Buried Treasure in Reincarnation Cases

This post is about “buried treasure” in reincarnation cases. A member of my Signs of Reincarnation Facebook group gave me the idea when she wrote in a comment in another thread: “A solid case for me would be someone remembering a past life, then telling of information that would be impossible for the child or anyone the child knows to know, then that information be verified after the child told it, such as remembering being a pirate long ago that buried a treasure, then the kid says where he hid it in his past life, then we find it, and it is an ancient treasure.”

There are many child reincarnation cases that meet the first of these requirements. The children say things about deceased people that their parents have never heard of, and these things are subsequently verified. Documenting these cases by talking to firsthand witnesses is the first stage in reincarnation research. In some cases, the children’s memories were written down before the verifications were made.

There are also cases that meet the last requirement, that the children talk about having hidden valuables in their previous life, then show where these can be found, and they are discovered where the children said they are. The earliest example of this that I know about is a Chinese case from the third century CE. A child asked his nanny for a gold ring he used to play with. The nanny replied that he had never had one, whereupon he went to a mulberry tree near a neighbor’s wall and pulled out a gold ring. The neighbor was very surprised, and said that the ring was lost by her deceased child.

A Syrian Druze case from the 1800s is the first to mention literally buried treasure. A boy in a mountain village claimed that he had been a rich man in Damascus. He got his family to take him to that city, and he led the way to a certain house, where he recognized a woman he said was his widow, along with other people. He asked the widow if she had found the money he had buried in the basement. When she said she had not, he led the way there, dug it up, and it was found to be exactly the amount and in the same denominations he said.

In India in the 1920s, K. K. N. Sahay published seven cases he had investigated. One of them was that of Vishwa Nath, whose case had not been solved before he learned about it, and he was able to write down the boy’s statements about the previous life before trying to verify them. He took him back to the town he said he had lived in, and they met his previous family. Many of the things he said turned out to be correct. Ian Stevenson later reinvestigated the case and wrote about it under the name Bishen Chand Kapoor. He learned that the previous person’s father had shown his son where he had hidden a great quantity of gold coins before he died, but the son (Viashwa Nath or Bishen Chand in the previous life) had not passed on this information before his own death. Bishen Chand led his past-life mother to the room in which the coins were later found.

Shanti Devi is another Indian child who recalled where valuables had been buried. Her memories had been verified but she had not gone back to visit the previous family until she was taken there by an official group of investigators in 1936. At the house, she said she had buried some money in a certain room. The floor was dug up at the place she pointed out, and a cavity discovered there, but it was empty. Later, it was learned that the previous person’s widower had found the money and removed it after his wife’s death. Savitri Devi Pathak, whose case Stevenson investigated in 1970s, had a similar experience. She remembered that she had buried money near a drain in her former house. When she went there, she correctly pointed out the place where the money had been hidden, although it had been discovered and dug up after the previous person’s death.

A very interesting case of buried treasure was observed by an Indian writer named Krishnanand. He witnessed a ten-year-old boy without a history of seizures convulse and fall to the ground following a lecture on the virtues of right living. While in trance, the boy led the way to what he said was his home, recognized the woman who came to the door as his wife, and answered questions sufficient to convince her of his identity. He indicated the place where the previous person had secreted some money (later found to be correct). When the woman left to get refreshments for her visitors, the boy emerged from his trance without any awareness of what he had said and done.

In Reincarnation and Biology Stevenson describes a case in which a Burmese boy said that during the intermission between lives he had communicated to his widow in a dream where he had left a money wrapped in a white handkerchief. It turned out that the woman remembered having a dream like that, and she followed it and found the handkerchief with the money wrapped in it.

These are only a few of the examples of buried treasure that have been recorded in reincarnation cases in Asian countries. Why are there so many cases like this? All except the Chinese and Syrian cases developed in the twentieth century, but in the rural areas where these cases developed, banks were not available or not trusted, and so valuables are often buried to hide them. That is one reason, but it may also be that the fact of the buried treasure, whose location was not passed on to other persons before death, may be a factor here, too. The desire to tell widows or others where valuables are hidden is a type of “unfinished business,” something we see in many cases. Importantly also, this motivation shows that the psychology of the previous person is key to understanding why past-life memories force themselves into the conscious awareness of a case subject, contrary to the idea advanced by some critics that the motive for past-life memory lies entirely on the side of the case subject.

These buried treasure cases are important because they are especially difficult to explain away. The only person who knew these valuables were hidden was the previous person of the case (ostensibly the child itself in a previous life), so he or she could not have gotten the information from another mind or another source. Some parapsychologists might say that they could have learned the information clairvoyantly, but then, they must explain why they and no other people have learned of it in that way. They must also explain all the other features of the cases, including any behavioral or physical signs that are part of it.

Skeptics of reincarnation cases often allege that parents shape their children’s behavior, but that argument is untenable when neither the parents nor anyone else living know where the treasure the children talk about is buried. The only fallback then is that they are all made-up stories, but when you find this phenomenon in cases with written records, such as Bishen Chand Kapoor, or under observation by investigators, as with Shanti Devi, this explanation also becomes strained. Indeed, then, these cases provide one of the strongest types of evidence of past-life memory, and therefore reincarnation.

 

 

 

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Experimental Birthmarks

That birthmarks occur in many reincarnation cases is well known. These birthmarks often match death wounds in location and appearance, but they may replicate many other things also—surgical scars, tattoos, and so forth. As Ian Stevenson showed in Reincarnation and Biology, almost anything can provide the stimulus for a birthmark on the body of the next life.

In this post, I want to discuss a special class of birthmarks, which Stevenson called “experimental birthmarks.” Unlike other birthmarks, the stimulus for experimental birthmarks is a mark made intentionally on the body of a dying or deceased person, for the express purpose of producing a birthmark and thus following that person into his next life.

Jim Tucker and another field researcher, Jürgen Keil, wrote a journal paper about 18 experimental birthmark cases they had investigated in Thailand and Myanmar (Burma). They report a 19th case elsewhere. Stevenson reported 20 cases with experimental birthmarks in Reincarnation and Biology, all also from Thailand and Myanmar. Two of Stevenson’s cases are unsolved, leaving 37 solved cases reported from Thailand and Myanmar. Experimental birthmarks have been reported from India, Tibet, China, and Japan as well. Altogether, I know of 50 solved cases (cases in which the previous person has been identified) with experimental birthmarks, from six Asian countries.

Dr. K. S. Rawat described three cases from northern India in posts for my Signs of Reincarnation group on Facebook, and I will use one of his cases as an example. On December 4, 2014, he wrote:

“When her father died, the grieved daughter suddenly recalled that many a times she had been told that when somebody reincarnates his body would bear the same physical features like shape or marks etc. Mrs. Bharat Veer Singh told us that she got curious: ”If I put some mark on the body of my father would he bear the same when he is reincarnated ?”But, there was no much time to plan, she just put her thumb near his right knee.

“Mrs. Singh was pregnant. After some days she saw her father in a dream that he would be coming back as her son.  He gave a particular day of delivery. When she consulted a doctor, she was given a date which did not tally with the one given by her father. Eventually, Mrs. Singh told us, a son was born on the day her father had predicted in the dream. Instead of looking at the face of the newly born she immediately looked at the knee. There was clearly a dark mark near the right knee.”

