If you're like me, you probably have some doubts when amazing revelations come through hypnosis. It's not that I doubt the truthfulness of subjects in the trance state, but the potential for the hypnotist to suggest ideas or manipulate the hypnotic experience always present. After all, the hypnotherapist is in control.
Thanks to the lifetime work of Dr. Ian Stevenson we can forget about hypnotic suggestions and possible manipulations of reincarnation stories. He realized that flaw in the research and avoided it completely. His research focused on the real memories of reincarnated children. He meticulously documented these memories, identified the actual person whose life was remembered, and compared the two.
Dr. Stevenson is no weird scientist. His credentials are impeccable. He is a medical doctor and had many scholarly papers to his credit before he began paranormal research. He is the former head of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia, and now is Director of the Division of Personality Studies at the University of Virginia.
He devoted the last 40 years of his life to the study of reincarntion, collecting data on more than 3000 cases. Scholars and skeptics agree that his work represents the best scientific proof of reincarnation.
Dr. Ian Stevenson's studies with reincarnated children
Since the late 1960s Dr. Ian Stevenson, Carlson Professor of Psychiatry and Director or the Division of Personality Studies at the University of Virginia, has documented cases in India, Africa, the Near and Far East, Britain, the United States, and elsewhere in which young children -- some as young as 3 years old -- have astonished their parents with precise details about the people they claim to have been in former lives. Some of these children have recognized former homes and neighborhoods as well as still-living friends and relatives. They have recalled events too, often including their violent deaths. Dr. Stevenson has even found that their birthmarks resemble scars that correspond to wounds that led to their previous deaths.
In his profession as a psychiatrist, Dr. Stevenson became dissatisfied with the methods used to help people. Traditional therapeutic theories attempt to understand a person's personality and behavior in terms of their genetics -- traits inherited from their family and parents -- and their environment. He found many cases that did not seem to be a product of either factor and could not be explined. These cases are quite common: autism, phobias, savants, congenital deformities, irrational food preferences, as well as children who believe they were born the "wrong" gender.
The idea that these traits could be the result of past lives grew strong for Sr. Stevenson after he visited India in the late 1960s. The Asian culture does not readily dismiss such possibilities and so there were many cases which could be examined in detail. He quickly learned that reports from adults, claiming to jave had prior lives, were useless in trying to document reincarnation. In fact, after the age of 5 years old, the subconscious is already so active that imagination can not easily be ruled out as a source of past life memories. Dr. Stevenson decided to pursue only cases involving very young (3 to 5 years old) children.
"It's so much easier to be confident about the amount of information a small child might have learned, especially one living in an Asian village. I saw how fascinating and valuable these cases were. Obviously children are too young to have absorbed a great deal of information, especially about deceased people in some distant town. In the better cases, they couldn't have known about them ... in India, many of which involve long distances, twenty-five to fifty kilometers or more, with no contact between the villages ... Often the child has quite precise details."
We'll summarize a good example of one of these cases below. But Dr. Stevenson has also been interested in children with unusual abilities or talents, that do not appear to be either genetic or enironmentally induced. He suspects that this is a strong indication of reincarnation.
"It's easy to see environmental influences, say, with such composers as Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven, all of whose fathers were fine musicians. But what about George Frederic Handel? His family had no discernible interest in music; his father even sternly discouraged it. Or take the cases of Elizabeth Fry, the prison reformer, and Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. Both had to fight for their chosen callings from childhood onward. One can find endless examples that are difficult to explain given our current theories. But if one accepts the possibility of reincarnation, one can entertain the idea that these children are demonstrating strong likes, dislikes, skills, and even genius that are the logical results of previous experiences. I have found some children with skills that seem to be carried over from a previous life."
In an interview with Dr. Stevenson, the magazine Omni (1989) asked about his study of birthmarks or congenital deformities. From his research, it appeared that these were sometimes related to injuries sustained by the individual in the former life! He had gathered a significant amount of proof to maintain this claim.
"I would be particularly interested if a child has a large birthmark or a congenital malformation. I've reported on a case of a child who claimed to have been his own paternal grandfather and had two pigmented moles in the same spots on his body that his grandfather did. It's said in such instances that genetics is responsible. But one wonders why the one grandchild in ten who had the moles claimed to remember his grandfather's life. Or take congenital malformations: Children born with deformed limbs -- or even without fingers, toes, and hands -- have claimed to remember being murdered and state that the murderer had removed these fingers, toes, or hands during the killing...
[left:] Hypopigmented macule on chest of an Indian youth who, as a child, said he remembered the life of a man, Maha Ram, who was killed with a shotgun fired at close range.
