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Interview with James Van Praagh
On life after death, spirituality, and messages between the realms


James Van Praagh is a famous psychic renowned for conveying messages between realms. He is the bestselling author books such as Talking to Heaven, Reaching to Heaven and Healing Grief. He travels the world spreading the knowledge of life after death by lecturing, giving demonstrations and conducting spiritual tours.

Interview by Janice Hughes and Dennis Hughes, Share Guide Publishers

Share Guide: Many spiritual traditions say that the source of all disease, as well as the source of all healing, is spiritual in nature. What do you think of this idea?

James Van Praagh: I think that all things are spirit and are derived from spirit. When you look at life from that perspective, it takes on a whole new meaning. So, when you question anything, first you have to begin with the core, which is your spiritual self--whether that's disease, fear, or abundance.

Share Guide: I've been taught that the individual spirit is a person's soul and the larger spirit, the Holy Spirit, is the spirit of God. How do you define the terms Spirit and Soul, and how do you describe God?

James Van Praagh: It's a matter of semantics, as far as I'm concerned. I think it's all one, to tell you the truth. I think that God is imbued in all of us and God is spirit. I don't think we should get caught up in the semantics of it. I also think that we need to realize that there are different parts, different aspects of who we are. There are many big parts of ourselves, many bodies, if you will, of humankind. Higher selves, soul selves, ego selves, different bodies of man. Those are involved also, but I think that the Spirit of God is in all of those bodies, too-- the common thread in all.

Share Guide: In terms of the seven chakras or seven centers in the body, are those linked up with the seven levels or planes?

James Van Praagh: I think there is a link there, and I think each corresponds with the body. Each center corresponds to various colors or modes of sound, called harmonics. I think they are different levels of being within each center. I'm not an expert or scholar in esoteric studies, but from what I've studied in a lot of the Eastern philosophies, they all correspond with one another.

Share Guide: From what I have learned about meditation, I believe the goal is to channel the energy up the spine to the crown chakra in the head as much as you can, focusing on your breathing exercises, mantras and yantras. If you focus at the top, then you are entering the higher states of consciousness, referred to as God Consciousness.

James Van Praagh: The Buddhic Plane. . .

Share Guide: The Buddhic Plane, right. How do you usually talk to people about reconnecting with their inner spirit and God, to affect change in their health--spiritual, mental and physical?

James Van Praagh: It goes back to having a relationship with our spiritual selves, which is knowing who you are. With deep meditation, you are having a relationship with the inner part of you instead of the outer part of you. So much of society in our world is caught up with the outside, and what you see in the physical, and disregarding what's on the inside. All things start from within. All things start with thought and creativity. We are the ones who are really responsible for creating our world, based upon our thoughts. So once people get into silence and have a relationship with themselves from the inner side of their being, they begin to see things in a much clearer perspective. Choices can be made much easier, when you are sitting in a position of balance and peacefulness in the heart rather than just the head, from truth rather than from fear. The more you meditate, that is how you are able to create choices, which I believe comes from the right perspective and will bring about the change that you want. I think all of life is balance, and I think that includes health concerns. Disease is not being in balance, not being in harmony with oneself, not being true to oneself, not being in harmony with who you are. Therefore, if you are balanced, it helps defeat disease.

Share Guide: You mentioned in one of your books that many people have unrealistic expectations about life. What do you mean by this, in terms of spiritual health?

James Van Praagh: Instead of making life happen, we can easily get caught up in "victim consciousness." Many of us find it much easier to say "Poor, pitiful me. How can these things happen to me?" We blame others for our problems and don't take responsibility. This is true not only with spiritual health, but in many experiences in life. Even in many religions, people are encouraged to give the responsibility to God or to Jesus or whatever, instead of taking responsibility themselves. We have to learn to take responsibility for our lives and our choices, and that comes as a very hard lesson for some people. I think everyone is here to learn lessons in life, at their own rate. This is our schoolroom. I think that there are some lessons that are much more difficult than others. It's up to the individual. Again, it comes down to choices. Are you going to use the situation to better yourself, to learn, to evolve? Or are you going to use it to hold back, to be a victim? It is up to you to make that decision. That's my belief.

Share Guide: It does seem that if people are happy with themselves and what they are doing with their life, then they are less likely to be ill.

