Thursday, December 31, 2020

What is involved in near-death experiences?

Cardiologist Pim van Lommel writes: “A near-death experience (NDE) can be defined as the reported memory of a range of impressions during a special state of consciousness, including a number of special elements, such as an out-of-body experience (OBE), pleasant feelings, seeing a tunnel and/or light, seeing deceased relatives, a life review, or a conscious return into the body.” [AS, 19]

Radiation oncologist Jeffrey Long studied a wider range of NDE survivors than van Lommel under the auspices of the Near-Death Experience Research Foundation. Long writes: “The NDERF study took a straightforward approach by defining both the near-death and experience components of near-death experience. I considered individuals to be ‘near death’ if they were so physically compromised that they would die if their condition did not improve. The NDErs studied were unconscious and often apparently clinically dead, with absence of heartbeat and breathing. The ‘experience’ had to occur at the time they were near death. Also, the experience had to be lucid, to exclude descriptions of only fragmentary and disorganized memories.” {EA, 5}

Long proposes “that NDEs may include some or all of the following twelve elements:

1.  Out-of-body experience (OBE): Separation of consciousness from the physical body

2.  Heightened senses

3.  Intense and generally positive emotions or feelings

4.  Passing into or through a tunnel

5.  Encountering a mystical or brilliant light

6.  Encountering other beings, either mystical beings or deceased relatives or friends

7.  A sense of alteration of time or space

8.  Life review

9.  Encountering unworldly (‘heavenly’) realms

1   Encountering or learning special knowledge

11 Encountering a boundary or barrier

1   A return to the body, either voluntary or involuntary” {EA, 6-7}

Long explains: “That so many people are willing to share their NDEs with others speaks volumes about the power of these experiences in a person’s life. Respondents describe their experiences in a variety of ways, calling them ‘unspeakable,’ ‘ineffable,’ unforgettable,’ ‘beautiful beyond words,’ and so on. More than 95 percent of the respondents feel their NDE was ‘definitely real,’ while virtually all of the remaining respondents feel it was ‘probably real.’ Not one respondent has said it was ‘definitely not real.’ Some say it was not only the most real thing to ever happen to them but also the best event of their lives.” {EA, 2}

Long argues that the results of his research justify reaffirming the old assumption that there is life after death. He presents the results of scientifically studying more than 1,300 cases shared with NDERF in his book, Evidence of the Afterlife.

AS -
“Near-Death Experiences: The Experience of the Self as Real and Not as an Illusion,” Annals N.Y. Acad. Sci. ISSN 0077-8923, 1234 (2011) 19–28,


Jeffrey Long and Paul Perry,  Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of Near-Death Experiences (2010).

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Experiences of grace and going home

Wendy writes: I knew that I had died and would be leaving behind my baby and my husband, but I didn’t care. I wanted to go into the light. I wanted to go home. I felt like a blanket of love was wrapped around me. When I went through the light, all my dead relatives were there. I knew everyone even though then I hadn’t met them before. They were so happy to see me and welcomed me home. Even though they appeared in human form, I sensed that that wasn’t their true form. I had a connection with everyone—like some kind of collective consciousness. {GA, 74}

Sandy, who had a near-death experience at age five, later wrote: The Light was a sparkling glowing cloud. I heard a voice in my head and knew it was God. We never talked about God at my house, and I never went to church. Yet I knew this place, with this beautiful light, was God and my real home. I was surrounded by the light and one with it. It was like being scooped up and held safe by my daddy when a dog was barking at me, only more so. {GA, 121}

Another NDE survivor treasures this memory: On the other side, the arms of my loved ones welcomed me home. The feelings weren’t of this earth. {GA, 14}

After becoming unconscious during a grand mal seizure, Stacy recalls: I was totally relaxed, calm, and peaceful, and I knew I could comprehend everything about my life. I was home in God’s arms, and I was being given a peek at Universal Knowledge through the eyes of God. {GA, 115}

