Category Archives: Reincarnation

Is Heaven Really Hell?

The Ghost Whisperer

The Ghost Whisperer

According to James Van Praagh, author of many books on communication with the dead and the inspiration behind the Ghost Whisperer TV show, we carry our old beliefs and habits with us after we die. This allegedly applies both to earthbound spirits and those that have progressed into the light, which is to say they moved onto higher planes of existence. This is discouraging news for anyone who expects to receive some answers after death or at least free ourselves of the stupid habits, phobias, and quirks we have accumulated over a lifetime.

When I die, I expect to be brought into a briefing room of sorts where some experienced soul will explain everything about life, the universe, and everything. With all eternity to look forward to, there must be plenty of time and opportunity for learning, no? I especially want to know how quantum theory really works and if string theory is the bunch of crap I think it is. I can’t imagine a heaven where there is nothing to do other than to float around worshiping some all-knowing deity who doesn’t want to share the secrets of the universe with the rest of us.

Can we really stay just as ignorant after death even after we shed our earthly influences? One would think that we would at least suddenly remember what happened during many past lives and be able to benefit from many diverse experiences, resulting in a sudden “aha” moment of truth! If we are able to read thoughts, then we would instantly know what everyone else thinks about us and they would know all the embarrassing things we did in the past. Everything would have to change. How could we not know more or be smarter, wiser and more accepting of others?

Nuns with Guns

Nuns with Guns

I was really hoping to be present to watch as some ignorant jackasses die and finally realize what how stupid they have been all their lives. That would be an even better reward than 77 virgins. I could just sit there, sipping whatever a soul of pure energy needs for sustenance, watching the newly dead arrive, blushing and embarrassed at their own ignorance and asking for my forgiveness (as if I’m qualified to offer it). Doesn’t everybody long to hear someone they know acknowledge that you were right all along? Doesn’t everyone really want to say “I told you so?” Of course, I’d have to carry my pride and personal grudges with me after death for this to be the case. And if that were so, then there is a good chance that I’d have to put up with some other pompous ass I couldn’t stand who was likewise waiting for me to show up so he could display his superior intellect or maturity.

The Invention of Lying

The Invention of Lying

Somehow, it just doesn’t sound likely and this isn’t how near death experiences are described. All we hear about is that people we loved come to meet us and lovingly help us move into the light. If these people were still the same imperfect creatures they were when they were alive, then dying would be a pretty embarrassing and uncomfortable situation for the newly dead. Since it isn’t described in that way, then we can’t possibly stay the same. Either we all suddenly learn from our mistakes and use that to transform into loving, sympathetic, empathetic creatures, or we continue to be the same ignorant fools we’ve always been. If we are still fools, we somehow must be kept isolated from all the other ignorant fools. If we were not kept isolated, these others would probably make our life after death pretty much the same as life before death.

If we remain basically the same, then what is the point of reincarnation in the first place? I thought the idea was to progress through diverse experiences. According to Mr. Van Praagh, nobody is there to judge you except yourself. In some cases, he describes the process by which souls review their life in order to learn lessons and prepare for the next life. Others may be there to help and encourage you, but it is essentially up to you to figure things out. This sounds a lot like life as we know it now. I think we call it therapy, or sometimes an intervention.

Can we read each other’s thoughts after death? If so, how could there be any form of games or competition if everyone had total access to the thoughts of others? Is paradise devoid of games and fun? Is it devoid of sarcasm and the kind of humor that often comes from poking fun at others, which is usually the best kind? Are extraterrestrials telepathic? If so, we could ask them what they do for fun other than experimenting on humans and cows. Maybe they are already dead, which is why it is so hard to catch one of them.

