Has Scientific Investigation Proved there Is Life After Death?

The question of what happens to us after death has been with us from the earliest times. Neolithic burial sites show that the rites involved with a person passing out of this life was believe to be going on to another kind of existence. From Hindu and Buddhist reincarnation beliefs to the Christian idea that the good are raised to another life in The Kingdom of Heaven while the souls of the not-so-good may, according to different branches of Christian belief, serve time in purgatory cleansing their souls before going on, or may descent into a dark abyss where they will be tortured throughout eternity. What is the truth. Is there some kind of afterlife or is our physical death simply the end. My personal belief tends to the latter but after certain personal experiences I don't cling to that belief with any great certainty. As Hamlet says to his friend Horatio in Shakespeare's play, "There are more things in heaven and earth Horatio than are dreamed of in your philosophies." Horiatio's and mine too as it turns out because one great thing I have learned through growing older is how little we truly know and understand of the nature of this world we live in and of the characteristics that make us human. It seems Socrates was right all those years ago, the greatest thing we can know is that we know nothing. A certain kind of "scientist" will always be eager to scoff and sneer at the notion

that people engaged in researching a subject such as reincarnation should be described as a scientists. This only proves that certain kind of scientist does not truly understand the meaning of the word "science." All too often these people conflate science with mathematics, insisting the universe works according to a mathematical design and trying to reduce the human condition to a series of mathematical equations. We should pity them, their narrow minds run on railway tracks and they are always too ready to start a witch hunt against anything that challenges their mathematical certainties. (Anyone who wants to know the true value of mathematical certainties should try to make a living backing racehorses or playing the roulette wheel.) So is there any chance reincarnation could be possible? Dr.. Ian Stevenson former head of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia, and now Director of the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia. is a psychiatrist who has spent many years studying cases of young children who remember details of their past lives. Most of these children live in India, and some live in the Middle East. There have been very well documented cases in the USA and Europe but the nature of western culture is such that many examples are probably dismissed as the vivid imaginings of the childish mind. Not surprising really, what kind of parent would risk subjecting a young child to the rabid harassment of white - coated inquisitors or the rabid attention of the tabloid press? Unlike many researchers in to the paranormal before him, Dr. Stevenson does not use hypnosis in his research, he is adamant that under hypnosis both adults and children are far too suggestible for anything they say to be treated as reliable evidence. Thus to maintain objectivity in his studies he and his team rely on interviews with fully conscious subjects, their family and friends and people with whom they might have been acquainted in the past life. What emerges from these investigations is then verified by documented evidence before it is accepted as a genuine case of reincarnation. (Dr. Ian Stevenson on You Tube) Instead of relying on hypnosis to verify that an individual has had a previous life,

the investigator instead chose to collect thousands of cases of children who spontaneously (without hypnosis) remember a past life. Dr. Ian Stevenson uses this approach because spontaneous past life memories in a child can be investigated using strict scientific protocols. Hypnosis, while useful in researching into past lives, is less reliable from a purely scientific perspective. In order to collect his data Dr. Stevenson methodically documents the child's statements of a previous life. Then he identifies the deceased person the child remembers being, and verifies the facts of the deceased person's life that match the child's memory. He even matches birthmarks and birth defects to wounds and scars on the deceased, confirmed by medical records. His strict controls systematically rule out all possible "rational" explanations for the child’s memories. A reincarnation investigation might start with a child telling parents or family members from the moment he or she is able to speak coherently about her "other family", giving details such as previous name, the name of the village or town, the manner of death, and the names of her parents, brothers and sisters, aunts, etc. Such children, to attract the attention of Dr. Stevenson or other researchers into the paranormal, must also show behaviour patters and the emotions that would fit with the past-life person. Some may feel themselves to be of a different religion (or in the case of Hindus, caste), or to be of a richer or poorer background than the biological family. There are even documented cases of such children actually being able to speak almost fluently in the language the former person spoke (this is called xenoglossy, or may remember stories, songs or dances from the previous lifetime. When these cases occur word will get around about the child's statements and in the small, close knit communities of rural India and the middle eastern countries, someone in another village will recognize a story about the a person they knew in the past, who died years before. The past-life family is contacted, and arrangements are made for a visit. This is all rather vague and informal so where does Ian Stevenson's claim to have carried out his research with scientific rigor come in.

