Reincarnation, Sylvia Browne, and the Persuasion of an After-life Existence
After reading Sylvia Browne’s book, The Soul’s Perfection, I realized that there are a few questions that through the ages have taunted mankind and brought about much philosophical and scientific debate. These ageless, unanswered questions would be the following: “What is the meaning of life?”, “What is the meaning of death?”, and accordingly, “what proceeds death?” These ageless, unanswered questions would be the following: “What is the meaning of life?”, “What is the meaning of death?”, and accordingly, “what proceeds death?” Caught up in the daily “hustle and bustle” of life, I never thought much about these issues.
But now, I had become truly fascinated. In searching for the answers and truth behind these inquiries, I found that there is, indeed, one concept that provides sensible, satisfactory and inspirational answers to all these questions. This is the concept of reincarnation. The following pages attempt to define this concept. This article draws heavily from the teachings of reknowned psychic (and frequent Montel Williams Show guest) Sylvia Browne. As well, it presents proof of reincarnation’s existence through corroborating evidence – a significant amount of which is introduced by men of science. At the completion of this article, I hope to have successfully presented a persuasive argument on the role reincarnation plays in resolving the unanswered issues relating to life, death, what comes before, after, and all that is in between. In the end, I hope to have given true validation to the existence of reincarnation and hope that some of those who doubt will find themselves reasonably compelled to believe.
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines reincarnation as the “…rebirth in new bodies or forms of life; especially a rebirth of a soul in a new human body”. Yet, the definition, itself, is not in dispute, but the concept’s actual existence. I, personally, have believed in reincarnation for quite some time. As I grew older, I began to reject a lot of the teachings of my Catholic Christian religion and, therefore, became less religious, yet far more spiritual. As a result of this “self exploration”, today, I find it truly difficult to believe in the mythical depiction of an eternal fiery “Hell” and a vengeful “God” that would allow his children to be banished there. After all, shouldn’t “God” be teaching unconditional love and forgiveness? In my opinion, yes. Actually, not just “yes”: absolutely. And, from this, comes my belief in reincarnation.
Unlike some, I don’t believe that our existence here on Earth is “hell”. I do believe that we are all here to experience the trials and tribulations of life to make us stronger people-to learn. We are here sort of as a test, and those who pass with “flying colors” are rewarded with the eternal heavenly afterlife.
My belief is that the soul is the essence of all human life. It pre-exists birth and continues to exist long after our time on this earth has expired. Our soul is our true self, our true being. Our carnal self – the body as we know it – is simply our “outer shell”. It is our “earthly outfit”, so to speak…only necessary for us to survive while in this terrestrial environment. I think author and psychic Sylvia Browne provides us with the best simile when she explains that our bodies are like a vehicle. We are not the car. We are what’s inside the car. The car, itself, is simply our means to travel from place to place.
Now, the next logical question would be: what the hell are we doing here?! Well, initially as I mentioned, I truly believed that we were here as a “test”: to perform certain tasks, serve a specific purpose and if successful, we would then move on to our “heavenly home”. Those of us who do not achieve our “spiritual goals”, or ,perhaps, are not the “best” people we can be, are destined to return back to this earth and try again. It is said that “God allows each person the chance for perfection, whether it takes one life or one hundred to reach your goal” (Browne, 2000). Since then I have come to discover the numerous works of Sylvia Browne. You may be familiar with her through her numerous TV appearnces and her reputation as one of the few “true” psychics. Upon reading her work, I havve adamantly adopted her beliefs…or at least most of them: most of all her belief and theory on reincarnation. It is based somewhat on the same explanation that I had formulated. However, while mine is vague, hers is more explicit, well organized and leaves few, if any, questions unaccounted for. The following is only a brief synopsis of her theory (and now mine) in regards to reincarnation.
