Question: Which of country in the world is suitable for Reincarnation research?

▪ Dr.Stevenson: India is perhaps the best country in the world for research in reincarnation.

Question: What reasons led you to study in this field?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: I had become dissatisfied, you see, with the methods that had been developed in psychiatry for helping people with modern theories of human personality. Orthodox theory conceives human personality as the product of a person‘s genetic material inherited from his ancestors through his parents, and the modifying influences of his prenatal and postnatal environment.

▪ But I found that some cases cannot be satisfactorily explained by genetics, environmental influences, or a combination of these. I am speaking of such things as early childhood phobias, about uncanny abilities that seem to develop spontaneously, of children convinced that they are the wrong sex, congenital deformities, differences between one-egg twins, and even such matters as irrational food preferences.

▪ By this I mean that I do not believe that genetics alone and genetics combined with environmental influences can explain all the peculiarities and abnormalities of human personality that we psychiatrists see.

Question: Do you think you are in a position to explain them better now?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Yes, I think so. I think reincarnation offers a third possibility.

▪ I don't think it replaces our understanding of genetics or environmental influences, but I think reincarnation offers a better explanation for some unusual behavior that occurs very early in the life and often persists throughout life.

▪ This behavior that is unusual in the person's family. He could not imitate it from other members of the family or inherit it from them. So I think reincarnation is a possible explanation for such behavior.

Question: For some diseases also?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Yes, possibly. On that point we have much less information, but possibly so. that the study of these cases might illuminate problems in psychology and medicine.

Question: With regard to sexual disorders?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Well, particularly with regard to what we would call transsexualism in which people believe that they really are members of the opposite sex. They often dress in the clothes of the opposite sex and behave as if their body should be really that of the opposite sex. These persons in the West often request surgical operations, wanting to be changed anatomically. We have a number of subjects who claim to have remembered a previous life as members of the opposite sex. They have been discontented with their physical bodies.

Question: What is the percentage of such cases?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: It varies from none at all in certain countries like northwest North America (tribal cases), Lebanon, and Turkey. People in these regions believe that sex-change is impossible, and they have no cases of this type.

▪ That is one extreme. And the other extreme would be Thailand where sex change cases occur in 16 percent of cases and Burma where the incidence is as high as 25 percent, and then India, where, as in most other countries, it is about 5 percent.

Question: Is this work the only study of its kind in the United States?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Yes, and it‘s unique for the rest of the world. In India, however, scientists who have worked with me are now beginning to do independent research.

Question: When did you hit on the idea of dealing just with children?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: It evolved in the late Sixties, probably after I went to India.

▪ Adults would write to me, and I eventually began to see that most of their cases were worthless. You can‘t really control the subconscious influences to which most adults are exposed. It's so much easier to be confident about the amount of information a small child might have learned, especially one living in an Asian village. I saw how fascinating and valuable these cases were.

▪ Obviously children are too young to have absorbed a great deal of information, especially about deceased people in some distant town.

▪ In the better cases, they couldn't have known about them. In many of our cases in northwest North America and Burma, people in the same family or village are involved. So there‘s a likelihood that some adult or older child has talked about a deceased person and the child has absorbed the information, as our questioning makes clear.

▪ This is not, however, an issue in most cases I cite in India, many of which involve long distances, twenty-five to fifty kilometers or more, with no contact between the villages. Often the child has quite precise details.

Question: You‘ve found children with intense interests in subjects having no relation to anything in their family background or up-bringing. And you‘ve directly linked the phobias and addictions of children to traumas that transpired in the lives of people these children claim to have been. Are you talking about aspects of their personalities that heredity does not explain?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: That‘s right. It's easy to see environmental influences, say, with such composers as Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven, all of whose fathers were fine musicians. But what about George Frederic Handel? His family had no discernible interest in music; his father even sternly discouraged it.

▪ Or take the cases of Elizabeth Fry, the prison reformer, and Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. Both had to fight for their chosen callings from childhood onward. One can find endless examples that are difficult to explain given our current theories. But if one accepts the possibility of reincarnation, one can entertain the idea that these children are demonstrating strong likes, dislikes, skills, and even genius that are the logical results of previous experiences. I have found some children with skills that seem to be carried over from a previous life.

Question: What about cases of childhood mental illness?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: There again you will find cases of children acting as if they did not belong in their families. They treat parents and siblings with indifference, even hostility. This phenomenon is usually thought to have been caused by infantile trauma. Some theorists even try to explain it as the result of parents rejecting the child--before it has been born. Researchers look to the parents for the first cause.

