Today’s Solutions: January 30, 2023

Theories abound about well-documented cases of children who “remember” past lives

| June 2006 issue
William was born with a birth defect, a serious heart condition in which the main pulmonary valve has not formed completely, keeping blood from flowing properly into the lungs. Aside from this he was an ordinary, healthy boy. When he was 3, he started spontaneously talking about the life of his grandfather. He related details he could never have known. For instance, William told his mother the names of the pets she used to have when she was young. Once, when his mother warned him she would spank him if he didn’t behave, he said, “Mom, when you were a little girl and I was your father, you did much worse things and I never hit you!” And William remembered details about the death of his grandfather, a policeman in New York who was shot six times during a robbery. The deadly bullet entered his body through his back where it cut open an artery… in his lungs.
Was William the reincarnation of his grandfather?
In his office at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, assistant professor and psychiatric clinic director Jim Tucker keeps files filled with such stories. But proof? No. He won’t call it evidence; rather, signs of reincarnation. Tucker is extremely cautious when he talks about his research into the stories of William and more than 2,000 other children in Asia, Africa, Europe and North America, all of whom report memories of a previous life.
Tucker works like a police detective. He not only interviews children about their memories; he talks to parents, family members, friends and acquaintances—including those who knew the person from the alleged past life whenever possible. He checks medical files, reports from coroners and police, eyewitness accounts and all other official documents that could confirm the occurrences.
Sometimes the stories don’t hold together. Tucker dismisses such cases, as well as stories of adults who discover during a workshop that they were once Cleopatra or Napoleon. The story of the young William is among the most convincing, along with those of other children with a birth defect or birthmark in the exact same place as a deadly wound in an alleged past life.
What Is Enlightenment? (March-May 2006) Senior Editor Carter Phipps spent almost a year in the field examining the data on reincarnation. Phipps noted striking similarities:
· Most children start talking about past lives at the age of 2 or 3
· Those lives often involved people who lived fairly close by
· When they talk about it, their tone is factual and much calmer—almost like an adult—compared to when they talk about everyday things
· They have specific knowledge that other children of their age don’t have, such as the 2-year-old girl from Sri Lanka who knew curious details about making incense, including brand names not available in her area
· Over 70 percent of these children talk about a life that ended suddenly, often in a violent way, such as a suicide, murder or traffic accident about which they appear to remember every ghastly detail.
Reincarnation could provide an explanation for Tucker’s data, which he published in Life before Life: A Scientific Investigation of Children’s Memories of Previous Lives (St. Martin’s Press, 2005). It would mean that our natures are shaped not simply by our genetic code or social circumstances, but by traumas and experiences from former lives.
Another explanation for these children’s remarkable stories is paranormal abilities, whereby the children use what are normally considered undeveloped senses. They could be receiving the information telepathically by reading the thoughts of family members or friends of the deceased. According to some, they might even travel back in time to read the thoughts of those whose lives they “remember.” This theory is as controversial as reincarnation itself. The children’s psychic skills would have to be phenomenally well-developed and there is no proof that such highly talented parapsychics exist.
A more complex theory has been conceived by the Hungarian systems philosopher Ervin Laszlo and detailed in his book Science and the Akashic Field: An Integral Theory of Everything (Inner Traditions, 2004). Laszlo writes about the scientific clues to an information field (also known as the Akashic field, quantum field, Zero-Point Field or morphic field) in which all the experiences of living beings in the universe are stored. He theorizes that people and animals might be capable of tuning into the information from this universal data bank. Children wouldn’t really remember a past life, according to Laszlo, but would have access to stored experiences in this information field.
However, theories about psychic talents and information fields don’t explain why the memories disappear when children are about age 7, regardless of their culture. A majority of those in Tucker’s database are now adults, living normal lives with little or no interest in paranormal phenomena. However, at about 7, the logical, rational part of the brain begins to develop. The “forgetting” that begins at that time not only puts an end to any memories of a past life, but of the youngest childhood years.
What Is Enlightenment? imbues its cover story with a mind-boggling question. Is the afterlife evolving alongside the material world? With this idea, the magazine points to a blind spot in the logic of Charles Darwin. If the theory of evolution applies to the physical world, why wouldn’t the soul be an evolving, living phenomenon too? The thought evokes stimulating new questions every bit as gripping as the idea of reincarnation itself.
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Marco Visscher

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