Research into Paranormal Experiences in Children

Geplaatst door

Titus Rivas   (publicatiedatum: 31 October, 2011)


Lecture about paranormal experiences of children, given by Titus Rivas as a guest lecturer, as part of Intuitive Intelligence, a course by Anouk Brack, at the University of Wageningen, the Netherlands, on December 5th 2006.


Research into Paranormal Experiences in Children

Hello everybody!

Anouk Brack has asked me to give a short overview of a subject that would fit in with her course here at the Leeuwenborch in Wageningen. I've decided to choose the subject of socalled paranormal experiences in relation to children. My background is that of a qualified theoretical psychologist and philosopher who has quite a lot of experience with doing his own parapsychological research for the so called Athanasia Foundation based in Nijmegen. I have also written many articles and several books about parapsychological and philosophical issues, including spirituality.br> I will first give a short overview of the subject. If there is enough time for it, I will show some relevant video images after the lecture and hopefully you will also have the opportunity to make some intelligent remarks, share your own experiences and ask questions. If you want to get in touch with me afterwards, this is also possible via the study guide or Anouk Brack.

Okay, so the topic of my contribution to the last day of Anouk's course is children and paranormal experiences. Both the worldview of children and paranormal experiences are things that from a mainstream materialist perspective are usually seen as unrealistic or even backward. This is -within this perspective- because children still need to develop their cognitive skills, so their ideas about life can only be immature and silly. Their outlook on life is literally childish and very underdeveloped as compared to the contemporary materialist scientific worldview. They suffer from such shortcomings as lack of experience, limited intellectual abilities, self-centredness and magical thinking as expressed in the silly notions of animals that can talk or of witches with magical powers.
So children are not exactly seen as the most suitable source of information about the nature or the structure of parts of reality, unless of course this information concerns their own childish world and their development. I'm not saying that mainstream scientists hate children, quite the contrary. Many of them are parents and they obviously love their own children and most developmental psychologists, child psychologists or pediatricians also have a sincere interest in their subject of expertise. In other words, the normal materialist view of children does not in itself imply a real contempt for them. Children may be seen as beings who have their own typical qualities and charm, and maybe even a particular kind of simple wisdom, but they certainly cannot teach us anything valuable about the nature and structure of life or reality in a scientific sense.

The mainstream view on the paranormal is even a lot less sympathetic in most cases. At best, paranormal or spiritual experiences are regarded as expressions of defensive psychological mechanisms. A tendency to believe in paranormal phenomena or a spiritual dimension to life may be beneficial in a psychological sense in that it protects people from negative thoughts and expectations, comforts them in times of hardship and strengthens their love for life. This is a widespread psychological theory of the origins of spirituality and several neuropsychologists are even trying to trace specific areas in the brain that would supposedly cause the whole spectrum of paranormal and spiritual experiences.

Other mainstream scientists regard paranormal experiences as a sign not of mental health but of the exact opposite, namely of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. Paranormal experiences would typically amount to hallucinations or delusions. This very negative view actually has quite an impact on society because it discourages lots of people to talk about such experiences as telepathic dreams, near-death experiences or poltergeist disturbances, because they simply and often rightly are afraid to be branded as freaks or psychiatric cases.

Apart from this, there are also some psychologists who consider paranormal experiences as normal psychological phenomena based on innocent cognitive errors. Rather than psychiatric hallucinations or delusions, many paranormal experiences would boil down to rather common illusions or quite ordinary mistakes in logical thinking. For instance, a common reason why many people mistake an ordinary dream for a real premonition is that they underrate the probability that certain events will take place. For example, someone dreaming about an earthquake, would easily make the mistake of linking this dream to specific earthquake anywhere in the world, whereas in fact on a global scale earthquakes would be a lot more common than many people usually realise.

Now, I've given a very rough sketch what socalled alternative scholars like myself regard as mainstream or orthodox science. Many people identify rationality and a scholarly atttitude with a materialist world view. However, the philosophical or ontological underpinnings of such a materialist world view are far from rational. For one thing, many materialists simply deny the existence of an irreducible consciousness or subjective awareness and its qualitative dimensions. This is not exactly very rational I would say, because we can only know the physical world through our own conscious awareness. So if you deny the existence of your own subjective consciousness, logically speaking you must also deny our only source of knowledge of reality as a whole. In practice, no physical scientist can ignore his or her own consciousness during the collection, registration or analysis of scientific data. Hardly any scientist would like to be seen as a mindless biological computer without conscious thoughts, not even most materialists!