Sylvia’s actual religion is that of a Christian Gnostic. This means “being a seeker after your own truth and believing that everything you need to know about God (as you believe him or her to be) can be found through intellectual reasoning” (Browne,2000). In Sylvia’s book, The Soul’s Perfection, she answers the question: “what is the meaning of life?” and consequently: “what is the meaning of death?”. Reincarnation is an intricate part of this. It is a “given” that our souls are eternal and our time on this planet is only one phase – one brief segment – of our life, as a whole. We are not the total sum of who we are on Earth. This existence is but only one leg of our journey. Our carnal selves are but a means to protect our souls, our “real” selves, and to allow us to move about in this plane of existence. As stated earlier, Sylvia compares our bodies to a vehicle. We are not the care we drive. We are what’s inside the car. The vehicle is merely something we “wear”, use or crawl into as a means to move from place to place. Similarly, our bodies are our soul’s vehicle.
In regards to reincarnation, specifically, as souls in “Heaven” we choose to come down to Earth in order to experience certain trials and events – to serve a purpose and to learn from it. Earth is a sort of school – a “boot camp”, if you will. Before coming into this life, each soul has a plan, a goal, a “chart” to follow. This chart is a list of goals that you come down to achieve. It is similar to how we on Earth go to college. However, the end to this means is spiritual development. In Sylvia’s words “we decide to incarnate. We pick our life’s chart and we decide to perfect our souls…” (Browne, 2000). Irving Cooper, another researcher on this topic states, as well, that the “chief purpose of reincarnation is education. To this end, we are born again and again on Earth…because we, as souls, deserve to grow ” (Cooper, 2002). In light of this, Sylvia reassures us that “to perfect one’s soul is simply to survive life…no matter that your worst fears were realized, no matter what happened to you. To perfect is to survive – to not give up, not cave in , not despair” (Browne, 2000).
As for those who do cave in to despair, you must “know that each life is a path winding toward perfection. It is the step after step that is hard, not the whole of the journey” (Browne, 2000). So, what about those who turn to substance abuse and cannot help but to despair? The belief is that the altered state of mind that chemicals induce, keeps you from truly experiencing life. The more difficult your life, the more chance you have to perfect. After all, isn’t it true that we learn from our mistakes and ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ ? Those who do escape through addiction have two options: “Either your life will be elongated, or you will need another life.” (Browne, 2000). As Sylvia explains: “There are many ways to commit suicide in this life. Alcohol and other addictions are just as deadly.” This thought brings us into our next point: suicide.
It should be known that suicide is always looked down upon and is never a “way out”. Many years are spend “charting” your new life/reincarnation, except for in the case of suicide where you are forced to return and relive your events almost immediately. It usually happens to “…people who have reincarnated too fast. They didn’t get any rest: they went back in too fast…they’re shell-shocked” (Browne, 2000). These people have bitten off more than they can chew, so to speak. When on the “other side”, you forget all the pain and the challenges of life. We have to. Because if we were very aware of it we would not choose to come back…ever! Yet, Sylvia compares it to childbirth. The outcome is so wonderful that you don’t hesitate to do it again! It is not until you are back up in those stirrups, that you remember the true horror and intensity of the pain!
Destructive People, Homosexuality, and the Choice to Reincarnate and Experience These Hardships
Another issue is that of “destructive” people: people whose lives most others consider to be a “waste”. Yet, the truth is that even these people have a purpose! They may simply serve as a “catalytic force to perfect everyone else around them” (Browne,2000). As well, we often wonder about homosexualtiy. Those who have a difficult time in their present gender role may have just experienced many lives as a member of the opposite sex. But, don’t feel left out – we all experience lives of both genders, for “…you could not ever understand the duality of life, unless you know both sides of Creation” (Browne, 2000). And, of course, if we choose our paths on “the other side”, then why would anyone choose to go through any of this? The answer is because “there is a divine part of you that needs to evolve, to thrust forward, and come into this negative environment and become stronger through adversity.” (Browne, 2000).
