Spontaneous past-life recall by children

“Ian Stevenson, from the Department of Parapsychology of the University of Virginia, is the international authority in the area of child case research. He has collected about 2,000 cases of apparent past-life recall. Of these he has examined more than 200 cases exhaustively. He has reported his findings in books and numerous articles. In northern India he examined 105 cases, in Sri Lanka 80, and a few dozen in Turkey, Lebanon, Alaska, Thailand and Burma.”

“Research into child cases may be compared with legal investigations. It is important to get as many precise and independent testimonies as possible. If a child has never been near the place where the past person lived, and has not met any people from there, it is possible to experiment on the spot.” … …

“Stevenson , who now has data on more than 2,000 cases, takes careful account of all alternative explanations of apparent recollection. … His opponents are less informed.”

These extracts are from ‘Exploring Reincarnation’ by Hans TenDam. Colin Wilson, a renowned writer on parapsychology, describes it as “ … the great definitive work on reincarnation.” “… he has written not as a believer, but as a detached observer …”

TenDam also states “In the cases Stevenson examined, the intermission between death in the previous life and birth in the new life is usually between 1 and 4 years. An intermission of more than 12 years hardly occurs. Between 25 and 75 percent of the past lives which children remember can be identified and verified, usually because the deceased person’s family is still alive. He found changes in sex in 6 to 16 percent of his cases. This differs according to region.”

Spontaneous recollection by little children can differ “… greatly in precision and detail, similar to normal recollection.” Acceptance by their families would reflect prevailing religious and cultural values. Christians would be the least likely to listen to a child talking about a past life. The implications for the existence of souls and a reincarnation process would not be consistent with God’s Will, as interpreted by His intermediary, the priest.

Staunch Christians, especially recent converts, are likely to be professionally sceptical about reincarnation, in spite of all the evidence for its existence. They would “… expect the process to exhibit certain recurring patterns or rules … expect indicators of the length of time between one life and the next ; also the sort of distances the soul or consciousness may travel in order to be reincarnated …” (Ian Wilson). Cultural differences are also apparently not allowed in this clockwork universe. As has been reported repeatedly, even professional scientists can reject findings (reached through strict research) which challenge the prevailing paradigm.

Those of us who have had personal experiences of life after death or have partners or friends similarly involved, simply ignore those who cannot accept reality. There is life after Earthly death.

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Is reincarnation not real?

Many sceptics claim that there is no reliable evidence for the reincarnation process. However, there are many real experiences which say otherwise. One strand comes from reliable professional research on volunteered (that is, spontaneously uttered) past-life memories of very young children – usually aged between 3 and 5 (up to 7). Then there are my experiences; these I am unable to deny, although I tend to be a sceptic by nature. (I am not gullible.)

As well, there are tribal beliefs in every continent which accept the reincarnation process in one form or another. Most of the major Western religions also seem implicitly to accept the possibility of reincarnation (refer the New Testament); whereas the Eastern (Asian) religions accept reincarnation. The oldest version – in Hinduism – is based on the soul going through many Earthly lives on a path of moral purification.

The scientific method (based on the null hypothesis), has no role to play in this matter. How could it be applied? Any institutional religion based on authority and rigid control can have little credibility on this issue. I have read that, against the prevailing background of many cultures in the world holding a belief of some sort in reincarnation, the early Christian Church decided that control of the lives of its followers necessitated the rejection of reincarnation.

Indeed, reincarnation, with its cause-and-effect trajectory, can, according to Colin Wilson (a renowned writer on paranormal phenomena), be seen as reflecting free will. During each life, through free will, one could shape one’s future life. Otherwise, the reincarnation process is meaningless; that is, without purpose or direction. Unlike the early Church’s intention to interpret God’s Will, human free will may be less dependent on the Will of God or spirits.

Colin Wilson also refers to Hans TenDam’s book ‘Exploring Reincarnation’ as the great definite work on reincarnation. “ … he has written, not as a believer, but as a detached observer …” The back cover of the book (1990) states “Unlike some writers in the field, Hans TenDam examines, freely and frankly, the range of explanations of past-life recall – the many different hypotheses about body and soul. None fits the evidence, he concludes, as well as reincarnation.”

The most persuasive of the evidence for the reality of reincarnation comes from the extended and substantial work of Dr. Ian Stevenson. According to the great debunker Ian Wilson (refer ‘The After-Death Experience’), “Dr. Stevenson’s reports … are prodigiously detailed and, as such, undeniably represent the most authoritative and scientific approach supportive of belief in reincarnation available in any language.”

