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Observations placeholder

Hugh Brody – The Other Side of Eden - The false theory of migration 02



Type of Spiritual Experience


Homo Sapiens have spent much of their time on earth as hunter gatherers.  What characterises a hunter gatherer? 

  • In the first place they have territories, which if shamanic stories are true were defended vigorously by the shamans themselves.  Shamans confronted other shamans in the spiritual world and had symbolic fights with them to defend the hunting territories they had. Not only this, but territories were physically defended by the tribe as a whole when need arose.  As such there had to be extremely good reasons to leave a territory, which had, as it were, been 'marked out' as being theirs.  To cross other territories could be extremely dangerous.
  •  In the second place, hunter gatherer communities invest a huge amount of time in learning about the land in which they hunt and gather.  They are dependent for their survival on knowledge of that land.  There is therefore no incentive at all for them to move once the knowledge has been gained.

The only things therefore that will force a hunter gatherer to move are environmental pressures [change of climate, movement of game or change of game distribution] and competition for resources amongst competing tribes.  Hugh Brody [below] bases his ideas on current hunter gatherer communities and states that their populations remain relatively static

In his view competition is reduced by limiting family size.  As mortality amongst infants was then quite high, however, even a higher birth rate would not have increased the population significantly.   Certainly nothing like the rate at which the population is growing today.

The Neanderthal's Necklace – Juan Luis Arsuaga
we know that the mortality of children under five would have represented some 40% or more of the total.  In other words, nearly half the population would have died before reaching the age of five

As such there was no reason for members of a family to move, as long as the resources on which they lived were stable.  There is evidence that members of different 'clans' moved around in order to marry and  ensure there was no inter-breeding, but this form of movement does not affect the argument as it is simply movement between groups, not movement of a significant group to new territories.

Hunter gatherers of today display the same careful management of their environment as Brody believed to exist in times gone by.  In fact he bases his argument on very careful observation of today's communities whether they live in the Pacific isles, northern Australia, South America, Siberia or the Arctic.


We are apt to judge hunter gatherers by today's standards and this tends to produce the wrong conclusions.  There are some areas where even today's non hunter gatherer communities display much the same traits.  Most of the people in our area, for example,  have lived in the area all their lives as have their families before them and see no reason to move.  The difference is in the management of 'resources'.  We 'exploit resources', they didn't.  In our society 'resources' at an individual level are either the wage a person gets if employed or social security both of which tends to determine family size.  Where social security [resources] favours more children, thus more resources are obtained by having more children, more children are produced.  Where the family has a wage, the number of children tends to depend on the wage itself.  In the end our system is unsustainable, as fewer people work [historically the unemployed tend to produce children who are unemployed] and those with work produce fewer children.  Because hunter gatherer communities have direct control over their resources they are better able to see the results of their actions and see that careful conservation works.

This therefore leaves only three reasons why a hunter gatherer community may move:

  • Environmental changes – in effect climate change
  • Seasonal movement causing permanent spread
  • The 'curiosity' argument

Let me take the last argument first.

I do not hold with the argument that they were curious about what was over the hill!  Peoples who survive as hunter gatherers are only curious about how the world they live in works in order that they can better manage and use it.  Curiosity of the 'what is over the hill' sort is a luxury of the well fed and well housed.

Seasonal movements can only account for some spread, for example, in the Arctic or subArctic.  In temperate or warmer climates, resources exist at all times of year, of different sorts and there is no need to 'chase resources'.

Finally climate change.  And here we do find a valid reason for groups to move.

During the period in which homo sapien hunter gatherer communities have existed there has been one period of extreme cold about 20,000 years ago.  The Scandinavian ice cap grew to a thickness of two miles and ice spread as far as Spain.  Britain and Ireland were covered in ice.  But if we accept the theory that homo sapiens arrived from Africa, these changes were more likely to halt progress rather than encourage any spread.  In the first place these people were used to a warm climate.  In the second place they were quite likely to have come up in direct competition with Neanderthal man and any other pre-existing version of man by moving north.  All these versions of humanity would have had to move south.  There is absolutely no point in a population moving towards a bleak area with reduced game, only tundra and cold where he will meet even more competition for resources.

In fact, climate change of the sort we are talking about would more likely have resulted in the population moving south. 

A description of the experience

Hugh Brody – The Other Side of Eden

Twelve thousand years ago, all human beings lived as hunter gatherers.... Hunter gatherer economies shaped human life in Europe as well as Tasmania, along the Thames Valley as much as by the Orange River or in the Amazon Basin, by the coasts of the Mediterranean as well as the Indian Ocean.  Not every part of the earth's surface was occupied.  Humans had not found New Zealand.  Antarctica was uninhabited …. But wherever humans lived, they did so by knowing their territories and thus being able to hunt and forage... for something like 90% of our ancestry we have lived as hunter gatherers, not farmers............

The Ik may remind us that hunter gatherers, like all other human beings are capable of violence.  Theirs are not pacifist societies.  When explorers travelled into the Arctic, they used guides from subarctic communities.  There are accounts of these guides falling on camps of other peoples 'killing ancient enemies'.  When the Gitzsan of northern BC recount oral histories … they describe murderous encounters with neighbouring societies.........

There are some characteristics all hunter gatherers appear to have shared.  These shared characteristics are grounded in the kind of relationship hunter gatherers establish with the world in which they live.  Material well being depends on knowing, rather than changing, the environment … the central preoccupation of hunter gatherers' economic and spiritual systems is the maintenance of the natural world as it is.  The assumption held deep within this point of view is that the place where a people lives is ideal; therefore change is for the worse......

In this world of egalitarian individualists, hunter gatherer peoples have relatively small and scattered populations.  The need for mobility and the availability of resources appear to encourage hunter gatherers to limit their numbers.  Families do not desire more than 2 small children at any one time, and to this end they do what they can do to space births by about 3 years...............

Given that success is hunting and gathering depends on a detailed knowledge of a specific territory and that the resources of this territory are shared among its harvesters, geographical conservationism is intrinsic to hunter gatherer systems.  They are in their paradise, to go elsewhere is to face extreme risks.


The source of the experience

The Ancestors

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps