Monthly Archives: June 2016

Reincarnation without Karma

Many people associate reincarnation with karma, but there is no necessary linkage between these ideas, and many reincarnation belief systems do not include the juridical karma we know from Hinduism, Buddhism and other Indic religions and from Theosophy. In earlier posts I wrote about animistic ideas about reincarnation found in tribal societies and about the reincarnation beliefs of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Karma is not a feature of reincarnation in the Jewish Kabbalah, either, and it does not appear in heterodox Shia Islamic sects such as the Druze of Lebanon, Syria and Israel. 

Since many religions and belief systems acknowledge reincarnation without karma, it is clear that karma is not a necessary corollary of reincarnation. But we can take the further step of asking whether we see evidence for karma operating in reincarnation cases. Can the cases help us decide between these radically different religious positions? The only reincarnation belief system that starts with cases is the animistic one, and it does not include karma. That tells us that maybe karma is a philosophical or religious idea without any empirical foundation, but let’s look at the matter more closely.

As I have studied this problem, I have come to recognize two broad ways in which “karma” is talked about and believed to be reflected in life. One I call juridical karma and the other dispositional karma. Juridical karma is the traditional, popular Indic view that the way we conduct ourselves in one life has effects on us in that life or later lives. It judges the way we behave and shapes our lives accordingly, which is why I call it juridical karma. This type of karma operates externally to ourselves, like a law of nature, although it is directly connected to what we choose to do and we therefore have some control over how it goes. Dispositional karma is quite different. Rather than being a natural law external to ourselves, it is an internal psychological law. There is no external judgment, only the judgment we pass on ourselves. Dispositional karma is manifested in a variety of dispositions to think, feel and behave in certain ways—our personality traits—and is what gives us continuity from one life to the next. Dispositional karma is not really karma in the classic sense, but the idea is so often referred to as karma that I think it is better to call it a type of karma than to try to come up with a completely different term for it.

Many times when Westerners talk about karma it seems to me that they are thinking of it in the dispositional rather than juridical sense. The notion of dispositional karma—though not the term—is found in all the reincarnation belief systems that lack the concept of juridical karma. It is also found in the Indic systems, however. In Hinduism, dispositional traits are called “samskars,” deep psychic traces that pass from one life to the next. In Buddhism, these traits also carried forward—they are about the only thing that does carry forward—though they are bound up with the concept of juridical karma. Unlike juridical karma, dispositional karma is a common part of all reincarnation belief systems, and it may be then that dispositional karma is basic to the reincarnation process, whereas juridical karma is not. Indeed, I think many things that are attributed to juridical karma can be interpreted in terms of dispositional karma just as well—meaning that what some think of as forces external to themselves are really internal and governed by their own psychology.

It is very hard to test ideas of juridical karma against cases, because they do not lend themselves to that sort of scientific scrutiny. For instance, if a person acts in an evil way in one life, juridical karma should make him pay some sort of penalty. If he kills someone, perhaps he will be killed in his next birth, or worse, if he was really, really bad, he might be not be reborn as a human being at all. There should be some sort of just reaction, though, unless—and here is the out very often taken—the penalty is withheld until some future life or there have been equally positive things in earlier lives about which we know nothing that serve to balance out the bad things. For us to be able to test ideas, we must be able to formulate them in appropriate ways, and we cannot do that with juridical karma, because we never have all the data about all lives available. That means that the operation of juridical karma must be taken on faith and science really cannot say much of anything in response to those who choose to believe in it.

But I think it is a useful exercise to see if we can see evidence of juridical karma in reincarnation cases, or if we see only dispositional karma. Of the more than 2500 cases he studied, Ian Stevenson learned of only four with congenital physical abnormalities in which karma was even thought to be involved. He gave no details of two of these cases, both from Burma, so we know nothing more about them, but I think the other two cases can be interpreted in terms of dispositional karma just well. A Burmese girl said that defects of her arm and leg were due to her having hunted and mistreated animals in her previous life. If the previous person had felt guilty about this behavior, could her reincarnating mind have created the defects in the belief that they were the appropriate karmic payback? The fourth case is the Sri Lankan case of Wijeratne, who attributed the stunted arm with which he has born to the action of karma, a response to his having used that arm to kill a woman who tried to back out of her betrothal to him in his previous life, but could it be that the defect was stimulated by his mind instead?

