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.