April 6, 2023

Contra Reincarnation: Part II

Summer, 1976, our nation’s bicentennial. I am sitting outside my house, enjoying the warmth of the sun on my face, reading through a new journal on psychical research. I come across a review of a new book. Reading that review will cause an upheaval in my life. It will never be the same.

It's a review of a recently published book put out by a little Georgia publishing house of which I have never heard. The book reviewed is by a young psychiatrist named Raymond Moody, Jr.  It is called Life After Life. The review is by someone I also don’t know. His name is Michael Grosso. He will also change my life.

After I began my work on NDEs and helped to found IANDS, the International Association for Near-Death Studies, I made contact with Michael. I actually don’t remember how or when we met, and he had only a peripheral relationship to IANDS, but not to me, as it turned out. He would soon become one of my best and most valued friends.

At that time, he was a professor teaching at a college in New Jersey, but often came to New York where I would meet him. I had to be in New York in those days to meet with my publisher and my other New York friends, and Michael had his own reasons to visit the city frequently.

Michael had received his Ph.D. at Columbia in philosophy, but he had wide-ranging humanistic interests. He was a deep student of psychical research, he was a painter, he played the flute, and he was an exceptionally gifted writer and wonderful conversationalist. I have since read quite a few of his books, and always admired his stylish writing and envied his impressive erudition. I have joked that if I were ever to reincarnate, I would like to come back as Michael Grosso. I just loved the guy.

But apart from our shared interests in psychical research and near-death studies, we had a warm personal connection, too, talking about our amatory life (I learned the word, “amatory” from him, too) with our various girlfriends in those years. Michael was a very handsome man then and it was easy to see why he would be so attractive to women, but not just because of his looks. He was witty, charming and soigné.

Although he was a few years younger than me, he seemed like an older and wiser brother, even a kind of mentor. For example, even though my father was an artist, he disappeared from my life when I was about six years old, and I obviously had inherited none of my father’s genes. I really knew nothing about art. So Michael would take me to museums, such as the Metropolitan, though we might also have gone together to the Frick, which was my favorite museum (as it is for many), which I visited many times when I lived back east. So Michael would try to tutor me; he was effectively my personal docent.  

I learned a lot from him in the years we were able to pal out together. And we stayed in touch for a long time. However, after I left for California in 1996, we gradually lost touch with each other. Eventually, I learned that he had moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, so that he could become affiliated with the University of Virginia’s Division of Perceptual Studies (DOPS), which is a code name for psychical research, near-death studies and work on reincarnation. It was headed for a long time by Ian Stevenson and after Stevenson retired, by Bruce Greyson. And in time, Michael and I re-established contact with each other, though by now we could only do so through e-mail.

But we had a lot to catch up on, reading each other’s books and learning about what had happened in each of our personal and professional lives during the years that had intervened since we had last seen each other. I was really happy to be in touch with him again and regretted that it had taken so long. 

One of his books that Michael recently sent to me floored me. It was called Yoga of Sound: The Life and Teaching of the Celestial Songman, Swami Nada Brahmananda. It is just an amazing, mesmerizing tale, and is capped by a long discursive chapter on transcendental music that shows off Michael’s flair for vivid, captivating writing. I was just “wowed” by his book, and tried to express my enthusiasm for it in a blurb I was happy to write for it, which I will reproduce here:

Many years ago, G. I. Gurdjieff published a book called Meetings with Remarkable Men. In Yoga of Sound, Michael Grosso introduces us to one of the most remarkable men of our own time, Swami Nada Brahmananda, who lived in perfect health to the age of 97, rarely needing to sleep for more than an hour or two, who didn’t dream (confirmed by scientists) and who, apparently, didn’t have much use for thinking (it makes one dull, he said). This swami, shunning honors or fame, lived to teach others, including the author, the transcendental power of music and made his own body itself a musical instrument and a channel through which the divine could sing. Yoga of Sound is itself a remarkable book and deserves to be included among such classics as Autobiography of a Yogi, Ram Dass’s Be Here Now, and the books of Carlos Castañeda. In short, stunning, mind-blowing and a marvel of the miraculous.

But this blog is not really about Michael’s books. All this prefatory material was really just to give you a sense of Michael and my personal connection to him. However, what it really means to be about is Michael’s views on reincarnation, so let me now turn to that subject.

During the time I was incubating my own blog about why I was opposed to reincarnation, I happened to mention to Michael that I was planning to write a blog about it. I was not prepared for his response.

What he sent me was a blog he had just written, not only on the subject of reincarnation, but with exactly the same point of view that I was prepared to argue in my blog.  

