What is it that travels from one life to the next?

Discussion in 'SCIENTIFIC and ANECDOTAL research' started by John, Jan 9, 2007.

  1. John

    John New Member

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    This topic seems like such a fundamental one that it deserves its own thread, even though it was touched upon in the Reincarnation Terminology thread above...

    According to the scientific evidence, what is it that travels from one life to the next?

    Is it the soul? Is it consciousness? Or something else?

    I'm wondering what scientists and researchers have had to say about this. :)
     
  2. tiltjlp

    tiltjlp A Recycled Soul

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    Hi John,

    There are a number of threads related to your topic, the problem is finding them, since they have a variety of titles. You almost have to stumble across some of them almost like accident.

    John
     
  3. Deborah

    Deborah Executive Director Staff Member

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    Hi John,

    You may want to look into Deepak Chopra M.D. and his newest book -Life Beyond Death - The Burden of Proof. He addresses your question and from a scientific persepective as well as a spiritual one.

    Fred Alan Wolf Ph.D. is also an excellent resource.
     
  4. tanguerra

    tanguerra Moderator Emeritus

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    Hi John,

    Welcome to the forum.

    My personal take is that the soul is vast and eternal and is what is 'carrying on' from one body to the next. The soul exists outside of space and time, in my view. The body must obey normal rules of space and time - travel methodically from A to B in real time, grow old and die, etc. So it is an illusion that the soul 'goes' anywhere - similar to the illusion that the sun is moving through the sky even though it is actually stationary and it is earth that is moving. It is a very powerful illusion nonetheless.

    I believe the 'soul' is a container for all the memories of a person and is in touch, through some unknown mechanism, with an even vaster and more 'eternal' level of reality. Since the soul operates outside of time the term 'memory' really only has meaning for the mind in any case. The soul has access to a far greater and more complex order of information than the mind can comprehend without becoming discombobulated.

    I believe that dreams, visions, images, feelings, and so on are how the soul communicates with the 'mind' - or waking consciousness - when it has something important that it feels we need to know which might effect our destiny in an important way. I belive this is why we have only fairly limited memories of previous lives (of which there may be many thousands) - some more than others. Our conscious mind has an important job to do in just navigating around in normal reality, not getting hit by a taxi, finding food and so forth and cannot compute the volume of info available to our higher level of consciousness - which I term the 'soul'.

    Imagine a vast and eternal tree, shedding its leaves every year then growing new ones. That is how I see it. The tree does not 'go' anywhere, it is the leaves which are beautiful and interesting and useful, but ephemeral. The imaginary tree on the other hand is the 'real deal' and is immortal.
     
  5. Deborah

    Deborah Executive Director Staff Member

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    HI John,

    Perhaps specifics will help more. I think one of the best books I have seen regarding the soul was written by Fred Alan Wolf Ph.D The Spiritual Universe -a physicist's vision of spirit, soul, matter and self

    In it he questions "Why do we believe in the soul? Does it actually exist? If so, what is it? Does it differ from the self? Is it part of the material world? Does it survive the body after death? What is its role in good and evil?"

    An excerpt from the books flap might interest you. ;)

    Good luck with your research!
     
  6. John

    John New Member

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    Appreciate those replies, and the reading suggestions, and am trying to read what I can...

    It's interesting to hear about the soul. It's something that is not talked about in Buddhism. In Buddhism it is a subtle consciousness that moves from life to life. And the term reincarnation is not used, just rebirth. I'm getting the impression that Buddhist ideas are of limited explanatory value here. Anyway, this is the science forum, so perhaps I shouldn't ramble on about that...

    Please bear with me when I ask in particular about what Dr Stevenson and Dr Tucker may have said about the scientific basis for reincarnation. These eminent researchers have embarked upon an ambitious research program and they surely must have addressed this fundamental question about what travels from one life to the next. Did they convince themselves scientifically about some plausible entity that continues on? Or at least speculate? I'd be very grateful if someone could just summarise what they have said please, or provide a relevant www link... :)

    Many thanks,

    -- john
     
  7. tanguerra

    tanguerra Moderator Emeritus

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    Well John,

    I think you are going to end up chasing your tail if you are seeking a 'scientific explanation' for reincarnation and/or the soul. Frankly, as far as I know, apart from the info Deborah has given you, there is not a lot out there. What is it you want to know? Are you writing an essay or something? Do you have some personal experiences you are trying to reconcile against 'reality'.

