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Wed, 22 Feb 2017
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Science of the Spirit


Past life recall as evidence of reincarnation

Reincarnation is frequently rejected as impossible by those who worship at the altar of rational materialism and mainstream science. Yet, for those with an open mind who realize that logic and reason cannot possibly grasp and account for all the phenomena existing in the Universe, it is amusing to see how perplexed those with "scientific minds" are when presented with information which is beyond rational explanation. Beliefs in reincarnation have been around a long time; reincarnation is still widely regarded as real in Tibetan Buddhism and Hinduism, and even the Catholic Church held reincarnation as true before the 4th century AD (when its doctrines become standardized at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD).

Evidence of Reincarnation

Reincarnation researchers such as Dr. Ian Stevenson (3000 cases) and Carol Bowman (1000 cases) have collected impressive (at the very least) evidence of reincarnation, if not outright proof of reincarnation by compiling thousands of cases of children who have demonstrated accurate past life recall. The accounts are truly incredible. Many of them have similar themes, such as children being able to fluently speak other languages (which they never learnt in this life) and describing how they died in graphic detail (e.g. being injured or shot in a certain part of the body, and then synchronistically having an ailment in that exact part of their body in this life). In some cases their stories can be proven in black-and-white: some children even remember the military colleagues they served with, whose names match those on veterans' lists.

Below is a selection of 3 cases of modern-day reincarnation, out of literally thousands that have been recorded, documented and compiled.

Comment: The science behind reincarnation - The research of Dr Jim Tucker


Karma: It's not about 'what's coming to you'

The concept of Karma, which dates back thousands of years, is taught by various cultures throughout human history. Despite its ubiquitousness, the idea of karma seems to be generally misunderstood and frequently tossed around without any real understanding of its true meaning.

What is Karma?

In the Bhagavad Gita (one text out of many from multiple cultures that speak of Karma), there are constant dialogues about how to attain what's referred to as "moksha," which is the release from the cycle of rebirth. It is a sort of transcendent state or freedom from the world we currently know — a world in which our senses deceive us. It's a state of bliss that can only be attained when we have freed ourselves from the web of karma. Once we reach that point, our soul is ready to move on to another experience that goes beyond rebirth.

According to Hindu philosophy, the only "higher" activity one can engage in other than performing selfless, fruitful action is the quest and cultivation of spiritual knowledge, contemplation, and truth.

Comment: If you hold to the hypothesis that collective karma exists, what does that say in regards to the current condition of the planet and the amount of suffering human beings are experiencing? We've allowed psychopaths to run the world and have largely ignored what they are doing and haven't taken any action against that, so if the literal definition of karma is "action" or "deed", that means the human race as a whole has accumulated quite a bit.


Do all humans perceive color the same?

© Alexandre Surrallés
Anthropologist Alexandre Surrallés’ work with the Candoshi people of the Peruvian Amazon led to results that contradicted those of The World Color Survey, which has shaped current thinking in the field of color research.
In a Candoshi village in the heart of Peru, anthropologist Alexandre Surrallés puts a small colored chip on a table and asks, Ini tamaara? ("How is it?" or "What is it like?"). What Surrallés would like to ask is, "What color is this?" But the Candoshi, a tribe of some 3,000 people living on the upper banks of the Amazon River, don't have a word for the concept of color. Nor are their answers to the question he does ask familiar to most Westerners. In this instance, a lively discussion erupts between two Candoshi about whether the chip, which Surrallés would call amber or yellow-orange, looks more like ginger or fish spawn.

This moment in July 2014 was just one among many similar experiences Surrallés had during a total of three years living among the Candoshi since 1991. His fieldwork led Surrallés to the startling conclusion that these people simply don't have color words: reliable descriptors for the basic colors in the world around them. Candoshi children don't learn the colors of the rainbow because their community doesn't have words for them.

Though his finding might sound remarkable, Surrallés, who is with the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris, isn't the first to propose that this cultural phenomenon exists. Anthropologists in various corners of the world have reported on other small tribes who also don't seem to have a staple vocabulary for color. Yet these conclusions fly in the face of those found in the most influential book on the topic: The World Color Survey, published in 2009, which has at its very heart the hypothesis that every culture has basic color words for at least part of the rainbow.