Fortunately, there are several types of scholars who do acknowledge the existence of consciousness and wish to explore its nature and interaction with physical and biological reality. Some of them stay quite close to mainstream materialist science. For example, linguist Ray Jackendoff of the Massachussetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recognises the reality of subjective and qualitative experiences and their irreducibility to purely physical processes in the brain. However, these scholars deny the causal impact of consciousness upon the brain. They regard consciousness as a powerless by- or endproduct (a so called 'epiphenomenon') of physiology. Jackendoff calls this central claim of his framework the thesis of the Non-Efficacy of Consciousness.

Others dare take a more controversial position. For instance, they challenge the orthodox doctrine of a closed physical universe which would not allow any impact of the conscious mind.
br> These scholars do not understand the apparent ease with which those who deny the causal efficacy of consciousness accept the theory that consciousness is completely produced by brain processes and never the other way around, which really represents a very strange inconsistency.
Accepting the causal impact of consciousness on the body or matter in general is an integral part of several controversial or alternative scientific programs. Within physics, it is represented by quantum physicists who believe that consciousness plays a substantial role in the materialisation of certain specific possibilities rather than others in the manifestation of the physical world. Some go as far as claiming that the physical world really depends on consciousness for its very existence, a position that is close to the philosophical system of idealism.

Within biology, there is Rupert Sheldrake, who believes in special socalled morphogenetic fields that would be responsible for major biological processes like embryonic and foetal development.

Then, of course, there is parapsychology also known as psychical research, which generally investigates all possible aspects or actions of the mind or consciousness that do not fit in with the materialist world view. For this reason alone rather than because of its supposedly faulty methodology, parapsychology is approached by many as little more than a pseudo-science. Asking a scientist if he or she is willing to give parapsychology a fair chance of proving its worth is a good way of testing his or her open mind towards heterodox views within the scientific community. In other words, towards theoretical and ontological pluralism.

Parapsychology comprises many specific subjects of research and I will give a few examples of the main parapsychological fields of enquiry. Please note that in this context the word 'paranormal' is synonomous to 'parapsychological'. So it is not simply another word for 'mysterious', 'hallucinatory', 'spooky', or 'deceitful', let alone for 'psychiatric' or 'stupid'.

One of the main fields of parapsychological research concerns the capacity of the mind of obtaining and sharing information via extrasensory means, i.e. without using any of the known physical senses. This phenomenon is also known as Extrasensory Perception or ESP, but this does not only concern perception but also paranormal communication.
There are two main subtypes of this ability, namely telepathy and clairvoyance. Telepathy is the direct and unmediated communication or exchange of information between two minds. Clairvoyance amounts to the extrasensory collection of data about physical objects or events. Both telepathy and clairvoyance may seem to manifest outside the normal sequence of linear time. There is precognition or foreknowledge of future events and retrocognition or paranormal knowledge of the past. All of these phenomena are well documented in their spontaneous forms and there is also a lot of experimental evidence for their existence, through both qualitative and quantitative experiments.

It is known that some individuals show a gift or talent for ESP. These are the socalled psychics, clairvoyants or paragnosts (paragnosten) as they are usually known within the Dutch parapsychological tradition. In the United States they are also known as mediums, whereas in Europe this term is usually reserved for people who are able to communicate with the dead.
Recently, the reality of psychics was demonstrated once again by the publication of an extensive and serious books on the feats of the Polish star clairvoyant Stephan Ossowiecki. This is important to note, because some parapsychologists do believe in ESP but not in a special gift for ESP.
br> They believe the study of psychics does not belong to serious parapsychology, but I personally think they are quite simply wrong about this.

Now, it is also known that many psychics manifest their abilities at an early age, when they are still children. It depends on the specific cultural context just how such children are generally approached by their social environment. In a conventional religious context, children with paranormal abilities may be seen as especially blessed by a divinity, but also as shameless liers, and even as possessed by a demon. In a largely autobiographical film about the well known American psychic James van Praagh, this is shown rather graphically. Van Praagh really gets punished when he tells what he can see clairvoyantly.

