Reincarnation: Doing It All Over Again?
Posted on 13 March 2017, 10:06
There was a time when I enjoyed reading books about reincarnation. I was fascinated by the story of Bridey Murphy from the 1950s and by the research carried out by Professor Ian Stevenson, as reported by in Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation, and by Brian L. Weiss, M.D. in Many Lives, Many Masters. I was intrigued by Jenny Cockell’s Across Time and Death, by Dolores Cannon’s They Walked with Jesus, and Marge Rider’s Mission to Millboro. My library contains about 40 books dealing with reincarnation, but at some point the idea of coming back and doing this all over again did not appeal to me and I stopped reading about reincarnation.
If I could start another life at age 20 or so in a fairly comfortable setting with everything I now know, I’d probably opt for another lifetime in this physical realm, but it doesn’t seem to work that way. I fear that I may elect to come back as a severely handicapped child to help his or her parents learn from the experience. It’s something of a Catch 22 situation – hoping to be advanced enough to be so heroic and yet hoping not to be so advanced.
As much as I don’t want to do it again, the evidence set forth in the recently released book, I Saw a Light and Came Here, by Erlendur Haraldsson, Ph.D. and James G. Matlock, Ph.D. and published by White Crow Books, suggests that I will have to do it again, unless of course, I have reached the point at which we don’t have to come back and we continue the evolution of the soul in another realm of existence. I feel I still have a lot to learn and so I am not optimistic in that regard.
I decided it was about time to read another book on reincarnation and this book, subtitled Children’s Experiences of Reincarnation, seemed to be a good choice. The authors offer some very interesting and evidential cases from their extensive research in past-life studies. The book is divided into two parts – the first authored by Haraldsson and the second by Matlock. Haraldsson draws from nearly 50 years of field research, including approximately a hundred cases in Sri Lanka, Lebanon, India and Iceland, while Matlock is more of an “armchair” researcher, investigating accounts of reincarnation primarily by email, instant messaging, and Skype. Both authors frequently link their findings to the research of Professor Ian Stevenson, considered “the father of reincarnation research.”
Haraldsson begins by summarizing several intriguing cases he researched in which children recalled episodes from an earlier life. In one case, a Lebanese boy named Nazih was just a year-and-a-half old when he began telling his parents about his prior life. He recalled carrying two pistols and four hand-grenades and being shot and killed. When he was two-and-a-half, he drew a map of his previous house and said he wanted to go back there to see his children and retrieve his weapons and other belongings. It was determined that his old home was about 17 kilometers from his present home, and when Nazih was five or six years old, his family finally took him there. He was questioned by his past-life wife and accurately answered a number of questions she put to him. He was even able to point to a cupboard in which he had kept his arms. He further recalled giving his brother a somewhat rare kind of handgun before his death in the prior life and of building a wooden ladder, which still existed on his visit there. He was shown a photo of three men from the prior life and identified each one by name. It was determined that he was killed in 1982 at age 57 when serving as a bodyguard for a spiritual leader. In all, Nazih made 25 statements fitting the person he believed himself to be in the prior lifetime and only one statement that did not fit.
Haraldsson mentions that in a few cases, children spoke of memories from the period after they died and before they were reborn. Some claimed to have engaged in poltergeist activity after they died. Many have phobias and fears related to their past-life memories. A large percentage claim to have suffered a violent death. Birthmarks are found in some cases to seemingly be related to wounds that led to the child’s death in the past life. Most children stop talking about the previous life by the age of six or seven.
Although most of the book is focused on reincarnation, Haraldsson devotes separate chapters to deathbed visions, near-death experiences and mediumship.
Matlock begins the second section with some history on the belief in reincarnation, dating back to Turkish tribal peoples and the Egyptians. He goes on to note how early Christians, such as Origin and members of the Gnostic sects, believed in pre-existence of the soul and how it was condemned at the Second Council of Constantinople in 553 A.D. He provides details of cases from Canada, India, Brazil and the United States. I found his chapter on xenoglossy (people speaking in foreign tongues though not consciously familiar with the language) especially interesting, as well as the chapter on suicide cases.
