After reading the Aleph, where Paulo Coelho writes about past lives, I started getting more interested in the subject. I have heard of people believing in such things before, and about the occasional miracle child that speaks fluent ancient Egyptian or whatever language when they are born, but in general always dismissed this as fantasy.
However, one day I googled ‘reincarnation’ and stumbled upon a book called ‘Children who remember past lives’ by Ian Stevenson. It is a sociological study into the topic and Stevenson presents some very interesting cases.
A lot of the cases have similar features. For example often the mother of the child has a dream before she gives birth, where she sees the previous personality who is about to be reborn through her who foreshadows they are coming to stay with the expectant mother to be.
Then when the child is born, it usually speaks about its past life only around the ages of 3 – 5 years, before he or she usually forgets it. The child often speaks of their ‘real mother and father’ and in some cases the old family can be traced and the child would recognise members of this previous family or remember incidents that only someone who knew the former family could have known.
Sometimes if the child is reborn into the same family, it will recognise photos of relatives or friends that the new incarnation had not yet seen. Or he or she would point to a picture and of its former self and say ‘this is me’.
Often the child would play at being whatever the previous personality’s occupation was. For example, if the child had been a shop keeper in the previous life it would play at being a shop keeper. One child played at being a barman and owning a nightclub because that’s what he did in his previous life or another child played at sweeping the streets as it had been a street sweeper in its past life.
Sometimes if the child was born into a family of lower status or standing than it had been in its former life, he or she would comment negatively on his or hers new family’s house, food, clothes and manners and refuse to do certain things, like serve food to someone for example, commenting they have servants for this sort of thing. On the other hand if the child from a previously poor family is born in to higher class family, it would sometimes shock the family with its dirty habits.
Stevenson studied mostly cases from India, America, Asia and the Alevis in Turkey. He writes that many cases are missed because, parents often do not listen to their children when they talk about past lives and dismiss their talk as fantasy, or punish the children if they do talk about it, so eventually the children stop talking about the subject altogether and usually when they get older they forget all about it.
The book is very methodological, so not easy to read but it was very interesting and I found it gave compelling evidence about the existence of past lives.
Some of the individual cases Stevenson describes really make you convinced that the child could not have known some details if in fact he was not the incarnate of the person he claims to be.
Cases are mostly found in countries and cultures where the belief in reincarnation is prevalent, however Stevenson argues this is because people there are more open to the idea and do not dismiss it outright as in cultures where this belief is not held.
It is an interesting and insightful read if you are interested in these things, although not exactly a page turner.
What’s your view on the subject? Do you believe in reincarnation or not?