professional actors—have a repertoire of voices at their command, the simplest hypothesis is that Ms. Knight
makes “Ramtha” speak all by herself, and that she has no contact with disembodied entities from the Pleistocene
Ice Age. If there’s evidence to the contrary, I’d love to hear it. It would be considerably more impressive if Ramtha
could speak by himself, without the assistance of Ms. Knight’s mouth. Failing that, how might we test the claim?
(The actress Shirley MacLaine attests that Ramtha was her brother in Atlantis, but that’s another story.)
Suppose Ramtha were available for questioning. Could we verify whether he is who he says he is? How does
he know that he lived 35,000 years ago, even approximately? What calendar does he employ? Who is keeping
track of the intervening millennia? Thirty-ﬁve thousand plus or minus what? What were things like 35,000 years
ago? Either Ramtha really is 35,000 years old, in which case we discover something about that period, or he’s a
phony and he’ll (or rather she’ll) slip up.
Where did Ramtha live? (I know he speaks English with an Indian accent, but where 35,000 years ago did they
do that?) What was the climate? What did Ramtha eat? (Archaeologists know something about what people ate
back then.) What were the indigenous languages, and social structure? Who else did Ramtha live with—wife, wives,
children, grandchildren? What was the life cycle, the infant mortality rate, the life expectancy? Did they have birth
control? What clothes did they wear? How were the clothes manufactured? What were the most dangerous preda-
tors? Hunting and ﬁshing implements and strategies? Weapons? Endemic sexism? Xenophobia and ethnocentrism?
And if Ramtha came from the “high civilization” of Atlantis, where are the linguistic, technological, historical and
other details? What was their writing like? Tell us. Instead, all we are oﬀered are banal homilies.
Here, to take another example, is a set of information channeled not from an ancient dead person, but from
unknown non-human entities who make crop circles, as recorded by the journalist Jim Schnabel:
We are so anxious at this sinful nation spreading lies about us. We do not come in machines, we do
not land on your earth in machines … We come like the wind. We are Life Force. Life Force from
the ground … Come here … We are but a breath away … a breath away … we are not a million
miles away … a Life Force that is larger than the energies in your body. But we meet at a higher
level of life … We need no name. We are parallel to your world, alongside your world … The walls
are broken. Two men will rise from the past … the great bear … the world will be at peace.
People pay attention to these puerile marvels mainly because they promise something like old-time religion,
but especially life after death, even life eternal.
A very diﬀerent prospect for something like eternal life was once proposed by the versatile British scientist
J.B.S. Haldane, who was, among many other things, one of the founders of population genetics. Haldane
imagined a far future when the stars have darkened and space is mainly ﬁlled with a cold, thin gas. Nevertheless,
if we wait long enough statistical ﬂuctuations in the density of this gas will occur. Over immense periods of time
the ﬂuctuations will be suﬃcient to reconstitute a Universe something like our own. If the Universe is inﬁnitely
old, there will be an inﬁnite number of such reconstitutions, Haldane pointed out.
So in an inﬁnitely old universe with an inﬁnite number of appearances of galaxies, stars, planets, and life, an
identical Earth must reappear on which you and all your loved ones will be reunited. I’ll be able to see my parents
again and introduce them to the grandchildren they never knew. And all this will happen not once, but an
inﬁnite number of times.
Somehow, though, this does not quite oﬀer the consolations of religion. If none of us is to have any recollection
of what happened this time around, the time the reader and I are sharing, the satisfactions of bodily resurrection, in
my ears at least, ring hollow.
But in this reﬂection I have underestimated what inﬁnity means. In Haldane’s picture, there will he universes,
indeed an inﬁnite number of them, in which our brains will have full recollection of many previous rounds.
Satisfaction is at hand—tempered, though, by the thought of all those other universes which will also come into
existence (again, not once but an inﬁnite number of times) with tragedies and horrors vastly outstripping
anything I’ve experienced this turn.
The Consolation of Haldane depends, though, on what kind of universe we live in, and maybe on such
arcana as whether there’s enough matter to eventually reverse the expansion of the universe, and the character of
vacuum ﬂuctuations. Those with a deep longing for life after death might, it seems, devote themselves to
cosmology, quantum gravity, elementary particle physics, and transﬁnite arithmetic.