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Posts Tagged ‘Adam Crabtree’

Irreducible MindIn preparation for revisiting aspects of the paranormal next week it seemed worth republishing this from 2015.

Here I am, back with Irreducible Mind again. It’s the post sequence on sub-personalities that did it. It reminded me of the topic I avoided blogging about at the time I first read the Kellys’ book: multiple personalities.

I have used the book eagerly to help me explore the idea of genius and to add firepower to my attack on reductionism. I refrained from going over the ground they covered on NDEs because I’d pretty well exhausted that topic on this blog at the time, and I ducked out of tackling reincarnation because I didn’t feel I knew enough. I’ve forgotten what the chapter on Memory was about as it was too hard for me to follow.

But my reasons for steering clear of multiple personalities were somewhat more complex as we will see.

The chapter relating to multiple personalities is written by Adam Crabtree and covers more ground by far than can be tackled in detail here as it deals with ‘automatism’ in general and ‘secondary centres of consciousness’ in various forms.

I think the discussion of automatism may have put me off blogging about this chapter as it deals with an area about which I know almost nothing and which, to the modern reader, smacks of what has been dismissed as a kind of Victorian paranormalism. I will quote briefly what Crabtree says on this topic as it clearly deserves more serious investigation than it has received in most of the last century.

Automatism

Crabtree points out (page 305) how Myers explained what for him was a link between automatic writing and ‘unconscious cerebration.’ This led him to go one step further (page 306):

A secondary self – if I may coin the phrase – is thus gradually postulated, – a latent capacity, at any rate, in an appreciable fraction of mankind, of developing or manifesting a second focus of cerebral energy which is apparently neither fugitive nor incidental merely, – a delirium or a dream – but may possess for a time at least a kind of continuous individuality, a purposive activity of its own.

He came to believe (page 307) that all the various forms of automatism ‘resulted from the action of additional centres of true conscious intelligence operating outside the normal awareness of the individual.’

One of the most dramatic examples comes from William James (page 351):

[Automatic writing] maybe produced at an extraordinary speed, or be almost invisibly minute. James (1889) described a case in which the writer, with his face the whole time buried in his elbow on the side away from his writing, first writes out an entire page without lifting the pencil from the paper, and then goes back and dots each i and crosses each t ‘with absolute precision and great rapidity.’

I have no reason to suppose that someone with as much integrity as William James, whose work I have blogged about elsewhere, would have fabricated this evidence nor, with his sharp acumen, would he have been easily deceived. Such data requires investigation, and if examples of that ability still survive in this sceptical age they require a better explanation than ‘It must have been a fraud.’

However, this area is not my strong point so I am going to move on to a particularly interesting part of the evidence surrounding multiple personalities.

Original Cinema Quad Poster - Movie Film Posters

Original Cinema Quad Poster – Movie Film Posters: for source of image see link

Multiple Personalities

Whereas automatic writing, these days, may be a phenomenon difficult to replicate, examples of Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), though perhaps still somewhat controversial, would be far easier to find and therefore to systematically investigate.

Studies (Bahnson and Smith 1975 – page 349) have detected significant differences in such measures as ‘heart rate, respiration, and skin potential taken during audio-visually recorded psychotherapy sessions with a multiple personality patient over an eight month period.’ They concluded that ‘alter personality states of MPD are physiologically distinct states of consciousness.’ These measures would shift with changes in mood and arousal even without MPD involvement, though it is the consistency over time that points towards the conclusion they draw in the end.

What begins to sound slightly more dramatic is the finding (Matthew at al 1985 – page 350), using neuroimaging techniques, that ‘multiple measurements of blood flow in the brain showed that personality change produced significant differences in cerebral blood flow in the right temporal lobe.’

These findings are still regarded as lacking in sufficient rigour to convince sceptics. Other more dramatic ones even more so (page 348):

In an early survey of psychophysiological phenomena in MPD, B. G. Braun (1983) noted previous clinical reports indicating that striking physiological differences were sometimes observed between “alter” personalities in a multiple personality case, including alterations in handedness, rate and ability to heal, response to medication, and allergic responses. In this article, Braun also described three multiple personality cases of his own which involved the appearance and disappearance – depending on the personality in control of the body – of allergies to citrus fruit, cigarette smoke, and cats.

Emily Kelly goes into even greater detail on this issue in her chapter on psychophysiological influences (page 168).

