Donating oneÕs organs to those in need of them certainly seems like a spiritual act — one of kindness, of all giving and no taking, of human love and service. However, there have been warnings that it might be spiritually harmful for both the donor and recipient. At issue is whether the consciousness actually leaves the body at the moment brain wave activity and vital functions cease or whether it lingers for hours or even several days. Also, there are indications that premature removal of organs can result in possession of the recipient by the donor, causing the donor to be ÒearthboundÓ and the recipient to be negatively influenced.
The story line is now a familiar one. A doctor tells distraught parents that their teenage son has no brain wave activity and is for all practical purposes Òdead.Ó It is just a matter of how long he is left on the life support system. But there is something that the parents should seriously consider Ð donating their sonÕs organs so that someone else can Òlive on.Ó After some deliberation, the parents agree that it is the humanitarian thing to do.
ÒItÕs a miracle,Ó the popular TV program host proclaims after interviewing the mother of the deceased and the thankful heart recipient. The mother tells of the comfort she now has in the belief that part of her son is ÒaliveÓ in another body. The recipient gives thanks for the Ògift of life.Ó It is all very emotional, very heartwarming, and very spiritual.
To suggest that it is other than spiritually proper is certainly to raise eyebrows and invite ridicule, scorn, and contempt. How can there possibly be any issue concerning the use of body parts that are no longer needed? IsnÕt helping others what spirituality is all about?
Nevertheless, there are claims that organ transplants are metaphysically contraindicated, both for the donor and the recipient.
ÒThere is nothing against the well-meaning motive that leads a donor to make such a disposition, although, viewed in a higher sense, it is hardly to the benefit of the one provided for,Ó writes Dr. Richard Steinpach in Why We Live After Death. ÒEvery such donor must know what he is taking upon himself. At the time the organ is removed, which, as is well known, must take place immediately after the presumed death if the organ is still to be usable, he is by no means Ôreally dead,Õ otherwise the organ could no longer be fit for use. In any case, the connection-cord is not yet completely severed. When the density of the connection-cord, depending on the nature of the person concerned, can still act as a channel for pain, such a person will still feel the infringement very perceptibly. Therefore, it is with good reason that some rites, especially among primitive races, provide for minimum intervals between death and burial, or even cremation.Ó (Steinpach, 1980).
Earlier in his book, Steinpach goes into great detail about the transition from the Ògross material earthly bodyÓ to the Òastral bodyÓ and the Òethereal soul.Ó He states that the soul is connected with the astral body, and thereby also with the physical body, through the Òsilver cord.Ó He calls the silver cord a kind of ethereal umbilical cord.
Of course, the first thing anyone should ask is: Who is or was Steinpach and what is the source of his ÒknowledgeÓ? Steinpach was a lawyer, born in Vienna in 1917. He was a follower of Abd-ru-Shin, whose given name was Oskar Ernst Bernhardt (1875-1941). Abd-ru-Shin wrote with great authority on numerous metaphysical subjects in a series of books entitled In the Light of the Truth: The Grail Message. The Grail Foundation in Gambier, Ohio is dedicated to generating wide availability and awareness of The Grail Message in North America. Before he died in 1992, Steinpach is said to have given hundreds of lectures on various spiritual topics all over the German-speaking world. While we might conclude that the source of SteinpachÕs ÒknowledgeÓ was Abd-ru-shin, we are then left to wonder about the source of Abd-ru-ShinÕs Òknowledge.Ó His ÒtruthsÓ are consistent with the preponderance of psychic communication and appeal to reason, but the Grail books do not tell us the source of those Òtruths.Ó By inference, he was some kind of mystic or seer, similar to Swedenborg or Steiner.
