One of the cornerstone beliefs of many world religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Taoism, Shintoism, and Zoroastrianism, is the idea of reincarnation. From the Orphics, Pythagoreans, and Platonists to the Essenes, Pharisees, and Karaites; from Polynesian Kahunas and Brazillian Umbandas to the Jamaican Rastafarians and American Indians; the Gauls, the Druids, the Celts, the Gnostics, and even early Christians all believed in reincarnation. Great minds like Plato, Socrates, Spinoza, Leibnitz, Voltaire, Hume, Schopenhauer, Goethe, Emerson, Whitman, Napoleon, Franklin, Tagore, and Ghandi all believed that our consciousness, our souls, survive bodily death and continue on.
“A theory which has been embraced by so large a part of mankind, of many races and religions, and has commended itself to some of the most profound thinkers of all time, cannot be lightly dismissed.” -George Foot Moore, “Metempsychosis”
“The concept of reincarnation is widespread in the world’s cultures. Throughout ancient Egyptian, Greek, Judaic, and early Christian traditions; Buddhism; many schools of Hinduism; Japanese Shintoism; and Chinese Taoism, it is less a ‘belief’ than a ‘fact’ based on direct experience and observation.” -Ervin Laszlo and Jude Currivan, “Cosmos” (153)
Julius Caesar wrote of the Celts that they “were fearless warriors because they wish to inculcate this as one of their leading tenets, that souls do not become extinct, but pass after death from one body to another.” Elderly Eskimos have a tradition of selecting newly married couples to permit them to be (reincarnate into) their children. If they prove good and honorable, the family gives their consent, and the elderly Eskimo commits suicide believing their soul will enter into the family’s newborn. The British Museum has receipts and other legal documents showing that it was actually once common practice for the Druids to borrow money and promise to repay in a future life!
Origen, St. Augustine, St. Gregory, St. Francis of Assisi and many other early Christian scholars wrote about souls returning to Earth and reincarnating. For example, Origen wrote that “it can be shown that an incorporeal and reasonable being has life in itself independently of the body... then it is beyond a doubt bodies are only of secondary importance and arise from time to time to meet the varying conditions of reasonable creatures. Those who require bodies are clothed with them, and contrariwise, when fallen souls have lifted themselves up to better things their bodies are once more annihilated. They are ever vanishing and ever reappearing.”
Reincarnation was a widespread belief among early Christians, but at the Second Council of Constantinople in 553 AD, Emperor Justinian condemned and outlawed the belief or teaching of reincarnation stating “If anyone assert the fabulous pre-existence of souls and shall submit to the monstrous doctrine that follows from it, let him be anathema!” Since then the non-belief in reincarnation has continued to dominate western metaphysical thought to the point that 19th century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once quipped “were an Asiatic to ask me for a definition of Europe, I should be forced to answer him: It is that part of the world which is haunted by the incredible delusion that man was created out of nothing, and that his present birth is his first entrance into life."
There are several doctors, scientists, and researchers who have dedicated their life’s work to the mystery of reincarnation. One such person was Dr. Ian Stevenson, professor of psychiatry at the University of Virginia, who spent over 40 years investigating and compiling evidence for reincarnation. He meticulously documented and verified over three thousand cases of children remembering and confirming knowledge from past lives. So many children from around the world are able to remember so much about their previous lives that he repeatedly located former friends, relatives, villages, houses, and possessions based solely on their testimony. For instance one three year-old girl was able to recall so much of her previous life that Dr. Stevenson was able to find her old family and take her to her old home.
“As unorthodox as many of Stevenson’s conclusions are, his reputation as a careful and thorough investigator has gained him respect in some unlikely quarters. His findings have been published in such distinguished scientific periodicals as the American Journal of Psychiatry, the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, and the International Journal of Comparative Sociology. And in a review of one of his works the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association stated that he has ‘painstakingly and unemotionally collected a detailed series of cases in which the evidence for reincarnation is difficult to understand on any other grounds … He has placed on record a large amount of data that cannot be ignored.’” -Michael Talbot, “The Holographic Universe” (219)
“Ian Stevenson investigated more than 3,000 cases of past-life memories that arose spontaneously in young children. Taking this approach to minimize the influence of cultural conditioning either to promote or suppress the memories, he worked meticulously to investigate, validate, and record the pertinent memories … These included precise knowledge of their previous homes, environments, and families, and even extended to birthmarks that corresponded to injuries or fatal wounding in the people whose lives they appear to experience … memories like those of the children’s reveal the details of specific remembered lives that can sometimes be correlated and whose accuracy has often been validated.” -Ervin Laszlo and Jude Currivan, “Cosmos” (154)
In another Dr. Stevenson case, a two and a half year-old boy was able to recall very specific memories and details about his “other life.” He started telling his parents regularly about how he had been shot and thrown into a river. He said in his other life he was the owner of an electrical appliance shop. He had a wife and two children whom he called by their names and said incessantly how he was homesick and wanted to see his family. The boy’s parents didn’t take him seriously for some time until one day he packed his clothes and threatened to leave if they refused to take him to his family. Deciding it was time to appease their son’s wishes the parents followed his directions and took him to his old village from his previous life. Upon seeing his former wife the boy shouted her name and ran to see her. They talked for hours as the boy recounted several specific memories and events known only by the dumb-founded widow and her deceased husband. He even accurately described the location of some gold he had buried behind their house and changes that had been made to the home since his death. He was also immediately able to pick his former sons out of a playground full of neighborhood children and call them by name.