There have also been reports of changes in handedness or handwriting across personalities… As many as 26% of MPD patients show allergies in some personalities but not in others… In a survey of 100 cases, 35% involve alter personalities which responded differently to foods, and in nearly half the cases they responded differently to medications… B. G. Braun . . . reported a case in which a woman who developed adult-onset diabetes ‘required variable amounts of insulin depending on which personality had control.’

That credible investigators claim to have discovered such effects seems to me to require that sceptics, instead of rubbishing them out of hand, should delve more deeply into the data themselves and set up studies of their own. Assuming that such findings prove robust, they will have implications about the mind/brain/body relationship that must undermine many of the prevalent assumptions, including the one that states that the mind is entirely reducible to the brain.

And weirder still!

Mrs Leonora Piper (for source of image see link)

Mrs Leonora Piper (for source of image see link)

Crabtree makes a strong case for seeing the evidence amassed by the Society for Psychical Research (PSR) and Myers himself in his masterwork Human Personality (page 353) as providing ‘impressive,’ and in his view, ‘compelling evidence for the reality of supernormal phenomena.’ He then indicates that, in the context of automatisms, he will be examining such phenomena under three headings: ‘creativity, motor automatisms and mediumship, and experimental psi research.’ This takes us beyond MPD in its strict clinical sense, but adds another dimension to the theme that our consciousness is split into various domains.

Perhaps the most convincing case for mediumship is that of Mrs Leonara Piper, whose activities began in the 1880s. She produced information about both the living and the dead over a 40 year period and was rigorously investigated for 15 years, including being followed by detectives (page 357): ‘Despite all this, she was never discovered in deception or fraud.’

William James made a little known declaration to the SPR in 1896 (page 359):

If you will let me use the language of the professional logic-shop, a universal proposition can be made untrue by a particular instance. If you wish to upset the law that all crows are black, you mustn’t to seek to show that no crows are; it is enough if you can prove one single crow to be white. My own white crow is Mrs Piper. In the trances of this medium, I cannot resist the conviction that knowledge appears that she has never gained by the ordinary waking use of her eyes and ears and wits. What the source of this knowledge maybe I know not, and have not the glimmer of an explanatory suggestion to make; but from admitting the fact of such knowledge I can see no escape.

Summary

Crabtree ends by summarising Myers’s formulation of this area of research (page 363) according to five central features:

(1) Phenomena such as hysteria (then thought to be the underpinning of what came to be known as MPD), automatic writing and mediumship led investigators to ‘posit centres of consciousness outside the awareness of the primary consciousness’;

(2) These ‘consciousness centres must be regarded . . . as personalities or selves’;

(3) These centres may sometimes be aware of one another;

(4) Automatisms and psi are strongly linked; and

(5) There is a Subliminal Self (page 364) which is aware of all the activity of all centres and has ‘its roots in a transcendental environment of some sort.’

His final overall conclusion as expressed below may be particularly hard for our materialistic and ego-centred culture to accept but, Crabtree argues, needs to be seriously considered because of the sheer weight of rigorously replicated evidence in its favour (page 364):

Myers . . . insisted that our ordinary consciousness is not on top in any significant way, and that, as a matter of fact, what is most sublime in us and what is most original, derive from the subliminal, from what is out of sight, and from what, in the last analysis, must be our most essential Self.

And there is where I will leave the matter for now.

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Irreducible MindHere I am, back with Irreducible Mind again. It’s the post sequence on sub-personalities that did it. It reminded me of the topic I avoided blogging about at the time I first read the Kellys’ book: multiple personalities.

I have used the book eagerly to help me explore the idea of genius and to add firepower to my attack on reductionism. I refrained from going over the ground they covered on NDEs because I’d pretty well exhausted that topic on this blog at the time, and I ducked out of tackling reincarnation because I didn’t feel I knew enough. I’ve forgotten what the chapter on Memory was about as it was too hard for me to follow.

But my reasons for steering clear of multiple personalities were somewhat more complex as we will see.

The chapter relating to multiple personalities is written by Adam Crabtree and covers more ground by far than can be tackled in detail here as it deals with ‘automatism’ in general and ‘secondary centres of consciousness’ in various forms.

I think the discussion of automatism may have put me off blogging about this chapter as it deals with an area about which I know almost nothing and which, to the modern reader, smacks of what has been dismissed as a kind of Victorian paranormalism. I will quote briefly what Crabtree says on this topic as it clearly deserves more serious investigation than it has received in most of the last century.

