Reincarnation is the belief that when a person dies, he is reborn in another body to work out his karma and become a better person, until he perfects himself and gets united with God.
Reincarnation is also called “multiple rebirth.”
In this ultra-conservative Catholic country, reincarnation is not usually talked about in coffee shops or academic circles. If one were to make a survey on whether they believe in reincarnation, I am quite sure more than 80 percent of the population will say they don’t, because it is contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church.
But a worldwide survey of belief in reincarnation conducted by the Gallup Poll in 1969 found that two-thirds of the world’s population believe in it, and only one-third don’t. This may be surprising to the average Filipino that we actually belong to the minority in this belief. Subsequent surveys by the same Gallup Poll showed a higher percentage of people beginning to embrace the concept compared to previous surveys.
Is there proof of reincarnation? If one is looking for scientific, empirical and controlled scientific proof of reincarnation, we will not find any. One cannot prove reincarnation in the laboratory.
But if one were to ask if there has been any systematic, rational, analytical study or investigation of the phenomenon, the answer has to be in the affirmative. There are at least two serious investigations or studies of reincarnation that have been conducted in the West. There may be others, but I am not aware of them.
Yet the following two studies may suffice to make skeptics look, at least, at the possibility of reincarnation, that we live from life to life to work out our destiny.
One of the first serious studies of reincarnation was done by Dr. Ian Stevenson, former head of the Psychiatry Department of the University of Virginia in the United States. He systematically and meticulously examined and followed up on at least 2,000 cases of spontaneous past life recall by children ages 3 to 12.
He summarized his findings in the now classic book, “Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation.” He was careful not to call them “proof.”
Stevenson decided to focus his research on the very young—first because children are very spontaneous and have not been exposed much to outside information through television or travel. Second, most cases of spontaneous past life recall occur when the child is between 2 and 4 years old, and children tend to lose the memory as they get older.
Out of thousands of cases he had examined, he chose 20 outstanding examples indicative of a past-life existence. These are pieces of information the child could not have acquired by normal means.
Another study on reincarnation was conducted by clinical psychologist Helen Wambach, author of the best-selling book “Recalling Past Lives: The Evidence from Hypnosis.” She did 5,000 past-life regressions on 3,000 subjects, and recorded and analyzed all of them.
During the regressions she asked such questions as, “When did you first enter your mother’s womb? Why did you come back to earth? Did you choose your sex? Your parents?”
Wambach devised a set of questions “to see how her subjects responded to the possibility that people in their lives now were known to them in past lives.”
Some had more detailed impressions than others, but there was little doubt that her subjects under hypnosis were aware of how they knew people in their lives now from past lives.
Another psychiatrist, Brian Weiss, chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, was a nonbeliever in past lives and did not really conduct research on the subject. But his extraordinary experience with a 27-year-old patient named Catherine, who spontaneously recalled details of her past lives while under hypnosis, convinced him of the reality of reincarnation.
He reluctantly wrote the best-selling book “Many Lives, Many Masters,” which came out in 1988, and changed his life and preoccupation. He has since written five more books on the subject of past-life memories and relationships.
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