The United States is one of the few Western industrialized nations that still allows the death penalty. Americans who favor capital punishment justify it for several reasons: someone who commits a heinous crime deserves to die; the death penalty is a deterrent to violent crime; and death is the only punishment that comes close to justice for the victim and his/her loved ones.
Here we will not tackle in depth the arguments against the death penalty – the cost to society of bringing a death penalty case; the higher level of homicides in our society compared to that of Western nations, thus arguing against the deterrence reasoning; the possibility of executing innocent people; the racial imbalance where defendants of color receive a death sentence far more often than white defendants for the same crime; and the problems that have recently emerged with botched executions, growing unavailability of the drugs used in executions, and the real possibility that death by lethal injection is a form of “cruel and unusual punishment.”
Rather, here we will argue against capital punishment from the perspective of afterlife research. Insights that can be gleaned from electronic voice phenomena (EVP), near-death experiences, reputable psychics and mediums, and out-of-body experiences can provide a novel way of thinking not only about punishment of criminals but also about crime, evil, justice and judgment.
Basics of Paranormal Research
Let’s first consider some of the basics about the afterlife as obtained through paranormal research. I deal with this in depth in my book, Paranormal: A New Testament Scholar Looks at the Afterlife, and I encourage readers to see there the wide range of evidence for the survival of the individual soul after death.
An initial learning is that the vast majority of the paranormal material focuses on “normal” people, most of whom are quite good overall. All souls are predestined for union with what one might call God or Divine Love, and one of our primary reasons for life on earth is spiritual growth toward that end.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, communicated via a medium for nearly two years after his death in 1930. In the sittings with the medium, set forth in Ivan Cooke’s Arthur Conan Doyle’s Book of the Beyond, Doyle described many aspects of the afterlife. One truth is that we have freewill at every turn, so we choose whether to make good, efficacious choices or bad ones. Combined with our “predestination” of ultimate union with Divine Love, postmortem Doyle revealed, “Whilst that soul has been given a degree of freewill choice whereby to accept or reject good or evil, so also it can never break its link with the great Soul, God. To God there is always an upward pull. . . . ¶ The magnetic force of the divine intelligence must ever hold him on the path of eternal progression. . . Thus no man can escape his destiny, which is ultimate perfection, ultimate return to the God of his creation.”
This wisdom is repeated throughout the paranormal evidence: there is a vast preponderance of good in this world and the next. Perhaps counterintuitively, evil needs to exist in order for us to see and to know the good. Here is postmortem Doyle again:
[T]hese conditions of intelligence – or, if you will, “light” and “darkness” – work and evolve side by side, and are the actual complement one of the other. ¶ . . . Always men have conceived that good must oppose evil. Again, nothing is farther from the truth. “Evil” stands always as the complement to the condition you call “good”, so without evil good could not be. . . .”
This may be hard to hear! But it starts to offer important explanations for evil and tragedy. Good and evil “are not so opposed as appearance warrants. . . ¶ Might we not then describe the angels of darkness as the individualized powers of evil, as great destructive forces which consume that which is unwanted. . .? . . . Appearing to destroy, actually they do not destroy; though we have said they consume, rather they transmute.”
EVP testimony further supports this view. Luxembourg investigators Maggy Harsch-Fischbach and her husband Jules Harsch used radio systems to communicate with the other side. Their spirit contact, a higher being called Technician, provided these insights in late 1986:
The grief and suffering people bear and have to go through is a part of their inner self. Some of it is through their own action or initiated by higher forces in order to activate the learning process that leads to recognition, improvement, and perfection. . . It is all closely connected and tied in with free will and choice of the individual, which God’s power has granted to each of us as a great gift. . . . Without free will and choice, there is no recognition of truth which comes from within. Therefore, blind obedience is not what higher powers want. . . God prefers the seeker and those who question.
Shifting to another finding that emerges from paranormal research: reincarnation and its cognates, karma (the law of cause and effect), other earthly lives, and pre-birth decisions. We looked at this briefly in our earlier posts on past lives and racism. To recap:
- Most of us have lived many human lives on earth, and will probably live a few more.
- In between earthly lives, our spirits work with other souls to decide on our upcoming lives. We know in advance what are lives are going to be – at least in broad strokes – and our spirit guides and guardian angels assist us in our journeys.
- When we do things in our earthly life that harm another person (or animals, or the earth), the law of karma takes effect. Our negative actions will have to be set right, and our good, positive deeds are never wasted.
- Knowledge of what happens after death (and before birth!) is not just “pie-in-the-sky” religion but directly related to justice and ethical behavior.
Therefore, as most of us know inherently, no human being should take the life of another (except possibly in self-defense): no person should end the life journey of another before its time is up. Thus the law of karma and cause and effect is such that a murderer or other person who vilely wrongs another will have to “pay” for that in some way, either in the current incarnation or another one.
The Gray Areas
What, then, might happen at death to disturbed, violent souls who harm others, whether they be murderers, rapists, child molesters, violent psychopaths, arsonists, those who harm and torture animals, or those who abuse their power and/or wealth? The evidence indicates that such souls go to a dark, dreary place until they begin to realize that there is a better way.
Postmortem Doyle provides descriptions of these places:
[W]hat of those [places] of a slower, of a lower vibration; perhaps even lower than this earth? These are not pleasant places, for they are peopled by humans whose lives have attuned them to such planes. They are grey, misty, dark-November-fog places, good to get out of. That is why they exist; to spur their folk to get away, by their own spiritual efforts.