Mansion in Heaven

Mansion in Heaven

Does everyone who goes to heaven get a mansion, as suggested in Ricky Gervais’ movie The Invention of Lying? It sounds reasonable if we have to exist somewhere for all eternity. Of course, it wouldn’t be a real mansion. It would probably be a virtual one that we imagine and create ourselves. If I were a being of energy who could build a virtual mansion or an entire world using only mind and energy, without having to worry about the law of gravity or limitations of space-time, my home would probably be pretty outrageous and constantly changing. I might live in a spherical, gravity-free house with no ceilings or doors and would teleport from room to room. The sun would permeate it from the inside or through windows all around. My garden would have snow fountains and chocolate covered strawberry trees.

Of course, if my home was so unusual that it scared everyone else away, I might have to moderate my designs to accommodate the tastes of others. But compromise and trendiness are traits we already exhibit too much of in our daily lives. Do we have to conform with everyone else even after we are dead?

In a virtual world, people should be able to visit each other’s virtual homes and, when they see something they like, be able to copy it. So, we would all end up becoming collectors of the ideas and designs of others. Would this become a form of competition? If so, would there be some kind of intellectual property rights that would guarantee us at least some form of credit for our creations? Would we care? If we don’t care what others think, what would drive us to create in the first place instead of just keeping it tucked inside our own thoughts, assuming that privacy is even possible? Do we all have to share everything after we die, including our thoughts? Would it drive us crazy? Would it turn us all into an interconnected selfless mass of souls connected for all eternity like the Borg Collective from Star Trek? Maybe we should try this all out in a virtual computer game before we die, so we can set our expectations and avoid excessive shock.

Star Trek Virtual Reality Holodeck

Star Trek Virtual Reality Holodeck

On the other hand, if everything is mind and energy, wouldn’t we be able to create our own visions on top of everyone else’s? For instance, if my wife were to decorate our virtual home with her favorite art and nick knacks, couldn’t I simply visualize a totally different form of art on the walls and a room stocked with my favorite things? When I walk into a room, I would want my wife’s decorative pillows to vanish from the couch or the bed or the chair or wherever else she decided to stick her ubiquitous, color-coordinated piles of fringy fluff. Since objects would be nothing more than creations of mind or energy rather than matter, nothing would be permanent and could be perceived differently by everyone. I think this kind of virtual reality is what Google Glass and Facebook’s Oculus Rift will eventually be able to do here on Earth, so maybe we’ll figure out how well this works soon enough.

For that matter, she might visualize herself differently from the way I visualize her. And the words I speak or think could be translated differently so that she hears what she wants to hear instead of the inappropriate babble that is likely to come out of my mouth or brain. She might perceive herself in her favorite stylish J. Crew clothes while I mentally picture her in her sexiest underwear or swimsuit. Of course, she would know it once she read my mind, but would she care? Would I even care without hormones and a body that is able to get sexually excited? Would we all want to dress in drab blue Mao clothes or Men-in-Black suits just to avoid bringing up any memories of the hot sex we are no longer able to enjoy? Or would sex become something that is based purely on mental stimulation? Wouldn’t it be ironic if we could now read the minds of our lovers and know exactly what they want, how they want it, where they want it, when they want it, and be able to materialize in any physical form desirable with any kinds of toys imaginable, yet be unable to act upon our desires!

The more I think about it, heaven or life after death sounds less like paradise and more like the candy store from hell–it looks good, but you can’t touch the merchandise or do anything fun! I think I would prefer Earth with virtual reality technology. After I die, I think I will have to make a special request: send me back to Earth again, pleeease!

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Souls on Speed

Navigation by Earth's Magnetic Field

Navigation by Earth’s Magnetic Field

Nobody knows how the brain may (or may not) work to create what we call consciousness. We do, however, know that the brain tissue of many animals and humans have magnetic properties and that anything with magnetic properties can create or interact with electromagnetic fields. These properties enable many creatures to navigate using the Earth’s magnetic field, but are there other ways in which our bodies can interact with energy fields?