James Van Praagh: I think people need to be honest, but some people are very critical of themselves. It comes down to love, as everything does. You have to love yourself enough to know yourself. Many diseases and sickness come out of negative thought, imbalances, impurity. If we are to be true to ourselves come from a place of truth and of real love of ourselves, then we will be generating loving thoughts, creative thoughts, and thoughts of balance, peace and health.

Share Guide: One of the things that you've talked about in your books is that when people cross over to the other side, there is an earth-like heaven where we have youthful bodies. Is that what you call the astral level?

James Van Praagh: Yes. The way I like to explain it is that the astral level is an exact replica or counterpart of the physical world. So you have a body that is very much like the physical one only a pure body. The astral world is almost like a temporary cross over station which has houses and trees and gardens and so forth, which appear very solid and very real. I talk a lot about this in my book Reaching to Heaven. This astral world is really there to help the individual to realize that they are no longer part of the physical world, yet they are still alive. This way it is not as shocking to them when they go and it seems like a very real world. This is my understanding, but of course I don't know anything for sure until I pass over myself. This is what a spirit has told me.

Share Guide: It's my understanding that people are reborn on this earth plane by and large because they have more to learn. Is the astral plane like a waiting room in between incarnations?

James Van Praagh: That's a good way of putting it. Although I think that there are other levels too, that we go to. So once we've become adapted to ourselves in spirit form, then perhaps we go to a higher level in the astral. We could say it's an in-between, and of course we can stay there as long as we need to because there is no such thing as time in spirit. We can't measure by years or months, or whatever, because it doesn't work over there like that. There are no clocks. So we stay there until another situation is set up on the earth level. Then we come back to work out karmic obligations or to go through various lessons. You have to remember that the earth isn't the only place to learn lessons; there are other universes and other places of life. This is not the only place. The earth is one of the places that there is free will. Most lessons on earth have to do with love. But we can't limit ourselves to thinking that this is the only place.

Share Guide: I have read that many of us have karma unfulfilled, so we come back here, but that there are also many other realms to learn in.

James Van Praagh: I think we would be fooling ourselves if we didn't think that there were other places in existence.

Share Guide: Ultimately, I think the highest level is the clear white light or as you call it the Buddhic or God conscious plane.

James Van Praagh: Or Godhead...purity of love. I think love is the thing. Once we get to the realization of loving ourselves and breathing that love into every single experience of every single day then you start to make a big progression at that point. But we also have to be mindful of the fact that we have a physical body and that we are on a physical earth right now. We are spirit encased in a physical body. We have to feed ourselves spiritually every day, of course, but we also have to mindful of our physical bodies. We have to exercise, we have to eat right, sleep, rest, we have to treat our body as if it is a temple of God. So many of us don't. I find that when spirits come through, many times they talk about how they didn't take care of themselves. That they weren't that health conscious or aware of themselves, and they should have been. They regret that they didn't pay more attention to their physical bodies as far as health and diet. I do believe that there are some people that come back to this earth to really learn about being in a physical body.

Share Guide: We can really focus more spiritually if our bodies and mind are aligned.

James Van Praagh: It is very true about being aligned, because I know that in the readings that I do, I do a scan of the body. I will actually see the force, the prana energy going up and down the spine. I can see where it's blocked at certain parts of the spine. I will say to that person, "You have trouble in your back here, you have trouble in your neck here, you have trouble in your stomach here." And they will say "Yes!" I see the blockage of that energy.

Share Guide: You see it on an energetic level before it is descended into the physical?

James Van Praagh: Exactly.

Share Guide: So we're celebrating our daily life in the body we were given by taking care of it and remembering these positive, united spiritual thoughts. It seems that when we are old and on our death bed, that we should have the same goal in mind remembering God and that would create the highest death, leaving on the out breath and visualizing the light. Of course, I've studied by I haven't applied these things that well, but intuitively they make sense to me.

James Van Praagh: I think that if we have that awareness of our God selves or awareness of spirit, it certainly will help with the transition. Death is a natural transition of life. It is so natural, and so many of us don't know about it. Until we go through it, we are fearful of it. It's a very natural state of being and in many ways, we do this every night when we go to sleep and leave the physical body. When it's the time of death when the silver cord is severed, we know on a conscious level that we are leaving the body. It's a very natural thing, and many spirits will say it was painless, it was no big deal, it was very natural.

Share Guide: We can avoid a lot of the pain while we are alive and in the transition by being aligned with spiritual thoughts, but if people fear physical death for themselves and their loved ones, then it makes the transition much harder. It seems like if people think this life is the be-all-end-all that is where all the fear comes from. What happens if you are in fear when you die?

