Interview with afterlife researcher and philosopher Titus Rivas (Part 2)

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Titus Rivas   (publicatiedatum: 7 July, 2014)


Interview by Jime Sayaka with Titus Rivas for his blog Subversive Thinking. Part 2.


This is the Second Part of the Interview by Jime Sayaka with Titus Rivas. Here is the First Part.

We can only really have an illusion if we are real (rather than illusory) conscious subjects or experients. It simply does not make sense to hold that a person only undergoes the illusion of his own conscious existence, seeing the presence of any real illusion shows that the conscious subject (or experient) experiencing the illusion must really exist as well. Similarly, the fact that a certain impression is illusory simply means that we get a wrong idea of what it stands for or refers to, not that the impression itself does not exist. Thus, illusions cannot be non-existent themselves, and neither can the subject undergoing an illusion be merely illusory. Instead, I'm convinced of the existence of a substantial personal soul, that is indivisible and cannot be explained on the basis of any divisible psychological or physical composition of elements.

There is a plurality of mental processes integrated into one's consciousness. As the reductionist philosopher Daniel Dennett rightly states, there is no single spot in the brain on which all the different neuronal information would be integrated. There is a conscious subject or "I" who sees, thinks, feels, wants, etc. all at once. 

This can only be explained by a substantial personal soul that is not composed by lower subconscious or non-conscious elements; as such a composition would never create the unity of consciousness. If it cannot be composed or created by other things, and it cannot be affected by the dissolution of any thing, including the brain or body, it cannot be destroyed by material processes and must therefore be immortal.

It is important to note that a personal self should be conceptually distinguished from its personality. A personality may be seen as an acquired pattern of psychological structures, attitudes and skills of a personal self. A personality is dynamic and changes over time, and in certain pathological cases a personal self may possess several personalities simultaneously though it can only be conscious in one personality at the time. Thus, changes of personality and even dissociation are fully compatible with the notion of a substantial personal self.

In my view, in the context of reincarnation we will expect certain changes of personality through the processes of death, rebirth and childhood, but this does not mean those changes imply a new or different personal self. We would remain ourselves just as much as we remain ourselves in the course of a single earthly lifetime.

Parallel lives

Some cases of hypnotic reincarnation research show an inconsistency between the year of death at the end of the previous life and birth in the present life. A subject would have been born in one life before he would have died in his previous incarnation. 

This problem is sometimes explained away through an exotic notion known as 'parallel lives'. According to this idea, someone could be incarnated on earth in many physical bodies simultaneously, because linear time as we experience it would just be an illusion.

However, the idea of previous life seems a typical ad hoc explanation and mainly serves the purpose of saving the value of certain cases collected during sessions of hypnotic regression or related techniques. No serious, unequivocal evidence for it has been found in spontaneous cases of the reincarnation type. 

Sometimes, a child seems to recall a previous life that ended shortly after he was born, but this usually occurs in countries where registration of birth and death is still not very accurate. Even if such (very rare) claims were substantiated they could be explained more easily by a form of 'permanent possession' of a child's body by another deceased personality after the child was born, than by real parallel incarnations.

Also, if linear time as we experience it, were simply a subjective illusion with absolutely no basis in physical reality, this would mean we could never causally interact with our physical bodies or even be causally affected by them. It would imply that we could have absolutely no reliable information about the physical world, because any linear causation in time would be an illusion, including the causation involved in the processes of normal sensory perception. All empirical evidence for the non-existence of time would have to be illusory as well, meaning that there even could be no evidence for this notion. So it seems that if we analyze this theory more closely, it turns out to be self-defeating.

Finally, it is important to realize that even if the idea of parallel lives were correct, we would still continue to have the illusion of a linear temporal order of lives. One life would still come after the previous life. Now, this would still confront us with the problem that, even if only within the realm of subjective illusions, one life could only begin after the former one has ended. Leaving aside precognition, it would still be impossible to subjectively experience the beginning of a new life before conscious existence in the previous life ended. The idea of parallel lives would not explain why – in the child's mind – his previous life ended before he was rebornr.

