|Reincarnation research: In search of the most parsimonious sufficient hypothesis|
|The author stresses in general that a good scholarly interpretation of the findings of reincarnation research into cases among young children is both parsimonious and exhaustive.|
Reincarnation research: In search of the most parsimonious sufficient hypothesis
by Titus Rivas
In this article, an attempt is made to explain the so-called Cases of the Reincarnation Type (CORTs), studied by researchers from all over the world. In general, the author stresses that a good scholarly
interpretation is both parsimonious and exhaustive. Thus, although many
cases can be explained by normal processes such as self-deception and
fantasy, some of them definitely need a parapsychological explanation.
Similarly, although ESP appears to be a more parsimonious hypothesis,
it doesn't satisfactorily explain those cases that defy normal
hypotheses. In contrast, reincarnation does fulfill both conditions.
Finally, the author mentions some topics for further research, which go
beyond a mere demonstration of reincarnation.
In 1926 an Indian girl named Shanti Devi was born in Delhi. From
about age three onwards, she purported to remember details of a
previous life in the town of Muttra (Mathura), about 130 km from the
place where she was born. She stated that she was called Lugdi, that
she had been born in 1902, that she belonged to the Chobar-caste and
that she had been married to a textile merchant, called Kedar Nath
Chaubey. Moreover, she said that she had given birth to a son and had
died ten days later. Only when Shanti Devi had become nine years old,
her family started an investigation to see whether there had really
been a man by that name in Muttra. A man named like that was found and
he wrote them a letter in which he confirmed the girl's statements.
Subsequently, he sent a relative of his to the girl's home and while
this person was visiting the family, Kedar Nath Chaubey also dropped in
unexpectedly. At this occasion, Shanti Devi recognized both persons.
Then, the possibility was tested if the girl could have been in Muttra
in this life and could have learnt the data from someone who lived
there. This turned out not to be the case, because she had never left
In 1936 a committee was set up to attend a visit by the girl to
Muttra, in order to register her possible recognition of people and
places. During her visit to Muttra, it became apparent that Shanti Devi
was not only capable of recognizing people. It turned out she could also show the
committee the way to Kedar Nath Chaubey's home as well. Furthermore,
she also recognized this house, although it had been painted in another
colour after Lugdi's death. Furthermore, she could answer correctly
questions about the interior of the home, closets, etc. Also, she
recognized Lugdi's parents out of a crowd of 50 people. Moreover, her
statement that she had buried money somewhere was remarkable. When they
dug at the spot in question, and they did not find anything, Kedar Nath
Chaubey admitted that he had already found this money after his wife's
death. Finally, it turned out that Shanti Devi had used expressions at
an early age that were specific for the dialect of Muttra, which had
impressed the witnesses. In sum, she had uttered at least 24 correct,
specific statements about Lugdi's life (Stevenson, 1960; Van Praag,
The investigation into reincarnation as it is currently carried out
in a scholarly responsible way, was for the first time brought to the
attention of Western investigators by dr. Ian Stevenson
in 1960. In that year he wrote an article about the evidence for
survival after death, based on claimed memories of previous lives. The
case of Shanti Devi is an example of such a case. Stevenson's approach
has earned much respect in the West. However, apart from Stevenson, an
important part of reincarnation research is also being carried out by
other Western investigators, such as H.G. Andrade, Erlendur Haraldsson,
Peter and Mary Harrison, and myself, and by Asian researchers such as
Jamuna Prasad, S. Pasricha, K.S. Rawat and Godwin Samararatne. A more
recent case is that of Thusitha from Sri Lanka.This girl, born in 1981,
described at about the age of three, how she had lived in a place
called Kataragama (at a distance of 230 km from her village) where she
drowned in a river. She stated that her father was a flower vendor and
that one of her brothers could not speak. In Kataragama, Stevenson and
Samararatne (1988 a, b) found a family of flower vendors that had a son
that could not speak and a daughter that had drowned in a river in
1974. Of the 30 statements that Thusitha had made, only two turned out
to be wrong, and three unverifiable. In other words, all the other 25
statements were right. The two families in question had never met at
all and had never heard of each other.
