In this essay I reexamine the phenomenon of past life reports (PLRs).
Past life reporters claim that they have first person knowledge of
life in a different body. Many of the past life reports documented
by Ian Stevenson are surprisingly detailed. Some of these past lives
met with violent, premature ends. When these past life reports can
be corroborated by the testimony of contemporaries, they are
regarded by some as proof of the immortality of the soul. I suggest
this conclusion is based on a misunderstanding of past life reports,
and I offer an alternate explanation.
Past life reports are autobiographical narratives like reports
of near death experiences. In the case of a near death
experience the narrator claims that he or she has undergone an
out-of-body experience. In the case of a past life report the
reporter claims that he or she has a memory of a previous life.
Ostensibly the memory is a memory of a different body. I
identify this memory as a past life memory (Mpl).
Suppose I say I remember watching ants on the sidewalk at age
three. I am reporting that I am the same person as the three
year old in virtue of our psychological and physical profile.
Assuming that there is an uninterrupted causal connection
between the two subjects, the underlying identity claim seems
uncontroversial. If I begin making claims about a prenatal
memory, that is, a memory that predates my birth, you may have
serious reservations about my credibility.
I refer to reports of prenatal memories as past life reports.
The past life report gives a subject’s autobiographical
viewpoint, and the person who offers the past life report is the
reporter. Unlike ordinary autobiographical reports the subject
of the past life report is deceased. In past life reports the
memory criterion for identity is a sufficient condition for
verifying personal identity. When I recollect watching ants on
the sidewalk, I say that I watched them with my very own eyes.
In a past life report the reporter recollects the experience of
a different body. The reporter maintains that the subject of
the memory is embodied, but the remembered body is deceased.
On the one hand, some past life reports are mere journalistic
fantasies for tabloids: “Boy claims he was a Confederate
Soldier.” “Girl claims she lived during the French
Revolution.” On the other hand, many past life reporters are
convinced that they remember a previous life. Some individuals
believe their reports to be evidence of post-mortem survival.
What do past life reports evince?
I. Old Souls and Past Life Memories
With his book, Old Souls, the journalist Tom Schroder
popularized the notion of past life reports. Schroder admits he
was skeptical about past life reports, but he encountered Ian
Stevenson, a psychiatrist who had done extensive studies on the
subject. By following Stevenson on some of his international
travels to track down past life reports Schroder got first hand
exposure to a scientific investigation that had been going on
for several decades. To keep an unbiased view Schroder read
works like Paul Edward’s book, Reincarnation. After
globe trotting with Stevenson, Schroder was convinced that past
life reports offered evidence of reincarnation. He said, “I
didn’t believe any of the questions raised by Edwards’ logic
could overwhelm solid evidence of genuine previous life
Schroder was confronted by both the logical arguments against
reincarnation and the compelling empirical data of Stevenson’s
case studies. Edwards questions the logic of reincarnation.
Consider his population density argument:
Souls are thought to exist
indefinitely, unless they are absorbed into Nirvana.
The number of souls available for
transmigration would remain constant, if it did not
However, the world population has been
continuously expanding for several centuries.
The demand for souls exceeds the number of souls available
for transmigration, if souls are not created. 
Edwards may have reasoned well, but in Schroder’s view Edward’s
logical argumentation seemed to gloss over the obvious. By
comparison Schroder found the empirical data of Stevenson’s
reports far more compelling. Schroder’s personal investigation
took an extraordinary turn, when he was invited to accompany
Stevenson on interviews with some adult subjects. These were
follow-up interviews for cases previously logged. Much of
Stevenson’s work was done with children. Stevenson was
attempting to determine if adults previously interviewed as
children retained their childhood memories of past lives.
Stevenson engaged in past life research for more than thirty
years. By 1987 Stevenson had investigated 725 cases of past life
reports. Most of these recorded cases occurred in Sri Lanka or
India. Only ten of one hundred forty-nine cases involving
children, that is 6.7 percent, were registered in the United
To gather data Stevenson would find and interview the reporter,
and to safeguard the results another researcher would also
record the interview by note taking.
Reports of individuals who read about a past life, had a vivid
dream, or underwent hypnosis were dismissed as offering weak or
faulty evidence. In addition, Stevenson dismissed past life reports
of individuals in an altered state of consciousness. In his
summary work, Children who Remember Previous Lives,
Stevenson selects twelve past life reports from children as
representative cases. Consider three of the twelve cases.
