Reincarnation – Fact or Fiction?

Philip Jamieson and Marianne Schmidt

The following jointly authored paper was published in Nexus: The Alternative News Magazine 28(5) (August-September 2021) 63-68, 87 (available, as published, at https://nexusmagazine.com/product/reincarnation-fact-or-fiction/?v=6cc98ba2045f)

Featured image from Pixabay, by Gerd Altmann at https://pixabay.com/illustrations/clock-hands-space-time-transience-5842395/

The Tale of an Argonaut and an Ancient Greek Philosopher

It is now almost 60 years since the rollicking adventures of Jason and the Argonauts, searching in that ancient Greek tale for the Golden Fleece, were immortalised in a now cult classic family film. The myth, one of the oldest chronicling a hero’s quest,[1] has been described as setting the example for the plot of almost all modern stories.[2]

Another, less well known, aspect of the myth is also worth recounting. Amongst the crew of Argonauts joining Jason on his famous quest was Aethalides who in ancient Greek mythology lived and died in the years before the Trojan Wars some 3300 years ago.  Or did he? – his death at least requires something of a footnote, for one of our most famous philosophers, who also excelled in mathematics, astronomy and music, claimed to have been Aethalides reincarnated. That philosopher, described as perhaps the most persuasive intellectual of all time, was Pythagoras. Living some 8 centuries after Aethalides, a contemporary of Gautama Buddha, Confucius and some suggest Zoroaster, his teachings in the 6th Century BCE were part of a flowering of philosophical and religious thought across Eurasia. He remains, in Western culture, the “father of philosophy”, long before Socrates, Plato or Aristotle.[3]

Belief in reincarnation

Pythagoras knew the concept of reincarnation as metempsychosis, from the Greek meta (in this context indicating change) and empsykhoun (to put a soul into),[4] but it may also be found referred to by a number of other terms such as rebirth, transmigration and past lives. For our part, while (given its common use) we refer to reincarnation on occasion, in this paper we generally use the terminology of ‘other lives’. As will appear in our analysis below, we believe that the lives, the memories of which we may have access to, might as equally be parallel or future lives as much as past.

Pythagoras is far from alone in accepting reincarnation as a reality. It is a belief found in many cultures throughout the world, both ancient and modern. It remains a central tenet in many Eastern religions and even features in early Christian tradition – Origen is one influential early Christian Church Father who embraced the belief. In fact, a recent survey of US adults found 29% of Christians believe in reincarnation – and one third of American adults generally.[5]

We are amongst those many who believe in reincarnation. Indeed, in the course of our spiritual journeys, we have each ‘unlocked’ numerous memories of other lives. For others like us who ‘know’ this reality, there is no need of scientific proof in validation. However, we acknowledge that, for those who have not experienced our journey, evidence is sought in proof of the phenomenon. Given our own rationalist professional backgrounds, we turned to science early in our journeys to better make sense of our experiences.

In researching the phenomenon we came to appreciate how divergent are the understandings of the concept across religions, cultures and individuals. While many in our global community share our belief in reincarnation, there is much variation in how the reality of this experience is understood. Our understanding has been shaped by our own insights and spiritual awakening. It is an understanding that we believe is consistent with developments across a number of scientific fronts. In this paper we have set out that understanding and that developing science. We hope others may find the paper of interest in exploring their own insights into this intriguing aspect of our human experience.

The reality of other life memories

Although not without their critics, the detailed researches of eminent psychiatrists like Dr Brian Weiss, Professor Jim Tucker and the late Professor Ian Stevenson have provided highly persuasive evidence of the reality of reincarnation. So extensive has been their work that the question today has become, in our view, not so much the existence of such other life memories but the mechanism behind that reality.

We join the influential physicist Doris Kuhlmann-Wilsdorf in her conclusion that:

The statistical probability that reincarnation does in fact occur is so overwhelming … that cumulatively the evidence is not inferior to that for most if not all branches of science, whether physics, cosmology, or Darwinian evolution.[6]

The objective reality of the experience having in our view been amply established, efforts are being made to demonstrate through science the mechanism that might explain the phenomenon. In considering that science, we note that this is not an academic paper and we are not seeking to provide an exhaustive account of the research and analysis being undertaken. However, we believe that, in the writing we canvass, a broad commonality of explanation appears to be emerging that is consistent with our own understanding. So, before turning to the science, what is our understanding?