The debate sits at the center of an ongoing war in the world of color research. On the one side stand "universalists," including the authors of The World Color Survey and their colleagues, who believe in a conformity of human perceptual experience: that all people see and name colors in a somewhat consistent way. On the other side are "relativists," who believe in a spectrum of experience and who are often offended by the very notion that a Westerner's sense of color might be imposed on the interpretation of other cultures and languages. Many researchers, like Surrallés, say they stand in the middle: While there are some universals in human perception, Surrallés argues, color terms don't seem to be among them.

It is almost incomprehensible at first to imagine that the rainbow is not viewed similarly by all people, that there might be more, or fewer, colors in the world than we thought, or that someone might not bother to give colors a name. And yet once one gets beyond the initial, startling blow of these ideas, they begin to seem obvious. There are, after all, no actual lines in a real rainbow. There's no reason to think that orange is any more or less a legitimate color than, say, cyan, or that one culture's list of colors is more "real" than another's.

Or is there?


New research: What's so good about lying?

© Image Zoo/Getty Images
Black Lies • White Lies • A Gray Area
Do you teach children to lie?

I do. All the time. And you do, too! If you're like most American parents, you point to presents under the Christmas tree and claim that a man named Santa Claus put them there. Or, you insinuate that a creature called the Tooth Fairy swapped out your child's fallen tooth for a dollar. Those are false statements, deliberately made to people who trust us adults.

But your lying probably goes beyond these benign deceptions. How many of us tell our kids (or students) that everything is fine when, in fact, everything is totally wrong, in order to preserve their sense of security? Have you been honest about everything having to do with, say, your love life, or what happens at work? We don't just lie to protect our kids from hard truths, either; we actually coach them to lie, as when we ask them to express delight at tube socks from Aunt Judy or Uncle Bob's not-so-delicious beef stew.

These are what scientists call "prosocial lies"—falsehoods told for someone else's benefit, as opposed to "antisocial lies" that are told strictly for your own personal gain.

Most research suggests that children develop the ability to lie at about age three. By age five, almost all children can (and will) lie to avoid punishment or chores—and a minority will sporadically tell prosocial lies. From ages seven to eleven, they begin to reliably lie to protect other people or to make them feel better—and they'll start to consider prosocial lies to be justified. They're not just telling white lies to please adults. The research to date suggests that they are motivated by strong feelings of empathy and compassion.

Why should that be the case? What is going on in children's minds and bodies that allows this capacity to develop? What does this developmental arc reveal about human beings—and how we take care of each other? That's what a recent wave of studies has started to uncover. Taken together, this research points to one message: Sometimes, lying can reveal what's best in people.


Writing your own obituary to inspire others

Death is a common fear. How will we die? What will it feel like? Where will we go? Like trying to understand our existence or our place in the universe, death can hurt to think about. There are so many questions that cannot be answered, frustrating many to the point of refusing to think about it at all.

While most of us can try to turn it off, people who are terminally ill don't have that luxury. We all know we are going to die, but for many, the idea that we are too young, too healthy, too happy, or too strong to die just yet, or for a very long time, gives us comfort. But people who know their days are numbered typically have a shift in perspective; a new viewpoint on death.

Sonia Todd, a 38-year-old woman diagnosed with a terminal form of cancer, was one of those people. She knew death was coming sooner than later, and this led her to look at life a little differently. In a way, she embraced her death as a chance for leaving behind an image of herself on her own terms. Writing her own obituary, Todd wanted to do things her way, but not just for her — for anyone who cared to read her last words as well.


Exhaustion: Why it is not unique to our overstimulated age

© Wellcome images
Is ours the most exhausting age ever? Many sociologists, psychologists and cultural critics argue that the rapid spread of exhaustion syndromes such as depression, stress and burnout are consequences of modernity and its challenges. The argument goes that human energy levels have basically remained static throughout history, while the cognitive, emotional and temporal demands on the modern subject have increased so sharply that a chronic deficit of inner resources ensues. The most frequently named 'exhaustion generators' are the social changes resulting from acceleration, new technologies and the transformation of manufacturing into service and finance economies. Email and mobile phones, for example, make workers perpetually reachable, eroding the boundary between work and leisure, therefore making it difficult for employees to ever switch off from their jobs. Add to this the intensified competition from globalised capitalism and the result is that, today, the worker rarely leaves work. No wonder everyone is exhausted.

