Tuesday, December 8, 2009


This was a very interesting project for me to look over and have to approach with non-bias. I did much research on the topic of reincarnation and searched many scholarly journals that ranged from religious journals to psychology to Asian studies to find what I was looking for.

One might notice that many of the cases were from Dr. Ian Stevenson, and this is because his cases are often the most revered because of his research methods and how much effort he spent perfecting his interview routine for cases. Also, Stevenson is considered to be a scholar in this field and if you notice, many of the other sources I used do mention Stevenson in a credible and respected manner when he is brought up in discussion.

The cases in this project were unique in their own way, but also all had common themes such as being able to remember explicit details that would have been unable to been known through common knowledge, all the cases were able to remember details of their past lives without being told about them. Also, all these details were verified by the case conductor in each case.

Despite these cases, one can not fully conclude that reincarnation is real, but it does give one something to think about. One can not explain how children would know about a village they've never visited, people they have never been told about, etc. With this in mind each person must reflect on the presented cases and decide how they feel about reincarnation, if one can do that and at least give the idea of reincarnation a little thought and see it as a plausible alternative to what happens after death, I have done my job.

Stevenson's Case of Prakash

In 1964 Dr. Ian Stevenson went to Mathura, India to investigate a case of a young boy who's memories of a past life began in 1955. This boy, named Prakash, claims to remember his life as a boy who died of small pox in 1950 (he was then reborn again in 1951 as Prakash) and claimed that the family he was born into is not his "real" family and that he really misses his true family.

In fact, he missed his "real" family who resided in Mathura (which was a few miles away) so much that he would attempt to run away during the night for a whole month and then a little less frequently as his life in his new family as Prakash continued. Prakash did continue to keep making claims about his past family, talking about who exactly his parents were, his home, the interior of the home he lived in as Nirmal, and family members and neighbors.

When Dr. Stevenson came to visit the family to examine the case, he interviewed Prakash's biological family (the one he was currently born into) and they did admit that they were feel tense about the whole situation and were not content with their son claiming to be from another family. However, while he was interviewing, they did take him to see the family he claimed to be from and he did correctly identify each family member, neighbor, and local women. This was unusual and Prakash's biological family claimed to have never taken him to this village before this event. On the way, Prakash's family did try to mislead him to see if he was really remembering a past life and when they put him on the wrong bus at the station he cried until they put him on the right one.

When Stevenson did visit the family in 1964, he interviewed the families that the boy claimed to be from and the family he was currently with. During this time, the families claimed to have never met and Stevenson acknowledged it would have been very difficult for them to meet since they are from different castes. Prakash's current family also talked about how Prakash insisted on being called Nirmal and that he often talked down about the current living situations compared to his previous situation (Stevenson 31).
This case stuck out because Stevenson noted that this was a case he had studied where the child was very intent on trying to return to the past family he had been from and remembered all the details vividly despite being misled by current family members. He also was so driven to get home he would try to run away back to his "previous" village and family. I found it amazing that since the families had never met that Prakash could have such vast knowledge of familial relations in Nirmal's family, the family he claimed to have been from.

This case also had other witnesses and in Stevenson's book "20 Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation" he has a table with the claims made and the claims verified. The witnesses included both families as well as a translator and neighbors. I found it very fascinating and would also say that this case of reincarnation seemed plausible throughout the whole course of reading it until the end.


Stevenson MD, Ian. 20 Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation. New York City: American Society for Physical Research, 1966. Print.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Alexandrina II

Alexandrina II is one of Stevenson's earliest cases he examined. It is discussed in David Cockburn's essay Evidence for Reincarnation when Cockburn discusses Dr. Ian Stevenson's case of Alexandrina which occured in 1910. After viewing this case, Cockburn decided that Stevenson's evidence for Alexandrina II's case was so compelling this was a true experience of reincarnation.

This case begins similarly to a few of the previous cases, a family had a daughter named Alexandrina who died of meningitis at age five. A year later, the mother fell pregnant and carried the pregnancy to term, giving birth to a new baby girl. The parents decided to name her Alexandrina II and did not discuss the death of Alexandrina I with the daughter. In fact, Alexandrina II did not know of her deceased sister (Cockburn 199). As the girl grew up, she developed tendencies that were unique, but that her sister had possessed an example of this was "putting on over sized leg stockings and walking around the room in them" (Cockburn 199) Alexandrina II also took on the characteristic of altering people's names as a joke just as her predecessor had done.

