Is Life After Death Legit?
Michael Newton (see Wikipedia) is a hypnotherapist, meaning his expertise as a therapist is hypnotizing people to help them recall and resolve hidden memories (childhood abuse, for instance) that are resurfacing as adult problems. As he developed a technique for leading people into deeper and deeper trance states, he discovered that with some particularly sensitive people he was able to get beyond their ego bodies and converse with their immortal souls through past life regression. (If you don't think you have an immortal soul that has reincarnated in numerous bodies, you might as well stop reading right now. If, however, you think you do have an immortal soul, why shouldn't it be able to speak for itself when your physical body is placed in a deep enough trance?) As he developed his technique further, instead of focusing on just past lifes he began asking them to describe the time between lifes - after death but before incarnating in a new body. Through thousands of such sessions over 30 years of work, he pieced together a view of the spirit world that is very specific and revealing.
New Age mumbo-jumbo
I don't generally pay much attention to people who relate near-death or past-life experiences because, frankly, it all sounds like New Age mumbo-jumbo to me. Near-death experiences (lights at the end of tunnels and such) are by definition NEAR death rather than the real thing, so any observations from someone who "came back" might be based on their physical body reacting to trauma. Past-life memories make a certain amount of sense to me since I believe in reincarnation, but they are also susceptible to current-life egos - like all those people who insist they were someone famous like Cleopatra.
This, however, is something different. IF Newton is telling the truth, thousands of people from very different spiritual backgrounds - from atheists to religious zealots - all give about the SAME DETAILS under deep hypnosis of what it is like in the spirit world. These details are far, far too specific to be explained as mere ego fantasies or coincidences, and since he claims to ask non-directive open-ended questions during hypnosis, the consistency of what he claims they report is startling. It is the CONSISTENCY OF DETAILS reported by thousands of very different clients that is most persuasive for me.
Fact or fraud?
Since his books include actual transcripts of hypnotherapy sessions where clients are reporting details regarding the spirit world, what it comes down to is that either these transcripts are real or he's just making the whole thing up. If this is all a hoax, it is an extremely elaborate one that he has somehow managed to carry on for decades. His books have sold well over half a million copies over the years, so critics have had plenty of time and reason to expose any fraud. Given the thousands of people he claims to have personally had sessions with since the 1970s, and given that he started a school, The Newton Institute, to train other hypnotherapists who have used his technique on thousands more people, it seems unlikely to me that he would be able to maintain such an elaborate hoax over such a long period of time without someone, somewhere, exposing any fraud. Although he certainly has his critics, I haven't been able to find anything that actually debunks his research claims. IF YOU CAN, PLEASE LET ME KNOW. Until that point, I'm inclined to put my SKEPTICISM (see below) aside and assume that the session transcripts he includes in his books really happened.
It - like - resonates with me, man!
There is an important qualifier: I suspect the spirit world is actually beyond human comprehension (why should the way it REALLY is be limited to what we can comprehend with human brains?), so I suspect any discussion of life after death relates to what REALLY happens in the same way that a kindergarten class in learning to count relates to advanced algebra. Given this limitation, however, this explanation is the first one I've heard that (as they say in California) resonates with me. Further, it seems quite compatible with what I consider to be the underlying assumptions of all peaceful world religions - being kind to others, practicing forgiveness, living a life of service, accepting consequences for decisions that hurt others, requesting spiritual guidance, believing the soul outlives the body, seeing spirit in all matter, striving toward the One, etc.
Leap of faith
Therefore, I'm willing to take the leap of faith and say that, despite some unanswered questions, this is what I believe. If you are interested in knowing what he has to say, a good place to start might be with this video, the first of several parts of an interview with him. If the interview appeals to you, you might want to read one of his books - particularly Journey of Souls or Destiny of Souls. They basically amount to transcripts from his hypno-therapy sessions, plus commentary by him. His third book is an instruction handbook for other hypnotherapists interested in learning his technique. Used copies of his books are readily available from places like www.Amazon.Com for under $10.
And there you have it.
Larry, November 2007
Postscript #1 - UPDATESHaving had several years now to explore Newton more fully, I am somewhat more convinced that he is telling the truth as he sees it. I have now read all of Newton's books, including Life Between Lives: Hypnotherapy for Spiritual Regression (basically an instruction manual for how experts already trained in hypnosis and therapy can use his technique), Memories of the Afterlife: Life Between Lives Stories of Personal Transformation (case studies contributed by therapists he has trained, edited by Newton), and the 2003 compilation of his short stories, Traveler's Tales. I was less thrilled by Memories of the Afterlife since some of the details seemed to contradict what he presented in his first two books. The basic concepts were the same, however, so - leap of faith again - I am willing to overlook the contradictory details as being the result of different hypnotherapists having their own styles (which he claims is the reason also). After all, he DID edit this, and he mentioned contradictions in the introduction. I'm not sure what to make of his 5th book, a compilation of his fictional short stories. Frankly, it bothers me to ponder that he is enamored with writing fiction.
Also, I talked with Rich Martini, a film producer who made a documentary of Newton's views of the afterlife, and he firmly believes that Newton's claims are all for real.
And finally - SKEPTICS - here is an question for you: Do you believe you can influence events (shape" reality) in your present life, whether through power of prayer, setting clear intentions, connecting with a higher power, sticking pins in a voodoo doll, or whatever? If not, never mind. If so, here is the question: What makes you think this ability to shape events doesn't also apply in the afterlife? If I can co-create my reality here, why not there as well? With that in mind, it doesn't make much difference to me whether or not Newton made all of this up. His vision of the afterlife sounds like the best thing my poor human brain can comprehend, so I'm focusing on creating it in as rich detail as possible. THIS is the afterlife I suspect most of us would want to experience. Even if it isn't like this for others, perhaps we can make it so for us.