James Van Praagh: I think that you go through the natural transition. With fear, it seems that it is harder leading up to the transition. One may go through a lot of pain, and it's a shame because you don't have to do that. The fear unfortunately makes you think death is going to be horrible and it is going to be painful, and it isn't. Fear seems to make it longer for the transition to take place. The transition is going to happen in God's time rather than our time. It's going to happen when it's meant to happen. I think that it would make the transition much easier if there is no fear involved. For myself, I am fearful of the type of death I would have. I would not want it to be a painful type of death, nor would anyone. Everyone would like to die in a quick manner. I think that many times the type of death we have is karmic. The most important thing to realize is that the soul cannot be harmed, and that death itself is not painful.

Share Guide: If your mind is on the soul carrying on, and you are in a spiritual place, then whether or not you see it coming (like if a car hits you that you don't even see), if you are in a spiritual mode, then you are ready for the transition any time.

James Van Praagh: You are already over there. I remember Yogananda, who was ready for his death, he got everyone in a room and said something like "Okay, I am going to be leaving now." And he left his body and that was it. That is possible to do.

Share Guide: He is one of my main teachers; I studied Kriya Yoga with him. There were some insights in your books about the physical seed atom and the silver cord, and I was wondering how you would describe those. Did you say that the physical seed atom is in the heart chakra?

James Van Praagh: Correct.

Share Guide: And the silver cord is connected to the heart chakra?

James Van Praagh: The silver cord is connected to the solar plexus. That would be the chakra by the spleen. I think that every single center has something connected to it, per se. The main one that I know, is of course the silver cord.

Share Guide: I remember you saying that as a person is leaving the physical body, the last strand of the silver cord separates.

James Van Praagh: What happens when people are very ill (with something like cancer or AIDS or a disease that really debilitates the body over a long period of time), is that several months before the actual death the silver cord begins to wear down to different levels, like a peeling off, if you will. The person that is passing over will go in and out of the body on a conscious level, almost like a dress rehearsal, and will become aware of leaving the body. They are aware that they are outside of the body, and then when it's time that the silver cord is finally severed, they are okay, they are used to it, and it goes very naturally for them. This happens quite often.

Share Guide: What is the physical seed atom?

James Van Praagh: The physical seed atom is the core essence of who you are at the spirit level of being. Recorded in this atom is every single experience that you have ever had. Here's an interesting analogy. Right now I am planting bulbs in the ground. At the bottom of the bulb there are roots. Out of that root, then the bulb, comes a flower. So where the roots are, it is like the seed atom. Through your lifetimes experiences are recorded there and you grow and grow and grow, and you flourish. That is the root of who you are, the seed of who you are.

Share Guide: So when you pass over to the other side and you are in that astral state, which is linked with the physical plane, there must be some residual seed atom there from which you develop the next body later on.

James Van Praagh: Oh yes, correct.

Share Guide: It's almost as if the karma is information that is stored like on a zip disk. When you move into your next life, this karmic information is downloaded through the life cord into the seed atom.

James Van Praagh: Correct. Wonderful explanation.

Share Guide: And thus we have a link, habits and patterns, even diseases, left over from the past lifetime out of karma?

James Van Praagh: Sure, there is the residual.

Share Guide: Is there a varying period of time between physical incarnations?

James Van Praagh: There is no such thing as time. We have to say that the soul will come back when the soul needs to come back. Now I have found through research that I have done, that a soul that was in a person that died as a child, and in some suicide cases, the soul tends to come back faster and won't be long in the other world.

Share Guide: It's timeless on the other side, but you do come back here sooner or later.

James Van Praagh: From what I understand, we come back in "soul groups." Those souls in the group like to come back when the time is right for all of them. Not only are you as an individual evolving, but you are connected to a soul group that is evolving together as well, so as one develops, you all develop. Then you move on together.

Share Guide: What if you are waiting to be reunited with a loved one but they have already reincarnated as someone else?

James Van Praagh: Good question. I tell people not to worry about this; you will always be with that person on one level or another. You are thinking of it from a physical, linear point of view. This is just this one personality you remember from the earth. But the soul is so much bigger, grander than that. You will recognize that soul when you pass over because there's a part that remains in the spirit realm. There are ways of existence that we are not aware of in the physical body; we are limited here.

Share Guide: What you said before about us traveling in soul groups means that you may recognize the essence of that person and say "Oh that's George or Norma!" even though that person may look different.