In general, most Western children with a special gift for ESP nowadays encounter skepticism and disbelief and they are encouraged to remain silent about their paranormal experiences.
Some of these gifted children try to suppress their clairvoyant gift because of the negative response they get from their environment. I personally know a clairvoyant woman in her seventies who was continually told to shut up about her impressions. According to her family, she would simply be too arrogant and claim knowledge she could not possess. Due to these reactions, she did indeed hide her gift for years.

Spontaneous paranormal experiences with ESP in young children may be especially convincing from a scientific point of view, because they often lack the cultural knowledge to be able to distinguish between the paranormal and the normal and this may make them more open towards paranormal phenomena than older children or adults.

Therefore, it is always worthwile to lend an ear to children who might have had real paranormal experiences with telepathy or clairvoyance. Ironically, such children might teach experienced scientists a lot about the real extrasensory informational capacities of the human mind.

In terms of research, average school children in the Netherlands have participated in quantitative experiments that make it possible to establish if they scored above chance, which they did. In they 1980s, Ernesto Spinelli found that children between 3 and 8 in the United Kingdom reached significant scores in such experiments, while control groups of older children and adults did not.

Even more interesting however is the study of special gifted children. A common concept in this context is that of the socalled Indigo, Rainbow or Crystal Children or in Dutch Nieuwetijdskinderen. Such terms are not completely synonymous, but I even would have to look up the subtle differences.
In general, these are children who according to some authors would announce the coming of a new, more spiritual age for Western civilization. We are talking about particularly sensitive children who often may show a whole range of paranormal experinces, apart from special creative intellectual or social gifts. In some respects they may seem more mature or intuitive and more aware of ethical or relational issues than even the adults in their environment. For people who believe in reincarnation they may be reincarnated old souls of a high spiritual level.
Also, Indigo children typically do not fit in the mainstream educational system and often dislike the dominant values of contemporary Western society. I mean even to a greater extent than average children may tend to do.

I've personally studied a few Indigo children myself, notably three boys who were involved in a Dutch documentary. I have no doubt that there really is a pattern involved and I also believe that such children probably have more paranormal experiences with ESP than average.
For example, some Indigo children regularly have precognitive dreams about future events that later come true or they are able to read another person's mind.

Now, some caution about the whole concept of Indigo children is certainly necessary. For intance, not all highly sensitive children also show paranormal talents. In this respect the notion of an Indigo child may sometimes act as an alternative counterpart to fashionable psychiatric labels in mainstream circles.

Also, it is quite questionable whether Indigo children really constitute a new phenomenon in the West. There may well always have been highly sensitive children with paranormal talents and it may not be a new thing at all. If so, the main thing that seems to have changed is the heightened general awareness in Western society of children with special paranormal gifts, rather than their very occurrence as such.

As I said before, many children in the West may encounter hostility if they show a special paranormal gift. This becomes particularly painful if the hostility comes from informed scientists who claim that they are open-minded parapsychologists. A notorious British example is psychologist Richard Wiseman who systematically tries to 'debunk' or discount any type of paranormal phenomenon and personally does not believe in any of them. Quite recently he lured a well known Russian teenager, Natasha Demkina, into believing that he was an open minded expert of the paranormal so that she agreed to do some experiments with him and his skeptical crew. These experiments were filmed and broadcast in popular documentaries. Natasha had to diagnose the health condition of several persons whom she did not know.
Demkina claims to have first noticed her gift at the age of ten. She says about this: "I was at home with my mother and suddenly I had a vision. I could see inside my mother's body and I started telling her about the organs I could see. Now, I have to switch from my regular vision to what I call medical vision. For a fraction of a second, I see a colorful picture inside the person and then I start to analyse it."
During the experiments, she succeeded in doing so well above chance, but Wiseman had put his standards so high that he rejected her abilities. She was not given a second chance and was very disappointed by the unfair way she was treated. It is a nasty example of how certain orthodox scientists may pose as real parapsychologists with the sole aim of discrediting real paranormal gifts. Not only do they block real progress in parapsychology, but they also hurt the feelings of the subject in question. So this is not only a question of bad science but also of faulty ethical standards.