The true evidence of reincarnation comes when Alexandrina II's mother decided to take her to a vacation spot they had never been as a family, but Alexandrina II claimed to have already been there and even recalled the church, ornaments of the church, who they had went with and what the priests wore. She recalled this and said "we already went there" (Cockburn 200) and referred to her previous life when she was Alexandrina I. This startled the parents, but they did believe her because of the striking similarities and ultimately the case was reviewed years later by Ian Stevenson and then by Cockburn in his essay.

Now, this case came off less convincing when it discussed the mechanisms of the child bearing similar mechanisms to her deceased elder sister. I slightly discredited this because often siblings to have similar if not identical behavior traits, since they are from the same parents. However, there was no explaining this child's ability to recall an exact moment that Alexandrina I had experienced during her lifetime, especially since she was not told details of her sister's existence (Cockburn 199). I find this incredible and this alone would convince me, but when you consider this and the similar actions the child had to her sister, it does seem even more plausible. I was very impressed with the clarity of the details down to the priest's robes which were not super ornate as well as her ability to state the names of the people who had accompanied the family on the vacation with Alexandrina I.

Cockburn, David. Religous Studies. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1991. Print.

The Case of Shanti Devi

Shanti Devi was a case of a girl in the 1930's in India. Shanti was born in Delhi, to her family (the Devis) and none of them had ever been to Mathura which was many miles away from Delhi. This case was brought to the public's attention when the girl was nine and many believed it to be a publicity stunt since reincarnation was not a commonly held belief at the time (Rivas 127). Shanti had an ordinary Childhood, but the conductor of her interview has noted that she learned to talk a little late (primarily at four years old) and when she began talking she spoke only of her past life and who she used to be: a girl named Lugdi Choubey and was from Mathura.

As Rivas points out, Shanti's family ignored her claims and tried to make her stop talking about it, but after five years the girl was still describing everything from her husband to the food she liked and clothes she wore as Lugdi. After a while, her uncle finally wrote a letter to the family she claimed to have been from containing the claims Shanti was making about being Lugdi. Lugdi's cousin-in-law wrote back verifying the details Shanti spoke of. Finally, a meeting was arranged and all of Shanti's claims were verified by the cousin of Lugdi's husband. He even claimed her as his own kin (Rivas 129).

This case is notable because it focuses on a girl who had made many detailed allegations about her past life as a girl (Lugdi Choubey) in a village that she could have had no knowledge on since she and her parents had never visited there before. The fact that she could recall her husband's name and her past address at only nine years old is very impressive as well as she remembered it from the ages of four to nine years old despite being oppressed by her family. This is significant because in many of Stevenson's cases the children tend to forget by the time they are around six, primarily in the Western and European examples because they, too, are oppressed by their parents. Also, Rivas and Rawat made sure to note that Stevenson is a credible source and begin discussing cases similar to that of Shanti Devi's case. I also found this case to be reliable because it was reported in a time when reincarnation was not a hugely held belief in India (Rivas 126).

Rivas, Titus, and Kirti Swaroop Rawat. "The Life Beyond: Through the Eyes of Children Who Claim to Remember Previous Lives." Journal of Religion & Psychical Research 28.3 (2005): 126-36. Print.

A Brief Case of Reincarnation with Stevenson and Motoyama

We have already talked about one case from Hiroshi Motoyama (The Case of Ms. Y) and one from Dr. Ian Stevenson (Gillian and Jennifer Pollock). Now, I would like illustrate how Ian Stevenson's work has impacted Motoyama, in "Karma and Reincarnation" Motoyama discusses an experience he had that helped persuade him that Stevenson had dealt with true cases of reincarnation. First, he verifies Stevenson's credibility by discussing how it is impressive that Stevenson has used such a "diverse" amount of countries including the Western and European ones (Motoyama 82).