Our understanding of the ‘mechanics’ of the memories of other lives

In Pythagoras’ understanding “Souls never die, but always on quitting one abode pass to another”, “hither and thither, occupying now this body, now that”.[7] He drew upon beeswax in explanation, not surprising given its easy malleability on being heated and its common use in Ancient Greece:

As a wax is stamped with certain figures, then melted, then stamped anew with others, yet it is always the same wax. So, the Soul being always the same, yet wears at different times different forms.

This is perhaps the classic understanding of other life memories as reincarnation, our one soul passing from one body to another in each lifetime. There is certainly an attractive simplicity in the idea of ‘one soul, one journey’. However, our understanding of the nature of one’s ‘soul’ is more nuanced and, we believe, supported by the emerging science.

From her insights, Marianne likens each of our incarnations to a drop of water emanating from a larger body of water. When we die our spiritual essence is re-absorbed into that body of water. The next time we incarnate we will come from the same body of water, albeit we will wear a new ‘costume’, or energetic blueprint, which will be defined by the time and place of our birth.

Clay serves as a useful metaphor in explanation, particularly given that the creation of humans from clay is a recurring ‘creation’ theme in various ancient cultures and religions – for example, in Christianity man is formed by God from clay (or dust – which of course forms clay when mixed with water – depending on the translation adopted of the Biblical Hebrew in Genesis 2:7).

In Marianne’s insight the lump of ‘clay’ from which we are each formed is merely a vessel – in our case, our human form. This form is imbued with an energetic blueprint – a pattern of energy unique to us at birth and providing us with our individuality and the path of our soul in this life. This energetic blueprint or pattern remains unique to us even as it changes and shifts through our lives with the influence of energetic cycles over time.

Norbert Weiner, the inventor of cybernetics, once commented that “[w]e are not stuff that abides, but patterns that perpetuate themselves”.[8] It is these perpetuating patterns that shape our material world, including ‘us’[9] – in the context of other lives, the pattern of energy unique to us. These patterns of energy can be described using various models, some of which are archetypes, astrology and numerology.

In our insights they are key to understanding other life memories, for when we die the memories of our life continue to exist energetically in some form of ‘collective memory’ – effectively as a ‘file’, in what many term the Akashic Record. As this is “a compendium of all universal events, thoughts, words, emotions, and intent ever to have occurred in the past, present, or future” (emphasis added),[10] we perceive that our other life memories may be of parallel and future lives as much as past.

In other lives, these memories can be accessed (either consciously or unconsciously) by those whose energetic pattern aligns (vibrationally) with the same patterns of energy in the Akashic Record. These memories may be of all or, in our experience, more typically only part of a particular other life depending on the degree of energetic alignment between the living individual’s energetic blueprint and that of the other life.

It is this collective memory, the Akashic Record, from which our other life ‘memories’ are drawn. Not only do we, like many others, believe this collective memory to be the source of our other life memories, it also explains why we find on occasion more than one person accessing the same other life memory (eg. Joan of Arc). Since anyone with a particular pattern of energy which is vibrationally aligned with a matching pattern of energy in the Akashic record may be able to access that memory.

So what is the developing science that we suggest is consistent with our understanding?

The place of quantum science

Quantum science, in particular the related concepts of ‘nonlocality’ and ‘entanglement’ (Einstein’s ‘spooky action at a distance’ – “the idea that the fates of tiny particles are linked to each other even if they’re separated by long distances”),[11] is increasingly expanding our world view on many fronts. It is hardly surprising that it is to this science a number of researchers and authors have also turned in seeking explanation of the mechanism of other life memories.

Jim Tucker, a psychiatrist whose research documenting stories of children with other life memories we referred to earlier in this paper,[12] is one researcher who has turned to quantum physics in possible explanation of the phenomenon.[13] He points to the fact that from our understanding of quantum physics we know that the physical world is affected by the non-physical. More than that, the physical world may actually be derived from the non-physical, from consciousness. Tucker comments of Max Planck:

… the father of quantum theory, said that he viewed consciousness as fundamental and that matter was derived from it. So in that case, it would mean that consciousness would not necessarily be dependent on a physical brain in order to survive, and could continue after the physical brain and after the body dies. In these cases, it seems – at least, on the face of it – that a consciousness has then become attached to a new brain, and has shown up as past life memories.”[14]