Okay, now we shall proceed to three special phenomena that are related to Extrasensory Perception.
First of all, some people may clairvoyantly perceive the apparition of a deceased person or animal. Often, this will concern an individual they knew during his lifetime. If the apparition does not provide any new information it is in principle possible to discount the experience as a projection of a special need, for example as part of a mourning process. However, there are also cases in which the apparitional individual was unknown to the person who was seeing it and in which the identity of the individual could be established on the basis of striking features of its appearance. Also, some apparitions concern people known to the person who sees them, but they supply new verifiable information for example about the location of old documents or a hidden testament.

One of the best paranormal movies of the past decade is The Sixth Sense and one of its main characteristics is a boy who sees spirits of the dead. I have personally investigated such a boy in the Netherlands, called Danny, and I have no reason to doubt his ability to see real apparitions.
Danny had a really hard time because of the way he was treated by his peers who called him names and ridiculed him for his abilities. Now that he is in his teens he's decided to freeze his abilities and concentrate on more earthly things until he will be tough enough to face society's prejudices.
One of Danny's paranormal perceptions of an apparition concerned the mother of his stepfather. He had never seen her during her life time on earth but recognised her afterwards on a photograph, though he claims she looked younger in the apparition, more in her thirties than like the elderly woman she was when she died. His stepfather's mother told him about relevant concerns she had and about which Danny had known nothing via normal channels of information.

Children who see or hear spirits of the dead should be taken a lot more seriously than they usually are. Very often, they do not suffer from psychiatric diseases, though some of them may have a condition known as dissociation or multiple personality. Usually due to some psychological trauma some of them may see projections of their mind and mistake these for real external spirits. I have personally studied two cases of this type. One of them concerned a thirteen year old girl who claimed the she was seeing the spirit of an 19th Century inhabitant of Utrecht who first told her about her family and living conditions in one of the city's ancient bulwarks known as the Manenburg. However, later on the spirit developed into a nasty dominant being that tried to take over the girl's life and even tried to inspire her to commit suicide. There were several reasons to believe that the spirit was really a problematic dissociative part of the girl's mind. For example, there was no paranormal information about the 19th Century involved and some important statements the spirit had made were shown to be historically wrong.

In other words, there probably are two main categories in children's experiences with spirits. There are psychological cases in which the spirits seem to be a peculiar expression of the child's own subconscious mind and there are real parapsychological cases in which the child seems to be in touch with an external spiritual being.

Similarly, some gifted children may see angelic or higher beings. Sometimes, these beings may help or guide them. I believe that many of these experiences will genuinely amount to contact with such entities. For instance, some children claim they were miraculously saved by an angel during a traffic that would normally have been fatal for them. They may say things like: I was nearly killed by the car, but the angel came and lifted its tires so that it would not crush me.

Yet another thing that children may claim to see is an aura or astral body made of a kind of life force or vital energy that surrounds and permeats the physical body. I have spoken to several children who have seen such a subtle body ever since they can recall. What is very remarkable about these experiences is that the children in question had very often never heard about the very concept of auras or an energy body, because their parents simply did not believe in them. It is even more remarkable if their statements about the subtle body match the observations of adult psychics. For this reason, my own Athanasia Foundation in cooperation with the Dutch Foundation for Spiritual Development has started an investigation into children who claim to perceive a subtle body or aura.
We use an online survey for this and encourage respondents to contact us personally to share their experiences more in detail.

A following major field within parapsychology or psychical research is the study of the causal impact of the mind or consciousness on the physical world. In parapsychological terminology this is usually called psychokinesis, literally the movement of physical processes by the psyche or soul. Psychokinesis is often abbreviated to PK.
Many psychical researchers, including myself, regard everyday psychomotoric actions like talking, walking, eating, writing or typing as examples of psychokinesis in that the body is controlled by mental intentions or voluntary acts. Nevertheless the word is usually reserved for special extraordinary forms of the causal impact of the mind, such as the movement of objects by pure mind power, the paranormal creation of images on the skin, or the paranormal healing of physical diseases.

Again, there is a lot of good evidence for psychokinesis, both from spontaneous experiences and from qualitative and quantitative experimental investigations. Also in this case there are persons with a special gift or talent for PK or paranormal healing and this gift may also manifest at an early age, during childhood or puberty. Children may find out spontaneously that they have a special impact on their physical environment. In the 1970's there was a lot of attention in the media for the claimed psychokinetic abilities of the Israeli paranormal star Uri Geller. He gave many demonstrations of his possible gift on television, supposedly being mental objects such as spoons and forks by sheer mind power or stopping or repairing watches. Although his performances have always remained very controversial, even among many parapsychologists, there is also serious experimental evidence that his gift is indeed real. Geller also seemed to cause a so-called Geller-effect in others who had seen his shows. I personally recall that when I was a child many of my peers had seen Geller's shows and some of them claimed that strange things had happened at their homes.

