« What’s It Like On the Other Side? | Main | An Incomplete Mystical Experience »

March 31, 2014


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Whenever I think of Ian Stevenson I'm reminded of my approach to politics: I don't believe that one can, in all sincerity, support political parties. One can only support individuals in their efforts to do what they genuinely believe to be right. And, sadly, there aren't too many such politicians.

My impression of Stevenson and his work is that both are beyond reproach. While I'm not terribly interested in the reincarnation literature, I'm inspired by the integrity and work ethic of Stevenson. He's my Atticus Finch of the survival researchers. Whatever his findings and conclusions they're as close to the truth as we're likely to get.

I do some times wonder Rob, whether some of the reports of reincarnation, if they are genuine, might actually be examples of overshadowing or obsession by spirits of one form or another.

There are some however for which the simpler answer would be reincarnation however I can't think of any where obsession or overshadowing could be ruled out.

Re Paul' point I'm pretty sure I've read of cases where the old personality has appeared in an adult following injury or was of someone who had still been alive at the time the new host was born.

Hi Lawrence

Thanks for replying. I'm not saying reincarnation isn't the answer - I just don't know. There's a book called "Thirty Years Among The Dead" by Carl Wickland (yeah, catchy title I know lol) in which the apparent influence of those who have died and either don't realise it, or don't want to move on is researched and reported at length.

Old personalities affecting people after injuries (I assume you mean an apparent reincarnation) I take to mean people in effect becoming different people entirely after an accident? Unless I have misunderstood this, could it not simply be a case of possession or overshadowing of the living person by a dead person?

The same explanation might also apply to children exhibiting the personality of someone who was alive when they were born and subsequently died wouldn't it?

Apologies if I have misunderstood the point you were making.

<< Seeking a natural explanation beyond coincidence, I think fraud is what most people are likely to come up with first. A phrase by British historian Ian Wilson sticks in my mind, that Stevenson was taken in by a series of clever acting performances’. Could this be true? >>

An interesting comment by Wilson, considering that (unless I've mistaken him for another Ian-Wilson-the-historian) he wrote the first bestselling book arguing for the authenticity of the Turin Shroud! (A fascinating book which I read many years ago.)

Apparently it was his researches into the Shroud which converted Wilson from an agnostic to a practising Roman Catholic.

And as a Catholic he would presumably have had a strong bias against evidence for reincarnation.

Good point, I'll check it out.

He also wrote Life After Death: The Evidence, which debunked mediums but went on to describe a friend who had a death-bed vision, and (I think) ended up in favour.

Paul, yes I was actually agreeing with you...that is I was vaguely aware but couldn't quite remember specifics of cases indistinguishable from the purported reincarnation cases but which in fact would seem to suggest something more akin to possession...or something...in that the lives overlapped in some way.

Here's a very strange on...


Ah thanks Lawrence :)

@rupert - of course fraud should always be considered as a possibility. Moving to suggesting it is the answer without supporting evidence is perhaps less sensible :)

“I shall not commit the fashionable stupidity of regarding everything I cannot explain as a fraud.”― C.G. Jung

Excellent commentary Robert.

It would be useful to find the original source of this.. I know I've read it before..but the actor Brian Blessed claims that when he told the Dalai Llama about his seriously ill brother, His Holiness assured him that said brother would be reborn after death in Halifax, Canada...and later provided exact details for Blessed to track down and find the young boy who had formerly been his sibling. " He was amazed of how the child looked so much like his brother, though with a Canadian accent. The boy seemingly took an instant liking to the actor."

How can anyone not like Brian Blessed?

Read it years and years ago. Easy to believe while reading it. Then, as a Westerner, once one has gone away, to think that they must have been faked. Then one reads of more indisputable cases in other books and realizes what Stevensen was on to and how much of a brave pioneer he was. Like all psi researchers. Takes tremendous independence and strong will.

I remember reading Ian Wilson's criticisms of Stevenson in his book 'Reincarnation?' (also published as 'Mind out of Time'), and I don't remember that specific criticism that McLuhan mentions. I do remember others, such as the problem that many, if not most, of Stevenson's cases in India were from affluent or at least middle-class Brahmin families, when India is overwhelmingly poor. How to account for that skewed statistic? Stevenson apparently did reply to this criticism in one of his later books, but I never myself tracked it down.

One also needs to mention Stevenson's former researcher Champe Ransom and his criticisms, since they are among the most notable. I think some of Ransom's criticisms to be thin on the ground, others worth pursuing. It must be recognized that Stevenson had his work cut out for him, it is a hard slog, tracking down these families in places like India, Sri Lanka and Lebanon (as Stevenson did in his pioneer work), where it is a difficult strain, conditions are always tough and there is the language barrier and you are relying on translators. And it is impossible to know every family's secret history no matter how much detective work you do, and I mean the secret history of the so-called reincarnated child and the deceased.

Agreed with Julie B on Stevenson, a true scientist who avoided dogmatism and genuinely humble, if only more were like him. Did he make mistakes? I'm sure. Welcome to the club that includes every great scientist who ever lived from Galileo to Kepler, Newton to Einstein. He did all he could do under the circumstances, given how many unknowns there are in this kind of enigmatic and inscrutable topic, it was always going to be tough going. Parapsychology and religious studies are all the richer for his tireless devotion.

I think people tend to forget that integrity is as important - and as rare - in science as in any other human endeavour where money and prestige are at stake.

Great read,Robert.Accurate description.

The comments to this entry are closed.


  • ‘A brisk, bracing look at this continuing controversy, exhaustively researched .. a must-read for anyone with a serious interest in parapsychology and its critics.’
  • ‘‘Packed with accurate information while at the same time surprisingly engaging and fun to read.’
  • ‘‘This is one book that gives a completely objective review of skeptical debunking, and spells out in detail a clear pattern of chicanery which pervades a well-funded and organized campaign against all psi research.’

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

  • ‘These disturbing phenomena seem to deny all our usual scientific ideas. How we should like to discredit them! Unfortunately the statistical evidence, at least for telepathy, is overwhelming. It is very difficult to rearrange one’s ideas so as to fit these new facts in.’ Alan Turing, computer scientist.

  • ‘I have noticed that if a small group of intelligent people, not supposed to be impressed by psychic research, get together and such matters are mentioned, and all feel that they are in safe and sane company, usually from a third to a half of them begin to relate exceptions. That is to say, each opens a little residual closet and takes out some incident which happened to them or to some member of their family, or to some friend whom they trust and which they think odd and extremely puzzling.’ Walter Prince, psychic researcher.

  • When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong. Arthur C. Clarke

  • ‘Science seems to me to teach in the highest and strongest manner the great truth which is embodied in the Christian conception of entire surrender to the will of God. Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses nature leads, or you shall learn nothing.’ Thomas Henry Huxley

  • We can always immunize a theory against refutation. There are many such immunizing tactics; and if nothing better occurs to us, we can always deny the objectivity – or even the existence – of the refuting observation. Those intellectuals who are more interested in being right than in learning something interesting but unexpected are by no means rare exceptions. Karl Popper, on the defenders of materialism.

  • If we have learned one thing from the history of invention and discovery, it is that, in the long run - and often in the short one - the most daring prophecies seem laughably conservative. Arthur C. Clarke.

Become a Fan