Stevenson actually paid a visit to Motoyama, and told him about a special case he was studying and which was presented in his book "20 Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation" about an Indian man who had reached out to Stevenson. This man claimed to remember a past life of his, a life in which he was a British officer during World War I. During the war, the British officer died when a bullet pierced his throat (entering in one side and leaving through the opposite side of the throat).

The Indian man also could clearly and vividly remember details of the hometown of the British officer he claimed to have been: he remembered the house he was from, the officer's parents names, local sayings in the area, street layouts, and landmarks in the town he claimed the officer was from.

Stevenson then told Motoyama about the research he did into the Indian man's life, he verified and was certain that this Indian man had no way of travelling to Scotland/England and the area he told them of in those countries. Dr. Stevenson flew to Scotland to the exact location described by the Indian man and was shocked to find that every detail the Indian man had told him about the town had been correct. Even the family verified that their son had been an officer and was shot in the throat and the dialect was exactly as the man had described.

Motoyama was impressed by Stevenson's unbiased approach and thorough research, and claims that Stevenson convinced him in this case (Motoyama 83). Also something Motoyama agreed with was the placement of birthmarks on the man's throat, it corresponded to where the British officer had been shot and matched the story the Indian man had told, the Scottish family the British officer was from also verified the location the bullet entered their son and it was identical to the birthmarks on the Indian man's neck.

This case, though brief and discussed in both Stevenson's and Motoyama's books and I believe that gives the case a certain amount of credibility, especially since Motoyama is a well revered human psychologist as well as very published author. I liked this case and find it convincing because it connects the elements of remembering past lives in explicit detail and being able to verify them with a living relative of the deceased. It was also impressive that the Indian man had never been to or heard of the area prior to having it verified by Dr. Ian Stevenson.

Motoyama, Hiroshi. Karma and Reincarnation. Encintitas: CIHS, 2009. Print.
Stevenson MD, Ian. 20 Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation. New York City: American Society for Physical Research, 1966. Print.

Gillian and Jennifer Pollock

I have now selected the case of Jennifer and Gillian Pollock, a case studied by Dr. Ian Stevenson who is a parapsychologist. He is very well revered and has documented many cases and this will be the first case from Stevenson that we look at. This case was documented in England, a location that typically has few reported cases of reincarnation--something that should be noted for skeptics who believe that reincarnation is only found among Eastern countries who have strong faith in reincarnation. Stevenson studied not only Eastern countries, but also in Western countries or countries that have a less than strong belief in reincarnation: that is one factor that drew Stevenson to the case of the twin girls.

This case starts out examining the history of the Pollock family. First, Mr. and Mrs. Pollock had had two daughters prior to having the twins and these daughters were eleven (Joanna) and six (Jacqueline) when they died due to an automobile striking them while they were walking. The sisters were very close and the parents grieved greatly when this tragedy happened; however, Mrs. Pollock became pregnant one year after the accident and the father insisted it would be twin girls despite doctors disagreeing. When Mrs. Pollock did give birth it was twin girls who they name Jennifer and Gillian (with Gillian being the elder twin).

Some things to be noted are that the girls were identical twins, but had different birthmarks that corresponded to the birthmarks on the bodies of Jacqueline and Joanna. For example, Jennifer had a birthmark on her forehead in the same location that Jacqueline had a scar. As well, she had a birthmark in the same location Jacqueline had had one on her waist(Stevenson 71). Now, Stevenson does admit this does not necessarily mean that Jennifer is the reincarnation of her deceased sister Jacqueline, but he feels that birthmarks can play an important role in reincarnation cases. He digresses though, saying that something could have happened in gestation, but since Jennifer and Gillian are identical twins, it is interesting that Gillian lacks these marks. In a review of Stevenson in the Journal of American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry William Bernett writes that Stevenson is "a distinguished psychiatrist and scholar" (Bernett 1022) and also discusses the significance of birthmarks on children who claim to be reincarnated matching up with the person they claimed to be in a past life.