In this article I will look at the various explanations that are
offered for cases of possible memories of previous lives. While doing
so, I will especially take notice of the explanatory power of the
Extra-Sensory Perception or ESP-hypothesis and to the question whether
the ESP-hypothesis a priori always deserves preference.
Now it is my intention to look for the most parsimonious and at the
same time exhaustive explanation of the results found. The facts that
are mentioned in cases like the ones above, are being taken seriously
by researchers. However, this does not mean that a researcher should
believe everything that he or she is told. A reincarnation researcher
tries to find out as accurately as possible if deception (either
conscious or unconscious), self-deception, fantasy or extra-sensory
perception is involved in a certain case. But also if and how the case
history in question might demonstrate survival after death.
2.1. Deception and self-deception
Stevenson (1960; 1974; 1980; 1987) but also his Brazilian colleague
Andrade (1979; 1980) for example, have extensively explored the
possibility of deception. In the light of their research, we can
conclude that conscious deception only occurs sporadically and then
exclusively in non-typical cases. This is also corroborated by my own research
with Dutch subjects. One should realize that normally, a person cannot
acquire a lot of fame, status or wealth by fabricating false memories
of previous lives contrary to what outsiders usually are inclined to
think. However, there are exceptions. An example of such a case is that
of Nirmal Singh (pseudonym) in which Indian villagers lied to a
Singhalese Buddhist monk about statements a child would have made about
a life as the monk's cousin. The villagers did so, because they wanted
to take advantage of the Buddhist monk's generosity. In the great
majority of cases, fraud is not a plausible or even possible
explanation; it would make necessary too great a conspiracy by people
with opposite interests (Stevenson, 1960; 1980).
This does not apply to self-deception. In a relatively large number
of cases of the reincarnation type (CORTs) of Dutch adults, this seems
to be the origin of paramnesia. An illustration of this process can be
found in my article about the retired technical engineer F.H. (Rivas,
F.H., a retired engineer, claimed he had found out that he had drowned as the infant Alfred Peacock in the disaster of the Titanic.
He claimed he had been able to verify certain elements of his memories,
he told the investigator, and his would be the best case of proven
reincarnation ever to have been brought to light. The man claimed among
other things, that Alfred Peacock's second birthday was the same date
as the day of the Titanic's departure, and he would already have
verified this point in an English archive. Apart from this, he knew
that: his family had spent the night before at an aunt's in Hampstead;
this aunt had a daughter, 14 or 15 years of age; the aunt was rich and
possessed an old car from the beginning of the century; that Alfred,
his mother and his sister had been brought to the Underground and thus
all kinds of other verifiable and unverifiable details. However, via
the survival researcher Alan Gauld and experts specialized in the
catastrophe with the Titanic, I have been able to establish with
absolute certainty that the Alfred Peacock -whom F.H. by the way had
"recovered" in the passenger's list of a standard book on the Titanic-
had nothing to do with the engineer's statements about the boy. One
after another, these statements were unambiguously falsified. In other
words: However clear and vivid F.H.'s memories might have been
according to his own declaration, they simply did not correspond to the
facts at first view.
One might still assume that the memories applied to another
passenger of the Titanic, or to another ship disaster, but none of the
other passengers matched his description, and F.H. himself said that it
could only have been the Titanic. Thus, F.H. did not agree with the
data I had found and claimed they contained all kinds of inaccuracies.
Finally, he even went as far as to claim that he had become the victim
of a conspiracy.
Apparently this case did not just involve self-deception, but also
a stubborn persistance in it even after it had been empirically proved
that his memories could not be real memories.
The sincere man stuck to his "memories" even in spite of these
results and also to his "verification", and he just accused the
researcher of being a part of a conspiratory gang that was chasing
after him. One way or another this self-deception must have a meaning
for the subject that made it impossible for him to face the truth.