According to Abd-ru-shin, it appears that the soul, or etheric body, draws the astral body with it out of the physical body, but in reality the soul only pulls it off the physical body, because there never was a fusion but only a sliding into one another, as with a collapsible telescope. ÒThus after the earthly departure of the soul the astral body always remains near the physical body,Ó Steinpach quotes Abd-ru-Shin. ÒThe further the soul moves away, the weaker the astral body also becomes; and the ever-advancing severance of the soul finally brings about the decay and disintegration of the astral body, which in turn immediately brings in its train the decay of the physical body, in the same way as it also influenced its formation. This is the normal process in accordance with the Laws of Creation.Ó
Severing the Silver Cord
Steinpach summarizes it by saying that the body radiation having become too weak, the connection of the telescoped covering is severed. Like a balloon, the soul then floats away. However, Steinpach is quick to point out that the severance of the soul does not always take place so simply. ÒWhat is decisive for the soul, not only to slip out of its body but also to detach itself completely from it, is the condition of the ethereal soul-body and its homogeneous connection-cord,Ó he writes. ÒThis depends entirely on the spiritual nature of the individual human being.Ó
Steinpach goes on to say what has come through in many spirit messages, that the more materialistic the person, the more the silver cord is tightly knit, and the more difficult it is to sever the connection. ÒThe severance may then take many days, during which time such a person, because of the density of the connection-cord, must still feel what happens to his physical body, so that, for example, he does not necessarily remain insensitive to cremation.Ó
On the other hand, Steinpach points out that the more spiritual person can quickly loosen the connection.
More recently, in Through the Tunnel, Diane Goble gives the same warning as Steinpach. ÒThe consciousness is still aware of its physical body and may still be connected to its body by the Silver Cord for many hours after breathing ceases and the heart stops beating,Ó she writes. ÒMoving the body, removing organs, autopsies, embalming, and even family arguments about the will and thoughtless comments by attending medical personnel, police coroners, or morticians, within a few hours after a death may be detrimental to the consciously departing soul.Ó (Goble, 1993)
Goble states that she was given the ÒKey to LifeÓ during a near-death experience some 30 years ago, and that she was sent back to become a teacher helping others prepare for their transition while guiding them through the process until they meet their etheric guide on the other side. She refers to such a person as an Òanubisist,Ó after the Egyptian god who led the dead to judgment.
ÒThe heart seed atom does not depart until the astral form is fully built and, depending on the personÕs karma, this may take anywhere from one to fifteen hours after death,Ó Goble adds. ÒRemoving any organs, especially the heart, before this is completed will severely hinder the SoulÕs progress.Ó
GobleÕs views seem to be both intuitive and based on deductive reasoning. ÒMuch of what I learned during my NDE becomes more clear when I read something someone else has written, like a light bulb goes on,Ó Goble replied when interviewed for this article and asked about the source of her information. ÒSomeone has found the words to convey something I knew but couldnÕt express. Such is the case about the process of transition from physical death to spiritual rebirth which I read while studying AstaraÕs Degree Lessons, which include writings from many ancient and modern sources. ItÕs my conclusion that if it is true that the heart seed atom may not leave the body for many hours after clinical death, then taking organs, particularly the heart, immediately following clinical death may not be healthy for the transiting soul.Ó
Interestingly, Goble was involved with the creation of the organ donor program in California around 1980, but said that she soon realized it wasnÕt right and had to get out. That was before she had heard of Astara. ÒI knew it wasnÕt right, but I didnÕt know why,Ó she explains.
Perhaps SteinpachÕs, Abd-ru-ShinÕs, and GobleÕs views have been influenced by The Tibetan Book of the Dead, which holds that it might take up to three-and-a-half days for the consciousness to leave the body. According to Sogyal Rinpoche, it is believed that if the body is touched in a certain place Ð an injection, for example Ð it may draw the consciousness to that spot. The consciousness of the dead person may then leave toward the nearest opening instead of through the fontanel, at the crown of the head, and make an unfortunate rebirth. (Rinpoche, 1993).
