Drum Roll, Please … What I Really Believe About Reincarnation

OLD SOULS was published 14 years ago now, but rarely does a month pass without someone writing to me to ask if, ultimately, what I saw of Ian Stevenson’s claimed reincarnation cases persuaded me that reincarnation was real. If I had come up with a resounding “yes” answer for that, I have no doubt Old Souls would have sold a million copies rather than 100,000 copies, but, oh well. It just wasn’t that simple. I got another one of those inquiries today, and as I always attempt to answer (as opposed to simply saying, “Read the damn book!”) I figured I should reproduce that answer here, so at the very least I know where to find it, primed to copy and paste, next time I get the same question. Ok, here goes:



Hi Suresh,

Have you read Old Souls? I think I tried to answer that question. Basically, I do think Stevenson’s cases reasonably establish that at least some, and possibly quite a few of his cases, are NOT explainable by fraud, delusion, self-deception, conspiracy or any other easily conceivable ” normal” cause. But that doesn’t mean the only explanation is reincarnation. The problem with reincarnation as an explanation is we don’t have any truly functional definition of what reincarnation is, much less a theory of a mechanism by which it operates. We don’t have a clear, testable definition of what a “soul” is for example, or any theory about how a personality –consisting of memories, abilities, tendencies, attitudes, identity, etc — could be passed from one body to another. So from a rational, scientific point of view, reincarnation is not really a meaningful concept unless some of those blanks are filled in.  It would make as much sense, and maybe more sense, to say that the explanation for these cases is that all of our existences are in fact illusion, part of a kind of dream, and that what happens in life is actually symbolic, clues pointing to a greater truth of a universal consciousness.
Of course we don’t have any good way to test that theory either.
To me these cases are most valuable for underlining how much of the world is still mysterious and, if not unfathomable, at least unfathomed.
Tom Shroder

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