Stevenson holds that there must be a direct, specific reasons to assume
that a specific case involves self-deception. However, I hold that the
criterion we should take is that if the subject might benefit
emotionally from his or her self-deception and is at the same time
capable of acquiring all the relevant information, the case might in
principle indeed be explained by self-deception. Thus, a whole category
of cases becomes dubious: namely cases in which the subject's parents
have been relatives or friends of the person the child claims to have
been. It turns out to be the case that while mourning for a loved one,
people can be inclined to deceive themselves (unconsciously) in the
sense of thinking that the deceased person still dwells somehere in a
physical object or has passed over to another person. Bowlby (1980)
speaks in this context of "mislocation of the lost person's presence".
For this reason, parents might sometimes name their children after
deceased loved ones. Cain and Cain (1964) even mention in this respect
that: "in a few stunning cases [of mislocation], parents even changed
the living child's name to that of the dead child, while in other cases
newly born children were given the dead child's exact name or his name
slightly changed. The dead child's identity was further imposed upon
the sibling by the parents' expectations and demands upon the
replacement being based on the idealized image of the dead child." The
children whom Cain and Cain themselves investigated, suffered from all
kinds of disturbances, but they add that it is very well possible that
such a child grows up without problems related to the replacement. Now,
many CORTs seem in principle to be explainable on this basis.
Stevenson (1960) holds that such a mislocation hypothesis would not
agree with the common traditional view among Hindus and Buddhists that
children who remember previous lives would die young. But even then,
the parents' subconscious desire to replace the dead relative or friend
might still be stronger than the fear that results from this tradition.
A curious example of a CORT which may be explained as mislocation,
which I investigated myself, involved the son of a Dutch self-made
"psychic". This man had had a friend that had died under tragical
circumstances and very prematurely. Now, this man claimed that his own
son at the age of three had entered his parents' bedroom to tell about
an emotional vision of the exact circumstances that led to the death of
his father's friend. Closer investigations revealed that the boy (then
11 years old) was strongly influenced by his father's ideas, and could
hardly remember anything of this purported event independently. To me
this was enough reason to suppose that his father had made the whole
story up subconsciously, because he showed a very rich "imagination" in
A following "normal" hypothesis one should consider, is (childish) imagination:.
Already in 1920, Ernest Jones described a specific kind of fantasy
he terms "reversal of generations". According to this fantasy, older
people become smaller all the time until they have become babies again.
Jones writes: "For example, a little boy whom I know, when about
three and a half years old, often used to say to his mother with
perfect seriousness of manner: 'When I am big, then you will be little;
then I will carry you about and dress you and put you to sleep" (See
also: Rivas & Rivas, 1987).
But how far can one extend this fantasy hypothesis to explain
CORTs? If one sees that a very young child identifies with a negative
past life without any clear reason to do so, and while one cannot
reasonably hold that he or she might do that to abreact some current
problem, fantasy can't be taken seriously as a plausible hypothesis any
longer. Moreover, if in a CORT, the child possesses non-trivial
information which he or she can't have acquired in any normal way, the
plausibility of the fantasy hypothesis completely collapses. Most
(though not all) hypnotic CORTs can in principle be explained by
fantasy (Rivas, 1992a).
The boundary between self-deception and fantasy lies in the fact
that in self-deception the subject knows or has known that the story to
which he or she clings so desperately, does not correspond to the
facts, whereas in the case of fantasy the whole process must take place
unconsciously. We should realize however, that fantasy, just as
self-deception can be accompanied by a process of pseudo-verification,
in which the subjects are convinced they are verifying elements of
their fantasy, while they are really consulting documents and other
sources in a very inaccurate way, or while they mix new, historically
accurate information with their original fantasy.
2.3. Extra-Sensory Perception (ESP)
One category of cases concerns the "paranormal" CORTs, i.e. cases
wherein the subject seems to possess knowledge or skills which relate
to the life of a deceased person and which the subject cannot have
acquired through normal sensory channels.
In the case of skills, it is fairly easy to establish if the
subject could have acquired them in his or her (present) life or not. An
example of a CORT with paranormal skills, is that of Swarnlata Mishra
who performed dances and songs that she could not have learnt in normal
ways (Stevenson, 1974).