If we have a soul, one might hypothesize it must be made of some form of energy or at least appear as energy when it interacts with living beings. If it were made of matter, we might be able to detect and measure it. Some investigators have actually even attempted to measure the weight of the body before and after death to determine if the departure of the soul results in a loss of weight, but the results have been inconclusive not to mention weird to the friends and family of the deceased. Imagine agreeing to put your loved one on a scale and waiting patiently for him to die. No kisses goodbye. That would mess up the results.

Speed of Light

Speed of Light

If souls are made of energy, they should be limited by known physical laws, such as movement at or below the speed of light. Of course, there is evidence that entangled particles may be able to travel faster than light, so this question has not been resolved. If energy-based souls could move instantaneously anywhere, why don’t we have any reports of contact with deceased extraterrestrial souls? After all, considering the size of the universe, most people believe that extraterrestrial intelligence must exist and merely disagree about whether or not they have visited Earth yet. If they do exist, why wouldn’t they also have souls that, after death, could travel and communicate with the living?

Let’s think about the possibilities. Either there are no extraterrestrials anywhere in the universe, or there are extraterrestrials but they don’t have souls, or the souls of extraterrestrials are indistinguishable from those of humans, or extraterrestrial souls are limited to the speed of light (or have some other limit) and just have not made the journey to Earth yet. I realize I’m getting into some very freaky thought experiments that may sound a bit “out of the box.” However, considering that quantum mechanics and string theory are just as weird, but are now considered mainstream physics (i.e., within the box), the box is now much bigger than you think!

If souls are not limited to the speed of light, do they follow some other law that enables them to move instantaneously to any location? Do they move through other dimensions that are inaccessible to us? If souls are made of energy, then there must be forms of energy with properties that enable it to self organize. If so, then is it also possible for energy to self organize in an unintelligent fashion? If humans and amoebas can both exist, then why not both complicated and simple organizations of energy?

Ghost Cat

Ghost Cat

Some people believe that ghosts (spirits) are just the remains of energy linked to a physical location. Could this be some form of self-organizing energy with limited intelligence? Could it be a form of energy that is able to mimic living creatures when they exhibit strong emotional states such as love, hate, fear, or sorrow? Can energy mimic matter like a parrot can mimic human speech? Can organized energy be disorganized or destroyed (and I don’t mean with holy water or a few religious chants)? What is the specific form of energy and does it have a specific frequency range or pattern that can be detected?

Is good or bad luck a property of energy that can be transmitted to humans through contact? Can good or bad luck be stored in amulets or cursed artifacts? Obviously, I think we still have a lot to learn about the nature and composition of life. Will questions such as these ever be explored by scientists?

I’m Not Dead Yet!

Near-Death Experience

Near-Death Experience

There is already a good amount of data on near-death experiences, but it has not been collected in a consistent and deliberate way in order to test specific, measurable hypotheses. One theory is that there is indeed an afterlife that a person visits after the body stops working. Another theory argues that these experiences are merely the effects of a dying, oxygen-starved brain. This theory requires better scientific testing to verify the accuracy of external observations allegedly made when the spirit of the deceased claims to have been looking around from above after his physical death. Between the two theories, it is probably easier to disprove the dying brain theory, but we need better ways to examine the afterlife theory as well.

Some evidence has been reviewed and case studies performed, such as one that correlated near-death experiences with the level of CO2 in the blood, but these are usually performed after the fact using whatever data are available. Another study associated the symptoms of a near-death experience with the G-forces on the body in an Air Force pilot centrifuge.

Near-Death Cartoon

Not Dead Yet

The ideal way in which to collect good data is to control all the conditions of a near-death experience, including pre- and post-experience interviews and the presence of witnesses such as doctors, researchers, and psychics. Ideally, a hospital should have a death protocol that could be implemented in the event that a person physically shows evidence of death, but later returns to life. Perhaps a set of video, audio, and body sensors and displays could be automatically activated as soon as the patient’s heart stops beating. The sensors could measure the conditions of the room and the patient, while the displays could present audio and video messages to test the ability of a deceased patient to perceive them.