Postcript #2: My SKEPTICISM is based on the following:1) He says he has a PhD (from where???), so Newton is very familiar with the rigors of academic research. As such, what's with the total lack of substantiation for his claims? If this isn't a hoax, his findings are monumental and deserve academic validation - independent reviews of session tapes, for example. If he can include transcripts in his books, he should be able to make the original tapes available for peer review. Anecdotal evidence is interesting for the casual reader, but doesn't really validate his claims.
2) As a former playwright myself who has struggled with writing dialogue, his transcripts don't sound at all realistic to me. Indeed, they all pretty much sound alike. Perhaps that's because the subjects are in deep hypnosis, or because at the soul-level we all sound alike, or because he has edited the transcripts to make them more readable without altering the actual content. Or, perhaps it's because he's making the transcripts up as he goes.
3) Hypnotism is hardly new - some say it has been commonly practiced by shamans and healers for thousands of years - so why is he the first person to tell us this specific information? Granted, he claims to have developed hypnosis techniques that allow him to go deeper into the trance state than normal, but even this doesn't sound all that unique. Given how exacting his information is, why haven't these very specific details found their way into numerous tribal mythologies across the globe? On the other hand, New Age enthusiasts insist that THIS is the most critical time in human history, and that we should expect spiritual messengers to be among us to lead us into the "new age" of our development.
4) In Chapter 5 of Journey of Souls, he gives the example of a hypnotherapy client who claimed he "experienced a recent series of male lives, culminating with a short life as a prosecuting attorney called Ross Feldon in the state of Oklahoma during the 1880s. As Ross, my client had committed suicide at age thirty-three in a hotel room by shooting himself in the head." A genealogy expert tried to verify this information and was unable to do so. See HERE for details.
5) The way he describes the spirit world sounds very convincing to me. Ironically, it is SO convincing that it makes me suspicious. If I were to create a hoax regarding the spirit world, his multi-tiered system of non-judgmental educational development is about how I would have designed it myself. In other words, I am suspicious of being seduced by a system that is so similar to what I would have created if I had been writing fiction. I realize this is a double-bind, but so be it.
Postscript #3 - REVIEWSHere are a couple of interesting REVIEWS I found on Amazon.Com from people who claim to have undergone hypnotherapy from either Newton or someone trained by him. Although plenty of reviewers disagreed with him (mostly because his research didn't fit with their belief system) I didn't find any that disputed the integrity of his claims.
Review #1 - It is the truth and he is legitimate, January 2, 2002
By Reviewer "draiguisge" (Seattle, WA)
I first read Journey of Souls a few years ago, and had the same feeling of resonance that many reviewers did. But I wasn't convinced and still wanted to know more. I wrote to a reviewer on this site who had visited him, and following her suggestion, wrote to Dr. Newton for an appointment. At the time, he had a three-year waiting list, and was seeing about 2-3 clients a week. I saw him just before Destiny of Souls was completed, and while I did not experience my memories with the same clarity the subjects in his book did, I can say with utter certainty that Dr. Newton is not making it up, and is not manipulating his readers.
From my conversations with him, I have found him to be very intelligent, caring, funny, and honest. My experience in hypnosis was a bit unsettling for me, as much as the skeptic in me wanted to dismiss the truths I had learned about myself, I could not attribute my memories to anything that I had seen in his books or elsewhere. Nor did he plant the ideas in my head. He is absolutely the stubborn investigator he describes in his books and challenged the things I said, questioned me during the session, compared to things I had said earlier to make sure I was still saying the same things. Then, at the end of the session told me where I had said something similar to his other clients that had not been in Journey of Souls (but is now in Destiny), such as my detailed explanation of the medallion worn by one of the "Council" members.
In retrospect, I think the most amazing thing about my session was my casual attitude - as I talked about "unbelievable" things like hybrid souls I might as well have been telling him "the sky is blue" with the nonchalant way I felt. In fact, a few times I did get frustrated with his questioning, the same way someone would if challenged with "No, the sky is GREEN". What I was saying felt then, as it does now, to be nothing but pure and simple truth.
For the further skeptical, my small claim to fame is that one of his "One of my clients said.." comments to illustrate a point about soul names was something I told him after my session. So I know that whenever he says a client said something, they did.
Review #2 - My Experience of Life Between Life, May 26, 2007
By Reviewer "miteyoak" (Sacramento, CA)
I read this book almost 10 years ago, and it totally made sense with the way that I had always believed. I signed up to be on the waiting list for a regression, and I received a letter stating there was an 18 month or so waiting list. I only lived about an hour away from Grass Valley. I never heard anything. Then, about 5 years ago, I had a life between life regression from somebody who was trained by Newton. I had always wondered if I would lose my will and hypnosis would make me cluck like a chicken or if they would plant suggestions, but it isn't like that at all. First, they relax you and then they will ask you a question about what you see. I really saw things -- not always as clear as if I was watching TV -- but, I was able to get images and information and feel real feelings -- it was a very real experience. And, there isn't any way that my conscious mind could have fabricated what I saw. The whole process was mind blowing, and yet it eased my mind. I really went before a council of elders, and the some of the issues I had then are still issues in this life. I wouldn't have been able to make the link at the time -- and even during the process. It is only now -- several years later -- that I can see the pattern and see its relevance. It is hard to process everything all at once.
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