Elizabeth M. Carman & Neil J. Carman: Cosmic Cradle: Spiritual Dimensions of Life before Birth. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2013. ISBN 978-1-58394-552-0.
A few years ago, I wrote a review of an earlier version of Cosmic Cradle by Elizabeth and Neil Carman, about a spiritual pre-existence prior to conception. Normally, I would not be inclined to write another review of a subsequent edition, but for this book I really like to make an exception. This year, the Carmans have issued a thoroughly edited new version of their work. However, this certainly does not mean that the first edition has become obsolete, because the authors stress other aspects which also means that some interesting information from the previous edition has not been included in the present one.
As they did in the first edition, the Carmans discuss many cultural traditions about pre-existence, and similarities between memories of a pre-existence and near-death experiences. Once again, they stress that, like NDEs, pre-existence memories are incompatible with the mainstream 'scientific' materialistic world view. In the Introduction, they mention 12 recurrent characteristics of many pre-existence memories, such as the notion that you've come from a heavenly realm, endless love, telepathic communication with other spiritual beings, (extra-sensory) perception of events in the physical world (for example concerning possible parents), and a preparation for earthly life.
As I said before, there are clear differences between the two editions as well. For instance, the authors thoroughly address the question why only a limited number of people seem to possess conscious memories of a pre-existence. The authors also ask themselves what goals a spirit might want to reach through incarnation and they give an overview of possible answers. Furthermore, the Carmans show that there are various theories about the phase during which a soul incarnates into the body.
Furthermore, they include even more spontaneous memories of young children than they did in the first edition. I'm proud that Anny Dirven and I have been given a chance of contributing a couple of our cases.
One of the striking facts about the prebirth memories of toddlers is that they can't be dismissed as based on childish fantasy, and may even contain paranormal information. The pre-existence memories may sometimes be accompanied by reincarnation memories.
Spontaneous cases show that souls are given a choice between various scenarios and that earthly life is probably a lot more meaningful than one might think.
The authors have also included several unconfirmed stories of adults in the book. These sometimes differ from the stories of children and if that is the case, they mainly seem the product of the adult's imagination. This may lead to rather bizarre “insights”, for example that it could be a mother's sacred task to horribly abuse her child, because the child's soul would need that experience within his or her spiritual development.
Although this may seem very counter-intuitive to some, spontaneous memories of children really are our main source of reliable information about a pre-existence. Of course, an adult may sometimes have retained such memories, but if so, it is important that adult's parents or others confirm that the respondent was already talking about them as a child. Two examples of such early memories:
– A three-year-old girl was able to tell her mother that she had been in her womb twice. Her mother, who had suffered a miscarriage before the birth of her child – her daughter had not been told about this –, asked her what she'd been doing in her womb the first time. Her daughter answered that she had cried and that the ones who had brought her to her mum told her that she couldn't stay, as it wasn't the right time yet.
– Another toddler, Elizabeth, still knew that she had left her mother's belly (again in relation to a miscarriage) when she noticed that her future parents were quarreling, and also that she had been born through a cesarian section, the second time. Details of her memories were verified for the Carmans by her mother Lezlie.
Just like the first edition, this book is essential reading for anyone who wants to take NDEs and related experiences seriously.
Free translation of Dutch review published in Terugkeer 24 (3-4, 2013), pp. 63-64.