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No. 62: Mar-Apr 1989

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Researches In Reincarnation

I. Stevenson, at the University of Virginia, has long studied claims of reincarnation. The method employed (and there are precious few alternatives) focuses on children who claim to have lived before and can provide verifiable details about their past lives. If the details check out, one can at least claim that reincarnation is a possible interpretation of the data. Usually, however, before a researcher can get to the scene of the phenomenon, the parents of the deceased have been found and the way has been left open for much exaggeration.

In his present contribution, Stevenson reports three cases in Sri Lanka where the recollections of the supposedly reincarnated children have been written down in detail and the family of the deceased has not been located. Here is one of his cases:

"The Case of Iranga. The child was born in a village of Sri Lanka near but not on the west coast, in 1981. When she was about 3 years old she spoke about a previous life at a place called Elpitiya. Among other details, Iranga mentioned that her father sold bananas, there had been two wells at her house, one well had been destroyed by rain, her mother came from a place called Matugama, she was a middle sister of her family, and the house where the family lived had red walls and a kitchen with a thatched roof. Her statements led to the identification of a family in Elpitiya, one of whose middle daughters had died, probably of a brain tumor, in 1950. Among 43 statements that Iranga made about the previous life, 38 were correct for this family, the other 5 were wrong, unverifiable, or doubtful. Iranga's village was 15 kilometers from Ilpitiya. Each family had visited the other's community, but they had had no acquantance with each other (or knowledge of each other) before the case developed."

Stevenson's conclusion was that the three children had information about deceased persons that could only have been obtained paranormally.

(Stevenson, Ian, and Samararatne, Godwin; "Three New Cases of the Reincarnation Type in Sri Lanka with Written Records Made before Verification." Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 176:741, 1988.)

Comment. Our prediction is that sciencein-general will remain unimpressed by such data.

From Science Frontiers #62, MAR-APR 1989. 1989-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987