Monday, January 19, 2009

Reincarnation: Children's Memories of Another Life

A three year old girl living in Sri Lanka asked her mother an odd question in 1990. The girl's name was Pumima Ekanayake, and she asked her mother whether car drivers who kill pedestrians are bad people. The question turned out to be important, because in a few months Pumima claimed to be able to remember details of a previous life. In this life she was an incense seller, who got about town on a bicycle-until one day she was struck by a car and killed. Pumima recalled 'floating about' for a bit, before she was born into a new body. I think this is interesting because Pumima's description of the life before life was very similar to the one in the Two Souls-One Body, Iris/Lucia series I did in December.
Pumima Ekanyake's story is anything but an isolated case. All across Asia, in countries like India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Burma, there has been a great increase in the number of children claiming to remember past lives. The number of these cases has reached such a level, that finally some in the scientific community are taking an interest in these cases. Dr. Ian Stevenson, a psychologist from the University of Virginia, became deeply involved in the subject of children who had past-life memories. Stevenson's investigations into these cases began in the 1960s in India. He encountered many children there who exhibited past-life memories. In some of what I think are his most interesting cases,(that I hope to post here in between other things, along with other stories about reincarnation), the children's bodies had strange birthmarks that coincided with the area of an injury in the claimed previous life. Dr. Stevenson became convinced of the reality of reincarnation, and published a major work in 1974, Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation, that is still wide quoted and studied today.
In one of these cases, a young girl named Swarnlata talked of having been a married woman named Biya Pithak, who had lived in a nearby town in a distinctive house. One of Dr. Stevenson's colleagues interviewed Swarnlata later in which she gave over fifty details about Biya's life that were later verified. Swarnlata was taken to the town where Biya had lived. During the visit to this town Swarnlata not only recognized her own house(Biya's house), but also some members of Biya's family. Dr. Stevenson had offered this as one of his 'best evidence' cases for reincarnation. Different investigators and psychologists were not so sure.
In recent years psychologists have studied children with past-life memories. They have tried to quantify this phenomenom and also tried to see if there were any 'rational' explanations for these cases. Their studies have shown that children claiming to have past-life memories are indeed mostly in nations and communities that have a large Hindu and Buddhist following. However, isolated cases occur all over the world from Australia to Zimbabwe. In a typical case the child will begin to 'remember' scenes from their past-life at around three years of age. These memories, if that is indeed what they are stop at around about five years of age. During this small window of time that the child remembers things from an apparent past-life, they will describe family scenes many times and very vividly remember the manner of their death in the previous life, which is almost always violent in nature-anything from an accident to being murdered. Some other details that are remembered are what the town, city or houses they lived in were like and some, as in Pumima's case, remember what job they held.
Psychological profiling of the children shows them to be prone to attention-seeking, daydreaming and they often describe themselves in the third person. (Remember Bob Dole anybody?:-) Many of these children have similar psychological profiles to people who suffer from dissociative syndromes, such as multiple-personality disorder (MPD). People who suffer from MPD are able to create very real fantasy worlds and very different personalities. This disorder is sometimes caused by extreme abuse when one is a child. Some psychologists then suppose that children with overactive imaginations are having memories of their 'past-lives' 'nurtured' by parents whose religion has a belief in reincarnation. I think in some cases this is exactly what happens. A child with an overactive imagination (I think it is good in some ways to have an overactive imagination) is 'led on' by parents and the story continues to grow. There is a famous case from England in the 1960s in which twin girls claimed to remember details about the lives of their elder sisters who had died years previously. The Pollock twins case, as it was known, was debunked when it came to light that the father was a fanatical believer in reincarnation. The father of the twins had told people they were the incarnations of their sisters before they were even born! It is now thought that the father had unknowingly 'taught' the girls to remember the lives of their dead sisters.
I do think that psychology can explain many aspects of the past-life recalls of children. An example of this would be why it so often happens in families that believe in reincarnation. However, as Dr. Stevenson also questions, I do not see how psychological explanations can fit all of the facts involved. The children provide facts about their previous lives such as names, dates, addresses, how they died and many other smaller details that can be and have been verified. Sometimes it is the smaller details that once verified are the most fascinating to me. This is because the smaller details are often not known by anyone outside of the family the child claims to have lived his or her previous life in. Some researchers have offered extra-sensory perception as a mechanism for this to be happening. I am not totally averse to this idea, but it is every bit as mysterious as the reincarnation explanation, if not moreso. Dr. Ian Stevenson is not wavering and is adamant in his thinking about the children's cases: "My conclusion so far is that reincarnation is not the only explanation for these cases but that it is the best explanation for me." I hope anyone reading this has enjoyed these last segments. I hope to continue having posts about reincarnation, UFOs and other paranormal phenomena as time goes on. I am looking forward to starting the next series because it is about a subject that was discussed in the posts about the Belmez Faces. Thanks again so very much for the thoughtful and intelligent comments I have been getting! Peace and be well to anyone stopping by!