Shamblinie Prema was born on October 16, 1962, in Colombo, Sri
Lanka. Her family home was Gonagela. In infancy the child
displayed an inexplicable aversion to water. After the child
was able to speak, she described in detail a family in Galtudawa,
a village two kilometers away. She claimed this was her
family. A girl named Hermaseelie Guneratne did live in the
village until the age of eleven. On May 8, 1961, she drown in an
accident while traveling to school. When Shamblinie was finally
allowed to visit the village, many details of her memories were
confirmed. The family of Hermaseelie remained skeptical and
did not welcome her as their child. By the age of five her
memories had faded away.
Bongkuch Promsin was born in Don Kha, Thiland, on February 12,
1962. By the time the child could speak he claimed that he came
from a village nine kilometers away. He identified himself as
Chamrat, and he reported several objects that he owned as a
child like a knife and a bike. He also described in detail how
he had been violently murdered by two men who took his personal
possessions. When his report was investigated, several of the
details about Chamrat proved to be correct.
Finally, Susan Eastland was the second daughter born to the
Eastland family living in the United States. The first daughter named Winnie died in an
auto accident in 1961. In 1964 the mother was pregnant with a
second child. Prior to this birth there was an announcement
dream where the first child announced to the mother that she
would return. During her early childhood Susan attached herself
to a photo of the deceased child, and she claimed that this was
her photo. She accurately described events in the life of the
first daughter, and she would draw the name of her dead sister
without prompting. Her mother had played a secret game with the
first daughter that involved a household cookie jar. The mother
was surprised to find that Susan knew the details of the game
These past life reports were given in early childhood. Stevenson
says, “A child who is going to remember a previous life has
little more than three years in which to communicate his
memories to other persons.”
 Many of the reports Stevenson
investigated were from non-Western cultures. In addition to a
general belief in reincarnation Stevenson observes that these
non-Western cultures hold the following beliefs: (1) they revere
the dead; (2) they have strong family ties and revere their
elders; (3) their concept of causality is different; (4) they
believe spatially separated individuals may still communicate
through dreams or telepathy; (5) they place less value on verbal
skills; (6) their sense of time is different; and (7) their
lifestyle is more relaxed.
When Stevenson and his research assistants investigate a past
life report, they are interested in accurately recording the
report. Then they attempt to verify the details of the report.
The quality of the reports is contingent upon the confirmation
of the details, and in some instances there is a high frequency
of confirmation. Consider a well documented past life report of
a four year old Indian boy named Prabhu Khairti. Indian
government officials investigating the case found it to contain
thirty six details. Two could not be verified, five were false,
and twenty nine were verified as true.
While some past life reports offer no clue about the death of
the subject, many past life reports include details of the
subject’s violent death. The three cases above include reports
of a violent death. Stevenson says, “The prominence of violent
death among the cases of all cultures in which I have
investigated these cases seems to me one of the most important
features of the data.”
Stevenson calculated that 61% of the 725 past life reports he
had investigated by 1987 included the description of a violent
II. Logical Reasoning about Past Life Reports
In an early lecture on past life reports Stevenson offers his
own analysis of the possible causes of past life reports. The
lecture would be revised several times, and in this early
lecture Stevenson concludes that reincarnation is the most
plausible hypothesis for past life reports.
Stevenson does not use the language of logic to discuss
reincarnation, but he regards it as the best possible
explanation for the data under investigation.
In the final section of the paper I shall suggest why a
different explanation for past life reports may be a better
Some individuals reason that if the details of a sufficient
number of past life reports can be confirmed, then all
verifiable past life reports are instances of reincarnation.
The verification of details is assumed to be the necessary
condition for the credibility of past life reports. I call this
the verifiable memory criterion. On the strength of the
verifiable memory criterion some reason that past life reports
prove reincarnation. That strikes me as a hasty generalization,
and Schroder did not fall into that fallacy. Schroder was
troubled that the phenomenon of children remembering past lives
was “purely a cultural creation.”