Words are inadequate to describe Heaven, Diane says, recalling her NDE experience. But I knew I was home. I knew this was where I’d come from. {GA, 151}

And another NDE survivor remembers: At the top of this mountain was a beautiful city. I knew some of the people there, but couldn’t make out the faces of others. I started walking up the mountain to get to the city, but a voice behind me said, “No, you can’t go up yet; it’s not your time.” I argued with the voice because I felt that if I could get to that city, I would be at home. {GA, 23}

After recalling in her NDE being “cleverly mean” to a childhood friend, and feeling remorse, Carol writes: Then I was embraced by love with layer upon layer of compassion. It felt like Home! Like coming inside from the snow to a warm fire, the smell of good cooking, and the laughter of family. I was euphoric beyond anything I’d felt before or anything I’ve felt since. {GA, 100}

These are not experiences of ordinary consciousness, for everyone having a near-death experience is dying and suffering cardiac arrest or in a coma or unconscious due to lack of oxygen or a general anesthetic or brain trauma. Breathing has stopped, the heart is no longer beating, eyes are closed—and yet the dying person “sees” and “hears” words that are unspoken, and also and has strong feelings as well as enduring memories. Furthermore, many NDE survivors remember that during their extraordinary experience separated from their human bodies, they were “back home” in the heavenly realm of Love and Light.

These NDE affirmations reminded me of African-American spirituals that refer to “going home” after death. “Swing low sweet chariot,” which tells of the prophet Elijah being taken up to heaven (2 Kings 2:11), is followed by the words: “coming for to carry me home.” The chorus of “Steal Away” is: “Steal away home, I ain’t got long to stay here.” And all the verses of “Precious Lord” end with the three words, “lead me home.”

Also during slavery, at the end of the 17th century, two English Christians wrote hymns that remain popular, perhaps because of the image of going “home” after death. Isaac Watts, minister of a Congregational Church in London, wrote “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past,” with opening and final verses that end by affirming God as “our eternal home.” John Newton, a former slaver trader who after his conversion served as curate in the village of Olney, wrote the words to “Amazing Grace.” It’s third verse reads: “Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come; ‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”

These experiences and hopes challenge our faith and beliefs. Is our everyday consciousness an embodied and limited experience of the greater consciousness that we each are? Do near-death experiences reveal an eternal Consciousness that gives purpose and meaning to our embodied experience? Do the experiences of near-death survivors verify that our real home is a transcendent realm of timeless Light and Love? 

{GA} quotes from Jeffrey Long, God and the Afterlife: The Groundbreaking New Evidence for God and Near-Death Experience (2016).

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Dr. Eben Alexander's NDE transformed his life

If there was ever a NDE survivor with more credibility as a scientist than Eben Alexander, I haven’t heard of him. Alexander was an experienced neurosurgeon at the time of his near-death experience. He writes in his book Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife: “As a neurosurgeon, I’d heard many stories over the years of people who had strange experiences, usually after suffering cardiac arrest: stories of traveling to mysterious, wonderful landscapes; of talking to dead relatives—even to meeting God Himself. Wonderful stuff, no question. But all of it, in my opinion, was pure fantasy.

“What caused the otherworldly types of experiences that such people so often report? I didn’t claim to know, but I did know that they were brain-based. All of consciousness is. If you don’t have a working brain, you can’t be conscious. This is because the brain is the machine that produces consciousness in the first place. When the machine breaks down, consciousness stops. Or so I would have told you before my own brain crashed.

“On November 10, 2008, however, I was struck by a rare illness and thrown into a coma for seven days. During that time, my entire neocortex—the outer surface of the brain, the part that makes us human—was shut down. Inoperative.

“Mine was in some ways a perfect story of near-death experiences. As a practicing neurosurgeon with decades of research and hands-on work in the operating room behind me, I was in a better-than-average position to judge not only the reality but also the implications of what happened to me.

“Those implications are tremendous beyond description. My experience showed me that the death of the body and the brain are not the end of consciousness; that human experience continues beyond the grave. More important, it continues under the gaze of a God who loves and cares about each one of us and about where the universe itself and all the beings within it are ultimately going.