    This is not the sort of thing that most 'straight' scientists consider a serious area of study, involving as it does arcane and non-material issues. Most scientists like something they can weigh, measure and repeat and reincarnation really does not fit the mould. As far as many modern scienctist are concerned there is 'no such thing' as the soul, it is an illusion created by brain chemistry. Some of them may hold personal views on the subject, but they probably keep 'schtoom' about them to avoid ridicule. Various psychiatrists have delved deeply into this field. Do you consider them scientists?

    You will find some interesting attempts at trying to reconcile hard science (physics mostly) with the more 'mystical' field of reincarnation in the writings of Fred Wolf (a physicist). I am currently reading the book Deborah mentions 'The Spiritual Universe' and although it is heavy going in places he is attempting to reconcile the various different 'realities' of matter and spirit. There is a good book on the 'paranormal' in general and an attempt to fit it within a scientific framework of some sort called 'The Holographic Universe' by Michael Talbot. He comes up with some interesting ideas and lots to think about. It is a little lighter and an easier read than some of Wolf's stuff and contains a vast amount of info.
     
  8. John

    John New Member

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    Dear Tanguerra,

    I really am very sorry if I am saying things that you do not wish to hear...

    Science cannot prove reincarnation. But I believe that the science of reincarnation goes further than many people think, and am trying to explore that for myself. And at this stage I am focusing in on the work of Dr Stevenson and Dr Tucker, although not exclusively. So far I have found their work to be both rigorous and fascinating! (I have to admit that I'm less enthused about what I've seen of some other authors such as Deepak Chopra and Fred Alan Wolf, but then everyone has authors that they like more than others.)

    No, I am not writing an essay, or doing research, but just exploring this issue of the science of reincarnation for myself.

    This will be my last post to the forum. I do not have past life memories and am feeling out of place here.

    take care,

    -- john
     
  9. Ailish

    Ailish Administrator Emerita

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    Hi John,

    Many members here do not have memories -- but are simply here to learn, explore and share.

    I hope you'll change your mind and continue participating. Everyone is welcome and we enjoy reading everyone's thoughts and comments. :)


    Ailish
     
  10. tiltjlp

    tiltjlp A Recycled Soul

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    I second what Ailish has said John. To some degree we're all seeking more information than we have. I don't have a lot of past life memories either, but have meditated since I was a young boy, and find that I enjoy considering the many differnt thoughts and ideas offered here. I can assure you that none of us have all the answers, and that most of us, including Tanguerra, are open to questions by anyone. Our ongoing discussions are just that, ongoing, and I hope you'll stay with us and add your points of view.

    John
     
  11. ChrisR

    ChrisR Administrator Emeritus Staff Member Super Moderator

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    I'm with Ailish and John, hope you'll reconsider and stay with us, John. Whether you have past life memories or not, it's still interesting to read what everybodys' thoughts are on the subject. :)
     
  12. John

    John New Member

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    Dear Ailish, Chris, and John,

    I am touched by your kind and helpful words...

    When I think of it, I have probably said what I wanted to say for now. And asked my questions. And have been grateful for the opportunity.

    Certainly I will look in at the forum from time to time and see how things have progressed.

    best wishes,

    -- john
     
  13. tanguerra

    tanguerra Moderator Emeritus

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    Hey John,

    I hope I did not hurt your feelings. It was not my intention. I was just trying to work out where you were 'coming from' so I could work out how to respond your question in a helpful manner. Please don't be cross.

    As far as I know there is no scientific evidence for the existence of the soul. That would probably be front page news if it happened though! LIFE'S GREATEST MYSTERY SOLVED! NOBEL PRIZE IN THE BAG! :)

    Nonetheless most people are pretty convinced that it (or 'something') exists and there are any number of theories about what might be 'going on' and why. I just thought there might be a 'deeper' question waiting to be asked behind your surface questions regarding scientific evidence, literature on the subject, etc that someone might be able to assist with. Alternatively, I thought you might be researching for a specific purpose.

    I am all in favour of an inquisitive and enquiring mind and no genuinely curious question is unacceptable, even though some questions have no definitive answers. That kind of goes with this territory after all! There is no apartheid on this forum for people who do or do not remember past lives.
     
  14. shield

    shield Registered User

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    Hi John,
    Rephrasing your question a little: "What is the "I" that that go from body to body from name to different name, from one personality to another?"

