Think about this.
The Toronto library system, in 128 branches, has 495 copies of Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming . On behalf of my wife who is too disabled to go to the library anymore, I put in a request for a copy of the book three months ago. We received it this week. Why such a long wait? Well, when I requested it, there was a line-up of 2,590 people waiting for the book. Becoming is very popular.
In the meantime, how many copies do you think the Toronto Library has of Ian Stevenson’s 5 volume work – Cases of the Reincarnation Type – the outcome of decades of his research?
One set – sitting on the second floor of the giant Toronto Reference library downtown.
Visiting that shelf over the past two years (no books in that library can be removed from the building), I have never had any competition for the books. I seem to be the only one consulting them.
Now, I have no grudge against Michelle Obama. Her success is understandable, and not unwarranted.
But if a book’s success depends on it being interesting and informative, any of Stevenson’s books should be a blockbuster. What could be more interesting than 3-4 year-old children talking about past lives? Even a paranormal debunker like Carl Sagan found these children compelling, declaring in his book Cosmos that they cried out for more research.
Yet, Cases of the Reincarnation Type sold poorly when it was first published in 1966, and now it is hardly read at all.
How can it be that in a city of 4 million people, almost no one wants to read Stevenson? There are lots of people who say they are interested in reincarnation, but maybe they only want to believe in it, not try to find out what it is.
Mainstream scientists like to say that most modern people are not interested in things that are impossible. But this is not about something impossible. This is about something that has happened and needs to be explained. Just because it cannot be explained with the currently known laws of physics, doesn’t mean that we should walk away from it.
When did scientists stop investigating mysteries?
In journalist Tom Shroder’s book about his travels with Stevenson in Lebanon, India, and the USA, Old Souls, he tells how the almost 80 year old Stevenson, on these last trips of his career, with almost 3,000 cases documented, continually asked him, Shroder, why he thinks our society is so reluctant to learn about these children. Shroder remains haunted by his question, and I am too.
Reading that, I was reminded of the line in a poem of T.S. Eliot – “Humankind cannot bear very much reality”.
Is that all it is? Are we just afraid of confronting something that may prove to be beyond our ability to understand? Are we really afraid of finding out that the universe is bigger than we think it is?
Well, Ian Stevenson wasn’t afraid of it. He stared the mystery in the face all his life, struggling to understand it, and I’m trying here to see that his half century of work wasn’t in vain.