Mind Power News
Friday, May 14, 2004 / Issue No. 43 / 2004 by Andreas Ohrt

This week: Is There Life After Death?

Is There Life After Death? Dr. Melvin Morse is a pediatrician who used to think that people who were interested in near-death experiences just wanted to be on television talk shows. But something happened to one of his patients that changed his opinion. Now he believes the evidence points to something after life.

Could A Little Boy Be Proof of Reincarnation? Nearly six decades ago, a 21-year-old Navy fighter pilot on a mission over the Pacific was shot down by Japanese artillery. His name might have been forgotten, were it not for 6-year-old James Leininger.

Scientists Validate Near-Death Experiences: An estimated 7 million people have reported hauntingly similar "near-death" experiences. And a new study in the British medical journal Lancet gives credence to such accounts, concluding they are valid.

Is There Life After Death?
Seattle Doctor Specializes In Near-Death Experiences

NBC News

Dr. Melvin Morse is a pediatrician who used to think that people who were interested in near-death experiences just wanted to be on television talk shows.

But something happened to one of his patients that changed his opinion. Now he believes the evidence points to something after life.

Most scientists will explain that near-death experiences are caused by the lack of oxygen in the brain in the last moments of life.

But Dr. Morse believes he's found evidence that it is a glimpse of something beyond our existence.

"I interviewed a 6-year-old boy," said Dr. Morse. "We resuscitated him. He opened his eyes and he dramatically said, 'That was weird, two guys just sucked me back into my body.'"

Dr. Morse is a respected pediatrician. He was a skeptic about the issue of life after death until he was confronted with a story he couldn't explain away.

"She was what you would call clinically dead," explained Morse. "She was under water for 19 minutes."

After the 7-year-old girl was resuscitated, she started drawing pictures.

"What she described to me was not a hallucination. It was a blow-by-blow accurate description of her own resuscitation, but from a bird's eye point of view," said Dr. Morse.

The child believed she had to go back to her body to help her mother with her unborn brother. She drew her unborn brother with a big red heart. Several months later her brother was born with heart disease.

"How can dying, comatose patients perceive anything? That's what fascinated me," said Dr. Morse. "I knew that something important about human consciousness was to be learned."

Dr. Morse has recorded dozens of interviews with children who have experienced near death. He says he finds the experiences with children to be the most pure.

Dr. Morse says he doesn't believe in God himself and he has little interest in the experiences many adults often have reflecting their own religious beliefs and cultures.

Critics say it is because Christians tend to see Jesus and Indians see Hindu gods, the near-death experience doesn't seem scientifically credible.

Social worker Kimberly Clark Sharp says she couldn't come to terms with her own out of body, near-death experience until one of her own patients had one.

Sharp's patient went into cardiac arrest. After she was resuscitated, the patient insisted she had risen out of her body and floated up around the hospital where she saw a blue tennis shoe on the third floor ledge.

To calm down her patient Sharp went to look. "I did find a blue tennis shoe on the ledge," said Sharp. "She got everything right as she described it to me."

"It's clear even when people are flat lining in the last moments of life, something profound is happening," said Dr. Morse. "It is something today's monitors can't pick up."

Dr. Morse's findings have been published in medical journals and he's working to see if something physically changes in the right temporal lobe of the brain when someone has a post-death experience.

"One child told me it was a light who told her who she was and where she was to go," said Dr. Morse. "I want to interact with that light that tells us who we are and where we are to go while we're still alive. That to me is a challenge of the near-death experience."

Dr. Morse believes you can get in touch with that part of the brain through prayer, meditation, even the rhythmic movement of knitting. There's no absolute proof, but he believes that people who have that near death experience are stepping into another realm.

Source: NBC10.com

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Could a Little Boy Be Proof of Reincarnation?

ABC News

Nearly six decades ago, a 21-year-old Navy fighter pilot on a mission over the Pacific was shot down by Japanese artillery. His name might have been forgotten, were it not for 6-year-old James Leininger.

Quite a few people — including those who knew the fighter pilot — think James is the pilot, reincarnated.

James' parents, Andrea and Bruce, a highly educated, modern couple, say they are "probably the people least likely to have a scenario like this pop up in their lives."

But over time, they have become convinced their little son has had a former life.

From an early age, James would play with nothing else but planes, his parents say. But when he was 2, they said the planes their son loved began to give him regular nightmares.

"I'd wake him up and he'd be screaming," Andrea told ABCNEWS' Chris Cuomo. She said when she asked her son what he was dreaming about, he would say, "Airplane crash on fire, little man can't get out."

Reality Check
Andrea says her mom was the first to suggest James was remembering a past life.