Most of the time Dr. Stevenson only hears of the cases and thus is only able to contact families after a good deal of informal research has been done, but in a few cases he has been able to be there when the first meeting took place. Dr. Stevenson always takes very careful notes and has other people observing and taking notes as well, to safeguard against him making mistakes and to make sure the reporting is accurate and fair. In a large number of these cases (at least 250 very strong ones, and thousands of lesser cases), the child will make as many as 40 specific statements about her past life, and most of these turn out to be true. In one specific case of a first meeting which is used as an example of Dr. Stevenson's methods, the child, a girl in India was able to point out her former relatives even though people were deliberately trying to to trick her; and she behaved toward them they way one would expect a young child to be with very familiar people. Emotionally too, the girl behaved as one would expect, including reacting to some people she liked and others she was not so keen on . She was able to give personal, intimate details that only the past-life person could possibly have known, like where a container of jewelry was hidden in the house, or a secret she had told only one person, an intimate confidante. (The reincarnate child need not have died as a child in fact most are recalling lives as adults. The fact that they are party to things known only by husbands or wives defies any explanation other than reincarnation or some kind of psychic ability.) It would be pointless to link to all Stevenson's documented cases that are available online but here's a worthwhile resource. Twenty cases suggesting reincarnation - Google e-book Another very convincing proof that a subject knew somebody in a past life Dr. Stevenson is knowledge of physical birthmarks or birth defects. Some of the children who have memories of a past life have strange birthmarks, distinguishing features or physical deformities or in some cases things which relate to the way the previous incarnation died.. In a few cases Dr. Stevenson has been able to look up the autopsy records of the previous person, and match up the photographs showing how they died, with the child's birthmarks. In several cases, a child remembered being shot and killed in a previous life, and remembered enough details that Dr. Stevenson could

track down the autopsy records for the past-life person. The autopsy records showed where the bullet entered and exited--and the child had little round birthmarks matching the autopsy. In a similar case, a boy who had past-life memories had a splotchy birthmark on his chest that looked like scars--when he gave the name of the past-life person, Dr. Stevenson tracked down the name, found the autopsy report, and saw that the previous-life person had been killed by a shotgun blast to the chest. The pattern of the holes in the autopsy looked very much like the boy's birthmarks. During his original research into various cases involving children's memories of past lives, Dr. Stevenson had noted with interest the fact that children displaying psychological sings they remembered previous lives frequently bore lasting birthmarks which supposedly related to the death they suffered in a previous life. Stevenson's research into birthmarks and congenital defects has been of particular importance for the demonstration of reincarnation, since it furnishes objective and graphic physical proof of reincarnation, superior to the - often fragmentary memories and reports of the children and adults questioned, which even if verified afterwards cannot be assigned the same value in scientific terms. Continuing the objective examination of scientific rigor in this research, in 35% of cases investigated, children who died an unnatural death were affected in the new life by related phobias. If, for example, they had drowned in a past life then they frequently developed a phobia about swimming or jumping into water. If they died in a road accident they would often be unduly nervous about traveling in cars or on buses. Another frequently observed unusual form of behaviour, which Dr. Stevenson called philias, concerns children who express the wish to eat different kinds of food or to wear clothes that were different from those of their culture. If a child had developed an alcohol, tobacco or drug addiction as an adult in a previous incarnation he may express a need for these substances and develop cravings at an early age. In similar vein, many study subjects with past-life memories show abilities or talents

that they had in their previous being. Until now all these human oddities have been a mystery to conventional psychiatrists, particularly Freudians - after all, the parents could not be blamed for their children's behavior in these cases. At long last research into reincarnation is shedding some light on the subject. In the past, doctors blamed such peculiarities on a lack or a surplus of certain hormones, but increasingly as more researchers follow the trail blazed by Dr Stevenson, there will have to be some rethinking of the conventional wisdom. Here's a thought from The Buddha, a different perspective on reality perhaps.
Without the rigidity of concepts, the world becomes transparent and illuminated, as though lit from within. With this understanding, the interconnectedness of all that lives becomes very clear. We see that nothing is stagnant and nothing is fully separate, that who we are, what we are, is intimately woven into the nature of life itself. Out of the sense of connection, love and compassion arise.

