When does consciousness begin? What are the boundaries of the unborn child's awareness? Technology has let us virtually look into the womb to discover the prenate's sensitivity and intelligence. But to learn more, we must rely on other kinds of evidence, such as the reports of children and adults who seem to recall their own birth and prenatal existence. These memories may extend back to conceptionand even farther. A new source of evidence just being recognized is the compelling experiences of parents who feel they have made contact with the soul of their unborn child.
When the time is ripe for a new idea, it seems to occur to several people at once. Unknown to each other, Sarah Hinze and I gathered accounts of pre-birth and pre-conception contacts over many years. Her book, initially published by a small Utah press in 1993, has been revised and reissued as Coming From the Light: Spiritual Accounts of Life Before Life (1997). Sarah Hinze has the distinction of being the first person to focus attention on pre-birth communications as a valid area of research.
Sarah's approach is strongly colored by her religious faith. As a Mormon, she draws on her church's tradition of respecting and recording encounters with a spirit world, both before and after "mortal life." While the dominant Western religions have little or nothing to say about such origins, Mormon teachings support a belief in pre-existence and an openness to souls coming to fulfill their earthly missions. The stories that Sarah has chosen to share in Coming From the Light, though certainly not all from members of her own faith, fit comfortably into this spiritual framework. She presents more than thirty personal accounts from people who describe contacts with future children before conception, during pregnancy, and in the pre-adoption period.
Pre-birth connections are commonly assumed to be strictly a maternal interaction. This view has tended to keep the entire subject marginalized, so it is vital to realize (as Brent Hinze points out in his Afterword) that contacts are experienced by fathers, grandparents, adoptive parents, siblings, other relatives, midwives, and friends, as well as by birth mothers. Contact comes in many forms, including visions, announcing dreams, and voice messages from or about the child.
As a mother, Sarah also had pre-birth connections. "My interest in life before life is very personal," she writes. "Before each of our nine children was born, I sensed that he or she was preparing to come to earth." Sarah's story, told in the moving first chapter, is perhaps the most remarkable of all. Her sincerity and sweetness come through clearly as she describes a series of wondrous encounters with her children-to-be. She writes, for example:
A week before Matthew was born, I was sitting in my rocking chair alone late at night, feeling tired and weary with my pregnancy. (You know how it is when you are too tired to go to bed.) I meditated upon the loving presence I had felt several times from Matthew's unborn spirit. Suddenly Matthew appeared, standing before me dressed in white, tall and well-formed. I saw his dusty blond hair and handsome rugged features. He thanked me for the sacrifices of pregnancy I was undergoing and informed me he would be born within a few days. Then he was gone. This precious son was born a week later.
The new edition is enhanced by an Afterword contributed by Sarah's husband, psychologist Brent Hinze, Ph.D. He draws interesting comparisons between near-death and pre-birth experiences and he analyzes the aspects of a typical pre-birth contact. Sarah ends with an excellent summary on the belief in pré-existence, from ancient times to the present, and across cultures.
Kenneth Ring, Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the University of Connecticut and one of the founders of the International Association of Near Death studies, has written appreciatively of Coming From the Light. While cautioning that "the religious and political implications . . . of these stories need to be carefully separated from the phenomenon itself," he notes that "there is much to be learned from these fascinating narratives and one hopes that others will soon follow the pioneering trail that Mrs. Hinze has so courageously blazed."
Reviewed by Elisabeth Hallett