But Rinpoche also questioned several ÒmastersÓ on the subject of organ donation. They all agreed that it is an extremely positive action. ÒSo, as long as it is truly the wish of the dying person, it will not harm in any way the consciousness that is leaving the body,Ó Rinpoche summarizes his interviews. ÒOn the contrary, this final act of generosity accumulates good karma.Ó One master added that the pain and suffering that a person goes through in the process of having the organs removed turns into good karma.
Most orthodox Jews are opposed to organ transplants. According to Dr. Carla Wills-Brandon, author of One Last Hug Before I Go, if one loses a body part in life, it is buried in the individualÕs final physical resting place. Jewish tradition holds that the entire body should be buried, without any embalming fluid, and be allowed to return to dustÉin timeÉas nature intended. ÒMy physical body will be placed in a pine box and without embalming fluid,Ó Wills-Brandon states, explaining that phantom limb syndrome strongly suggests some type of energy remaining after amputation.
ÒMaybe our ancestors were more aware of time needed in body-soul disengagement than we, in our scientific world, are,Ó she adds.
Message from the Higher Realms
Possibly the most intriguing and original source on this subject, at least to those with an open mind who know the full story, is the spirit entity who called himself Silver Birch. Sometime during the 1930s, Maurice Barbanell, a young British journalist of Jewish heritage, was investigating Spiritualism, apparently very skeptical and thinking he might have a story in which he could expose Spiritualism as one giant fraud. Attending his second sŽance, Barbanell, who said he was an atheist at that time, fell asleep. Upon awakening, he was informed by the others present that he was not asleep but had been in a trance and that a Red Indian had spoken through him. Although Silver Birch never fully identified himself, indications were that his Indian name was a convenient persona behind a very spiritually-evolved soul. For nearly 50 years, Silver Birch spoke regularly through a home circle attended by many very educated and influential people. The wisdom of Silver Birch is now contained in at least a dozen books.
Until shortly before BarbanellÕs death in 1981, Silver Birch delivered lectures and answered questions about every possible subject relating to the meaning of life and the evolution of the soul. When asked about organ transplants, he replied: ÒI know about transplants, and am aware that the motive is often a very good one. But I must say that I am opposed to transplanting any part of the human body to other people.Ó He went on to explain that doctors cannot judge when death takes place and that death is final only when the silver cord is severed and the spirit body leaves the physical one. ÒWhen that severance has taken place, no medical man can make that body live again,Ó Silver Birch said. (Ballard & Green, 1998)
Silver Birch often mentioned that although he came from a realm with a considerably higher vibration than earth, he had not evolved to the point where he had knowledge of all things. He frequently prefaced his remarks, including those on transplants, by saying it was simply his opinion. ÒI do not think, from my point of view, and I speak only for myself, that the sustaining of the physical body must be the be-all of every endeavor,Ó he offered at one sitting. ÒI maintain that man should be instructed how to live aright, spiritually, mentally and physically. If he thinks right, then he behave right and his body will be right. The solution is not the transfer of bodily parts. The solution is for every man to order himself to live as the Great Spirit intended. Man must have compassion for other men and for all the creatures with whom he shares his planet. They were not placed here by the Great Spirit to be used as experiments, to prolong the physical life of man.Ó
Reports that workers relocating cemeteries in Great Britain have found scratch marks on the inside covers of many caskets, indicating that the body was not yet ÒdeadÓ when the cover was closed, add to the concerns. The story of Dr. George Rodonaia, a psychologist in the Soviet Union, as related in several books on near-death experiences, is a particularly chilling one. Rodonaia was said to be murdered by the KGB as he was preparing for a trip to the United States in 1976. As medical personnel began cutting into him during an autopsy nearly two days after his Òdeath,Ó Rodonaia opened his eyes and returned to life. He returned with a very vivid NDE, one that transformed him from an atheist to a believer.
