First supervised by the psychiatrist Ian Stevenson, they are today coordinated by the child psychiatrist and researcher, Jim Tuckerwho heads the parapsychology department at the University of Virginia.
If the question of reincarnation, and more particularly of these cases of children with disturbing memories, can make you smile, it is a most distressing experience for those who find themselves confronted with it. Faced with the inexplicable, even the most Cartesian minds come to doubt it, as shown in episode 6 of the documentary series Survive Deathdirected by Ricki Stern and released in January 2021 on Netflix.
Followers of the Socratic maxim “All I know is that I know nothing”, the scientific experts in charge of studying the phenomenon today collect and list tens of thousands of “curious” cases across the world, which each time would present disturbing similarities in their manifestation. Among these testimonies, some could be “verified” with tangible elements of History. Belief in this phenomenon is not new.
Reincarnation, an ancestral belief
Reincarnation is one of the oldest beliefs in the world. There are traces dating back more than 5000 years in the prehistory of Hinduism. Same thing in Chinese, Egyptian, Greek or Roman remains. However, it is the vision of Tibetan Buddhist reincarnation that is best known to the general public.
“According to Buddhism, effectively, there is no soul, nor are there any ‘persons’ considered as separate entities. There is only a dynamic flow of experience, instant after moment, which is called consciousness.In the world of the inanimate, it is accepted that “nothing is created, nothing is lost”. There are only transformations. Matter cannot be born ex nihilo. According to Buddhism, the same is true of consciousness, which can neither arise from nothing nor pass from phenomenal existence to nothingness. Hence the idea ofa continuum of consciousness which continues from a state of being to a state of being”, explained Mathieu Ricard on his site in 2011.
Gitxsan culture is based on the concept that the spirit renews itself. The personality, the essence, the spirit of the deceased person revives the baby who is born
Many cultures have also incorporated this idea of reincarnation. This is the case of the Gitxsan, a native people of British Columbia in Canada. “Gitxsan culture is based on the concept that the spirit renews itself. The personality, the essence, the spirit of the deceased person revives the baby who is born”, explains professor and psychiatrist Antonia Mills, interviewed by Ricki Stern.
Precepts that are difficult to understand in our Western Cartesian societies, where monotheistic religions completely refute this idea, and in which the voice of children is little considered. Fact, this principle remains confined for many in the wacky world of the paranormal, between UFO sightings and haunted house Poltergeists. And pop culture is not to be outdone: there are many films using this belief as the common thread of a more or less well-crafted scenario (Dead Again (1991)Shadows of the Past (2000) or even LittleBuddha (1993), editor’s note).
Similarities in the stories
Back to Virginia. According to researchers – first Ian Stevenson, then his disciples – most accounts of so-called “incarnated” children are similar: the memories appear in the form of night terrors, sometimes violent, around the age of 2 or 3 years old and disappear around 6 or 7 years old, when the child discovers moral conscience.
This is how James Leininger, now 23 years old, would have experienced reincarnation. The case of this American, living in southern Louisiana, made headlines across the Atlantic in the early 2000s. And for good reason: James is said to have been in a past life an army fighter pilot who died in action in World War II.. After worrying about the intensity of his nightmares and amazed at his immeasurable passion for airplanes, his parents wrote down the details of the little boy’s story, which were extremely numerous and precise. Father Bruce, rather refractory to this idea at first, ended up investigating and finding the identity of the man in question. The then 6-year-old boy thus met the sister of the said soldier and one of his army companions, to confront his story and “validate” his story in a way.
Obviously, many people at the time were in the wrong: it was then considered that the parents of little James were manipulating their son to create a sensation, that the child was looking for attention or even that all this was not only a coincidence… But according to the child psychotherapist Carol Bowman, known to have studied similar cases, James Leininger does seem to have had memories of a past life during his early childhood.
Still according to her, another similarity also seems to emerge from the different stories of children: the phenomenon would mainly concern “violent” deaths which “imbue the soul with trauma”. And the manifestations, especially the nightmares, could lessen if the child allows this “soul” to grieve.
Another remarkable fact explained this time on the site of the University of Virginia: birthmarks. “Some children have birthmarks and congenital anomalies that match wounds or other marks on the deceased that the child remembers from life. In many cases, post-mortem reports have confirmed these matches. .”
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Protocols and support
The fact remains that at present, the protocols are lacking, in particular because the object of study remains controversial. Only the team of researchers from the University of Virginia seems to have set up tools to locate, collect and verify these children’s storiesand their research is focused more specifically on North America, although cases have been observed around the world.
Jim Tucker has published guides for parents online. Among the elements that are supposed to alert them, we find a list of phrases “common” to these children, evoking the memory of a past life, such as: “You are not my mother / my father” to “I used to…” to “I died in…”. The list is available on the university’s official website.
These statements are usually made by children whose development otherwise appears to be exactly like that of their peers.
The expert specifies on another page that many disarmed parents seek solutions to support their children and recalls that the advice found on the Internet, even from his own team, does not replace appropriate psychotherapeutic care.
He also insists on the fact these children’s speeches in no way reveal a mental disorder. “We have spoken with many families in which a child claims to remember another set of parents, another home, or a previous death, and the children rarely present with mental health issues. These statements are usually made by children whose development otherwise appears to be exactly like that of their peers,” he wrote. He further adds that regressive hypnosis is strongly discouraged in these cases, because one must focus “on living now”.
The team of researchers also invite families who feel concerned to write to them so that their child’s story can be collected first and analyzed by an approved person.
Is doubt allowed?
Despite these data, what credence should be given to these stories? Will the research of the team of American parapsychologists one day lead to a discovery that could change our view of the world? Is doubt really allowed with regard to current scientific knowledge?
Whether in the Netflix documentary or in the specialized literature, we note that no expert has come forward to formalize the phenomenon, not even Ian Stevenson, a true pioneer in the field. “I prefer to say that my work suggests the existence of past lives rather than proving it,” he said.
Suggest the idea, instill the doubt. Like the team of American researchers and their counterparts around the world who identify the curious cases, my goal, through this article, is not to provide answers, but only to ask questions. Who knows, in a past life, I might have been an Ancient Greek philosopher. I have always loved sandals.
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Is there life after death? The case of reincarnated children studied by science
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