This case has several features typical of experimental birthmark cases. The mark was made on the body after death and then appeared on the body of a child born into the same family. Often the mother is aware of the experimental mark; sometimes she saw it being made, and occasionally (as in Dr. Rawat’s case) she is the one who made it. This has led many people to wonder whether the mother herself is responsible for producing the birthmark on her child’s body during its gestation in her womb, in a process called “maternal impression.”

There is some evidence that maternal impression is possible. The stimuli are usually emotionally salient things for the mother, and things she has seen. This is not true of many experimental birthmarks, however. Sometimes the mother is unaware the mark was made, even when the reincarnation is in the same family. In 22 (44%) of the 50 solved cases with experimental birthmarks, the case subject’s mother had not seen the experimental mark on the previous person’s body, and in 16 cases (32%) she was unaware that the mark had even been made.

I’ll give an example of an experimental birthmark in a stranger case from first-millennium China, described by J. J. M. De Groot in Vol. 4 of his The Religious System of China. After a child, Tsui-Lin died, his father and grandmother

“mark his right upper arm with red, and over his eyebrows they make a black mark, and thus they bury him. Next year, [his father] is invested with the dignity of prefect of Kia-ming in Li-chieu. There he serves his time, then settles in that part. Once he sees in the house of a certain Wei-Fu, a secretary in military service, a girl approach him with polite curtsies. It strikes him how closely she resembles Tsui-Lin. He goes home, and informs his mother of it. She has the girl fetched to see her, and forthwith the latter, exhilarated, says to her kinfolk: ‘These people here are my family.’ Then they look for the painted marks, and find them all just as they have been made. The family of the girl send their men to fetch her back; but the affection she has taken to her former kinsmen is so intense that she cannot forbear to leave them.”

We are not told what colors the birthmarks were in this case, but usually the birthmark is of the same or similar color as the mark made, and resembles it in shape, as well as being in the same location. In a Burmese case, the mark was made with red lipstick by the back of the left ear, and the birthmark was a red area in the same place.  Red lime or red ochre are the favored marking substances in Thailand, and the corresponding birthmarks are red or brown. In one Thai case, the mark was made with a white paste, and the birthmark was hypopigmented (it had less color than the surrounding skin). The Dalai Lama has written that a younger brother who died in infancy was marked with a white paste, then the next child born in the family had a pale mark in the same place.

In the majority of experimental birthmarks from Myanmar and India, the substance used for marking is grease or soot from the bottom of a cooking pot, charcoal, or cooking oil, and the mark is brown or black. In Japan, the marking substance may be Sumi ink. In one interesting case related by Lafcadio Hearn in his book Kwaidan, the boy’s name, Riki-Baka, was tattooed on his hand after he died. Later, when a boy was born into a stranger family with the characters as a birthmark on his hand the name allowed his previous family to be traced. A curious ritual was used to remove the birthmark: The boy’s family took clay from Riki-Baka’s grave and rubbed it into their son’s skin. That was believed to be the only way to remove characters that appeared as birthmarks, Hearn tells us.

Among 48 cases with information about relationship between the previous person and the case subject, there were genetic family connections in 37 cases (77%), acquaintance relationships in 5 cases (11%), the families were unknown to each other in 3 cases (6%), and in another 3 cases ( 6%) the families were either acquaintances or strangers. Experimental birthmarks were made after death in all cases except for a few from Myanmar.  In these exceptions, the mark was made on a body of a person on the verge of dying. In Thailand and Myanmar, marks are usually made on chests, backs, upper arms, legs and feet—parts of the body that are normally covered by clothing. In India, however, they are often made on the face. In some cases, children born with experimental birthmarks later speak about memories of the person who was marked, recognize people from the past life, and behave in ways reminiscent of them, as children in other reincarnation cases do.

We have no information on how often experimental birthmarks are attempted, but fail. Stevenson described what appear to be experimental birthmarks in two unsolved cases, but we hear mainly about the successful ones, those related to solved cases. Stevenson at one point arranged to have a series of experimental birthmarks made in Sri Lanka, but no corresponding marks were reproduced on any children he could discover. Sri Lanka is not a country from which the practice has been reported, though, and so seems an odd place to attempt such an experiment. The majority of solved Sri Lankan cases are stranger cases. The experimental birthmarks could have appeared on children in stranger families, but because the children later did not talk about past-life memories that came to Stevenson’s attention, they went unrecognized.

If maternal impression does not account for successful experimental birthmarks, how can they be explained? Stevenson proposed two ways that birthmarks might be transmitted—through something like an astral body he called the psychophore, and by direct mental impressions of images carried in the mind. It is not clear to me how the psychophore transmission would explain those marks made on a deceased body, so I prefer the hypothesis of mental influence. This is consistent with the idea that what survives death and reincarnates is a stream of consciousness continuous with the consciousness we enjoy during embodied life. We know from many cases of intermission memories that perception (presumably by ESP) is possible after death. If a discarnate mind saw the mark made on its late body, the resulting mental image might be enough to cause that mind to reproduce the mark on its new body.

We might expect this especially in those cultures in which the practice of marking a body experimentally is known and accepted. Therefore, it might be good to repeat Stevenson’s experiment in a place in which the practice is widespread, like Thailand or Myanmar. If the process of producing experimental birthmarks can be documented under controlled conditions that would include woman of child-bearing age not knowing about them, we may have found a way of producing replicable evidence for reincarnation.

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Life planning during the intermission

I have been thinking about the evidence we have for life planning before we are reborn. That we plan out our lives in detail, and even make a contract with ourselves or with God, before we resume corporeal embodiment, is a widespread idea in New Age metaphysics. It seems to be confirmed by many reports of memories during regressions to previous lives under hypnosis, especially in those described by Michael Newton in his popular books, Journey of Souls and Destiny of Souls. Newton draws a picture of healing showers, staging areas, waiting rooms with soul cluster groups, and tribunals before which spirits evaluate how well they met the goals they set for their last human lives and formulate plans for their next.

However, judging by the spontaneous case data, all this is quite fanciful. There are no healing showers, staging areas, or soul cluster groups, and spirits do not assess their past lives or plan their future ones, in memories of the intermission (the interval between lives) that surface spontaneously, in the waking state or dreams. We do see some degree of personal choice in the selection of parents, and sometimes of sex, ethnicity, place of rebirth, etc., and assisting spirits sometimes present slates of options and even provide glimpses of what the upcoming lives will be like, but none of this reaches the level of detailed life planning that has become the popular conception of the interlife state.

Spontaneous prebirth memories—memories of the womb or discarnate existence, without accompanying past-life memories—are reported much more often than intermission memories, and so we find a greater variety of phenomena in them. We hear about more detailed life planning occasionally in prebirth memories, but it does not appear to be common with them, either. How are we to account for this situation? If life planning before reincarnation is the rule, why do we hear about it regularly in regression accounts but seldom in spontaneous memories?

Let’s start with what we know about spontaneous intermission memories. Iris Giesler-Petersen and I made a study of 85 published intermission memories that is now in press in the Journal of Near-Death Studies and should be out later this month. Although many of the case subjects—most of them young children—talked about how they came to their parents, we did not find life planning mentioned in any of the cases in our sample. Life planning is not mentioned by Poonam Sharma and Jim Tucker in a 2004 study of intermission memories in Burma (https://med.virginia.edu/perceptual-studies/wp-content/uploads/sites/267/2015/11/REI31.pdf), either, nor in a survey undertaken by Masayuki Ohkado and Akira Ikegawa in Japan (http://ohkado.net/articles/ohkado_ikegawa_2014.pdf).