Not surprisingly, some of the professional debunkers did embark upon some strange means of studying the issue. One approach was to weigh a body before and after death to see if the alleged soul had weight! I am reminded of those scientists who measured the skulls and weighed the brains of Australia’s Aborigines: was that to see if they were fauna?

There will also be researchers who, being human and thereby holding religious views, cannot accept explanations arising from studies which challenge that religious position.

Here is what TenDam has to say in his extraordinary book.
“So a great many people belief in reincarnation. Why? The majority undoubtedly because they have been brought up to believe in it. But in the final analysis, belief is based on experiences, reflections, and arguments that convince people of its plausibility.”

“People having apparent memories of their own past lives is an area of experience like any other. We need neither doubt that these experiences are what they profess to be, nor believe that they are beyond sober analysis and criticism. I can easily accept past-life recall, because I have had such experiences myself, and have hundreds of times observed other people having them, but I don’t take them for gospel.”

I too have had intimations of an immediate past life, supported by a spontaneous vision by a seer; yet, I am far from convinced. But I have no doubt that life continues after Earthly death; the spirit realm provided the evidence.

Do out-of-body experiences indicate life after death?

Is there a realm in which previously-human beings reside? Do out-of-body experiences provide necessary evidence? There has been an avalanche of such experiences. These involve a place surrounded by light, with people (including a relative in some cases) advising return to Earth. Many have been investigated thoroughly.

Clever sceptics of a scientific mind have offered explanations which implicate: a subconscious characteristic of some human minds to project a subterranean expectation of a post-death state; or a potential for certain biochemical changes to occur in the brain during the dying process; or for a subliminal psychic need to unveil themselves immediately after death, especially after a traumatic experience such as a terrible death caused by accident, or by a prolonged painful illness.

But to no avail. Where is the evidence to back up such explanations? This is a favourite stance of modern scientists.

I had an out-of-body experience at age 18. I found myself floating horizontally at ceiling height. I had been suffering from dengue fever (that bone-crushing disease) for about 5 days, with increasing pain. Anyone touching my mattress would cause me terrible agony; I could not move. Seeing my body laid out on a different bed so frightened me that I woke up in my bed. I then sweated heavily, and began to improve.

That was an out-of-body event with no out-of-life implications. But, how is one to explain what happened? My imagination? Not probable. I am a sceptic. I doubt that my subconscious can over-ride that mental state.

Late in life, a senior citizen told me about her out-of-body experience when she was 13. She recalled walking along a bridge. At the end of the bridge, she could see a bright light and some figures. She recognised one of the figures as the mother who had died, leaving her 3-year old behind. When she reached her mother, the latter said to her “Patty, you have to go back.” The significance of this report is that no one had ever addressed her as Patty.

Another friend told me about her husband. He had proven himself as slightly psychic from time to time. After his near-death experience late in life, he discovered that his hands had acquired healing powers. Not every survivor of a near-death experience is so fortunate.

Those who were briefly clinically dead have reported experiences which are fairly similar. The general pattern is that they are outside the physical body, often floating near the ceiling. Or they experience flying or walking. They can feel the presence of others. They also experience a natural border which has to be crossed. They are then advised to return.

Could a ‘collective unconscious’ (possibly a past species-memory) explain the out-of-body experiences of some individuals? Why only some? Are these exceptions?

The experience of being sent back to life on Earth after an out-of-body event may be lit by a simple explanation; that the out-of-body excursion was an error, a mishap. Being temporarily clinically dead may have aroused some deep impulse (of unknowable origin) within the individual to escape life.

If Hinduism is correct in postulating that each of us is born with a broadly programmed trajectory of life, a life-path, a personal destiny, then a temporary hiccup cannot take the individual away from paddling on his river of destiny. That has implications for the cross-linkages of human destinies as time goes on. Is Hinduism correct in this regard?

One reality may not be deniable; that there is a realm or dimension which is home – temporarily or permanently – for those who have departed Earth. Near-death or temporary clinical death out-of-body experiences may reflect this reality.

What of institutional religion?

What place is there for the major religions (within the posited framework of an autonomous nested mesh of destinies ranging from the personal to multiple collectives)?  Divested of the detritus of dogma deliberately designed to distinguish each sect or faith from the others, and then to enable a claim of an unwarranted theological superiority, and thereby an exclusive path to heaven, two core beliefs are shared by these religions, except BuddhismFirst is a claim of a creator god.  The second is that, since humans are the products of this creation, we are bonded to one another.