While both Haraldsson and Matlock address the skeptical concerns relating to reincarnation, they do not discuss the “overshadowing” or spirit possession theories that some believe account for it all. That is, the past-life memories are really the influence of spirit entities – possibly entities from a common group soul who actually lived those past lives – merging with or somehow influencing the child’s aura or energy field during the developmental stages, as the child’s soul occasionally vacates the body to be nurtured in his or her true home. This school of thought holds that such influences are mistakenly taken to be the child’s past life.
Frederic W. H. Myers, one of the pioneers of psychical research, purportedly communicated through several credible mediums following his death in 1901. One of those mediums was Geraldine Cummins of Ireland, a trance automatist. Much of what Myers had to say through the hand of Cummins is set forth in The Road to Immortality, first published in 1932. Among other subjects, Myers discussed the group-soul and reincarnation.
“While I was on earth, I belonged to a group-soul, but its branches and the spirit – which might be compared to the roots – were in the invisible,” Myers wrote. “Now, if you would understand psychic evolution, this group-soul must be studied and understood. For instance, it explains many of the difficulties that people will assure you can be removed only by the doctrine of reincarnation. You may think my statement frivolous, but the fact that we do appear on earth to be paying for the sins of another life is, in a certain sense, true. It is our life and yet not our life.”
Myers went on to explain that a soul belonging to the group of which he was part lived a previous life and built for him a framework for his own earthly life. The spirit – the bond of the group soul – manifests, he said, many times on earth. “We are all of us distinct,” he continued, “though we are influenced by others of our community on the various planes of being.” He further explained that a group soul might contain twenty souls, a hundred souls, or a thousand souls.
“When your Buddhist speaks of the cycle of birth, of man’s continual return to earth, he utters but a half-truth,” Myers went on. “And often a half-truth is more inaccurate than an entire misstatement. I shall not live again on earth, but a new soul, one who will join our group, will shortly enter into the pattern of karma I have woven for him on earth.”
Myers likened the soul to a spectator caught within the spell of some drama outside of its actual life, perceiving all the consequences of acts, moods, and thoughts of a kindred soul. He further pointed out that there are an infinite variety of conditions in the invisible world and that he made no claim to being infallible. He called it a “general rule” based on what he had learned and experienced on the Other Side.
I much prefer to believe Myers’s version, but it is difficult to discount the more orthodox reincarnation belief when considering the birthmark evidence uncovered by Stevenson, Haraldsson and Matlock. One way or the other, survival is indicated and I’m inclined to believe that the truth of it all is somewhere in between the two schools of thought and for the most part beyond human comprehension, at least beyond mine.
Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
Next blog post: March 27
James Webster, Fri 24 Mar, 11:26
In a previous post I pointed out your mention of “overshadowing” and the importance of this phenomenon as I understand it with regard to suggested reincarnation and past lives. Since then several other posters have shown this same measure of importance and what Paul stated was well in line IMO.
The teacher Abu (The Abu Trust) spoke and explained profoundly of the earth plane being the plane of individualisation - the crystalisation of spirit. The CDs are well worth listening to.
From many years of involved study it has become most clear and evidential that almost all cases of reincarnation are explainable through the influence of discarnate spirit entities who are able to influence their subjects with overshadowing, obsession and sometimes possession. These are mistaken for reincarnation events and suggested past lives of the subject and rarely seem to be understood by many what the real cause is. They are the lives and experiences of the discarnate spirit “interfering” with the subject who in fact is operating unconsciously as a medium does in trance or semi trance conditions when they see or hear clairvoyantly or clairauiently . It is the same experience but translated differently.
The power of spirit discarnates can impose themselves on those incarnate in the physical and can even impress scars and other birthmarks on them to give the appearance that they were once that other spirit in a former life. All an illusion and millions fall for the deception as they do in the hands of a qualified stage magician/illusionist.
There is the warning and danger of some spirit entities who still hold to ego and self pride and pretend to be on high levels and more knowledgeable than they truly are. They will speak of reincarnation being a fact and presented as so from these “advanced levels(?)” - ref ‘The Siren Call of Hungry Ghosts’ by Joe Fisher, a most important read proving just how easily we can be fooled!
