Stories of Reincarnation Recorded by Science

Reincarnation, at the root of religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism, is in Western countries prevailingly perceived with scepticism Yet, with so many people across the world and throughout the centuries claiming of have experienced it, is reincarnation just a combination of coincidence and suggestions? Generally speaking, the process of reincarnation involves the immaterial essence of a living being starting a new life in a different physical form or body after biological death

To prove its credibility, or at least try to, many experts have dedicated their career to investigating the matter The most well-known, Dr Ian Stevenson, founded the Division of Personality Studies under the University of Virginia's department of psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences in 1967 Stevenson believed that past life experiences, together with genetics and the environment, could help elucidate phobias and other unexplained personality traits Stevenson, who often defined reincarnation as the ""survival of personality after death,"" studied children, usually between the ages of 2 and 5, who remembered former lives, near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences and deathbed visions His project studied 2,500 cases over about four decades, until Stevenson’s death in 2007

Even more cases have been studied with his methods, if we count the work of his disciples Over that time, many books and articles were published, reporting both the results and theories of the researchers, as well as the past-life stories of the reincarnated people themselves This mammoth study showed that reincarnation stories tend to be clear and distinct in children, whereas in adults they seem more blurred, resulting in vague hunches, similar to déjà vu This is the case of Jeffrey Keene, a retired fire chief who, in 1991 on vacation with his wife in Maryland, felt an emotional and uncanny connection to Sunken Road Civil War battlefield One year and a half later, Keene found an article about Civil War General John B

Gordon, who had fought at Sunken Road They shared some surprising connections Among others, on his 30th birthday, Keene began having severe pain in his jaw He was driven to the hospital emergency room, but they could not find a cause The pain eventually vanished, but even more bizarre was the fact that, when General Gordon was 30 years old, he was shot in his face at the battle of Sunken Road

Vivid reincarnation stories are usually accompanied by corresponding patterns of behaviour Behaviours indicating a reincarnated personality appear even when that personality was of a different generation For example, a child can manifest the values and behaviours of his grandfather As his father was changing his diaper, eighteen-months old Sam Taylor spoke, “When I was your age I used to change your diapers” A weird thing to hear from your son, even odder from a toddler, who typically hardly makes complete sentences

And the mystery deepened day by day, year after year, with Sam revealing accurate details about his grandfather’s life Sam had never seen a picture of his grandfather, yet, when he was four years old, looking at some old family photos, he immediately identified his grandfather and his car, exclaiming “That’s me! That’s my car!” When, in an attempt to test him, his parents asked if he could remember anything else from his past life, the child replied his sister was “turned into a fish by a bad man” Both parents were shocked They had never even mentioned the grandfather had had a sister because of her cruel death – murdered and dumped into a river

The results of Dr Stevenson's study also show that those who suffered a violent death seem to be more subject to reincarnation than those who died from natural causes As in the case of John and Florence Pollock who lost their twin daughters, Joanna and Jacqueline, in a car accident in 1957 Two years later, the couple was blessed once again with the birth of identical twins, Gillian and Jennifer The new family left their hometown when the girls were just three months old to have a fresh start somewhere else However, even if Gillian and Jennifer knew very little about their late sisters, Joanna and Jacqueline, the new girls seemed to share their memories

They demanded old toys that belonged to their deceased sisters, recognized landmarks when travelling to their hometown, and were terrified by cars – the instrument of death for Joanna and Jacqueline But by the age of five, these memories had mostly faded away However, this kind of reincarnation does not happen exclusively among individuals belonging to the same family Sometimes the child carries a birthmark, or a malformation, associated with the death of a person his or her family never met or heard This happened to Purnima Ekanayake

Born in Sri Lanka, when she was three years old, in 1990, she began to speak of a past life as a male incense maker, who died in a traffic accident Then, one evening she was watching a television documentary about Kelaniya (KE-la-nee-a), an old Sri Lankan temple that stands by a river She recognized the place, exclaiming “I lived there on the other side of the river"" Her family began to look into the matter After visiting the town and asking the locals, they discovered that an incense maker called Jinadasa actually lived there and died after he was hit by a bus

Purnima recognized Jinadasa’s home and family, as well as the school he attended Then, the family found out that the autopsy on Jinasada’s body had revealed the impact of the accident broke his ribs on his left side Purnima had a cluster of birthmarks in the exact location of Jinasada's injury Psychiatrist Jim Tucker, one of Stevenson’s pupils, has taken on his mentor’s project He says the strength of the cases he encounters varies

Some can be easily discounted when it becomes clear that a child’s innocuous statements are made to a family that desperately misses a loved one Other cases collapse when they're looked into more closely For example, the story of Virginia Tighe (Thai), a Colorado woman who in 1952 claimed to be the reincarnation of 19th century Irishwoman Bridey Murphy, fell apart when investigative journalists went to Ireland to verify her claim Researchers found there were no records of a Bridey Murphy who was born or died on the dates Virginia claimed The people Tighe stated she met as Bridey Murphy never existed, including her husband

They discovered instead that, when Tighe was a child, she had spent time with an Irish immigrant neighbour named Bridie Murphy, from whom she probably picked up a few details about Ireland But some cases remain inexplicable Take Ryan Hammons, a four year old boy from Oklahoma, who in 2009 claimed he was Hollywood agent Martin Martyn, who died in 1964 Describing it, Jim Tucker says, “I understand the leap it takes to conclude there is something beyond what we can see and touch, but there is this evidence here that needs to be accounted for, and when we look at these cases carefully, some sort of carry-over of memories often makes the most sense” However, not everyone agrees

Michael Levin, director of the Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology at Tufts University, says that, “When you fish with a net with a certain size of holes, you will never catch any fish smaller than those holes What you find is limited by how you are searching for it Our current methods and concepts have no way of dealing with these data” And then there’s the issue with the process itself How exactly can the consciousness, or the memories of a person, transfer to another? Tucker believes the answers might be found within the foundations of quantum physics

“Quantum physics shows that at the most basic level of the universe, events involving its smallest particles, such as electrons and protons, only occur once they are observed This suggests that the material world may be derived from consciousness [] If consciousness creates the material world, then it may not be dependent upon that world to exist It would follow that consciousness does not depend on a living brain to exist If consciousness doesn’t require a brain, it may continue after the brain stops working It could then get attached to a new brain and continue on in another life” On the contrary, Robert Pollack, director of the Center for the Study of Science and Religion at Columbia University, says scientists have long pondered the role observation might play in the physical world, but the hypotheses about it are not necessarily scientific

“Debates among physicists that center on the clarity and beauty of an idea but not on its disprovability are common but are not scientific debates at all” After 70 years, thousands of cases and an ongoing research project, the mystery of reincarnation is yet to be solved

And even if many stories can be easily debunked, many others don't have a logical explanation So, until proved otherwise, is it wise to dismiss reincarnation as impossible?

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