▪ Comparatively little attention is given to the child, even though there is evidence that some children reject their parents before the parents have a chance to reject them. I suggest that such behavior could result from unhappy experiences in a previous life.

Question: This way we are led to understand some sort of cultural differences among the cases suggestive of reincarnation.

▪ Dr. Stevenson: That‘s right. The matter of sex-change between the previous life and the present life could be one example.

Question: What are the other examples? There might be some other cultural differences too.

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Yes, there are. Another that occurs to me is the freedom in which the children give details of names. For example, in India the children tend to give many specific details. They often give 20 or 30 details that usually include proper names. Cases very similar in general features in Sri Lanka do not have that quality. The children there do not give many proper names. That is also true of American cases. American children, if they seem to remember previous lives, have some features similar to Indian cases, but they do not remember many specific details - especially proper names.

▪ As a result we have in the USA a large number of what we call - unsolved cases. In these cases we are not able to verify what the child had said; whereas in India we have rather few (about 20 percent) unsolved cases.

Question: In all, how many cases are there in your files at Virginia?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: We have about 3,000 now.

Question: And how many out of them have you studied so far?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: I have probably studied, more or less, maybe one-third of them.

▪ Some, of course, much more thoroughly than others. And then the other two thirds have been studied by my associates and colleagues.

Question: Well, what is your conclusion so far?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: My conclusion so far is that reincarnation is not the only explanation for these cases, but that it is the best explanation we have for the stronger cases, by which I mean those in which a child makes a considerable number (say 20 or 30) of correct statements about another person who lives in a family that lives quite remote from his own and with which his family has had no prior contacts.

▪ When we talk about remoteness, we don't necessarily just mean physical distance. We know that two families can live only 10 kilometers apart and yet they can be very remote because they belong to different economic and social classes.

Question: Well, then you are still in search of say an ideal case, a perfect one?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Yes. I would like to find better cases. However, the ideal or perfect case, I don't think we will ever find. I don't know if such cases really exist, but we are always trying to get at the cases sooner and get to them before the two families have met so that we can make a written record of what the child says before the families meet. We wish to observe the first meeting ourselves. And we try to find other cases that have stronger evidence.

Question: A past personality's prediction, for example?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Well, a past personality's prediction is of interest but actually it may weaken some cases by setting up an expectation of that person's return. But that could be an additional feature in many cases.

Question: What about one's own child? Are there ways to introduce the subject?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: I see no harm in asking a child if he remembers a previous life.

▪ I would be particularly interested if a child has a large birthmark or a congenital malformation. I've reported on a case of a child who claimed to have been his own paternal grandfather and had two pigmented moles in the same spots on his body that his grandfather did. It's said in such instances that genetics is responsible. But one wonders why the one grandchild in ten who had the moles claimed to remember his grandfather's life. Or take congenital malformations:

▪ Children born with deformed limbs--or even without fingers, toes, and hands-have claimed to remember being murdered and state that the murderer had removed these fingers, toes, or hands during the killing. In such situations the approach would be to ask the child to explain the birth defect. But I don't approve of pumping children if they don't want to talk.

Question: Do the child's parents often "ruin" a case before you arrive?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: All too often we reach the scene after the subject and his family have met the family about whom he's been talking. We sometimes have to pare away a great deal of extraneous information. I always prefer to record the child's account, but sometimes the boy or girl is too shy to talk, and I have to fall back on what parents say about his or her statements. My colleagues and I try to separate what the child said before meeting the other family from what he said later.

▪ Obviously the latter has much less value. I cannot emphasize too strongly that a child who is going to remember a previous life has only about three years in which he will talk about it. Before the age of two or three he lacks the ability. After five, too much else will be happening in his life, and he will begin to forget.

Question: How frequently do children claim to have memories of a past life?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: We don't yet know the incidence of cases. All we know are those that come to us. One survey of a township in northern India found one case for every five hundred persons. This would almost certainly understate the matter, as many cases never go beyond the immediate family. Even in cultures where reincarnation is accepted, parents sometimes think such memories are harmful. They are often upset by what the child remembers. Parents would not be particularly pleased to have a murdered child, not to mention a murderer, reincarnate in their family.