Paranormal knowledge on the other hand, may be present in many
cases, but after so called verification by the subjects themselves, it
is often harder to establish. The safest procedure in this respect is
therefore to concentrate on those CORTs wherein investigators can show - on the basis of documents, or because they themselves took part in the
verification of the past life - what paranormal items the subject knew
with certainty. If in such cases, with statements written down or
tape-recorded before verification, "hits" prevail and those hits
cannot, or only extremely improbably, be ascribed to mere coincidence,
we can in my view safely speak of "paranormal information". Such CORTs
do indeed exist, and their number seems to be increasing, because
researchers more often manage to get involved in a case before
verification. An example is, among other CORTs, the case of Imad Elawar
The Druse boy Imad Elawar was born in 1958 in Kornayel (the
Lebanon). Ian Stevenson reached Imad's family before the verification
of his statements had taken place, and he was himself involved in this
When Imad was about one and a half years old, he claimed among
other things to come from Khriby and to be called Bouhamzy. He had a
wife, called Jamileh. Jamileh was beautiful, she dressed well and she
wore shoes with high heels. Bouhamzy had a "brother" (a very broad
concept in this region) who was called Amin and worked in Tripoli at
the Court. Near the time of his death they were building a new garden
with cherry and apple trees. He owned a farm, a small yellow car and a
All these memories turned out to correspond to the life of a
certain Ibrahim Bouhamzy. who had lived in Khriby, and had been known
as troubleshooter and womanizer. Jamileh had been his mistress. Ibrahim
had died in 1949 at the age of 25 of tuberculosis, after having stayed
in a sanatorium for one year. Imad could remember his life as Ibrahim
Bouhamzy best when he was five and a half years old, after which some
fading occurred in his memory.
Stevenson was able to establish of many statements that they
concurred to the facts; these facts could not have reached Imad in a
normal way. Especially convincing at this point is the fact that his
own family thought Imad Elawar would have been another Bouhamzy, which
completely excludes fraud and normal explanations.
Other examples are those of Jagdish Chandra (Stevenson, 1975),
Bishen Chand Kapoor (Stevenson, 1975), Kumkum Verma (Stevenson, 1975),
several cases from Sri Lanka (see for example: Stevenson &
Samararatne, 1988) and a recent English case in a book by Peter and
Mary Harrison (1983). Also, exceptional cases of hypnosis can
undeniably possess paranormal information, the best example of which is
the CORT of L.D. (Tarazi, 1990).
Now, this type of cases need a "paranormal" hypothesis, which here
means a hypothesis wherein a causal factor is included that does not
stem from common psychology or physics. The most parsimonious thing to
do next is, as Van der Sijde (1992) rightly notes, to try to explain
the paranormal CORTs through a ESP-hypothesis (compare: Tenhaeff, 1954;
Chari, 1962; Wilson, 1982; Ryzl, 1984).
First, let us consider CORTs with paranormal skills. There is
absolutely no plausible hypothesis about how one could acquire such
skills through ESP. ESP is a form of perception and it is well known
that perception is indeed a necessary but not a sufficient condition
for the acquisition of skills. We often need instruction, but in any
case training, practice to learn skills. It is for this reason that
e.g. Feldman (1980) comments on gifted children that it can only be a
myth that they have skills they have never acquired through learning.
As far as I know, there has never been any well documented case of the
extrasensory acquisition of skills. General theories about skills
indicate that we have no reason to believe that perception would ever
be enough to acquire them. Which means, of course, that the
ESP-hypothesis for CORTs with paranormal skills should be rejected as
But what to think of CORTs with paranormal information? First of
all, we should realize that the information does not stand on its own,
but is part of the subject's conviction that he or she has lived before
and of the identification by the subject with that possible personal
past. This identification is usually not just a sober declaration but
is usually accompanied by strong emotions and longings, that do indeed
fit in the life the subject claims to recall. Therefore, the only
ESP-hypothesis that we could take seriously in the explanation of
informationally paranormal CORTs, is a hypothesis that would explain
this identification. What matters is that by far the majority of CORTs
with paranormal knowledge involve young children, so that we should
take account of developmental data on young children.