What a wonderful concept.  It is a great pity that it seems to apply only within the boundaries of each religious sect.  The others are outsiders, heretics, heathens, etc. and are therefore not going to be ‘saved.’  Thus, in the name of their god, each priesthood is likely to display or even preach prejudice towards those not under its control or influence.  There will, of course, be great exceptions – priests within each religion who are truly ecumenical (accepting related sects within their religion as non-competitive), or who are freethinkers in their tolerance, even accepting other religions as comparable paths to the one God of mankind.  I have enjoyed conversing with some of these enlightened exceptions.

What of those who quite impertinently suggested that my soul would remain doomed if I did not convert to their sect?  My riposte to such soul gatherers is as follows:  ‘When you ascend to the Celestial Abode of the Heavenly Father, you will find yourself shaking hands with Caluthumpians and members of all the other religions.’  Regrettably, some ‘wannabe’ saviours seemed discomfited by such a vision;  I have watched a few dash down the road with displeasure after receiving my good news!  I wonder how the atheists react on entry to this Abode.

Is it not true that institutional religion has pitted followers of one religion against another, and sect against sect within many religions, butchering fellow humans and defiling them in every way in the name of their faith?  Under the pap propagated by their spin-doctors, it is carnivore-eat-carnivore, that is, dog-eat-dog!  This situation continues.

A true measure of the quality of a civilisation is the way the least viable of the people are treated.  This criterion, in my view, also applies to religions.  On this test, the major religions, if not all of them, fail.  The life chances, the quality of life, of those at the bottom of the socio-economic pile are generally ignored by their co-religionists in power, in government.  It is a great pity that it was the communist nations which provided some uplift to their peasants, lifting them from their squalor.  Our only hope is the secular nation, which subordinates saving the soul to filling an empty belly.

Would it not be wonderful if individual humans were able to seek succour from their god or spirits or whatever, without being caught up within an institutional religion with all its divisive binding rules, regulations and practices, as well as its priesthood;  that is, without an intermediary?  This is not to deny that there are many who derive some peace of mind through their priests.  From observation, the two main groups in Australia are the elderly and the newly converted (mainly East Asians).  This peace of mind, if associated with sectarian prejudice, may not however be the best ticket for entry to Heaven.

Yet, the real need by the majority of humans to have some hope of alleviating their suffering as they strive merely to exist, to survive, to protect their families (especially their young), cannot be denied.  However, how could they accept that their prayers, their entreaties, are in vain;  and that they need to work through their personal destinies in each life?  Do not the alleged interventions by some kind god, or the claimed miracles brought about by saints, offer (blind) hope?  Should the purveyors of this hope, the middlemen, most of whom live well and in security, therefore be tolerated?  If so, at what price?

Yet, I will make it clear that I am not denigrating the kindness of most of those I refer to as middlemen.  I continue to deal with them.  They are worthy of respect.  They have chosen to help their church-attending flocks as best they can, but within the closed framework of their dogma, and the well-trodden paths of tradition.

(The above are extracts from my book ‘Musings at Death’s Door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society.’)

 

RELIGION and I (Part 2)

There seems to be clear evidence, comparable to the stability of patterns found within chaos, of purpose within the complexity and apparent unpredictability of life, and of a uni-directional path of species evolution, and the personal development of many individual humans.  In the event, all that a Creator had to do was to set up a mechanism capable of evolving by itself, even as it related to the sentient forms within creation, and these forms too would evolve.  An arm’s-length Creator, not an interventionist god of the kind who baffles supplicants and frustrates the priesthood, makes good sense.

Such an objective analytic approach would fit life as experienced.  There seem to be trajectories for the universe we think we know, for the observable galaxies, individual suns, and planets, and for us occupants on planet Earth.  The pattern of an individual’s existence and the associated path of any personal development reflects, in my view, what might be termed as personal destiny. This is not fate, not something unavoidable.  It is a pathway for one’s current life created by each of us for ourselves, both reactively and through free will, during past lives.  With free will, one can also choose, during each life, to obey the imperatives of one’s own self-crafted destiny or respond in some other manner, much in the way a motorist might behave in a well-policed crowded city.

There is no need for the modified Hinduism of the New Age theorists of the Western world.  New Agers like the idea of a reincarnating soul choosing (often in a dialogue with appropriate others) the life to be led.  This deterministic Western approach (I can choose to be whatever I want to be) denies the concept of karma as an automatic and autonomous mechanism.  Worse still, the millions of babies born into a life of suffering in under-developed nations can be held by the New Agers to have chosen that suffering!  Unfortunately, there are Hindu gurus whose lack of understanding of karma also allows them to ignore the suffering of fellow Hindus as something deserved!!

How do I see karma?  In the Hindu framework I have set out above, it reflects the confluence of reincarnation and the law of cause and effect. 