If the case was one of fraud or enculturation, then Schroder was
prepared to dismiss the case. So, Schroder sought to verify the
details of past life reports, and he was interested in a
cross-cultural analysis of the cases. Once Schroder dismissed
the problem of enculturation, the case for him was simple. If
the majority of details of several reports could be
corroborated, then Schroder reasoned that these reports were
genuine. True past life memories Schroder took to be evidence
If a sufficient number of past life reports contained verifiable
details, then if the cases were not attributable to
enculturation, Schroder saw them as evidence of reincarnation.
To maintain his objectivity Schroder read the careful reasoning
of Paul Edwards and others that argue against reincarnation.
Paul Edwards relies upon deductive reasoning to attack the
notion of reincarnation rather than inductive reasoning.
Edwards says, “To refute reincarnation it is quite sufficient to
show that the extreme form of dualism is untenable.”
He offers several arguments against the notion of dualism. For
instance, Edwards argues a non-spatial astral body cannot invade
a womb to embody itself. Edwards dismisses as non-verifiable
the notion that humans have an astral body, and he maintains
that the mind is not distinct from the brain. Edwards says,
If my mind is finished
when my brain dies, then it cannot transmigrate to any other
body. Similarly, if God created a duplicate of my body
containing a duplicate of my brain, my mind would not be able to
make use of it since it stopped existing with the death of my
Schroder rejected Edwards’ logical inferences and concluded that
past life reports offer evidence of reincarnation. What remains
unaddressed is a deep philosophical problem regarding verifiable
memories. How does one explain the acquisition of memories
containing verifiable details? In a philosophical explanation
of a past life report the explanandum is simply a set of
memories, and the explanans is the identification of the cause of
the memory. The explanation for verifiable memories in a past
life report seems to require a causal explanation, since the
remembered subject of the past life report is known to be
deceased. This calls for a close investigation into the nature
and acquisition of memories.
Given the verifiable memory criterion it is possible to conclude
that past life reports are reports of reincarnation? Recall the
three representative cases above. Each subject claims, “I led a
past life.” The “I” of the report refers to the deceased
subject. That “I” looked, dressed, and talked as the deceased.
Most of the details given in the three past life reports were
verified as true. Therefore, past life reports are taken to be
evidence of reincarnation. This inductive conclusion follows
only if one is willing to make several unstated assumptions.
For instance, it is assumed that autobiographical memories are
memories of one person and not two. Likewise, it is assumed
that no verifiable memories are memories caused by a person or
source other than the subject of the memories. Finally, it is
assumed that the subject of memories is not necessarily a bodily
subject. Hence, substance dualism is assumed from the outset.
The reporter has verifiable memories. The details within the
memory are not fraudulent. What cannot be verified is that the
reporter and the remembered subject are identical. What can be
verified is that the body of the subject and the body of the
reporter are not the same body. How can they be the same
subject but not the same body? We conclude that it is the same
subject, only if the person who has a subjective memory is the
same person as the subject of this memory. Hence, past life
reports assume an unstated causal connection between the memory
and its subject. The subject is taken to be the cause of his or
her own subjective memory. Suppose Mary reports, “I remember
life as Susan.” Since Susan is the subject of Mary’s prenatal
memories, and since Susan is the cause of these subjective
memories; Mary is Susan. The subject who recalls an
autobiographical memory and the subject of the autobiographical
memory are assumed to be the same subject. This is the
autobiographical memory assumption. In this case memory alone is
taken to be a sufficient condition for personal identity.
Having the same body is neither a necessary nor a sufficient for
personal identity. While this notion of personal identity may
underlie some explanations of past life reports, it cannot be
understood as a proof of reincarnation.
III. Stevenson’s Causes of Past Life Reports
Stevenson understands that there is an implicit causal
connection between the reporter and the memories in a past life
reports. He cites the nine following possible causes of past
life memories: fraud, normal memories, racial memories,
extrasensory perception, retrocognition, precognition,
communication from a live mediator, possession, reincarnation.
A fraudulent past life report is simply a lie. Even if details
of the report are verified, they are intentionally deceptive,
since the claim that the reporter was the subject of the past
life report was false. Normal memories would include cases
where children hear adults recounting the details that are
included in the report, and these become unintentional
pseudo-memories. Racial memories are memories that are passed
along both socially and genetically like the migratory patterns
known instinctively by birds. Extrasensory perception is simply
the acquisition of memories by causation at a distance.