I know of two similar cases without physical signs. At 22, Ma Tin Aung Myo surmised that she was reborn as a woman because she had misbehaved as a Japanese soldier killed in Burma. This is the standard Burmese interpretation for what are considered karmic demotions. When she was a child, though, she answered that it was because the soldier had been shot in the groin. Rani Saxena, who recalled the life of a male lawyer who had “selfishly exploited women,” said that God had put her in a female body so that she could experience what it was like to be a woman. In both of these cases, though, it is possible that the reincarnating spirit itself brought about the change of sex, perhaps unconsciously.

There are many other cases in which people are killed, and they suffer the consequences, in terms of bearing birthmarks or deformities, or carrying phobias that they must deal with in their next lives. It is not the murderers who are punished, it is the victims. And we see very little room for juridical karma to operate in determining where we are reborn—all the evidence points to us having control over where we go in many cases, and help from discarnate spirits or perhaps God in others, leaving no room for an external force such as juridical karma in the determination. That gets into another subject, though, and since we have had many discussions of it in this group already, I’ll end this long post at this point, and see what you have to say in response.

This post originally appeared in my Signs of Reincarnation group on Facebook,
https://www.facebook.com/groups/965923533422836/permalink/1072515669430288/

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Classical Greek Reincarnation and Karma

In another post I described the animistic reincarnation beliefs characteristic of tribal societies around the world and some of the ways they differ from other reincarnation beliefs. The feature that received the most attention in comments was the absence of juridical karma in animism. Animism is not alone in not including karma, though, and in this post I want to describe another belief system in which juridical karma doesn’t appear: the ancient Greek and Roman.

It is sometimes assumed that Greek reincarnation beliefs were borrowed from the Indian, but the absence of juridical karma in their system makes me doubt this. There are other differences from Hindu (and Buddhist) ideas also. Although reincarnation is associated with Greeks before Pythagoras, it was a major teaching of the school he founded. Pythagoras believed he remembered his last life as a Trojan warrior and claimed to have recognized his shield when he saw it in a temple, the earliest examples of the reincarnation signs we study today known from Western cultural sources. Pythagoras’s follower Empedocles believed that he had previously been had been a boy and a girl, a laurel bush, a bird, and a fish, but that as a philosopher, he was no longer subject to the reincarnation cycle, and could return to earth in human form if he wished.

These ideas later influenced Plato, who took up reincarnation in the middle of his career. Plato never systematically stated a theory of reincarnation, but his characters in several dialogues talk about it. In the Phaedrus, one says that souls that are close to God have wings, but if they lose their wings, they fall into a reincarnation cycle on earth. It takes 10,000 years for them to regain their wings, ten lives with 1,000 years between them, during which time they do penance for their earthly sins. This idea that sins are worked off during the period between lives appears in Plato’s later dialogues as well, as in the famous Myth of Er in The Republic, where we are told that after their penances were done, souls are allowed to select their next lives from an array of possibilities presented to them.

The idea that penance is paid in the afterlife (or interlife) may be the reason why the Greeks never adopted the idea of juridical karma, although they would have been acquainted with Indian ideas at least from the point that Alexander the Great reached India and set up a colony there in the 300s BCE, effectively opening a branch of the Silk Road from India to the Mediterranean. The later Neoplatonists, like Plotinus, held to similar views, even as late as the 300s CE. Thus, although we tend to associate reincarnation with juridical karma today, there is no logical necessity of this connection, and many people have believed in reincarnation without believing in this type of karma.

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How Cases are Investigated

 

In this post I would like to describe how academic reincarnation researchers investigate cases of children with past-life memories and why I believe that many of these procedures can be used by those of you trying to self-investigate and evaluate your own past-life memories as adults. It does not matter in principle whether the past lives are of famous people or not—the same standards apply and the same questions should be asked whoever the previous person was.