Scientists have been sneering at mysticism for years. We all know now of course that to many people science is just a mind control cult, an operation set up by a self elected academic elite to tell us what we can and cannot think but I see a lot of people aaskround the web asking for proof of things like the character changing effects of meditation, the efficacy of placebos and the healing power of prayer and getting no answers from the Church of Scienceology, only sneering dismissal. The sneery scienceheads dismiss this of course just as they dismiss the hundreds of scientific studies that rubbish the claims of Warmageddonists about carbon driving climate change. Well it's time to stop sneering, below are links to the scientific evidence that all the things they love to dismiss as 'magical thinking' do actually work. None of it is proof of course but inability to provide proof that something exists is not proof that it does not. In a post on Losing Your Religion a while ago a prolific contributor of comments, a Buddhist, said her belief system required a daily act of faith that people can change.

I did not really understand that as people demonstrably can change themselves; their personality, attitude to work, relationships, the way their brains work and even physically change the brain. There still seems to be a widely held view that such notions are unscientific, that we are programmed in our DNA to be what we are. In my reply apart from mentioning that it must be hard to be a buddhist and yet reject the fundamental principles of Buddhism, I mentioned a number of properly conducted studies recently published in the UK that demonstrate: Meditation can change the way the brain works. Nerve pathways can be rewired after brain trauma. (I can personally vouch for that one) Brain plasticity can be used to change the way we react Rituals and Superstitions do actually work. Prayer has a beneficial effect in healing. (This pdf from the UK's Royal College of Psychiatrists is a long read) To review all of the articles would make my essay unattractively long and go way off the topic with is really about scientific evidence that we might somehow continue to exist after physical death. I have taken steps to ensure all the items cited are published in independent journals and that the links to not lead to web sites promoting cults, selling self help books or offering psychic healing services. All links are live at the time of publication. The British Novelist Jeanette Winterson commented in a television discussion a couple of years ago: "Once again we see science finally getting its head round what mystics have been telling us for thousands of years." Here in the UK we have had a little war going on for a few years; militant athesists, an intolerant group who seem to have dedicated themselves to shouting down any argument from the religious or people tolerant of religion, and have attacked anybody who even dared to suggest that science cannot explain everything and has not even begun to understand the great questions of life. They even hurl

abuse at those who are not religious but take the view that the view humans might be something more than biological machines programmed in our DNA to act in certain ways. They deny that we have free will. Dare to suggest life might be something infinitely more interesting that a mere chemical accident and they will scream, bare their teeth and throw turds like a bunch of chimps whose territory has been invaded. They will insist all religion and belief in the supernatural is irrational and deny that people have a prefect right to attend communal worship, pray in private, kiss lucky charms, avoid walking under ladders, say 'white rabbits' three times on waking on the first of any month or anything else they feel somehow helps them. The scienceheads will be outraged by evangelism but will be happy to use psychological bullying to try to impose their irrational and unprovable beliefs on others. Fortuitously for those of us who have been trying to oppose this blatant bullying in the studies linked above results show that prayer, superstition, ritual, meditation and just about everything else the science fans love to hate all on balance have a beneficial effect. In fact we can use such practices as tools in changing the way our bodies and minds work. Please don't ask me for information or guidance the purpose of this article is not to promote any particular religion or philosophy. I have no answers for those who seek answers, my aim is to introduce ideas that challenge mainstream thinking,to encourage readers to think for themselves and not be limited by the sneering of people who fear freedom of thought. If my job is done well a few people may have arrived now at a more open minded approach to the question of life after death. There is no hard evidence for or against and the beliefs of science fans are worth no more than the beliefs of Spiritualists, Buddhists or Hindus. We should be open minded on such questions, claiming at the very most that like Socrates we know nothing.
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