Studies on Awareness Prior to Being Born – the Pre-birth Experience
Studies have been conducted on pre-birth experience (PBE), the one in which the person has clear memories of awareness before birth. In most cases of the PBEs, details of those memories can be verified through those who were there around the time of birth, usually the mother as the main person. This article brings out some of the salient features of PBEs based on information from three studies.
It is rather obvious that awareness (the primary aspect of consciousness) exists after life ends. This has been demonstrated time and again by near death experiences (NDE) when the consciousness leaves the body and is able to perceive worldly occurrences without the help of the five senses. The question of whether consciousness functions the same way before the birth of a person can be a very absorbing one for those who see meaning in the reincarnation paradigm. The writer has come across three probing studies in this connection. Here a brief attempt is made to share the related findings. For further details, the reader is referred to the three books associated with the studies, all available on Amazon.com.
Study 1:Psychologist Dr. Helen Wambach wrote a book entitled ‘Life Before Life‘ in 1979. It explores the fascinating answers to probing questions asked of 750 subjects under hypnosis about life before birth. Wambach says that 90 % of her subjects flash on images from their past lives. She adds that, “I am convinced that the time has come to study rigorously the plausibility of reincarnation.” Three of her questions to her subjects under hypnosis and the answers are the following:
- Question 1: Did you choose to be born?
81 % of her subjects said that they did choose to be born and that it was their choice to make. However, only 28 % felt enthusiastic about being alive again; they felt that they had planned carefully and were ready to begin.
- Question 2: Why did you choose the 20th Century?
About 59 % gave relevant answers to this question. Their response contained many different reasons for the choice. Some felt that their choosing the specific time period was to have contact with particular people who chose the same period. One answer was, “I came in this time period to correct past errors and to work out my guilt about certain relationships.”
- Question 3: Why are we here on earth?
Not all of the subjects were clear about this item but quite a few came up with interesting answers. Some of these people said that there is so much to learn on this planet, especially in terms of relationship, love and humility, and that there are many experiences, good and bad, to go through. Others mentioned about learning that can help in going beyond fear and loneliness. Some indicated the need to be with people to make up for the hurt they had caused in former lives.
The above samples represent a very small part of Wambach’s research. Her book contains a great deal more of fascinating information on pre-birth memories.
Study 2: This work is also related to consciousness prior to birth but is not through regression, hypnosis or drugs. Elizabeth and Neil Carman compiled a book on PBEs through interviewees recalling their pre-birth existence while they were completely sober and awake. The title of the book is ‘Cosmic Cradle, Spiritual Dimensions of Life before Birth‘. A report on the book says that it transports us beyond the conventional materialistic idea that heredity and social environment explain human life. In contrast, our life’s drama is planned long before birth.
Where was your soul before you were born? If your soul is immortal, did it have a “life” prior to birth? Did you choose your life and parents? Is reincarnation real? Elizabeth and Neil Carman address these questions through interviews with adults and children. They also state that Buddha pointed out four modes of human birth:
1.To enter the mother’s womb fully conscious, stay in the womb with full awareness, and experience birth consciously. Enlightened masters report these memories.
2.To enter the mother’s womb fully conscious, stay in the womb with full awareness, but lose awareness during birth.
3.To enter the mother’s womb fully conscious, but lose awareness in the womb and throughout birth.
4. To enter the mother’s womb unconsciously and remain unconscious throughout womb-time and birth. This heavily veiled memory is more typical of most human births.
The above rendering by Buddha clearly points to the fact that pre-birth awareness is a fact.
Study 3: This study by PMH Atwater, primarily on near death experiences, touches on PBEs also. The title of her book is ‘The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Near Death Experiences‘. She says that one-third of the 277 child experiencers in her research base had clear, coherent memories of happenings before they were born. A particularly interesting study is the one given below.
Two weeks before the birth of Carroll Gray of Atlanta, Georgia, the doctor informed her mother that there was no heart beat and the baby was dead. Her father, eagerly expecting a son, was severely disappointed at this. He accused Carroll’s mother of having killed his son; threw her from her bed resulting in her uterus being ruptured. The mother was rushed to the hospital and a dead baby was delivered. But, like a miracle, the child began to breath! What was even more astonishing was the fact that, after two and half years, Carroll spoke out the very words her father said at the time of throwing his wife off the bed. Obviously, everyone was dumbfounded as the family had never discussed that unfortunate incident among themselves. Further, Carroll also recalled the difficulties she came through as a newborn baby because of the unusual conditions of her birth.
Atwater says that stories with the accuracy of Carroll’s are so numerous, they challenge the notion that unborn babies are oblivious to anything outside their mother’s womb.
In Conclusion: For people who are interested in understanding the long journey of life across many incarnate and discarnate periods, the above studies can be invaluable as their areas of spiritual exploration. Those studies expand our perspectives on life and the afterlife. Our day-to-day life guided by such far reaching insights can have a depth and meaning that the sectarian belief systems can never bring about. Related matters are covered in this website on spirituality.
About the Author T.C. Gopalakrishnan is a member of the International Association for Near Death Studies. He presented a paper at the 2011 conference of the International Association for Near Death Studies, Durham, NC, USA. Functions as a freelance counselor for peaceful living. He lives in Kodaikanal, a hill town in south India, with his family. Now he and his wife are both retired and currently involved in developing a fruit farm at a village 20 km from their residence.