[right:] The circles show the principal shotgun wounds on Maha Ram, drawn from the autopsy report of the deceased. Many more examples can be found in Birthmarks and Birth Defects by Dr. Ian Stevenson.
The theme of violent death comes up frequently in Dr. Stevenson's work. He has found 61% of his cases report having died violently. This was also true for Dr. Helen Wambach's cases. It appears that children often remember the final years of their previous life. Those who suffered are likely to recall a horrific end more so than if the prior life was mundane and quiet. Also similar to Dr. Wambach's cases, Dr. Stevenson found that reincarnations happened quickly -- often within 15 months of a violent or unexpected death.
Psychological Problems from Past Lives -- Dr. Roger Woolger
No discussion of reincarnation would be complete without mention of Dr. Roger Woolger [right], author of Other Lives, Other Selves. He's a British Jungian analyst and past lives therapist who has concentrated on the studies of hoe past life and death experiences impact the present physical and psychological states. He does this in a rather unusual way.
Carl Jung, the famous psychanalyst, devised a method for gaining access to his patient's unconscious mind. He theorized that there was a mental process going on below our conscious awareness and that this hidden process was constantly monitoring our activity, persuading us to do certain things or to make certain decisions. It also could become obsessed with ideas that would make us do strange things without knowing exactly why.
In traditional psychotherapy, the analyst tries to get the patient to understand these hidden unconscious motives and to express them. Once they are known to the patient, they have less power to control their conscious lives. But the trick is knowing how to discover what is so effectively hidden deep in our minds.
Jung devised a method whereby he would ask his subjects to reply with the first thoughts that came to mind after he said a particular word or phrase. For example, if he said the word "apple", the patient might quickly reply with "pie." It's called the "word association test" and it works in a clever way. First, it assumes that the unconscious mind will try to hide its honest reaction to the stimulus word if it is something it feels strongly about. It will quickly censor its spontaneous association and substitute a neutral response. But this censorship takes time and so the response will be delayed. Jung actually used a stopwatch and timed the responses. By reviewing the stimulus words that elicited a delayed response, Jung began to understand the nature of the unconscious dilema.
Dr. Woolger uses a similar approach.
"I use highly charged phrases to provoke an inner psychodrama of imagery. For example, I get someone to repeat a phrase like 'I'm never going to see him again', or 'Theyre coming to get me', or 'Nobody cares about me', or 'I've done something terrible.' These are very very simple phrases, but they act like a fish hook for the inconscious and they bring up personal stories very quickly...
I talk to the person in depth, to understand their life patterns and issues, listening, as a therapist, for specific themes. It's how an astrologer would look at someone's chart and say 'This person has an issue around power, or abandonment, or health and their body.' The astrologer would tune in from the horoscope. I tune in from the interview.""
In his work, Dr. Woolger has discovered that many ailments can be attributed to past lives that express themselves metaphorically. For example, people suffering from back pain could be carrying too much guilt from some previous life; sinusitis could be a failure to grieve about something; neck pain could be the result of being hanged.
A psychological complex is a life-long problem with a certain theme. Sometimes this complex can be expressed as a phobia -- an irrational fear -- and Dr. Woolger believes these can be the result of past life conflicts. Jung said that a comlplex arises where we have suffered a defeat. Woolger believes the last thoughts at the time of death can imprint upon the soul and dominate the next life. He calls this the "life script" and gives examples of potential complexes:
"It's not safe to go out in the world" -- could indicate an accidental death.
"I'm not good enough" -- could be the result of a serious failure.
"It's all my fault" -- could come from a catastrophic error.
"You didn't protect me" -- could indicate dying suddenly as a child and feeling abandoned by parents who are supposed to protect them.
As Dr. Woolger puts it,
"The heightened consciousness that occurs at death imprints with exaggerated intensity the dying thoughts, feelings, or sensations on whatever we call the vehicle that transfers our essence from one lifetime to another."
Sweet Swarnlata: A Case from Dr. Ian Stevenson
Swarnlata's memories began when she was 3 years old. She gave enough information to enable Dr. Stevenson to locate the family of the deceased person that she remembered (the case was "solved"), and she gave more than 50 specific facts that were verified. But Swarnlata's case was different from most because her memories did not fade as she aged.
Swarnlata Mishra was born to an intellectual and prosperous family in Pradesh in India in 1948. When she was just three years old and traveling with her father past the town of Katni more than 100 miles from her home, she suddenly pointed and asked the driver to turn down a road to "my house", and suggested they could get a better cup of tea there than they could on the road.