Neither Michael nor I have ever discussed reincarnation since we had been back in touch with each other. What is the antecedent probability that the two of us would be writing on the same subject, with the same point of view, at virtually the same time?   

Anyway, when I recovered from my stupefaction at this astonishing coincidence, I asked Michael if he would be kind enough to allow me to use his blog in one of mine, and he consented. I have reproduced it below. You will find that it comes with a bit of a sting, an edge. I try to leaven my blogs with a pinch of humor, but Michael lets you have it between the eyes. Read on, reader.

Why I Prefer Not To Be Reincarnated

I have sometimes met people who embrace the idea of reincarnation with enthusiasm. Moreover, it’s fair to note that the research of psychiatrists like Ian Stevenson and Jim Tucker, and others, do make a case for the reality of reincarnation. It may not be altogether compelling evidence, but, as Stevenson said, it is suggestive, often strongly so.
Equally suggestive, and often strongly so, is the evidence from the near-death experience and deathbed visions; from mediumship, apparitions of the deceased, ghosts and hauntings, and in some types of poltergeist case. In these forms of evidence, the surviving consciousness carries on in some kind of afterworld and is continuous with one’s earthly personality.  
The continuity of consciousness, which certifies who and what we are, is shattered by being reincarnated. My inner self is inserted into a new body and my memories will be buried under the new memory deposits of a new little person in a new body. Suppose I am the reincarnation of somebody who died and whose soul became the basis of my soul. Unfortunately, I’m totally clueless about this. As far as I can make out, the soul and consciousness of my predecessor is extinct. So I’m not sure what’s to be enthusiastic about. What is the difference between there being no life after death and being reincarnated? In other words, smothered out of existence by another person.  
I can, however, see why reincarnation might appeal to some people. Christians are taught to believe that after death bad people go to hell and suffer ineffable torture forever. Such cruel doctrines might turn a few people off. It’s easier to embrace the idea that a very bad person (I can think of a few) could reincarnate in a rat or a wild dog. Even the worst of us would at least have a chance to try to work our way back up the ladder of evolution
I see the attraction of believing we have plenty of time to carry on the adventure of our evolution. We need time to become enlightened beings. It might take eons for some us to finally achieve enlightenment. But better late than never. The tone of this scenario is a whole lot gentler than having one life shot at heaven or hell. But there’s a problem.
There is no evidence whatsoever that our species, or even some segments of the human population, are in any way uniformly evolving toward enlightenment. There have been high moments and great principles declared and sometimes lived in human history. But who really lives by the Golden Rule? Or by any of the high ideals proclaimed by our spiritual geniuses? Look around the world today. There is every reason to believe the same proportions of good, great, average, and outstandingly vile human beings are exactly the same today as they were in any epoch of human history. You would think that if the dead keep coming back, presumably learning something along the way, by now we might see some signs of collective advance. 

On the contrary, what we see is a humanity that created a climate crisis that promises to bring world civilization down, while destroying a million species of living creatures. While all of this is beginning to happen, the great powers are beefing up their world-destroying nuclear armaments, real wars are raging everywhere, while poverty, homelessness, and starvation are spreading all over the planet. I prefer not to be reincarnated on a planet being destroyed by the morally insane “leaders” of the world.   
Think of it this way. A man or a woman struggles to learn some skills in the art of living, some wisdom humbly garnered through a life of pains and challenges, some knowledge of the heart ripe for giving in a heartless world—and then dies.  Suppose such a person is reincarnated.  All that wealth of soul is forgotten, swallowed up in oblivion in some loveable baby who causes great joy when it is finally coaxed into saying da or, if he’s a genius, daddy, or mama, or possibly pooh pooh.  


So now there are three of us who are strongly against reincarnating – my webmaster, Kevin Williams, Michael Grosso, and me. Perhaps it’s too early to claim that we have started a kind of anti-reincarnation movement, but perhaps we have the beginnings of an anti-reincarnation club. If you would care to join us, just let me know.


To read Michael Grosso’s blogs and about his books, go to: consciousnessunbound.blogspot.com

To see his art, go to: paintingtheparanormal.com


  1. I always enjoy your commentaries, Ken, but I've been especially intrigued by this and the last one. It's a point of view I wouldn't have expected (which may be why you're putting it out there) so I hope it won't be presumptuous of me to comment. This paragraph from Michael's piece really started to put the words together for me:

    "As far as I can make out, the soul and consciousness of my predecessor is extinct. So I’m not sure what’s to be enthusiastic about. What is the difference between there being no life after death and being reincarnated? In other words, smothered out of existence by another person."