“The place I went was real. Real in a way that makes the life we’re living here and now completely dreamlike by comparison. This doesn’t mean I don’t value the life I’m living now, however. In fact, I value it more than I ever did before. I do so because I now see it in its true context.

“This life isn’t meaningless. But we can’t see that fact from here—at least most of the time. What happened to me while I was in that coma is hands-down the most important story I will ever tell. But it’s a tricky story to tell because it is so foreign to ordinary understanding. I can’t simply shout it from the rooftops. At the same time, my conclusions are based on a medical analysis of my experience, and on my familiarity with the most advanced concepts in brain science and consciousness studies. Once I realized the truth behind my journey, I knew I had to tell it. Doing so properly has become the chief task of my life.

“That’s not to say I’ve abandoned my medical work and my life as a neurosurgeon. But now that I have been privileged to understand that our life does not end with the death of the body or the brain, I see it as my duty, my calling, to tell people about what I saw beyond the body and beyond this earth. I am especially eager to tell my story to the people who might have heard stories similar to mine before and wanted to believe them, but had not been able to fully do so.

Eben Alexander, Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife (Simon & Schuster, 2012).

Monday, December 28, 2020

Near-death experiences confirm faith in God

Dr. Jeffrey Long writes: “When I first realized that over 40 percent of near-death experiencers were aware of the existence of God or a supreme being during their NDE, I was shocked. This was an extraordinary finding! No prior NDE study had asked so many NDErs directly about encountering God in their NDEs, and no other study had reported such high numbers of NDErs being aware of God.

“To put this statistic in context, the percentage of NDErs who were aware of God or a supreme being during their NDE is greater than the percentage of NDErs reporting a tunnel, encountering deceased loved ones, or a having a life review. This new information tells us one element of NDEs happens more often than any of these other NDE elements: awareness of the existence of God.

“It is also remarkable how much near-death experiencers’ belief in God increases after their NDE. Before their experience 39 percent of NDErs believed “God definitely exists.” At the time they shared their NDEs with the Near-Death Experience Research Foundation (NDERF), an average of twenty-two years later, 72.6 percent of the NDErs believed “God definitely exists.”

"To put this another way, there was an 86 percent increase in those who believe God definitely exists after their NDEs.

“In my research, I found that NDErs generally experience the heavenly realm in three different ways, with some overlap: (1) as an overwhelmingly beautiful place; (2) as a boundary between life and death; or (3) as a meeting place with God, spirits, or deceased loved ones.”

Jeffrey Long with Paul Perry, God and the Afterlife: The Groundbreaking New Evidence for God and Near-Death Experience (HarperCollins e-books, 2010).

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Research by NDERF into afterlife experiences

Jeffrey Long, a radiation oncologist in Houma, Louisiana, founded the Near-Death Experience Research Foundation in 1998. Under the auspices of the NDERF he collected and studied the stories of thousands of people who have journeyed to the afterlife. Though there are a wide variety of differences in how people experience NDEs—some see a bright light, others go through a tunnel, still others experience a review of their life—he discovered that many of the accounts shared a remarkably similar description of God; a Supreme Being who radiated love and grace.

Long and writes in God and the Afterlife: “Encounters with God almost always take place in a heavenly realm that may consist of a variety of common earthly elements, including mountains, valleys, forests, streams, lakes, rivers, and dwellings. Often they are described as having a decidedly unearthly appearance (often due to color or brightness or scale). There can also be vast cities that may be beautiful beyond anything on earth.