Of course, the cemetery victims were likely buried before embalming became commonplace, but that only indicates that embalming may now begin before bodies are actually dead. And even if Rodonaia had not been checked for brain wave activity, how can we know whether the lack of brain wave activity is the true criterion for death or that it corresponds to the severance of the silver cord? If there is a gap of up to 15 hours between clinical death and severance of the silver cord, as GobleÕs studies indicate, how can we know if the body is indeed still sensitive to removal of the organs, embalming, and cremation?
From the standpoint of pure science, it might be an open and shut case, but this subject seems well beyond the limitations of science. The risks could very well extend beyond physical pain to the body of the Òdeceased.Ó The departing soul may be left ÒearthboundÓ because of the organ removal. In A Change of Heart, author Claire Sylvia tells of her own heart transplant and how she took on some of the tastes and interests of the donor. ÒAlthough I couldnÕt yet put this idea into words, I now believe that what made me so confused and disoriented during my early days in ICU were the first stirrings of another presence inside me,Ó Sylvia writes. ÒIncreasingly, in the months ahead, I would have the feeling that some aspect of my donorÕs spirit or personality existed within me.Ó (Sylvia, 1997).
Sylvia reports taking on an affinity for green peppers, something she had never liked before. She also began craving beer and chicken nuggets as well as becoming more masculine in personality and taking an interest in motorcycles. She continued feeling a ÒpresenceÓ with her. ÒI noticed that I no longer felt lonely, even when I was by myself,Ó she continues her story. ÒSometimes I had the feeling that somebody else was in there with me, that in some intangible way, my sense of ÔIÕ had become a kind of Ôwe.Õ Although I couldnÕt always detect this extra presence, at times it almost felt as if a second soul were sharing my body.Ó
Sylvia investigated and found out that her heart came from an 18-year-old male, the victim of a motorcycle accident. She met his family and found out that her new tastes and interests were those of her donor. She interviewed other transplant recipients and found that they also had acquired the interests, traits, and tastes of the donor. One recipient had a great fear of water before her transplant, but after it she had a great desire for swimming and sailing. She found out that her donor had been an avid sailor who died in a boating accident. Another recipient, a born-again Christian, seemed completely out of character when he began cursing and swearing after the transplant. It was discovered that the donor frequently used such vulgar language.
Continuing her investigation, Sylvia interviewed some open-minded scientists, authors, and other experts as to what might account for such experiences. The most logical and scientific explanation seems to be that of Òcellular memory.Ó Dr. Paul Pearsall, a neuropsychologist, discusses this theory at length in his book, The HeartÕs Code. ÒThe donated cells remained energetically and nonlocally connected with their donor and seemed to ÔrememberÕ where they came from,Ó Pearsall writes. (Pearsall, 1998).
Dr. Deepak Chopra also explained it as cellular memory, while popular author Dr. Larry Dossey had several possible explanations for Sylvia, but concluded that the most likely one is that the consciousness of the donor had fundamentally united with the consciousness of the recipient enabling the recipient to gain information from the donor. He wondered if organ recipients are entering into a realm of consciousness where information about another person can be accessed through a Ònonlocal mind,Ó more commonly known as the Universal Mind.
Medium James Van Praagh was also asked for his opinion. Sylvia quotes Van Praagh: ÒDonated organs often come from young people who were killed in car or motorcycle accidents, and who died quickly. Because their spirits often feel they havenÕt completed their time on earth, they sometimes attach themselves to another person. There may be things that your donor hadnÕt completed in the physical world, which his spirit still wanted to experience. When this happens, the spirit is caught between two worlds, like the movie, Ghost. Sometimes this leads to possession, and sometimes, as in your case, to influences.Ó
As Sylvia does not comment on Van PraaghÕs theory, it appears that it is the least appealing to her. While she talks about the Ògift of lifeÓ for herself and other recipients, she also discusses the comfort given to the families of the donors in knowing that parts of their loved ones Òlive on.Ó In other words, it is a positive situation for both the recipient and the family of the donor. Lost in the discussion, however, is the welfare of the departed soul. Van PraaghÕs comments can be viewed as a diplomatic way of saying that some of them may be ÒearthboundÓ spirits, possibly being held back from advancing Òinto the lightÓ by the attachment to their physical bodies, including the separated parts.