Retrocogniton occurs when the subject acquires the memories from
some impersonal or transcendental source. Plato’s account of a
slave’s recollection in the Meno could count as a case of
Precognition supposes that the subject foresees the confirmation
of what he or she cognizes. The communication of memories from
a mediator explains the source of the memories while it
falsifies the identity claim. Possession explains the memories
as the effect of an alternate subject like a demon, spirit,
angle, etc. Finally, reincarnation takes the cause of the
memories to be the same person or subject, though the memories
are objectively associated with another person’s body.
For each of these explanations of past life reports I shall be
interested in asking the following questions: (1) Does this
explanation entail substance dualism? (2) Does this explanation
identify a direct or indirect cause of the memories? (3) Are
these memories recalled intentionally or unintentionally? Some
clarification of the last two questions may be in order. I am
the direct cause of my occurent memories. If I have blocked or
conflated a memory, then another who reminds me of the
experience may be the indirect cause of the memory. If I am
asked where my car key is located, and if I search my memory for
an answer, I intend to remember where I placed my car key. When
I deliberately remember, an ulterior motive drives the
recollection process; and the present subject causes the memory.
If I hear a radio announcer say that today is the twenty
second of the month, and I remember I previously planed to
attend an administrator’s meeting; then I unintentionally recall
the memory. When past life memories are unintentional, that
is, when they are spontaneous memories, the possible cause of
their recollection is not the ulterior motive of the present
subject. I offer the following chart to assist in the
examination of Stevenson’s nine explanations for past life
Ian Stevenson’s 9 explanations for past life reports
Substance dualism is a necessary or sufficient condition
for the memory.
The Subject is the direct or indirect cause of the
The memory is intentionally or unintentionally recalled.
Intentional or unintentional
Direct & impersonal
Intentional or unintentional
Communication from a live mediator
Necessary and Sufficient
The ninth explanation on the chart identifies the subject as a
direct cause of unintentional memories in a past life report
that is explained as a case of reincarnation. This explains the
phenomenon of past life reports by reincarnation, but it does
not prove reincarnation. Rather it assumes that the necessary
and sufficient condition for reincarnation, substance dualism,
can be satisfied. In addition, the chart identifies the subject
as the indirect cause of intentional “memories” that are
explained as a case of fraud, and substance dualism is neither a
necessary nor sufficient condition for that explanation. To
assume substance dualism in a proof of reincarnation is to
commit the fallacy of circular reasoning. What needs to be
shown is that reincarnation is the best possible explanation of
the nine explanations. For the best explanation we must
consider both the type of causation and the intentionality of
recollection of past life memories. The worst explanation is
one where the subject is only the indirect cause of the memories
and where the memories are intentionally recalled.
VI. Better Explanations for Past life Reports
If we reject fraud as the worst possible explanation of past
life memories, then that may give us insight into better
possible explanations. We should search for explanations where
the reporter does not intentionally recall the memories, and we
should search for explanations where the subject is the direct
cause of the memory. Of course, reincarnation is a possible
explanation, but it entails that substance dualism is a
necessary and sufficient condition for past life reports. Three
better possible explanations of past life memories remain: (3)
racial memories; (4) extrasensory perception; and (8)
In the racial memories explanation the subject can be the
direct cause of the memory, but it becomes unclear how the
integrity of the subject is maintained. Isolating a single
subject within the pool of racial memories is like isolating one
voice within a mob of voices simultaneously shouting at a
football game. If the racial memories are acquired genetical,
then this would account for only a small number of past life
reports such as that of Susan Eastland.
In the case of possession the subject of the past life memories
is the direct cause of the memories, and the reporter
unintentionally recalls the memories. Nonetheless, the past
life report is flawed, since the personality causing the
memories is distinct from the subject recalled. The memories
may be verifiable, but the reporter becomes the dupe in a
fraudulent scheme serving the overt motives of the possessor.
This seems not to count as a better explanation.
On our short list the one remaining explanation for past life
reports is telepathy. I shall assume that we can give an
account of telepathy that does not entail substance dualism. Are
there reasons to think that this better explains past life
reports? I suggest two reasons. The first is that the state of
mind of the subject may condition the transmission of
autobiographical memories. The second is that the minds of some
reporters may be more attuned to special telepathic
communication of subjects than heretofore believed.