Soon after, she related more details of her life in Katni, all of which were written down by her father. She said her name was Biya Pathak, and that she had two sons. She gave details of the house: it was white with black doors fitted with iron bars; four rooms were stuccoed, but other parts were less finished; the front floor was of stone slabs. She located the house in Zhurkutia, a district of Katni; behind the house was a girl's school, in front was a railway line, and lime furnaces were visible from the house. She added that the family had a motor car (a very rare item in India in the 1950's, and especially before Swarnlata was born). Swarnlata said Biya died of a "pain in her throat", and was treated by Dr. S. C. Bhabrat in Jabalpur. She also remembered an incident at a wedding when she and a friend had difficulty finding a latrine.
In the spring of 1959, when Swarnlata was 10 years old, news of the case reached Professor Sri H. N. Banerjee, an Indian researcher of paranormal phenomenon and colleague of Dr. Stevenson. Banerjee took the notes her father made and traveled to Katni to determine if Swarnlata's memories could be verified.
Using nothing more than the description that Swarnlata had given, he found the house -- despite the house having been enlarged and improved since 1939 when Biya died. It belonged to the Pathak's (a common name in India), a wealthy, prominent family, with extensive business interests. The lime furnaces were on land adjoining the property; the girls school was 100 yards behind the Pathak's property, but not visible from the front.
He interviewed the family and verified everything Swarnlata had said. Biya Pathak had died in 1939 leaving behind a grieving husband, two young sons, and many younger brothers. These Pathaks had never heard of the Mishra family, who lived a hundred miles away; the Mishra's had no knowledge of the Pathak family.
The next scene in this story sounds like a plot from Agatha Christie, but is all true, extracted from Dr. Stevenson's tabulations in Swarnlata's published case. In the summer of 1959, Biya's husband, son, and eldest brother journeyed to the town of Chhatarpur, the town where Swarnlata now lived, to test Swarnlata's memory. They did not reveal their identities or purpose to others in the town, but enlisted nine townsmen to accompany them to the Mishar home, where they arrived unannounced.
Swarnlata immediately recognized her brother and called him "Babu", Biya's pet name for him. Stevenson gives only the barest facts, but I can imagine the emotions ran high at this point. Imagine how Babu felt to be recognized immediately by his dead sister reborn.
Ten-year-old Swarnlata went around the room looking at each man in turn; some she identified as men she knew from her town, some were strangers to her. Then she came to Sri Chintamini Pandey, Biya's husband. Swarnlata lowered her eyes, looked bashful -- as Hindu wives do in the presence of their husbands -- and spoke his name. Dr. Stevenson says nothing of Sri Pandey's reaction at finding his wife after twenty years. Swarnlata also correctly identified her son from her past life, Murli, who was 13 years old when Biya died. But Murli schemed to mislead her, and "for almost twenty-four hours insisted against her objections that he was not Murli, but someone else." Murli had also brought along a friend and tried to mislead Swarnlata once again by insisting he was Naresh, Biya's other son, who was about the same age as this friend. Swarnlata insisted just as strongly that he was a stranger.
Finally, Swarnlata reminded Sri Pandey that he had stolen 1200 rupees Biya kept in a box. Sri Pandey admitted to the truth of this very private act that only he and his wife had known.
In the following years, Swarnlata visited the Pathak family at regular intervals. Dr. Stevenson investigated the case in 1961, witnessing one of these visits. He observed the loving relationship between Swarnlata and the other members of the family. They all accepted this 10 year old as Biya reborn.
[Above taken from the case notes of Dr. Stevenson]
When asked once if it wasn't a disadvantage to remember a previous life, Dr. Stevenson replied,
"Oh. I think so. These children become embroiled in divided loyalties. In many cases children have rejected their parents, saying they are not their real parents and have often started down the road toward their so-called real homes. In other cases, they insist on being reunited with their former husbands, wives, or children."
Reincarnation Evidence: Stevenson's Research
The fact that these cases are not brought out by hypnosis and often are not entirely beneficial to the person claiming to have been reincarnated only lends credibility to their memories.
Not all cases of reincarnation are in Asia. In fact, the phenomenon is world-wide. But in some Western cultures such claims are often met with ridicule. Parents of American children will often take a child to a therapist or priest and the recollections of a former life will be discouraged and repressed. But sometimes a case is so strong that it captures the attention of the public and the possibility that we all can be born again in another life is openly debated.
The next example is also a child who, at the age of 4, began remembering his death in the Pacific during WWII. Like many of these cases, his memories diminished as he got older. But his parents carefully documented their experiences and eventually discovered the identity of their son's former life. The case of James Leininger is perhaps the best documented case for reincarnation in America... and it's next on viewzone.