Another thing that makes this case probable is that when Gillian and Jennifer were young, around age two, they began requesting toys that had belonged to their older and deceased sisters. This is interesting because Mr. and Mrs. Pollock had never brought out these toys and did not discuss the deceased daughters. This means that Gillian and Jennifer at age two had no means of knowing about these toys (Stevenson 71). Another fact Dr. Ian Stevenson noted in this case was that the family had moved when the twins were one, leaving the area that they had raised Joanna and Jacqueline in. They did return to visit when the twins were about four and the twins spontaneously announced they wanted to visit a specific park and mentioned attributes of the park, despite having never been to the park before (Stevenson 72).

In this study, it was also discussed how the twins took on behaviors of the sisters such as Jennifer (who was thought to be the reincarnation of Jacqueline) being codependent on her sister, Gillian (the reincarnation of elder sister Joanna).

I find this case to be intriguing because it is a case of identical twins who have different markings (such as birthmarks) which is something I have not heard of previously. As well, I find it to make Stevenson more credible since this was a case found outside of a country that typically believes in reincarnation and this was an English family who were Christian. Stevenson also followed this family from 1964 until 1985, following up and keeping tabs on the twins. I find this story interesting, especially since the birthmarks on Jennifer match up with that of her deceased elder sister, Jacqueline. I also found it wonderful that Stevenson recieved credit in a psychiartry journal with positive reviews, especially when Bernett was discussing Stevenson's investigative methods and commended him on his initial skepticism in each case (Bernett 1023). I believe this to be a very intriguing and true case of reincarnation given the circumstances and many similiarities between Jennifer and Jacqueline and Gillian and Joanna.

Bernett MD, William. "Children Who Remember Previous Lives: A Question of Reincarnation, Revised Edition." Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 41.8 (2002): 1022-023. Print.

Stevenson, Ian. Children who remember previous lives a question of reincarnation. Charlottesville: University of Virginia, 1987. Print.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Case of Ms.Y

One prominent case of reincarnation is studied at Temple University in the class of "Death and Dying" is the case of Ms. Y. This is excerpted from the book "Karma & Reincarnation" by Hiroshi Motoyama. Motoyama discloses that this is not the family's real name due to privacy reasons and anonymity. The author begins by discussing that he does past-life regression therapy, which basically puts a person into a state of hypnosis in which they will most likely not recall when they come to normal consciousness again. During this time people sometimes recall a past life and are able to elaborate and, as said in the previous entry, recall very detailed facts including names and the origin of the previous life.
In this case, Motoyama talks about how Ms. Y came to him because she was experiencing a fit of deep depression. With this is in mind, Motoyama proposed that she try past life regression therapy. During the session, Ms. Y remembered a time 350 years prior to when her father in this life was a samurai at that point in time and she was his daughter. During this lifetime, her father was very well revered but she was having problems in this life. The problem was star-crossed love, her family forebode her from marrying the man she loved very much in her teen years, this threw her into a manic depressive state at the time and she killed herself. (Motoyama 2-3)

Motoyama closely worked with the family for quite some time researching the history of this family that Ms. Y spoke of 350 years prior to. They visited the town that the samurai (Hachirouemon Nakanose) was from in Suwa. They did a lot of research and eventually found the tomb and the family lineage of Nakanose and verified that he did have a daughter who had killed herself over the loss of an unattainable lover.

This case helps dispell the myth that past life regression therapy can cause only false memories. Motoyama knew that Ms. Y had never been to Suwa and had no knowledge of any families in that area, so it was highly improbable that Ms. Y had researched this family and knew the details simply from that. Also, this is not a family who is well known, so it was very unlikely Ms. Y had heard of the family and simply made a story to go along it. All the research the Motoyama did to prove or disprove this case proved helpful and after much digging in libraries and temples, Ms. Y was able to prove that this past life could have actually happened (Motoyama 5).

I found this case very interesting because the age Ms. Y came down with symptoms of depression in her current life is when she had taken her own life because of grief and sorrow in her past life (about 20 years old). I also admired how Motoyama did intensive research to prove or disprove Ms. Y's memories of a past life. Ultimately, I would say that this is a valid case and Motoyama is fairly well revered since his book is being studied at Temple University in the class "Death and Dying"
Citation: Motoyama, Hiroshi. Karma and Reincarnation. Encintitas: CIHS, 2009. Print.