Rethinking Reincarnation

Could memories of “past lives” or past events actually be evidence of genetically-transferred ancestral “memories” rather than proof of reincarnation?

reincarnation

Is there an afterlife, or is there a life after life? Putting aside various religious beliefs about reincarnation, many scientists, physicians and laypersons have tried to take a scientific approach to the subject by studying people who claim to have remembrances of past lives. Many of these claims are made more credible by the person’s detailed memories of events, people and even languages that they could have never known under normal circumstances. Especially interesting are stories of young children who have remembrances of a past they could have never experienced in their current lives. 

In his book, Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation, psychiatrist Dr. Ian Stevenson offers a typical example: 

The case usually starts when a small child of two to four years of age begins talking to his parents or siblings of a life he led in another time and place. The child usually feels a considerable pull back toward the events of the life and he frequently importunes his parents to let him return to the community where he claims that he formerly lived. If the child makes enough particular statements about the previous life, the parents (usually reluctantly) begin inquiries about their accuracy. Often, indeed usually, such attempts at verification do not occur until several years after the child has begun to speak of the previous life. If some verification results, members of the two families visit each other and ask the child whether he recognizes places, objects, and people of his supposed previous existence.(Source: Wikipedia) 

Those who do not believe in reincarnation consider any reincarnation case studies to be the result of either a hoax, a misinterpretation, a coincidence or even a mental disorder. Some have suggested these many be cases of some form of psychic transference – information that has been transmitted psychically from one person to another – or postcognition, the opposite of precognition, where someone has psychic visions about something that occurred in the past, long before their own birth. 

One pseudo-scientific possibility is also worth considering when attempting to understand “reincarnation” case studies from a non-religious perspective, and that is “genetic memory.” While genetic memory is still on the fringe of modern science and has no reliable research to indicate it is a more than a hypothesis, even well-respected psychologists such as Carl Jung found the notion fascinating. Jung referred to it as the “collective unconscious.” 

In his article titled “Ancestral” or “Genetic” Memory: Factory Installed Software (Source: Wisconsin Medical Society), Dr. Daniel Treffert, M.D. talks about cases of savants – people born with sever developmental difficulties who, without being taught,  can “Instinctively” understand and apply rules of music, mathematics or art, to name a few examples. From where did this knowledge originate? We presume that knowledge of these disciplines must be taught and learned, yet even medical science acknowledges that savants are not charlatans or the products of charlatans. 

Treffert quotes famed neurologist and researcher Dr. Wilder Penfield, who said “Animals particularly show evidence of what might be called racial memory.” In other words, Penfield acknowledged the existence of a form of memory that was not experiential. Certain complex animal behavior shows evidence of a form of “knowledge” that has been acquired not through experience but through an innate process that relates to their species. 

Taking the notion of ancestral or genetic memory one step further, what it is humanly possible not only to tap into human knowledge transferred into our DNA from our biological ancestors, but to also access individual memories from our ancestors’ experiences? Could memories become encoded in DNA strands so that they can be passed on to our descendants? Treffert maintains that although some feel genetic memory in savants may just be the brain’s ability to access certain “templates of knowledge” common to all humanity, he has concluded that the knowledge of savants may have actually been inherited from their ancestors: “From my direct observations of prodigious savants, though, it seems to me they inherit actual knowledge itself, not just the templates or scaffolding or ‘rules’ on which they can so quickly build. Thus, for me, genetic memory is inherited knowledge

Returning to cases of “reincarnation” where children or adults recall specific memories and details of lives they have never lived and, in many cases, places they have never been – we have to ask whether the assumption that this is a “past life regression” is implausible even if the details of the case are verified. Could the past lives these people are “remembering” be not their own lives but the lives of their ancestors? DNA databanks that have traced people’s racial ancestry have turned up surprising results—people with generations and generations of documented European ancestry, for example, have found that their DNA markers contain clear evidence of Asian or African ancestors. Thus, it may not be surprising if someone whose family has lived in America for generations has “memories” of another life in Asia, Africa or other continents. 

If genetic memory as inherited memory can be proven, imagine how human beings could begin to tap into the lives of their ancestors. We would not be pleased with everything we could “remember,” but it could offer the human race an opportunity to appreciate how deeply we are all linked through the memories and experiences of our ancestors, and how we have a kind of immortality in the individual memories and collective knowledge we will pass on to our own descendants.

 

 

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How Our World Can #BeatPlasticPollution

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In the world of tomorrow, plastics will certainly call the tune.”