Academic investigators like Ian Stevenson have focused on the cases of young children for many reasons, among them that it is easier to know what a child has been exposed to before he or she starts to describe his or her memories (since the great majority of children with memories are male, I will henceforth just use the masculine pronoun). The researchers interview the child’s parents and anyone else who has heard him talk about the previous life. If the child will talk with them, they interview him also. They write down everything carefully and if the case has not yet been solved (the previous person identified) they go about tracking him down. In Asia, this can very often be done, and often has been done before the researchers hear about the case. If there has already been an identification, the researchers also interview everyone on the previous person’s side relevant to solving the case. They also hunt down written documents, such as identity cards, police and medical records, etc., and from all of this data are able to evaluate how well the child’s statements match the identified previous life.

In almost all cases, the children get some things wrong, especially in regards to the way the previous person died, so one of the first lessons I would like to get across is that it is not necessary to find 100% accuracy for a claim to be accepted. Past-life memory is no different from this life-life memory in the way it works, and few of us have memories that are 100% accurate. We all get things wrong sometimes, merge together different events, forget things, think we remember things that did not actually happen, etc. So it should be no surprise to find these same things with past-life memory and in fact if we don’t find them, we might want to think of another explanation, like maybe the person heard or read the information somewhere or perhaps got it through ESP from living people or written records.

Another important thing we have learned is that it is not memories alone that need to be taken into account—where there are memories, there are usually are also behavioral and physical signs which go along with them and support the identification. These behaviors appear so routinely, in fact, that if none of them are present, we should question whether we have the right identification. Now, the expression of the different signs is related somewhat to the age of the person experiencing the memories. Behavioral signs tend to be strongest when memories are recalled very early. Some even show up at birth or soon after, well before a child starts to talk about this memories. They may also appear when there are no memories. And they are may be present with memories that surface first in adulthood rather than childhood. Many adult cases have behaviors in childhood, and also physical signs, so it is important to know what signs to look for in investigating and evaluating cases. If none of these signs are present, you should ask yourself whether you have the right identification, especially if the previous person was famous.

So here is a checklist of things to ask or look for in trying to identify the person one was before.

When did your memories first arise? In what state of consciousness, waking, dream or other? Did they start in childhood and persist until today, or perhaps lapse and then return to you more recently? Can you identify any triggers to the memories? Children are more likely to recall things in their normal waking state, but with adults, dreams or other altered states are more often involved. Adult memories are more often triggered by something seen, heard, etc.—at least the triggers are more obvious with adults. Write down everything you remember, ideally as soon as you can after you recall it, in as much detail as you can. This is important so that you don’t forget details and can show later exactly what you recalled when.

Did you tell others about your memories, your parents, siblings, friends, teachers, etc? This is especially important for childhood memories but also holds true for adults. If you told someone else, see if they remember what you said in the same way you do, especially if you did not write down what you remembered at the time.

Was there anything about your behavior as a young child that stands out in your mind or stood out to your parents as unusual? Did you have strong fears or phobias in childhood, even if you did do not still have them? Did you act out in your play anything that seemed unusual then or now? Phobias related to the way the previous person died appear often in these cases and children often express the previous person’s vocation or avocation in their play. These things can supply important clues to previous identities and can help to confirm an identity made on the basis on of episodic memories alone.

Do your parents remember anything peculiar about the way you used language when you first started to speak? Did you use any strange words, speak in a strange accent, perhaps even say things in a foreign language? These and other types of xenoglossy are not unusual and appear often in cases where the previous person was of a different ethnic group or nationality.

Did you behave in any ways like someone of the opposite sex when you were small, like cross-dressing, preferring toys or games usually associated with the opposite sex, etc? Cross-sex behaviors are very common in cases where the previous person was of the opposite sex. They appear most strongly when that person died between their 20s and 50s. If they are absent when you would expect them, you might want to question whether you have made the right identification.

Do you have any birthmarks or other physical signs that might relate to the previous life? Birthmarks are not always past-life related, but if they are strangely shaped or peculiar in some other way, they may be. Often they are related to the way the previous person died, though they can resemble just about anything of importance to the previous person. The emotional significance to the previous person appears to be more important than anything else in determining whether they appear. After birthmarks, the most common thing to look for are similarities in facial architecture, but academic reincarnation researchers do not start with this or even use it as a major criterion in deciding on an identity. After the an identification has been made on other grounds, one can check to see if faces are similar, but faces alone should never be used as one’s initial clue. In addition to birthmarks and faces, there may be a variety of other physical carryovers also, such as internal diseases. In inter-ethnic cases there may be differences in skin tone, eye form, etc.. Anything like this should be noted and compared to the identified previous person. The more correspondences can be seen, the stronger the identification will be.

