REINCARNATION: SCIENCE, PROOF & TRUTH (Comments by Paul Von Ward for the Reincarnation Experiment - REXP)
Both skeptics and believers visiting the REXP website frequently ask "What is the reality of reincarnation?" "What proof do we have?" "Can the human mind determine the truth?"
The answer to both groups is the same: "It is currently impossible for science or any other human epistemology to prove or disprove reincarnation." That also means no single, alleged-past-life identification can be considered "the truth."
Individuals who assert reincarnation in general or their identification of a previous lifetime is a Truth must confront the reality that they cannot prove to another person that it is true. Another person may agree that it is a true, but only if they have accepted the same unproven assumptions of the first believer.
On the other hand, the fact that an alleged particular past-life connection cannot be proven by today's standards does not mean it could never be reasonably validated under any circumstances. But until we humans develop new evidence and tools, we must act with the awareness that we do not know the truth. To act as if one has 100% certainty that his or her idea of reincarnation will inevitably lead to shaky beliefs and faulty personal decisions.
However, given some level of probability that something like reincarnation is a natural phenomenon, humans need to learn as much as possible about it. If reincarnation proves to be an aspect of a multi-leveled process of species evolution, we should learn how to more consciously participate in it. Instead of being swept along by the process, a person would be able to play the role of "conscious cause" rather than be the "subconscious effect."
Refusing to test such assumptions — whether reincarnation is ultimately proven or not — about our role in the universe impedes individual and species development. Given the widespread and long-standing belief in the theory of reincarnation, 21st-century science should see it as a challenge. It would be socially irresponsible to willfully ignore the areas of evidence that suggest past-life experiences may comprise an element of a newborn's legacy.
A scientific approach to evaluation of tangible areas of evidence can provide the basis for a public consensus about the theory of reincarnation. It could have significant implications for human development. For instance, preliminary data suggests accumulated learning from many lifetimes plays a key role in our physical, mental, psychological, and interpersonal development. Public examination of this data would revolutionize how we live and learn.
To begin, we must understand that the scientific method is nothing more than use of common sense. Supported by appropriate technology and quantitative testing, science is the use of the same logical reasoning we practice daily in feeding ourselves. We make sure the food we put into our mouths is what we need and want before we start chewing. Scientific validation is simply making sure that it's what we think it is — by using our own experience to confirm the producer's labels. Scientific reliability testing of the labeling is done by evaluating the recipe's results from day to day. The next level of science (theory building) deals with cause and effect. It requires systematic testing to identify which ingredients and actions are necessary to produce the desired dish.
To scientifically study reincarnation we start with common sense questions: What tangible evidence suggests an unseen life-time to life-time connection as reincarnation implies? Can similar evidence be observed in a set of hypothesized sequential lifetimes? Can presence of that evidence in the posited series of individual incarnations be shown to be unique? Is the similarity between two lifetimes unique and strong enough to require a causal link? Answering these questions, with our current knowledge of how the universe works, will still not provide the "proof of the truth" that many scientists and philosophers require.
Nevertheless, it makes it possible for people with varying worldviews to rationally discuss the possible implications of the evidence they can agree on. That would be a significant step in human self-learning — since at this time all the areas of so-called evidence we now have can only be considered as clues. (Further discussion of sources and methods now used in some reincarnation research can be found in Chapters 7,8, &12 of my book The Soul Genome.)
It is important to understand the limitations of the sources now used to gain clues about possible past-life connections. Sources which depend only on extra-dimensional communications cannot be validated. When a psychic states he sees this or that from your past life by reading your energy field, the Akashic Records, or some other reservoir of information, neither you nor I can confirm it. We may feel it resonates with us or it is consistent with some of our own inner experiences, but that is still subjective. Our friends cannot hear or see it for themselves.
The same problem exists with third party channels, but it's even more complicated. While it is clear that we have no way to validate the information from an alleged advanced being (AB), the interpretation is further complicated by the human filter's mind. It clearly has a distorting effect on the translation process. Even if two different people reliably obtain similar information from the same alleged AB source, it is not possible to independently verify its veracity.
Dreams and spontaneous recall of alleged past-life events suffer from the same deficiency as all memory experiments: The details are not only partial and always, to some degree, incorrect in the first instance, they are subject to further distortion in each effort at recall. The fungible nature of consciousness means such material cannot be unquestioningly considered valid or reliable. The stimulation of dreams (sleeping or lucid) can also be influenced by self-fulfilling desires where the person creates the images he hopes for.
Hypnotic regressions, as evidence for reincarnation, are affected by all the above limitations. The images are produced by the subject's own mind or extracted from other alleged memory pools. In either case, they cannot be verified by the independent by-stander. He or she has no way to determine their veracity or evaluate the source of the information. Further, an observer cannot be sure that the hypnotist's own consciousness, entangled with the subject either verbally or energetically, had no influence on the reports. Therefore, this material cannot be seen as more than the products of individual minds (singularly or linked) bringing subjective experiences to a personal interpretation.
The popular thirst for titillating past-life stories and sensational, hypnotic "revelations" has resulted in a plethora of books and regression practitioners to meet the demand. This has made it appear that such material is the best source of evidence for reincarnation. Unfortunately, its popularity has led reincarnation research in a much more speculative and elusive direction than is required to gain general public credibility.
However, these limitations need not deter us from using such material in our research, but we must remember that it can only be used as clues. Such clues may point towards general evidence for reincarnation or specific past-life connections, but they require a validation against tangible evidence. That corroboration is necessary to provide a meaningful level of confidence in the case. And, such scientific levels of confidence will always be less than 100%.
As research moves forward, we may find that some of the subjective sources and tools are generally consistent with scientific results. However, we cannot continually and widely depend on a few ABs or forays into various insubstantial memory banks to guide human speculation about the possible reality of reincarnation. The result will be a new generation of cults focused on beliefs in their favorite past-life "data base." Only a natural scientific approach, with its requirements for continual challenging of current assumptions and searching for new data, can provide a basis for consensus in a multicultural society.
A theoretical model of reincarnation, based on behavioral evidence will be much more credible than one based on dreams, hypnotic information, or extra-dimensional material. People will find the theory much more persuasive if it is based on tangible evidence like physical skills, creative talents, habits, postures, etc, than on easily fabricated products of the mind. Acceptable tangible evidence can include mental capabilities, emotional profiles, and interpersonal styles.
The Reincarnation Experiment is dedicated to such an ongoing intellectual process, based in a sense of ethical responsibility for the manner we develop evidence and interprets it. Testing the evidence for reincarnation, regardless of where it leads, can only result in a better understanding of what it means to be a conscious being. The more we learn about the inner aspects of human development, the more we empower each individual to make conscious choices in the self-learning journey of species evolution.
[Copyright January 2010 by Paul Von Ward. Material may be used with attribution and reference to the website .]