At first, Andrea says she was doubtful. James was only watching kids' shows, his parents say, and they weren't watching World War II documentaries or conversing about military history.

But as time went by, Andrea began to wonder what to believe. In one video of James at age 3, he goes over a plane as if he's doing a preflight check.

Another time, Andrea said, she bought him a toy plane, and pointed out what appeared to be a bomb on its underside. She says James corrected her, and told her it was a drop tank. "I'd never heard of a drop tank," she said. "I didn't know what a drop tank was."

Then James' violent nightmares got worse, occurring three and four times a week. Andrea's mother suggested she look into the work of counselor and therapist Carol Bowman, who believes that the dead sometimes can be reborn.

With guidance from Bowman, they began to encourage James to share his memories — and immediately, Andrea says, the nightmares started become less frequent. James was also becoming more articulate about his apparent past, she said.

Bowman said James was at the age when former lives are most easily recalled. "They haven't had the cultural conditioning, the layering over the experience in this life so the memories can percolate up more easily," she said.

Trail of Mysteries
Over time, James' parents say he revealed extraordinary details about the life of a former fighter pilot — mostly at bedtime, when he was drowsy.

They say James told them his plane had been hit by the Japanese and crashed. Andrea says James told his father he flew a Corsair, and then told her, "They used to get flat tires all the time."

In fact, historians and pilots agree that the plane's tires took a lot of punishment on landing. But that's a fact that could easily be found in books or on television.

Andrea says James also told his father the name of the boat he took off from — Natoma — and the name of someone he flew with — "Jack Larson."

After some research, Bruce discovered both the Natoma and Jack Larson were real. The Natoma Bay was a small aircraft carrier in the Pacific. And Larson is living in Arkansas.

"It was like, holy mackerel," Bruce said. "You could have poured my brains out of my ears. I just couldn't believe it.

James 2 = James M. Huston Jr.?
Bruce became obsessed, searching the Internet, combing through military records and interviewing men who served aboard the Natoma Bay.

He said James told him he had been shot down at Iwo Jima. James had also begun signing his crayon drawings "James 3." Bruce soon learned that the only pilot from the squadron killed at Iwo Jima was James M. Huston Jr.

Bruce says James also told him his plane had sustained a direct hit on the engine.

Ralph Clarbour, a rear gunner on a U.S. airplane that flew off the Natoma Bay, says his plane was right next to one flown by James M. Huston Jr. during a raid near Iwo Jima on March 3, 1945.

Clarbour said he saw Huston's plane struck by anti-aircraft fire. "I would say he was hit head on, right in the middle of the engine," he said.

Treasured Mementos
Bruce says he now believes his son had a past life in which he was James M. Huston Jr. "He came back because he wasn't finished with something."

The Leiningers wrote a letter to Huston's sister, Anne Barron, about their little boy. And now she believes it as well.

"The child was so convincing in coming up with all the things that there is no way on the world he could know," she said.

But Professor Paul Kurtz of the State University of New York at Buffalo, who heads an organization that investigates claims of the paranormal, says he thinks the parents are "self-deceived."

"They're fascinated by the mysterious and they built up a fairy tale," he said.

James' vivid, alleged recollections are starting to fade as he gets older — but among his prized possessions remain two haunting presents sent to him by Barron: a bust of George Washington and a model of a Corsair aircraft.

They were among the personal effects of James Huston sent home after the war.

"He appears to have experienced something that I don't think is unique, but the way it's been revealed is quite astounding," Bruce said.

Asked if the idea that James may have been someone else changes his or his wife's feeling about their son, Bruce said: "It doesn't change how we think. I don't look at him and say, 'That's not my boy.' That's my boy."

Source: ABCNews.com

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Scientists Validate Near-Death Experiences

ABC News

When a car plowed into the vehicle in which she was riding, Leslie's chest was crushed, eight bones were broken and her heart stopped beating for three minutes. Before she was revived, she says she glimpsed the afterlife.

"My next experience was really lying on the ground outside of the car, and it was actually an out-of-body experience that I had," says Leslie, who declined to give her last name. "I was actually floating above my body, and I looked down, and I saw all these men working on this poor girl who was down below, about eight feet below me, and she was struggling."

An estimated 7 million people have reported hauntingly similar "near-death" experiences. And a new study in the British medical journal Lancet gives credence to such accounts, concluding they are valid.

ABCNEWS' Medical Editor Dr. Tim Johnson says this study lends more credibility to the possibility that these near-death accounts are accurate because the researchers conducted the interviews soon after the experiences occurred. The study does not provide a way to scientifically measure whether or not there is life after death, however.

The study reported in Lancet looked at 344 patients in the Netherlands who were successfully resuscitated after suffering cardiac arrest in 10 Dutch hospitals.

