Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

In this interesting book Titus Rivas, Anny Dirven, and Rudolf H. Smit address one of the most important aspects of near-death experiences (NDEs), veridical manifestations such as obtaining verifiable information during the experience.

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This interview is with the first author, Titus Rivas. He has masters degrees in psychology and in philosophy and is a freelance author who has published over 20 books, among them, Reincarnation: The Evidence is Building (with Dr. K.S. Rawat). Furthermore he has published many articles about psychical research, and other topics, such as animal rights and veganism.

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Titus Rivas

The Self Does not Die: Verified Paranormal Phenomena from Near-Death Experiences is available here.

Interview

Can you give us a brief summary of the book?

The book consists of a compilation of over 100 cases of near-death experiences with externally confirmed paranormal aspects. These concern ESP (clairvoyance and telepathy), encounters with known and unknown historical deceased persons, lucid consciousness that is not supported by sufficient cortical activity (according to the dominant materialist or physicalist paradigm), “miraculous” healings, perception by others of the NDEr while the latter is out of his or her body, and paranormal abilities (including psychokinesis) after the NDE. It also contains empirical, theoretical and philosophical analyses and a thorough evaluation of various arguments defended by “naturalistic” skeptics.  

It is a book in the tradition of early psychical reseachers such as Camille Flammarion, F.W.H. Myers, and Ernesto Bozzano, and we are also indebted to contemporary investigators such as the late Ian Stevenson, Mary Rose Barrington, and Erlendur Haraldsson.

What is your background in parapsychology, and with the topic of the book specifically?

My background is that of an experienced, independent psychical researcher and theorist with an ‘old-fashioned’ personalist/substance dualist ontology. I’m affiliated to several associations, including Athanasia Foundation, Network NDEs, and the Dutch SPR.

As far as I can remember, I have always been interested in parapsychology in its broadest sense, actually, from my childhood. I started writing my own articles about many paranormal phenomena in the 1980s. I’ve written several books about my work in the field, both alone and co-authored by Anny Dirven (1935-2016) and co-authored a book with Tilly Gerritsma, It’s Really Rather Normal. Another English treatise I wrote with my Indian friend Dr. Kirti Swaroop Rawat is Reincarnation: The Evidence is Building.

Two of my central parapsychological interests are survival research and personal evolution as outlined by Ian Stevenson, which encompasses topics like reincarnation, pre-existence, and longitudinal personal development over more than one lifetime. Obviously, the area of survival research prominently includes near-death experiences and this is the third book of mine that is largely devoted to this subject. The book was originally published in Dutch under the title Wat een stervend brein niet kan (What a Dying Brain Can’t Do), and its extended translated version was published by IANDS as The Self Does Not Die. The excellent translation project was undertaken by Wanda Boeke and there were three editors, Robert and Suzanne Mays and Jan Holden. Robert and Suzanne also played a very active role in the collection and investigation of new cases that were added to the original compilation. Jan Holden was also a great source of inspiration and information, because she is one of the leading experts on Apparently non-physical Veridical Perceptions (AVPs).

What motivated you to write this book?

Together with my co-authors Anny Dirven and Rudolf H. Smit, I wanted to present a collection of all strong cases of NDEs with paranormal aspects that are directly confirmed by a third party. I regard such cases as scientific or scholarly evidence rather than just so-called anecdotal material without any solid implications. By collecting all strong cases, including a few new ones that we directly investigated ourselves, we’ve tried to demonstrate that the evidence for paranormal phenomena linked to NDEs is very strong, and certainly cannot be explained away anymore.

Rudolf Smit has even written a whole chapter about the desperate attempts of pseudo-skeptics (or “debunkers”) to immunize their world view against this kind of evidence. They have done everything they could, but they’ve simply failed miserably. This means that materialism is not a serious theoretical option anymore for NDEs as a whole, and even deserves to be abandoned in all respects, something that had been concluded before by colleagues such as Charles Tart, and Chris Carter, and by the authors of Irreducible Mind.

We also tried to show that the evidence we collected, particularly concerning consciousness and veridical perception in NDEs during cardiac arrest, really leads the conclusion that there is an non-physical self that survives clinical death. It must be a personal self, which retains its consciousness, episodic and semantic memory, cognitive faculties, and psi abilities.

We indicate why extrapolation of this conclusion to the self’s condition after irreversible physical death is purely rational and parsimonious, and why alternative theories such as super-psi or living agent-psi are really less plausible in this particular case. We base this analysis both on cases of consciousness during cardiac arrest and on NDEs that involve paranormal encounters with deceased persons.

Why do you think your book is important and what do you hope to accomplish with it?

I think our book is important because –  in all modesty –  we have managed to reach our goals. The book is really compelling for anyone with an open mind. I hope that the The Self Does Not Die will reach many educated readers and that it will play an important part in serious future debates about features of NDEs that cannot be explained materialistically. I also hope it will give NDE research a sounder foundation, and help people to build a kinder, more hopeful, and liberal spiritual world view in an open, rational and tolerant spirit.

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