“Typically this place is associated with feelings of peace, love, and connection in the environment. Beautiful or ‘indescribable’ music is reported. Sometimes spiritual beings or angels are present. The importance of learning or gaining knowledge is also often in evidence, and there are frequent reports of seeing or experiencing institutions of learning (sometimes called ‘temples of knowledge’). People also often describe receiving knowledge directly in the form of telepathic exchange from Light Beings.” (135-136)

This is Edna’s experience: I went down a blue tube with a bright light at the bottom. When I exited the tube, I was surrounded by the most wonderful music—similar to pan pipes—that was everywhere. The feeling was so peaceful and there was no pain. I asked, “Where am I?” and was told, “The Halls of Music.” There were a lot of people, and they were all exuding so much love. The sky was a wonderful blue and the grass so green. I saw a bridge and wanted to cross it, but I couldn’t—there was some kind of invisible barrier. Someone I felt I knew appeared on the other side of the bridge, and he said, ”It’s not time yet. You still have work to do.” I wanted so much to stay, but in no time I was back in my body. (145-146)

Diane’s experience is visually different but also uplifting: Words are inadequate to describe Heaven. But I knew I was home. I knew this was where I’d come from. I first came to a serene and beautiful countryside filled with animals—they were so beautiful and contented, so full of love. The grass and trees and flowers were all so exquisite, and a vibration of love flowed back to me from them. The water was living and sparkled back to me with love. I heard music all around, fully more melodic and more beautiful than anyone could write on this earth, just suddenly playing and filling my soul with joy. Everything was richer and more beautiful than anything we could ever create on earth. I realized that everything we create that is beautiful—all paintings, woven rugs, tapestries, carvings—all have their seed from Heaven. We saw all this before we came to earth, and we try to recapture some of Heaven while on earth. We deeply desire Heaven on earth. We miss it deep in our souls. An angel took me to view the reflection of God’s Light—not the full force of His Awesome Wonder. I was so filled with love and wanted to hug Him with joy. His voice came into my mind, and He commanded me to stretch out my hands and arms so that I could see I was made of solid light. And then He imparted the knowledge that we all are made of solid light, and we each have our own identity and purpose. Each of us was created before we entered earth, and each was male or female before that entry. He contains both sides, and this is the truth of it. For it is not the sexual side, but the strong and the gentle of both sides of Him that determine who we will be—a balance of His being. I have a peace most people don’t have about death because I know that is what Christ meant by the words, “Unless you are born again, you cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” They have nothing to do with the meaning religion has given them; they are about something we all must do.  Our Father told me that I had to go back to earth and complete my test; there was much I still needed to do. He affirmed that He loved me and would be with me all my life. (151-153)

Jeffrey Long, MD and Paul Perry, God and the Afterlife: The Groundbreaking New Evidence for God and Near-Death Experience (2016).


Saturday, December 26, 2020

Rupert Sheldrake's Christian faith

Rupert Sheldrake, PhD, is a biologist and author best known for his hypothesis of morphic resonance. At Cambridge University he worked in developmental biology as a Fellow of Clare College. He was Principal Plant Physiologist at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics in Hyderabad, India. From 2005 to 2010 he was Director of the Perrott-Warrick project for research on unexplained human and animal abilities, funded by Trinity College, Cambridge. [1]

Sheldrake explains his faith in God in his book The Rebirth of Nature: The Greening of Science and God. He begins a chapter on “The Greening of God” by noting: “If nature is alive, she can be thought of as entirely autonomous, with no need for God.” But “if God exists,” God must “be the God of a living world.”

As a young man Sheldrake was attracted to “the religious traditions of the East,” because it seemed to him that Christianity had “lost contact with mystical insight, visionary experience, a sense of the life of nature, and the power of ritual.” He lived and worked in India for several years, staying for a year and a half in Tamil Nadu in the ashram of Bede Griffiths, a Benedictine monk. Much to his surprise, Sheldrake writes, through this experience he was “drawn back to Christianity.”[2]

In The Rebirth of Nature Sheldrake affirms a “new, evolutionary view of God,” as described in a 1981 book entitled The Liberation of Life: From Cell to the Community: “God is not the world, and the world is not God. But God includes the world, and the world includes God. God perfects the world and the world perfects God. There is no world apart from God and there is no God apart from some world. Of course there are differences. Whereas no world can exist without God, God can exist without this world. Not only our planet but the whole universe may disappear and be superseded by something else, and God will continue. But since God, like all living things, only perfectly, embodies the principle of internal relations, God’s life depends on there being some world to include.”[3] The authors of this “evolutionary” view of God? Two process Christian theologians, Charles Birch and John B. Cobb, Jr.