“Later the boy recalled the full circumstances of his ‘death,’ how he had been shot in the head while sitting in his car after arriving home from work. The autopsy report, which was filmed, confirmed he had indeed been shot in the head and had died as a result of a bullet wound to the temple. The autopsy showed the exact size and location of the entry wound and also of the exit wound on the opposite side of the man’s head. It was later decided to shave off some of the boys hair around the region of the fatal wound inflicted in his previous life. The boy had a birthmark at exactly the same location as the bullet entry point of exactly the same size and shape as the bullet that killed him in his previous life. He also had a second birthmark on the opposite side of his head corresponding with the exit point of the same bullet. The case later attracted so much interest that it was presented in court in order to conclusively prove the boy was indeed the reincarnated former husband of the widow. As a result of this case a professor at a major University was quoted as saying that due to the police involvement ‘this is one of the best documented cases of reincarnation he had ever seen.’” -Adrian Cooper, “Our Ultimate Reality” (181-3)
It appears quite common for distinctive features or deformities to carry over from one life to the next. Physical injuries like the boy’s bullet wounds tend to carry over as scars or birthmarks. In another case a boy who remembered being murdered by having his throat slit retained a long red scar straight across his new neck. Another boy had a birthmark perfectly resembling a surgical scar with marks in the pattern of a stitch wound. The autopsy pictures of his previous body showed the birthmark in the exact same place/pattern as his previous personality’s surgery.
“In fact, Stevenson has gathered hundreds of such cases and is currently compiling a four-volume study of the phenomenon. In some of the cases he has even been able to obtain hospital and/or autopsy reports of the deceased personality and show that such injuries not only occurred, but were in the exact location of the present birthmark or deformity. He feels that such marks not only provide some of the strongest evidence in favor of reincarnation, but also suggest the existence of some kind of intermediate nonphysical body that functions as a carrier of these attributes between one life and the next. He states, ‘It seems to me that the imprint of wounds on the previous personality must be carried between lives on some kind of an extended body which in turn acts as a template for the production on a new physical body of birthmarks and deformities that correspond to the wounds on the body of the previous personality.’” -Michael Talbot, “The Holographic Universe” (218-219)
“A dramatic example of reincarnation involving a person who physically died and returned very soon afterwards was in the case of a Turkish bandit. This involves a boy who claimed he was formerly a Turkish bandit, who when cornered by the authorities shot himself through the lower jaw in order to evade capture. Medical examination of this boy, the reincarnation of the bandit, highlighted a large mark in his jaw where the bullet would have entered in his previous life, and there was also hair missing from the top of his head where the bullet would have emerged. A witness to this incident is still alive today and was able to confirm the precise details as given by the boy as to how he took his own previous life.” -Adrian Cooper, “Our Ultimate Reality” (178)
In 2005, FOX News reported on 11 year-old James Leininger’s amazing reincarnation story. James was always fascinated by airplanes, drew intricate fighter pilot scenes, and increasingly was struck with nightmares of being stuck in a crashing plane. He told his parents of recurring visions involving his Corsair plane being shot down by the Japanese during WWII. He remembered taking off from a ship called the Natoma and his old name was Jim Houston. The parents tracked down WWII veteran Leo Pint who served on the Natoma and remembered Jim Houston who was indeed shot down by the Japanese in his Corsair plane. Later the boy was taken to a reunion of US Natoma vets and was able to correctly name several of them at first sight. Then he was taken to meet Jim Houston’s sister Anne Houston, whom James insisted he always called “Annie” not Anne, and she wasn’t his only sister, he had an older sister named Ruth as well. Upon meeting Annie, James talked about many childhood possessions and events that only she and her brother could have known. They have since put the whole story together in an excellent book titled Soul Survivor.