James Van Praagh: You'll know them.

Share Guide: So you're saying that there are certain souls that go through many incarnations together, and travel in soul groups. And relationships vary from one incarnation to the next?

James Van Praagh: That's right, depending on what you have to learn from each other.

Share Guide: So our relationship with others impacts our individual health because we are learning to share and care beyond ourselves.

James Van Praagh: Look at it as a ripple in the water--you throw pebbles in the water and you have little waves that branch out. What you create with your thought you are sending out the same way. So if you think ill health, and if you think disease, you will create that. Also, if you have negative thinking towards others it ripples out. We are all connected. What goes around comes around. That will come back to you, although it won't come back the way you think it will.

Share Guide: I lived with Swami Muktananda back in my college days. One day someone said he was very selfless. His reply was that he was very selfish, which sort of stunned the audience, until he elaborated that in his case the self he was thinking about was the self of all of us. So in that case he was being selfish on behalf of all of us. That really stuck with me.

James Van Praagh: Part of my work is not only to make people aware that they are spirit, but to let them know that the spirit is eternal. You cannot kill spirit, you cannot kill energy. I hope that part of my work is to illuminate people and I have seen it happen. When you open yourself up to this awareness that you are spirit, you then not only know that you are eternal, but that you can create the world you want. Once you become aware that you are God, that you are the creative force within you, and that you can create everything-- whether it is health, abundance, happiness, love--you have what's in you to do that. This is where I get so much out of my work, to open people up to that so that we change lives. We are not living in a limited point of view; we are now living in a limitless perspective.

Share Guide: That is exactly why I am publishing too, because there are so many good things going on that don't make it into print in the regular media. I think we can enlighten people and make them happier, because there are a lot of good things going on in the world.

James Van Praagh: Unfortunately, we are emphasizing negative in the news and other media. There's so much good too. There is always a balance of the light and the dark.

Share Guide: That leads to another question…why is there so much evil in this world?

James Van Praagh: I don't know that there is so much evil in this world. I think there is also a lot of light and a lot of positive energy, which is not as played up as much as the negative, unfortunately. Again it's a matter of balance.

Share Guide: Why is there evil in the world at all when unity is really where it's at?

James Van Praagh: You wouldn't appreciate the positive without the negative. You wouldn't learn anything if it was all love and bliss. Then you wouldn't have that perspective to appreciate the other.

Share Guide: You can't see the yin without the yang.

James Van Praagh: That's right. Here we go again with choices we have to make. We have opportunities…When you are aware and you are in a state of mindfulness, you can make correct choices.

Share Guide: So why would one chose to incarnate as an evil entity, such as a serial killer?

James Van Praagh: That is a hard question. I don't think one is choosing that, per se. I think there might be aspects to a personality which need to learn and evolve and grow and I think that soul might have put themselves in a situation where they could learn from it--or perhaps not learn this time. They might not make the right choice because of some past incarnations or some behavioral trait.

Share Guide: Like unfulfilled karma?

James Van Praagh: Unfulfilled karma, prior lifetimes…They might go into the same pattern again. Every single soul is evolving, and that is why we are here. Some will evolve faster than others. In the case of a serial killer, it might be very much about lower animal instincts of their personality that have not evolved yet.

Share Guide: When we are in spirit, in that so-called waiting room between physical lives, do we have some memory of our past lives so that we can learn from our karma?

James Van Praagh: Certainly. When you pass into spirit, you have an awareness of all of the lives that you've lived, and all the experiences. You see all the good and bad that you have done. From this you set up new karma, or new situations to work out in another lifetime. But while we are on this earth level, we go through what is called the "Valley of Forgetfulness" where those lifetimes are cut off from us on our conscious level.

Share Guide: That makes me think of Edgar Cayce, and how he would tap into the Akashic records--the cosmic library of all past experiences. While in states of deep meditation, I have had a couple of brief past life flashbacks as to why things are the way they are in my current life.

James Van Praagh: I do a lot of work with Dr. Brian Weiss, who wrote Many Lives, Many Masters. We do workshops together, and we've seen many people go through experiences when they were regressed back to remembering past lives. Prior to that regression, there would be fears and anxieties about certain things. Nine times out of ten, these fears or phobias are linked to a past life experience, and that's why in this present situation there is still an unconscious memory of that. After they go through a regression, and discover the experiences that caused these anxieties and fears, they are able to move past them.