Automatism

Crabtree points out (page 305) how Myers explained what for him was a link between automatic writing and ‘unconscious cerebration.’ This led him to go one step further (page 306):

A secondary self – if I may coin the phrase – is thus gradually postulated, – a latent capacity, at any rate, in an appreciable fraction of mankind, of developing or manifesting a second focus of cerebral energy which is apparently neither fugitive nor incidental merely, – a delirium or a dream – but may possess for a time at least a kind of continuous individuality, a purposive activity of its own.

He came to believe (page 307) that all the various forms of automatism ‘resulted from the action of additional centres of true conscious intelligence operating outside the normal awareness of the individual.’

One of the most dramatic examples comes from William James (page 351):

[Automatic writing] maybe produced at an extraordinary speed, or be almost invisibly minute. James (1889) described a case in which the writer, with his face the whole time buried in his elbow on the side away from his writing, first writes out an entire page without lifting the pencil from the paper, and then goes back and dots each i and crosses each t ‘with absolute precision and great rapidity.’

I have no reason to suppose that someone with as much integrity as William James, whose work I have blogged about elsewhere, would have fabricated this evidence nor, with his sharp acumen, would he have been easily deceived. Such data requires investigation, and if examples of that ability still survive in this sceptical age they require a better explanation than ‘It must have been a fraud.’

However, this area is not my strong point so I am going to move on to a particularly interesting part of the evidence surrounding multiple personalities.

Original Cinema Quad Poster - Movie Film Posters

Original Cinema Quad Poster – Movie Film Posters: for source of image see link

Multiple Personalities

Whereas automatic writing, these days, may be a phenomenon difficult to replicate, examples of Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), though perhaps still somewhat controversial, would be far easier to find and therefore to systematically investigate.

Studies (Bahnson and Smith 1975 – page 349) have detected significant differences in such measures as ‘heart rate, respiration, and skin potential taken during audio-visually recorded psychotherapy sessions with a multiple personality patient over an eight month period.’ They concluded that ‘alter personality states of MPD are physiologically distinct states of consciousness.’ These measures would shift with changes in mood and arousal even without MPD involvement, though it is the consistency over time that points towards the conclusion they draw in the end.

What begins to sound slightly more dramatic is the finding (Matthew at al 1985 – page 350), using neuroimaging techniques, that ‘multiple measurements of blood flow in the brain showed that personality change produced significant differences in cerebral blood flow in the right temporal lobe.’

These findings are still regarded as lacking in sufficient rigour to convince sceptics. Other more dramatic ones even more so (page 348):

In an early survey of psychophysiological phenomena in MPD, B. G. Braun (1983) noted previous clinical reports indicating that striking physiological differences were sometimes observed between “alter” personalities in a multiple personality case, including alterations in handedness, rate and ability to heal, response to medication, and allergic responses. In this article, Braun also described three multiple personality cases of his own which involved the appearance and disappearance – depending on the personality in control of the body – of allergies to citrus fruit, cigarette smoke, and cats.

Emily Kelly goes into even greater detail on this issue in her chapter on psychophysiological influences (page 168).

There have also been reports of changes in handedness or handwriting across personalities… As many as 26% of MPD patients show allergies in some personalities but not in others… In a survey of 100 cases, 35% involve alter personalities which responded differently to foods, and in nearly half the cases they responded differently to medications… B. G. Braun . . . reported a case in which a woman who developed adult-onset diabetes ‘required variable amounts of insulin depending on which personality had control.’

That credible investigators claim to have discovered such effects seems to me to require that sceptics, instead of rubbishing them out of hand, should delve more deeply into the data themselves and set up studies of their own. Assuming that such findings prove robust, they will have implications about the mind/brain/body relationship that must undermine many of the prevalent assumptions, including the one that states that the mind is entirely reducible to the brain.

And weirder still!

Mrs Leonora Piper (for source of image see link)

Mrs Leonora Piper (for source of image see link)

Crabtree makes a strong case for seeing the evidence amassed by the Society for Psychical Research (PSR) and Myers himself in his masterwork Human Personality (page 353) as providing ‘impressive,’ and in his view, ‘compelling evidence for the reality of supernormal phenomena.’ He then indicates that, in the context of automatisms, he will be examining such phenomena under three headings: ‘creativity, motor automatisms and mediumship, and experimental psi research.’ This takes us beyond MPD in its strict clinical sense, but adds another dimension to the theme that our consciousness is split into various domains.

