SIX CASES OF THE REINCARNATION TYPE IN THE NETHERLANDS
by TITUS RIVAS
Article published in January 2004 in The Paranormal Review (SPR), 29, 17-20.
IT IS INCREASINGLY CLEAR that reincarnation is here to stay as a rational explanatory concept within the theorizing of parapsychology and psychical research.
A recent landmark for reincarnation research is the reporting of Western cases of the reincarnation type (CORTs) resembling those found in non-Western countries such as India or Sri Lanka. Some normal hypotheses, which seem already displaced in many Asian cases, can often entirely be excluded in a Western context. For instance, the claim of children to remember previous lives rarely fulfils a clear social function amongst Europeans, Americans, Australians or other Westerners. Few parents of Western children who claim to remember past lives, strongly believe in reincarnation prior to their children's reports. This makes the sociological hypothesis for most Western CORTs even more far-fetched than for the average non-Western case.
Dutch reincarnation research
The first person to undertake a serious survey of possible Dutch CORTs in young children was Dr Joanne Klink,(1) a Christian theologian who wrote a book based on letters from Dutch parents. Her treatise is entitled Vroeger toen ik groot was (When I used to be big) and in my view it certainly deserves to be translated into English. Dr Klink clearly shows that there are many parents in Holland who are confronted by unusual and sometimes quite detailed statements by their children about previous lives.
There has always been a vivid interest in reincarnation research among Dutch psychical researchers. Examples include W. H. C. Tenhaeff, Henri van Praag and Sybo Schouten. The Dutch author Hans ten Dam has written an authoritative general survey of anything relating to reincarnation research and reincarnation-regression hypnotherapy. There is extensive, serious Dutch literature about reincarnation in relation to therapy, by authors such as Pieter Barten, Henri de Vidal de St. Germain, Pieter Langedijk and Agnes van Enkhuizen.
My own investigations in the Netherlands
SINCE 1985 I HAVE BEEN conducting investigations of spontaneous CORTs in the Netherlands. At first, my research was part of a shared project with my brother Esteban Rivas on behalf of the Foundation for the Scientific Study of Reincarnation (Stichting voor Wetenschappelijk Reincarnatieonderzoek). Since 1996 I have continued these studies as a researcher affiliated to Athanasia, which is a foundation for parapsychological and philosophical research into life after death and the evolution of the personal soul, based at Nijmegen. In general, it is not easy to collect Dutch CORTs. Many parents are willing to share their experiences as an anecdote, but they often withdraw as soon as more than a merely superficial interest is shown in their story. Mothers often seem to be more open-minded about the statements of their children than fathers and they also seem to be more prepared to take them at face value. Besides, in the Netherlands one often encounters the almost untranslatable concept of 'nuchterheid', which partially overlaps with the English concepts of 'sobriety' and 'soberness'. 'Nuchterheid' in the relevant sense is an unwillingness to be overwhelmed by strong emotions and a resistance to any kind of 'superstitious', irrational or even religious beliefs. Another approximation of this Dutch concept may be 'being down to earth'. Many (though by no means all) Dutch seem to take pride in their claimed 'nuchterheid', or at least try to keep up appearances of it if they in fact really do believe in paranormal phenomena. Our so-called contemporary 'poet of the fatherland', Gerrit Komrij, actively promotes 'nuchterheid'as a general virtue. This appears to be reflected in the way many parents deal with their children's statements concerning past lives. They often don't talk about them with their friends or (even close) relatives and prefer to keep a low profile when the experiences are covered in publications, out of fear of negative social repercussions for themselves or, more often, their children. These cultural attitudes render it difficult both to find a case and to get a chance to thoroughly investigate it.
However, there is a positive side, in that it appears simply ludicrous to suppose that such parents of children who recall previous lives would be looking for publicity. Combined with the fact that most Dutch parents (as most other European parents) do not have strong beliefs about reincarnation or are even opposed to the idea (because it clashes with their supposed 'nuchterheid' or because it cannot be reconciled with their religious, mostly traditional Christian, convictions), this suggests that many or even most Dutch cases are probably authentic.
However, I have found some evidence for fantasy cases, particularly in adults. These cases don't show the same structure as CORTs among young children. For example, one schizophrenic patient claimed to recall that in his previous life he had personally saved nearly all the Jews from the death camps. For this reason he supported revisionist theories about the Holocaust.
