Memory and paramnesia: Early reincarnation research into spontaneous memories among adults and children in the Netherlands
Drs. Titus Rivas
Dutch spontaneous cases of possible memories of previous lives are discussed. It is concluded that most cases that begin in adults are caused by subconscious fantasy. The only exception might be cases of déjà-vu.
Cases in children, however, seem very interesting, but the parents' prejudices 'spoil' many of them. Spontaneous case investigations should be completely concentrated on children. To facilitate research, parents should be better informed about verified cases of the reincarnation type.
In this article I will report about Dutch reincarnation research into spontaneous cases among adults and children during 1986-1990. By spontaneous I mean here not only “un-induced” but also “in a state of waking awareness”. I have prepared other papers on hypnotic cases and cases of dreams of the same period.
I. Spontaneous cases among adults
We can distinguish between at least 5 categories of spontaneous cases in adults:
(1) cases that originate in the statements of a “psychic” or paragnost, or someone who purports to be such a person.
(2) cases with dissociation (but without loss of consciousness), in which one supposes for example that somebody else from the previous life accompanies the person in question.
(3) cases of déjà-vue in which the person, being in an unknown foreign place, seems to recognize houses or streets, and can find the way without indications.
(4) cases accompanied by psychoses.
(5) cases during a state of rest or meditation (but without loss of consciousness).
None of these categories turns out to have resulted in any veridical material in the period mentioned.
Moreover, cases of the first category are hard to study, because there can be intentional or unintentional manipulation by the psychic, because he or she has something to gain by “proving” his or her utterances. Apart from that, there remains the possiblity that the psychic does indeed score, in the sense of supplying the right paranormal information, but without that information being applicable to the present personality in question.
Cases of the second category often turn out to be very complicated. They are characterized by an apparent realization of the person's own identity from the previous life and of the precize history of the incarnation.
Cases of the third category seem very convincing, although until now I have not encountered even one case of déjà-vue in adults that would have been verifiable.
The fourth category, that of psychoses, normally do not belong to the competence of reincarnation researchers, unless they are also psychiatrists. As I am not a psychiatrist myself, but a philosopher and psychologist, I have sent such persons to professional counselors. It is important to stress in this context, that to me it was completely clear that certainly none of these cases was veridical.
Cases of the fifth category finally usually reflect only the psychological situation of that moment (for example an identity crisis) and use fantasy images from an imaginary previous life to achieve this.
I have not found a single case among adults which would unequivocally indicate real memories of previous lives. On the other hand a lot of evidence and even proof for self-deception among adults was found. However, conscious deception hardly ever occurs if at all.
The origin for almost all spontaneous cases among Dutch adults seems to lie therefore in a subconscious process of confabulation. The only exception to this rule is category 3, but this too has still not delivered any verifiable material in the Netherlands. Of course, this might change in the future.
II. Spontaneous cases in children
We will not consider here cases of simple utterances which suggest knowledge of a previous life. Within the other cases we can distinguish the following categories:
(1) cases of children that show knowledge of a language or cultural customs that they have never learnt in this life.
An example is that of a Dutch boy of one-and-a-half who would adequately use English words, among which the word “wood”, whereas his parents did not have a television set or any friends that spoke English. Moreover, this boy wanted to go to church at a young age, while the family never went there.
(2) cases of déjà-vue.
(3) cases of “classical” memories of a past life, but without these memories being verifiable independently.
(4) cases with dissociation.
(5) cases that seem veridical, but have been lost for research.
In contrast to cases in adults, cases in children often seem authentic. Therefore it is very sad that precisely some of the most promising have ended in category 5. One case involved a 4 year-old son of parents who themselves did not believe in reincarnation. The boy had talked about his memories in a completely spontaneous manner. The utterances of the boy would have been so veridical that they could convince his “unbelieving” parents. However, this is all information that was supplied to me by the boy's mother. She told me she was sufficiently convinced, and that an investigation could not change anything about that. On top, she judged it too risky for the (present) childhood of her son to be exposed to an intensive and critical investigation. Unfortunately, she would not be softened, not even by the argument that other parents and children with similar experiences might be stimulated that way to accept them and integrate them in their world-view.
Another obstacle we are faced with in the Netherlands, is the considerable skepticism and ignorance among Dutch parents concerning reincarnation and memories of previous lives. These might well be the reasons why many cases which at first seemed verifiable dry out so quickly.
Such a case concerns a now grown-up woman who at the age of 3 came back home after having played outside, saying that she had been bitten by a horse. The woman now states that she had seen images of a horse that killed her by biting her. Unfortunately, however, her family did not ask her for any more details, but just considered it a funny fantasy.
Notwithstanding this fact, we have found three cases in this period, of Dutch children that seem to show the classical structure of the Cases of the Reincarnation Type such as studied by Ian Stevenson and others:
- Case 1: A Hindustani girl (with a Surinamian background) recalled the life of her aunt when she was 4 years old. She mentioned details that managed to convince her family. Unfortunately, the family was not prepared to be interviewed more at depth about the details.
- Case 2: A Dutch boy remembers the life of a kind of designer of industrial machines when he was 3 years old. He tells his mother that he had something to do with a big wheel. His Christian mother did not understand anything of her son's story. However, she did confirm that her son had once tried to tell a whole day long her about some kind of big wheel.
- Case 3: Hindustani girl (again, with of a Surinamian background) claims to be possessed by an Indian woman from the 1940s. She mentions names and addresses from that period. Some geographical and architectural peculiarities are verified by the family itself. Also, she speaks a strange language when she is possessed, namely Hindi. The family only speaks Dutch, Sranan Tongo and Hindustan. Once more, an in-depth investigation was made very difficult, so that we cannot be sure about the accuracy of this story.
Reincarnation research into spontaneous memories in the Netherlands needs to have the following priorities:
- Research of adults should for the time being remain concentrated on déjà-vue cases.
Apart from that, research into other types of cases among adults may be justified in the sense that it can produce knowledge of the psychological structure of people who confabulate about previous lives.
- Research into memories of cases of children should continue without limitation.
However, it is important to give more publicity to verified cases of the reincarnation type so that Dutch parents loose their prejudices and can thus become more useful patners during the investigation.
- Haraldsson, E. (1994). Psychodiagnostische Untersuchungen an Kindern mit “Rückerinnerungen” und Fallbeispiele aus Sri Lanka. Zeitschrift für Parapsychologie und Grenzgebiete der Psychologie, 36, 1/2, 22-38.
- Stevenson, I. (1987). Children who remember a previous lives: A question of reincarnation. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia.
This article was originally published online in 1998 on a website called Reincarnation Researches.