Review of Robertson (2015)

More Things You Can Do When You’re Dead: What Can You Truly Believe?
By Tricia J. Robertson
Hove, United Kingdom: White Crow Books, 2015. Pp. xiii + 174. $16.99 (paper)
ISBN 978-1-910121-44-3

This book is a sequel to Tricia Robertson’s Things You Can Do When You’re Dead, published by White Crow Books 2013. Both books are aimed at a general readership but include items of interest to researchers as well.

Those familiar with Robertson’s earlier book know that it covers apparitions, poltergeists, mediumistic communications, and reincarnation. Most of the cases she describes, including the reincarnation case of Cameron, she investigated herself in Scotland.

This new book goes over some of the same ground, but true to its title, includes many other survival-related topics in addition. You will read about spirit-derived inspiration, obsession and possession, spirit healing, out-of body and near-death experiences, and various hybrid and less readily classifiable phenomena. Robertson also has more general and theoretical chapters that treat things like the resistance to the acceptance of psychic phenomena, the nature of the afterlife, and what it all means.

Many of the cases described in this second book are culled from the vast literature of psychical research, and that allows Robertson to cover more ground than she could if she stayed with the Scottish material. One is the reincarnation case of Sonam, investigated and first published by Kuldip Kumar Dhiman in Paranormal Review, a magazine issued by the Society for Psychical Research. However, she has a good number of original cases too. The various cases show how common these phenomena are and should help those who have experienced similar things to appreciate that they are not alone.

One of Robertson’s original cases is a nice illustration of what is called a “reciprocal apparition”—a veridical OBE where the experiencer is perceived as an apparition at the other end. The reaction of one of the percipients is classic: “You can’t touch me. I’m a Christian!”

In investigating cases, Robertson follows the good practice of asking about other psychic experiences in the family. Sometimes she hears about them, sometimes not. In the family with the reciprocal OBE, she struck gold. It turned out that the elder of two children, a boy, had responded to his mother’s offer to read his father his horoscope by telling her that his parents in his “other life” had different astrological signs. Upon further questioning, it turned out that he had quite a few memories of that life that he had not shared with his parents. His sister, also, had talked about being in a place with many people before she was born, not wanting to be born, but being told that she would have to be and having her parents assigned to her.

An important theme of the book is how all these varied experiences relate to one another. Robertson shows through case examples how consciousness is separable from the body, is able to survive the body’s demise, to communicate with the living from a discarnate state, and stage by stage to take possession of another body and be reborn. One of her chapters, “Observations on common features within authenticated cases of ostensible obsession, possession and reincarnation” addresses this topic directly. I disagree with some points in this chapter, though, and I’d like to explain why.

I certainly agree with Robertson that there is a continuum of experience to be noted in cases like these, but I fear that she has got some of her classifications wrong. For instance, the Sharada case is not one of “intermittent possession,” but an adult reincarnation case. Uttara Huddar was 32 when she began to dissociate and another personality, that of a woman named Sharada who claimed to have lived 140 years before, presented itself. This case is similar to possession in some respects, but it also has many signs we see in the reincarnation cases. Uttara’s mother had an announcing dream when she was pregnant with her, Uttara had a phobia of snakes (the last thing Sharada remembered was being bitten on the two by a snake), she had childhood imaged memories of a past life like Sharada’s, and so forth. The dissociation and the strength of presentation of Sharada are unlike children’s reincarnation cases, but the other features show that it is in fact one of reincarnation, not possession.

The Watseka Wonder case is also classified as one of “intermittent possession,” although the possession was complete but lasted only 13 weeks. After it was over the original personality of Mary Roff returned and continued in possession of the body of the remainder of Mary’s life. The possession was not intermittent in this case, but rather temporary. It may be contrasted with Jasbir Singh and Sumitra Singh, in which the possession was permanent–the original personalities never returned. Because of the permanence of the possession, these last two cases can rightly be considered to be a type of reincarnation, I think. And they suggest something important about reincarnation, viz., that it is a variety of possession, usually a prenatal possession of a body. The difference between normal reincarnation and the Jasbir and Sumitra cases is that the possession occurred after birth, replacing the original personality or spirit in possession of the body. Otherwise, we might as well consider them a sort of postnatal reincarnation and I call them instances of “replacement reincarnation.”

Despite these quibbles, Robertson has produced a very interesting book that should be helpful to many people who are wondering about experiences which our Western culture judges “paranormal” and it whets the appetite for others in the series yet to come: “Still More Things You Can Do When You’re Dead,” “And Yet More Things You Can Do When You’re Dead,” etc.–both unannounced but suggested titles.

This review is revised from a post in my Signs of Reincarnation group on Facebook.

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