The six cases I shall briefly present in this article clearly show a strikingly similar structure to the CORTs studied by important reincarnation researchers such as Ian Stevenson, Jamuna Prasad, K. S. Rawat, Reshat Bayer, Godwin Samararatne, Erlendur Haraldsson, Hernani Guimaraes Andrade and Satwant Pasricha. Therefore, it seems reasonable to interpret these CORTs in a similar way.
The case of Marcel
Marcel is a gifted young ethicist. When Marcel was a boy of about three, his father died. His mother noticed that shortly afterwards he commented on this loss during his play, speaking to himself as follows: "One day my father will be born again as a baby. But what will I get from that? He won't be my father any more!" after which he went on playing again. Two years later, Marcel repeatedly painted and drew a lot of scenes of a beach, which seemed unmistakably filled with what looked like military vehicles and weaponry. His mother, who confirmed the accuracy of everything Marcel told me, had kept some of his drawings and she showed them to me. They can hardly be interpreted in a different manner. During puberty, Marcel experienced images that appeared like memories of being a (possibly American) soldier who was shot in battle.
The case of Mrs De K.-V.
Mrs De K.-V. was a handicapped elderly lady when I first met her. She told me that from 1938 until 1988 she'd had recurrent dreams in which she wore traditional clothing and a small old-fashioned hat. She felt that she was between 18 and 20 years old. She was located in some kind of 'kitchen' of a big house and stood near a very broad staircase that led upstairs. Outside she could see a lot of trees. She appeared to be on an estate or large farm. Mrs De K.-V. got the impression that she belonged to a rich family who had acquired their wealth through hard labour. It was war time and it seemed that she had killed a soldier who had constituted a threat to her family. The soldier belonged to the enemy, but not necessarily to a foreign power. She killed him with an axe or similar metal utensil, after the man had raped a younger girl, possibly her sister. The family seemed to have buried the soldier's body. She heard or saw that a 'military escort' was arriving, and she was waiting for them to come with her heart beating in her throat. Her last thought in the dream was that everything would end, if they found out. After reaching this point in the dream, Mrs De K.-V. would always wake up. Her daughter confirmed that Mrs De K.-V. had repeatedly told her about the recurrent dream, long before the latter had reported it to us. As far as Mrs De K.-V. could remember, she hadn't seen any films or read any books that might have been the cryptomnesic source of her recurrent dreams. The dreams struck her as unusually life-like and realistic.
The case of Christina
Christina K. was born on February 24th 1979 in the village of Malden (Gelderland), the Netherlands. Christina died as a teenager of 17 after being struck by a car more than a year before her memories could be investigated. When she was about 3 years old she never dared go to the attic alone. She did not know why, but she just felt frightened. One Friday morning in 1982, when she was about three and a half, she was crying and told her mother she'd had a nightmare. It was a dream about a different, big and white house with high windows, somewhere in a town. She knew she had a father and a mother and was approximately 10 [or 11] years old. She told her mother that her former parents were very different from her present mum. She'd also had more brothers and sisters. It was Easter. They were sitting at the table and her brother and sisters were quarrelling. Their parents sent them to their rooms. Her younger brother had been playing with matches and his mattress had set alight. She ran to the balcony of her room and saw her mother and a fireman, who shouted at her to jump. She simply was too frightened to do so, although one or two of her sisters did. The smoke overcame her. A lady in white told her that she had died and took her through the burning house. Christina was shown several possible mothers and asked to pick one of them. She chose a woman with blonde hair who was typing at an office. After this dream, Christina sometimes recurred to its contents. I tried to find as many witnesses as possible for this. Fortunately, I succeeded in tracing a female cousin who remembered Christina telling her about it when she [the latter] was [around] eight. Christina's sister also confirmed the main story line of the dream and the phobia she had felt for the attic. Christina's mother told me that she had heard of a similar story of a terrible fire in which several children would have died, before Christina had been born. The fire had taken place in Arnhem. Therefore she wanted to test Christina by taking her to that town when she was 15 years old. After arriving at the central station, Christina led her straight to a white house, which she claimed to recognise. I visited the municipal archives of Arnhem and found that there had been a fire as described by Christina, at Easter 1973. There were several minor discrepancies, but the main line of her dream accorded well with the historical events of this fire. One of the casualties within the family afflicted by the catastrophe was called Hendrika, aged 9, who died as a consequence of the suffocating smoke caused by the fire.
