Elizabeth M. Carman & Neil J. Carman: Cosmic Cradle: Souls Waiting in the Wings for Birth. Fairfield: Sunstar Publishing. ISBN 1-887472-71-1.
A counterpart of the Near-Death Experience is the conscious memory of a spiritual pre-existence that may occur mainly among young children. Elizabeth and Neil Carman have produced a very extensive and richly illustrated overview of more than 700 pages of anything related to this topic. They give attention to the most diverse cultures and thinkers. Of course many authentic experiences surrounding a pre-existence are included as well.
The mere fact that a concept is almost universal obviously does not mean that it must be true. Almost any ethnic group used to believe that the sun revolved around the earth rather than the other way round. For this reason, the book continually combines personal experiences with ancient traditions. These often overlap, e.g. in stories among the Australian Aboriginees about spirits in the Dream World that try to get in touch with possible future parents. If a father does not dream about his children-to-be, his wife will not be able to get to pregnant.
During NDEs people may also get impressions of souls who want to be born and sometimes they are reminded of the task they accepted to make this possible. This matches so called announcing dreams in cases of children who - after birth - recall a past life. I particularly liked a survey of traditional theories that might explain why most of us do not have any conscious memories of a pre-existence (anymore).
Based on their study of the relevant literature, the Carmans conclude, just like e.g. Pim van Lommel, that human consciousness and memory may exist independently of brain activity.
An example of memories of another world concerns Katarina (pp. 522-526). As a child she recalled that she had come from a world of pure light where she used to enjoy the freedom of not having to endure the limitations of a physical body. In this world she decided to choose for a particular life and a specific family. Another example is that of two-year-old Alan (pp. 550-551). When his aunt Lida died, he asked his mother who had 'taken' her. His mother told him that it was someone his aunt had known. 'Alan's face lit up. "Oh I know what it's like! Grandpa Clark brought me when I came to you. He'll probably take me back when I die."' In this life, Alan had never met his Grandpa Clark, as the latter had died 10 years before his birth.
Books are never perfect, and of course this book is no exception. The authors sometimes refer to cases that don't possess a lot of evidential value. Also, they close the book with sometimes odd spiritual tips, especially where they recommend avoiding loud music, rap and rock and roll (p. 663). However, I certainly hope that the subject of a spiritual existence prior to earthly life will become a lot less exotic through the admirable efforts of Elizabeth and Neil Carman.
English translation of review published in Terugkeer.