    Or, in effect: "Beyond the time-bound, who am I?"

    In my opinion this would be kind of like a "koan-to-end-all others" and really one of the most interesting questions to put, produced by a view/experience or speculation of reincarnation as being a fact.

    You know...Who is "I" that is thinking "I" am "I"...?
    And then you go on from there, heh-heh-(... this always
    makes me want to giggle like a fool :))

    ("Goldenage", who used to post here, wrote a lot of insightful things on this. If interested, you might might want to look that up.)
     
  15. hedpe9999

    hedpe9999 New Member

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    Jim Tucker implies that he is not comfortable with the term "reincarnation" and he tries to use specific terminology. He says something along the lines that "memories, emotions, and sometimes traumas seem to carry over to another life." In my opinion, that it the only intellectually responsible position you can take with regard to the evidence. Any speculation about the "soul" or "self" goes far beyond the evidence. We don't even really know how to define "consciousness."
     
  16. Oraktoraeneo

    Oraktoraeneo 'He Who Brings Light'

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    Well, sure...but, hedpe9999,

    The wonderful thing is, is that consciousness is a tough subject, but not (really) for one who revels in finding it, knowing it and interacting with it. To "objectify" things (in this case, consciousness) as science, sometimes, tends to do takes away from the subjects that have been on the floor subjecting themselves to what it means to be conscious.

    I am not saying that science is wrong, but I am saying that when it begins to forego the very thing that it exists for, and the experiences that give meaning to it, then all science becomes is a shield to the mysteries of ALL life: all the magic that we once understood. All and all, science is the tool, and we are it's user.
     
  17. tommcfearsom

    tommcfearsom Senior Registered

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    I Am...well...Me :)

    Hello Folks

    I think that Descartes may have had some of it right with his famous principle: thought exists; Thought cannot be separated from me, therefore, I exist (Meditations on First Philosophy). Most famously, this is known as cogito ergo sum, ("I think, therefore I am").

    My awareness of other lifetimes always is from a perspective of what I would call ..well...just plain little old Me.:) In all honestsy I think that there is something of a constant in us that gives "measurments" to each lifetime that we remember,meditate on, "think" or contemplate about and that becomes a type of indentity. The Egytians speak of the Ka, Tibetans the Bindu and western mystics consider the Monad. This all seems to describe an intuition of an esoteric particle somewhere in knowable physics (Helloooo.. Fiziwig;). Given how the carbon ring was discovered ( a vision of a serpent consuming it's tail) I think this should be considered.

    Yours Truly
    John R.
     
  18. tanguerra

    tanguerra Moderator Emeritus

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    Yes quite so John. I always just know it is 'me' having all these adventures in different historical periods, just as I know it is 'me' who remembers blowing out my birthday candles and opening my presents age 6. There is no way to 'prove' this or measure it or whatever though. Although there are photos of that event, ultimately that proves nothing. How do I know that is me not some other kid who looks a bit like me? I just do because I remember the events.

    The scientific method is a wonderful thing. I am all in favour of the great forward leaps we have been making in medicine, astrophysics, engineering and so forth. But 'science' only works with the material world, solid objects and objectively observable phenomena (eg gravity). The subjective experience of the 'spirit' (or whatever your favourite term is) does not exist in the material world, so 'science' - is the wrong tool for studying it in my opinion. I don't care how many rat brains you dissect, or how many new brain chemical reactions you observe, you won't find out anything about the soul using that methodology.

    This does not mean that there is no place for rigour, logic, clear thinking, case studies and comparing notes. This does not mean we can just go all 'woolly' and vague, or superstitious and silly about it. I believe the study of reincarnation sits better with psychology than physics. Although, even in the field of physics things are not as 'cut and dried' as they once were believed to be. They are now making all sorts of interesting 'discoveries' about the fluid nature of matter and reality (none of which is news to anyone who has studied any ancient Indian and Buddhist philosophy).

    Learning and understanding about reincarnation and healing past life traumas is now quite well accepted to be of great therapeutic value for people who have had problems that can seem to be intractable using conventional methods. A deeper understanding of the soul, the nature of our 'true' selves and a certain sense of awe for our vast and eternal aspects would surely be of great benefit to people in modern culture who seem to have lost track of the important things in life (and no, 'important things' do not include plasma TV sets). Understanding how we are all fundamentally connected to one another and realising that we cannot treat each other harshly without it eventually rebounding on ourselves would only be a good thing for greater global harmony.