It is specifically to ‘entanglement’ within quantum theory that Milton Brener has turned in possible explanation of the phenomenon. The thesis he postulates is that given the atoms that comprise us are of an enduring nature such that they survive our death, where such atoms have formed part of the “brain organs dealing with memories”, they can be ‘entangled’ within the quantum realm with the consequence that they “can and do communicate with each other even after the death of the ‘prior personality’ and in some cases can and do retain the memories of that deceased person” with the “clear possibility that fetuses or young children could be the recipients of entangled particles from the organs of memory of prior personalities”.[15]

For Bob Good, Executive Director of the International Association of the Science of Reincarnation, it is not the atoms themselves that provide the explanation but the energy that comprises them. In a recent text, The Matrix of Consciousness,[16] that Good jointly authored with Dean Radin, Stephan A. Schwartz, Titus Rivas and Cathie Hill, the authors argue that since our bodies replace every cell every two to seven years, our consciousness cannot be dependent upon our bodies. Rather, the authors present “the mathematical case that the electrical charge measured by an electrocardiogram (EKG) is actually you”: “[s]imply put, you are not matter but energy”. They conclude therefore that there is “much evidence to say that what is regarded as ‘you’ as your body changes is not stored in cells but in energy”.

So how are “you”, your consciousness, stored in this energy? The authors point to the finding that our memories are stored as a waveform throughout our bodies. Given then that we have both a particle state – “you, here and now” – and a wave state, the authors describe our lives as “fractal iterations” (essentially repeating patterns) of our consciousness. Since “[i[nformation topology is fractal in design, so we can infer that the information that is you retains coherence after your body is gone”. Our consciousness will still be after our death – our memories from this life still intact will continue in a discrete waveform.

Moreover, the authors note the “statistical proof that the electrical charge comes back to other lives in other bodies similarly to how we upload and download files on our computers to the cloud”: the “electrical information transfer that is us is a fractal of the process we use to upload and download information to the cloud”. Not only then do we have a “nonlocal consciousness” (what the authors describe as an aspect of consciousness independent of space-time and not resident in an organism’s physiology), but all our consciousnesses are interdependent and interconnected.

In another explanation of the mechanics of other life memories, retired professor of physics, Dr Amit Goswami, also considers that our memory lies outside our brain. He concludes that there is “much empirical evidence” precisely for the quantum model of survival after death and reincarnation that he presents:[17]

The idea is that part of our memory (call it quantum memory), specifically that of our learning, is nonlocal, which means that this memory resides not locally in the brain but outside of space and time altogether. In this way, this memory can transmigrate across space and time without signals, without transfer of energy.”

He draws empirical evidence suggesting the nonlocal nature of the memory of a learned propensity from a 1960s experiment of the neurophysiologist Karl Lashley:

… [Lashley] trained rats to find cheese in a Y-maze and then systematically began to chop off parts of the rat’s brain to test if the propensity remained. Strangely, he found that even with fifty percent of its brain removed, a trained rat found its way to the cheese. The only viable conclusion is that the learned memory of a propensity is nonlocal …

So when we die our physical body dies but our soul (our learned tendencies of our subtle, non-physical, body – what Goswami terms the “quantum monad”) survives as nonlocal memory that will reincarnate in another physical body in the future.[18] Indeed, “[i]t seems … that … certain incarnate individuals are correlated via quantum nonlocality” and so “share the same quantum monad in an ongoing fashion; it is they who can be called the reincarnations of one another”. However, “[i]n principle, the use of such quantum monads is available to all of us”. And if “any person’s nonlocal window that connects all of her incarnations is open to everyone who knows how to look”, Goswami concludes that “in principle, consciousness is one”.

Goswami refers to the ancient term for this nonlocal memory – ‘akashic’, a Sanskrit word meaning outside of space and time – “memory written in akasha, emptiness – nowhere”. In these comments, he brings to mind the Akashic Record we referred to earlier. That such memories are written “outside of space and time” further serves to emphasise our understanding that our other life memories may be as much of parallel and future lives as past.

