Category Archives: Past-Life Memory

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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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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Unfinished Business and Past-Life Memory

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

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

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

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

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

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