For this week’s reading, I decided to further my understanding of reincarnation by looking at a different perspective: through children’s memories of previous lives. After diving into Dr. Jim B. Tucker’s Life Before Life, it reconfirmed my assumption that memories of reincarnations are typically are the most vivid in the early childhood but then gradually phase out as illustrated by the other readings and videos watched in class. My opinion is that unlike the previous book that I read, Many Lives, Many Masters, the numerous cases (2500) studied over forty years provides a very strong empirical backing for this phenomenon. One part that was especially intrigued me was the chapter on sex changing cases, where the children lived as a different sex in the previous live. These children somehow experienced characteristics and tendencies of the opposite sex, which implies that they were carried over from a previous life through a consciousness that continues beyond life as we know it. These gender identity cases usually led to sex changes later in life and were marked by the similar birthmarks of the people they claimed to be rebirthed as. As wild and controversial as these observations seem, if true, they seem to be deciding factors as to whether or not I believe the stories present. This is because unlike other parts of people’s stories that can be easily fabricated, something as large as a permanent sex change from a belief of being reincarnated in a different body is something that can’t be ignored or taken lightly.
Another experience that was very impactful this past week was attending President Obama’s speech on campus. This speech, which I waited eighteen hours over the course of two nights to attend, highlighted the necessity of raising the national federal minimum wage to $10.10. Although Michigan and a lot of the country are already on board with this plan, the President obviously felt that it was an important enough of an issue to speak about it all the way out here in Michigan. The premise of the bill is that people who work full time at minimum wage are still living in poverty because the minimum wage has not been adjusted for inflation or increase in living costs over the years. This statement really resonates with the concept of collective consciousness that we studied in class, specifically in the book One Mind.
Why would so many people feel the need to raise minimum wage so that people working on minimum wage don’t have to work two jobs and can afford to live above the poverty threshold? Specifically, why would middle and upper class people ever support this bill because it obviously would create the effect of raising living costs overall for everyone if this would only hurt their chances for evolutionary biological success? And lastly, why would people care at all about this if it were not for the fact that we are all connected on a larger conscious level and therefore watch out for each other’s well-being on some circumstances?
This week, I continued my quest to exploring the different systems of thoughts on reincarnation by reading Dr. Brian L. Weiss’s book Many Lives, Many Masters. In his book, he presents a very interesting and surprisingly specific structure for the reincarnation process involving a hierarchical structure of masters and souls. In this unique system, the masters guide the general souls through numerous lives in order for them to gain wisdom and learn valuable lessons. At the same time, the souls retain certain characteristics such as phobias into their next lives even though none of the memories transfer. Overall, this system seems just as plausible as any other system to me because it assumes the commonly held belief of omniscient / omnipotent / omnibenevolent beings and parallels the near death experience and stories of meaningful reincarnations we have looked at before in class. However, the thing that bothers me the most is the single case study that is used as the sole evidence for the basis of the entire book. Although the repeated and consistent therapeutic sessions of the lady with anxiety issues outlining her thirty seven past lives coupled with the supposed confirmations by a third party psychic suggest the existence of these multiple lives, there are a lot of holes in the picture such as how masters create souls or when souls can ascend to masters or how many lessons there are to learn.
I thought that the scope of the study was not even close to sufficient proof of the described system and could very easily be debunked by any other conflicting case. I hoped that there would be other evidence because the lesson learning and concept of free will seem to make sense in the larger scope of things.
I myself am a skeptic, although I can see how the possibility of reincarnation and the system Weiss could still exist. Even though other non-believers say there is no evidence that we can prove this type of stuff exists, I believe that it could be due to the fact that skeptics are making that judgment based on the standard scientific method of proof that we currently know. What if there are more ways to prove that things exist than just using the standard scientific method of developing a hypothesis and running controlled experiments.