Rather than using data from people reporting past near-death experiences, researchers talked to patients within a week after they had suffered clinical deaths and been resuscitated. (Clincical death was defined as a period of unconsciousness caused by insufficient blood supply to the brain.)

About 18 percent of the patients in the study reported being able to recall some portion of what happened when they were clinically dead; and 8 to 12 percent reported going through "near-death" experiences, such as seeing lights at the end of tunnels, or being able to speak to dead relatives or friends. Most had excellent recall of the events, which undermines the theory that the memories are false, the study said.

"We don't even begin to have the tools to debate the subject on a rational scientific basis," Johnson told Good Morning America. "I don't think our belief on afterlife is defined on a cause of the brain." Johnson, who serves as assisting minister of the Community Covenant Church in West Peabody, Mass., said belief in the afterlife remains primarily a matter of personal faith.

Brain Down, Consciousness On?
Lead researcher Pim van Lommel of the Hospital Rijnstate in the Netherlands said the study suggests that researchers investigating consciousness should not look in the cells and molecules alone.

Even when the brain is not showing signs of electrical activity, it is possible that a person can still be conscious, he said. In other words, people can be conscious of events around them even when they are physically unconscious.

"Compare it with a TV program," he told The Washington Post. "If you open the TV set you will not find the program. The TV set is a receiver. When you turn off your TV set, the program is still there but you can't see it. When you put off your brain, your consciousness is still there but you can't feel it in your body."

Many people describe seeing their own bodies from a distance, as though watching a movie. Others say they felt their bodies rushing toward a brilliant light.

Some who have had this experience say it's a sign there is a tunnel that leads to eternal life, but researchers do not really know what the visions mean. The study does not address whether there is such a thing as the soul, God or the afterlife.

"I think what's happening is that people are trying to validate their experience by making these paranormal claims, but you don't need to do that," said Susan Blackmore, a psychology professor at the University of the West of England in Bristol. "They're valid experiences in themselves, only they're happening in the brain and not in the world out there."

She believes the experiences are like a movie that our brains run at times of extreme traumatic stress. The brain creates endorphins which can reduce pain, and under extreme stress, these large amounts of endorphins produce a dreamlike state of euphoria.

Life Beyond Death
Some of those who described the experiences to ABCNEWS say they feel they were given the opportunity to explore life beyond death.

"I was looking down, and I saw my body, and I saw the doctors," said Jessie Lott, one woman who was resuscitated.

"I had come into this place of brilliant, beautiful life," said another, Dannion Brinkley.

"The feeling of peacefulness, the feeling of utter acceptance, utter — I mean, love, and it sounds so hokey, and I hate that part of it, because there aren't really good words to describe it," Leslie said.

Another woman described how she felt she was being pulled toward a giant tunnel, a common theme in the near-death experiences.

"I couldn't stop it. I didn't know why I was moving. I was just pulled right through this enormous, infinite tunnel," said Diane Morrissey.

Blackmore says science can also explain those tunnels: Electrical brain scans show that in our last moments, as the brain is deprived of oxygen, cells fire frantically and at random in the part of the brain which govern vision.

"Now, imagine that you've got lots and lots of cells firing in the middle, towards fewer at the outside, what's it going to look like? Bright light in the middle fading off towards dark at the outside," Blackmore said. "I think that's where the tunnel comes from. And as the oxygen level drops, so the bright light becomes bigger and more immediate, and you get this sensation of rushing forward into the light."

Scientist Turned Spiritual Healer
But not all scientists are skeptics when it comes to explaining near-death phenomena, and researchers have debated such issues for years.

Joyce Hawkes, a cell biologist with a PhD, had an accident that forever changed her life — and her view of science. She suffered a concussion from a falling window.

"I think that part of me — that my spirit, my soul — left my body and went to another reality," she said. She was surprised at the experience.

"It just was not part of the paradigm in which I lived as a scientist," Hawkes recalled. "Iit was a big surprise to me to have this sense of something different than the body — a consciousness different than the body — and to be in this wonderfully healing, peaceful, nurturing place."

Hawkes now works as a spiritual healer.

"I think what I learned was that there truly is no death, that there is a change in state from a physical form to a spirit form, and that there's nothing to fear about that passage," she said.

The Dutch researchers found that people who had such experiences reported marked changes in their personalities compared with those who had come near death, but had not had those experiences. They seemed to have lost their fear of death, and became more compassionate, loving people.

"I can hardly wait to die, and yet I don't have a death wish. I live my life a hundred percent more now because I have such a fine appreciation about what might happen to us and where we might go," said Morrissey.

Source: ABCNews.com

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Andreas Ohrt