Did your mother experience any unusual things when she was pregnant with you? Did she have any unusual dreams or food cravings, for instance? These things have turned up in many cases and they can supply good clues and corroborating evidence, although they alone of course do not go all that far.

It is possible for there to be influence from more than one previous life going on at the same time, so be careful to note and weigh everything carefully. Usually when there is influence from more than one life, one predominates. Adults are more likely to recall things from more than one life than children are, though some children do remember more than one life. In these cases, only one of the lives has been strong enough to be solved, however, with the other one unsolved. It may not be possible to identify all of your previous lives and if you try to hard to do so, you may mislead yourself.

The life recalled most strongly—the one with the greatest influence overall—need not be your most recent one, though usually it is one of the last two. This may be because the reason it is recalled is that it is the one for which there are still unresolved issues to come to terms with. With children, the memories often seem to arise out of the need to communicate something about unfinished business of some sort, but with adults, it more often seems that there are conflicts in need of resolution. Especially if you are troubled by your memories, therefore, it would be a good idea to work with them and try to let go of whatever trauma they seem to be expressing. I would say that this is probably more important than trying to make know who you were before, but if you can make a definite identification, this may help in understanding what is going on.

If you recall several lives, you may want to try to order them in a series. There is nothing wrong in that, but be careful with it. Besides looking for connections between you and each of the people in the series, you should look for influences carrying over from one life to the next. If you don’t see the sort of signs I described above between any two given lives, you might want to ask yourself whether you have made all the correct identifications. Also, in evaluating series of lives, pay attention to the progression. There should be a logical flow from one life to the next, something that explains why the one incarnation followed on the previous one. Our research has found that we do not usually hopscotch around the world between lives. Very often we come back in the same family. We are least likely to do so when death is violent, but most often then reincarnation is in the same region as the previous life, not somewhere else entirely. In all the solved international cases we have, there was some sort of psychological link to the other country which would explain why the reincarnation occurred there. In short, where we reincarnate is not random, and your series should be consistent with that.

OK, this has been a long post, and I will stop now. I have made the main points, I think, and others can be brought out in discussion.

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The Rules of Reincarnation

What are the rules of reincarnation? I have seen this question asked, and it is a good one. It may be thought that it is one that cannot be answered except by appeal to religion or philosophy, but actually over the last 50 years of research we have begun to see the outline of how reincarnation seems to work. What I will say here is on the basis of the study of solved past-life memory cases, those in which the previous person has been identified and in which we can have some high degree of confidence.

The most general thing the cases have brought us to understand is that reincarnation is basically a psychological process without any cosmic “rules.” It is not lawful in that way and does not seem to be governed by any processes other than psychological ones. That means that many things about it vary a great deal, from person to person and from culture to culture. We have many indications, from different lines of data, that suggest that we can have a good deal of control over when, where and in what families we reincarnate. We do not see that in all cases, but we see it often enough to justify saying that.

In the great majority of cases, the reincarnation is close to where a person died, or at least within the same country or culture. Reincarnation can be in a different country, though, and when that happens, there is usually a reason of some sort for it. The time between lives also varies a lot, and can be very short, from immediate, to hundreds of years. We do not yet understand all the factors that relate to the length of the intermission between lives, but we do see shorter intermissions when people die very young or violently.

One may change sex between lives, but this is something that varies a lot by culture, and in places that deny that it can happen, we do not find cases (perhaps because they are suppressed, but there really do seem to be fewer of them in those places).

In many cases there are birthmarks or other physical signs linking people in two different lives, but these are not invariably present, and appear to have a psychological basis too. That is, whether or not they appear seems to depend on the meaningfulness of these things to the previous person, who then somehow transfers them to his new body in the process of reincarnation.