Thirteen of Ohkado and Ikegawa’s 21 subjects did talk about why they decided to return, but their reasons do not sound like life planning. Three said that it was to meet or help their mothers; five said that it was to help other people; two said that it was to become happier than they were in their previous lives; three said simply that it was to enjoy life; and one said that there was a reason, but he forgot what it was when he was born.

What the intermission memories and other features of the spontaneous cases suggest is that although there are choices many of us can make about where and even when to reincarnate, these choices are limited. They appear to be driven above all by emotional factors—ties to people we were with before, parents to whom we are attracted to for one reason or another, sometimes the country or ethnic group into which we want to return. Such choices are not invariably available, though. When death is violent and unexpected, there is often less evidence of control, as if the psyche had become befuddled by the lack of preparation for death. In some cases, a nonhuman spirit entity assists by providing guidance or a choice of options, but we seldom hear of reflections over past deeds or planning of the circumstances of the next life, except in the limited arenas of choice over parents, sex, etc. I provide examples of the choices we see in the book I wrote with Erlendur Haraldsson, I Saw a Light and Came Here.

The intermission may be broken down into five stages: (1) Death and its immediate aftermath; (2) Discarnate existence; (3) Choice of new parents; (4) Life in the womb; (5) Birth and its immediate aftermath. Memories of all five stages have been reported, although no subjects remember all of them, and most memories relate to Stages 1-3. Prebirth memories are very much like intermission memories, and may be a subset of them. They lack Stage 1, but that may be only because it is not remembered. Maybe everyone goes through all five stages, but not everyone remembers all of them.

On the other hand, it is possible that prebirth memories without memories of Stage 1 represent pre-existence without an earlier embodied life. This may sound strange, but actually it is a very old idea in Western religion and philosophy. It was argued about in early Christianity and pre-existence of the soul, not its reincarnation, is what led to the anathematization of Origin in the 500s CE. Perhaps surprisingly, the idea is still around. It is the position taken by Richard Eyre, who in his book Life before Life says (on p. 13), “our spirits lived long before they inherited our bodies—not in other persons, but in another place, in a pre-mortal realm where we each developed and became who we are and from where we foresaw this physical life as a continuing phase of our experience and our spiritual progression.”

Given the possibility that Eyre is right about some cases, could that difference account for differences between prebirth and intermission memories? What are those differences, other than the absence of Stage 1? I need to be careful here, because although many collections of prebirth memories have been published, and many more such cases have been reported in Internet forums such as PreBirthExperience.com (http://www.prebirthmemories.com/), we don’t yet have careful analyses of these cases. We don’t have a good understanding of their characteristics, just impressions gained from reading many accounts.

There are some differences which may or may not be important. First, unlike intermission memories, most prebirth memories have been reported from culturally Western countries. Second, they haven’t been nearly as well studied as intermission memories. Most of them are anecdotes told by one person, often the experiencer when he or she reached adulthood and is recounting memories from earlier in life. Phenomenologically, though, intermission memories and prebirth memories are very similar. Case subjects recall meeting the spirits of deceased people and nonhuman entities in both, and in both they talk about how they came to their new parents.

Probably because most prebirth memories come from the West, they refer to a discarnate existence in heaven. This fits with one of the things Iris and I discovered about intermission memories: Western accounts usually talk about heaven, but Asian ones refer to time spent in a terrestrial environment. For the most part, in prebirth memories there is no talk about life planning, just as there is none in intermission memories. Nor is there much talk about life reviews, judgments, or penalties paid after death, in either prebirth or intermission memories. So prebirth and intermission memories are pretty much indistinguishable, except that prebirth memories do not refer to Stage 1 of the intermission experience.

There is one major exception to this observation, and that is Cosmic Cradle by Elizabeth and Neil Carman. In that collection, a great deal is made of life planning, and there are several case examples of it. I have not yet studied all these closely, but I have noticed what seems to be a pattern. When life planning is mentioned, it seems to be by adults who are recalling memories from childhood, sometimes after a lapse of years. One 35-year-old woman said that she had tried as a child to hold onto her memories of her birth, but they had slipped away. Later, on a meditation retreat, she had retrieved her intermission memories (she believed). Her account includes detailed memories of life planning, including how she was going to relate to the various people in her life, etc.

Although it needs to be supported through further research and analysis, I now have a working hypothesis of what is going on: I think the idea of detailed life planning in advance of reincarnation is something that has been imagined by our culture. It certainly does not seem to be something that all people do, unless it is something that almost everyone forgets about, while they remember other things. Adults trying to recall things they remembered as children, and people under hypnosis, may be especially likely to draw on the cultural expectation and draw the idea of life planning into their experiences. The same thing might also impact some genuine intermission experiences, if our cultural values are carried into death and influence what we experience then, as does seem to happen very often.

We should look closely at prebirth memories to see if there is more sign of life planning with them than with intermission memories. If there is, that could be evidence of pre-existence without prior incarnation. It may indicate that life planning is important at the beginning or early stages of one’s reincarnation career, but not so important later. We also need to know exactly how many prebirth memories there actually are, and we need to see more of them from non-Western countries. Many, probably most, collections of prebirth memories include past-life memories, and if not past-life memories as such, then memories of being in a womb before, but having one’s body lost to a miscarriage or abortion. When there are true prebirth memories, they are often vague or brief, about time spent in a discarnate state, or choosing parents, or in the womb, or birth, but very rarely all of them together. If there are a lot of prebirth memories where Stages 2-5 are all recalled, and only Stage 1 and past-life memories are absent, I will be more inclined to think that perhaps pre-existence without prior incarnation does occur some of the time. However, based on what I have seen to date, I think it more likely that the other stages and past lives occurred, but simply are not recalled.

Possibly hypnosis is able to reach levels of memory that cannot be brought to mind without it. This is what Newton claims for his method, and many who champion regression memories take this position as well. However, there are many problems with the regression material. Subjects under hypnosis are known to be very suggestible, and will often produce what the hypnotist expects. Moreover, hypnosis is known not to be a good memory-enhancer, which is why testimony based on hypnotically-retrieved memories is not allowed in courts of law. There are other things about the regression material that should raise suspicions too. Memories of reincarnation in the same family are common in spontaneous cases, but unknown in the regression material.

The structure of the prelife or interlife experience is also very different in spontaneous memories and in hypnotically-induced ones, and with spontaneous memories, there are accounts of perceptions of the material world and of interactions with it and living people, through dreams, communications through mediums, poltergeist activity, and apparition sightings. Iris and I found veridical perceptions during all five stages of the intermission experiences, and they have been reported in all stages of the prebirth experience too (and in NDEs, for that matter)–and yet, so far as I am aware, they have never been reported by anyone undergoing regression. Why is that? If interactions with people and the material world are regularly reported in spontaneous memories, why should they not be reported in memories brought up under hypnosis too?

Putting all these things together, I can’t see any reason to think that accounts of the intermission under regression would be more reliable than spontaneous memories, so where they are differences, I am inclined to go with the spontaneous memories. I can easily accept that there is a degree of personal choice in reincarnation, but I do not see evidence for routine reviews of lives just completed or detailed planning of the life to come. Reincarnation choices appear to be much more limited and are largely informed by emotion rather than rational thought. At least that is what the spontaneous case data seem to be telling us. My conclusions are tentative, though, and I could be wrong about them. As always, I am led by data, and if data emerge to take me in a different direction, I will go there.

