In the comments thread of my post "Proof of life," RabbitDawg made an important observation:
Reports of NDE's often mention access to an overwhelming amount of knowledge, love and understanding, but in the psychic medium world, the spirit you had when you left will be the spirit you have when you land on the Other Side.
In reply to this, I wrote:
This is the big unresolved issue for me. There seem to be two internally consistent but mutually exclusive storylines: 1) the spirit undergoes only a slight change (or no change) and keeps living much as it did on earth, unaware of any past lives or larger meaning; and 2) the spirit remembers all its past lives, sees its earthly incarnations as personas or roles played, and prepares for its next incarnation with the help of other, equally enlightened members of its Group Soul.
My comment prompted Matt Rouge to offer a very good summary of a possible solution to the conundrum:
This may be a "Flatland" situation where the solution would be obvious if seen from the correct perspective, but the perspective isn't available to us in this dimension.- Michael
I think this is the correct direction, and I'd like to build on what no one said, as I think he's basically right. Here's my belief system re this point based on what I've experienced and learned thus far:
1. The NDE is a *different* experience than just *being* in spirit, but I don't think it's all that incompatible with it, and I don't perceive all that great a contradiction. The Afterlife is in the 5th dimension (or higher), and people there definitely experience things in a different way than we do. I think this comes through adequately in ADCs. When people have an NDE, they go to 5D and back, and that is going to be a mind-blowing experience.
I know from my experience in dreaming (4D or higher) that it is *very* tough to translate the experience back into our 3D heads. For example, I had been thinking recently that in dreams I am just waist up--I have not much experience of my legs. Yet soon after that I had a dream in which I was riding around on a scooter, the kind you glide on and have to use your legs, and I was able to remember the *fact* that I had used my legs a lot, but it was still hard to remember and translate all of it back into 3D.
Likewise, a lot that people experience in NDEs is hard to "cram" back into their heads and to describe. I think ADCs are going to be the same kind of thing: a lot is going to be hard to communicate.
2. All of our incarnations live forever in the Afterlife. They don't "disappear" when they reincarnate. This *is* a case in which the Flatland explanation applies. People both reincarnate to advance *and* continue to advance in the Afterlife. The reason why this is true is that time here is *contained* within the higher-dimensionality "time" they experience. Further, the entire soul family is *contained* within the higher-dimensionality of the Higher Self.
3. At the same time, from our perspective here, this is the *only* world and the *only* time. It is only through this "trick" that we are able to use 3D to advance.
It's interesting to look back on the past. We can see ourself in the past, but s/he can't see us (barring precognition). It takes no "work" for me now to be 41 instead of 21--it just is. Likewise, I am also 61 (if I make it that far!) looking back on 41, yet I can't see that yet. We are used to the arrow of time, but it is really weird when you think about it. Similarly, higher dimensions allow beings to *be* in different states at the same "time."
Hope this helps!
Finally, I chimed in with an excerpt from Michael Tymn's book The Articulate Dead. In Chapter 19, Tymn discusses an archaeological excavation of a medieval abbey that was aided by channeled information from the deceased monks. A briefer version of the story, also by Mike Tymn, appears here.
Here's the excerpt from the book:
On January 26, 1912, Johannes [the chief communicator] seems to been on the defensive after other monks pointed out his errors and commented that he had an idealized recollection of the abbey because of his strong attachment to it. They explained that he was earthbound by his love and that his spirit clung in his dreams to a vanished vision which is spirit eyes still saw. Seemingly suggesting a group soul or higher-self nature, Johannes, in his defense, responded: "Why cling I to that which is not? It is I, and it is not I, but part of me which dwells in the past and is bound to that which my carnal soul loved and called home these many years. Yet I, Johannes, am of many parts, and the better part does other things – praise, praise be to God! – only that part which remembers clings like memory to what it sees yet." [Spelling and vocabulary modernized; Latin expression translated - MP]
Rarely did [the archaeologist] ask about matters other than the abbey, but on one occasion he, directly or indirectly, questioned something relating to reincarnation. A more fluent English-speaking spirit responded: "The facts live, and the emotions and events. The puppets die and are not. The leaf is reproduced; the ears grow; but the old time is dead. You understand not reincarnation, nor can we explain. What in you reincarnates, do you think? How can you find words? Blind gropers after immutable facts, which are not of your sphere of experience."