Ref ‘The Risen’ by August Goforth and Timothy Gray, chapter 25 ‘The Pastime of Reincarnation, is a gem - Tim Gray describes his experiences on the other side and how so many are totally taken in by the illusion and unreality of reincarnation as is normally accepted and “experienced” in the teaching of the doctrine. It has to be explained to them as Tim admits that he had to find out for himself when he went over with mistaken ideas and beliefs he had been hanging onto when on earth.
Amongst other essential reads are Dr Carl Wickland ‘Thirty Years Among The Dead’ and ‘The Gateway of Understanding’ and a recent book by Stephen Blake M.Sc.(Lond) ‘Reincarnation Refuted’ a classic work of academic research by a scientist who accepts the afterlife and spirituality.
Thanks Michael for opening up some fine debate on a very controversial and misunderstood subject.
Amos and Paul,
Yes, I like the way Silver Birch put it: “There is reincarnation, but not in the sense in which it is generally expounded.”
Michael Tymn, Fri 24 Mar, 02:11
Well that’s a good point regarding purpose. Unless of course it is necessary to individualise in some way, no matter how brief the experience?
I like the philosophy of Silver Birch - it always seems so sensible to me. His view appears to have been that most do not reincarnate, though there is reincarnation for a specific purpose. Maurice Barbanel was, I am told, vehemently against reincarnation which is curious I think. I am not saying it’s right - who knows, even opinion on the other side seems divided doesn’t it?
Paul, Thu 23 Mar, 00:06
I think there might be another thing to consider when thinking about reincarnation, especially when thinking about birthmarks being somehow related to a past life injury. Rupert Sheldrake has proposed an interesting idea for which he uses the terms ‘morphic resonance’ and ‘morphogenetic fields’.
While I don’t pretend to understand everything that Sheldrake proposes, (I haven’t spent a lot of time studying it!) his ideas resonate with me somehow as it seems unlikely that genetics alone can account for plant and animal form. Genes prescribe the formation of amino acids and subsequently proteins but just what is it that directs those proteins to link together to form a structure of some kind. What causes cells to stop dividing when some boundary is reached. Why do cells form a heart rather than a liver or why don’t cells just proliferate into some globby mass? Why do bodies have limits?
If a spirit of a past life had a residuum morphic field from that life, perhaps somehow that old morphic field influences the development of the fetus into which the reincarnating soul is to inhabit. Just a thought! - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Wed 22 Mar, 20:14
I hope you are right. The argument against the birthmark evidence can be made one way or the other, whether by orthodox reincarnation or overshadowing, so I don’t see that as decisive. The other argument in favor of orthodox reincarnation is that it doesn’t make much sense that some would incarnate only one time and then die in infancy or at a young age. If they are able to continue their spiritual evolution on the Other Side, then the argument is why does anyone have to incarnate in the earth realm. It supposedly hastens the process of spiritual evolution, but why wouldn’t the soul who dies in infancy want that option? So much of it is beyond our comprehension.
Michael Tymn, Wed 22 Mar, 16:12
Thanks for replying Michael,
I take your point regarding physical marks but it occurs to me that it appears to be possible for obsessing entities to induce physical effects e.g. Possession. If that’s true, then I think it may weaken the reincarnation argument. Also, if it isn’t induced, i can’t think how such physical markings could be transferred. There does not often appear to be a familial and therefore genetic link between people who claim to be reincarnated and their families, as far as I have read anyway. In addition, the markings are often of injuries which I don’t think could transferred genetically.
Paul, Wed 22 Mar, 12:25
Thanks to all for the comments. To answer Paul, I think they can be explained by overshadowing, execept, as I mentioned, it is difficult to see how the birthmark evidence comes about through overshadowing. I am content, as Amos is, to believe there is something to reincarnation but it is beyond human comprehension.
When William Stainton Moses, one of the most credible mediums of the late nineteenth century asked Imperator, the name adopted by an apparently advanced spirit, about reincarnation, he was told that only the most advanced intelligences are able to discourse on that subject and that it is not given to the lower ranks of the spiritual hierarchy to know. “There are still mysteries, we are fain to confess, into which it is not well that man should penetrate,” Imperator cautioned. “One of such mysteries is the ultimate development and destiny of spirits. Whether in the eternal counsels of the Supreme it may be deemed well that a particular spirit should or should not be again incarnated in a material form is a question than none can answer, for none can know, not even the spirit’s own guides. What is wise and well will be done…There are other aspects of the question which, in the exercise of our discretion, we withhold; the time is not yet come for them. Spirits cannot be expected to know all abstruse mysteries, and those who profess to do so give the best proof of their falsity.”
