Most helpful critical review
Full of New Age Pseudoscience -- Better books are available
on May 16, 2002
I was tempted to avoid writing a review of this book since many people have already pointed out it has flaws and also because some people gain hope from this book. But clearly books like this can cause worry and pain as well as provide hope. I'd like to say, yes there may be reason to hope, but don't worry about Van Praagh's details about the afterlife -- don't let this book worry you or cause you pain. This book is too flawed to worry about its details!
I've worked as a Research Physicist / Signal Processor for over 20 years and have no doubt that Van Praagh would flunk high school physics. (Maybe even 6th grade science! My 6th grade son at least correctly uses words like "energy," but Van Praagh doesn't in this book.) His science is New Age pseudoscience which is inconsistent with real science.
Also Van Praagh's discussion of religion, spirituality and philosophy is also simple-minded. That makes me think it possible he knows nothing about the afterlife either. But I'm not without hope here. It is possible Van Praagh possesses special abilities, but describes them in unscientific and simple-minded ways. (So those who gain hope from the book should not give up hope.) And lest you think I'm an extreme skeptic, I'm not. I think some (but NOT all) of "psi" has been validated to satisfy most of those scientists who have given it a careful and open-minded look -- I'd recommend Dean Radin's wonderful (and scientifically accurate) 1997 book "The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena."
And although Radin doesn't discuss the afterlife in his book, David Ray Griffin does in his ground-breaking book: "Parapsychology, Philosophy, and Spirituality : A Postmodern Exploration." Griffin is a follower of the famous philosopher Alfred North Whitehead. Griffin examines five types of evidence for the reality of life after death: messages from mediums; apparitions; cases of the possession type; cases of the reincarnation type; and out-of-body experiences. His philosophical and empirical examinations of these phenomena suggest that they provide support for belief in these phenomena and experiences in a way consistent with modern science. Of course, even he admits this is all very speculative!
My recommendation to readers: read the books by Radin and Griffin instead of by Van Praagh. My recommendation to Van Praagh (and I hope he reads this): if some of what you're saying is real / true, get together with scientists and philosophers to express yourself in a way that isn't totally discredited by your obvious lack of scientific and philosophical knowledge.