Four prominent men believed in the concept of what they called reincarnation. It just made sense, they said, and explained many mysteries of life. It seemed to be part of a universal plan that conserves energy and knowledge from one lifetime into another. They believed that never-ending but changing lifetimes would assist soul growth and found that model to be a guiding light in their lifetimes. These men are highly respected in American history, but you may not have known about their beliefs. Who were they? Benjamin Franklin, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and General George Patton.
Reincarnation is the theory that we experience not just one, but many, many lives in the course of eternity. Although this concept may seem strange or foreign to some people, it answers a number of questions that people of all ages wonder about.
When I was ten years old, I sat in church and looked through its stained glass windows while the minister talked about heaven. “One day,” he said, “we will walk on golden streets and play golden harps—forever.” Even at that young age I thought, “Wouldn’t that get old after a while?”
Think about it with an open mind for just a moment. How long could you play a harp—even a golden one—before you would be ready for a piano, a guitar—even an accordion? Novelty and challenges make life more interesting and rewarding. A concept of never-ending but often changing life experiences successfully addresses many questions.
Once a word has become well established in a culture, it is difficult or impossible to change its intrinsic meaning. As you know, I use various synonyms for “God” and “soul” because those words have such entrenched and limiting meanings for some people. The same challenge exists for the word reincarnation that isn’t ideal for several reasons:
- Some people associate the word with the occult or cults. The word reincarnation can negatively trigger those with very conservative religious beliefs and who haven’t researched the topic for themselves. It also feels overly simplistic to some.
- It implies a series of deaths and rebirths. A more accurate image of life that emerges from the collective evidence, however, is that of a seamless series of life experiences throughout eternity.
- The reincarnation model suggests that souls experience lives as different people in linear time, and separate places. Some evidence suggests otherwise. For example, your soul’s energy does not have to manifest in just one place at a time. Part of it is obviously energizing your current physical body; another part might be experiencing parallel lives in formed or formless dimensions simultaneously; another percentage might never have left Home. From this third vantage point, life is but a dream. All the supposed physical events may be better described as a series of visualizations or energetic visitations to other times and places.
As such, I will alternately use the following word combinations as synonyms for reincarnation in this reincarnation article: cyclical lifetimes, multiple lives, varying life experiences throughout eternity, limitless number of lives, infinite life experiences, perpetual change, never-ending but often changing lifetimes.
Before examining some evidence for this view of reality, let’s discuss three common models about the nature of life.
Model A: If you are like many people in western cultures, you were taught that your life started with an earthly birth date. Your earthly life can last anywhere from a few minutes to many years and then you die. After that, probably a long sleep in the ground until some judgment day. Then the big cut as you are consigned to heavenly delight or burning torment forever.
In this model, your one brief lifetime determines your fate forever. Never mind that you were molested, raised by alcoholics, born a crack baby, influenced by an atheistic family, struggled with mental illness, or…
It’s a fairly bizarre model for a deranged human, let alone for Universal Intelligence—the wisest and most loving power of which we can conceive. This model didn’t make any sense to me when I was a child and it seems even stranger now. This model is like a kindergarten understanding of reality.
Model B: The concept of cyclical lifetimes, varying life experiences throughout eternity, is a more comprehensive description of reality. This model allows for the eventual evolution of all beings since we have more than just one earthly incarnation to learn and grow.
Reincarnation is a vast improvement over model A’s conventional teachings. To extend the analogy, model B is like a high school understanding of reality.
However, this model appears to be only relatively true because it implies dualism and all that goes with that.
Richard Bach’s character in Running From Safety perhaps said it best:
“Do you believe in reincarnation?”
“No. Reincarnation is a series of lifetimes, isn’t it, one after the other, in order, on this planet? That feels a little limiting, it fits a little tight across the shoulders.”
“What fits you better?”
“An infinite number of beliefs of life experiences, please, some in bodies, some not; some on planets, some not; all of them simultaneous because there is no such thing as time, none of them real because there’s only one Life.”
Model C: This most accurate description of reality indicates that life is an uninterrupted series of life experiences throughout infinity. In this view, all life is seen as connected. Any appearance of separateness is trivial and transient, largely a function of our golf ball perception of Mt. Everest. Ultimately, life is a dance of energy as Creative Mind alternately manifests Itself throughout eternity. Each soul/consciousness is like a single cell within the vast phenomenon of Life that endlessly creates new scenarios and adventures.
In this model, death—whether after just one or a series of lives—is not viewed as the beginning of a long sleep. Rather, life is seen as an uninterrupted process with death as a relatively minor transition amidst eternity’s splendor. Time and space are understood as being only relatively, not absolutely, real.
For those who are awakened, death can be especially seamless, like walking from one room into another. Birth and death are realized to be no big deal, mere commas amidst a never-ending sentence. We can best reveal our inner light and talents when we realize our real selves are birthless and deathless.
This is like a graduate school level of understanding reality.
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How can we rise above our kindergarten and high school levels of understanding and live from a graduate school level?
Knowing the vast amount of evidence in this chapter is one key. Having a spiritual support group to help you see through life’s illusions is another. Optimally caring for the temple of your soul, especially via centering practices, helps you harness the resulting higher energy and power.