Imperator, who claimed to be on the seventh sphere, said that it was necessary for him to relay messages to Moses through spirits on lower spheres because of the difference in vibration.
Another possible explanation is one of definition or semantics. “You will find that the higher the ascent in the spiritual scale, the more recognition is there that there is reincarnation,” Silver Birch, another apparently advanced spirit communicated through the trance mediumship of Maurice Barbanell, “but not in the facile form that is so often propounded.”
Silver Birch explained that the individual personality on earth is a small part of the individuality to which he or she belongs. He likened it to a diamond with its many facets, pointing out that the personality on earth is but one facet of the diamond. “what you express on earth is but an infinitesimal fraction of the individuality to which you belong. Thus there are what you call ‘group souls,’ a single unity with facets which have spiritual relationships that incarnate at different times, at different places, for the purpose of equipping the larger soul for its work.”
Michael Tymn, Tue 21 Mar, 20:35
Pau., Sun 19 Mar, 13:50
I share your view about the desirability of reincarnation. Opinions from purported denizens of the next world seem to me divided on whether reincarnation occurs and if it does, then also about the how and why. I haven’t seen many examples where it couldn’t equally well be explained by overshadowing of some sort a la Carl Wickland - what do you think?
Mike great article! I’ve had a past life recall under the tuelage of WOW his name just escaped me but he was English and wrote a wonderful book on it years ago. I saw myself as a man who was coming home to his wife. I loved her very much and couldn’t wait to see her. I felt I was in England I was on a horse and as I came up to the house she opened the door and I could see her and the fire beyond her inside. I held her close and had this thought as the female that I am “No wonder men like to hug us. We’re so soft.” That how I felt in hugging “her.” I won’t bore anyone with all the details but I died first and I hovered over her waiting for her for what seems years when she finally joined me. It gave me a greater appreciation for men in my life and for my male clients! Thanks for your article - I too love relying on you for such honest information. Blessings Karen Oh his name was Roger Woolger - his book was wonderful!
Karen E Herrick, Wed 15 Mar, 23:22
Beautiful Mike and I enjoy the range of notions brought forth. I also feel an inherent sense of trust when I read your work, particularly regarding your comprehensive overview and how thoroughly your mind processes data. Following - I bring these anecdotes from direct experience of past lives, the collective soul group and universal mind:
I feel we have knowledge and wisdom inheritable from past lives. I am British, living in the USA, and during the recent US election I was curious about the American right to bear arms. I am a manager at a beautiful little vegetarian cafe and the thought of shooting a gun is just bizarre to me - a belief I have from growing up in a country where guns are illegal. So, I decided to educate myself and I took up an free offer from my city police Lieutenant for a mini-shooting lesson at the local armory. Feeling more like Lara Croft than a vegetarian trance medium, holding a Walter 22 in police cop stance, shooting for the first time in my life, I shot all 100 rounds in the center of the target, in a space the size of the Lieutenant’s fist, at 7 yards. I made a big hole in the centre of the target. During the lesson I had a past life memory of being a sniper. I didn’t tell him that although I wished I could have when he looked at the target incredulously and asked me ‘where did you learn to shoot like that?’ I could even remember how to regulate my breathing and therefore blood pressure to maintain precision and accuracy of the sight.