In an interview on YouTube,[4] Sheldrake describes God as ”a being, a conscious being—as consciousness itself.” He sees God as representing the same ultimate source of all that is, like the Hindu notion of Brahman—“the ground of all being, all existence, all consciousness—the being who sustains the universe.”

Sheldrake finds meaning in both the Hindu and Christian traditions of a divine trinity. God the father, the ground of all. God the Son, the Logos, the order or form of all that is becoming. God the Spirit, the active and energetic nature of God. “Speaking involves both a flow of air and words that may be understood—a combination of Spirit and Logos. God the father is the source of both speaking and energy in the universe.” Sheldrake attends worship in the Church of England near his home and finds comfort and meaning in traditional Christian prayer, in the liturgical events of the Christian calendar, and in the sacraments.


2 Rupert Sheldrake, the Rebirth of Nature: The Greening of Science and God (Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 1991, 1994), 184.

3 Charles Birch and John B. Cobb, Jr., The Liberation of Life: From the Cell to the Community (Cambridge University Press, 1981), 1981), 196-97.


Friday, December 25, 2020

A Prayer

O God of Love. 

May your grace and peace come, may your will be done, on earth as in heaven. 

Keep us healthy and humble 'til our time has come. 

And as we forgive those who've done us harm, forgive us for the harm we've done. 

And keep us safe from temptation and evil. 

For you are the Way, the Truth, and the Light, now and forever. 


Thursday, December 24, 2020

A Cosmic Christmas Story

In the Christmas story told in the gospel of Matthew a bright star guides three strangers to a stable where a baby named Jesus is born. The three men, known as “wise men” because they studied both the stars and the scriptures of the Jews, bring gifts to a child destined to change the world.

The story links the mystery of the universe with human life on earth. As an adult, Jesus would teach his followers a prayer that begins: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” The life of Jesus embodies this prayer and more than two billion Christians continue to say this prayer and to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Every person who has ever lived, however, is also a child of the stars. In their book Journey of the Universe authors Brian Thomas Swimme and Mary Evelyn Tucker write that “the stars are our ancestors.” In the heat and pressure of stars, and then in their supernova explosions, stars give “birth to the elements that eventually form our planet and our bodies.” Stars are, Swimme and Tucker affirm, “wombs of immense creativity.”

The star in our galaxy we call the sun makes life on earth possible. And as its temperature has increased, the earth “has adapted itself so as to remain in the narrow band that enables life to flourish. By drawing carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere via photosynthesis, Earth altered the composition of its atmosphere to keep itself cool, as the Sun grew hotter. This adaptive dance between life and nonlife changes our thinking about our planet. Earth is not just a big ball upon which living beings exist. Earth is a creative community of beings that reorganizes itself age after age so that it can perpetuate and even deepen its vibrant existence. This dynamic or reorganization is possible because of life’s most essential capacity—its power to adapt.”

“The deep truth about matter,” Swimme and Tucker explain, “is that, over the course of four billion years, molten rocks transformed themselves into monarch butterflies, blue herons, and the exalted music of Mozart.” We are, however, “the first generation” to learn that our sun is one of trillions of stars “in one of the billions of galaxies in an unfolding universe.” Our human responsibility “is to deepen our consciousness in resonance with the dynamics of the fourteen-billion-year creative event in which we find ourselves.”

The universe story, Swimme and Tucker suggest, “has the power to awaken us more deeply to who we are.” For “as the Milky Way is the universe in the form of a flower, we are the universe in the form of a human. And every time we are drawn to look up into the night sky and reflect on the awesome beauty of the universe, we are actually the universe reflecting on itself.”

The scientific story of the universe was unknown to Jesus, but he knew the earth story offered us the challenge of doing “on earth as in heaven” the will of the one he called “Our Father.” May we be inspired this Christmas to “live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28) in these stories.