Binary Soul Doctrine

A rather recent, original addition to theorizing within the fields of survival and reincarnation research comes from Peter Novak who defends the so-called Binary Soul Doctrine (BSD). According to this theory personal mind would be composed of two distinct parts that may be identified as an individual conscious spirit and an unconscious soul. A person's conscious part or would reincarnate without recollections of its previous life, whereas the unconscious portion or soul would contain memories of one's past incarnation. Only if a person's mind is exceptionally well integrated it will become possible to consciously recall a previous life.

However, contrary to what Novak's theory predicts, children who remember previous lives had usually not been exceptional in terms of psychological integration before they were reborn. In fact, in some cases, they had habits that would conventionally be regarded as signs of a lack of psychological maturity, such as a drinking habit or drug addiction.

23-For the argument's sake, let's assume that reincarnation is a fact. According to your research, everybody is going to reincarnate? Or just some persons?

I'm not sure if everybody is going to reincarnate after we die. There are many traditions about a possible further evolution in another spiritual realm, and this seems a real possibility if one considers NDEs and prebirth experiences in young children. However, I'm fairly certain that everybody has reincarnated before this present life. The reason is that there is a general biological and neurological continuity between mankind and other species. I find it very difficult to believe that each of us started his or her journey through the physical realm as a human being. It seems much more plausible to assume that we all went through a long series of (other) animal incarnations before we became human. Due to the relatively long time that mankind has existed (around 200.000 years if I'm not mistaken or even longer) it also seems plausible that many of us will have had quite a few human incarnations before this life.

Of course, I cannot prove this. It is an extrapolation from information taken from reincarnation research and biological evolution. However, it seems obvious that there have been many more past lives than the approximately 3000 spontaneous cases collected so far. Due to sociocultural and religious reasons, many cases never get public and only a small number will reach serious investigators. In other words, it is very probable that cases of spontaneous memories of previous lives is a truly under-reported phenomenon. Then, even in most cases of young children who reall previous lives, lots of conscious memories fade away. For example, I've spoken to a Dutch girl of 9 who did not even recall having talked about her past life memories when she was a toddler. If it hadn't been for her parents, no one would (consciously) know about them now. This clearly shows that the absence of conscious memories does not at all imply the absence of past lives. 

24-In the literature on spiritualism, it is not clear if reincarnation is a fact or not. Mediums have provided different, conflicting information about reincarnation. What do you think about spiritualism and the reliability of the information coming from mediums in general?

I'm not a spiritualist in the religious sense and I don't feel attracted to channelled revelations. The main thing I can say about this is that many such revelations contradict each other. What this means is that rationally we cannot build a sound theory upon them. If anything, channelled information should be tested against scholarly data, rather than the other way round. 

Personally, I'm only interested in old-fashioned mediumship that concentrates on contacting the deceased, not in the channelling of supposed higher truths. For me, it is clear that reincarnation is the best explanation for paranormal Cases of the Reincarnation Type. I'm not impressed by authoritative claims from channelled entities (or anyone else for that matter) that it is not.

25-What do you think about ufology and the possibility that advanced aliens are visiting the Earth?

I think it is an exciting subject and a few years ago I even wrote a short Dutch paper about the so-called Ancient Astronauts theory. Most of the evidence may be faulty, and some downright fraudulent, but there might really be something in it. I would love to make a systematic study of the best evidence, for instance concerning topics like the Indian vimanas, the witnesses to the Roswell crash, possible abduction experiences, etc. I even would like to write a book about the best evidence in this area. It's one of my wishes for the future. 

In my world view, there certainly is room for such beings from outer space. I would find it  extremely shocking if they ever discovered that earth is really the only planet inhabited by animals (in the sense of incarnated spirits in a physical body) like ourselves. As stated before, I see mankind as an animal species, not as an 'absolute exception' of any kind.