As to the other hypothesis - during my third spiritual emergency (Grof, 1980) in Feb of last year, I remembered being part of a collective soul group responsible for displacement of human beings and being responsible for the creation of a collective pain body. My main spiritual guide said it is only when you are responsible for collective pain can you earn the gifts of collective healing. I had an horrific past life memory of being a slave ship captain in a former life/consciousness and I had vivid flashbacks and memories of the atrocities, pain and suffering I had caused. I atoned that. And when I atoned at the collective humanity level, for all forced peoples displacement, I atone the energy of a soul group. The gifts then sit in the collective positive. This went on and on for a month in a life review list - I atoned being a part of a group of murderers, burning people at the stake from former lives etc. I atoned that group - taking responsibility for the whole group’s actions. This led to what I feel is access to a sort of ‘universal mind’ - the layers of consciousness and knowledge of everything that has been, is, and will be - and the ability (subject to guide granted access) to download the information. A bit like quantum google. To be used ethically to serve humanity. At the time of the emergence I felt like committing suicide - I had massive issues about what was my responsibility within this lifetime and what was not. I felt like the most shameful wretched person that ever walked the earth. My guides said I am responsible solely for my actions, thoughts, speech and body in this lifetime although during the review it is critical to accept responsibility for everything shown as this is what leads to the ego death. It’s pure karmic reparation. Very luckily for me, I found a psychotherapist (Chris Hancock) who can sit in the space of my direct experience as I wrangle with each non-ordinary puzzle piece, and integrate and process to keep fully functioning on the earth plane, whilst maximizing the gifts from the out-of-the ordinary experiences. That dude deserves danger pay.
Jess, Wed 15 Mar, 13:26
Yvonne Limoges, Tue 14 Mar, 18:52
From the myriad of spirits that have communicated through trustworthy mediums, no matter how long the spirit may be in the spirit world after physical death of the body, the spirit eventually gets to a point when it feels the urgent need to reincarnate again in order to learn, to make amends, assist those whom they love, and/or in order to carry out missions, small or large.
In spirit, we think about things differently than when incarnated, especially after having reviewed our behavior in past lives.
The Divine Law of Progress is innate within each soul…
It is the purpose for which we were created, to strive ever towards near perfection by free will and our own efforts, and this has been reiterated by many wise spirit teachers, via many mediums at different periods of time, and in different places down through the ages said in various ways
according teach the people of those times.
Reincarnated on a special mission to be our supreme model and guide on Earth - Jesus.
Humbly and Sincerely,
Interesting, isn’t it?, that regardless of how much we think we know, we each cannot avoid the illusion that there is a real physical world “out there”: that we have a real physical body that exists in a real physical world that is interacting with other real physical beings, human and otherwise. This illusion has been repeatedly exposed. We know it as such. But we unavoidably always revert back into it. Until something happens and the experience we are having of a physical world ceases to exist and we find our self experiencing another reality. In this alternate reality we may experience a life review in which we relive (or could apparently relive) every thought and experience we just had but are no longer having. But the perspective is not fixed. We can, according to various accounts, experience an event or have thoughts from the perspective of another individual, as if we were temporarily, for our enlightenment, reviewing a portion of their life and not our own.
More and more it appears that we are each a conscious individuality having experiences, in this instance of a material world, but also with the possibility of experiencing other realities. Generally we want to think that we retain our individual identity and as such can move from one reality to another, but this may not necessarily be the case, as with when there is the experience of another life and we are another personality. This is not limited to the experiencing of past lives but can also be observed in individuals with multiple personalities or when a person “forgets” who he or she is for an extended period of time and starts living another conscious life, only later to “wake up” and remember the previous life (dissociative fugue).
I personally doubt that any one of us really knows what is going on: how it is that we are having the particular conscious experience we are having, what determines the shift from one conscious experience to another involving the same personality or the shift to another personality having its own experiences. What is the source, if any, of our experiences? Are they static or dynamic: can we modify them, or are we just living out an already existing script? Is there a purpose to the experiences we are each having, or appear to be having?
As I recall, in the Teacher’s Manual of A Course in Miracles, where it discusses reincarnation, it states that reincarnation is not what it appears to be. This is probably an understatement.
Tom D, Tue 14 Mar, 14:03
As always, Mike, a marvelous and fascinating article on a topic which I’ve studied and written on for decades. Thank you!
John F. Miller, Tue 14 Mar, 01:48
Michael, I share your misgivings about reincarnation. I wouldn’t want to be a baby, child or adolescent again for anything. Myers does state that most people experience between 4 and 8 earth lives before they figure out that they don’t need to do it all again in this plane - which would embrace the orthodox accounts of Stephenson, et al., without its fatalism. I’ll stick with Myers, if only to get me through the remaining years of this life.
Bonnie, Mon 13 Mar, 21:18
Jane Katra, Mon 13 Mar, 20:35
I’m of the “both/and” rather than the “either/or” school of thought, as discussed by Phoebe Bendit. And the both/and includes more possibilities, as our bandwidths of perception keep on expanding.