    You may say I'm a dreamer......:)
     
  19. tommcfearsom

    tommcfearsom Senior Registered

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    The Cloud Chamber Dreamer

    Hello Tanguerra

    I have great faith that soon in our lifetime Science and the Spiritual will resolve the mechanisms behind reincarnation and the phenomena of the Soul/Spirit. I think that there are clues in the cultural descriptions of societies that believe in reincarnation that we maybe able to quantify in the near future. More on this later, my wife is calling me to lunch:). http://slideplayer.com/slide/4396979/

    Yours Truly
    John R.
     
  20. tanguerra

    tanguerra Moderator Emeritus

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    It would be great if that happened John.

    I know some of our best minds are pondering on how to bridge the divide between 'subject' and 'object'. No doubt it will be a little while yet until these attitudes begin to permeate the mainstream.

    We live in interesting times. :)
     
  21. tommcfearsom

    tommcfearsom Senior Registered

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  22. hedpe9999

    hedpe9999 New Member

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    I was just trying to delineate the speculation from the empirical evidence. I praised Jim Tucker's view because it is specific and avoids the confusion of saying something like "consciousness survives." After all, what do we mean by "consciousness?" Is it some sort of "life principle" and/or the quality of being aware of objects moment to moment? Is it something else entirely? Personally, I think these questions are unanswerable since all soul/self theories are incoherent.
     
  23. tommcfearsom

    tommcfearsom Senior Registered

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    The Strings of a Gordian Knot

    Hello Folks

    The Strings of String Theory are indeed tangled even at this stage of Physics however they may still yield the the fibers of the tapestry that is the Universe. The threads that weave dreams and the language of the Soul maybe far less tangled if Joseph Cambell and C.G. Jung are correct. The mechanisms behind reincarnation may be in the anthropological record.

    Yours Truly
    John R.
     
  24. John

    John New Member

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    I found the answer to my own question. :) It turns out that there is a section in "Life Before Life" which discusses what Drs Tucker and Stevenson think. The section starts on page 215 and is entitled: "In cases of reincarnation, What reincarnates?" Jim Tucker refers mainly to "consciousness continuing" and Ian Stevenson apparently coined the term "psychophore". Interesting reading.

     
  25. tanguerra

    tanguerra Moderator Emeritus

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    There have been many words coined to describe it - soul, self, consciousness, being, awareness, mind, knowledge, spirit now 'psychophore'.

    It is all the same thing. It is 'that which continues'.
     
  26. Rod

    Rod Senior Registered

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    John,

    I would echo the sentiments of others here -- don't give up on this forum or on reincarnation without first learining some more.

    Sometimes in science something is observed or discovered and even named long before it is known how it works or what it is. Oxygen, because of how it felt to breath in in pure form, was considered a possbile source of the "life force". Thomas Edison, noticed a dark line parallel to the filament on the inside of his light bulbs; not knowing what it was he still named it "the Edison Effect" and patented it! Aspirin, originally made from an extract of tree bark was used for hundreds of years before anyone had any idea why or how it worked. There are countless more examples.

    Today, the evidence is overwhelming that *something* reincarnates, though we know not what. We can call it a "soul" and that becomes the definition of the word, rather than conforming to a definition. Dr. Stevenson, prefering not to have the "baggage" of a pre-existing definition chose to call it a "psychophore". Others call it a "spirt".

    I personally prefer the word "soul", because anything this basic to ourselves and to life should have an easy one-sylable word -- just as does the heart, arm, leg, nose, eye, ear, etc. But I don't suggest getting hung up on semantics; understand that whatever term a particular author uses for the reincarnating entity does not change the reality of what it is.

    It has been, rather distrubingly, said here that "science cannot be used to prove reincarnation." Howver, if we look at the evicence statistically reincarnation already a level of probabiliy similar to many generally accepted "facts".

    ...Rod
     
  27. Quintessence

    Quintessence No One

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    It's not that science cannot prove reincarnation. It all depends on what the scientists are quantifying. It also depends on the scientists-what they expect in studies.
    Back to the original question. The answer is both, and much more.
     