Life Themes: Reasons for “Being”
Yet another significant topic to touch upon is that, according to Sylvia, each and every life has a “theme”. In The Soul’s Perfection, these 45 life themes that she has come to discover are listed. It is important to know that each of us has a role that we play and a purpose to fulfill. We generally have a major theme, which reflects who or what we are, and a secondary theme, which usually represents an adversity or something that we are here to learn to overcome. In this life, my major theme has been that of Healer, as I have always taken interest in helping and alleviating the issues that “at risk” adolescents and others tend to face. This is fairly appropriate, as I previously pursued a degree in psychology for this purpose. My secondary theme (as I have a very addictive personality) is Temperance, which is something that I admittedly must work on!
Past Life Regression
Another significant topic regarding reincarnation that should be considered is that of Past Life Regression. Many people may use hypnosis as a means to “open” their minds and delve into their sub-conscience. It is there that you can regress into past lives and experience memories that have otherwise been forgotten! About these regressions, Sylvia suggests that they “…can bring forward the tremendous knowledge and talents that we have garnered in past lives, as well as serve as a wonderful tool to get rid of phobias…” However, one form of bringing these memories to surface that we are all capable of involuntarily is through dreams! Especially when it comes to children who may speak of an event that they say they experienced throughout the night, Sylvia warns us to “be very careful about saying everything is a dream. They could be visiting the Other Side…There’s a lot of soul travel back and forth: that’s why babies jerk so much (in their sleep)”. When discussing past life memories, she also believes that “at about four years of age the memories begin to fade. Either that or they stop talking about it…from two to four years of age they (the memories) are very clear. If children can talk prior to age two, it’s amazing what they can tell you!” Yet, what is truly amazing is that putting religion and blind faith aside, there actually are some scientific case studies that support this exact point! We’ll explore these next…
Scientific Case Studies
As of yet, there is (obviously) no specific conclusive test to confirm a reincarntion. There is not concrete evidence that such a phenomenon truly exists. However, there have been case studies documented in which the evidence is so compelling that it truly validates reincarnation as the only viable conclusion.
A former UCONN student, Amber D. Wells, while researching Near Death Experiences, documented an interview with a seven year old girl who had nearly drowned. The girl claimed to have seen two adults during this experience, who were waiting to be reborn. A second documented incident was a suicide attempt by a Sandra Rogers on April 30, 1976. In her experience, she claims that after approaching “the light”, she was told that “…she could remain in the light provided she later reincarnate to re-experience and overcome all that brought her to the point of suicide. Or, she could revive to live out her life and not have to face such problems in a future life” (Wells, 2001). As Amber interviewed other “near death” experience victims, she stated in her resulting thesis that “the majority of experiences mentioned learning…as the main purpose underlying reincarnation…the two most important lessons being truth and forgiveness” (Wells, 2001). This, of course, remarkable corroborates Sylvia’s own discoveries.
Despite these findings, some of the most compelling and significant research comes from Dr. Ian Stevenson. He has been one of the leading scientists to document cast studies that validate the existence of reincarnation. As Tom Shroder writes: “Time and again writers acknowledge thier debt to Stevenson for his opening to investigation by scientific techniques subjects too taboo in the orthodoxy of mainstream science” (Schroder, 1999). Stevenson was the former Head of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia and then the Director of Personality Studies at the same university. He has spent the last forty plus years documenting over 3000 child cases of past life recalls. Of these, many gree that they offer the best scientific evidence of reincarnation, yet. He is the author of the book entitled Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation. Being a man of science, his belief is that “reincarnation should only be considered the best interpretation of any case after the alternative interpretations have been considered and found unsatisfactory” (Stevenson, 1987). Therefore, in his studies, he does not conclude reincarnation as fact. Instead, he documents cases that seem to have no other explanation after exhausting other possibilities such as “…fraud, unintended fantasy, forgotten memories of this life, and even other less likely possibilities, such as possession” (Stevenson, 1987).
