Death is high on the list of what we dread most and is seldom discussed. Witness the number of best sellers about “visiting Heaven”. But we must wonder whether those readers were simply curious or seeking reassurance. Physical reality with which we grew up still challenges the unknown. Even details about souls and the spirit world revealed through hypnotic regression remain suspect.
But a relatively new scientific discipline has added surprising discoveries about the fetus that support the plausibility of souls. Of course, souls have been theorized generically even back to Plato. But their immaterial state makes them hard to study and define—and therefore scientifically deniable. Yet history has attributed a significant role to souls as part of our lives.
This new field is prenatal and perinatal psychology. Their new findings also suggest souls’ possible roles in subjective events like near-death experiences. For example, it is now known that the fetus has an uncanny awareness whether the mother considered abortion or the parents wanted a child of a different sex. This “awareness” also seems to allow the fetus to sense the mother’s mental state, disagreements between the mother and father, and other unsettling occurrences in the mother’s environment.
You might think that this naturally can happen because of the fetus and mother’s intimate circulatory relationship, allowing fetal sensitivity to changes in the mother’s levels of hormones like adrenaline. But immature development of the fetal brain would not permit it to recognize the causes of variations of these neurochemicals in the mother.
Discovery of fetal awareness began in the late twentieth century. Like many other psychoanalysts, California psychologist David Chamberlain used hypnotherapy to treat his adult patients for repressed early life trauma. But he was shocked when many of them provided spontaneous reports from hypnotically “being” in their mothers’ wombs. Also, psychologist Helen Wambach conducted hundreds of in utero hypnotic regressions of adult subjects with similar results.
From these and further research, two individual sensibilities were identified in the womb—one a visceral sensation and the other what Chamberlain called “a full spectrum of consciousness.” The former seemed to experience somatic feelings while the latter gave testimonies beyond the capability of an immature brain. Researchers Wendy Anne McCarty personally experienced both “selves” and Jenny Wade termed the advanced awareness to be a “transcendent source of consciousness” (TSC) that predates life and survives physical death. A footnote in her book acknowledges that she considers TSC to be a more academic term than soul.
You likely are familiar with the AWARE project—the most objective research project yet undertaken to validate out-of-body (OBE) visions, even in the non-sighted. These have been described by millions of near-death survivors, occurring preliminary to “visiting Heaven.”
Jenny Wade’s theory about the soul includes the belief that it joins with human consciousness for a lifetime. This provides a tantalizing clue that our souls—not our brains—mediate metaphysical experiences. In situations like cardiac arrest with cessation of heart, lung, and brain function, it makes sense that only the soul could facilitate near-death survivors’ “visits to Heaven.”
An obvious question is why we aren’t aware of our souls. A “veil of forgetfulness” has been described as descending during childhood, in concert with ego development, that prevents adult awareness of the soul. An online article “Teachings Concerning the Veil of Forgetfulness” provides religious references to the veil.
Therefore, for persons who feel that something is missing from their lives and for those seeking spirituality or “enlightenment,” our acknowledgment of our soul and a closer relationship with it may offer the opportunity for better and more meaningful lives.
A more detailed discussion of this information and a 150-item bibliography are provided in William Pillow’s book Spirituality Beyond Science and Religion, along with proposed implications of these conclusions for our lives on earth.
Chamberlain, David B. Babies Remember Birth: And Other Extraordinary Scientific Discoveries About the Mind and Personality of Your Newborn. Los Angeles, CA: Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc., 1988.
“Teachings Concerning the Veil of Forgetfulness.” http://emp.byui.edu/SATTERFIELDB/Quotes/Veil%20of%20Forgetfulness.htm
McCarty, Wendy Anne. Welcoming Consciousness: Supporting Babies’ Wholeness From the Beginning of Life. Santa Barbara, CA: Wondrous Beginnings, 2009.
Wade, Jenny. Change of Mind. Albany, NY:State of New York University Press, 1996.
———. 1998. “Physically Transcendent Awareness: A Comparison of the Phenomenology of Consciousness Before Birth and After Death.” Journal of Near-Death Studies 16:249-275.
Wambach, Helen. Life Before Life. New York, NY: Bantam Books, 1979.