Question: What would predispose someone to remember a previous life?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Violent death is a factor in our cases. In more than seven hundred cases in six different cultures, sixty-one percent remembered having died violently. But are these cases actually representative? Those involving accidents, murders, and suicides are bound to get more attention than others in which the child remembers a quiet life.

▪ Children also tend to remember the final years or a previous life. Almost seventy five percent of our children appear to recall the way they died, and if death was violent, they remember it in vivid detail

Question: You‘ve stated that boys remember more often than girls.

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Yes, but boys are presented to us more often than girls A girl may not be marriageable if she is the notorious subject of a case, so she may be kept in the background. In a series of one thousand ninety-five cases from around the world, sixty-two percent were male. I can't explain this, unless men are more likely to die violent deaths

Question: Well, when the subject and his family do not know the past personality at all?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Yes. That could really be good if the past personality's prediction is totally unknown to the subject's family.

Question: And then say, it is combined by having birthmarks, remoteness of time and placement, etc.

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Yes and other features such as numerous statements.

Question: These would strengthen the case.

▪ Dr. Stevenson: They would, yes, I think so.

Question: Could you tell me about some cases that interested you most?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Yes, they could be those where we had made a written record or somebody else had.

Question: Like Swarnalatha's case.

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Like Swarnalatha's case. Swarnalata Mishra. That's one. Another one... Jagdish Chandra, Bishan Chand... Yes, those were also two good cases.

▪ Jagdish Chandra's father was a lawyer trained in evidence. He made a written record and then verified his son's statements. It may be a little weak because it was his son's case, but still it was very well done. And, Bishan Chand's case.

▪ The case of Kumkum Verma in Bihar was in that group also. One of her aunts made a written record there. There was also a case in Lebanon - Imad Elawar in which we could make a written record before verification and we have a few other cases like that.

Question: Why do most Westerners ridicule the idea of reincarnation?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: It's hard to find any single explanation. Some southern European Christians believed in reincarnation until the Council of Nice banned such beliefs in 553 A.D. In The Republic, Plato described souls about to be reborn as choosing their future lives. Schopenhauer took it seriously, and Voltaire's observation that it is no more surprising to be born twice than once is wellknown. Yet most scientists nowadays do not believe in survival after death.

▪ I suppose Darwinian ideas contributed to a sort of dethroning of the soul.

▪ Reincarnation may be particularly uncongenial because it's so much identified—mistakenly I think—with the Hindu and Buddhist ideas of being reborn as an animal.

Question: What has it been like to swim against the tide?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Invigorating! (Laughs)

Question: What criticism is most frequently leveled at your work?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: That the cases occur most where people already believe in reincarnation. If a child seems to refer to a previous life, it's argued that his parents encourage him and may unwittingly feed the child information about a deceased person. I call this the sociopsychological interpretation of the cases.

▪ It is said that despite all my efforts, I have not eliminated the possibility that the subject of a case learned everything he knew through normal channels. Once a child comes to believe he or she was a particular person in a previous life, the argument goes, the other elements follow naturally. If you believe you had been stabbed to death in a previous life, you might have a phobia, for example, of knives.

▪ While this is a valid argument for a small number of cases, especially those occurring in the same family or village, it's inapplicable for long-distance cases where a child shows a detailed knowledge about a family his parents have never heard of, let alone met.

▪ But my critics say I must have overlooked something, that the child must have learned about the deceased.

Question: In some cases the past personality might have predicted about his rebirth. Could you recall some good cases of that type?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Yes, I think the best case of that type was in Alaska among the Tlingit tribe.

Question: Could you give some details?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Well, I recall one in which a man had predicted to his niece that he would come to her and he pointed out to her two marks on his body. They were scars of operations. One was on his nose. He had had an operation at the corner of his eye (right) at the upper part of his nose, and another on his back. I don't know what that was from. Anyway, he said to his niece: "You will be able to recognize me because I will have these scars reproduced on my body as marks." So he died and about 18 months later his niece had a baby boy who was born with birthmarks precisely at these places.

▪ I remember seeing and photographing these birthmarks. This boy was about 8 or 10 years old when I first saw him. The birthmark on the back was especially clearly seen. It had small round marks at the sides that looked exactly like the stitch marks of a surgical operation.

Question: But don't you think such a case becomes somewhat weaker scientifically since it was in the same family?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: It does, yes, it does become weaker. That is true also of the cases where prediction is made in a dream. The family expects the person who appeared in the dream. On the other hand, the birthmarks are often very unusual. And it's quite unusual, I think, for someone to have two birthmarks at two different places, each corresponding to scars of an operation on the past personality. So cases like that have both weaknesses and strengths.

