Reincarnation and Near-Death Research

By Kevin Williams

 Amber Wells is a former student at the University of Connecticut and wrote a research paper based on her study of the near-death experience for her senior honors thesis under the direction of Dr. Kenneth Ring. Her paper was published in the Journal of Near-Death Studies in the fall of 1993. In her study, 70 percent of the group of near-death experiencers demonstrated belief in reincarnation. In contrast, a Gallup Poll found that only 23 percent of the general population endorse this belief. Previous research has indicated that, following a near-death experience, the group tended to exhibit a significant shift in their beliefs on a wide range of subjects including a general tendency toward an increased openness to the idea of reincarnation. Ms. Wells' study was designed to examine the factors underlying this belief shift. The following are some excerpts from her study reprinted by permission.  


Claims have been documented by other researchers of direct knowledge of reincarnation which became available during the near-death experience itself. An example of this type of knowledge can be seen in a letter written to Dr. Ken Ring by John Robinson:

"It is a matter of personal knowledge from what the being with whom I spoke during my near-death experience told me about my older son, that he had had 14 incarnations in female physical bodies previous to the life he has just had."

Ring has also heard testimony of this kind of direct knowledge in some of his interviews. One experiencer, whose account is recorded in Ring's audiotape archives, commented:

"My whole life went before me of things I have done and haven't done, but not just of this one lifetime, but of all the lifetimes. I know for a fact there is reincarnation. This is an absolute. I was shown all those lives and how I had overcome some of the things I had done in other lives. There was still some things to be corrected."

Another experiencer whose testimony is included in Ring's audiotape archives gave this account: 

"I had a lot of questions, and I wanted to know what they [the light beings she encountered in her near-death experience] were doing – why are you just kind of milling around here? And someone stepped forward ... it wasn't just one ... I got information from a number of them ... that they were all waiting for reincarnation."

Additionally, in a case documented by Dr. Melvin Morse, a girl who had her near-death experience when she nearly drowned at the age of 7 reported seeing during her experience two adults waiting to be reborn (Morse,1983).

 

One very interesting case involves a near-death experience that resulted from a suicide attempt. On April 30, 1976, Sandra Rogers put a gun to her heart and shot herself. Instead of the nothingness she sought from suicide, she had endured a near-death experience. A brilliant and loving light, she identified as Christ, presented a review of her entire life and all the events that brought her to the point of her suicide attempt. This light gave her access to unlimited knowledge. 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 be revived to live out the rest of her life and overcome her problems here and now. Obviously, she chose not to stay in the light so that she could resume her life and not have to face the same problems in a future life. She was allowed to take only as much knowledge as she needed to sustain her, and was told she would be given insights along the way as she finished out the rest of her life.

 

Some experiencers interviewed during Ms. Wells' study described the general process of reincarnation as one consciousness separating into individual souls to be embodied in matter. One experiencer took this idea even further, stating that reincarnation takes place more on a collective level rather than an individual level. In other words, this experiencer felt that a collective energy recycles itself through matter and that our sense of individuality is a product of our present incarnation only. One experiencer believed that a Higher Power created a finite number of individual souls, some of which then are placed in human embodiments in order to learn lessons.

 

A strong minority of experiencers saw individual choice as the initiating force behind the reincarnation process. Some others mentioned karmic patterns or ties to other souls as influencing the reincarnation process.

 

The majority of experiencers mentioned learning or enlightenment as the main purpose underlying reincarnation. Here are some comments by experiencers: 

"The spirit needs to embody itself in matter to experience it and learn. There are karmic patterns to learn lessons and to work spirit in matter."

"Life itself is a series of learnings. The lessons are universal, the two most important being truth and forgiveness."

"We progress at our own rate to reach the light. If you do things that take you away from the light, then you are perpetuating your time here."

"The inner quality is there, the inner self remains, but the external aspect that may have seemed very strong is dissolved. Individuality wasn't the same there. It was the same as everybody and everybody was me. Your spirit is always you. You are not the personality that you are on Earth. In the other realm you are everything, light is everything."

Most of the experiencers said that they felt the cycle of reincarnation would eventually come to an end. They indicated that at this point there would be existence as pure spiritual being and/or a merging with God. Here are some comments by experiencers about this:

"Then you exist as pure spiritual form, as a pure spiritual being."

"You become an integral part of God. When everyone reaches that point it is nirvana."

Some experiencers indicated that the cycle of reincarnation would probably come to an end for earthly embodiments, but that one would continue to incarnate into other realms or dimensions.

 

The beliefs expressed by the experiencers are not unique and they tended to follow the standard view of reincarnation as expressed in much of the new age literature. By way of example, the following excerpts taken from Irving S. Cooper's book, Reincarnation: A Hope of the World, are representative of this view and are quite similar to many of the statements in the study:

"The chief purpose of reincarnation is education. To this end we are born again and again on Earth, not because of any external pressure, but because we, as souls, desire to grow.

 

"It is a universal process, and prevails not only in the human kingdom but also throughout the whole of nature. Whenever we find a living form, the consciousness of that form is also evolving, using temporarily for that purpose the physical form in order that it may gain physical experience. In each incarnation we have a different physical body, a different name, and may have different souls acting as parents, but these changes do not in the slightest imperil our individuality ... Reincarnation is not an endless process, and when we have learned the lessons taught in the World-School we return no more to physical incarnation unless we come back of our own accord to act as Teachers of humanity or as Helpers in the glorious plan of evolution."

In summation, there is much evidence that the near-death experience affirms reincarnation to be a fact. Generally, such experiencers affirm that reincarnation is a divine process whose purpose is for self-God-realization.

 

"It [suicide] is like killing a plant or flower before it's full-grown or before it's served its purpose ... The only thing that I can think and comprehend is that to try and understand reincarnation. That somehow, instead of evolving, you would regress." - Dr. Kenneth Ring

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