The evidence for varying life experiences throughout eternity is vast and varied. Categories of proof include religious and spirituality input, philosophical arguments, and clinical evidence. The third category is further delineated into the subsections of: classic proofs, curative evidence, similarities between lives, past life regressions, past life memories, and Dr. Ian Stevenson’s research.
All of this evidence is discussed in Soul Proof but is too long for a short article. Here is just a bit of it . . .
Past Life Regressions
In this subsection, I will discuss hypnotically induced past life regressions (PLRs) as opposed to spontaneous past life memories. PLRs are designed to help hypnotized people remember supposed past lives. A deeply relaxed hypnotic state facilitates a calm but clear state of mind that results in less mental chatter. Quieting the brain’s frenetic analysis and worrying may allow awareness of other information not usually accessible in the waking state.
To skeptics who charge that PLR subjects are deliberately lying about their experiences, Edith Fiore, Ph.D., author of You Have Been Here Before, responds, “If so, most should be nominated for Academy awards. I have listened to and watched people in past-life regressions under hypnosis for thousands of hours. I am convinced there is no deliberate, nor conscious attempt to deceive. The tears, shaking, flinching, smiling, gasping for breath, groaning, sweating and other physical manifestations are all too real.”
Brian Weiss, MD, author of Messages from the Masters and other books, says that he has received thousands of phone calls and letters from psychiatrists, psychologists, and other therapists who have done past life regressions for up to twenty years. He states, “The letters describe detailed accounts of past-life recall, of patients recalling names, dates, and details of lifetimes in other cities, countries or continents. Some patients have found their ‘old’ names in the official records of places they have never even heard of, let alone visited, in this lifetime. Some have found their own tombstones.”
As described in Reliving Past Lives, Helen Wambach, Ph.D., evaluated over a thousand cases of detailed past lives and stated, “I reasoned that if past-life recall were fantasy, my subjects would include material in their regressions that I could prove could not have been true. They might have seen anachronisms of one kind or another—clothing and architecture that were completely wrong for the time period and place they had chosen—or a climate and landscape that would not match the map they flashed on… To my surprise, I found only eleven data sheets out of the 1,088 I had collected that showed clear evidence of discrepancies.”
Wambach analyzed these accumulated past life recollections and compared them for historical accuracy in the areas of social class, race, gender, clothing, diet, population ratios, and causes of death in particular time periods. For example, she found that 49 percent of past lives were lived as women, while 51 percent were those of men—just about what one would expect in a random distribution, not a hoax. She concluded, “All the data described in this chapter tended to support the hypothesis that past-life recall accurately reflects the real past rather than that it represents common fantasies.”
She also found that the number of lives reported around 1600 A.D. was twice that reported around 400 A.D. This number doubled once more around 1850— exactly duplicating the actual increase in the world’s population. It is difficult, if not impossible, to believe that a group of randomly selected participants in past-life regressions could have co-coordinated their efforts to pull off such a colossal statistical hoax.
Joel Whitton, M.D., Ph.D., is a professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto Medical School and co-author with Joe Fisher of Life Between Life. They relate Whitton’s clinical work with a client named Harold who, when hypnotized, described a former life as a Viking raider. Although he had never studied a foreign language in his life, the man spoke comfortably and confidently in a strange tongue that experts identified as ancient Norse.
Working independently, linguists who spoke Icelandic and Norwegian identified and translated some of these words. Several other words seemed to have a Russian, Serbian or Slavic derivation and these were also identified. One language expert stated, “It would be appropriate for a Viking to speak a language which contained words and phrases of other tongues in that period. I would say this could fit the language pattern of the roving Viking.”
During another past life recollection, Harold wrote what looked like a bunch of scribbles. The alphabet he used was identified by researchers as a long-extinct script used in Mesopotamia. That language bears no relation to modern Iranian and hasn’t been spoken for more than 1300 years. Of Harold’s past-life regression experiences, Dr. Whitton states, “To me, the case remains one of the most convincing arguments I’ve seen for evidence of reincarnation.”
One final example of a PLR with validation features was provided by Dr. Weiss. Diane, an R.N., was unmarried and had been looking without success for a soul mate relationship. During a past-life regression with Weiss, she recalled an earlier lifetime as a pioneer woman who hid with her baby from Indians. To keep the baby quiet, she covered his mouth with her hand. Her baby, who had a crescent shaped birthmark beneath his right shoulder, died as she accidentally asphyxiated him. Several months after this regression, she treated a man with asthma at her hospital job. She nearly fainted when, while listening to his lungs, she saw a crescent shaped birthmark below his right shoulder. Both experienced an instant familiarity and connection that led to dating and a happy marriage.
Dr. Ian Stevenson’s Research
The massive amount of objective research by Ian Stevenson, M.D., is the most impressive reincarnation evidence to date. Stevenson’s books include Children Who Remember Previous Lives, Cases of the Reincarnation Type, Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation, Where Reincarnation and Biology Intersect, and Reincarnation and Biology. The world’s leading authority on the subject, he is the author of more than a dozen scholarly books and 250 articles.