Pearsall considers 13 alternative explanations to his cellular memory theory, including what he calls the ÒUnprepared Spirit Theory.Ó He mentions having interviewed four Òspiritual mediumsÓ or ÒchannelersÓ who speculated that the donors were souls who were unable to move on to another plane. In other words, they were Òearthbound spirits.Ó Pearsall does not comment on this theory, but his finding that a transplant recipient can acquire the tastes, habits, and traits of a donor still living does seem to be contrary to the earthbound spirit theory. Then again, if, as some spirit communication has indicated, the human consciousness is part of a higher self or greater consciousness, a Òfragmentation theoryÓ might be advanced to support both the cellular memory and earthbound spirit theories. This seems to be in line with DosseyÕs theory.
Dr. Edith Fiore, a clinical psychologist, deals extensively with the subject of spirit possession in her book, The Unquiet Dead. From over 20,000 hypnotic regressions, Fiore concluded that various psychological disorders can be caused by spirit possession. ÒPossession is a relative condition,Ó she writes. ÒWhen it is complete Ð which is rare Ð the original personality seems to be gone and is replaced by that of the earthbound entity. Usually, there is a vacillating balance between the two; at times, the spirit exerts only slight influence, while at others, he or she can be extremely dominant.Ó (Fiore, 1987).
Fiore views the possessing entities as the true patients. ÒThey are suffering greatly, perhaps without even realizing it,Ó she continues. ÒVirtual prisoners, they are trapped on the earth plane feeling exactly as they did moments before their deaths, which may have occurred decades beforeÉMoreover, they are keeping themselves from being in the spirit world which would offer them a beautiful life and afford them the opportunity to make spiritual progress.Ó
In the majority of cases, Fiore goes on, the possession involves a blending of personalities and is only vaguely perceived, if at all. However, she adds that possession is always negative. She also mentions that possessions often occur after surgery or during hospitalizations.
ÒFrom my clinical experience, I have found several basic explanations for why certain entities remain tied to the material plane rather than completing their transitions to the spiritual world,Ó Fiore writes. ÒThe most usual are ignorance, confusion, fear (especially of going to hell), obsessive attachments to living persons or places, or addictions to drugs, alcohol, smoking, food, or sex. Also, a misguided sense of unfinished business often compels spirits to stay in the physical world.Ó
In her autobiography, Fifty Years a Medium, Estelle Roberts, one of EnglandÕs best known mediums of the middle of the last century, tells of a man of charm and accomplishment who was overcome by an irresistible desire to kill his mother. During a sŽance, Roberts went into a deep trance and Red Cloud, her control, addressed the young man, explaining that he had visited a house of ill repute while in France and that an evil spirit attached itself to his aura at that time. Since no one else knew about his Òsinful visit,Ó the man was astonished and shamefacedly admitted it was true. An exorcism followed and the evil spirit was driven out. (Roberts, 1959).
Many other mediums, psychics, or seers, whatever name they go under, have reported seeing evil or earthbound spirits attaching themselves to the auras of humans, usually when the person is in a weakened condition, physically or spiritually. In his classic book, Spirit Teachings, William Stainton Moses, another of EnglandÕs great mediums, passes on messages given to him by means of automatic writing from a spirit entity known as Imperator. He mentions violent death often resulting in a spirit being earthbound and attracted to humans as a magnet attracts iron. ÒThis power of sympathetic attraction is mysterious to you,Ó Imperator told Moses. Yet, it should not be, for you see it in action in a lower degree in your world. Attraction and repulsion operate strongly in daily intercourse. Most are unconscious of the fact, yet all, especially the sensitive, act upon it. This is intensified once the body is done with.Ó (Moses, 1976).