The telepathy explanation requires that we accept the notion of
causation at a distance. In a case of causation at a distance a
direct sensory connection between a cause and an effect may be
absent, yet the effect follows from the cause. A number of
recent psychological studies have compiled scientific evidence
for the notion of causation at a distance. For instance, one
study demonstrated that a subject staring at another person
could make the targeted person aware of this extraordinary
attention, even though the target of attention was carefully
shielded from the subject.
In Distant Mental Influence, William Braud says,
Under certain conditions,
it is possible for one person to effectively influence the
bodily and mental activities of another person who is situated
at a distance and shielded from all conventional sensory,
informational, and energetic influences.
Recall the high incident rate of violent deaths for subjects of
past life reports. In those instances the subject of a past
life report is in a highly excited state of mind at death. The
subject’s alpha brain waves, that is, the brain waves connecting
the conscious and subconscious mind may be unusually intense due
to this excitation.
So, the subject radiates an unusually strong set of brain waves.
If we assume causation at a distance, this excitation becomes
the occasion for communicating a subjective point of view.
In Stevenson’s studies most past life reporters were children.
A sense of subjective identity is something that develops late
in the life of some children. The philosopher George Herbert
Mead observed, “Before a child can have a private perspective
and a mind, it must first have the perspective of the community.
It is a ‘we’ before it is an ‘I’”. James Shreeve says,
Scientists are . . .
discovering that a sense of self is not a discrete part of the
mind that resides in a particular location, like the carburetor
in a car, or that matures all at once, like a flower blooming.
It may involve various regions and circuits in the brain,
depending on what specific sense one is talking about, and the
circuits may develop at different times..
Both the psychological and physiological development of some
children may make them susceptible to the subjective view of
another. In other words, subjective memories of another could
become shared memories at this physiological and psychological
stage of development. Unlike false memories that are the
product of suggestion, these are genuine memories of a subject,
and the reporter comes to share the subject’s point of view.
Thus, two subjects lay claim to one autobiographical memory.
In his recent work, Life before Life, Jim Tucker argues
that ESP cannot account for the phenomenon of past life
reports. Like Stevenson Tucker was a medical doctor researching
the phenomenon of past life reports. Tucker believes paranormal
knowledge is insufficient to account for the evidence. He says,
“The knowledge that the children express about the previous live
comes from the vantage point of one individual, the previous
personality.” He argued that ordinary ESP would not yield a
unified viewpoint, and extraordinary ESP, that is, superpsi
would provide an excess of information to the individual.
The modified ESP account identifies the point of view as one
that emanates from the subject and is received by the reporter.
A recent scientific finding may aid us in making an argument by
analogy. When the tin for electromagnetic relays is not mixed
with lead, it tends to form tin whiskers; and tin whiskers can
create interference and electromagnetic arcing spontaneously.
The interference and arcing can corrupt the system. I suggest
that the physically and socially immature brains of some
children may provide an ideal environment for receiving
unusually strong brain waves of another subject. Without the
mature social skills to differentiate one subjective view from
that of another the child may adopt the foreign viewpoint as his
or her own subjective viewpoint. The child whose subjective
point of view is not yet fully formed may experience this
subjective viewpoint as his or her own memories.
V. Some Objections Considered
Here three of the most common objections to the theory are
Objection 1: Few people remember their past life. Why?
Answer: This is a greater problem for the traditional view of
Stevenson than the telepathic theory. The traditional view must
explain why so few people remember their past lives, since it
theorizes that all people are reincarnated. Not only does the
absence of data pose a problem for this theory, but the
possibility that all souls in each generation are reincarnated
poses a logistical problem. The modified telepathy view sees a
past life report as an exceptional state of affairs, and it can
explain an absence of past life memories as an ordinary state of
Objection 2: Past life reports do prove reincarnation.
Furthermore, you have not stated the reason why we should
believe that your explanation is a better explanation.
Answer: There are different ways of proving a theory. One may
offer a deductive proof, or one may offer a scientific proof.
The author has maintained that if a deductive proof were offered
for reincarnation, then it would assume the bodily transfer of
the person. Since bodily transfer is to be proven rather than
assumed the argument is a circular argument. This proof takes
the following form:
(1) X is a person who has
verifiable past life memories.