Question: Why do all the cases seem to be in Asia? Couldn't critics find any in the West?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Oh, absolutely. I am convinced that if child psychologists and psychiatrists, as well as pediatricians, family doctors, and parents, would listen to children and observe them with reincarnation in mind, they would make valuable discoveries Children often seem to express memories of previous lives in their play and sometimes in their drawings.

Question: Scientists usually dismiss reincarnation as some sort of wishful thinking. Yet William James noted that our desire to believe in survival after death does not automatically negate its possibility. We do want to believe in it, don't we?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: No, in fact we don‘t. That's a misunderstanding concerning Hindus and Buddhists. They believe in it, but they don't particularly want to.

▪ Hindus see life in terms of a constant cycle of births in which we are doomed to struggle and suffer until we have reached perfection and can escape.

▪ Fear of death is almost universal; and some two thousand years ago Patanjali, an Indian sage, said it was due to our fear of having to undergo a postmortem review of our lives, to be judged and presumably be found wanting.

Question: Well, with regard to the birthmark cases - couldn't these birthmarks be caused by the mind of the mother when she was carrying the child in her womb?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Yes, some could be. The mother knew about the wounds on the dead uncle in the case in Alaska that I mentioned to you. She obviously saw the scars on her uncle. And in other cases, the mother had gone and seen the dead body of someone who was shot. She knew where the wounds were on the body and so her thoughts might have influenced the embryo of her baby. However, we have about 20 cases in which we questioned the mother and father carefully, and they didn't know anything about the previous personality.

▪ In some instances they might have known or heard of that person, but didn't have any idea where the wounds were. So I think in those cases the mother's mind could not have influenced the baby directly.

Question: What do you think is the importance of the study of these cases or, I should say, the importance of reincarnation research in the present world?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Well, I think it has several importances. I think it promises to throw light, as I said earlier, on certain psychological problems. I think it has also some implications for biology and medicine through the study of birthmarks and birth defects.

▪ Some children, as you know, have some birthmarks, or missing fingers on a hand, or deformed ears, or other birth defects. And, science still knows very little about the cause of birth defects. I think reincarnation will shed light on that. Then, of course, it also has a very wide implication for the whole question of life after death. The meaning of life Why am I here?

Question: On some philosophical questions?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Yes, on the nature of mind, the mind's relationship with the body

Question: On the controversy between spiritualism and materialism?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Yes.

Question: This could also be better understood if reincarnation could be proved as a fact?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Yes, that is true.

Question: Do you think it could have a bearing on the ethical life of human beings?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: I thought about that a good deal... once I met an Indian swami of the Ramakrishna order and he asked me "What are you doing in India?" I explained that I had come in search of actual cases which could be evidence of reincarnation. That was in 1961.

▪ I remember that after I had spoken, there was a very long silence. He didn't say anything. I didn't say anything. He sat there, the venerable swami, looking at me. Finally, he said, "Yes it is true," meaning reincarnation, "but it does not make any difference, because we in India have all believed in reincarnation and have accepted it as a fact, and yet it has made no difference. We have as many rogues and villains in India as you have in the West."

Question: Your new book discusses some misconceptions about the idea of reincarnation. What is the most common?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: The idea that reincarnation must include what Hindus call Karma, especially retributive Karma.

Question: Retributive Karma being the idea that whatever bad you do in this life is paid for in the next by having the same amount of evil done to you?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Stevenson: Something like that. It can be more specific, so that if you put out someone's eyes, you will be blinded. There is no evidence for the idea of retributive Karma. The notion of a succession of lives with improvement in each, on the other hand, is precisely the view of the Druze, a Muslim sect of Lebanon, a people I‘ve worked with a lot.

▪ They believe God sends us into different sorts of lives, perhaps as a fisherman, then a banker, then maybe a pirate.

▪ But in each life we should do the best we can, if a banker, one should be thoroughly honest—and rich! Whether pirate or peasant, it's all summed up at the day of judgment. But one life has nothing to do with the next.

▪ Your conduct could be vicious in one life, and in the next, you might be reborn into elegant circumstances.

Question: In your new book you speak reprovingly of people easily persuaded by your evidence. Is your position that reincarnation can never really be demonstrated?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: I don't think I rebuke anybody for being convinced by the evidence. All I say is that maybe they shouldn't believe on the basis of what's in that particular book, because the detailed case reports are in my other books.