This post was revised from a post in the Signs of Reincarnation group on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/965923533422836/permalink/1709936275688221/

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Past-Life Memories of Adults

This is a post about the past-life memories of adults, which we may define as those in which the main memories come at age 10 or later. Children who speak about previous lives typically begin to do so between 2 and 4.

Reports of adult past-life memories started to surface early in the 20th century, at the same time that children’s memories began to be recognized in Europe and the United States. In a 1960 review (https://med.virginia.edu/…/uploa…/sites/267/2015/11/STE1.pdf), Ian Stevenson reported having found reports of three adult cases with enough detail for the previous person to be identified (researchers consider these cases to be “solved”). Additional adult cases, both solved and unsolved, appeared throughout the 20th century. In 1979, psychologist Frederick Lenz made a special study of them. In his book Lifetimes he showed that dreams and altered states of consciousness were very common with adult memories and also that triggers or cues were very important with them. Writer D. Scott Rogo followed up Lenz’s work with a smaller sample of cases and confirmed that these factors were important. Rogo described his findings in The Search for Yesterday. In 1989, I published a study of the subject’s age in relation to whether the initial memories were cued in a series of 95 solved cases and showed that cuing is more prominent the older a subject was at the time (http://jamesgmatlock.net/…/Age-and-Stimulus-in-Past-Life-Me…).

Adult past-life memories may be at least as common as children’s memories, but they are much less often veridical (demonstrably factual) and solved. There are several reasons for this. Children’s cases tend to be much richer in the variety of signs of reincarnation they include, and children tend to say more things and to name names more often than adults do. Dreams and altered states of consciousness in which adult memories appear are also given to distortion, as I showed in another post for this group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/965923533422836/permalink/1081701878511667/). There are about 1700 solved children’s cases in the collection at the University of Virginia and several hundred have been published. In contrast, I know of only 10 solved adult cases that like the children’s cases occurred spontaneously (that is, unprompted) in waking, dream, or meditative states.

As I said earlier, I define an adult case as one in which the main memories emerged at age 10 or later. By the “main memories” I mean either the most abundant memories or the memories that allowed the case to be solved. In the great majority of the solved adult cases, there were some memories, or behaviors, or phobias, etc., that came in early childhood also. That is interesting and seems to indicate that the memories were close to the surface of conscious awareness from early in life, even though the psychological conditions weren’t right for them to emerge strongly until later.

Next I’ll summarize the 10 solved adult cases with published reports that I know about. These cases come from both Europe and Asia. I’ll present the European cases first, in the order that they were published. Notice the roles of the common features I have mentioned: dreams or other altered states of consciousness; cuing; and childhood precursors to the main memories that emerged in adulthood.

One of the cases from the early 20th century was self-reported by Giuseppe Costa, an Italian man. As a child, he responded to a painting of Constantinople (now Istanbul) and the Bosporus that hung in his family’s living room. A series of disjointed images came to his mind, but he didn’t know what to make of them. He was keenly interested in arms, fencing, gymnastics and horseback riding. When he was 10, his father took him to Venice for the first time. He had the sense of having been there before and that night had a dream which strung his childhood memories together in a coherent sequence, although he still wasn’t sure what they meant. When he finished high school he joined the army, an occupation with which he felt a sense of familiarity. A few years later all this fell into place when he visited a ruined castle. He reacted to it very strongly and while he was there experienced a vision in which he heard his past-life name: Ibleto. Ibleto di Challant it turned had built the castle and later had gone on a crusade to Constantinople in the 1300s.

Another early European case is that of Laure Raynaud, born near Amiens, France, in 1868. It is not clear when she first had memories of a previous life, but she retained them into adulthood and talked about them to all who would listen. She could not remember her name but was sure she would recognize her house if she saw it. At 17 she decided to become a healer and this became her profession. When she was 45, she went to administer to a man in Genoa, Italy. As soon as she was in Italy began to have a feeling of familiarity with the country. She described the house of her memory to one of her hosts in Genoa, who recognized it and took here there. It fit her memories in all details and being there triggered a new memory, of having been buried not in the church cemetery, but in the church itself, something that turned out to be correct for the wife of a former owner of the house, who had died of a mysterious illness in 1809.

As a child toward the end of the 19th century, the German Ruprecht Schulz used to point to his temple with his finger as if he were about the shoot himself, but he had no imaged memories of a previous life and never spoke about one. He was in his 50s and in a situation in which he had to withdraw money from a wall safe night after night. He began to have the sense he had done this before, and asked himself when. Suddenly he saw himself as another man, doing a similar thing, in another location. By putting various clues together, Schulz eventually figured out he had been a shipping magnate who had killed himself when he discovered he was ruined. He had been five weeks old at the time of the man’s suicide, making this an instance of replacement reincarnation.

A.J. Stewart—an adopted name—was born in England in 1929. From early in life she had strange memories her parents could not comprehend and dismissed, of having lived in a castle and dying on a battlefield somewhere. She felt a strong longing to be in Scotland, but did not go there until she was an adult, midway through a career as a playwright in London. She felt immediately at home In Scotland and resettled there. New memories were evoked when she visited castles and sites associated with King James IV and she came to identify herself with him. Then in 1967, when she was 38, she was persuaded to visit the Flodden battlefield, where the Scots had been defeated by the English in 1513 and King James IV had been killed. On the night before she went there memories of battle and death resurged and once there she was able to lead the way to the spot King James IV had died.

Jeffrey Keene was born in Connecticut in 1947 with a mark on the right side of his face. As a child he had a dream and played at soldiering in ways whose significance only became apparent in adulthood. He had a strange and striking experience at a Civil War battlefield. A palm reader told him he had died there, although he felt that this was wrong. Indeed, as he put the pieces together, and identified his memories with the Confederate officer and later General John B. Gordon, he realized that he had only been wounded. One of Gordon’s wounds was to the right side of his face, in the same place as Keene’s birthmark. After the war, General Gordon went to into politics. He served in the Georgia legislature and as governor, dying in 1904. Keene had other memories, also from childhood, of another life after Gordon’s and before his own, but this remains unsolved.

Angela Grubbs was born in a suburb of Atlanta. She experienced a series of dreams and visions, during meditations or when she was exhausted or ill, beginning in childhood and continuing into adulthood. The dreams and visions centered on a married woman with two children who had lived early in the 20th century in Lexington, Kentucky. During one of her visions, she heard the name of her daughter and then asked herself for her name and that of her husband. These names allowed her to track down the family, first through a genealogical search online and later in libraries, court records and a church in Lexington. Many of the details of her dreams and visions turned out to be accurate. Interestingly, a cluster of memories in adulthood began when she was 28, the age at which the woman had died in 1923.

Yael Shahar was born in Texas but now lives in Israel. From childhood she experienced dreams of having died in a Nazi concentration camp. These dreams continued and became more insistent in adulthood. She remembered the number assigned to the prisoner and this allowed her to track him down, confirm her memories, and fill out his story.