(2) If a person has
verifiable past life memories, then the person is reincarnated.
(3) Thus, X is a
Formally the argument is a valid deduction. One who reasons in
this way concludes that a past life reporter is a reincarnated
person. This follows only if reincarnation is assumed in the
consequent of the second premises. I have maintained that in
its present form the second premise is unsound. By simple
logical addition I would restate the second premise to read: If
a person has verifiable past life memories, then the person is
reincarnated or the person is X. I take all eight of the
remaining explanations to be possible substitution instances for
the variable X. The objector would replace the second premise
with the following premises: A person has verifiable past life
memories if and only if the person is reincarnated. I take the
objector’s replacement of premise two to be question begging.
Of course, it is possible to assert that the proof is a strict
scientific proof. A hypothesis is offered, the data is analyzed
in light of the hypothesis, and the conclusion is drawn from the
hypothesis. The author has attempted to demonstrate that the
data confirms only that two subjects share the same subjective
point of view. Transference of a non-bodily entity from one
body to another is nonverifiable. The alternate explanation
relies upon verifiable data to explain the causal connection.
In that sense it distinguishes itself by two theoretical traits
– it is a simpler theory that does not refer to metaphysical
entities, and the theory does refer to the verifiable data of
recent scientific experiments.
Objection 3: Some Buddhists adopt a view of reincarnation where
the essential self is reincarnated but not the person per se.
In this view there is no transmigration of the soul, since there
is no discrete soul that simply reincarnates itself. Why would
this not be consistent with the data?
Answer: This objection can easily be misunderstood. You
describe a belief that I shall call a no-soul form of
reincarnation. Some Buddhists do believe that reincarnation is
simply the transmigration of the soul. For instance, the Dali
Lama may refer to himself as “the present body”, since he
believes that he is simply one incarnation of a series of
incarnation. If we suppose that some Buddhists do believe in a
no-soul form of reincarnation, how would this relate to the
theory of reincarnation?
The no-soul reincarnation view fails to explain past life
reports. Past life reports require that a set of memories be
shared by two subjects and that one of the two subjects be
deceased. On the no-soul view the personality of the individual
is a non-transferable quality. While past life reports could
not confirm the no-soul view of reincarnation, they would not
necessarily contradict the no-soul view of reincarnation. Like
the traditional reincarnation views the no-soul view of
reincarnation makes reference to a nonverifiable metaphysical
Do past life reports provide evidence to prove reincarnation?
No. The evidence provided by past life reports are the details
of a narrative that can be confirmed or denied. When they are
confirmed, a causal explanation is sought for the details.
Reincarnation is better understood as one of several possible
explanations of past life reports. Does reincarnation explain
past life reports? Yes, but it entails substance dualism.
Without proof of substance dualism one concludes that past life
reports proves reincarnation by circular reasoning. An
alternate explanation that does not entail substance dualism is
a modified view of telepathy, where the subject’s excitation and
the reporter’s immaturity become the occasion for a shared
Tom Schroder,Old Souls (New York, New York: Simon
and Schuster, 1999), p. 89. Hereafter cited as Schroder.
Here the author is paraphrasing an argument of
Edwards. See Paul Edwards, Reincarnation
(Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 1996), p. 227.
Edwards also examines the logic of the notion that
transmigration requires an astral body. He reasons that
transference from one host to another host requires that
the astral body have spatial and temporal coordinates.
Yet, the astral body defies spatial-temporal analysis.
If the astral body is nowhere between incarnations, then
it is not a spatial-temporal entity; hence, it is
nothing; and if the astral body is nothing, it cannot
inhabit a spatial-temporal entity. Hereafter cited as
See Ian Stevenson, Children who Remember Previous
Lives (Charlottesville, Virginia: University Press
of Virginia, 1987). Hereafter cited as Stevenson,
Children. In the Appendix the author offers data on 149
cases involving children. Ten cases occur in the United
States, while the majority occurs throughout the world.
The majority of cases recorded by Stevenson happened in
Sri Lanka or India.
Stevenson, Children, p. 129.
Stevenson, Children, p. 39-51.
Stevenson, Children, p. 62-63.
Stevenson, Children, p. 81.
Stevenson, Children, p. 107.
Stevenson, Children, p. 167.
