prone to committing such errors to begin with, McNally says that it could be the byproduct of especially vivid imagery skills. He has found that people who commonly make source-monitoring errors respond to and imagine experiences more strongly than the average person, and they also tend to be more creative.

“It might be harder to discriminate between a vivid image that you’d generated yourself and the memory of a perception of something you actually saw,” he said in a telephone interview.

Peters also found in his study, detailed in the March issue of Consciousness and Cognition, that people with implausible memories are also more likely to be depressed and to experience sleep problems, and this could also make them more prone to memory mistakes.”   (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17982545/)

OK, I can certainly accept that adults who undergo hypnosis seeking past-life answers to current predicaments are prone to be creative thinkers more open to suggestion than the average person. “Vivid imagergy skills” and “suggestibility” indicating difficulty recognizing where a memory comes from are pitfals for the past life seeker, but certainly not any  kind of refutation of the theory itself. Adults who seek to uncover who they were in a past life are walking into a minefield if they hope to prove to themselves or anyone else that what they “remember” is actually originating in a past existence. By the time we are adults, our memories are so crowded with information that it is virtually impossible to “prove” that our memories represent objective recollections of an actual past life; even if we could locate the history of the person that we claim to have been, there is no way to know for sure that the information we possess didn’t come from a written or oral source that we glanced over or heard in passing. That information can bypass conscious awareness and lodge itself in the unconscious brain, only to be brought out under hypnosis as an experience we believe we had before. Then, of course, we have to understand how our unconscious wishes, desires and repressed emotions play a role in the past life we might create for ourselves. We can’t forget the influence of our experiences, fears and fantasies that might not be adequately expressed in a conscious state.

For all of those reasons, the most important researchers in reincarnation memories–the late Dr. Ian Stevenson and the current Dr. Jim Tucker–discount adult memories of reincarnation as impossible to corroborate. Note that this does NOT mean that such past lives did NOT exist; simply that to prove their existence scienfically is a daunting and probably pointless task, since the contamination of our present lives cannot be excluded from our memories of a past as someone else. There is no “pure” adult who can claim that he/she was not exposed to information about the person he/she claims to have been decades or centuries ago. That is why reputable past life research focuses on children’s past life memories, since children have not had the opportunity at the age of four to have read some obscure article with information on the person they used to be. Also, children’s past life memories are not coming from the rational, conscious brain that fabricates other lives based on a wealth of information that the adult has collected over decades; children show behavioral traits, emotional characteristics, that are out of synch with who they are now. A parent knows when her child is behaving in ways that are beyond what is logical or understandable for their age. An adult, on the other hand, can be anyone he chooses to be, or needs to be.

What really interests me about the above aricle is the statement that “people with implausible memories are also more likely to be depressed and to experience sleep problems”. I want to explore in more depth the possible reasons for that, and what someone interested in such research should do BEFORE he or she decides to embark upon the regression journey. There should be a sign posted at the entryway to the hypnotist’s office: “BEWARE: do not seek answers in the past that require solutions in the present”. More on this later . . .

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