A few years ago, philosopher Stephen E. Braude wrote an excellent book analyzing the evidence for life after death. His book, Immortal Remains, stands out from most other works in this field by virtue of its rigorous attention to detail and its careful consideration of alternative hypotheses for the evidence: notably, the super-psi hypothesis, which attributes apparent contact with the deceased to a telepathic ability to access the memories of a person who in fact no longer exists. It’s refreshing to read the work of someone who approaches the question of life after death not from a position of skepticism about all “paranormal” phenomena but from a position that asks whether we really have evidence for life after death that goes beyond what can be explained by the telepathic or psychokinetic abilities of the living. I highly recommend Braude’s book. It will make you think harder about the evidence you’re already aware of, and likely tell you about some you aren’t. (For instance, Braude’s book is where I first read about transplant cases, in which transplanted organs seem to transfer some of the tastes and dispositions of their original owners to those who receive the organs.)
However, even as I was reading Braude’s book this past winter, I felt that there was one body of evidence that he didn’t address at all but that seemed to me to weigh heavily in favor of what he calls “the survival hypothesis.” At the time, I was watching reruns of the television show The Ghost Inside My Child, which, with predictable melodrama, relates the stories of children who seem to remember having lived before. While I found these stories of seeming reincarnation fascinating in themselves, I was most struck by how many times these same children mentioned to their parents that they had seen them from heaven before they were born, even that they had “chosen” them to be their parents. Here, it seemed, was some pretty strong evidence that these children were not just being “possessed” by the memories of the deceased, that they had in fact lived a continuous conscious existence from a past earthly life through a life in heaven and then back to earth again. Though Braude extensively examines the reincarnation evidence in his book, he never mentions these highly suggestive offhand remarks made by so many young children who also have memories of past lives. Given the care with which he examines the rest of the evidence, I can only assume that he left this phenomenon out because he wasn’t aware of it. After all, The Ghost Inside My Child didn’t begin to be aired until 2013, ten years after the publication of his book. And it wasn’t until 2015 that a book dedicated exclusively to this topic of children’s memories of the “beforelife” came out.
Last fall saw the publication of Wayne Dyer and Dee Garnes’ book Memories of Heaven: Children’s Astounding Recollections of the Time Before They Came to Earth. This book is a compilation of letters from parents and grandparents relating the odd remarks made by their young children, usually two or three years old, regarding their existence before they were born. Apparently it’s not just children who remember past lives who have these recollections of their time in “heaven.” If these hundreds of letters are any indication, there are lots of children out there who remember seeing and choosing their parents before they came into this life. That, my friends, is just fascinating. And when you pile it onto all the already well-known evidence regarding near-death experiences and past-life memories, a pretty convincing case for life beyond our physical existence begins to emerge.
So I heartily recommend both of these books: Immortal Remains and Memories of Heaven. They complement each other wonderfully, one full of careful philosophical argument, the other full of raw anecdotes that had me more than once in tears. And both contain some truly odd stories, stories that will make you scratch your head and realize how very little we still know about this crazy universe.