That statement from a 1950s documentary on the new age of plastics is worse than ironic; it has become tragic. Back then, the promise of plastics for the world of tomorrow was about replicating everything that used to be made with natural products and creating cheaper, plastic versions of them instead. Even pianos. Or art! In many ways, that’s what happened, but the most insidious yet seemingly harmless proliferation of plastics in the last 70 years was not about the products themselves, which were often cheaper and more durable versions of what had been made in the past. The real scourge of plastic on our Earth and its ecosystem is not as much the plastic products we use and re-use, but the plastic packaging we use and dispose; we are using durable, multiple-use petroleum-based material that never fully degrades in the environment as disposable, single-use garbage. It’s the plastic water bottles and pop bottles. The plastic straws. The plastic solo cups and other disposable beverage containers. The hard-shell plastic around our household appliances and electronic products. Our excessively packaged processed foods. Even our fresh produce, where berries are sold in plastic baskets, salad mixes are in sealed plastic bags and cucumbers are shrink-wrapped.

During different periods in history, people often become collectively aware of a deadly social, environmental or political issue that captivates society, propels a movement and transforms ordinary people into activists inspired to change the status quo – slavery, child labor laws, addiction, fascism, racism, nuclear proliferation, homophobia and global warming, for example. Ever since the Paris Agreement set out clear goals for participating nations to reduce carbon emissions, a new issue has been seeping into the collective consciousness and motivating individuals to change their behavior and governments to ensure that industries stop contributing to the problem. Plastic waste in our oceans, our landfills and even in the food and water we consume has become one of the most pressing issues of 2018. Stories about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch swirling in the Pacific, microplastics found in our bottled water and even a pilot whale that died near Thailand after swallowing 80 plastic bags have received an unprecedented amount of media coverage, considering that the issue is not at all a new one – it’s been around for almost seven decades now. Yet this year it has been galvanizing social change from schoolchildren, who recently participated in a plastic bag cleanup in their communities, up to governments, who are beginning to enforce a ban on disposable plastics such as bags, straws and cups, in the first stage of a cultural change that may eventually lead to bans or restrictions on other disposables such as water bottles or unnecessary packaging of foods and other manufactured products.

Today, to help us reflect and act on the United Nations’ World Environment Day with its #BeatPlasticPollution theme, here are a few massive NGO- and government-led initiatives announced in 2018.

The world’s first plastic-free supermarket aisle was unveiled in Amsterdam today as pressure to curb the world’s plastic binge and its devastating impact on the planet continues to grow. With nearly 700 plastic-free goods to select from at one of the branches of Ektoplaza, a Dutch supermarket chain, the aisle gives shoppers the opportunity to but their groceries in “new compostable bio-materials as well as traditional materials” such as glass, metal and cardboard. –  Feb 28, 2018, CNN World

The Ocean Cleanup …expects to bring 5,000 kilograms of plastic ashore per month with its first system. With a full fleet of systems deployed, it believes it can collect half of the plastic trash in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – around 40,000 metric tons – within five years. –  April 20, 2018, Fast Company

The UK is set to ban all sales of single-use plastics, including plastic straws and cotton swabs from the country as early as next year…plastic waste is one of the greatest environmental challenges the country faces. – April 25, 2018, Forbes

A year after Kenya announced the world’s toughest ban on plastic bags, and eight months after it was introduced, the authorities are claiming victory – so much so that other east African nations Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and South Sudan are considering following suit. – April 25, 2018, The Guardian

Vancouver will become the first major Canadian city to ban plastic drinking straws, as it reduces its reliance on disposable single-use items that end up in landfills or incinerators. The straw ban, which takes effect in the fall of next year, is part of a suite of waste-reducing policies adopted this week…” – May 17, 2018, The Globe and Mail

San Diego is considering a ban on polystyrene food containers that, if passed, would make it the largest California city to do so…More than 116 cities in California have banned the product over concerns about ocean pollution and marine life health, according to the Los Angeles Times. –  June 2, 2018, The Hill

On 30 May, Chile became the first South American country to approve a nationwide ban on single-use plastic bags, garnering congratulations from around the world for its efforts to beat plastic pollution ahead of World Environment Day on 5 June…The ban will come into force in one year’s time for major retailers and in two years’ time for smaller businesses. –  June 2, 2018, UN Environment

Find out what you can do on World Environment Day and beyond.

“If you can’t reuse it, refuse it.”

Malus Masculinum

InternationalWomensDay-resourcesOn International Women’s Day, March 8, 2019, I was reflecting on the concept of malus masculinum, or the “evil male.” Could it be that men are inherently corrupt in their nature, a “bad gender” that helps create babies but also terrorizes those women and children?