One of Stevenson’s most interesting studies is that of Imad Elawal: a Lebanese child. This child continued to adamantly refer to his previous life and even elaborated to tell of his former place of residence, which was Khirby. He also was able to state his previous last name as being “Bouhamzy”. Interest in this case began to escalate when little Imad recognized a visitor to his home and identified him as his former neighbor. Stevenson then noted 47 claims of Imad’s previous life. Of these, he could actually validate all but three! He identified an Ibrahim Bouhamzy, who had died of TB at the age of 25. Most of little Imad’s claims suggested that if reincarnation were real, then Imad was indeed Ibrahim reincarnated. Of some of the claims Imad had mentioned, one was knowledge of a motor accident where the individual broke both his legs and then later died. This actually turned out to be Ibrahim’s cousin! He also knew that Ibrahim possessed a gun and, although he had never been to his residence, he could identify the exact location of where the gun was hidden. In addition, he unbelievably learned French in an exceptionally expedient manner…a language Ibrahim had learned while in the army. Further, he recognized Ibrahim’s friends by name and even identified his brother in a painting, while recognizing himself as “Ibrahim” in the same depiction. But, most remarkable of all, is that little Imad could recall exactly what Ibrahim’s last words were upon his deathbed: “Juda, Call Faud” (Stevenson, 1987).
Another interesting study is Stevenson’s examination of birthmarks. The ones which are of interest are those that could not be credited to inheritance or prenatal/ perinatal occurences. Thirty to sixty percent of all birthmarks actually can be related to genetic factors, virus or chemical causes (Stevenson, 1987). However, the other 40-70% are left with no explanation. It is these that Stevenson feels are suggestive as evidence of past lives. He states that these “…provide some of the strongest evidence in favor of reincarnation…(because) they are objectively observable…” (Stevenson, 1987). One specific example occurred in Burma, where there was a “hypopigmented macule” on the chest of a youth. He had remembrances of a life as the individual “Mha Ram”. After some investigation, it was confimed that Ram was killed and shot at close range. The autopsy revealed a wound in exactly the area of the youth’s unexplained birthmark. In addition, the significance of these birthmarks is so widely received in Burma and with the Alaskan Indians that they actually place marks on the deceased, so as to recognize them when they are reborn (Stevenson, 1987).
Lastly, in Stevenson’s studies, he concludes that there exist certain commonalities among all these suggestive cases. First, he agrees with Sylvia Browne in that homosexuals are “often children who were members of the opposite sex in their previous life and show difficulty in adjusting to the new sex” (Stevenson, 2001). Secondly, there is the presence of philias…unexplained tendencies or preferences that are actually “left over” from a previous life. For example, alcoholism in a pst life may contribute to early cravings in this life. Third, there is the case of unexplained phobias. “In 35% of cases, children who died an unnatural death developed phobias (accordingly)” (Stevenson, 2001). For example, a child who drowned in a pst life will have a seemingly irrational fear of water in this life. Another significant commonality is that, typically, all children will speak openly until about the age of four, where communication of their past life recalls begins to wane. Whether this be from social discouragement or the memories actually beginning to fade, Sylvia has expressed exactly the same finding, as stated earlier. And lastly, a final commonality (and, perhaps, one of the most interesting) is that the children involved in these case studies consistently “…exhibited talents, mannerisms, and habits concordant with their previous life, but not with their present ones” (Stevenson, 2001).
All in all, many individuals seem to be set in their beliefs. As far as reinarnation is concerned, most are either believers or skeptics, who are often not open to that which is not tangible…what cannot be physically proven. Well, I truly and very strongly believe in the existence of reincarnation and all that it entails. For those who don’t, I hope (and believe) I have provided a persuasive presentation that will either convert them to the “believer” category, or at least persuade them to open their minds and explore the possibility. And, of course, for those who are “hardcore”, scientific skeptics, I leave them with these last words, known as The First Law of Thermodynamics: Energy can only be converted from one state to another, but cannot be created nor destroyed. Thus, holds true for the “energy” of the human spirit.