[Michael Tymn, The Articulate Dead - citations omitted]
Having quoted this, I commented:
The key words are: "It is I, and it is not I, but part of me which dwells in the past ... Yet I, Johannes, am of many parts, and the better part does other things."
And: "What in you reincarnates, do you think? How can you find words? Blind gropers after immutable facts, which are not of your sphere of experience."
Although these statements were made on separate occasions by different communicators, together they dovetail pretty neatly with Matt's hypothesis.
All of this reminds me of a speculative notion I advanced almost exactly a year ago (on January 4, 2011) in a post called "Slices of life," which I'm reproducing below.
There are many other good comments on that thread, including "no one's" reference to the Tibetan Book of the Dead. But I couldn't let this post grow too long.
I suspect that the key to resolving the enigma is to say (as Matt does) that higher-dimensional reality allows for perspectives that seem magical or impossible to us, but which would be perfectly logical, simple, and even obvious in the right environment. This is the case in the book Flatland (which I highly recommend), where the behavior of the main character is baffling and disturbing to his fellow Flatlanders, but simple enough for him (and us) to understand. For instance, the character can disappear from view and reappear some distance away. How? He jumps up and lands in a different spot. Since the Flatlanders cannot perceive the dimension of height, they believe he somehow dematerialized and rematerialized, when actually he was there all along, occupying the third spatial dimension.
It appears that the higher spiritual planes have less to do with spatial dimensions and more to do with dimensions of consciousness - an admittedly vague term. In these realms of "multi-dimensional consciousness," it seems that one's consciousness can be in two (or more) places at once, or involved in doing two (or more) different things at the same time.
This is probably impossible for us to grasp, since we cannot imagine being divided into two or more loci of awareness and yet retaining our identity as a single consciousness. To us, it seems as if it must be one or the other - if we are two, we cannot be one; if we are one, we cannot be two. But this may simply be "Flatlander thinking," no more valid in higher planes than the Flatlander's commitment to two and only two spatial dimensions is valid in three-dimensional space.
Below is the blog post from last year. Incidentally, if I were redoing it, I would upend the cone in the diagram so the higher planes are on top. I'd also put less emphasis on the issue of time and timelessness, since the perception of time is just another aspect of awareness that would be altered in multi-dimensional consciousness.
As readers of this blog know, I've been puzzled by the divergence between two sets of afterlife reports. One set essentially involves a trip to either a disturbing, hellish limbo or a beautiful paradise (known as Summerland to Spiritualists), while the other set involves an immediate awareness of a higher self that chooses various incarnations for the purpose of growth.
The trouble is that the first set of reports (often found in NDEs and mediumship) typically has little to say abut reincarnation and suggests that the earthly persona continues after death. But the second set (obtained through hypnotic regression and the channeling of allegedly advanced spirits) insists on reincarnation and regards the earthly persona as a temporary role that is quickly discarded.
Moreover, the two sets of reports differ in other aspects. The first set focuses on an earthlike environment of gardens, parks, homes, and even cities, inhabited by beings in human form, while the second set tells of a more abstract environment of pure geometry in which souls see each other primarily as glowing lights (with different colors of the spectrum relating to different degrees of spiritual evolution).
The easiest course of action would be to jettison one set pf reports and concentrate exclusively on the other. But I think there is pretty good evidence for both, although the first set has been more extensively investigated, and the second set is weakened by the inherent problems of hypnosis (e.g., hypnotized subjects may confabulate or may be influenced by the hypnotist). If I had to choose just one set, I'd go with the first, but I suspect that there is some truth in each set -- but not the whole truth in either.
Noodling on this, I sketched out the simple little diagram reproduced below. I admit this could look a lot better if done on a computer, but I'm busy right now and don't have time to put together a better chart. Still, this crude drawing at least gets the basic idea across.