26)What books or literature on philosophy, parapsycholgy and the afterlife would you recommend to the readers of this interview?

Here are a few suggestions (a complete list would be longer than the whole interview, so that if anyone reading this is not on the list, this does not mean very much):

Systematic philosophy and related areas:
-      Karl Popper and John C. Eccles: The Self and its Brain.
-      John Foster: The Immaterial Self.
-      David Lund: various books.
-      John Beloff: The Existence of Mind.
-      John Beloff and John Smythies (editors): The Case for Dualism.
-      New Dualism Archive (Ian Thompson):  http://www.newdualism.org/
-      Kelly et al.: Irreducible Mind
-   Books and articles by Mario Beauregard about a dualistic approach to neuroscience, such as the Spiritual Brain and Brain Wars.
-      Richard Swinburne and Antony Flew on the philosophy of religion.

Practical Philosophy:
-      Books on animal rights by Tom Regan and Gary Francione.
-      Website: http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/

Psychical Research (general):
-      Anything written by the late Dr. Ian Stevenson, including his book A World in a Grain of Sand, written with Mary Rose Barrington and Zofia Weaver.

      -   Books by Bob Coppes, Pim van Lommel, Sam Parnia
      -   Books by the late Archie Roy
      -   Books by Chris Carter
-      Mediumship and Survival written by Alan Gauld
-      Immortal Remains by Stephen E. Braude
-      At the hour of Death by Erlendur Haraldsson and Karlis Osis.
-      Older books by Camille Flammarion and Ernesto Bozzano
-      F.W.H. Myers: Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death.
-      William Barrett: Death-bed visions.
-      E.W. Cook, B. Greyson, & I. Stevenson, Do any Near-Death Experiences provide evidence for the survival of human personality after death? Relevant features and illustrative case reports. Article published in the Journal of Scientific Exploration in 1998.
-      The Handbook of Near-Death Experiences, edited by Janice Holden, et al.
-      Anything on veridical cases written by Jan Holden and others.
-      Books and articles about Near-Death Experiences by Penny Sartori, Michael B. Sabom, Melvin Morse, Maurice Rawlings, Kenneth Ring, Raymond Moody, Peter Fenwick, Jeffrey Long, Kevin Williams, and others.
-      Kim Sheridan: Animals and the Afterlife.
-      Books on After-Death Communications, for instance by Bill and Judy Guggenheim
-      Articles by Michael Nahm and Bruce Greyson about terminal lucidity
-      German Book by Michael Nahm: Wenn die Dunkelheit ein Ende findet.
-      General Website: http://www.survivalafterdeath.info/ -
Reincarnation Research: -
      -  German book by Dieter Hassler      
-  Books by Jenny Cockell      
-  Soul Survivor (about James Leininger)
-     All the volumes and articles published by Ian Stevenson
-      Articles by Erlendur Haraldsson, Antonia Mills, K.S. Rawat, and Satwant Pasricha.
-      Anything written by Dr. Jim Tucker. 
-      Reincarnation, e-book written by Dr. Kirti Swaroop Rawat and myself.
-      Website: http://www.childpastlives.org/ Prebirth Memories:
-      Toni Maguire: Memories of the Light.
-      S. Hinze: Coming from the Light.
-      E. Hallett: Stories of the Unborn Soul.
-      Neil and Elizabeth Carman: Cosmic Cradle.
      Website: http://www.prebirthexperience.com/

Here's a general link to English papers written on behalf of Athanasia Foundation:

Here's link to relevant papers on the Merkawah website by Rudolf H. Smit and others: 

27)Something else you would like to add to end the interview?

I must say I highly appreciate your efforts. You strike me as a sincere scholar even though we probably have quite considerable differences of opinion in the field of religion and values related to this. -

Thanks again for giving me this opportunity and best wishes for 2013!


Contact: titusrivas@hotmail.com