The first of three Asian adult cases was contributed by an Indian writer, Krishnanand, who tells of witnessing a 10-year-old Indian boy without a history of seizures convulse and fall to the ground following a lecture on the virtues of right living. While in trance, the boy led the way to what he said was his home, recognized the woman who came to the door as his wife, and answered questions sufficient to convince her of his identity. He indicated the place where the previous person had secreted some money. When the woman left to get refreshments for her visitors, the boy emerged from his trance without any awareness of what he had said and done.

As a young child, a Turkish Alevi boy, Suleyman Andary, had some vague memories of having lived before. He said he had resided in the village of Gharife, where he had had an olive press. However, fuller memories did not begin to come to him until he was 11, prompted by an incident with his grandmother. When this woman visited his home and asked to borrow a religious book, Suleyman refused to let her have it. Pressed to explain why, he suddenly recalled that in the previous life he had not allowed religious books to leave his house. After this he made an effort to remember more about the former life and succeeded in bringing forth new details. Among these were the name of the previous person, Abdallah Abu Hamdan, and that he had been the mayor of Gharife. When he was 13 Suleyman was taken to Gharife and there led the way to Hamdan’s house and made additional statements as well as recognitions of people and places.

Stevenson also studied the case of a Thai woman, Pratomwan Inthanu, who at 20 while meditating recovered fragments of two lives that ended in infancy. Her memories surfaced quickly, as images, sense impressions, and voice-overs that gave the names of people and places related to these lives. She travelled to the designated locations, where she recognized people, found her way around unaided, answered test questions, and acted in other ways like younger subjects, but her memories were much less robust overall. Pratomwan’s verbal memories (of names), although extensive enough to permit verification, were relatively few and there were no noticeable behavioral memories or physical signs related to the previous lives she recalled.

Besides being less rich than children’s cases often are, and more likely to come in altered states and be cued, adult memories often carry the same emotional intensity that comes with children’s memories. There is the same sense of identification with someone who lived in the past, the same sense that one lived before as this person, who was a different person than who one now is, but is somehow continuous with onesef. In several cases there is also, importantly, the sense of unfinished business, and it appears that this is the key thing that keeps the memories close enough to conscious awareness for them to be retrieved in adulthood. In these latter respects, adult past-life memories are very similar to those children have.

I have focused on adult memories that arose spontaneously in waking, dream or meditative states but which provided enough information and were accurate enough to be solved. In a chapter in Ervin Laszlo’s The Akashic Experience, Stanislav Grof describes two adult cases with apparent identifications that arose during LSD sessions. I also know of 15 solved cases that have emerged during age regression under hypnosis in adulthood. Interestingly, in 13 of these 15 solved regression cases, there were also spontaneous memories of the same lives, usually from childhood. Although having some childhood precursors is not necessary for memories to emerge in adulthood, it certainly seems to be a very strong factor in them.

You can read more about the cases I summarized in the following places: Giuseppe Costa, Laure Raynaud, Ruprecht Schulz: Ian Stevenson’s European Cases of the Reincarnation Type. A.J. Stewart: Stewart’s Died 1513-Born 1929. Jeffrey Keene: Keene’s Someone Else’s Yesterday. Angela Grubbs: Grubb’s Chosen to Believe. Yael Shahar: Shahar’s A Damaged Mirror. Suleyman Andary: Stevenson’s Cases of the Reincarnation Type, Vol. 3: Twelve Cases in Lebanon and Turkey. Pratomwan Inthanu: Stevenson’s Cases of the Reincarnation Type, Vol. 4: Twelve Cases in Thailand and Burma.

Krishanand’s case appeared in a 1968 publication, Reminiscences, published by the Krishnanand Shanti Ashram, and is not readily available in libraries or online booksellers. I will scan it and post it for this group.

This post previously appeared on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/965923533422836/permalink/1478330848848766/

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Dreams and Past-Life Memory

In this post I want to make some comments about dreams with apparent past-life content. Dreams are important, because they sometimes express past-life traumas for children. They are also the way many adults who have not experienced waking memories as children first become aware of what they believe are their previous lives. But dream memories can be especially problematical evidentially, as I will try to show with some examples. We must be very careful about taking dreams at face value when we have no corroborating evidence for the lives they suggest we lived.

Some past-life memories arising in dreams have led to the lives they show being verified and the cases solved. Jenny Cockell had dreams from childhood of a life she was later able to verify, based on her waking memories. Angela Grubbs wrote about her successful efforts to verify her dreams in her book, Chosen to Believe. But cases like this are rare. Antonia Mills investigated three cases of children who had dreams and nightmares with apparent past-life content but was unable to solve any of them. The nightmares suggest that something traumatic happened in an earlier life, but we do not know exactly what that life was and so are unable to pinpoint what about the things remembered in the dreams was right and what was wrong.

We know that there can be distortions in dreams with past-life content, even in solved cases. Ian Stevenson studied the case of Som Pit Honcharoen, who recalled the life of man who was stabbed to death at a festival by a woman to whom he had made unwelcome sexual advances. As a young child he described what happened accurately in his waking state but between the ages of 10 and 28 he had a recurrent dream in which he came close to being stabbed at a festival by a man. Another example occurs with Martalynn Orozco, a case I am studying. Martalynn had a striking birthmark which looked like a knife injury. It turned out that a great-uncle had been ambushed and struck in back by a machete in the highlands of Guatamala, where she was from, but before she learned this the had a dream in which she was murdered by being struck by a machete in a bar.

These transformations should not be terribly surprising. Mainstream memory researchers recognize that memory is a constructive activity and that errors and transformations occur as a matter of course. There is also the possibility of what psychologists call paramnesia, which is the mixing of memories and imaginative elements. I’ve heard of one case that may involve paramnesia. A woman had a realistic dream that seemed to be set during the Civil War. She saw herself dressed as a young woman in a long light blue dress appropriate to that era. She had the sense that her family was on the Confederate side, but she was alone with several Union soldiers in a barn. Some of the soldiers were in the loft, where they accidently knocked over plywood boards which fell on her head, killing her. The dream was so realistic, she told me, she would have thought it was a genuine past-life memory were it not for the plywood, which is a modern invention, not available during the Civil War. The dream, she concluded, was probably symbolic, although she was not sure of what.

Another type of distortion I have heard about in dreams with apparent past-life content is a “fuzziness” in certain strategic places, typically faces. Georgianna Walters of our group described an instance of this and we had some discussion about it in her post of March 20. Michael Conway, a memory researcher, has written that distortions of memory are “attempts to avoid change to the self, and ultimately to goals.” In other words, the distortions are produced by our minds as a way to protect us from the truth. If that is so, then perhaps we should expect to find errors and distortions in past-life memories, especially those arising in dreams, more often than not—and that carries the implication that we would be unwise to take these dreams literally as glimpses into what happened to us in the past unless they provide something which we can verify.

There is a second step reincarnation researchers go through after we verify content, and that is to show that the accurate information is not something the dreamer (or indeed waking remember) was able to obtain normally (or, some would add, through ESP), but that is the topic for another post.

This post is slightly modified from one I wrote originally for my Signs of Reincarnation Facebook group on April 2, 1015. See https://www.facebook.com/groups/965923533422836/permalink/1081701878511667/

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Panpsychism, Survival and Reincarnation

I have been reading a book by Marjorie Woollacott, Infinite Awareness: The Awakening of a Scientific Mind (2015). Woollacott is a respected neuroscientist, the latest to move away from reductionist materialism, which holds that consciousness arises somehow from neural activity, to the view that consciousness has an existence independent of the brain and is transmitted rather than generated by it. Woollacott does more than break with materialism, though—she embraces a particular philosophical position on the nature of consciousness, panpsychism (or more properly in her case, panentheism).

