If you had asked me fifteen years ago what I thought about reincarnation, I would have told you that I had no thoughts about it at all.
It just seemed too improbable that evolution, starting with single-celled animals, could arrive at something like that.
But one morning in February, 2007, drinking coffee at a Toyota dealership while new tires were being installed on my car, I encountered a full page obituary in the National Post for Canadian-born psychiatrist Ian Stevenson.
Stevenson was at the University of Virginia for 50 years. In his spare time, and at his own cost, decade after decade, he travelled to India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Lebanon and other places investigating children who talk about past lives.
Because I’d done investigation work all my life and had often speculated about turning my skills to paranormal phenomena, I was intrigued. Here was a man who had devoted most of his life to investigating something I’d never even thought about.
With a little research, I came upon New York journalist Tom Schroder’s book about Stevenson, Old Souls.
Schroder was intrigued too. He contacted Stevenson and proposed that he travel with him to learn about these kids. Stevenson, a lifelong loner, was reluctant, but eventually he agreed to one trip to Lebanon.
They did it, then more trips followed, for which we are lucky. Schroder has a knack for looking beneath the surface of things while depicting them in colorful, memorable prose.
The opening page of Old Souls is one of the finest openings to a book I’ve ever seen, taking you to a moment on night on a road in rural India, riding in a small car barely escaping collisions with oncoming trucks, when Stevenson asks Schroder an enigmatic question that he had been asking himself for many years. Read the book and you’ll be thinking of Stevenson, India, Lebanon, and children talking of past lives for a long time.
Incidentally, Stevenson always claimed that there are children in North America, Europe, etc., who are saying these things too. He found a few cases in North America, but he thought most children here are simply ignored.
Meanwhile, the mainstream scientific community show no interest at all. Ask them why, and the most common answer is – “Because it’s impossible.” They should say – “Because it’s impossible based on the known laws of science,” but they almost never do.
If something is real, but it doesn’t match up with the known laws of science, scientists (Newton, Darwin, Einstein, etc) used to be intrigued. They would start looking for an explanation, not just scorn this evidence that the world is different than they think it is.
Stevenson left this world bewildered, and not a little bitter, that mainstream science refused to look at the mountain of evidence he collected.
But Stevenson’s children are awesome. They refuse to shut up. Even in India they are not always welcome (they don’t follow the rules of karma) but they continue talking.
Anyway, to make a long story short, this spring in the Toronto Reference Library I discovered five volumes about these children that Stevenson produced between 1966 and 1983. It was like finding buried treasure.
Since then, Stevenson and his remarkable children have converted me from someone with no interest in reincarnation, into a believer – although it’s still not clear to me what is going on here.
But there will be more to come.