As a cis-male, I have been submerged in my own gender since birth as well as being mostly surrounded and influenced by women. How could I hate or mistreat the gender that treated me so lovingly — my grandmother, my aunt, my mother, my sister, my friend, my colleagues, my partner, my daughter? How could I become a malus masculinum and oppress these women? Or the other women who cross my life — friends, colleagues, even random women?

My father, now passed, truly enjoyed the company of women when he could flirt with and flatter them. If they enjoyed his company, he thrived on the attention from those women. Yet he was also emotionally manipulative towards the women who were closest to him, such as my mother, and he could become an icy knife when they didn’t please him.

I was, however, raised by my mother and maternal grandmother, and I grew up with a younger sister. Most feminists would remind me that my family experiences with women do not make me a feminist nor do they qualify me as an expert on women, but, truthfully, I have witnessed so much persecution and abuse of these precious women in my life that I can hardly think of “women’s issues” or “feminism” without a deep, emotional reference to memories of what they experienced or what they shared with me in confidence.

When I read news stories about rape, child abuse, murder, I find it horrific and repulsive…but then, the average person usually does. That’s not a valid measure of my empathy for women. A better measure can be found in my own awareness of women’s experiences and in their endless, day-to-day challenges — the doctor who tries to shame them by judging their sexual activity, the man on the bus who leers and them and feels free to say offensive sexual remarks, the boyfriend who tries to control who they talk to or associate with, the anonymous man online who suggests they are sluts, or the random driver on the road who screams at them “You f—-ing bitch!” because they weren’t driving fast enough for his liking.

An article I read recently addressed how most women must constantly be cautious and aware, wherever they go, check in with friends or family when they arrive home from a night out, or record details about a man they are meeting for business or social reasons in case he later turns out to be a harasser, abuser, stalker or even killer. Men don’t have to do that. We breeze through life never knowing what it’s like to have to be constantly fearful that the opposite gender may destroy your life psychologically and maybe even physically.

Men have been terrorists against women and girls. Not all men, but men are the chief offenders. I don’t even have to support this claim with statistics. Google even the most optimistic numbers and it’s still agonizingly clear that men have been terrorizing women and girls for centuries. And things should be better in the “enlightened” 21st century. But they’re not. There are pockets of decency in our world, in different places, during different periods, but the lives of women have not significantly improved at all, even though we may point to the feminist movement and to women in the workforce and in traditionally male professions. It’s still a frightening life for women and girls in this rape culture we live in. I have a young daughter, and every day I am aware that her life and her heart could be mutilated forever by the actions of men.

Women are taking action. Women are raising their voices more loudly than ever, and the #metoo movement was a brave and bold example of activism for women who decided they could be silent no longer. Many men supported #metoo and, realistically, many men in this world are not manipulators and abusers and rapists and killers. If we were all that way, the human race couldn’t have survived this long under such relentless gender tyranny. But the problem of cultural sexism and systematic violence against women cannot be solved by the women’s movement alone. A sea change has to transform the hearts and minds of men.

Here’s an observation. In the 21st century, there’s a growing cult of disaffected, disenfranchised heterosexual men, most of them in their youth, who have proudly labeled themselves “incels” (involuntary celibates). Their delusion is that they are decent, worthy men who have no relationships with women because most women are shallow and choose worthless male sexual partners who ultimately harm them. The “incels” are a paradox because they seem to desire women and yet they openly loathe women and attack them verbally and even physically.  Their mission doesn’t seem to be about convincing women to be with them but rather to “expose” women, label them hypocrites, and hurl abuse at them.  The majority of incels appear to be angry, bitter, immature men who are indiscriminately projecting their feelings of failure and frustration on the entire gender of women. If the “incel” movement could be plotted on a graph chart along with the rise of feminism in Western society, you would see that modern feminism predated it by at least 60 years or more. So why is this confederacy of malus masculinum only appearing now? Plot the rise of social media on the same graph chart and you’ll see the connection. Men who are disconnected not only from women but from other men as well, finding common ground with other isolated, delusional men only through the virtual threads of social media.

And it’s not only the “incels.” That would be letting the male gender off too easily. We’re all responsible for ourselves as a gender, and although it may feel distasteful to most men, we’re also responsible for the behavior of the child-men of the “incel” movement. We need to step up, man up, and speak up for women, and unite against fanatics such as “incels” as well as against extremists such as abusers and killers. And before we become too self-righteous when we stand against the ideological and pathological misogynists, let’s look at one another and also examine ourselves in the mirror to understand how our own behavior is affecting the women in our lives.

There’s no disgrace in being a man; the only disgrace is in allowing ourselves and other men to degrade our gender by oppressing our mothers, daughters, partners, friends, colleagues and neighbors.