▪ Essentially I say that the idea of reincarnation permits but doesn't compel belief.

▪ All the cases I've investigated so far have shortcomings. Even taken together, they do not offer anything like proof. But as the body of evidence accumulates, it's more likely that more and more people will see its relevance.

▪ I'm not much of a missionary. Most of that was drained out of me on my first trip to India. I did have a certain zeal when I first went there. When I talked to Ramakrishna Swami in Chandigarh, he asked me what I was doing, and I replied with a certain enthusiasm. After a long silence he finally said, "We know that reincarnation is true, but it doesn't make any difference because here in India we have just as many rogues and villains as you have in the West" End of interview.

Question: Well, I would rather disagree with him because we Indians only believe superficially in reincarnation. It hasn't gone very deep into us, at least during these days.

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Yes, I too. I thought about this remark. I agree that many Indian people themselves haven't grasped all the implications of reincarnation.

Question: Well. So far as India is concerned, what do you think about its potential for research in reincarnation?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: India is perhaps the best country in the world for research in reincarnation. We know that cases are common--we don't know how common-we have done only one systematic survey-- we know that anywhere we look, particularly in the North, we can find cases very easily. One of the difficulties has been insufficient funds and insufficient numbers of qualified people to investigate the cases. Once the idea of reincarnation research is spread around and more investigations are undertaken, India would be the best country in the world for conducting them.

Question: Many claims are made for the authenticity of previous lives based on memories supposedly recovered under hypnosis. You have pointed out why these are likely to be fraudulent.

▪ Dr. Stevenson: In my experience, nearly all so-called previous personalities evoked through hypnotism are entirely imaginary and a result of the patient's eagerness to obey the hypnotist's suggestion. It is no secret that we are all highly suggestible under hypnosis.

▪ This kind of investigation can actually be dangerous. Some people have been terribly frightened by their supposed memories, and in other cases the previous personality evoked has refused to go away for a long time.

Question: Yet there are some cases that might argue in its favor. You seem persuaded by the evidence for Bridey Murphy. [In 1952 a Colorado housewife claimed that under hypnosis she relived memories of a previous life as an Irish girl, Bridey Murphy, living in 1806.

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Yes, I think it is one of the few. We've discussed cases of children and adults who have been able to speak a tongue they could not possibly have learned; the term for this is xenoglossy. Although rare, they do occur. One that I published concerns the wife of a Methodist minister who, after having been hypnotized by her husband, began to speak German--not very well, but German nonetheless--and described the life of a teenage girl who may have lived in Germany in the late nineteenth century.

▪ So I'm not saying that hypnosis is never a useful tool, but I do deplore the commercial exploitation and misleading claims that are often made. A large part of what emerges under hypnosis is pure fantasy. Some of these "previous lives" have been traced back to historical novels. There is another English case going back to the turn of the century that was studied by a Cambridge don, in which a young woman seemed to be describing the life of one Blanche Poynings, a person around the court of Richard II in the fourteenth century.

▪ She gave a lot of detail about the people concerned, including proper names and the sort of life she lived. The investigators kept on probing, and a little later they began asking her about sources of information. In her trancelike state the girl herself came out with a reference to a book, Countess Maud, published in the latter part of the nineteenth century, a classic Victorian novel all about a countess at the court of Richard II. The subject had modified it a little bit, but basically it was all in the novel, and it turned out that her aunt had a copy of the book. She didn't remember reading it, but she remembered turning the pages. So you have that kind of case.

Question: Have you found evidence of conscious hoax?

Dr. Stevenson: There are a few. In a recent paper on seven cases of deception and self-deception, my colleagues and I describe hoaxes or informants who had deceived themselves about the strength of evidence. I may have been hoaxed in other cases without knowing it, but I think not often. The average villager in Asia and Africa doesn't have time to devise a hoax. He or she often begrudges us the time it takes to conduct an interview.

▪ There is no money to be made and no particular local renown to be had. Successful fraud takes the cooperation of numerous witnesses and a child drilled to perfection. It's not a serious problem for us, although gross self-deception can happen. For instance, I was shown two Alevi children in Turkey who were said to be the reincarnation of President Kennedy: These kinds of cases are uncommon and relatively easy to detect.