Stevenson, who headed the department of psychiatry at the University of Virginia, spent most of his sixty-year career perfecting methods for verifying the past life memories of children. His work is not better known because he writes for other academicians, a fact to which anyone who has read his books can attest.
He and his staff compiled over 3,000 cases from Asia, Europe, Africa and North America. Nearly 900 of these were stringently verified and 35 percent of these had birthmarks or birth defects that matched injuries from previous lives. Eighteen of these cases involved two or more matching birthmarks. Stevenson calculated the chances that two matching sets of birthmarks—from a purported past life and the present one—would randomly occur only 1 in 25,600 times. The odds against this happening by chance eighteen times are astronomical.
Stevenson’s stringent standards of research rely heavily on private, repeated interviews over time. He wrote a clinical textbook for psychiatrists based on methods used by attorneys to reconstruct past events as accurately as possible. He and his team investigated children who remembered possible past lives and their families, as well as the family and circumstances of the alleged past life. Given the exacting methods of these professional researchers, it was virtually impossible for anyone—especially third-world villagers—to conceal a hoax.
Here are three summaries of Stevenson’s cases:
♦ A 3 ½ year-old boy from India, Parmod, remembered owning a soda and bakery store in another town. Upon arriving in that town, he led his family directly to the shop and knew how to repair a complex soda machine that had been intentionally disconnected to test his memory.
♦ Michael, a 3 year-old from Texas, remembered exact details of a fatal auto accident in his previous life. His recollection— although no one in the family had ever told him—was that of his mother’s high school boyfriend who had died just as Michael described.
♦ At just 1 ½ years of age, Sukla of India cradled a toy and said it was her daughter, Minu. During the next several years, she remembered more details of her past life and her family took her to that village. Sukla directed them to her former home and enjoyed a reunion with Minu, whose mother had died when she was a baby.
Jenny Wade, Ph.D., notes parallels between perinatal memories and accounts by children about past lives. She views these as supporting an argument for consciousness independent of a physical body. Wade states that Stevenson’s research has withstood every serious challenge to date because of the impressive documentation and rigorous scientific methods used. Especially convincing, says Wade, is the high incidence of birthmarks and deformities in this life that correspond to injuries in a former life.
Of these correlating birthmarks, author John Algeo comments, “For example, a child may remember having lived another life including enough details about it (names, places, events) to permit investigators to identify the earlier personality. That personality died from a gunshot wound, and medical or coroner’s records establish the location of the entering and exiting wound marks made by the fatal bullet. The child who remembers the earlier life has birthmarks on places that correspond to the wounds of the prior personality. Moreover, the birthmark corresponding to the exit wound is larger than the birthmark corresponding to the entry wound, just as the wounds themselves were, that being the normal pattern for bullet wounds. That is one type of case out of many involving birthmarks and defects.”
In Stevenson’s Reincarnation and Biology—an eight pound, two volume work with 2,268 pages—photos show rare birth marks or defects that correlate with previous lives. One Burmese girl, born with her right leg missing just below the knee, remembered the life of a poor teenage girl who sold roses to passengers at the railroad station. A train ran over her and severed her right leg. The girl made detailed statements and recognitions that convinced the family she was the reincarnation of the teenager who was killed by the train. She also had a marked phobia of trains.
Other examples of correlating birthmarks offering physical evidence of past lives include an Indian boy who recalled being killed by a shotgun blast to his chest. On this little boy’s chest was an array of birthmarks that matched the pattern and location of the fatal wounds as verified by the autopsy report. Another shotgun victim was hit at point-blank range on the right side of the head as confirmed from the hospital report. The Turkish boy who remembered this life was born with a malformed ear and an underdevelopment of the right side of his face.
One woman had three linear scar-like birthmarks on her back. As a child, she remembered being killed by three blows to her back with an ax. Another boy in India was born with stubs for fingers on only his right hand—an extremely rare condition. He remembered a past life when his fingers were cut off in a fodder chopping machine.
Regarding the evidence about birth marks and defects correlating with alleged past life injuries, Stevenson states, “I accept reincarnation as the best explanation for a case only after I have excluded all others—normal and paranormal… I regard my contribution as that of presenting the evidence as clearly as I can. Each reader should study the evidence carefully—preferably in the monograph (Reincarnation and Biology)—and then reach his or her own conclusion.”
Disclaimer: This information is not designed to replace medical or psychological care. Dr. Pitstick’s recommendations are based on forty-five years of training and experience in hospitals, pastoral counseling settings, mental health centers, and holistic health practice. Some of his statements are supported by clinical and scientific data while others are based on empirical evidence and his best current understandings.
Mark Pitstick, MA, DC is an author, masters clinical psychologist, chiropractic physician, frequent media guest, and workshop/webinar teacher. He is the Director of The SoulPhone Foundation, International Vice-President of Eternea, and board member of Helping Parents Heal. Mark can help you know and show — no matter what is going on around you — that your earth-experience is a totally safe, meaningful, and magnificent adventure amidst forever. Visit Soul Proof for free articles, newsletters, and radio shows with top experts. Email your toughest questions to Dr. Pitstick at firstname.lastname@example.org.