As we paddle as best we can on our personal rivers of life, we exercise our free will to pay our personal cosmic debts, to access any opportunities to learn whatever we need to learn for our personal development, and to prepare for the next life.  We thus effectively create, as a consequence of bumbling through life as best as possible, the cliffs through which our river of life will flow during our next sojourn on Earth, and the rocky impediments and chasms we will find on the way.  How we deal with these and the cross-currents created by other personal destinies related to us will determine our future lives.  No gods, saints, or spirits are therefore necessary as determinants.  However, they may be able to intrude, to help, if they choose to;  presumably they too have free will.

Since each of us is an integral part of a number of collectives, there will result a complex network of personal destinies.  The expected web, and possibly nested mesh, of personal destinies would presumably be reflected ultimately in tribal and possibly national destinies.  These might influence species development, although a major contributor might also be genetic mutations, which are truly accidents of nature.

(The above are extracts from my book ‘Musings at Death’s Door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society.’)

RELIGION and I (Part 1)

As a primary school boy, I was sent to the Pilleyar (Ganesha) temple at examination times, although I topped my class by a large margin every term, except once.  I also accompanied my parents at other times.  We were ardent in our faith.  My father, having overcome a serious illness at about 33, died suddenly at 47, when I was 18.  Within 3 years I then lost the family’s savings through a spectacular academic failure.  So much for faith and fervent prayer.

My future was thereby destroyed, as clearly forewarned after my father’s demise by a perambulating yogi, but unheeded by us.  I doubt that my mother and I were competent to absorb such a warning.  In any event, surely what had to happen had to work itself out.  Late in life I realised that what the yogi had done was to turn my mother’s vision towards Australia, which was in a direction not normally taken by students from British Malaya seeking an overseas qualification.  My folly (or was it my destiny?) led to my mother and my sisters being impoverished.  So much for temple rituals and the priesthood.  I gave away God, Hinduism and all religio-cultural rituals.

Then learning and logic took over!  Studying the belief systems of the simpler societies at my university, and dipping into some anthropology, sociology, psychology, and the major religions, I realised that there has been, and is, an innate need in many, if not most, of us to understand what we humans are, and our place in the Cosmos.

I realised further that:  the complexity and beauty, as well as the observable but inadequately explicable aspects of the experienced world;  the exceedingly complex patterns of inter-linked cause and effect, action and reaction, and the inter-dependencies of the physical, chemical and electromagnetic forces affecting us;  the uniformity, the invariability, the predictive capacity of the laws of nature;  the ecological balance between mobile and fixed forms of life;  the intuitive yearning by sensitive souls for communion with sublime or higher forces not clearly understood;  and the inferred influence of the spirit world, all of which affect our lives, could not have occurred purely by chance.  Instead, they might, I felt, reflect the mind and soul of a Creator.  How else could all that have occurred?  By chance?  Is that another name for an inexplicable cause, akin to the gods of simpler people?

I did conclude, logically, that there had to be a Creator of all that exists.  I then noted, with great interest, that an academic and confirmed atheist had reached the same conclusion after a lifetime of non-belief in a Creator, for exactly the same reasons.  There has to be a Creator, he now accepts, thereby upsetting most severely his former fellow-believers in that causal mechanism named Chance.  Like me, he doesn’t claim to know; only that a creator god makes (unverifiable) sense.

 

(This is an extract from my book ‘Musings at Death’s Door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society.’)

 

 

VIKRAM SETH Quotes

Every object strives for its proper place. A book seeks to be near its truest admirer. Just as this helpless moth seeks to be near the candle that infatuates him.

Is it not love that knows how to make smooth things rough and rough things smooth?

I don’t think anyone should be banned. If you don’t like a book, set it aside.

I’m not sure anyone can understand a whole life, even their own.

Think of many things. Never place your happiness in one person’s power. Be just to yourself.

All you who sleep tonight Far from the ones you love, No hand to left or right, An emptiness above– Know that you aren’t alone. The whole world shares your tears, Some for two nights or one, And some for all your years.

Behind every door on every ordinary street, in every hut in every ordinary village in this middling planet of a trivial star, such riches are to be found. The strange journeys we undertake on our earthly pilgrimage, the joy and suffering we taste or confer, the chance events that leave us together or apart, what a complex trace they leave: so personal as to be almost incommunicable, so fugitive as to be almost irrecoverable.

 

(From AZ Quotes.  Vikram Seth CBE is an Indian novelist and poet. He has written several novels and poetry books. He has received several awards … Awards: Padma Shri, Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts, US & Canada.)