▪ Cryptomnesia, or source amnesia, is another matter. A child could obtain some information normally and then forget it. It's a possibility I consider in every case, but it's not a satisfactory explanation for most long-distance cases, since too much information is needed to put together a believable set of previous-life memories. Sometimes, though, there may be amnesia—a mixing up of memories. The Druze, who often have such a strong desire to trace a deceased person that they may be too anxious to find the child they're looking for, jump to conclusions on the basis of very slender evidence. You might call it unconscious wish fulfilment.

Question: Do you see in reincarnation a glimpse of a larger purpose?

▪ Stevenson: Well, yes, I do. My idea of God is that He is evolving. I don't believe in the watchmaker God, the original creator who built the watch and then lets it tick. I believe in a "Self-maker God" who is evolving and experimenting; so are we as parts of Him. Bodies wear out; souls may need periods for rest and reflection. Afterward one may start again with a new body.

Question: Do you disagree with most bioscientists, who hold that what we call mind or soul is actually a part of brain activity?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: The assumption that our minds are nothing but our brains appears to receive support when you consider the effect of injury, surgery, a high fever, or one or two drinks of whiskey on our mental processes. Some neuroscientists acknowledge that they have only just begun to show how brain processes account for mental ones. But they claim to know that they or their successors will work it all out. They are sure there can be no other explanation, therefore they consider no other.

▪ We are not pledged to follow all the received opinions of neuroscientists, however. Recently, a small number of psychologists and philosophers have begun to ask whether mind can ever be fully explained in terms of brain functioning.

Question: You've said that more girls remember boys' lives than the reverse.

▪ Dr. Stevenson: That's right. The overall ratio is two to one. Of one hundred sex-change cases [cases in which the child recollects having been a different sex in a previous life], sixty-six will be females remembering previous lives as boys. I've discussed this in some Burmese cases. It may be culturally more acceptable in Burma to say that you, as a girl, were once a boy than the reverse.

▪ A boy would be teased mercilessly. It is easier to come up with statistics than to interpret them. In a culture in which to change one's sex is not acceptable, perhaps such cases are never reported even when they do occur.

Question: The possibility of sex change puts the question of homosexuality and gender confusion in a new light, doesn't it?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Yes. When it was fashionable to ascribe all emotional disorders to the ineptitude of one's parents, cases of gender-identity confusion were blamed on parents.

▪ A biological explanation, such as Klinefelter's syndrome [a genetic condition in which a male is born with an extra X, or female, chromosome] can explain some but not all cases.

▪ Western psychiatrists and psychologists do not have a satisfactory explanation for this, whereas in Southeast Asian cultures, gender-identity confusion is considered one result of reincarnation and taken calmly. Reincarnation ought to be considered as a possible explanation at least some of the time.

Question: Do you have a research staff?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Yes, we have two full-time assistants. So far most overseas cases have been investigated first by people on the spot. Obviously they have the immediate advantage over me in that they need no interpreters. On the other hand, not many Asians have been trained in science. Those who are trained have usually come to think of reincarnation as a superstition of their childhoods and one they'd rather forget.

▪ But a few Asian scientists have been extremely helpful. In contrast, I remember a Harvard-trained psychologist in Burma who could barely be polite to me. There he was, sitting up in Mandalay, surrounded by cases, and he had no interest in them.

Question: What's next for you?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: I'm mainly working now on a massive study of birthmarks and birth defects. I published a few of them in Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation without much special mention or photographs. I now have about two hundred cases. I hope the first volume of thirty will be published this year.

▪ This first group contains cases from India, Burma, Turkey, Lebanon, and northwest North America. They'll all have photographs, and I've been able to match up about fifteen of them with postmortem reports. It's my most important book, and I've been writing it for about ten years.

Question: Do birthmarks occur very often?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Some birthmarks are common. But it depends on what you call a birthmark. The average American has about fifteen. I'm talking about a raised, darkened mole, or what we call an elevated nevus.

▪ Some marks are simply areas of increased pigmentation; in other cases, the birthmark is three-dimensional, the area being partly or wholly elevated, depressed, or puckered.

▪ I have examined at least two hundred of this kind, and many of them cannot be distinguished, at least by me, from the scars of healed wounds. In many cases I've had to rely on memories of surviving relatives and friends for information about the exact location of wounds or other marks on the previous personality in question.

▪ This has led to the sensible objection that relatives might have tailored their memories to fit the circumstances for a variety of reasons. I have been able to overcome this objection in about thirty cases by obtaining autopsy or other medical records. Such records provide the strongest evidence we have so far in favor of reincarnation.