15 comments:

Aggie said...

I wonder if souls communicate in limbo somewhere? So one leaving the world tells there story to one entering the world and hence we have the memories? It is a fascinating thought ... as well as the possibility or reincarnation.

Devin said...

Aggie-I so very much appreciate your thoughts on this subject-this is one of those topics that isn't for everybody-was just about ready to go to bed and I am so glad I caught you comments. I wonder the same things as you-that is a very interesting and unigue way of putting it-for some more great and interesting ways of looking at theories of the soul type things-you should check out too long in this place-a blog I link to on my blog roll-best as always!

Devin said...

Forgot to mention Aggie-autumnforest has a great reincarnation post at Ghost Hunting Theories blog!

Autumnforest said...

I'm thrilled that people are questioning commonly held beliefs like reincarnation, ghosts, etc, and coming up with common threads and possible explanations. Of course, we may never be able to verify any of the theories until we find out what is the primordial soup in which psychic abilities and souls/afterlife travel upon. Once we tap into that, I think living would be more robust if we knew there were layers we could look forward to, unlike this nearly 2-dimensional world we seem to be stymied by. The spirit is there for humans, just not the physicality. Keep asking the big questions...

Laura said...

Dr. Stevenson died a few years ago, but left behind an enormous amount of research over his 40+ year career at the University of Virginia. Carol Bowman's book, "Children's Past Lives" provides her research into reincarnation starting with her own children's recall of another life. The cases in her book focus on children/adults in the United States (not a country that vies reincarnation as very plausible).

I, however, have had experiences which to me verify that our soul does indeed dig this thing called human existence. Seems the incredible opportunity to grow, learn, heal from other lifetimes, and remember our true divinity is the primary reason we're here on planet earth.

I wrote a book about my possible past lives with a famous rock band, and I propose that large groups of souls return to heal from trauma in another life. In this lifetime, maybe we are using music to not only bring us together, but to heal from painful experiences in this lifetime.

Devin said...

autumnforest-thanks so much for stopping by MFM! I really enjoyed your new post-and enjoy your blog completely-thanks for sharing your thoughts here-best to you always!

Devin said...

Laura-thank you very much for taking the time to comment-and all of the information you gave-very fascinating-i will take another look when i get home-I am at the library now trying to find some books commenters have mentioned-not having much luck so far-but will keep trying-best as always!

wise woman said...

Hi Devin
I was wondering if the belief in reincarnation allows a soul easier access to memories of other lives - if you die believing in it are you more likely to remember in your next life - kind of like leaving the door ajar.
I have read that a very good way to ensure lucid dreams is to ask yourself, while awake, if you are dreaming - the idea being that what we do or think of in conscious life we recreate in dreams.

I wonder if we can prime ourselves in this life for the next - if reincarnation exists - mind you it does seem a bloody slow method of 'travel' (but you know my feelings on that :)

I hope you are very well today

Devin said...

wise I really like your thinking on that-and if we live in a universe where consciousness creates reality and not the other way around -that idea would make perfect sense! best to you as always and thanks so muh for stopping by!

nolocontendere said...

