So I just finished reading Life Before Life—Children’s Memories of Previous Lives by Jim B. Tucker, M.D. Yes it’s a book about reincarnation. But unlike a lot of books about reincarnation that will look at one case of past life regression…or another case of someone having spontaneous memories and working through each case this is a summary of a collection of cases. 2,500 cases covering decades worth of research. All of them involving children under the age of six, you know before you could theoretically prompt a child to say things. These cases are being reviewed by the University of Virginia, Division of Personality studies.*
Let’s review some of the main points.
All the children are under the age of six.
All children recall having been someone in a previous life.
About two-thirds of the cases have been “solved”, that is they have identified a specific individual that the child has memories of being.
About a fifth of cases the child has a birth mark or structural defect where the person they claim to have been received a major wound (e.g., a child is born with a birth mark where a shunt had been in their previous life or a child who had memories of being a cop who had died when a bullet destroyed his aorta, being born with a bad aorta that had to replaced). 225 of these solved cases that involve birthmarks and other physical markers are covered apparently in great detail in a 2,000+ page, 2 volume study entitled “Reincarnation and Biology: A Contribution to the Etiology of Birthmarks and Birth Defects”.
Particular cases are reviewed, their flaws and strengths are laid out and the author goes through other possibilities of explanation which are reviewed. Tucker spends a great deal of time on the only other remotely possible answer for these children knowing what they could not, that being fraud on the part of the parents. But given that numerous cases for the U.S. where subjects don’t believe in reincarnation, it seems odd that they would try to fake a case of reincarnation. Further even fraud leaves too many unanswered questions…reincarnation does not.
The book is an excellent summary of the scientific findings of this group at the University of Virginia** and so while much of the scientific and statistical evidence isn’t presented, it does lay out a sound scientific case for reincarnation. It deals with the challenges skeptics would bring up and addresses them, then tears them down.
I would highly recommend anyone interested in reincarnation, or looking for scientific proof to back up their faith, read this book.
Some of the more interesting highlights from the book include:
Apparently you are more likely to remember a past life if that life ended only a year or two before your rebirth, there are relatively few memories of distant past lives among these children.
Gender Identify Disorder may, at least in many cases, be related to a soul switching from one gender to another between the two lives and the confusion from change.
The after life, at times, may be as chaotic as this life.
Not everyone remembers heaven, but some do, and you are less likely to remember it if your death in your previous life was particularly violent or sudden.
If you meditate you are more likely to remember heaven in your next incarnation.
There are cases of children remembering their last incarnation being a fetus that was aborted or miscarried.
All that said this book raises some questions that I have and if anyone has any information on this I would love to know. After reading this book it appears that cases where children are remembering their past lives are becoming more common, or at least it appears that way to me. I’ll admit that it may simply be that this is only being studied recently, whereas in the past it was not. However there are cases in the past of people remembering their past lives, Gen. George S. Patton for instance, but these seem to be very rare in the past, where the 2,500 cases collected by the University of Virginia (and you know if they can find 2,500 there have to be ten times that many they didn’t find) don’t make it common, but it certainly does not seem to be uncommon. This makes me wonder if the memories are becoming more and more common. Since, quite frankly, none of the children in this book come off as enlightened beings (nor any of their previous incarnations) these memories do not seem to be caused by the individual soul’s level of spiritual enlightenment, my question is does this maybe indicate a greater awakening in the collective soul of humanity? Certainly this is not going to be answered anytime soon, but it’s something to think about.
Also, the birthmark and other biological signs described in the book are suggested to be related not to karma but more to the mind’s ability to affect the body (the book references the ability to make a hypnotized person believe they are being burned to the point that their skin blisters or the fact that signs of the stigmata are now believed to be caused by psychological not miraculous factors). Now if the mind, and specifically it’s attachment to certain memorable events (usually what killed you would have a more powerful impact on you, or at least you would think), and we also take into account the issue of some souls not being able to fully adjust to their new gender in the form of Gender Identity Disorder…I have to ask in lesser cases could a soul attached to their previous gender affect the DNA of their new body, thus being the spiritual cause of the genetic factor in homosexuality? And I bring this up because I have also seen this suggested in the book The Messengers and the issues of Gender Identity Disorder reminded me of it.
*The book was published in 2005. And deals primarily with 1,100 cases that had been entered into a computer system for statistical analysis. I can only assume that both the computer database and the total number of cases has increased since the book was published.
** For my conservative readers, it is funded by private endowment, not by tax-payers (although I assume the same researchers are paid by tax payer funds for any teaching they do at the University) so don’t even begin to question if money should be paid for this.