It is the same with behaviors, including phobias and skills. When cases are solved, children with past-life memories behave toward people known to the previous persons in ways appropriate to that person. The child may have phobias that can be related to the manner in which that person died and when there was a violent death (such as a murder) may display other signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. The child may also possess skills, including language and handwriting skills, possessed by the previous person, and when these appear they too are things of importance to the previous person.

Thus, although we can discern no fast “rules” that govern how reincarnation occurs, we can see some clear patterns. These patterns include cultural variations, which I will write about elsewhere, but all point toward reincarnation being an individual, psychological process that is not governed by any natural law and is not the same for everyone.

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Reincarnation Beliefs and Cases of Animistic Tribal Peoples

I’d like to say something about the reincarnation beliefs and cases of animistic tribal peoples and how these differ from those found elsewhere.

Not many people realize how widespread animistic beliefs are—cross-cultural studies have found them in between one third and one half of tribal peoples living today (or at least when they were studied, usually sometime in the 20th century). The beliefs are found on every inhabited continent and in most culture areas of all continents except Europe.

There is every reason to think these beliefs are quite ancient and they have been the original reincarnation beliefs. They are different in some respects from other beliefs, and some of the patterns of tribal cases are also different, although interestingly, they are associated with the very same signs—announcing dreams, birthmarks, phobias, peculiar behaviors, memories of previous lives, etc. This makes sense to me, if the cases reflect something fundamental about human biology and psychology (reincarnation), but the beliefs regarding the process are the products of philosophical and religious thinking and theorizing.

One of the biggest ways animistic ideas differ from other ideas is in the absence of any notion of juridical karma, by which I mean the Indic idea that what we do or think determines the circumstances under which we are reborn and can impact us in various ways in this life or our next lives as a sort of natural law external to ourselves. Juridical karma is associated by many Westerners with reincarnation, but actually, there are other beliefs systems—the ancient Greek and Roman, for instance, and those of heterodox Shia sects like the Druze—that do not include this idea of karma either.

Animistic peoples also have a somewhat different idea of the spirit or soul. They do not think of the soul as something unitary and eternal, but rather changeable and potentially duplicatable or divisible. Typically, the spirit may also continue in the afterlife at the same time it—or an emanation from it—has been reincarnated in one or more children.

Their reincarnation cases closely resemble those found elsewhere, but some of the case patterns are different—an usually high percentage are in the lineage are clan and are classified as “family” or “same-family” cases. The cases may fall predominately on one side of the family or the other, however, depending on a society’s kinship structure—almost all cases from the patrilineal Igbo of Nigeria occur on the father’s side, but almost all those of the matrilineal Tlingit of Alaska occur on the mother’s side.

Reincarnation is very closely associated with lineal structures and with certain associated practices, such as cross-cousin marriage, and it is also tightly linked with naming practices and inheritance patterns. Why should that be? I argued in a journal paper that it is because these societies are set up to take advantage of reincarnation and the best way to assure that someone will have again what he had before is for him to reincarnate in the same clan and receive the same name, because names are considered clan property and are linked to property, rights and privileges. I found further support for this idea in my M.A. thesis, which tested various hypotheses about reincarnation in relation to social practices against a sample of 30 tribal societies.

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Do We Change or Evolve Between Lives?

Do we change or evolve between lives? That we do is a belief that goes back to the classical Greeks in Western culture. Plato believed that there was 1000 years between lives, during which time we did penance for our sins before reincarnating. But many investigated cases of past-life memory suggest that this may not be true and that we make the most progress while embodied, not between lives.

Wijeratne was a Sri Lankan boy born with a stunted right arm which he blamed on his having used his arm to kill a girl to whom he was betrothed when she decided against going through with her marriage with him. The man whose life Wijeratne recalled had been tried for the crime, found guilty, and hung, 18 ½ years before Wijeratne was born. But Wijeratne had not made peace with his crime during this period. He spent much of his youth in and out of mental hospitals, diagnosed with schizophrenia, the episodes brought on by contact with young women he identified with the woman he had killed in his previous life. Eventually he did work through his conflicts, however, and settled down into a happy marriage.

A Burmese girl who was born with a severe case of ichthyosis, or plaque psoriasis, recalled the life of another girl afflicted by the same disease. This girl had recalled the life of a monk who had died in a monastery fire. The girl who was the subject of the case believed that she had carried over the disease because she had not come to terms with it. She determined to do that in her present life, and the condition gradually lessened, to the point she believed it would not reoccur in her next life.

