This morning while I was drinking coffee in a Wendy’s with traffic passing outside the window, I finished reading, for the second time, Old Souls, New York journalist Tom Shroder’s book about psychiatrist Ian Stevenson and the children who speak of past lives.
As I put the book down, it occurred to me that these children are probably just the tip of an iceberg of unperceived existence.
I don’t just mean the past-lives business. I mean everything. For example, one day in 1976, my first daughter, about one year old and not yet talking, was sitting in her high chair babbling excitedly and pointing across the room at the foot of the wall, where there was nothing to be seen.
I said to my Afro-Caribbean wife, “It’s as if she can see something we can’t see.”
She replied, “At home they say little children see spirits.”
I think that’s what got started me thinking this way.
Anyone who has lived with cats or dogs knows that they too appear to see things invisible to us. Why do we assume that they see nothing, or that they are hallucinating, just because we see nothing?
And so, when children start talking about past lives, saying things like, “You’re not my mother” or “I lived in Junagadh, not here”, or “my family doesn’t eat this” – talking about people and places the family has never heard of, and then investigation finds that the details provided match closely to the life of someone deceased, you can understand why Ian Stevenson was so intrigued that he spent a lifetime investigating those kids.
He decided to call this reincarnation, as popular culture and religions have done for so long, but Schroder wonders whether this name is the best one. Scientists have a such a phobia about reincarnation. Maybe if we simply call it something else they might finally get over that.
Not long before he died, Carl Sagan, who was sceptical of most paranormal subjects, admitted that the children who speak of past lives need to be investigated more. He said we need to determine whether this is something real.
Well, no. Sagan’s interest was welcome, but these children have been known to be real for a long time. Stevenson helped establish that. Just because the scientific community refuses, decade after decade, to look at the evidence doesn’t mean that that evidence isn’t still there.
What needs to be investigated is what is going on. How does this work? How can this happen within the known laws of physics? What is it that needs to be added for those laws to include it?
The known laws of physics can’t even explain the mind. But they should be able to, since the mind is undoubtedly there.
Today’s physicists love speculating about time travel, 11 or 26 dimensions, and parallel universes, but they remain curiously phobic about approaching anything that has been deemed paranormal.
If you’re interested in these things and want to learn more, don’t wait on mainstream science to help you. Science may not face up to paranormal phenomena for another century. I can’t see them dealing with those phenomena before we have full AI – super-intelligent, sentient, independent computers that will be free of our biases and do their own research.
Oh, I suppose it’s possible that we will choose to program our biases into those computers. But some AI researchers believe that, even if that is done, real super-computers – computers that are vastly more intelligent than human beings – will have no trouble ridding themselves of human prejudices and bad ideas.
But that is probably a long way off, so you have only two choices – refuse to look at the evidence since mainstream scientists say you shouldn’t look at it, or ignore them and dig into it on your own.
There is no better way to do the latter than reading Old Souls.