But it would be even better to have planned, controlled experiments. Where it is legal to undergo doctor-assisted suicide (euthanasia), and with the patient’s complete permission, a near-death experience could be induced one or more times before the patient finally completes the process. I suspect that it will be possible to get volunteers for such a procedure and that it would be perfectly legal. Interviews with the medical staff and patient prior to the experiment could establish their state of mind and preconceptions about what they will experience. The patient should even be directed to try and perform certain tasks after physical death has been induced. The experience should be fully documented using technological means such as CAT scans and other body sensors, room sensors and perception tests, and paranormal means such as the use of psychics. You never know–after the initial tests, some patients may even change their mind about going through with the final procedure! 

But how can the theory of an afterlife driven by near-death experience data be further tested? Near-death experiences should be further correlated with attempts to communicate with the deceased. As medical care has improved our ability to delay death, the number of survivors of near-death experiences has risen. These individuals should be sought out for a study that will continue as they approach death and beyond.

The Real You

 

Reincarnation

Reincarnation

Buddhists believe that we are reincarnated many times until we are able to achieve perfection. If this is true, it brings up many questions about the nature of our personality. Do we start out each life with the same personality traits or are they completely replaced each time with one that is shaped by a combination of genetics and environment? Does our personality evolve slowly over multiple lives, or is it completely changed by the new physical and mental traits that we inherit and the environment into which we are born (nature versus nurture)? When we die, do we instantly remember all of our previous lives and suddenly understand why we acted like such a moron when we were alive? If we discover that we’ve had vastly different personalities among our past lives, what is the final result? After death, do we instantly change by adopting only our favorite characteristics or do we have to go to some kind of school in which we analyze and learn more from our life lessons?

We have to recognize that our bodies have tremendous influence over our personality. In effect, we live in a chemical bath that strongly influences our moods, abilities and intelligence. Our bodies impose limitations on what we can do, think or feel, especially when we are severely mentally or physically handicapped. Let’s say that in one life you are the son of great warriors, a strong man with a lot of testosterone who releases a lot of endorphins and has an over-active thyroid. In the next life, you are the daughter of slaves, a frail woman with tremendous surges of progesterone every month who doesn’t produce enough endorphins and has an under-active thyroid. You go from being an aggressive, happy, physically fit, macho man to that of an overworked, depressed, moody, overweight woman. How much of your “real” personality is in there and how much has been influenced by your body? Now, let’s say you go from life in a racist, militant tribe of cannibals to a life in a peace-loving, tree-hugging commune? How much of you has been influenced by your social environment? Who are you really? How do you reconcile your multiple personalities?

The Dark Side of Reincarnation

The Dark Side of Reincarnation

If you are gay, is it really just the leftover feelings towards the opposite sex from a previous life? What if your former lover comes back as your sibling, child, or parent? This is exactly what some spiritualists say happens. Are some of the relationships that are considered inappropriate in today’s society just the result of reincarnation? Sure, I can hear the excuses now. Just to be safe, be careful how you treat your loved ones and your enemies too or they really might just come back and torment you!

People who claim to speak with deceased spirits often characterize them as though they still have the same personality they did when they were alive. They are still cranky or cheerful or whatever, although they often seem to have learned something and want to convey some message. If true, this indicates that people do not change much after death. Whatever previous lives they had before the most recent one must somehow have already been incorporated into their personality while they were still alive.

Sometimes spirits supposedly show remorse and ask for forgiveness for wrongs they committed upon those who are still alive. If our personality were to change dramatically after death, I don’t think we would bother to ask for forgiveness from our loved ones. First of all, we might not even love them anymore if we saw everything in a new context and knew that everyone alive was just a temporary condition of his current environment. Second, we would probably realize that our actions were the result of the unique conditions created by our former body and physical environment. So, why would we bother to ask forgiveness for the actions of our former self if that self was not representative of whom we really are? Third, we would know that our loved ones would eventually come to understand this situation when they die too.