Young children often display personality traits and behaviors related to the previous life when young, then grow away from them later. So it seems that the intermission period may not be a time when we necessarily grow and change, despite what we often hear. It appears that it can happen, though, perhaps depending on the individual. I have heard of an Indian case in which a man had a series of dreams about a friend who died tragically in an auto accident. In these dreams, his friend told him that was now healed and was ready to return as his son. That has not yet happened, so we don’t know whether these are true announcing dreams or not.

Individual variation might explain why we see influences from past lives carried forward more profoundly in some cases than others and is another indication that reincarnation is fundamentally a psychological process.

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Unfinished Business and Past-Life Memory

In this post I want to describe a common feature of past-life memory, especially in the cases of children who remember premature natural deaths (usually from disease), and that is some sort of unfinished business left over from the previous life. There are various types of unfinished business and they form part of a larger category of continuing (or ongoing) business. For instance, some children recall the lives of women who died leaving young children in need of care. Jenny Cockell’s Irish life is a famous example of this. Several boys have shown the previous person’s widow where they left buried treasure that no one had known about. Other children recall having left debts that need to be paid or collected.

Memories classified as involving continuing business are often those of merchants or other entrepreneurs who died in the prime of life. In these cases, it is as if the unfinished or continuing business made the memories especially salient and helped to force them into the child’s conscious awareness so that they could be acted upon. Ian Stevenson noted that almost all his natural-death cases featured some sort of continuing business. They also appear in many cases with violent deaths.

An example of a case with unfinished business is a Syrian Druze case from Wortabet’s Researches into the Religions of Syria (pp. 308-309), published in 1860. It is the earliest detailed account of the sort of case we study today to be published in English.

 “A child, five years old, in Djebel el A’ala, complained of the life of poverty which his parents led, and alleged that he had been a rich man of Damascus; that on his death he was born in another place, but had lived only six months; that he was born again among his present friends; and desired to be carried to that city [Damascus]. He was taken there by his relatives; and on the way astonished them by his correct knowledge of the names of the different places they passed. On reaching the city he led the way through various streets to a house which he said had been his own. He knocked, and called the woman of the house by her name; and on being admitted told her that he had been her husband, and asked about the welfare of their several children, relatives, and acquaintances whom he had left. The Druses of the place soon met to inquire into the truth of the matter. The boy gave them a full account of his past life among them, of the names of his acquaintances, the property which he had possessed, and the debts which he had left. All was found to be strictly true, except for a small sum which he said a certain weaver owed him. The man was called, and on the claim being mentioned to him, he acknowledged it, pleading his poverty for not having paid it to the children of the deceased. The child then asked the woman who had been his wife, whether she had found a sum of money which he had hid in the cellar; and on her replying in the negative, he went directly to the place, dug up the treasure, and counted it before them. The money was found to be of exactly the amount and kind of specie which he had specified. His wife and children, who had become considerably older than himself, then gave him some money, and he returned with his new friends to his mountain home.”

Some sort of unfinished business turns up so often in reincarnation cases that I think it must be an important factor in why the lives are recalled. It is as if the need to express the memory is retained in the subconscious mind after reincarnation and this helps it to make its way into the conscious awareness of the subject. Associational triggers are often evident on the subject’s side, but unfinished business appears to be an important—perhaps a crucial—factor on the previous person’s side.

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Pregnancy Cravings in Reincarnation Cases

 

Unusual food cravings and behaviors are fairly common during pregnancy and most have no discernible reincarnation connection. However, when the children born of those pregnancies crave the same foods, one has to wonder if they were influencing their mothers in some way while in the womb. The phenomenon becomes even more intriguing when the children recall previous lives that can be verified and it turns out that the people whose lives they remember were fond of those foods.

In one case Ian Stevenson studied, that of a Thai boy named Bongkuch Promsin, not only was the Bongkuch fond of a certain noodle dish that his mother had craved during her pregnancy,  it turned out the previous whose life he recalled had been fond of the same dish—and that person’s mother had had the same craving when she was pregnant with him. It looks as if the liking for this dish was so strong that it has persisted over at least three lives, influencing two pregnancies! In another of Stevenson’s cases, a woman whose son recalled the life of an alcoholic had an intense desire for alcohol during her pregnancy, controlled only with great difficulty.