I think wise woman is on to something.
If the purpose in repeatedly coming here to this earthly existance is a learning process, why don't we automatically recall lessons learned in previous go rounds? I know one theory proposes that the reason is we might dwell too much on the emotions or trauma of a former life, yet unless that's a universal "law" it seems to me to be way too self limitating.

I'd propose a far more terrible reason, something I think we must face and overcome somehow before we can progress to our higher, natural states.
There are forces here on earth now, parasitical energies determined to keep us attached to an eternal, forgetful hamster wheel. Leeches who need to suck our energies and have the technologies to make us forget, the actual historical definition of the word sin. And this agenda bleeds through to everyday physical existence as the control and manipulation we see exhibited by our soulless overlords.

Please forgive me if this posts twice, blogger is hiccupping. hiccupping.

Devin said...

nolo-so glad you could stop by! wise woman is a very intelligent person and I tend to think along the same lines -once she brought this up-I really like your thinking in the second paragraph-our overlords if nothing else-do seem very soul-less to me-did you happen to see Unca Dick in his wheelchair-oh poor baby-I tell you no one from that horrible administration will find sympathy here-I am just hoping and praying that with Obama we at least have a chance-thanks so very much for your years of hard work at piglipstick! I hope you and your wife are doing great-and thanks again for stopping by-best to you and yours always!

Devin said...

I meant to say also, nolocontendre-never worry about double posts and the like here-I have had situations where I have posted comments and then as I am getting ready to respond my net connection goes-on all 3 posts I did yesterday I kept getting 'cant connect to blogger your post may be lost' something like that-so I very much understand technical difficulties!

X. Dell said...

(1) I somewhat agree with Edison's first premise, in that in science we have laws of conservation (e.g. conservation of mass, conservation of energy, etc.). Thus nothing can ever appear from nowhere, and disappear into nowhere. If we count our psyches as a thing (how can we not?) then they have to have emerged well before our corporeal lives, and exist long after the bodies die--quite likely in ways we do not expect or imagine.

I would disagree with Edison in his supposition that departed spirits (if they exist as indivuidual souls, which I highly doubt) would have any desire to communicate with the living, for that kind of communion is a function of corporeal life.

(2) I too have memroies of a previous death in 1957, and I have had them since the age of fifteen (i.e., 1977). The only thing I have to check out however is a partial (California) license plate. Although the memory seems quite real--in fact, it is identical to every other memory I have--I don't actually believe that I really passed away in 1957, but somehow absorbed a memory from someplace else. It could be a cultural memory from a tv show that I watched years ago, but forgot. It could be a metaphor of an anxious time when I was near death (a situation I had been in prior to my fifteenth birthday). Or something else.

While I would never tell anyone not to believe in reincarnation--or anything else for that matter-- I would advise, if asked (and yeah, you didn't ask, but I'm going to say it anyway), that one should keep an open mind when thinking about existence beyond this life.

Devin said...

Hi Xdell-sorry it is taking me so incredibly long to get around to responding to comments-between the way I am feeling physically and net connection probs it takes forever it seems-really super appreciate you sharing these thoughts here-That is what i am all about is an open-mind -so nobody will be mocked or derided for suggesting one thing one way or the other-I have found your tale of this to be extremely interesting Xdell! also thanks so much for comments on conservation of energy, Edison-all the best to you as always and thanks for stopping by! It is interesting-after all these years of studying 'woo' type subjects-altho they are not woo to me-I still do not know what to make of an afterlife-I do pretty much believe in one-its the form that it will take that gets me-this thinking and questions to readers will also be in a post if i ever manage to get it here!

Devin said...

had to come back and say that I will definitely have to keep the 'absorption' line of thinking open for my own 'memory' type events that I seem so familiar with! thanks again Xdell!