by Victoria Volpe
The concept of reincarnation is relatively familiar. It is the idea that our tangible existences perish but our souls find new life. Biologically, this is pretty sound (considering your freshman intro to bio. class most likely did not cover the abstraction that is the human soul). What I always found particularly interesting about the subject is how it manages to be an area of spiritual and scientific study. This duality is a rarity. You seldom see people with PhD’s investigating other aspects of religion but the notion of reincarnation is, for lack of a better word, entertained among academia.
At this point, I’d like to establish a personal belief: You will never find an ‘expert witness’ on matters of the soul because we are all participants of the human condition and are all expertly qualified to speculate on it. There is no amount of education that can qualify one person more than another. That being said, nobody should disregard the work and education of the doctors that I intend to cite. They are trained in locating key areas of study, collection of data and articulating said data and should be respected for their contribution.
The catalyst for this article was another about a three year old boy who identified his killer in a past life and located ‘his’ body and the weapon (an axe) that ‘killed him’ with a blow to the head. Eerily enough this boy was born with a large birthmark that resembled an axe wound on (you guessed it) his head. This story is one of a compilation found in ‘Children Who Have Lived Before: Reincarnation Today.’ This book is no novelty in its field and with the accessibility of the internet it is probably easier to find more recent stories and studies there.
Now, as much as I consider myself an open minded person, I’ve been bred to be cynical. What I find most enticing about the study of reincarnation is that people with PhDs (who are less apt to be overly spiritual) spend years trying to expand our knowledge of it. Reincarnation, despite its non-secular nature, has been deemed something worth exploring.
Dr. Michael Newton developed 10 stages the soul goes through before rebirth. Dr. Pim van Lommel collected huge data sets of experiences of people in hospitals who had been declared dead but ‘came back to life.’ Dr. Ian Stevenson applied reincarnation theory to patient diagnoses.
These are people who have invested great time, money and consideration into their education and they were then able to use this same ambition to study reincarnation. Education is not essential to an intelligent thought, yet, my inner cynic takes comfort in knowing academics and spiritual people alike can consider this possibility.
I’d like to reiterate my belief that you will never find an expert on the soul because we are all experts via our human experiences; we need to trust each other on that. Sociologists have a concept of solidarity, which is very very basically the values and standards in a society. There is a level of trust that is expected among different societal relationships. I’d like to point out that before we had access to the entirety of the world’s information we depended on each other to find truth. Truth was passed through oral tradition and the standards of society told us “Yes, trust your neighbor.”
We severely lack that today. We are groomed to be wary of one another and this will blind us to potential truths that may be beyond the things we take for granted; I’m not saying we should accept everything handed to us because that is equally blinding. Our fact checking and inquisition of our existence should not be motivated by a defense mechanism against dishonesty in the world.
There is valid evidence for reincarnation (and countless other phenomena); who are we to discredit anything? I’m not romanticizing, I promise. I know the world is full of people who lie but statistically we can’t all be liars, right? It’s something to at least consider; being open minded will certainly not be anyone’s demise. So trust me, because I’m an expert and trust yourself because so are you.
Other Philosophical Reflections