Woollacott is not the only recent writer to endorse some variety of panpsychism. Christof Koch, another neuroscientist and once a staunch defender of the reductionist position, wrote a book called Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist (2012) in which he explained why he too had come to accept that the brain does not generate consciousness and converted to a variety panpsychism. Psychologists Imants Barušs and Julia Mossibridge endorse panpsychism in their Transcendent Mind (2017), published this year by the American Psychological Association with a copyright date of next year. Ed Kelly and several of the psychologists and philosophers who wrote papers for the edited volume Beyond Physicalism: Toward Reconciliation of Science and Spirituality (Kelly, Crabtree, & Marshall, 2015) are also inclined toward panpsychism.

So what is panpsychism? There are several different kinds. The idea can be made to sound rather silly, often willfully so, by those who wish to discredit it. Basically it is the idea that entities at all levels possess some form of experience, mind, or consciousness. This does NOT mean that iPhones and running shoes are conscious in the way we are, much less that they observe the world around them and think about it. Nor does it mean that plants and nonhuman animals possess the same conscious awareness we do. It just means that consciousness, mind, and experience are conceived more broadly, not always in human terms, but in terms appropriate to whatever type of entity is under consideration.

Panpsychism has not always been taken seriously, and in fact until recent years it hardly ever was, so why the rush towards it among those who favor the filter model? There seem to be basically two reasons. One is that panpsychism is consistent with interpretations of quantum mechanics that place consciousness at the center of existence and suppose that consciousness is primary. Dualistic views used to be more in vogue but with a greater understanding of quantum mechanics is coming a turn to idealism, as it is called. Rather than a dualism of mind and matter, mind is considered to be responsible for the creation of matter, from which it follows that some sort of mind may be inherent in all sorts of matter. Panpsychism and idealism are different philosophical positions, but they are compatible and contemporary panpsychists are idealists also.

The other reason for the increasing acceptance of idealist panpsychism is that its world view is very compatible with mystical states of consciousness. This is how Woollacott got there. Alongside her scientific work, she practiced yoga and meditated. She had experiences that she could not reconcile with materialist reductionism and eventually she realized that she needed to bridge the two parts of her life. She found panpsychism—and panentheism, which considers some part of God to inhere in everything—to be in many ways exactly like the Eastern teachings she was following and gave up the materialist world view in its favor.

Now, the reason this turn to idealist panpsychism is important for us, the reason I am writing this post about it, is that many of these same writers embrace postmortem survival and reincarnation. This is very significant. If it were just the reductionist model that were being rejected, then it is more or less obvious why survival and even reincarnation might follow. If consciousness is understood to be independent of the brain then nothing would keep it from surviving the body’s demise. Panpsychism itself says nothing about the survival much less the reincarnation of consciousness and survival is not implied or contemplated by it. Koch does not see a survival implication, yet many people have. Why? And how would it work?

I believe that it has to do with the joining of idealism with panpsychism. Panpsychists as I have said believe that there is consciousness in everything, but not that everything is conscious in the same way. Idealism carries with it evolutionary implications, because if consciousness is the ground of everything, and if it is in everything, then it could have been differentiating and evolving over time, just as the physical and biological worlds have differentiated and evolved over time. Perhaps it was with the emergence of biological life that streams of consciousness capable of survival began to emerge.

So survival and reincarnation are entirely compatible with an evolutionary idealist panpsychism and may be even be logical extensions of it. Survival and reincarnation are also compatible with dualistic ideas of mind /body relations, of course. The question naturally arises, what if anything does panpsychism bring to our understanding of survival that substance dualism does not? Are there advantages to considering survival from the point of view of an evolutionary idealist panpsychism?

I believe that there are advantages. Substance dualism cannot explain why mind, or soul, or whatever one wishes to call the enduring fundamental essence of the self, came into existence, or what it was doing before there were human bodies for it to occupy. An evolutionary idealist panpsychism, on the other hand, presumes consciousness to be the origin of all and that it has differentiated and evolved over time. Evolutionary idealist panpsychism also allows more readily for new streams of consciousness to come into being, emerging from the background consciousness or evolving from more primitive forms, whereas substance dualism seems to require that the souls we have now have been with us all along.

This same process would allow for the creation or evolution of nonhuman spirits mentioned in religious and occult traditions and encountered in NDEs and intermission experiences. Guardian angels are an example. These spirit entities are not of the same nature as our human streams of consciousness, and cannot incarnate in human bodies, but because we share the same evolutionary roots, we can communicate with each other. This we do in extra-sensory ways, using psi, which I believe to be an intrinsic trait of consciousness, one which very likely has its origin far back in time.

No matter what you think of my ideas about these things, it is important to realize that more and more neuroscientists, psychologists, and philosophers are turning to panpsychism, to an evolutionary idealist panpsychism in particular. The same thing is happening in other sciences, including quantum physics, as the materialist world view continues to crumble. This may be a fad that will pass in a few years but it may very well turn out to be a perspective that is here to stay.

This post is updated from one written for my Signs of Reincarnation Facebook group on July 10, 2016. https://www.facebook.com/groups/965923533422836/permalink/1380005548681297/

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Twins with Past-Life Memories

This post is about twins with past life memories. There are some interesting things to say about them. One thing is that in all cases we know about where the previous identities of both twins are known, the previous persons had known each other. Another is that monozygotic or identical twins may differ physically and behaviorally from each other but consistent with the people whose lives they recall.

Ian Stevenson studied 36 pairs of twins, one or both of whom recalled previous lives. With 26 of these pairs, he determined the previous identities for both twins, and of these cases there was a familial relationship between the previous persons in 19 cases and they had been friends or acquaintances in the other 7.

The familial and acquaintance relationships were of various types. Gillian and Jennifer Pollock recalled the lives of their elder sisters (not twins), who had been killed at the same time. Ramoo and Rajoo Sharma recalled having been twins before in another family, in another village. A pair of girls recalled the lives of their grandparents, so one had changed sex. A pair of boys included one twin who had been a wealthy woman farmer and the other a man who had sold her grain. Both twins changed sex, from male to female, in another case, of friends who had been homosexual lovers.

The twins in these cases typically behave as their previous persons did, even when they are monozygotic (single-egg, identical) twins. They also behave toward each other as the previous persons did, and this is sometimes very striking. Gillian acted towards Jennifer as an older sister would, and Jennifer was correspondingly dependent on Gillian. Jennifer, whose previous person had been only 5 years old when she was killed, also held pencils in her fist to write, as her deceased sister had done, whereas Gillian wrote normally.

Monozygotic twins may also be physically different, in line with their previous persons. These differences between monozygotic twins are very important, because they suggest something beyond genetics and environment are influencing them. Stevenson devoted a chapter to twins in Reincarnation and Biology for that reason, and he also discusses twins at length in Children Who Remember Previous Lives.

I want to leave the topic of similarities and differences, though, and take up something else very interesting and important in the twin cases, and that is the implication that the twins had gotten together after death and decided to reborn together. It is hard to see how else to interpret the fact that in all cases where both previous persons are identified, they knew each other. These cases provide the only evidence I know of that suggests that we may meet each other and make decisions together about where we are reborn.

