Ian Stevenson and scientific proof of reincarnation.
By: pijamasurf. Thursday, July 16 of 2009.
Ian Stevenson studied throughout his life more than 3 thousand cases of children who were able to remember their previous lives, the evidence seems to conclude that both you and I have been on this planet before this current time around the roller coaster of life.
The Tibetan Book of the Dead teaches a series of techniques, ranging from breathing, visualizations, and mantras, in order to tackle the journey of death and not coming back to life. In the same way that some people describe visions of light during near-death experiences, The Tibetan Book of the Dead or Bardo Thodol speaks of a Radiant Light, which the traveler, or psychonaut, must follow in order not to return to the wheel of karma and to the illusion of his thoughts, of his ego. I remember reading the prologue to an edition of this book that featured an introduction by Carl Jung, which mentioned a monk’s answer to the question that there was no evidence of reincarnation as no one had returned from death, to which the monk had calmly replied, «But on the contrary, we have all returned from death».
Canadian biochemist and psychiatry professor Ian Stevenson devoted much of his life to the scientific study of reincarnation. For more than 40 years Stevenson studied more than 3,000 cases of children who seemed to recall experiences from other lives, documenting what they said and contrasting data with the lives of people they claimed to have been.
Stevenson, a friend of the english writer Aldous Huxley, was one of the first scientists to experiment in the 50s with LSD, an experience that transformed his life. In 1957 he was appointed Director of the Faculty of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia, one of the few universities that conducted paranormal studies. In 1967 inventor Charles Carlson donated 1 million of US dollars to the University of Virginia and another million to Stevenson to invest in his research.
Unlike those who use hypnosis as a method to obtain information about supposed past lives, Stevenson based his studies on children aged 2 to 4 who can apparently recall episodes from their previous lives and provide data that can be cross checked. Many of Stevenson’s cases appear to have been triggered by a violent death. In several cases he collected medical testimonies and records related to birthmarks and congenital deformities that appeared to correspond to the kind of death described by the children and recorded in the autopsies reports of the people they claimed to be.
According to Stevenson between the ages of 5 and 7 is when children begin to lose the memory of their past lives.
One of the most interesting cases is that of the girl Swarnlata Mishra, born in Pradesh, India, in 1948. At the age of three, Swarnlata had already given the data to her family that made possible the identification of her previous family, this while she was traveling with her father through the village of Katni when she suggested that they could go to «have a better tea at home».
What is extraordinary about this case is that Swarnlata’s memory did not dissolve over time. In 1959 Professor Sri H. N. Banerjee, a colleague of Stevenson, took the case and was able to find, from the information given by the girl, the house in Katni where Biya Pathak had lived, the woman who according to Swarnlata, had been in her previous life and who had died in 1938.
Days later Biya-Swarnlata was taken to her old home to meet her past family, to whom she recognized and revealed secrets such as telling her ex-husband Sri Pandey that she had hidden 1200 rupees in a box or that he had had golden teeth. In his documents Stevenson describes the surprise of all present members and the maternal attitude that Biya Swarnlata adopted with her children naming them by their affective nicknames.
Stevenson visited Biya-Swarnlata in 1961 and witnessed a visit to her former family, amazed at the affection with which they were treating one another.
According to Stevenson’s colleague and continuator of his studies, Peter Ramster, the most significant case is that of an Australian girl, Gwen McDonald, who claims to have been Rose Duncan, a woman from Somerset, England, who lived at the turn of the XVIII century. According to Ramster, the girl described several locations of houses that no longer exist, villages and people that after extensive research could be checked out. This case was reviewed by Dr. Basil Cottle of the University of Bristol.
There seem to be hundreds of other similar cases, one of the most recents being the one exposed in the following ABC video, in which a child in the United States with an awkward fondness for warplanes revealed to his incredulous parents reliable data about a pilot who died in World War II.
Even though all gathered evidence along a lifetime led Ian Stevenson to firmly believe in the reality of reincarnation or transmigration, he was never able to formulate a convincing theory of how the personality transfer to another body can take place. At least not scientifically. His colleague at the University of Virginia argues that since the act of observation collapses the wave function, it could be that consciousness is not just a byproduct of the physical brain but a separate brain entity in the universe that can be imbued in a body and thus exist after the death of the brain. It uses the analogy of how a television is required to decode a signal but does not produce the signal, in the same way the brain could only be the tuner of consciousness.
The belief in the transmigration of souls or as per the Greek term, metempsychosis, is part of the history of human thought, from Hinduism and most Eastern religions to even early Christianity (Justinian had to abolish the belief in reincarnation in 549). Great minds of mankind have sustained the existence of reincarnation: Pythagoras famously recognized a friend when he saw a dog; Plato, in “The Republic”, states that souls choose their future life before birth; the German philosopher Schopenhauer was influenced by the Vedas and formulated a dual view between the Will (the real world) and the Representation (the illusion) in which reincarnation was; the psychologist Carl Jung speaks in his book “Memories, Dreams, Reflections” that as a child he remembered being a very old man of the eighteenth century.
However, the established science and most of the society seem to avoid the subject, whether or not there is evidence, it seems to be preferable not to investigate too much about the issue. The English writer Alan Watts speaks that in a society like the one we live in, one of the great forms of control from the state is the fear of death by citizens, if there would be no fear of death and of the unknown, there is nothing we can hold into. «The art of governing is about filling the void beyond death with unspecified threats to be able to control people by telling them “if you don’t do what I say I will kill you, or else you will kill yourself “, and as long as we fear and think of death this way, we can be controlled.» But what happens when we are no longer afraid of death, when we know the unknown?
Alas! when the Uncertain Experiencing of Reality is dawning upon me here,
With every thought of fear or terror or awe for all [apparitional appearances] set aside,
May I recognize whatever [visions] appear, as the reflections of mine own consciousness;
May I know them to be of the nature of apparitions in the Bardo: When at this all-important moment [of opportunity] of achieving a great end.
May I not fear the bands of Peaceful and Wrathful [Deities], mine own thought-forms.
Interview with Ian Stevenson (OMNI Magazine).
Link to the original article in Spanish and English languages:
Post English translation: Núria Comas Viladrich.