It seems that children which are the primary subjects in
reincarnation research, start talking about their possible memories
around their third year. Now, infants and toddlers according to various
investigations (Damon & Hart, 1982; Leahy & Shirk, 1985) have
on average a self-image which differs from that of older children or
adults. While thinking about themselves, they put more stress on
concrete dimensions, like physical appearance, possessions or play
activities. Identification can lead to a shift in a person's
self-image, so that it corresponds more with the image one has of the
object of identification. Also, we should assume that the object of
identification is somehow attractive to the child, which
implies that it corresponds to his ideal self-concept (Milrod, 1982); i.e. to the way a subject would like to be more than anything. If we
assume therefore that ESP is used unconsciously to search for an
identification object hitherto unknown and even deceased, it must
necessarily mean that there is some kind of process through which the
child tries to find a deceased person that would correspond as much as
possible to his or her ideal self-concept. We should in that case only
expect CORTs with deceased objects of identification that would be
attractive to young children, primarily because of their external
characteristics, AND in which the subject would not suffer from all
kinds of unattractive inner conflicts that are linked to the life of
the deceased person. Neither of these predicted properties are typical
for informationally paranormal CORTs. The ESP-hypothesis is therefore
insufficient (Stevenson, 1974). Also, there are at least two other
important arguments against the ESP-hypothesis:
1. Outside this
context only psychics would be able of showing such an extent of ESP,
whereas the children in CORTs should not in even one case be
characterized as psychics.
2. What could motivate a three year old
child to choose a completely unknown, deceased stranger instead of a
well-known person who is still alive as an object of identification?
These arguments are already very important when you consider them
one by one, but in my view if they are taken together they doubtlessly
force us to declare that ESP-hypothesis in general are unsatisfactory
for paranormal CORTs. Just as it is clear that not all CORTs can be
satisfactorily explained by fraud, self-deception or fantasy, they
cannot all of them be explained by ESP.
This is because a hypothesis should not only be parsimonious but they
should also be evaluated on the basis of their explanatory power. Thus we have already
reached the domain of survival hypothesis, in other words either some
kind of influence by a discarnate person or the reincarnation of such
2.4. ESP versus survival
As I have pointed out above and elsewhere (Rivas, 1992b) proponents
of the ESP-hypothesis for reincarnation research cannot offer a
satisfactory explanation of certain crucial properties of some CORTs.
Moreover I think they are wrong if they state that their hypothesis
would a priori always remain better than the survival hypothesis.
survival hypothesis reads by the way that paranormal utterances and
paranormal skills, that are documented in CORTs, are the result of the
(episodical, semantical and procedural) memory of someone who had died,
but who has personally survived death.
The a priori superiority of the ESP hypothesis would imply that the objections against this hypothesis
would all have to be met by far-reaching changes in the general theories concerning especially skills, self-concepts in young children,
ESP itself, and identification, because the adaptations that survival
hypothesis would cause in our general philosophical and/or scholarly
world view always would be even greater.
There is a deep gap between the
ESP-proponents and the survivalists. For the first group, the personal mind is just an integral aspect or part of a biological organism which
can never be separated from that organism. For the second group, the
personal mind is an entity that can in no way be reduced to the
biological or material world. In philosophical terms, these are the
materialist and dualist position respectively. Which one is the most
plausible, that is the question. While trying to answer it, we can't
suffice with an argument from authority like "Materialism is the most
plausible of these two positions, because the main scientists and
scientific theories of this moment are all materialistic", or "Dualism
must simply be true, or else Plato would never have preached it".
Instead, it is necessary to judge both positions on their intrinsic
If we try to do so, it is notable that materialism seems to have
one advantage over dualism, in that it presupposes that everything that
exists, consists of one and the same stuff, namely matter. In other
words: materialism is a monist current that postulates only one kind of
entities. In contrast to materialism, dualism is not a monist current,
because it postulates two kinds of entities, as the term already
suggests. So in a strictly formal sense materialism has one advantage
over dualism, it is more parsimonious in the postulation of entities.