Question: You are also interested in the phenomena of precognition and telepathy, aren't you?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Precognition is just a clearer idea of a possible future. Imagine a person in a canoe paddling down a river. Around the corner are rapids he doesn't see. Someone on the cliff above, seeing the whole river, can see what's likely to happen to that person.

▪ At any point, of course, the canoeist might pull over to the bank. He doesn't have to go over the rapids. What is interesting about precognition, telepathy, or any other form of paranormal communication is the number or people who believe they've had at least one experience, between ten and seventeen percent in the United Slates and Great Britain, according to some surveys.

▪  Most can be put down to coincidence, suppressed memories, or any number of plausible explanations. You can discount ninety five percent of these cases; but for an impressive number there is no natural explanation. Present understanding of our brains leaves no room for these phenomena

Question: What prevented Hamlet from committing suicide was the suspicion that death might not be the end of things. Haven't you cited cases of children who have committed suicide?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: That's rather rare. We haven't followed them, of course.

▪ Children who remember a previous life that ended in suicide sometimes still have the suicide habit. If things go wrong, they'll threaten to commit suicide.

That we've had. We've had twenty-three cases involving fear of retribution for suicide in the previous life; and several had phobias about the instrument of suicide--that is, guns in some cases, poison in others. One person told me that her memories of suicide had deterred her from killing herself. The thought that nothing would be over or solved so one might as well face one's troubles is, in my view, a very effective deterrent.

Question: In Memories, Dreams, and Reflections, Carl Jung wrote that as a boy he remembered in great detail being a very old man in the eighteenth century.

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Children we have studied often act as if they had been transferred without warning from an adult's body into a baby's. When one of our Turkish children began to speak, almost the first thing he said was, "What am I doing here? I was at the port." Later on he described details in the life of a dockworker who had fallen asleep in the hold of a ship.

▪ A heavy oil drum had fallen on him and killed him instantly. Cases like this remind me or a woman who had a stroke while playing bridge. When she came around several days later, her first words were, "What's trumps?"

Question: You briefly mentioned your new studies in chronological discrepancies. Are you talking about personalities that are reborn into new children before the end or the previous life?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: There are a few of those. In Twenty Cases there‘s the case of Jasbir, also a different kind of discrepancy story. He was about two and a half when he appeared to die of smallpox. When he revived he claimed that he was somebody totally different, a man who had just died and stumbled into the body. In his new personality Jasbir said that after death he had met a mahatma, or a sage, who had told him to take over this body.

▪ There was also a case in Thailand in which a monk, Chaokhun Rajsuthajarn, claimed to have been born a day before the death of Nai Leng, the personality he remembered. These cases are extremely rare in Buddhist countries; Buddhists tend to regard them as suspect and even bogus because they do not harmonize with the Buddhist concept of rebirth. I studied this case with much care but couldn't find an explanation for the discrepancy.

Question: Why do American children have so many less concrete and verifiable memories than Asian children do?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: I have speculations and conjectures. First, Americans are nomadic. A fifth of all Americans move from one community to another each year, and a quarter move within the community, changing their neighborhood and environment. Some of the Asian children's memories are stimulated by their noticing slight environmental differences.

▪ If the difference is great, that stimulus may be missing. Turning the question the other way around, why do certain Asian cultures have so many cases? To begin with, these cultures remember their dead more than we do and see them as still being actively involved in life; they also have stronger family ties. To them there is no such thing as random fate.

▪ Everything happens for a reason, and that reason often has to do with someone who wishes them well or ill. They also believe, much more than we do in the West, in telepathy, the paranormal, and that dreams foretell the future.

▪ They are not clock-watchers as we are; they have time to reflect on their lives.

▪ All these factors may have some bearing on this question and perhaps put them in closer touch with their past lives

Question: When you're dealing with Asian children, couldn't you be involved with people whose past lives did not get completed?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: That's right. In dealing with people who died naturally rather than violently, we can distinguish several broad groups. In the first we might place people who were well one moment and dead the next, before they or anyone else had a chance to adjust to the idea. In the second category one might place those who died before the age of twelve of whatever natural causes; in the third there are those who died with unfinished business--mothers who left infants or young children, for instance One would also have to include people who had not been particularly young when they died but left life in the middle of some absorbing project.

▪ Any one of these people might have felt entitled to a longer life than they turned out to have.