Some children claimed they had a special gift similar to that of Uri Geller and they became by an Italian term, Gellerini, or little Gellers. Some of these Gellerini succumbed to the pressure of performing well under experimental conditions and were caught cheating. However, there is evidence for a real effect as well. There are examples of British and Japanese subjects who performed without cheating They succeeded in bending metal by mental concentration in ways that were inexplicable by known physical mechanisms. Of course, these children were ridiculed in the press and hardly anyone even recalls they ever existed. The problem with so called macro-PK is that many people find it so unbelievable that they simply tend to ignore it.

Yet another topic related to psychokinesis is that of so called poltergeist phenomena. This word is usually linked to sensationalist horror movies but in reality, poltergeit is one of the best demonstrated forms of PK. It is also known as Recurrent Spontaneous Psychokinesis or RSPK.
It consists of all kinds of strange outbursts of physical events that seem to be driven by a problematic mind and inexplicable by purely material causes. Examples are strange noises, knocking sounds on walls, floors or doors, showers of stones or other material, objects that disappear or reappair for no apparent normal reason, strange and unexplained electric or electronic disturbances, etc. Although maybe not as sensational as they are depicted in horror movies, from a parapsychological point of view they certainly do constitute a rich natural source of information about psychokinetic phenomena. There are two main parapsychological factors that may be involved in the onset of poltergeist, namely the projection of problems of a living agent, often though not always a teenager, and the manifestation of an earthbound spirit of a deceased personality.
There is good evidence for both these theories and it seems that poltergeist really involves two similar, but distinct phenomena.

In many poltergeist cases centered around a living person and cases of haunted houses children and teenagers may play an important role. For instance, the poltergeist activity is often centered in a teenager or adolescent, and in haunted houses the earthbound may appear to a child living in the house. I have investigated a case of a boy who claimed he could see the spirit of a girl who used to live in his house long before his family moved to live in it. Although the details are unverifiable, they struck me as quite realistic for the period in question.
Some psychic children seem to trigger poltergeist activity as part of their paranormal development. A good example is the British psychic Matthew Manning who had later become a well-known English healer.

A phenomenon clearly related to apparitions and poltergeist or haunted houses is demoniacal possession. In fact, poltergeist is an old German word for a demon who likes to knock on walls (or polter). There is little or no good evidence for real demons, although some parapsychologists certainly disagree with me on this point. Nonetheless, cases of demoniacal possession often involve children or teenagers and include paranormal characteristics such as psychokinetic effects related to poltergeist activity and clairvoyant or precognitive visions.

Now we reach a very exciting field of study, the investigation of spontaneous cases of children who claim to recall a previous life.

Typically, a case involves a young child, who over the course of several years claims that he or she has lived before; these claims starting between ages 2 and 4. The claims are usually accompanied by emotions and strong desires concerning the possible past incarnation and in some cases there are very concrete statements that enable researchers to link the child’s story to a specific deceased person. This process is known as the verification of the child’s statements, and if it succeeds to a reasonable degree the case is designated as "solved". If the matches between what a child claims about his previous life and a historical deceased person are too great to be satisfactorily explained by coincidence, there seem to be two possible interpretations. Either the child would have picked up normal bits of information about the personality of his presumed previous life, or there must be a paranormal or anomalous process involved, a phenomenon that cannot be reconciled with the mainstream scholarly outlook on the human condition. The latter explanation is especially relevant for cases in which the child claims to recall a past life of a person who was a complete stranger to his present family, although some same-family cases also seem to involve paranormal details.

An example of a probably paranormal or anomalous case is that of Sunita Khandelwal born in Laxmangarh, India. When Sunita was about two she first began to speak of a previous life. She asked her family to take her to Kota, a place located at some 475 km from the town of Laxmangarh. She told them that she had two brothers and no sister, and that her family owned a silver shop and a safe. Her family also owned a car and a scooter, and her mother had many saris (i.e. Indian dresses). She had a tau (which is a paternal uncle older than her father) but no chacha (meaning a paternal uncle younger than her father). She said that the river Chambal is at Kota. She added that she had fallen down “from a small height”. She also pointed to the birthmark on her head saying: “Look here. I have fallen.”