Brian Thomas Swimme and Mary Evelyn Tucker, Journey of the Universe (Yale University Press, 2011).

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

"Consciousness survives across lifetimes"

Scientist Jim B. Tucker writes: “How might the larger part of each of us—the Dreamer—be connected to the other dreamers? In looking at the way our world works so seamlessly—once I observe the outcome of an event, the result is set for any future observers—I think the unique consciousness in each of us must be part of a larger whole. Each of us is contributing to a tapestry of existence rather than creating our own individual work.

”The I in my nighttime dreams, my character in the dreams, is part of a bigger I, my larger mind out of which my dream world arises. All the people in the dream are arising from the same consciousness, in the case of my nighttime dreams, from mine. In the same way, all the individuals in the physical world may also arise from the same consciousness, from some larger conscious force.

“This doesn’t necessarily mean that everything that happens is planned or intended by this Mind. I don’t control or plan the events in my nighttime dreams, and I know my mind creates those. The physical world may work the same way. This conscious-created reality may include painful or negative events that happen randomly without any conscious intent or control. Even so, we may be able to reduce them by appealing to the benign aspect of this larger Mind.

“Since part of us seems able to transcend the various dream worlds as we move from one to another in different lifetimes, there must also be existence outside of these worlds and outside of space-time—an existence of pure Mind. Each of us may be like a single train of thought in one large Mind. We seem to be like a chain of islands as William James suggested, separate when seen above the water but connected at the ocean floor. More than just connected, islands turn out to be projections that are so many small parts of a single larger object, the planet. Likewise, each of our minds may turn out to be small streams of consciousness that are all part of a larger Mind, a ‘cosmic consciousness’ as James said.

“I know this is a long way from children’s past-life memories. But as each step has followed the other, this is where the journey has led. A little boy who repeatedly relives the exact details of the terrible death of a young World War II pilot challenges the mainstream understanding that consciousness is always created by—and confined to—a physical brain. Exploring quantum physics then produces a way to understand such events because it leads to a rational conclusion that the physical world grows out of consciousness, meaning that consciousness must not be limited by the physical. A child in Louisiana remembering events from the life of a pilot from Pennsylvania offers a glimpse that consciousness survives across lifetimes and that experiences separated by great distances and many years can nonetheless be connected and intertwined. 

“This connection, along with the seamless way in which observation from countless observers create our holistic world, indicates that a single individual consciousness is only a tiny piece in the act of creation, that all the pieces work in concert as part of a bigger whole, and just as our physical world grows out of consciousness, so the entirety of existence grows out of this bigger whole, this Ultimate Source. As mere streams of thoughts from one large Mind, we are not separate; we are all in this together. And just as our experiences in life can enrich our individual minds, if this awareness that we are all part of the Ultimate helps us be a little more patient, a little more accepting, a little more loving, if it helps us focus more on our shared experiences and less on our differences, then perhaps in some small way, we will be better able to enrich the Ultimate and, with it, all of existence.”

Jim B. Tucker, Return to Life: Extraordinary Cases of Children Who Remember Past Lives (St. Martin’s Press, 2013), 195-219.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Are we really dreaming our lives?

Researcher Jim B. Tucker writes: “One possibility that I hope you are now open to is the prospect of life after death that our cases of past-life memories suggest. Each of the children seems to have a consciousness that existed before in another person. Though this may seem ludicrous from a materialist standpoint, the situation gets much more interesting when we take the findings from quantum physicists into account. If the physical universe grows out of consciousness, there is no reason to think that a person’s individual consciousness ends when the physical brain dies. It may continue after death and return in a future life.

“I no longer imagine that we go to another place when we die. Instead, we have another dream. The idea of some entity—a soul or a consciousness —moving from one world to another places too much emphasis on the physical worlds. Instead, the new experiences continue to be creations of the mind. If the shared dream model is correct, there need not be just one afterlife. Each individual starts another dream at the point of death, and the nature of the dream can vary from person to person.