Unfortunately, I could not find any living relatives of the family. I did succeed, however, in establishing that the dream was not made up by Christina's mother after her death at the early age of 17. There were several independent persons, including Christina's best friend, Laura, who testified to the fact that she really did have this dream long before her death. Furthermore, Christina clearly identified with the dream for years, which is hard to explain if she never had this dream in the first place. Finally, the age at which she had the dream is classical and so is her phobia. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of this case is Christina's vision of her mother. She saw her as a lady with blond hair who was typing at some office. It is remarkable that Christina's mother told me that she remembered the fire at Arnhem as occurring somewhere during the late '60s. She would have been around 13 or 14 when it happened and it would have shocked her because there were children involved. However, the fire really took place in 1973, when she was working at an office and used a dye to colour her hair blonde. This firmly excludes the possibility of fraud, and together with the other features suggests that Christina's is a classical reincarnation case with the standard pattern.
The Case of Angela
Athanasia Foundation was approached in 1997 by the parents of a girl called Angela, who had had a recurrent nightmare when she was about 2 or 3 years old. At first she would not tell her parents the subject of the dream. She woke up crying between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. and felt sweaty and anxious. Her parents reassured her, so that she went back to sleep after a while. Once, when she was 3, she was so upset that her mother insisted she should tell her what she dreamt about. Angela finally told her mother that in the dream there were men chasing her and shooting at her with guns. She said: "I see myself lying down and they are thinking: she's dead. But I'm not dead. They think I am, they don't see me. And then they set me afire." A few days later when Angela had the same dream again, her father asked her to describe the surroundings in the dream. Her father identified the description given by Angela with an African environment, possibly during the Boer War. They once intentionally left a book opened at a page about this war lying on the table and Angela claimed to recognise the pictures in it, making comments on hats and guns. She was very emotional while doing so. She was also afraid of hot temperatures, both when taking a bath and when having a meal. The dream recurred several times more, but gradually disappeared, after Angela was repeatedly reassured by her parents. When her parents contacted us, Angela, a teenager by now, could not recall any images of the dream. Angela's parents did not believe in reincarnation when she told them about her dream, and they are certain that they never told their daughter about previous lives or gave her detailed graphic descriptions of war scenes.
The case of Annet van de K.
Annet van de K., a GIRL of 14, approached my team on May 16th 1986. When she was 5 years old, her grandfather died, and she tried to comfort her mother. Annet told her mother that it wasn't so bad to die, as she had died once herself. She added that she'd had another mother who resembled one of her aunts in the present life, and she lived in a house with a bay window. It was wartime and she was killed by a man with a flat hat and a gun, who had shot her while she was standing in the bay window. She was hit at a spot where she now has a round birthmark. Stichting Wetenschappelijk Reincarnatieonderzoek interviewed Annet's mother, her brother, and several aunts and established that Annet really must have told at least these elements of the story, though some relatives added more details. Her mother was not at all comforted by this story and told Annet to stop talking nonsense, as she certainly did not believe in reincarnation herself. Annet answered that even if they didn't believe her, her story was true.
The case of Jojanneke M.
In 2002 we were approached by a lady from Limburg who told us about an incident that happened when, together with her children, she repeatedly visited a cemetery, where her uncle was buried who had recently died of leukaemia. One of her daughters, Jojanneke, who was about 3 at the time, always visited the graves of young children at the graveyard. On several occasions, her mother inquired about her motives and she always replied: "I used to be a mother too and my baby is buried somewhere in this cemetery." She always gave the same answer. Unfortunately her mother did not notice any other statements about a previous life.
I HOPE THAT IT IS QUITE clear that Dutch CORTs may have a similar structure to non-Western CORTs. Although many apparent Dutch CORTs cannot be 'solved', in my view they still constitute a valuable contribution to the field, as do for example, the British cases studied by Peter and Mary Harrison or Mary Rose Barrington. I am confident that similar independent research should be done in other European countries, as this might yield corroborating evidence both for memories of previous lives as a natural, transcultural phenomenon and for the processes involved.
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(Pseudonyms are employed in accordance with the wishes of the individuals concerned. )