Whether you may be in shocked or in disbelief about stories of reincarnation, there are at least 0.2% of the world’s population who claim to have stories from their past. For some, it may seem a hoax to gain popularity however scientific studies have proven true for evidence in some cases.

“You know… when I was your age, I changed your diapers…” said a stout, 18 month old boy who was lying flat on the changing table.

“… You used to what…?”

His father froze in his tracks. Slowly, with shaky hands, he sealed the two sticky tabs together with minute pressure. His son, only a year and a half of age stared solemnly at him and in that instant, the father knew there was an old soul lying beneath that façade of his innocence-bearing son.

“Yes pa… I was your father, just like you are mine now.”

History Of Reincarnation

The conception of reincarnation arose in the Greek Pre-Socratic era where rebirths were recognised as a replication of nature’s agricultural cycles. What seamlessly transitioned this belief to a common source of resolve for the never-ending discussion about life after death was Taoism. Taoism stems from the phrase of Lao Tzu “Birth is not a beginning; death is not an end. There is birth, there is death, there is issuing forth, there is entering in.” As of today, the main religions that embrace the notion of reincarnation stems from India including Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism.

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Across the religions, the consensual definition of reincarnation is as follows:

“When the soul, which is seen as an eternal park of a spiritual realm returns to the physical realm in a new body.”

It is believed that the soul will complete this cycle many times in order to learn lessons each time around and working through karma, otherwise known as Samsara. This long-standing debate is at the crossroads of where religion and science meets – but new research suggests science may possibly complement this highly controversial topic.

Scientific Evidence For Reincarnation

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Dr. Ian Stevenson, specialist in the foundations of human personality, from the University of Virginia had conducted scientific research on over 3,000 case studies of children who have claimed that they had a past life. He would listen intently to the described memories from the child, to a matched profile of a deceased. Surprisingly, the wounds from the past were concurrent to where the birthmarks or odd lesion scars were found on the children. He controlled his subjects with lie detectors and required them to sign affidavits under an oath. What triggered Stevenson’s sudden interest in the topic of reincarnation are the hauntingly fitting stories from the past that client’s would tell him when they were asked about their congenital defect – it was then that he believed there was science behind reincarnation.

“You know mum, you can come back alive after you die… just like how I did”

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The main findings from Stevenson and team’s research include:

  • 1 in 500 people on average would have memories of their past life (this number is contingent on the number of people who would openly admit to it)
  • Violent death is a major factor in 61% of reincarnation cases
  • Children usually remember the final years of their previous life
  • 75% of children recalled the way in which they died (especially if the circumstance was violent, it would be in vivid detail)
  • Boys were presented more often (this may be a biased estimate as girls as a notorious subject of a case is usually cast as ‘not marriageable’
  • 66% of cases have claimed to have had a sex change

Stevenson published ‘Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation’ to provide greater insights and evidence to support his belief of the possibility of reincarnation.

Case Study Example: Gus Taylor

The Western society has not yet explored this thoroughly so in some regions, this belief system has been deemed a solace-seeking approach to death. The story described in the epigram was a true story of a boy whose name was Gus Taylor. He was a notable experimental subject from Stevenson’s research as the boy could account for extraordinary recounts of his past life. He claimed to have been his own grandfather who died a year before his birth. Not only was he able to identify his grandfather in grained films, he recalled his great-aunt (‘sister’) being murdered and dumped into the San Francisco Bay. Even his father (‘son’) was clueless of this incident.

Now are these a hoax and a plot to fame?

A woman claimed to have been Anne Frank in her past life through the redemption of having dreams in her early childhood that resonated with the surrounds of Anne Frank’s living conditions at the time. Another young boy claimed to have been a fighting pilot in the past, notably through his fascination to planes and recollecting the exact place to which his plane crash occurred, which caused his death. What explains a young girl’s ability to speak in an ancient dialect without environmental influences?

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Is there a definitive criteria to which people have to fulfil in order to be classified as ‘reincarnated’? What can really explain these bizarre stories – pure coincidence? Mental illnesses? …Or is it really reincarnation?