    Not by "another person" surely - by you. You may not have your whole self memory during a given incarnation, but that doesn't mean it doesn't continue. In that way of looking at it, you come out of each incarnation as the same person, but enlarged by the added experiences.

    And maybe the point of this set of experiences is not to "uniformly evolve toward enlightenment" for the human creature or construct or whatever it is, but for our whole selves and the WHOLE we are part of. Maybe the human environment is intended to be consistently this mix of positive and negative elements, to provide the maximum range of experience for the spiritual self? While we're here, we tend to assume a linearity of experience, but maybe something like Tom Campbell's ToE has a useful point of view, and what we're living in is a virtual construct to serve purposes unrelated to the timeline and priorities that seem paramount now?

    I can understand a weariness with the world in its present and presumed future state, especially as we get older and frailer and more tired - I'm in that demographic myself - but I can also understand that I might start to hanker after new challenges, after a spell of cosmic r&r. Anyway, my personal preferences aside, if we're all part of an integrated whole, in the end it will be what serves the whole, and because I'm an integrated part of that, I'll be happy with that, however unappealing it seems right now, while tired and in pain.

    Anyway, just a few thoughts. Thanks again for continuing to "think out loud", Ken (and Michael) - it's a privilege to be part of the same fabric of the universe, that you guys are :-)

  2. Brian Anthony KraemerApril 6, 2023 at 5:50 PM

    Ken, so much of what you write is with tongue solidly in cheek. I'm sure that in spite of your hesitation to embrace the notion of reincarnation that you are ready to accept whatever is and also trust that whatever is will likely have its perfect reasons for being what it is.

    I don't find the idea of a second round any better or worse than a first one. There are many times when I can easily imagine another incarnation, perhaps this next time as a straight man, a husband and a father, perhaps as a physician, perhaps as a stunningly good-looking athlete. Who knows? I can certainly think of possibilities.

    I have spent much time trying to figure out what we're doing here the first time. I have ideas, but I readily admit that they could be all wrong. It appears from the near-death experience that this incarnation is of an inferior sort than the one that so many call "going home," one of brilliant colors, sounds, sights, smells, tastes, and loves. If this is the case, then perhaps we are here for a very momentary experience of not having all that wonder so that when we return, the contrast heightens the experience.

    The lesson? Don't grow bored of "heaven." Don't grow weary of perfection and start to long for the "good 'ol days" on earth. Earth is simultaneously amazing, even awesome, while also being deadly and disinterested. One could die in 24 hours in many parts of the world without clothing, food, water, shelter, protection from the elements. A single flower can bring me to tears over its beauty, but a tsunami kills tens of thousands without hesitation.

    When it comes to reincarnation, Ian Stevenson's examples of children born with birthmarks corresponding to their manner of death, even deformities (no fingers, neck deformity appearing to have died by hanging) and such. It just seems so unfair/unjust. If one suffers a terrible exit from one life, why does s/he return still bearing the consequences of the former suffering? We obviously are capable of having a stranglehold on certain ideas and beliefs during our seventy-five years so perhaps we are also capable of clinging to the shape, design, and condition of our dying bodies and "hold" them in place while taking on another body. Perhaps we really do have much more control over our eternal experience than we realize.

    Thank you again, Ken, for giving all of us something substantial to contemplate.

  3. Don’t worry, I’ve been told in my NDE that reincarnation is a choice. It’s up to you if you want to go back, and some people even chose to become guides themselves.

  4. Hi Ken! Well, as you know, I disagree with you (and Michael). These things cannot be judged from within the human condition. When NDErs consistently report that "everything is Love", this statement is not contradicted by the human experience to the contrary. There is a "higher understanding" of these things, which (deep) NDErs have. There is a "reality" far higher than the human, and those who have experienced that higher reality testify that Love is the ontological condition of Creation, which Creation includes the human form. So I think we humans need to be more modest in how we assess these things........

  5. Another very interesting blog, dear Ken, and which raises a problem that will never be answered as long as we are on this side. Why do we reincarnate if we leave this world saying: Stop it! Enough is enough? I think of all those people who are furious to have been brought back to life because they had glimpsed a marvelous world.
    Apparently when our soul is back home, it ends up feeling the desire to go back to work... At least I cannot find another explanation. But I imagine it can take years or decades or even centuries. So you, Michael, Kevin and I are totally unaware of how many times we have already come back after swearing to oneself not to do so. I therefore prefer, as far as I am concerned, to let happen what must happen after I get back home. One more word: the synchronicity between your post and Michael Grosso's is simply astounding! Wow! Olivier