So what are we to make of all this? Is it possible that bodies are violated before the consciousness actually leaves them, even if there is no brain wave activity or heart beat? Does the soul experience pain from this? Does the spirit of the donor attach itself to the recipient and negatively influence him or her? Is the soul of the donor held earthbound because of its attachment to the recipient? Might we assume that the more spiritually evolved are not at great risk, either as donor or recipient, and that only those grounded in materialism have anything to fear?
Needless to say, the evidence against organ transplants would not be admissible in a court of law, and as previously mentioned, anyone opposing organ transplants would likely be subject to ridicule, scorn, and contempt.
The case for organ transplants Ð the Ògift of lifeÓ Ð is hard to oppose, unless, of course, we go to the very core of spirituality and view death as the great liberator, even if the person has not lived his or her allotted three score and ten or more. ÒI do not see that what you call death is a disaster,Ó said Silver Birch when asked about the divine justice involved with people who die prematurely. ÒTo me it is the great hour of freedom for the soul.Ó Since not many people in this day and age of extreme materialism are prepared to appreciate such a philosophy, the case against organ transplants will never be widely heard. Those who are prepared to consider it are probably much more spiritually developed and perhaps would not have the problems discussed here. That is, they should quickly sever the Silver Cord and not be earthbound.
Then again, if it is true that Jesus took from Friday afternoon until Sunday to achieve separation, while taking a tour of hell during that time, what hope is there that the rest of us can do it instantly?
Ballard, Stan A. & Green, Roger, The Silver Birch Book of Questions & Answers, Spiritual Truth Press, London, England, 1998
Fiore, Edith, The Unquiet Dead, Ballantine Books, New York, 1987
Goble, Diane, Through the Tunnel, S.O.U.L. Foundation, Inc., Palm Harbor, Florida, 1993
Moses, William Stainton, Spirit Teachings, Arno Press, New York, 1976
Pearsall, Paul, The HeartÕs Code, Broadway Books, New York, 1998
Rinpoche, Sogyal, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Harper San Francisco, 1993
Roberts, Estelle, Fifty Years a Medium, Gorgi Books, London, England, 1969
Steinpach, Richard, Why We Live After Death, Grail Foundation Press, Gambier, Ohio, 1996
Sylvia, Claire, A Change of Heart, Warner Books Inc., New York, 1997
ORGAN TRANSPLANTS ADDENDUM
In an article in the last issue of the Journal (“Are Organ Transplants Metaphysically Contraindicated?”), I overlooked a very interesting reference Ð “Light & Death,” by Michael Sabom, M.D. Michael Schmicker, author of “Best Evidence” and a new member of the Academy, called this to my attention. While I had read Dr. Sabom’s intriguing and informative book shortly after it was released, I failed to recall his comments on this subject. In a chapter entitled “Defining the Final Frontier,” Sabom discusses the near-death experience of Pam Reynolds during a very complex surgery. It was necessary to lower her body temperature to 60 degrees and to stop her heart and breathing. Her brain waves flattened and she was by all clinical tests “dead.” However, since life was restored at the completion of the surgery, she did not die. Sabom cites an article by Dr. Linda Emanuel, who comments that life and death are viewed as non-overlapping, dichotomous states, whereas in reality there is no threshold event that defines death. “Several scientific observations support EmanuelÕs argument that loss of biologic life, including death of the brain, is process and does not occur at a single, definite moment,” Sabom writes. He goes on to mention that 10 organ donors diagnosed as “brain dead” showed an average increase in blood pressure of 31 millimeters of mercury and in heart rate of 23 beats per minute in response to surgical removal of the organs. He also refers to a study at Loyola University Medical Center in which it was found that 20 percent of patients diagnosed as brain dead had persisting EEG activity up to seven days after the initial diagnosis.