Perhaps the most convincing case for mediumship is that of Mrs Leonara Piper, whose activities began in the 1880s. She produced information about both the living and the dead over a 40 year period and was rigorously investigated for 15 years, including being followed by detectives (page 357): ‘Despite all this, she was never discovered in deception or fraud.’

William James made a little known declaration to the SPR in 1896 (page 359):

If you will let me use the language of the professional logic-shop, a universal proposition can be made untrue by a particular instance. If you wish to upset the law that all crows are black, you mustn’t to seek to show that no crows are; it is enough if you can prove one single crow to be white. My own white crow is Mrs Piper. In the trances of this medium, I cannot resist the conviction that knowledge appears that she has never gained by the ordinary waking use of her eyes and ears and wits. What the source of this knowledge maybe I know not, and have not the glimmer of an explanatory suggestion to make; but from admitting the fact of such knowledge I can see no escape.

Summary

Crabtree ends by summarising Myers’s formulation of this area of research (page 363) according to five central features:

(1) Phenomena such as hysteria (then thought to be the underpinning of what came to be known as MPD), automatic writing and mediumship led investigators to ‘posit centres of consciousness outside the awareness of the primary consciousness’;

(2) These ‘consciousness centres must be regarded . . . as personalities or selves’;

(3) These centres may sometimes be aware of one another;

(4) Automatisms and psi are strongly linked; and

(5) There is a Subliminal Self (page 364) which is aware of all the activity of all centres and has ‘its roots in a transcendental environment of some sort.’

His final overall conclusion as expressed below may be particularly hard for our materialistic and ego-centred culture to accept but, Crabtree argues, needs to be seriously considered because of the sheer weight of rigorously replicated evidence in its favour (page 364):

Myers . . . insisted that our ordinary consciousness is not on top in any significant way, and that, as a matter of fact, what is most sublime in us and what is most original, derive from the subliminal, from what is out of sight, and from what, in the last analysis, must be our most essential Self.

And there is where I will leave the matter for now.

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Three-Faces-of-Eve-The-1957

Three Faces of Eve (for source of image see link)

In the previous post, drawing on Jeffrey Iverson’s book – In Search of the Dead – I explored three examples of the evidence cited in favour of reincarnation. I indicated that I felt they might possibly lie along a dimension from an experience that faded as a child grew up, through a more persistent identification lasting a lifetime, to outright ‘possession.’ This post now looks at the question of how to explain these data.

Is reincarnation the only possible explanation?

There is a degree of uncertainty in the literature about exactly how to interpret these phenomena. In the interests of space I am not going to explore the question of their authenticity. Given that Stevenson is definite that he has 25 cases pointing strongly in the direction of reincarnation I am going to assume, for present purposes, that this is not the issue. I am going to focus rather on the explanation as the issue.

It is more often than not the explanation rather than the experience itself that raises the bigger questions, once you accept that there are facts to support the validity of the experience. Also, there is a general point to make before getting bogged down in the specifics, which is that throughout the history of religion and mysticism, it is accepted that spiritual reality cannot be communicated to our finite brain-locked minds except by metaphor, symbol and analogy. In terms of the comments made on the previous post, this indeterminacy might account for both the strong influence of culture on how spiritual experiences are explained and also for how much scope there is for an intuitive feel rather than logical account of what is going on.

The doctrine of reincarnation might be just such a metaphorical way, adapted to the mindset of a culture, of accounting  for what was being observed. We are still a long way from fully understanding spiritual reality. The evolution of the mind, suggested by the possibilities of spiritual and creative genius as discussed in an earlier sequence of posts, might slowly bring that reality increasingly within our reach.

To focus on one possible alternative explanation for the data I need briefly to bring into the picture two other concepts that might be relevant.

Multiple Personality

The first is multiple personality. Widely documented experiences, some of which have never been seriously questioned, show that one sub-personality can take over a person’s consciousness to the exclusion of another, at least temporarily. In Irreducible Mind, Adam Crabtree endorses various conclusions Myers had reached in the 19th Century. The most relevant for now is (page 363):

He insisted that these conscious centres [sub-personalities] must be regarded, at least in well-developed cases, as personalities or selves – intelligent sources of thoughts, feelings, actions that possess their own memory chains and exhibit a psychological cohesiveness. He indicated that these centres are not necessarily merely alternating states, but may operate concurrently with the supraliminal self and with each other.