The idea is that the Self, in the sense of the totality of the spiritual entity that we know as "I," may extend across various levels of existence. Spiritualists are always talking about different planes of reality, and the implication is that we travel from one plane to the next. But suppose that our Self actually cuts across all the planes simultaneously, and what "travels" is only our awareness (or at least our primary awareness, in the sense of of our principal focus). Moreover, suppose that time either has no meaning in this scheme or operates very differently from the way it does in our spacetime universe. The end result is that the Self could operate on various levels at once, and the story told by the Self when focusing on its experience in one plane would differ from the story it tells when focusing on a different level of experience.
Though I did not mark it this way in the diagram (because I didn't think of it), we could label each sub-Self as Self 1, Self 2, Self 3, etc., with higher numbers representing higher levels of existence. Note that the Self is depicted as a circle on each plane, and that the radius of the circle varies consistently as you go from one plane to the next. Awareness on higher planes is represented by a bigger radius, while awareness on lower planes is represented by a smaller radius. This simple graphic tries to express the idea that consciousness expands as it moves deeper into the system.
Note also that various circles are slices of a cone, which represents the Self in its entirety. The cone expresses the idea that these circular slices or cross-sections are part of a larger, continuous whole which bridges the gaps between the planes. Because the Self is ultimately one entity, no matter how it may be sectioned into slices, no part of it is really cut off from the rest, which means that the relatively restricted awareness of the earth plane can come into contact with the higher awareness of higher planes (perhaps through prayer, meditation, or a burst of insight sometimes known as "cosmic consciousness"). This viewpoint also dovetails with the hypothesis popularized by Aldous Huxley that the brain serves as a "funnel" or "filter" restricting a wider range of consciousness.
Perhaps this diagram, though obviously simplistic and metaphorical, can make some sense of the conflicting sets of reports. NDErs and ordinary mediumistic communicators are reporting from the level of awareness depicted here as "limbo" or "Summerland." Those who recall past lives under hypnosis, and especially those who recall a life between lives, may be reporting from a higher (or deeper) level of awareness. In this respect it is worth noting that between-lives therapists insist that only the deepest stage of hypnosis can access these memories. Naturally, the reports of purportedly high-level channeled beings would also reflect a higher plane of awareness.
What is perhaps most noteworthy is the implication that all of this is going on at the same time, or perhaps "outside of" time. While it may seem as if we are engaged in a long and tedious struggle to attain spiritual enlightenment, this model suggests that we have already attained it -- in fact, that we never had to attain it because it was part of us from the beginning. The various lower levels of awareness with their more restricted range (represented by smaller radii) are part of a continuum with the highest level of awareness, so whatever we are seeking on this plane has already been found (actually did not have to be "found") on the higher plane. And the awareness on that plane is just as much "I" as the awareness on this plane; it is not a separate entity, though it may feel separate from the limited perspective of earthly life.
Finally, notice that the various cross-sections form a series of concentric circles, suggesting that each smaller circle is contained within the larger one. Nothing is lost; there is only expansion to a wider point of view. If this is correct, then it may be wrong to say (as, in the past, I have) that the ego is sloughed off after death. It may be more correct to say that the ego is subsumed within a wider consciousness that places it into a more appropriate perspective, thus robbing it of its power to mislead or confuse. This higher awareness, even on the limbo or Summerland planes, would be consistent with many reports of communicators who see their own mistakes more clearly than than they did on earth, and who (especially at the Summerland level) have risen above their earthbound limitations of perception. The field of induced after-death communication offers many examples of communications that seem to come from this level of awareness.
I'm not sure how clear this all is, and being busy, I can't revise and clarify my remarks as much as I ordinarily would. But it just may be the case that the apparent contradiction between the two sets of afterlife reports can be resolved by looking at the whole issue from a different perspective.
My thanks to commenter Juan, whose remark about slicing off circular sections of a sphere probably got me thinking along these lines (although I realize I am not going in quite the direction he suggested).