Stevenson, “The Evidence for Survival from Claimed
Memories of Former Incarnations” (Fulham, Great Britan:
T. W. Pegg & Sons Ltd., 1961), p. 19. Hereafter ctied
as Stevenson, Evidence.
Stevenson, Children, p. 161.
In the absence of a generalized account it may be
helpful to suggest one, though this account is
fictional. Mary was a healthy child born to a family in
India. Soon after she began to speak she talked about a
past life in a nearby village. She gives her surname
and identifies her siblings. She may not have traveled
to the village previously, but in her reports she
identifies some of the prominent landmarks of the
village and her home. She reports that she died a
sudden, violent death during a storm when she came into
contact with a fallen electrical wire. Some of the
landmarks she identifies are missing, and this may be
attributed to the natural disaster. When the child is
taken to the village, the family she named is found.
They confirm that they did have a daughter named Susan
who was electrocuted in an accident. However they are
reluctant to believe that the girl from the neighboring
village is their daughter. Mary, the reporter makes no
distinction between herself and the subject of the
report, Susan. When Mary speaks of the experience of the
remembered subject she uses the first person singular
pronoun, I. Mary recalls living as Susan, but Susan is
deceased. So, Mary is taken to be the reincarnation of
Stevenson, Evidence, p. 34. Stevenson says “I do not
think the data provide anything like proof of
reincarnation. “ He adds, “A large number of cases in
which the recall of true memories is a plausible
hypothesis should make the [reincarnation] hypothesis
worthy of attention.” P. 35
Stevenson, Evidence, p.34. See also Stevenson,
Children, p. 217. There he offers the following reply
to the question, “Is reincarnation a universal
experience?” “I regard it as completely unanswerable now
and in the foreseeable future.” P. 217
is seen as the transference of an incorporeal person
from one body to another body.
Paul Edwards, Reincarnation (Amherst, New York:
Prometheus Books, 1996), p. 15. Hereafter cited as
Here I take reincarnation to be the incarnation of a
subjective point of view in a body other than the body
wherein the point of view originated.
Plato, Collected Dialogues, p. 365.
William Braud, Distant Mental Influence
(Charlottesville, Virginia: Hampton Roads Publishing
Company, Inc., 2003), p. 163. Hereafter cited as
William Braud, p. xxxi.
Anna Wise, Awakening the Mind (New York, New
York: Penguin Putnam Inc., 2002), p. 10.
George Herbert Mead in Classical American Philosophy
(New York, New York: Oxford University Press), p. 421.
James Shreeve, “Beyond the Brain”, National
Geographic (March, 2005):
On false memories see Daniel L. Schacter, The Seven
Sins of Memory (New York, New York: Houghton Mifflin
Company, 2001), pp. 112-137. Schacter says,
Recollections of early experience are extremely
malleable, more so than many would have believed less
than a decade ago. When suggestive techniques such as
hypnosis and guided imagery are used to hunt for
memories from vulnerable periods of childhood, they
comprise a potentially dangerous recipe for producing
false memories.” P. 129.
Jim Tucker, Life Before Life (New York, New York:
Saint Martin Press, 2005), p. 45.
“Basic Info on Tin Whiskers” at
Braud, William. Distant Mental Influence.
Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads Publishing
Company, Inc. 2003.
Edwards, Paul. Reincarnation. Amherst, New
York: Prometheus Books, 1996.
Patterson, R. W. K. Philosophy and the Belief in
a Life After Death. New York: Saint Martin
Penelhum, Terence. Survival and Disembodied
Existence. New York, New York: Humanities Press,
Schacter, Daniel L. The Seven Sins of Memory
New York, New York: Houghton Mifflin Press, 2001.
Schroder, Tom. Old Souls. New York, New
York: Simon & Schuster, 1999.
Stevenson, Ian. “The Evidence for Survival from
Claimed Memories of Former Incarnations.” Fulham,
U.K:T. W. Pegg & Sons Ltd. 1961.
Stevenson, Ian. Children Who Remember Previous
Lives. Charlottesville, Virginia: University
Press of Virginia, 1987.
Tucker, Jim Life Before Life. New York, New
York: Saint Martin Press, 2005.
Wise, Anna. Awakening the Mind. New York:
Putnam Penguin, Inc. 2002.