Netflix has launched a new docu-series based on the work of Leslie Kean, one of our own ConnectIONS Live speakers who was featured in our webinar “Consciousness After Death.” Inspired by Kean’s 2017 book Surviving Death: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for an Afterlife, the series explores what it means to die, and if death is actually the end of our existence. Weaving together innovative new research with firsthand accounts from those who’ve been close to — and even experienced — death, this series takes viewers on an extraordinary journey into a world beyond human existence as we know it.
From the emerald Elysian fields to pearly gates of heaven, humans have speculated about death throughout history. The conclusion has been much the same: There is an afterlife. How exciting to live in a time where scientific inquiry is propelling us in a similar direction. Take the phenomenon of near death experience (NDE), for example.
Raymond Moody coined the term “near death experience” in the book Life After Life, a bestseller that sold over 13 million copies. In it, he shares a dozen common motifs distilled from the firsthand accounts of people who experienced clinical death and were revived. However, as Terri Daniel pointed out in the IONS webinar with Kean, most NDE research has been conducted in the West where we have a distinctly Judeo-Christian lens.
According to Daniel, near death experiences are culturally influenced, with NDErs in the West more likely to encounter a being of light and NDErs in the East being more likely to encounter deity figures. This has sparked discussion within the scientific community. One argument is that if NDEs are culturally influenced, they must just be fantasies of a brain that cannot get enough oxygen. The counterargument is that when a person flatlines, there is no brain activity at all. In fact, when someone is oxygen deprived, they often become panicked and belligerent. NDEs are consistently calm and blissful experiences.
Perhaps the most compelling evidence that these experiences are not just the imaginings of a dying brain is that hundreds of NDErs were able to observe the events following their clinical deaths. Many were able to recount the exact words of their relatives — even if those relatives were in a different area of the hospital. One woman was able to describe the obscure surgical tools being used on her, much to her doctor’s astonishment.
Further evidence for our enduring consciousness can be found in stories of past life memories. In both the IONS webinar and the Surviving Death docu-series, Kean shares the story of James Leninger as one of the most convincing proofs for the survival of consciousness.
At a very young age, Leninger appeared to have memories of a past life that were later verified. He started having night terrors when he was just two years old, and his parents would wake up to him screaming “Airplane crash on fire, little man can’t get out.” Then, at three, he began drawing scenes of an airplane battle — and never anything else. He would sign these “James 3.” When asked why, he replied “because I’m the third James.”
As he got older and was better able to articulate himself, the story began to unfold. When his father asked where his plane came from, James said “the Natoma ship.” When asked if he had any friends on the ship, James said “Jack Larson.”
After much digging, his father was able to verify that the USS Natoma Bay CVE-62 was at the Battle of Iwo Jima. He even dug up the log books and found that Jack Larson had been the assistant armament officer on the ship. Finally, he went to a Natoma Bay reunion where he learned that during the Battle of Iwo Jima only one pilot from the squadron was killed during the operation: James M. Huston, Jr.
In other words, James Leninger was the “third” James.
While it is undoubtedly true that James Leninger had personal knowledge of James Huston, what cannot be ascertained is how he knew it. This has embroiled researchers in a debate about living psi hypothesis vs. survival hypothesis. Did Leninger receive this information about Huston through intuitive means, or did he come into the world with this knowledge because he is Huston reincarnated? The latter suggests that not only does our consciousness survive death, but it may carry the imprint of the lives we lived before.
Kean spoke about this topic in a panel discussion at our September 11th ConnectIONS Live webinar titled “Consciousness After Death.” In addition to Leslie Kean, the panel included Terri Daniel, CT, CCTP, and IONS Director of Research Helané Wahbeh, ND, MCR. All experts in different aspects of NDEs, Dr. Wahbeh shared preliminary results from an IONS research study that is assessing people’s beliefs about what survives after physical death. We have reopened our “Consciousness After Death” webinar until the end of March (after that, it will be available to paid members only).
So, what is it like to die? In an era where most of us would rather know than simply believe, we may yet find answers.
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