But we aren't ready yet if we have just respected the principle of
parsimony. Does materialism correspond to what we know for certain
about the nature of reality? Materialism posits that there are only
external, objectively measurable things, and that something like subjectivity is only an aspect
of those things. There is a very transparant error in this
representation of things: if there are in reality only external things,
then there can be no subjectivity, as this is not an external
phenomenon. If you call consciousness an aspect or level of the brain,
you are really saying that something which is purely material could
have immaterial properties, which is by definition absurd. The only
forms of materialism that can therefore be a priori defended, are
therefore reductionist and eliminative materialism that totally deny the existence of an irreducible qualitative and 'phenomenal'
consciousness. But the serious defence of these forms of materialism is
at the same time impossible, because it would presuppose that you could
defend a position without any type of subjective awareness, since such a thing
would not exist.
Instead, dualism may be less parsimonious formally, but in any case
it is reconcilable with our knowledge of reality. Thus we see that
materialism is not an adequate ontological theory of the basic nature
of the universe. That means that we should assume that mind or
onsciousness do not at all exist by the grace of matter, and that they
don't belong to its ontological realm. This does not mean that this point alone would
prove the survival hypothesis, but the survival hypothesis does indeed
fit perfectly into the dualist framework, with which we deal as soon
as we stick to the reality of matter. However, for a long time an in my
view conclusive philosophical argument for personal immortality has
been known. It was already formulated by Plotinus, and ever since, it has
been reformulated by numerous other thinkers, such as
philosophers during the scholastic period of Christian philosophy, René
Descartes, Leibniz and the logician and mathematician Bernhard Bolzano.
Also, in ancient India thinkers formulated a variant of this argument,
which today is being defended by the followers of the Hare
Krishna-movement and others. I call this argument the substance or
substantialist argument. Nowhere in the body, neither in the brain nor
elsewhere, can we point to a spot where all sensorial stimuli would
gather, the way they are united in consciousness. In other words, in subjective,
personal consciousness we encounter something which doesn't have a parallel in the body. There is an entity, a self, that experiences everything. For
example as follows: Someone may listen to music, while typing a text
behind a p.c. and at the same time chewing on a piece of chewing gum.
He or she experiences four kinds of sensorial impressions
simultaneously: the subject hears, sees, feels and tastes. Naturally,
the attention for different experiences may differ, but normally the
subject is aware of more than one at once. The subject can also be
aware of internal psychical processes: he or she can think about one
thing, remember another, etc. In all these conscious processes there
clearly is just one I, one and the same conscious entity that has
access to all these modalities (whatever Buddhists, David Hume and
contemporary cognitivists may state to the contrary).
This point proves that in the case of the personal mind we are not
only dealing with something that is radically different from anything
material (dualism), but also with something that belongs to a different
level than the physical body. In the case of the personal mind, we are
dealing with an irreducible person whereas the body, however perfect or
beautiful, always remains a composite and therefore reducible (i.e.
mortal) material system which will one day lose its structure. Now,
this means that the personal self cannot be destroyed. Just as in the case of
matter, we must suppose that a personal self is an irreducible, basic
entity (which we term ontologically "substance") within reality
(substance dualism). Something which constitutes a primary substance
cannot fall apart into something else or just disappear, as is the case
with temporal structures, e.g. material structures. Ergo, the personal
self, being a substance, is substantially immortal (Rivas, 1993).
This does not mean that structures within the personal self's mind would
be just as immortal: those can change in time, just like material structures. Against the background of the substantialist
argument we can say that not only is the survival hypothesis completely
unproblematic within dualism, but it is even directly supported by a
philosophical proof for personal immortality! Therefore, in my view
there can be no important a priori argument against adopting a survival
hypthesis if this hypothesis turns out to be better for empirical
reasons. And thus, there can neither be any a priori argument against
the survival hypothesis as the best explanation for some CORTs.
It is the task of parapsychology task to investigate and explain
the so called "paranormal" phenomena, not to reduce all paranormal
phenomena a priori to expressions of PSI-capacities. In this respect,
we can draw a parallel with the investigation of the origin of species.
This is in any case a part of biology, that is characterized by a
certain object of study, not by one sole "indubitable theory". Just
like mechanical evolution theory and teleological evolution theory are
both biological theories, both the ESP-hypothesis and the survival
hypothesis are parapsychological theories.
2.5. Survival hypothesis
We can distinguish between two survival hypothesis that might apply
to the explanation of paranormal CORTs: possession and reincarnation.