After watching the film in class on Monday, I became very intrigued about the concept of reincarnation as it correlates to near death experiences because of the similarities I observed. To explain, the reincarnation cases described in the video in class showed specific examples where the rebirthed souls seemed to be placed into a geographic location or family for a reason, thus non-randomly. For instance, in the case that involved a girl who drowned and was “born” into another family, it seemed to be more than coincidence that she ended up back to her original family. Similarly, all of the cases of people being reborn into the same families seem like more than a coincidence, especially when they bring up having a choice or having a card to come back to the world of the living. This got me to thinking about how this corresponds with the stories of people experiencing near death experiences. In both cases, there is a recurring theme of people coming back from the “other side” for a purpose or after a sudden unforeseen tragic passing or incident. This sparks the question of whether there is a bigger picture or higher purpose behind all of these alleged crossing over and backs. Therefore, when reading Where Reincarnation and Biology Intersect this week, I thought a lot about the parallels with the near death experiences we have analyzed thus far in this course and how they fit in with my current views on the subject.
I found it very interesting that the majority of the cases analyzed in the book were located in South Asia and West Africa, where the socioeconomic conditions are relatively lower, communities are rural, and primary occupations are agriculture or nomadic village work. Beyond the memories, personalities, and psychological evidence, what really stood out to me after reading the book were the vivid examples shown through images as examples of reincarnation from a physiological perspective. Although there are many similarities between humans in general in terms of human anatomy, more unique characteristics such as birthmarks or defects rarely intersect, especially in cases of reincarnation could serve to provide biological support. The birthmark on the head of Chanai Choomalaiwong’s head that corresponded directly to the bullet wound entry on Bua Kai when he died seems like very hard evidence given the memories that Chanai recounted of Bua Kai’s life and death. This also reinforces my theory that these reincarnations are very in line with the near death experiences that we studied in class because there is obviously a reason why Bua Kai’s soul was sent back to the Earth. The homicide obviously ended Bua Kai’s life suddenly and prematurely, which is why he came back as Chanai in order to fulfill his fate and live out his intended experiences through another human body. The biological evidence presented in Stevenson’s book especially in children also correlates with the video we watched in class, which presented a lot of cases where the reincarnated souls were in children younger than 9.
Charles Eisenstein’s Sacred Economics provides a unique historical analysis of the role of money and the destructive institutions that control, regulate, and grow its influence society as a whole specifically from a community and general well-being of mankind perspective. I thought his viewpoints in general were very radical but backed by very logical reasoning and common sense; it is hard to for me personally rationally process his viewpoints from an unbiased arbitrary perspective because of the capitalist heavy laissez faire economic system preached in our culture and the struggle of undergraduate students to amass enough financial security in the form of money or promise of money for independent survival. Lastly, as an economics major who has studied the theories of money and the institutions in place to back its validity, it is very apparent that Eisenstein downplays the huge benefits of money, specifically money not backed by minerals or commodities but rather faith in its viability, which range from its ease of counting value to its ease of transporting to its durability over time. These benefits greatly overshadow the suspected harms to society that Eisenstein details in his book.
Despite being a bit turned off by some of his more radical viewpoints on money, I found Chapter 23 (A New Materialism) of his book, which shied away from his descriptions of historical events negatively shaped by the existence of money and focused instead more on the things humans create and others use in everyday life. A unique observation he makes is that when analyzing beauty, it doesn’t matter if something is modern or ancient, practical or purely for aesthetics, etc. Things that are sacred are infinite, while the spirit-matter divide causes us to care less and less about things. This lack of caring about material possessions because of the easy affordability of new items makes us more wasteful, less appreciative, and forever unable to satisfy their wants. Eisenstein argues that these things collectively add to the turmoil of our existence, which ultimately flaws the very core of our society.
In my own perspective, I look at this as an effect of industrialization and mass production, not because of the existence of money. While it is true that money and greed can motivate us to the extent of obsession and disregard for humanity, it also pushes us to improve the living standards of our generation and those ahead of us through means of medical research and technological advancements. Like Eisenstein, I agree that the beauty of life is experienced constantly and spontaneously since part of the effect is sensing things you have never sensed before.
Larry Dossey’s One Mind has been without a doubt my favorite literature thus far in the course because of the seamless integration of scientific concepts, logic and reasoning, counter arguments, and real life relatable evidence. Rather than trying to jam a bold and radical concept down readers’ throats like a superstitious individual who believes he has experienced something out of this world that the vast majority of the population has not, he uses concrete examples that are too clear to ignore. Furthermore, the premise of Dossey’s argument is based off of careful observations from his early life as a teen accidentally picking up the writings of Walden to his first hand experiences as a doctor with countless patients. Lastly, the point that touched me the most was the larger context to which Dossey was speaking to. Dossey strongly believes that the world as we know it is headed towards a destructive downward spiral filled with discrimination, war, hunger, poverty, disease, conflict, etc. past the point of no return. However, when thinking of Dossey’s mission to restore humanity and make the world a better place by opening people’s minds to the concept that we are all of the same mind is very inspiring. I also believe that if everyone truly saw and believed that we share the same mind, there will no longer be conflict because we will all be looking out for each other’s well-being just as we look out for our own.