The nature of our ‘collective memory’

Nor is it only in the work of those exploring the role of quantum physics in other life memories that we find possible support for our understanding. For Karl Jung this ‘collective memory’ was the ‘collective unconscious’. Dr Rupert Sheldrake’s related vision is of a resonance of memory operating within a ‘morphic field’.  As he describes the process:

Morphic resonance is the influence of previous structures of activity on subsequent similar structures of activity organized by morphic fields. It enables memories to pass across both space and time from the past. … What this means is that all self-organizing systems, such as molecules, crystals, cells, plants, animals and animal societies, have a collective memory on which each individual draws and to which it contributes.[19]

In an interview he gave to Quest Magazine, Sheldrake suggests that:

… through morphic resonance we can all tune in to a kind of collective memory, memories from many people in the past. It’s theoretically possible that we could tune into the memories of specific people. That might be explained subjectively as a memory of a past life.[20]

Dr Bruce Lipton provides a very similar perspective on other life memories, but framed within his understanding as a cellular biologist.[21] He postulates that in our body, each cell has a unique set of identity receptors located on the membrane’s outer surface which act as ‘antennas’ that ‘read’ a signal of ‘self’ in our surrounding environment. Your sense of ‘self’ comes not from your cells themselves but from these receptors that ‘download’ your sense of ‘self’ from the environment around you. In explanation, he suggests that a useful way to understand this is to imagine yourself as the image on a TV screen. If, one day, you turn on the TV to find it broken and that you can’t see your image, it doesn’t actually mean that the image no longer exists. It is only the TV that is broken, not the broadcast. You only need tune a new TV into that broadcast to recover your image.

As Lipton acknowledges, this entails that an individual’s ‘broadcast’ will still be present after death. He points in support to the now well known experience of transplant patients reporting that along with their organs come behavioural and psychological changes, including memories the accuracy of which he notes is beyond chance or coincidence. For Lipton, this model of reincarnation allows that an embryo in the future displaying the same set of identity receptors that I now possess will be tuned into my ‘self’ and so ‘my identity’ will be back playing through this new body. As your ‘broadcast’ will remain in the ‘collective memory’ even after your physical death, an embryo able to tune in will receive your ‘broadcast’.

Our energetic imprint

To our minds there is a clear theme broadly running through these various accounts of the mechanics of other life memories – that such memories in an individual are not from the previous birth of one ever reincarnating soul, but from that individual accessing a collective memory. As we observed earlier in our paper, this too is our understanding of other life memories – these ‘memories’ are drawn from this collective memory.

Why do some people tune into certain other life memories and not others?

So, if our other life memories derive from this collective memory, why do some people tune into certain ‘other life’ memories and not others. For Goswami individuals “correlated via quantum nonlocality” share the same quantum monad. Lipton suggests that someone displaying the same set of identity receptors will tune into that particular ‘broadcast’. In Sheldrake’s understanding, “[t]he greater the similarity, the greater the influence of morphic resonance”.[22]

This relationship of ‘similarity’ reflects our own insights as to why we each develop our own unique collection of ‘other life’ memories. As we described earlier, our understanding is that the measure of that similarity is energetic. It is our unique energetic patterning that attracts those same patterns of energy – vibrationally aligned ‘memories’ – stored in the Akashic Record. Moreover, while as ‘clay’ we are impressed with an energetic pattern at birth, as the energetic environment changes over time it will influence that energetic profile. Certain patterns of energy (eg. archetypes) will be activated and deactivated during our life and thus we potentially gain access to new ‘memories’ (and lose access to others) over time. It is these ‘memories’, and associated patterns of energy, that constitute our ‘other lives’.

Conclusion

A developing body of scientific understanding appears to be revealing the possible mechanics of other life memories. A theme we see emerging is the existence of some form of collective memory that we can access in each lifetime. In our insights, the particular energetic blueprint or pattern that we have at the time of our birth, and which changes over time in line with emerging cycles of energy, will define what memories we have access to in this collective memory, whether we describe that as the Akashic Record, a collective unconscious, a morphic field or some other expression embodying an interconnected information field. We will be drawn to those energies with which our energetic patterning vibrationally aligns. In our understanding it is this vibrational attraction that is the underlying principle on which ‘reincarnation’ works.

As so elegantly expressed by Nikola Tesla, “[i]f you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration”.[23] This we believe is the ‘secret’ of ‘reincarnation’.

References as at 26 May 2021

[1] Michael Wood, In Search of Myths & Heroes: Jason and the Argonauts (2005) (https://www.pbs.org/mythsandheroes/myths_four_jason.html).