“In Paris at the beginning of the present century lived a certain Mme. Laure Raynaud. From childhood this lady distinctly remembered that she had lived before and was able to give an accurate description of a previous home and the conditions surrounding her death. When Mme. Raynaud was forty-five years of age she traveled for the first time to Italy where she was able to recognize the scenes of her previous life. She was in Genoa when she described the type of house in which she had lived. With the aid of a friend she located the house and made a statement subject to historical verification. She said that in her previous life she had not been buried in the cemetery, but in a particular church some distance away. Research proved that a young lady answering Mme. Raynaud’s description of her previous self had died in the house on October 21, 1809, and had been buried in the church which Mme. Raynaud had indicated.” -Manly P. Hall, “Reincarnation: The Cycle of Necessity” (148-9)
“In Buddhist countries, it is no very unusual thing to have children gravely claiming to have had such-and-such a name, and to have lived in such-and-such a place, in their previous lives; and occasionally these claims are in a sort of fashion substantiated. Such children are in Burma called Winzas, and it is no uncommon thing for a sort of rough test to be carried out by taking a Winza to the scene of his former life, when it is said that he or she can generally identify his former dwelling and friends, and can state facts known only to the dead person and one other living man. These Winzas are so relatively frequent in Burma that their existence is commonly taken for granted; the power of remembering the past life is generally stated to disappear as the child grows up, though we have met adult Winzas who still claimed to remember the past.” -Manly P. Hall, “Reincarnation: The Cycle of Necessity” (149)
The most amazing well-known and well-documented account of reincarnation in modern times comes from a young Hindu girl, Shanti Devi, who at four years old began frequently referring to incidents and people from her former life. She claimed she was a Choban by caste and lived in Muttra with her husband, a cloth-merchant named Kedar Nath Chaubey.
As she grew older Shanti Devi often spoke of her previous life, family, and experiences. Her recollections were so lucid that she even remembered her old address and could describe her old house in complete detail. At eleven years old she decided to send a letter to her former husband and shocked her family when Kedar Nath Chaubey wrote back stating emphatically that Shanti Devi must be his wife! Based on all the things she wrote which only his deceased partner knew he could not escape the astonishing conclusion.
Kedar had already remarried but was so intrigued that he travelled to Delhi to meet Shanti. When he arrived she immediately picked him out of a crowd and they spent the next few days together, Kedar asking several intimate questions, and Shanti consistently giving correct and characteristic answers convincing Kedar that it could only be his dead wife speaking. She perfectly described the town of Muttra, the special temple she always visited, their village, house, and even the location of some money buried under their floor.
Kedar returned to Muttra, and soon after Shanti began growing weary and impatient, insisting she was a grown married woman and belonged with her husband. Eventually, after enduring several tantrums, her reluctant family and a party of fifteen researchers made a trip to Muttra with Shanti. Upon arriving she was completely familiar with the town and directed the driver exactly how to reach her former village and house. On the way she saw a man she recognized as her former father-in-law and called him out by name. Her house had been repainted a different color but she knew every detail about the interior before entering. That evening at dinner she immediately identified her former mother and father out of a group of over 50 people, called them out by name and ran to embrace them.
At the end of her visit a huge open-air meeting was arranged for the public at a local high school. Over ten thousand people gathered, many of whom had personally known Shanti in her previous incarnation. The villagers in attendance were so profoundly interested and impressed that they requested she be left there with them. Shanti herself also pleaded with her parents to let her stay but to no avail. They felt it would be better for her to return to Delhi and brought her home with them kicking and screaming, quite literally. All the way home Shanti argued and insisted she stay in Muttra. Soon after arriving back in Delhi, she became very depressed and reserved, her spirit seemed crushed, and for the rest of her life Shanti Devi never married remaining faithful to her lost love Kedar.
“The facts of her story have been carefully checked by men of the highest character, including Lala Deshbandhu Gupta, managing director of the Daily Tej, the leading newspaper of Delhi; N. R. Sharma, leader of the National Congress Party of India and a close associate of Mahatma Gahndhi; and T. C. Mathur, a leading attorney of Delhi. These men, with many others, have issued a report on their findings in which they conclude that the story of Shanti Devi is not only entirely genuine but one of the most remarkable records of the remembrance of a previous life ever witnessed and documented.” -Manly P. Hall, “Reincarnation: The Cycle of Necessity” (150)