Past Life research is the study of peoples claims that they have memories of a previous life. It is often described as the process of reincarnation. It states that a person has numerous lives, and in some circumstances can recall a previous life. It is more of an accept belief in Eastern philosophy, and not accepted by the Western public. However, several parapsychologists have looked into cases of past life memories to test these claims.
Most claims of past life memories come from children, usually between 2-6 years of age. In these memories, children make claims that relate to their previous life. There is often a wide range of statements, including how they died, names of prior life family members, jobs, where they lived, and objects/pictures they owned.
The difficulty within the research is that they are testing children’s statements. There is no way of testing past life cases in a scientific format. In most cases, researchers will only document the facts, as the family has already found who the suspected deceased are. In these cases, researchers will just interview the families contacted to the case. However, in a minority of cases, the researchers find the family which provides a more rigid test by capturing the process from start to finish.
The main problem with the research strategy is due to the nature of past lives and finding the deceased families. For example, a child gives numerous memories, and their family or researchers go and find a deceased person that fits that description. It is difficult to use the same descriptions again to evaluate how successful the past life memories are as they used them to find the deceased. But what is interesting is that family/researchers can find the family in the majority of reported cases. However, we also need to be cautious as there might be many more attempts that fail but don’t get reported.
Most of the claims for past life research come from children. It is hard to explain why children would make up an ordinary life story about past lives, i.e., I was a factory owner. Most claims have an element of realism to them. In many families, the children were actively discouraged from talking about their previous life but still do. I think the most interesting part of past life research is the source of material, i.e., children don’t gain anything by talking about it.
Despite the issues within the research strategy, there are some common themes in past life research. There are three main ones involving children.
Behaviour – the majority of children claiming past life memories take on some of the behavior of the deceased, such as playing as a monk, nightclub owner. The stand out feature of these examples is it’s very unusual for children to behave in such a way, and they are related to statements about their behavior. Also, in the literature, it appears these behaviors come naturally to children.
Phobias – a significant number of children who claim to past lives have phobias relating to how the deceased died. For example, if a person drowned, they had a fear of falling.
Birth Marks – perhaps the most significant type of evidence in past life research is birthmarks relating to how they died. In some cases, the alleged deceased was killed by gunshot wounds, and on the body of the child, there are birthmarks where the entry and exit wounds were located. In some cases, there is corroborative evidence from medical records.
In the literature, there are some interesting examples of what happens when children met the alleged deceased family. The children can give names of people, either from photos or around them, that they have never met before. It is unclear how children can do this, other than supporting the theory of their past life. Although these are interesting, the problem still lays in the research strategy.
A rare event that is associated with past life is Xenoglossy. It is the apparent ability to perform tasks that the person doesn’t know how they acquired that knowledge, i.e., speaking in a different language.
Overall, if you are a believer in the past life, you can point to evidence that demonstrates its existence, or if you are skeptic there are issues within the research methodology to suggest the evidence is still weak. Therefore, the research is inconclusive. However, this is due to its nature rather than research being poor at research.
I will be presenting a series of blogs around the paranormal: The next topic is “Similarities Between Quantum Mechanics and Paranormal.”
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Thanks for reading, Ian