This possibility is an important one as it clearly provides evidence that allows for the existence of variations in consciousness above and beyond what we find in reincarnation studies, particularly that a consciousness can co-exist alongside others or dominate, albeit temporarily, to the exclusion of others.

Collective Unconscious

The second concept is that there is some form of collective but subliminal consciousness. Yeats refers to it as the Anima Mundi and Jung speaks of the ‘collective unconscious.’ The Bahá’í Writings refer to the ‘universal mind’ as when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá responds to a woman’s letter advising her: ‘to forget this world of possession, become wholly heavenly, become embodied spirit and attain to universal mind. This arena is vast and unlimited . . . .’

I accept that in this second case I am introducing what to a materialist must seem a very questionable buttress to support my argument. My only response at this stage is that it may be a simpler and less problematic one than the idea of reincarnation.

The Fenwicks’ View

Peter and Elizabeth Fenwick, in their excellent book Past Lives, have a whole section on this very issue. They also look at whether psi alone might be a sufficient explanation. Personally, though they do not close the door on that possibility themselves, for reasons concerning the degree of identification that the strongest cases exhibit (see below) psi does not seem to me the best candidate.

Rupert Sheldrake (for source of image see link)

Rupert Sheldrake (for source of image see link)

They then move on to what they refer to (page 278) as the ‘Cosmic Memory Bank.’ They describe ‘field theories’ and refer to Rupert Sheldrake’s idea of ‘morphic resonance.’ They add (page 279):

If memories (information) are held in this way they would exist independently of the brain and therefore be accessible to another brain which ‘resonated’ with them.’

They accept that this could explain cases where (page 280) ‘more than one person remembers the same past life’ but feel that it is improbable that a child’s brain would be capable of resonating to an adult consciousness. They also feel that where memories of a past life display ‘continuity’ and ‘detail,’ this would not usually the case where psi is involved and for them accessing a universal mind would entail the use of psi.

Suspending Disbelief

For the reasons I outlined above, I am reluctant to let go of the ‘universal mind’ theory quite yet. I will now outline its possibilities and, if I can gain access to more data, hope to investigate these further in subsequent posts.

If we can accept the reality of these two possibilities – multiple personality and a universal mind – how would it help?

This is where some readers may have to exercise their faculty for suspending disbelief. Others may hopefully not be so challenged.

It is perhaps easiest to explain the implications of my ‘theory’ without ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ and caveats.

Let me say right from the start that this is a first provisional attempt to protect my disbelief in reincarnation from strong evidence in its favour. I plan to explore more deeply Ian Stevenson’s work in this area as a starter to see if what I am proposing stands up to scrutiny in the light shone upon it by his rigorous research findings.

So, a child is born. As he grows he reports experiences from another life. If true, this raises two immediate questions.

Why any life? Why that life?

There are other questions that need addressing as well and I will be looking at whatever data I can find to see if there are patterns in terms of the kind of previous life that might make such experiences more likely. If, for example, for reasons that I will return to, we exclude the return of Buddhist lamas, will we find that most previous lives ended prematurely, even violently, creating a sense of incompleteness that needs redress?

Setting such questions aside for now, if we accept that there is a universal mind storing all human, and perhaps other experiences, we could suppose that, the more recent the experience, the more salient it would be to a receptive consciousness. We could also hypothesise that the temperament of a child, that complex composite of different traits with which all of us seem to some extent endowed from birth, could resonate more strongly to some stored experiences than others. Also some children will have the potential to resonate while others may not, or at least not strongly enough to be affected.

Assuming we have a match – a child who has the capacity to resonate to subliminally stored experiences and who strongly resonates to recently laid down signals because of an affinity of temperament – then we have the possibility of a such reports of an apparently previous life.

If that could ever be proven we would have successfully cleared a Becher’s Brook that could have ended our race towards an alternative possible truth.

Degrees of Identification

Assuming that this could be true, just for present purposes, we are still not completely in the clear. Other hurdles stand in the way of further progress.

Why should some people’s memories of the ‘previous life’ fade leaving hardly a trace as the child grows up while other children cling tenaciously to a supposed previous identity?