A famous and well documented case of possession is the case of Lurancy
Vennum (Stevenson, 1974; Smith, 1975). In 1878 the 13-year-old Mary
Lurancy Vennum from Watseka several times went into a state of trance
wherein she was possessed by a whole series of "spirits", Lurancy was
investigated by a certain Dr. E.W. Stevens who advised her to look for
a guiding spirit amongst all those visitors so that she would create
order in her chaos. When she tried to do so, a certain Mary Roff turned
out to be prepared to fulfill this function. Mary Roff had died in
Watseka at the age of 18, when the Lurancy was only 15 months old. Mary
Roff took possession of Lurancy and apparently dominated the child for
three months: Lurancy's body showed the talking, acting and remembering
of Mary Roff. Lurancy even went to live with Mary's parents, where
everything was familiar to her, and where she met relatives, friends
and acquaintances. Also, she was capable of recalling things that did
indeed correspond to Mary Roff's life. The main difference between this
veridical case of possession and CORTs, is that Mary disappeared after
three months because Lurancy had been "completely cured" and could
return to her own house. Later on Mary did occasionaly come back, with
Lurancy's permission, so that she could talk with her parents (See
Zorab, 1986). Thus we see two distinct personalities between whom there
is no continuity, in contrast to what is found in CORTs.
This case clearly demonstrates that possession by a discarnate
spirit is probably a real phenomenon. Would it not also be able to
explain all CORTs? The main argument against the possession hypothesis
for CORTs is, however, that in most paranormal cases there is no
exchange of personalities, something which we would indeed expect if
there were a strange influence by a discarnate spirit (Andrade, 1980).
In other words: The possession hypothesis is also wanting for CORTs.
Which means reincarnation is the most plausible hypothesis for
paranormal CORTs. In the case of Shanti Devi this hypothesis would
imply for example that Kedar Nath Chaubey's wife, Lugdi, would have got
a new body after her death, and would have been reborn as a the infant
Shanti Devi. With this new body and this new name, Shanti Devi was
still capable of remembering that she had had another body and was then
Moreover, she could still remember details of the dialect she had
then spoken, the relations that were important to her in her previous
life as Lugdi, and other things related to her past incarnation. This
means, therefore, that Lugdi not only has not only survived as Shanti
Devi, but also retains access to in any case a part of the memory that
related to her life as Lugdi, and that this memory has remained at
least in part intact and functioning, both semantically, procedurally
and episodically and both cognitively, motivationally and emotionally.
To put it bluntly: in paranormal CORTs, the subjects simply turn
out to be right. They really recall a life they have lived before being
born into their present physical forms. This hypothesis is the most
parsimonious sufficient hypothesis that exhaustively explains all
details of paranormal CORTs. There might be other exhaustive hypotheses
such as that the subjects of CORTs are really demon's children, or
incarnations of evil spirits who want to spread a false teaching. But
such hypotheses certainly are less parsimonious than the reincarnation
3: Reincarnation research: Fascinating topics
Reincarnation research certainly is not one of the youngest
branches of parapsychology, but in spite of this, it certainly is one
of the most promising ones. More even than the study of mediumship,
reincarnation research sheds light on what happens to us after death.
In this enterprise, it has only just begun. Step by step, reincarnation
research is leaving the purely demonstrative phase, just like what is
happening in ESP-and PK-research. Similar to what is the case in
PSI-research, there is room for more understanding of the
We can think of questions like: universality of reincarnation, the
causes of amnesia and memories of former incarnations, the longitudinal
study of personal development over several lives, etc. All these and
other questions (Prasad, 1993) have been the object of esoterical
speculation for ages and we are slowly entering an age in which patient
studies will doubtlessly -at least in part- be able to answer them.
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illustrative cases in Asia. JASPR, 82, 1-33.
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the reincarnation type in Sri Lanka with written records made before
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This paper was published in Dutch in the Spiegel der Parapsychologie, 32, (3/4), 171-188 as "Reincarnatie-onderzoek: op zoek naar de zuinigste toereikende hypothese".
|psychical research, super-psi, reincarnation, parsimony, reincarnation research, parsimonious, science, scholarly|