  28. Artzab

    Artzab AS2

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    Hi. Wow. it's been a long time since I've been here last. Depending on how specific and scientific an answer you're looking for, I think it all comes down to energy. I'll refrain from using many scientific terms as I am aware some people may not appreciate hearing that kind of thing. but, I will say that if you're really asking the hard questions that no-one can seem to answer you might want to look at science books. I also agree with what Quintessence said. I think that it's not that science can't prove reincarnation, but it's about looking in the right places. I know I sound like a science new agie, but I think it's about asking the right questions rather than looking for the right answers. I could recommend some excellent books for reading if you want to message me on this site. I'll try to pop back in in a few days.
     
  29. Goldenage

    Goldenage Senior Registered

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    Science, yes, but....


    I spent all my (formal) working life as an ecologist, steeped in science, the objective analysis of environmental circumstances etc. I laughed ( sic :( ) at those that spoke of past-lives, reincarnation & so forth. One day a friend responded by asking me "why do you think it more unusual to have lived many lives than to only have lived one"?


    I was silenced since when I thought about it, I knew she had a point & that I had no clear evidence one way or the other. So the "scientist" in me thought "hmm", if I have lived before there must be marks in my consciousness from such events, how could it be otherwise? But, still, far from convinced, I embarked on an "experiment" a "thought experiment" if you will. I proposed that I would systematically think back upon my life, hour by hour, day by day, year by year & look to see if I could find any "unexplained" turning-points. Unexplained that is by earlier happenings or events in my life. The null hypothesis being if there were no such detectable events then I would profoundly reject the idea of past-lives but if on the other hand I could locate such "unexplained turnings" then I would provisionally accept that past-lives were a possible explanation. Needless to say such "turnings" leaped out at me & so with the most noticeable in mind off I went in search of a past-life regression therapist.


    Bang! There I was, deep in another life stalking along in sandals with my hand on a sword........


    Now science only set me up to think in logical constructs, to approach the problem (for me) in a systematic way. Assuming there is an objective externality, this is exactly the procedure one executes to figure the contents thereof....?? Yes? :confused:


    But here it gets tricky, if the conscious being that is onself "sees" this current world as an apparent externality AND also with equal clarity sees a world through the eyes of another life (removed in time and space one from the other) with the same clarity what is really there? Common to both lives so to speak? Surely only the observer? :thumbsup:


    Does the mechanism of science (which after all is just a mode of thinking) therefore truly function as a creative force only? Does it just actively extend the logic of creation? That is, is stuff plain just "not there" until science "finds (creates) it"? :cool
     
  30. Charles Stuart

    Charles Stuart Probationary

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    Hi Robin,


    Again I'll refer to my old question: what kind of energy is thought? To me, thought and consciousness are synonymous to the "Soul. It is this essence that travels from one lifetime to the next. It is US, each and every individual, forever maintaining our own individuality, that are the "observers" travelling through space and time...


    I posted this in another thread, but would also like to place it here:


    According to the spiritualists, three principles form the Universe: God, the Primary Cause of All Things, the Universal Consciousnes which gives origin to all things, Spirit and Matter. These constitute the Universal Trinity. The "Soul" is the individualization of the intelligent principle. After some time in the inferior kingdoms of Creation - progressively from the mineral, vegetable and animal stages-, the intelligent principle evolves to the stage of a Soul/Spirit. When exactly this stage occurs remains a mystery, but it is suffice to comprehend that the Soul/Spirit is created simple and in ignorance, carrying in its essence the potential for all future knowledge, just as the seed carries within it the future tree.


    From the moment of its creation, the Soul/Spirit has its own free will at its disposal. Its actions are entirely of its own responsibility. It assumes, therefore, the effects of all the things which are caused by its decisions and actions. In its first incarnations, the Soul/Spirit is very close to the stage of animality and is conducted by its passions and its instincts. As it develops its intelligence, forming its habits, its instincts gradually become feelings. In his origin, man has only his instincts; these, in time, turn into feelings, which later become sentiments, and the most delicate stage of our sentiments is love.


    The Soul/Spirit has the free will to make its choices. Some might weaken and, although the Soul might develop its intelligence, it might choose to attach itself to material instincts. Certain Souls develop a greater selfishness and pride, the results of their instincts of survival. Transitorily, they delay their spiritual progress and the development of their sentiments.


    No beings are outside of the Creational process. We are all Soul/Spirits in search of the awakening of the innate potentials of our Soul through the conscious exercise of our will. For this to be achieved, we must exercise our freedom and combine it to solidarity and tolerance. With these three principles, we can transform our Soul and the world around us...
     

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