These questions and what limited knowledge we have about deceased spirits point us to a logical answer. If reincarnation is a fact, then it must continually shape our personality from life to life. What you see really is who we are, although our bodies still may affect us in minor ways. Perhaps our personality actually influences our body more than our body influences us. The great American healer and psychic Edgar Cayce used to say “the mind is the builder and the body is the result.”

There are many more questions to ask. Is there a purpose for not being able to consciously remember past lives or is it just a random effect of the interaction between the spirit and the body? Most good cases of supposed reincarnation involve young children remembering what seem to be past lives and correctly identifying facts from those lives. But after a few years, these memories seem to fade. Why do memories from early childhood tend to fade? Our bodies are rapidly developing and our minds are rapidly learning and storing as much as possible, so why does it just disappear into our subconscious? Is there a reason or is it just because our brains are too immature to properly store the data? Could it be because we need to start out life with a clean memory so that we don’t try and continue where our previous life left off? If we did, there might be a lot of little kids running away from home looking for their loved ones, seeking revenge, or doing whatever it is they used to like doing last time. We might just wallow in misery that our loved ones were all gone and we certainly wouldn’t listen to our new parents.

The failure to remember past lives seems to have a good purpose, but is it a limitation deliberately imposed on us because we have a reason for coming back that would be frustrated by a good memory? Some psychics claim that, after we die, we decide what additional life lessons we need to learn and agree to be reincarnated to learn those lessons. This doesn’t make much sense to me, since understanding your flaws is at least half of the battle. If I decide that I need to learn to be more patient or less angry, well I think I’m already most of the way there. Why would I want to go through another life not knowing what I need to learn and having to figure it out again the hard way? Wouldn’t it help to keep at least some of our old memories? Would remembering a past life really interfere with our ability to learn something new?

Maybe it would. Maybe the purpose of the subconscious and of dreams is to keep memories hidden away, but too far hidden. We still need the memories to guide us in our lives, but not too explicitly. By the time we are old, however, we might have too much memory for our own good. Elderly people are notorious for not wanting to learn new things. We may have accumulated a lot of experience and wisdom, but we don’t seem to be able to handle change or override all those old prejudices. Maybe we need to die and start over again just to stuff all those memories away and keep learning.

If all this reincarnation stuff is true, it implies that our brains and our bodies may be designed for a reason rather than just the result of random evolution. Either that, or evolution applies to our souls as well. Maybe our souls can only evolve if our bodies make it possible. Bodies that permit memories of past lives might not survive as well because they make it difficult for its inhabiting souls to continue to learn and adapt. In that case, the souls that evolve the best will be those that inhabit the most suitable bodies. Good characteristics of a body would be those that dream and permit a strong subconscious influence, or instinct. In other words, people who have a strong intuition, based on subconscious memories from past lives, may have an evolutionary advantage.

Reincarnation into Animals

Reincarnation into Animals

Those bodies might not necessarily have to be human. If animals dream and have a strong instinct, is it for the same reason as humans? Are they also accessing memories from past lives? If so, are animal bodies suitable places for a reincarnating soul? Some psychics claim to have communicated with deceased pets that can express emotions. If this is the case, then maybe animals also have souls. But are they any different in nature from the souls of humans?

This brings us to a related question. Is our intelligence independent of our body? If we inhabit a mentally-impaired body, do we continue to have low intelligence after we die or is it just a temporary limitation? Are animal souls limited by the capacity of their former brains or are they really just as smart as us after they die? Are some souls only as intelligent as a poodle while other souls are as intelligent as Einstein? Is that why some kids show unimaginable genius when they are very young? What about plants and bugs and rocks? Are they inhabited by-really dumb souls low on the evolution scale? Do they get the chance to move up to a better body next time? Do human souls sometimes move down the evolutionary scale or die out by inhabiting lower-quality bodies?