Her parents ignored Sunita’s pleas to be taken to Kota and showed a lack of interest in verifying their daughter’s statements by taking no action. By the time she was three she was refusing to eat unless she was taken to Kota, and she became so malnourished that they took her to a hospital. Sunita continued to utter specific statements about her previous life.

Only when Sunita was already about five years old, was a summary of her statements sent to Dr. Banerjee, an Indian researcher living in Jaipur who came to Laxmangarh and established a comfortable rapport with Sunita.
Her mother told Banerjee: “Sunita is always telling me that I am not her real mother and continually pleads with her father and me to take her to Kota and threatens that if we don’t take her soon she will fall from the roof and die as she did in her former life.”

Banerjee was told by Sunita that her father used to take her out on a scooter, and many times he would go to his big iron safe in his store where he kept the silver coins. She used to drink a lot of milk in her previous life and her parents took her every year to a fair near their home in Kota. When she lived in Kota her mother made a special drink by crushing some tangerines into juice, then adding pieces of tangerine into a pot of melted sugar together with some spices. In Laxmangarh this drink is virtually unknown.
The family was finally persuaded to go to Kota and Sunita became exuberant. When they had almost reached Kota, Sunita was visibly excited looking out of the window of the bus.
In Kota, Banerjee decided to test Sunita to see if she could choose the correct road. Whitout hesitating, she started to walk on the road that led towards Chauth Mata ka Bazar. She paused before a store full of silver ornaments. Someone introduced Banerjee to the shop owner, whose name was Prabhu Dayal Maheshwari and Banerjee told him the details of Sunita’s claims to a previous life in Kota.

It turned out that Prabhu Dayal had had a daughter, Shakuntala, who died at the age of seven and ten months after falling from an iron balcony at his home. He also confirmed that he had two older sons, and that Shakuntala had been extremely fond of milk and on many occasions she had watched her mother prepare the special tangerine drink for religious ceremonies and the sweet made from solidified milk mixed with cantaloupe seeds.

He further confirmed that his wife had many saris and that he kept many silver coins in a big iron safe in his silver shop. He also used to take Shakuntala for rides on his scooter and every year he took her to a fair called Dol Geras held near his home. After some confusion on Sunita’s path to her former home, she led the party to an iron rod gate and said: “This is the door of my house”, which was confirmed by Shakuntala’s father.

Inside the house she could not identify her brothers or even her mother from the previous life. She did however point at a photograph of Shakuntala and said: “This is my photograph.” She also stated that there was one more house next door also belonging to the family, which was correct.
In order to give Sunita an opportunity to recognize objects from her previous life, Banerjee took her around the house. When they reached a balcony, she clutched him tightly in fear and said: “I’m afraid I might fall down.”

Shakuntala’s mother told Banerjee: “It is from this balcony that my late daughter Shakuntala fell head-first. She died eight days later of a brain hemorrhage.” Banerjee also discovered a large birthmark on the right side of her head that looks like the mark of a healed wound. It is located exactly where Shakuntala received her injury when she fell from the balcony of her parents’ home.

All in all, Sunita made 34 statements about her previous life, of which only 2 were incorrect and 3 remained unverified. The first incorrect statement was that the family owned a car, which they did not. The second was that her father applied “mehandi” (henna) to her hands, a red dye sometimes used in a healing ritual. Not her father but her mother applied “mehandi” to both of Shakuntala’s hands, which is a fairly common practice in India.

Sunita was entirely comfortable and relaxed at Shakuntala’s home in Kota. Her Hindi seemed to have more English words than that of other members of the family. This corresponds to the fact that Shakuntala’s family was more well-to-do and therefore used more English loan words chiefly describing objects invented and developed in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The two families in this case had never met before the case had developed. Although Prabhu Dayal had previously known Sunita’s maternal uncle Radhey Shyam, a jeweler, he had never been to his house before.

The birthmark on Sunita’s head is approximately round in shape with irregular edges and about 2.5 cms in diameter. Oddly, it was bleeding when she was born; the bleeding only stopped after three days.