There is a case in which the previous persons may not have known each other, the case of Alexandrina Samona. Alexandrina was identified as the return of her elder sister and she told her mother in a mediumistic séance that she had met someone in the discarnate state and would be bringing her with her as a twin. However, she did not identify her, Alexandrina did not talk about this after she was born, and her twin said nothing about remembering a previous life, so we do not know who she was before, or whether or not they had been acquainted previously.

Stevenson did not learn of any cases in which two previous persons decided before they died that they would be reborn together, and I do not know of one described by anyone else. However, Stevenson mentions a case in which a girl said that she met a village friend in the discarnate state, and they had decided to be reborn together. This is similar to Alexandrina Samona, except that one of the twins recalled acting during the intermission and the twins’ mother had an announcing dream in which the same intention was mentioned.

Besides suggesting that we can meet and recognize each other and make plans together in the discarnate state before rebirth these cases suggest that the decision to become twins is something intentional. The previous persons do not need to have died at the same time or even near the same time. Gillian and Jennifer recalled the lives of sisters who had been killed together, but this is unusual. More commonly the two previous persons died days or longer apart from each other, sometimes in different places, yet managed to find each other.

At the same time, people who die together are not always reborn together. Stevenson has Turkish cases of a man and his wife who were killed at their home on the same night, together with their two children, but reincarnated independently. In this case, the reincarnation of the husband would have liked to have gotten to know the reincarnation of his wife again, but she was not interested, and that attitude on her part may have been a factor here.

Also, although all our cases suggest that the twinning was intentional, in tribal societies like the Tlingit, it is said to be the result of two spirits fighting over one body. I know of no of no reported cases of this happening, though.

Above all, the twin cases show the importance of psychological factors in reincarnation. As we see in other cases, there is no evidence of a force greater than ourselves that determines where we are reborn—or with whom. And they suggest that maybe we can make other sorts of pacts with each other, for instance to be reborn near to each other so that we can more easily encounter each other again. However, I know of no cases of this sort. The twin cases are the only ones that describe meeting spirits and coordinating rebirth. If there are such things as group reincarnations planned in advance, they have so far eluded us, and I think it is more likely that the same psychic links that make it possible for us to find each other in death make it possible for us to find each other in life.

There is something else of theoretical importance that I want to mention before I close, and that behavioral and physical differences between monozygotic twins sometimes show up where neither twin recalls a past life. The classic example like this is the “original” Siamese (conjoined) twins, Chang and Eng, who were very different. What this implies very clearly is that there can be reincarnation without past life memory, so it would be hazardous to assume that people who do not have past life memories have not lived before. For all we know, we have all had previous lives, whether we remember them or not.

This post appeared previously in my Signs of Reincarnation Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/965923533422836/permalink/1220370054644848/

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The Akashic Field and Past-Life Memory

I have been asked about the connection between Ervin Laszlo’s Akashic Field Theory and past-life memory retrieval. Laszlo’s theory is very similar to the Akashic Records of Theosophy but it is couched in more scientific or scientific-sounding terms and is essentially an updated version of that idea, an effort to unite quantum physics and the perennial philosophy of Eastern religions. You can read about it in his book Science and the Akashic Field: An Integral Theory of Everything.

Many psychic past-life readers refer to the Akashic Records as the source of the past-life information they produce. Edgar Cayce said that he got some of his information from reading the minds of his clients, but the rest of it (most of it) from the Akashic Records. The Akashic Records have even been identified as the source of information retrieved in regressions under hypnosis. Many parapsychologists like Laszlo’s theory and assume that it can account for past-life information without having to allow for reincarnation. For that, see the book, The Akashic Experience: Science and the Cosmic Memory Field.

Laszlo himself believes that his idea accounts for the reincarnation cases. He says “phenomena suggestive of reincarnation consist of impressions and ideas recounted by people about sites, persons, and events they have not and could not have encountered in their present lifetime” (Science and the Akashic Field, p. 123). On the next page he acknowledges that birthmarks appear in some cases, but then concludes that rather than reincarnation, we retrieve past-life memories when “our brain becomes tuned to the holographic record of another person in the vacuum.” “Past-life experiences,” he says, “signify the retrieval of information from the A-field [Akashic Field], rather than the incarnation of a spirit of a deceased person.”

In other words, past-life memory is not actually memory at all, but rather is an accessing of information in the Akashic Field or Akashic Records through clairvoyance or some similar psychic process. Laszlo is not the only person to find this idea attractive, as I have noted. But how realistic is it? Does it really account for the past-life memory we see in the reincarnation cases we have studied?

I think it might if all that were involved in past-life memory were the retrieval of information about a deceased person, if it were only “impressions and ideas” about “sites, persons, and events,” as it is for some psychics. But that is not all there is to it, by far, for many of those who experience the memories, and when we try make this idea account for the whole range of phenomena we see in reincarnation cases it quickly becomes clear that it just doesn’t work.

For one thing, people with past-life memories aren’t simply recounting information, they often feel directly connected with the earlier life. Their experience is of a continuity of consciousness and they may refer to the person they were before in the first person, as “I,” not “he” or “she.” Along with this may come a variety of different emotional connections, so that they not only have feelings appropriate to a situation, they have feelings toward people similar to the feelings shown by the people whose lives they recall. In the child reincarnation cases that are solved (the previous persons identified), when the children are taken to meet the former family, they behave toward members of that family as the previous person did.

Solving a case allows us to compare the rememberer with the deceased person whose life he recalls, and we can see all sorts of other connections too, such as similarities of interests and of thought patterns, temperaments, etc. There may also be a variety of similar behaviors, sometimes expressed in play and sometimes in unlearned skills, including language skills.

It is very hard to see how the psychological connections, emotional affinities and apparent behavioral carryovers could be explained in terms of acquisition of information alone. People in favor of the Akashic Records theory of past-life memory just ignore these things and they may not even be aware that they must take them into account. From the way Laszlo describes past-life memory, he certainly doesn’t seem to be aware of them!

There are often physical things in reincarnation cases that must be explained as well. Laszlo mentions birthmarks, but it is not at all clear how his information-retrieval idea would account for them. Probably he assumes that they are coincidences only, or perhaps the things that prompted a child to search the Akashic Records for information on a deceased person that corresponded to them. This is the position taken by some parapsychologists. But this too fails when you realize all the different ways that physical signs can be represented in reincarnation cases. It is not just birthmarks and birth defects, but resemblances in facial characteristics and overall physical structure, even sometimes internal diseases. In solved reincarnation cases, those with identified previous persons, these go  way beyond any plausible coincidence, but are consistent with the idea of reincarnation.

However, in order to provide a proper response to the Akashic Field theory of past-life memory retrieval one must not only show where it fails, but offer an alternative theory in its place. I have been working on such a theory, parts of which I have written about in other posts. I develop that theory at greater length in my Signs of Reincarnation course and book.

My theory begins with the observation that past-life memory resembles this-life memory very closely. It has many if not all of the characteristics of this-life memory and may be talked about in the same terms. This leads me to think that past-life memory really is no different than this-life memory in principle. Materialist researchers assume that memory is stored in the brain somehow, but there are many problems with this idea, and they have never been able to show where it is stored. It seems much more likely that the brain gets involved with the how memories are recorded and retrieved, but doesn’t actually store them.