He who has lived a life gross, material, sensual, or selfish, finds himself in “queer street” [in trouble]. . . . He passes onward, through the underworlds. Every step towards salvation must be earned.
The lowest astral plane consists of a land of desire, burning and persistent desire, the which the man has fostered during his life on earth. Those who migrate thither are such as hold neither affection nor love for any creature save self. . . . In the greyness are seen stunted trees and vegetation, while forms of men live and dwell in mists damp and thick, being themselves clothed in grey; being in fact so wrapped up in themselves, in self-centredness as to create about themselves environments unpleasantly cold and repellent.
Robert Monroe also gleaned evidence about evil and “hell” through his out-of-body experiences. “It is easy to conclude that a momentary penetration of this nearby layer would bring ‘demons’ and ‘devils’ to mind as the chief inhabitants. They seem subhuman, yet have an evident ability to act and think independently. . . ¶ In these worlds where thoughts are not only things, but are everything, including you, your poison or perfection is of your own making. If you are a remorseless killer, you may end up in that part of Locale II where all are of the same design. This truly would be hell for such people, for there would be no innocent, defenseless victims.”
Finally, renowned medium James Van Praagh too has learned about the lower places from his spirit guides. “This lower region vibrates at a much slower rate than the upper regions. Here the light is dim and fades almost to a faint darkness. . . A pungent and unpleasant odor pervades it. . . ¶ Spirits in such a dark realm harbor mental attitudes of hate, malice, and the need for control over others”. . . A soul remains in this darkened hole until all of its lowest desires are lived out.”
Implications for the Death Penalty
We can begin to see how paranormal findings can help illuminate the issue of capital punishment. The evidence can address the emotions of victims/loved ones/survivors; the fate of innocent souls; and the notion of justice on earth and on the other side. Finally, the paranormal evidence can help us question in a different way our American culture and why we persist in keeping the death penalty.
Emotions. The pain and rage experienced by victims, survivors and their loved ones are understandable. The paranormal evidence suggests several things that can be quite comforting:
- In the case of a murder, the victim is almost always at peace on the other side and knows what is happening with his/her loved ones on earth. In other words, the deceased is not “gone” but rather very much “alive” on another plane.
- Harboring rage, hatred and other negative feelings can be damaging to the soul of the victim, loved one or survivor (not to mention damaging to their physical and mental health). Some courageous family members of victims profess to forgive the perpetrator or acknowledge with some assurance that the tragedy or situation has some kind of reason or meaning. This can be very liberating – more liberating, in fact, than many standard religious tenets.
- The nature of the afterlife is such that past, present and future are coterminous. Because we live many lives on earth, we can be assured that this is not the only life where we can love or be close to the loved one we have lost. In fact, the love lasts forever and is the basic strength and truth of the universe.
Justice. With the law of cause and effect, the perpetrator will always have to atone for his/her actions, and that should be of significant comfort not only to the victim/loved one/survivor but also to our society in general.
- It is we, not a God figure, who judge ourselves and our own actions after death. It may take awhile in earth time, but murderers and other wrongdoers will ultimately need to confront their own actions.
- Killers and their victims sometimes reconcile on the other side, most likely due to karma. One may have harmed the other in a past life and the crime in this life may have been the karmic result.
American society and the death penalty. We must look at our collective selves critically and honestly, especially in light of the fact that most of our peer nations have abolished the death penalty. What is it about our culture – with the highest incarceration rate of any of the advanced Western nations – that produces so much violence and so much support for capital punishment?
In the light of the paranormal evidence, could it be, in part, because the basics of Christianity and skeptical Post-Enlightenment thinking – both of which disavow reincarnation, self-judgment and the law of cause and effect – combine to make many Americans illogically punitive on a large scale? Is it not likely that people who harm others in our culture do so in part, perhaps subconsciously, because they subscribe to a “theology” or mindset that disavows any consequences of their actions?
Obviously our Western peers also have a Christian and Post-Enlightenment undergirding, but they do not have the same level of Christian Fundamentalism that has shaped our collective US mindset (a larger topic for another day). Rather, other countries have looked at the facts of the capital punishment debate and have put other practices in place throughout their societies to reduce discontent and violence among their populaces and, in many cases, to reintegrate criminals successfully back into their communities.
In short, there are many ways to examine the death penalty in America. Paranormal evidence adds another tool to the toolbox.
Abrahamsen, Valerie A. Paranormal: A New Testament Scholar Looks at the Afterlife. Manchester Center, Vermont: Shires Press, 2015.
Alexander, Eben. Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife. New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 2012.
Allen, Rob, for the Criminal Justice Alliance, “Reducing the use of incarceration: What can we learn from Europe?” May 2012; http://www.prisonpolicy.org/scans/CJA_ReducingImprisonment_Europe.pdf; http://www.crimlinks.com/MurderRateInternational.html; and http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/jul/22/gun-homicides-ownership-world-list.
Butler, Tom and Lisa. There is No Death and There are No Dead. Reno, NV: AA-EVP Publishing, 2008.
Cooke, Ivan. Arthur Conan Doyle’s Book of the Beyond. New Lands, England: The White Eagle Publishing Trust, 2006.
Monroe, Robert A. Journeys Out of the Body. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1973.
Van Praagh, James. Reaching to Heaven: A Spiritual Journey Through Life and Death. New York: Penguin Books, 1999.