“Near-death experiences (NDEs) are, as the name suggests, the events that people report having when they come very close to death before being revived. The specifics of these experiences can vary. Just as people’s nighttime dreams are affected by their previous experiences, I would expect afterlife events to be affected by experiences in life, and this seems to be the case. In particular, though there are common features of NDEs across cultures, there are also cultural differences.

Allan Kellehear, medical and public health sociologist at the University of Bradford in the UK: “reviewed reports of NDEs that had been published from a number of countries. Looking at the parts of NDEs that are common in the Western cases, he found that the major features seen across cultures were going to other worlds and encountering other beings. An out-of-body experience was present in the NDEs of most cultures, and the life review was present in several. With the model I’m presenting, differences would be expected when people experience their next consciousness-created reality, their next dream.

“Our cases [involving past life memories] involve young children who have not been close to death and in fact usually aren’t old enough to fully comprehend the concept of death, yet their reports can be quite similar to NDE reports—thus posing a problem for psychological explanations offered for NDEs. Both phenomena—near-death experiences and intermission reports from young children [of an afterlife experience before being reborn]—may in fact be glimpses of the afterlife, and they are both consistent with the model of conscious-created reality.

“With the past-life memories they report, the children in our cases seem to be returning to the world in which they lived a previous life. A better way of describing this is to say that regardless of whether the children have an intermission experience, they fall back into the same dream they were in before—meaning this world. They have to be a new character as they continue, since the previous person has died in the dream at that point. Imagine that you are sleeping at night; you are awakened in the middle of a dream—perhaps you are startled awake by something traumatic that happens in it—but then you fall back asleep quickly and continue on in the same dream. This is completely analogous to what happens in our cases.

“Dying young increases the likelihood that a child will later report memories of a previous life. With the model I’m proposing, this makes sense. Individuals whose dreams end prematurely—by being brief or through an abrupt ending—are more likely to return quickly to the same dream. This idea of returning to the same dream also explains another pattern. The previous person was from the same country as the child in over ninety percent of our cases, often having lived fairly close by. Cases involving ordinary deaths are more likely to be same-family cases. The families are more likely to be strangers when more exceptional deaths were involved, meaning when the previous person died an unnatural death, died younger, or died unexpectedly even when the death was from natural causes.

“Nonetheless, there is no evidence that most children have such memories and thus no evidence, even if you accept our cases, that everyone is reborn back into this world. I see no reason to think that other mind-created worlds, other shared dreams, wouldn’t exist in addition to the world we know here. Just as we don’t usually return to the same dream when we sleep at night, the same pattern may well be true for our lives. Though individuals occasionally return to this shared dream, it might be more common to begin participating in a different shared dream after we die.

“Likewise, your life experiences could affect the mind-created worlds that follow after you die. Many Christians say your actions or beliefs determine whether you go to Heaven of Hell. But if I am right about existence being like a shared dream, then there might not be just one Heaven or just one Hell. There might be an infinite number of shared dreams, some heavenly, some hellish, and some like this world—heavenly at times, hellish at times, and most of the time somewhere in between. I do find it notable, however, that in this model I’m suggesting, the religions are right that the decisions and actions you make in this life help determine the kind of existence you have next. Though this would not involve a Judgment Day of any kind, you could experience a ‘good’ afterlife or a ‘bad’ one based on your life now, in what would be a purely naturalistic process.

“I don’t think there is our world and then the real spiritual world. Our world is as real as it gets. It is created by Mind, but that is also true for all other worlds. Existence grows out of consciousness. The world is indeed like a mind-simulated virtual reality, in a way, but it’s as real as reality gets. Along with my character in the short-lived dream, I as a dreamer also have my real self that exists apart from the dream. Likewise, I think we each have a larger part of us that transcends the individual dream—the individual lifetime—and continues to take part in creating other dreams, other lifetimes or worlds.

Jim B. Tucker, Return to Life: Extraordinary Cases of Children Who Remember Past Lives (St. Martin’s Press, 2013).