This is a variation of the same issue as crops up in the case of multiple personality. Why do some identities reach the driving seat while others remain passengers? How can some drivers and passengers be aware of some of the others in the car while others are oblivious? How do invisible passengers influence the driver at the time?

Because the psychology I learned has neglected the systematic exploration of these issues, even in the context of multiple personality let alone reincarnation, I am not really in a position to provide any widely acceptable answer at this point.

I do however have some thoughts to share.

The degree to which I identify with a ‘self’ would seem to be an important factor, as is the degree to which I disown other ‘selves.’ This level of identification will clearly be influenced by many factors as I grow older.

However, with a young child, who very early on experiences someone else’s life, we can perhaps start at a simple level.

Would the degree of affinity, for example, between the host and guest temperaments be a factor – the closer the affinity the greater the identification?

Would there be pay offs and gains to further reinforce the identification? Those who have researched this have had to deal with the charge that all such claims of rebirth are fraudulent attempts to gain social advantage. It is true that the majority of cases seem to involve a lower ‘caste’ host claiming a higher class ‘guest.’ However, there are sufficient examples of the opposite to perhaps begin to tease this out, something I have yet to do.

We can all make a list of predictors of the degree of identification, and I won’t attempt to spell them out here as I simply wanted to illustrate the problems involved. Clearly there are many potential influences shaping exactly how deep and how strong the identification is.

Where is the Soul in all this?

Even when we set this aside, in terms of the resonating host model, the question remains though as to whether the residue of consciousness we are looking at can be fairly described as the dead person’s soul which remains trapped until the death of the host consciousness, or whether the persona is simply the residue of a life held in a collective unconscious, leaving the soul free to be elsewhere or perhaps not survive at all. This is not a problem for a believer in reincarnation: there is just one soul which is returning for another shot at becoming detached enough not to be reborn. The current body is for their sole use.

Dalai Lama (for source of image see link)

Dalai Lama (for source of image see link)

My mind being what it is, I cannot resist building even further speculations upon what might seem to some my already unacceptably speculative foundations.

If it should be the soul of the dead which returns, if we accept the resonating host model, what about the soul already linked to that body? Or is that sometimes the linked soul as might the case with the Dalai Lama, and sometimes not, as in fading identifications? What then about possession? Does the guest soul consign the host soul to the sidelines throughout a life time? If so, what then happens to the sidelined soul?

If we make the case of a lama an exception, the general pattern seems to be reducible to the impact of a residue in the universal mind upon a receptive temperament. I am not completely clear what kind of exception a reincarnated lama might constitute. It could be that the Buddha’s teaching that a fully enlightened soul may consent to return for the sake of enlightening others may explain a possible anomaly here.

There are clearly problems for both models – straightforward reincarnation and the reuniting host model. For me, with the possible exception of an enlightened one, the considerations explored in these two posts are reasons to consider the whole idea of reincarnation as problematic. The phenomena pointing in that direction are well attested and need adequate explanation.

My current favourite view has no evidence to support it as yet within the context of reincarnation theory as usually explained by those who believe in it. NDEs, although only indirectly supportive of life after death because the person lived to tell the tale, have convinced me that my already existing conviction in the survival of identity after death is almost certainly correct. What I have not accepted is that the carrier of this identity into the next life is the same as the residue of consciousness experienced by those who report a previous life and think it to be theirs.

What I am confident of is that the subliminal opens onto both the personal and transpersonal unconscious. (Well, I’m confident about the subliminal for now that is! A future post will deal with my default position of doubt. But more of that later.) Via the subliminal, we can experience sub-personalities we have brought into being within our own lives, or the residue of other peoples’ selves held in the universal mind. It is within that area of explanation that the reality underlying these phenomena is probably to be found.

For me, it all reinforces the really crucial point: the vast majority of us do not have direct access to that reality and have to rely on metaphors, myths and parables to give us a sense of what it is about. What is also important is that we do have an inescapable responsibility to work out our own position about this area of experience: what we decide will underpin many decisions we make about actions we take that will affect our planet, as well as our survival as a species and the quality of life all living things will enjoy or have to endure.

I am planning to look in more detail at Ian Stevenson’s work, amongst others, and hope to check out how well some of these speculations match the data as a whole. I’ll be reporting back if anyone is still interested! Any suggestions about good places to look will be gratefully received.

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