[2] Scott Stoll, “The Story of Jason and the Argonauts: The Archetypal Adventure”, (2001) The Argonauts (https://theargonauts.com/about/the-story-of-jason-and-the-argonauts/)

[3] On the content of this para, see generally Saugat Adhikari, “Top 11 Contributions of Pythagoras”, (25 June 2019) Ancient History Lists (https://www.ancienthistorylists.com/people/top-contributions-pythagoras/); Wikipedia contributors. Pythagoras. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. May 24, 2021, 14:18 UTC. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Pythagoras&oldid=1024870730; Wikipedia contributors. Argonauts. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. May 6, 2021, 13:03 UTC. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Argonauts&oldid=1021746141; Wikipedia contributors. Axial Age. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. May 15, 2021, 11:48 UTC. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Axial_Age&oldid=1023263443.

[4] Douglas Harper, metempsychosis (https://www.etymonline.com/word/metempsychosis).

[5] Claire Gecewicz, “New Age’ beliefs common among both religious and nonreligious Americans”, (1 October 2018) Pew Research Centre (https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/10/01/new-age-beliefs-common-among-both-religious-and-nonreligious-americans/).

[6] Quoted at Reincarnation Research (https://www.reincarnation-research.com/).

[7] This quote and the next appear at Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/203707.Pythagoras?page=2).

[8] Norbert Weiner, The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society (Doubleday, New York, 2nd ed. revised, 1954) page 96.

[9] John Algeo, “The Essentials of Theosophy”, (May 1981) The Theosophist (available at The Theosophical Society in Australia, https://theosophicalsociety.org.au/statics/the-essentials-of-theosophy).

[10] Wikipedia contributors. Akashic records. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. April 19, 2021, 22:14 UTC. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Akashic_records&oldid=1018793740.

[11]  Yasemin Saplakoglu, “’Spooky action at a distance’ could create a nearly perfect clock” (2021) Live Science (https://www.livescience.com/quantum-entanglement-atomic-clock.html).

[12] See a discussion of his work at Wikipedia contributors. Jim B. Tucker. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. January 29, 2021, 17:22 UTC. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Jim_B._Tucker&oldid=1003577025.

[13] See Sean Lyons, “The Science of Reincarnation”, (Winter 2013) University of Virginia Magazine (https://uvamagazine.org/articles/the_science_of_reincarnation).

[14] Interview with Rachel Martin, “Searching For The Science Behind Reincarnation” (transcript of interview), (5 January 2014) NPR (https://www.npr.org/2014/01/05/259886077/searching-for-science-behind-reincarnation)

[15] Milton E. Brener, Something Survives (Xlibris Corporation, 20 April 2016) (a relevant extract from the book appears at https://books.google.com.au/books?id=G-YsDAAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false).

[16] Bob Good et al, The Matrix of Consciousness (IASOR Press, Boynton Beach, Florida, 2020). The book is online at http://www.thescienceofreincarnation.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/TheMatrixofConsciounessFinalSubmission61520.pdf. On the discussion and quotes which follow see esp. pages XV, 4,13 – 15, 86, 88, 93, 122 and 125.

[17] Amit Goswami, Physics of the Soul The Quantum Book of Living, Dying, Reincarnation, and Immortality (Hampton Roads Publishing, Virginia, 2nd ed., 2013). On the discussion and quotes which follow see esp. pages IX, X, 15, 88, 123, 127-128

[18] And see further Amit Goswami, Creativity and Reincarnation (30 March 2014) (https://www.amitgoswami.org/2014/03/30/creativity-reincarnation/)

[19] John Horgan, “Scientific Heretic Rupert Sheldrake on Morphic Fields, Psychic Dogs and Other Mysteries”. (14 July 2014) Scientific American (https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/scientific-heretic-rupert-sheldrake-on-morphic-fields-psychic-dogs-and-other-mysteries/).

[20] Interview with John David Ebert, Quest Magazine Interview (https://www.sheldrake.org/about-rupert-sheldrake/interviews/quest-magazine-interview).

[21] Bruce Lipton, The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter & Miracles (Hay House, 2008) see esp. at pages 258-263.

[22] John Horgan, supra n.19.

[23] Quoted at Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/361785-if-you-want-to-find-the-secrets-of-the-universe).

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