What often goes unnoticed, though, is that anxieties about exhaustion are not peculiar to our age. Those who imagine that life in the past was simpler, slower and better are wrong. The experience of exhaustion, and anxieties about exhaustion epidemics in the wider population, are not bound to a particular time and place. On the contrary: exhaustion and its effects have preoccupied thinkers since classical antiquity.


Paralysis by analysis: Worrying is 'like doing two things at once'

© Debrocke/ClassicStock/Getty Images
Here, I have just what you need: a new thing to worry about. Recently, in The Wall Street Journal, University of Chicago psychologist Sian Beilock provides a brief overview of her career, which has focused largely on the study of anxiety, with a special emphasis on what makes people (even experts) choke under pressure. During the interview, Beilock makes a simple but insightful observation about nervousness, and why it can be so distracting. "When we're worried, it captures our attention," she told the WSJ. "It's like doing two things at once."

It's hard to write, or speak in public, or ... do anything, really, if you're worrying at the same time. Overthinking helps no one and often leads to choking under pressure; or, as Beilock rhymes, "It's paralysis by analysis." However: Writing seems to help. From the WSJ:
As a general piece of advice, she encourages people to write down their worries before an event. In a paper published in the journal Science in 2011, she studied groups of students about to take a test. Those who spent 10 minutes before the test writing down their worries scored higher than those who didn't, and especially students who reported being anxious about tests got higher scores.

Comment: Read more about the benefits of writing for better mental and emotional clarity:


Change in sense of humour can be early signal of dementia

Nine years before memory changes, this can signal problems.

Changes in sense of humour could be an early sign of dementia, a new study finds.

A shift to preferring slapstick humour — like Mr Bean — over satirical or absurdist comedy, such as Monty Python, could be an early sign of Alzheimer's.

Friends and relatives of those with dementia reported seeing changes around nine years before the more typical memory problems.

Dr Camilla Clark, who led the study, said:
"As sense of humour defines us and is used to build relationships with those around us, changes in what we find funny has impacts far beyond picking a new favourite TV show.

We've highlighted the need to shift the emphasis from dementia being solely about memory loss.

These findings have implications for diagnosis - not only should personality and behaviour changes ring alarm bells, but clinicians themselves need to be more aware of these symptoms as an early sign of dementia.

As well as providing clues to underlying brain changes, subtle differences in what we find funny could help differentiate between the different diseases that cause dementia.

Humour could be a particularly sensitive way of detecting dementia because it puts demands on so many different aspects of brain function, such as puzzle solving, emotion and social awareness."
The study included data from 48 friends and relatives of people with dementia.

Comment: There are many natural means of combatting the brain changes dementia brings:


90-Year-Old's advice to combat loneliness

He wrote it after he lost his partner and sister.

© Manchester City Council
Derek Taylor felt lonely. So he did something about it.
Derek Taylor, a 90-year-old man from London, England, felt lonely and isolated following the deaths of two loved ones. So he decided to do something about it, and now he's sharing his wisdom with the rest of the world.

"I'd lost a partner, and my sister had passed away," Taylor told the BBC. "And the older you get, the less people seem to contact you. And I thought, 'What can I do to stop being lonely?'"


Music stimulates same area of brain as sex and drugs

Sex, drugs and rock'n'roll has been a preoccupation of generations of young people since the 1960s, while even even Shakespeare wrote: "If music be the food of love, play on."

And now scientists have discovered one reason why they seem to go so well together.

For the same chemical system in the brain that produces feelings of pleasure as a result of having sex, taking recreational drugs or eating tasty food is also stimulated by listening to a favourite tune.

To test the theory, the researchers found a way to temporarily block the natural opioid substances produced when we are having a good time.

Seventeen test subjects were then played music to see if doing this had an effect.

Dr Daniel Levitin, a neuroscientist at McGill University in Canada as well as a musician and record producer, said: "The impressions our participants shared with us after the experiment were fascinating.

Comment: See also: Different notes for different folks: How music makes the brain happy