As a general rule I am always seeking themes to write about that will be of interest to those who believe in God, those who do not, and those who are not sure what to believe.
The question of whether reincarnation is true or just an allegory is one of those topics.
Dr. Ian Stevenson was a doctor and a Psychiatrist. In the 1960’s, as a professor at the University of Virginia, he began scientific research into whether reincarnation is true or false. For decades he interviewed children in many countries under the age of 6 who had memories, very specific memories that no one in their family could explain.
He focused on children of this age as he felt it was less likely they could make up some big lie. Some of the detailed memories of some children were confirmed to be accurate descriptions of deceased people’s lives the children had no knowledge of. For more information and examples please review this article from the University of Virginia.
Jim Tucker is an associate professor of psychiatry at University of Virginia and was an assistant to Dr. Stevenson. He is also a Psychiatrist and an MD. He is carrying on the work of Dr. Stevenson and continues to collect stories and data such as the one described in the above link about Ryan Hammons of California. If such stories are true, and that remains to be confirmed, these stories are very, very intriguing.
My general point is this, and I have been saying this for a very long time.
If reincarnation, or something like it, is true then it is a process of the natural realm that can be studied like any other natural phenomenon. If reincarnation is true, then there has to be a process where the memories and karma of one life transfer to a baby’s mind.
What I find to be valuable about Dr. Stevenson and Dr. Tucker’s work is that they seem to study the subject in a methodical manner and this work has been ongoing for over 5 decades.
What I find to be of great interest is that some of the data they uncover cannot be explained in the context of the standard models of biology, physics, or neuroscience.
The detailed memories of people’s lives who lived before the time the children were born constitute empirical data. Careful scrutiny of this data by reputable 3rd parties would help confirm they are not simply “made-up” stories and there is no other more traditional explanation how these children could have such memories.
If it turns out that some very young children are remembering details from the lives of deceased persons, which they could not possibly have learned any other way, and which were not fabricated by them or their relatives, this raises valuable questions.
Personally I feel the description of Dr. Tucker’s hypothesis on how memories could be transferred from one life to another, was poorly presented. His comments on consciousness and Quantum mechanics are vague and poorly documented at least in the article cited above. I am not saying his speculations are not worth looking into, I am just saying it is a major weakness of his article that they are as sketchy as they are. Regrettably there is a great deal of specious speculation on the relationship between consciousness and Quantum Mechanics that tends to discredit what is otherwise an important new field of study.
But the general tendency to study how these children could have the memories they have is, I feel, a very worthwhile field of study.
Perhaps they will discover reincarnation is a true description of human life, karma, and destiny. Perhaps no evidence will ever be found to support the idea that reincarnation is a true teaching.
What I feel is more likely is that some other explanation will emerge that will explain how memories can be transferred other than reincarnation. But that is pure guesswork on my part.
Why is this important?
If reincarnation is true, it is important to know that it is true. If reincarnation is true, many theories of psychology and brain-science would need to be revised substantially. Discovering reincarnation is true would mean an earthquake shift in these sciences.
If reincarnation is not true, then the religions of Buddhism, Hinduism, the New Age and others would need to be revised dramatically. Discovering reincarnation is not true would mean an earthquake shift in these religions.
In either case, the world view of hundreds of millions of people would change.
In either case hundreds of millions of people would be closer to knowing the truth about about human nature and what happens after death.
Would not this be helpful?
More next week.
Please let me know what you think. All constructive comments will be posted.
Will Raymond Author of “The Simple Path of Holiness” and host of MeditationPractice.com