One particular story that I would like to explore is the example of “saving others” that Dossey uses to prove the existence of a larger collective mind. He shows that through selfless acts by strangers such as the 50 year old construction worker who had two daughters with him jumping onto the tracks, risking his own life, in order to save the random stranger in trouble. While Dossey’s reasoning for this was that in that moment, the barrier between individual minds ceased to exist and the construction worker was able to see the stranger in need as part of himself and therefore jumped to aid without hesitation. This thought process implies that everyone is connected in this way even if we don’t realize it on a daily basis. However, I would like to offer an alternate explanation from a purely philosophical perspective.
Whenever I hear about these types of stories, ones of extremely heroic or selfless acts that happen anywhere from a warzone to a public park, part of me writes it off as something not that phenomenal due to the craziness and impulsiveness of the act. Following the assumption that every decision a human being makes is always the most favorable one in their mind at that time, I do not believe that there really is anything special about these heroic acts. To elaborate, even when someone is giving to charity or helping somebody else out, somewhere in the back of their head, they know that it is the best decision at that time to make because it will either make them feel better about themselves in that moment or potentially reward them later on. Similarly, even though someone impulsively acting out to save another random person might not seem like a logical decision in that moment, there is reason to believe that the person makes that knowing in the back of their head that it could pay off in recognition by peers, acceptance and appraisal by society, or just self-satisfaction. This assumption seems to hold true just as much as Dossey’s assumptions and would debunk his theory of one-mindedness in the context of people saving others when there are no clear biological/genetic/survival benefits at play.
After the very insightful presentation and Q&A by the mediums in class on Monday, I decided to take a look at mediums from different generations. Through the Spirit Writings website, I discovered a medium named Andrew Jackson Davis lived through the 19th century (1826-1910) and a medium named Francisco de Paula Candido Xavier who lived through the 20th century (1910-2002). By comparing the cultural, geographic, and generational differences between these mediums, I hope to uncover consistencies that would support the timelessness of the “other side” or variances that could be challenge the spiritual component on a societal level. Lastly, I hope to learn more about the different types of mediums, since Rita mentioned on Monday’s class that nobody’s energy or abilities are the same as anyone else’s.
Andrew Jackson Davis was born and resided in the New England area for the duration of his life and started his spiritual career by practicing mesmerism at the Castleton Medical College. H would later frequently end up in “magnetic sleeps” where people were transparent to his eyes and h would wake up the next morning 40 miles away in a random location. This was late classified as supernatural powers and studied by various philosophers and doctors. In his own words, “it is a truth that spirits commune with one another while one is in the body and the other in the higher spheres.” Davis continued to offer his services as a mesmerizer by “seeing apparitions” and throwing himself into “the superior condition” while prescribing herbal remedies for his patients.
Francisco de Paula Candido Xavier on the other hand was born and lived in Brazil until his death. He practiced a form of Brazilian spiritualism called Spiritism, where he would contact the spirits and engage in automatic writing. He came about this ability when his mother died and he consequently heard voices and sensed spirit presences. He cured one of his sisters from an apparent possession through his automatic writing. Although he was blind in one eye and only had a rudimentary education, Xavier wrote over 130 books that have sold over 3 million copies in 415 editions. A lot of people have analyzed his works and have come to the conclusion that the automatic writing contained skills and concepts beyond the medium’s understandings and thus came from his subconscious (or spirituality). What’s even more amazing is that he completed these works in very fast times.
From these medium’s long lives as well as the two presenters from Monday’s class, it is easy to see that mediums come in all shapes and forms. Something similar between all four of the mediums I analyzed was that they didn’t seem to be doing it for money or fame. Mostly, they genuinely wanted to help or teach people, either by sharing their experiences through written literature or performing their talents on those in need.