Very nice review, Mike.
You presented a balance of what the two authors had to say, quoted Meyers on reincarnation and then expressed your own point of view which I share insofar as not wanting to do battle again in another reincarnation but am expecting to choose a tortured rebirth in order to teach a new set of parents a lesson.
Don’t know why you omitted Jim B.Tucker’s fine introduction. Do you recall his brilliant chapter in his latest book which laid out the Quantum Mechanics case for consciousness preceding matter meaniing in part the mind precedes the brain?
Once again, nice work.
David P. Stang, Mon 13 Mar, 19:23
Read your blog with interest and so glad you have become bored with the pro reincarnation popularity which is indeed wearing thin! Someone said it ranked mostly as ‘fake news’ confusing and misinformed. I feel inclined to agree with them!
Your Para 9 mentioning “overshadowing” really holds the key and stood out in the whole article.
This is where the modus operandi lies and ties up perfectly with the work of Dr Carl Wickland and his wife Anna, a fine medium, who did such wonderful service releasing people from possession and obsession states and disproving so called “past lives” and suggested reincarnation. Ref his books ‘Thirty Years Among the Dead’ and ‘The Gateway of Understanding’.
May I remind you of my book getting great feed-back and reviews ‘The Case Against Reincarnation’.
Also a couple of my articles ‘Reincarnation and Survival’ and ‘Soul Survivor - the case and the book’
You can rest assured Mike, you will not be returning again to this earth plane.
Look forward to meeting up on the other side!
James Webster, Mon 13 Mar, 18:10
Michael, my early experience with the idea of reincarnation was similar to yours. As a teenager I read Morey Bernstein’s ‘The Search for Bridey Murphy’ and the skeptical criticisms it generated, and went on to read Brian Weiss, Ian Stephenson and others. Stephenson did not value past life reports obtained through hypnotism e.g. Bridey Murphy, as much as he valued spontaneous reports from very young children which he preferentially documented in his books.
I too have changed somewhat regarding my desire to be reincarnated. Most certainly it would be desirable if I could have my ‘fantasy life’ but upon reflection I have come to realize that that is not likely and that the most important thing about being reincarnated is not necessarily who I will be but who my parents would be. I think I could bear most adversities if I had loving, intelligent, caring parents but when I think of the way people are now, the chances of having ‘perfect’ parents seems to me to be very slim. So I hope when choosing another life I pay attention to the family into which I will be born and if possible, to look at it into the future rather than looking in at a current moment which may be misleading in the long run. As an example, when I look at photographs of my parents during their courting days, before I was born, they appeared to be very happy and a perfect choice for parents which appealed to me but after they married and I came along, it turned out that they were not as happy as I supposed and I realized that there were other perhaps more important things to look for in prospective parents.
Perhaps we have a tendency to think that Myers’ understanding of a ‘group soul’ is accurate simply because he has passed into another sphere of existence but I don’t think that the spirit newly released from physical existence necessarily knows more about such things than we do from our physical perspective. I like the idea of ‘group soul’ but I don’t think it is such as many or most people imagine. I think that the ‘group soul’ is what we really are when stript of all of our incarnations and that the so-called ‘group’ is just an accumulation of personas we have lived, like clothes hanging in a closet , each distinct but without consciousness. Consciousness lies in the oversoul which can experience physical reality as various personas. It may be that it is all a great game, a stage play in which the oversoul has fun living and experiencing life at its fullest in various incarnations. ‘Group soul’ is difficult to explain but perhaps the idea of a group soul has been best described by some as a diamond with many facets each representing an incarnation but it is the diamond that is the true conscious soul entity.
Amos Oliver Doyle, Mon 13 Mar, 16:09
I agree with you that in the most part all of this is really beyond my comprehension. - AOD
A very thoughtful summary of the evidence and key issues in the reincarnation debate. Well done.
Wendy Zammit, Mon 13 Mar, 12:02
Wonderful article Mike, bringing out the highs and lows of having to repeat earthly experience. Many of us in or near our ninth decade probably share some of these hopes and misgivings.
Dr Howard A. Jones, Mon 13 Mar, 11:38
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