Monday, December 21, 2020

Our consciousness makes possibilities real

“Despite appearances,” reincarnation researcher Jim B. Tucker argues, “the universe was not created in one fell swoop in the Big Bang. Instead, it continues to be created, one observation at a time. Events in the distant past such as the paths of photons billions of years ago—even events all the way back to the Big Bang—remain in suspended animation until they are observed, at which point one particular outcome occurs. This does not mean that we human observers had to come into existence. Different life forms might have evolved here or in other places in the universe. Observers had to develop somewhere, however, in order for the world to exist.

Wheeler’s theory of genesis through observer participants is known as “the strong anthropic principle. A universe that supports the development of observers is the only kind that ever could come into existence. It might seem that humans on this little planet, or observers anywhere in any galaxy, are far too small and unimportant to have any significant function in the universe, much less bring it into existence. Observation, however, couldn’t create a smaller universe, not because of size per se but because of the time required to produce life. As Wheeler pointed out, to produce heavy elements like carbon out of hydrogen, thermonuclear combustion is required, and it needs several billion years to cook inside a star. And for the universe to provide several billion years of time, general relativity says it must extend in space several billion light-years. Any observed universe would have to be as big as ours is, in order to have observers.

Stanford physicist Andrei Linde writes: ‘I do not know any sense in which I could claim that the universe is here in the absence of observers.’ And this leads him to assert: ‘I cannot imagine a consistent theory of everything that ignores consciousness.’ “French physicist Bernard d’Espagnat argues: ‘The doctrine that the world is made up of objects whose existence is independent of human consciousness turns out to be in conflict with quantum mechanics and with facts established by experiment.’

“Conscious observers eventually evolved in the universe . . . and then created that very same universe. How does that make sense? One answer is that individual observers are the result of evolution, it’s true, but that doesn’t mean that consciousness itself is. For people like me who are open to the possibility that consciousness is more than just the result of physical chemistry and electrochemical potentials—that there might be more to existence than just the physical universe—the way out of the paradox is for consciousness to be primary. The physical world grows out of it.

“The findings of quantum physics have challenged the worldview of materialism from the outset; at the very least, they have undeniably shown that the world does not function at the smallest level in a way that common sense suggests it does. The findings point, not just for me but for a number of physicists as well, to the fundamental importance of consciousness. Something has to be outside the quantum system to register it, to observe it. My answer is that consciousness is outside the quantum system, interacting with the physical universe but also existing beyond it, as it registers and creates that universe. Consciousness does not exist because the physical world does; the physical world exists because consciousness does. As Max Plank said, we cannot get behind consciousness.

“The picture that emerges from quantum physics is a world in which events do not occur until conscious beings observe them. One way to comprehend this is to realize that it is quite similar to another world we know very well—the world of our dreams. When we are dreaming, people only come into existence there when we interact with them. There are differences, to be sure. All sorts of nonsensical things happen in the dream world. It is undeniable that the possibilities are more limited in the physical world. Events that begin through observation become fixed, unable to be altered by other observations. The overall process, however, is very similar. Possibilities exist, and one of them becomes a fact when it is observed.

“The analogy to dreams is so apt that the world can be thought of, not as the giant clockworks of Isaac Newton’s mechanistic universe, but as a dream that all its observers share. Its pieces only come into existence when one of its dreamers experiences them. When something is not being observed, it may as well not exist.

“We are the physical beings living in a physical world that mainstream science tells us we are. But we also have consciousness that is more than just a product of our brains. Though we have physical bodies with limited life spans, we also have a conscious piece that is part of something bigger. Consciousness is independent of the physical world and is even the creator of the physical world. And a portion of it is in each of us.”

Jim B. Tucker, Return to Life: Extraordinary Cases of Children Who Remember Past Lives (St. Martin’s Press, 2013), 165-193.

Gödel's reasons for an afterlife

Alexander T. Englert, “We'll meet again,” Aeon , Jan 2, 2024,