It is not just food preferences that may impact pregnant women. Some women become intensely interested in certain activities while enceinte, and those things turn out to be interests of their children later and also of the people whose lives they recall. One woman experienced an increased interest in music during her first three pregnancies and her children showed an aptitude for music, then with her fourth child she was intensely interested in sewing and cooking, which turned out to be concerns of that child.

Pregnant women may also show aversions for things they normally enjoy, but which are disliked by their children after birth and turn out to have been disliked by the previous persons also. One woman normally enjoyed gambling at cards, but not while she was pregnant. Not only was the child born of that pregnancy opposed to the games that resumed after she was born, but she remembered having been a woman with strong religious attitudes and moral dislike for such activities.

I describe in my forthcoming book with Erlendur Haraldsson, I Saw a Light and Came Here: Children’s Experiences of Reincarnation, how an American woman from Philadelphia, Patricia Stein, experienced an intense craving for hot and spicy foods while she was pregnant with her first son, Stephen. Patricia did not much care for these foods, had not eaten them before her pregnancy, and after she delivered Stephen, they went away.

It turned out that Stephen was very fond of them, however. The discovery came about by accident one evening when he was 3 years old, and Patricia and her sister took him to a Mexican restaurant. Since Patricia and her husband did not enjoy these foods, this was the first time Stephen  had had the opportunity to eat them, but he liked them so much that after that he was treated to them on birthdays and other special occasions. Now in his 30s, he still enjoys Mexican foods.

That night at the Mexican restaurant when he was 3, Stephen also revealed something else. He and his mother and aunt were seated at a booth at the back of the room, where there was a large map of Mexico on the wall. While Patricia and her sister talked, he was studying this map. When their waitress came up, he pointed to a small town in the north-central part of the country and said that is where he was from. He pronounced the name perfectly, according the waitress, a Spanish major in college, and she asked Patricia if she teaching him Spanish. She was not and did not know the language herself. She had studied German and her sister French. Stephen’s father  had studied French and Latin. No one in their family had any acquaintance with Spanish and Stephen had had no exposure to the language.

Phenomena like these are among the signs of reincarnation researchers look for, though they are reported in only a few cases. We need better studies of these influences in relation to cravings and aversions in general to better understand how they might relate to reincarnation. But when they are related to reincarnation, how would this work? We know from many cases that beliefs, preferences and various personality traits can carry over from life to life, but how are these transferred to mothers from within the womb? Are the children influencing their mothers psychically? Perhaps. While Patricia Stein was pregnant with Stephen, she felt impelled to give that name to her baby, although it was not one she and her husband had been considering. I have heard of another case in which a pregnant woman became impressed with a name that turned out to be the name of the deceased person whose life her daughter later recalled. That, however, is a subject for another post.

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The Major Signs of Reincarnation

This site, my Facebook group and my online course are all called Signs of Reincarnation. Why is that? What does the name mean?

By Signs of Reincarnation I mean to signal that I will be talking about the evidence for reincarnation, most of which comes from people’s spontaneous memories of previous lives. That evidence in turn has everything to do with a set of recurring signs, which can be grouped into three or four major classes:

(1) Imaged memories and their associated statements and recognitions of people, places or things related to the life recalled;

(2) Behaviors consistent with the previous person, including personality patterns and skills, including sometimes language skills, and also emotional carryovers, such as phobias relating to the way the previous person died;

(3) Physical signs such as birthmarks commemorating death wounds, but also things like stature, facial characteristics, even internal diseases and birth defects; and

(4) Phenomena relating to the period between lives, the intermission, such as dreams of pregnant woman in which a spirit seems to announce its intention to be reborn to her (announcing dreams), pregnancy cravings relating to the food preferences of the person whose life the child will recall later, children’s memories of choosing their parents, etc.

All of these things turn up again and again in cases that have been well documented and in which the previous person spoken about has been identified, what we call “solved” cases, but they also appear in unsolved cases. I will discuss these signs in more detail in other posts.

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