So where besides the brain could memories be stored, if they are not retrieved from the Akashic Records? I believe they are registered and stored in our subconscious minds. From there, they make their way from time to time to our conscious awareness. I believe this is true of all memories, and that helps to account for why people with past-life memories report that they have exactly the same feel as memories of their present lives, and why past-life memory retrieval is like present-life memory retrieval in many ways (for instance, in that it is often associational). Psychics also say that there is a difference in feel between things they remember and things they learn about clairvoyantly.

If our memories are stored in our minds, and if our minds are not generated by our brains, then our minds could survive the death of our bodies, carry on after death and become associated with (reincarnate into) other bodies later on. When that happens, if I am right, the memories of our past lives would still be in our subconscious, and would only require the right conditions to present themselves to conscious awareness.

The continuity of the mind or consciousness from one body to another would also explain why past-life identities are experienced as continuous with the present life and would account for similarities in psychological traits, temperaments, etc. I believe it could also account for repetitive behavior patterns like skills and even for the transmission of physical traits, if the mind itself is responsible for conveying these to the new body. There is nothing very extraordinary about this last proposal. We know the during our present lives our minds can affect our bodies in these ways, and all I am proposing is that we allow for a reincarnating mind to do the same. So I believe I have a theory which handles the full range of the reincarnation case data much more successfully than the Akashic Field or Akashic Records idea does.

This post was written originally for my Signs of Reincarnation group on Facebook. See https://www.facebook.com/groups/965923533422836/permalink/1086849804663541/

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Announcing and Departure Dreams

This post is about announcing and departure dreams in reincarnation cases. These topics have come up in several earlier posts, but we have not had one devoted to them specifically. There is a lot to be said about them, though.

Announcing dreams are dreams had by pregnant women or sometimes their husbands or someone else close to them in which a spirit presents itself, often declaring its intent to be reborn to them. Departure dreams are dreams that occur to a member of the previous person’s family, in which the spirit lets them know he has been reborn and may tell them where to find him.

In announcing and departure dreams, the spirit usually appears as the person he or she was in the previous life, not as a child, although the child born after the dream may bear some resemblance to that person. Sometimes the spirits bear physical marks related to the previous person which correspond to birthmarks on the baby. Almost always the sex of the person in the announcing dream is the sex of the baby, so at the very least, these dreams are successful in predicting the sex of the child to be born.

Announcing dreams are among the most common signs of reincarnation in tribal societies and sometimes past-life identifications are made on the basis of them alone. The anthropologist Sir Edward Burnett Tylor recognized the importance of announcing dreams as signs of reincarnation and in his book Primitive Culture, first published in 1871, mentioned reports of them from the Tlingit (an American Indian tribe of Alaska) and the Lapps. Ian Stevenson heard of these dreams everywhere he studied cases, but interestingly, there were cultural variations in their content, their timing, and how common they are.

Stevenson noticed that Tlingit announcing dreams tended to represent a person known to the dreamer, generally a relative, arriving at her home. In a twist on this theme, a woman who had lost her father and several other relatives dreamed that her father got off a boat carrying suitcases and visited her at a bakery she was running. In the dream, she explained to him that he was dead, but he replied that he was coming to stay with her and so were others of her deceased relatives. Shortly thereafter she gave birth to her first child, a boy, and went on to have several more children. None of these children related any past-life memories, but often in cases with announcing dreams, they do.

The statement of intention to be reborn to the dreamer is typical of announcing dreams, although in Western cases especially, a spirit may simply appear without any express intention to be reborn. It is only later, when a child starts speaking of a previous life, that the connection is made. In Burma, rather than stating his intention, the spirit usually asks permission to be reborn to a woman. That is not invariably the case, though. Several Burmese children have recalled being Japanese soldiers who were killed during the Japanese occupation of Burma during the Second World War. In one of these cases, the mother-to-be dreamed repeatedly of an army cook she had known and befriended. The cook told her that he was coming to be reborn to her, but did not ask her permission.

Intermission memories in the cases of the Japanese soldiers killed in Burma differ from the Burmese cultural norm in another respect. In Burma, announcing dreams tend to precede the pregnancy rather than coming during it, as they do among the Tlingit and in most other societies. In the Japanese-soldier cases, though, the intermission memories occurred while the pregnancy was underway. In some societies, for instance among the Sinhalese Buddhists of Sri Lanka, announcing dreams are uncommon, perhaps because of the belief that karma and not the individual determines where one is reborn. Announcing dreams are rare also among the Druze, who believe that reincarnation occurs immediately at death, the spirit moving at once into the body of a baby being born. Druze announcing dreams sometimes occur before the person to be reborn dies, the only instances of this that Stevenson encountered.

These various characteristics suggest that the spirit seen in the announcing dream is the responsible for the dreams. They are not ordinary dreams, the products of the dreamer’s imagination. Announcing dreams are one of our lines of evidence of conscious awareness and the ability to think and act during the intermission. They also show how our actions after death are shaped by the ideas we had while living.

In some places, the spirit is almost invariably someone known to the dreamer, whereas elsewhere it is not. In tribal societies like the Tlingit, the spirit is usually a relative of the dreamer. In India, also, all reported announcing dreams occur in cases of reincarnation in the same family line or, much more occasionally, among acquaintances. In most of Asia and also in Western countries, the spirit is unknown to the dreamer, however. The dreams may nevertheless convey veridical (factual) information. In one American case, a pregnant woman heard a name in a dream, and this name turned out to be the name of the girl her daughter (born of that pregnancy) later remembered having been.

Departure dreams are much less common than announcing dreams. They occur when the reincarnation is into a stranger family and a spirit wants to let his former family know he has been reborn. Typically, they also tell the family where he may be found. Jürgen Keil studied a case like this from the Turkish Alevi. The previous person’s mother dreamed that he had been reborn in a certain house. She and later two of his brothers went there, but they were not allowed to see the boy, and only confirmed his identity years later, when he began to speak about the previous life.

Announcing dreams usually but not always are had by a woman shortly before or while she is pregnant, although they may occur to her husband or a relative instead. Occasionally, they do not involve the spirit to be reborn directly, but the spirit of another deceased person or even another sort of entity. In the Italian case of Alexandrina Samona, Alexandrina’s mother dreamed that her deceased daughter would be returning to her, bringing along someone she had met in her discarnate state, and her mother gave birth to twins. In a Burmese case Stevenson studied, a man in white monk’s robes who claimed to arrange for the reincarnation appeared both in an announcing dream to the mother-to-be and in a departure dream to the previous person’s widow.

On occasion, announcing dreams occur after birth, and serve the purpose of alerting the dreamer to the past-life identity of a child. Departure dreams, on the other hand, almost always come after birth. I know of only 6 postnatal announcing dreams, out of hundreds. Of 17 departure dreams, 12 occurred postnatally and 5 antenatally.

Children occasionally remember having “sent” dreams to their mothers or others from the discarnate state. Apparitions are sometimes seen in the same roles and there may also be mediumistic communications in which the intention to be reborn to certain women is declared. These related phenomena make it even clearer that announcing and departure dreams are important features of the intermission period and we can and should consider them alongside intermission memories in trying to understand what goes on between death and rebirth.

This post appeared originally in my Signs of Reincarnation group on Facebook. See https://www.facebook.com/groups/965923533422836/permalink/1360787850603067/

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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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