Also, there are children with memories of a spiritual pre-existence before they were born or incarnated in their present bodies. For example, Sunita Khandelwal whom I just mentioned before stated about the period between death and rebirth: “I went up. There was a baba (a holy man) with a long beard. They checked my record and said: 'Send her back.'
She added: "There are some rooms there. I have seen God’s house. It’s very nice. You do not know everything that is there.” On another occasion Sunita remarked: “When I fell from a small height, I got a mark, but when I was thrown down from the great height [meaning from God’s house] I got no mark.”

Our team of Athanasia Foundation also studied a few cases of prebirth memories in the Netherlands, such as that of Sietske who told her mother crying that she had dreamed about sitting on the back of a motorcycle and being run over by a truck. She was put in a "bag" in the back of a car, and afterwards she was put in a "box". Finally she was buried in the "garden".

Another example is that of Kees, a Dutch boy to his mother that when you die, an angel comes to take you to God, who was pure “goodness”, the “Big Light” and “humour.” It was very difficult to describe the other world. Kees said it did not fit on any slide image and could not be drawn with crayons. He added that he had had his own spot near a beautiful blue waterfall, which streamed over and under a flower-bed, and there were wonderful fruits hanging from the trees nearby, which tasted better than all the Mars bars and candy of the world taken together. Kees had not felt like reincarnating and resisted the angels who tried to convince him that it would be for his own good. They practically pushed him – though they did so lovingly - back to earth, as it was time for him to get to work again. The angels told him: “You know, when you go to earth, you will be accompanied by assistants.” He would be protected after he returned. The “Big Light” told him: "Leading a good life is your own responsibility."

Prebirth memories resemble a next category of paranormal experiences in young children I would like to mention today, namely paranormal Near-Death Experiences. Children who have never heard of it before may have classical Near-Death Experiences including such features as going through a dark tunnel and seeing a bright beautiful light. They may also encounter deceased loved ones or angelic beings and sometimes they recognise dead relatives on photographs who died before they were born.
They may also perceive their physical environment while their brains show a flat EEG.
It is very important that children with Near-Death Experiences meet a lot of sympathy and approval of their experience, because they typically feel very rejected if these impressive, transforming experiences are simply dismissed as hallucinations.

Near-Death Experiences may profoundly transform children for life and they may posses paranormal abilities after their experience.

Finally, I should mention that some children spontaneously claim they can leave their bodies at will. On their journeys, they may see this physical world but also other spiritual dimensions.

Apart from paranormal experiences of children themselves, other people may get paranormal impressions concerning children too. These may involve telepathic communication between parents and their children, and also socalled announcing dreams with information about the historical background of a child in terms of a past life before the child is born.

Some parents also claim they are able to tune in to their unborn child's or baby's mind and there is even a so-called 'baby whisperer' around, Derek Ogilvie, who does seem to get remarkable results.

Most of the phenomena we have discussed today are not unique for children or teenagers. I mean that they may also occur among adults. Still, very often children are an exceptionally good source of information, because of their open mind and lack of judgmental rejection of the paranormal and also because of their naiveté concerning common concepts about the way it works.
Besides, some phenomena are a lot more common among children, such as spontaneous memories of previous lives and of a spiritual pre-existence. Although children are known for their rich and creative imagination, we cannot simply dismiss their paranormal experiences on this ground alone. If we wish to remain open-minded towards a spiritual dimension to life, we'd better start listening more closely to what children have to say.
Apart from this, it is very important to protect children from negative responses in their direct social environment. This can only be done by normalising the occurrence of paranormal experiences among children and stressing that they usually are not related to any psychological or psychiatric disorders.
Finally, the spiritual outlook on children has consequences we conceive of them as human beings. If we accept the reality of paranormal abilities, of reincarnation and spiritual pre-existence, all children may have a hidden treasure of experiences and insights from past lives and from a spiritual realm. In general, these children show us that we are primarily spiritual beings with an organical body rather than biological robots with a powerless and utterly unimportant conscious mind.

I will show you a few relevant fragments of videos and you may ask me some questions afterwards.
Here we go.

Now are there any questions?

Thanks a lot for your kind attention and good luck!

Titus Rivas

This lecture was given by Titus Rivas as a guest lecturer, as part of Intuitive Intelligence, a course by Anouk Brack, at the University of Wageningen, the Netherlands, on December 5th 2006.