Question: Is the average space between death of one personality and that personality's rebirth in a new child about fifteen months?

Dr. Stevenson: Yes, but I think our figure comes mainly from Asian cases because, of our roughly one hundred Western cases, only fifteen to twenty have been verified, or, as we say, "solved." In my paper American Children who Claim to Remember Previous Lives" I analyzed seventy-nine cases.

▪ They are nowhere near as rich in detail as, say, the Indian cases. American children named few names, for instance, and we could match them up with a deceased person in only sixteen cases; and the person nearly always turned out to be a family member, thus making the case not significant for our purposes.

▪ Not a single child claimed to have been famous in a previous lifetime. The majority seemed to be ordinary, undistinguished people, just like the majority of our Asian children.

Question: Even so, if the interval is fifteen months for each of us, doesn't that argue for a staggering number of lives relieved?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Well, these cases of children who remember may be exceptional. They may become cases because they do remember, not because they are reborn. How many others may be reborn without remembering, or not reborn? The fifteen month average is perhaps true only for people who are murdered in India.

Question: One of your American cases involved a person who remembered a life in which she had been scalped, which would argue for an enormous interval.

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Yes, since the eighteenth century in that case. Our analyses have not shown that longer intervals between lives mean fewer memories. We do have to be prepared for the possibility that memories can fade in a world or discarnate minds, just as they can in our own. So we would rarely expect to be able to verify cases in which the interval was greater than twenty-five years.

▪ For most people it's possible the interval between death and rebirth is much longer than the cases we've studied so far. With only two thousand cases to go on, I'd hardly dare speculate about the billions of human beings since the beginning of the human race who have disappeared without a trace.

Question: Would you speculate on why certain children show up in certain families?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: If they are Muslims, they will say God did it. If they're Hindu or Buddhist, they'll attribute it to Karma. It might be that the purpose is to live and learn together. Someone who wants to evolve morally, for instance, should try to be reborn in a saint's family if he can.

▪ The most serious punishment I could imagine for a Mafia murderer would be to be reborn in a Mafia family, with their limited outlook on life. Why a person appears to be reborn in one family rather than another interests me passionately. It's a question for the next century.

Question: Do you have children or your own?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Unfortunately not.

Question: Isn't it often a disadvantage to remember a previous life?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Oh. I think so. These children become embroiled in divided loyalties. In many cases children have rejected their parents, saying they are not their real parents and have often started down the road toward their so-called real homes. In other cases, they insist on being reunited with their former husbands, wives, or children. One Indian boy was passionately attached to the woman he said had been his former mistress and was trying to get her back, causing himself and her real distress.

Question: Might someone consider where and how one would like to be reborn?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: I think an even more important question is. Who would want me as a baby?

Question: Can I ask where and as whom you would like to be reborn?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: No. I think that's too personal.

Question: You must have been somewhat curious about what previous lives you might have led, because you consulted eight sensitives, or mediums.

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Consulted is too strong a word. Some gave me these "readings" spontaneously. It just sort of happened along the way. When I was visiting an Indian swami, I didn't ask him, he just blurted something out. I've forgotten what it was. I think he said something about a previous life in India. You could say they were picking up different lives; some had me in different places at the same time.

▪ I had two talk about eighteenth-century lives in the same period, and they were completely different. They're all totally unverifiable. There are people who charge money for this, and it's a ridiculous waste of everybody's time.

Question: What advice do you have for those who have no memories of a previous life?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: Some persons have said it is unfair to be reborn unless you can remember details of a previous life and profitably remember your mistakes.

▪ They forget that forgetting is essential to successful living in the present. If every time we walked, we were to remember how we stumbled, we would fall again. I've also had people envy children who remember previous lives, as if these children had special wisdom.

▪ In fact, it makes more sense to look upon them as suffering from an abnormality, almost a defect. The memories they have are often more of a handicap than a blessing; and they nearly all become happier as they grow older and forget their previous lives. To paraphrase Jesus Christ, sufficient unto one life is the evil thereof.

Question: Has your work influenced your own attitudes toward life and death?

▪ Dr. Stevenson: I think so. I wouldn't claim to be free of the fear of death, but it is probably less in me than other people. These children sometimes provide reassurances to adults. We‘ve had two or three incidents of children going to, let's say, a woman who has lost her husband and is inconsolable and saying, "You shouldn‘t be crying. Death isn‘t the end. Look at me. I died and I'm here again."
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