Share Guide: I've recently read a book by a woman psychiatrist named Dr. Shakuntala Modi, entitled Memories of God and Creation. She identified patterns like those you just described, such as people being very claustrophobic for no apparent reason. For instance, under regression one woman recalled having being buried alive in a past lifetime. Dr. Modi did a lot of casework like this, and then she went beyond that to say that you could trace back not just to past lives but all the way back to the source.

James Van Praagh: Definitely, I believe that. When I was doing one of the workshops with Dr. Weiss, and he regressed the audience, I was also regressed. I was sitting in the back of the room. It was so strange…above each person, I began to see a quilt where each square represented a lifetime that each person lived. They were all connected and there were cords connected to each panel, to a different part of their body. It was very interesting to see that, because when I was seeing it, all those squares were moving. They were like different scenes of lifetimes, of World War II over here, of the Revolutionary War there, all different types of scenes and they were all connected to individuals.

Share Guide: There are a lot of stories about people having a close brush with death but then surviving, and you often hear the phrase, "It wasn't his time to go." Do we have a preset amount of time for each incarnation?

James Van Praagh: Yes, I think so. Before we come back there is a blueprint, and in the blueprint are the various experiences that we set out to learn in this lifetime. I think that there is a time when the spirit is done with those lessons and it's time to go back home. I think that is predestined, and also the type of death is predestined. But I do think that our free will is involved as well. Or someone else's free will becomes involved in our termination. For example, if someone robs you and shoots you, then you are dead, you are gone. That might not have been the time you were set to go, because that person's free will was involved in your path. This type of thing can happen as well.

Share Guide: In your first book, Talking to Heaven, the main focus was on communicating with loved ones who have already passed on. With your second book, Reaching to Heaven, it seemed that your goal was to guide us to rediscovering our own inner link. In your latest book, Healing Grief, you focus completely on the subject of grieving. I was wondering what led you to that.

James Van Praagh: I wrote Healing Grief because there are thousands and thousands of people from around the world who get stuck in grief. It seems to be quite an obstacle. They don't know what to do with their lives or how to move on. I just want to give them a way out--a key, if you will, to a doorway to help them out and away from the obstacles. I want people to learn how to live with grief and to not let that hold them back in life. Instead, people can learn to use the grief to help make them stronger, and as an opportunity for growth.

Share Guide: In the book you talk about moving through anger and denial, toward acceptance.

James Van Praagh: There are many stages of grief. The most important thing to realize is that people will grieve differently at different times and in different ways. There is not just one set way to grieve. Not one right way, not one wrong way. Each situation is unique to that individual. So we cannot apply our own laws and rules upon someone else's grief.

Share Guide: I think one of most significant aspects of your work is that it does allow people to learn to let go and move on with their lives. You have probably met many people who had very difficult losses. Do you have difficulty in avoiding taking in the intensity of other people's emotions? How do you protect yourself?

James Van Praagh: It's interesting, because I am human. I feel for these people very much. In a way, it's similar to a surgeon who is doing an operation. I could never operate on people. The blood alone…I just couldn't do it! But surgeons are people that are just doing their job, and in a way they are outside of what they are doing. They get in and get out, and that's it. It is very similar for me. I don't become attached to the work, because if I put myself in there, that wouldn't do anyone any good. I just need to be a clear channel and help them with the message--the realization that life is eternal, that there is no such thing as death. If I got involved on an emotional level (and to some degree I do anyway), I wouldn't be able to do the work because I'd be so caught up in the emotion. I have to step aside and look at it objectively. That makes it much easier for me to do this work. And when you come to realize that life is eternal and there is no such thing as death, it makes it easier to work that way. When you are dealing with it from a spiritual perspective, then the larger picture makes it much easier than looking at the smaller picture. Even though some of the situations are horrendous that I deal with--like the mother who loses her child in a horrific way--I still know that those two souls will be together again one day. That is what keeps me going and allows me be able to do the work, because I have this awareness.

Share Guide: In closing, are there some simple exercises or thoughts that you could give us for our own spiritual healing?

James Van Praagh: Definitely! I would say the number one thing is to get involved with meditation, and go into the silence. Work on the energetic level as well; learn how to balance your energy levels by paying attention to the nuances around you. We need to pay attention to the spiritual signs and symbols and signals around us, because we have them every single day. Learn to listen to them. Learn to see them, not from just a physical point of view but from a spiritual point of view. Be aware, be mindful. That is the number one path toward spiritual healing.

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