Back When I Was Older

past lives

As a parent, what would you do if your 4-year-old son started telling you about memories that can’t possibly be his own? These are memories that he says are from “when he was older.”

A past life? Reincarnation? Psychic connections?

A recent episode of Invisibilia about one of these stories got me looking back at some investigating I had done on my own years ago. The topic is interesting whether or not you believe that we have had past lives. It gets you into psychology and religion and maybe the paranormal.

An article on “Children Who Seemingly Remember Past Lives” from addresses why some children recount apparent past-life memories with such vividness. In many of these cases, the person from the past being spoken of could be identified through the specificity of information from the child. Here’s a look at two very impressive (and recent) instances.

The stories border on being creepy movie plots. For example, a 2-and-a-half-year-old girl who is very upset because she can’t find “her” children. She describes the past life “her” as someone who lost her life in a car accident.

In Return to Life: Extraordinary Cases of Children Who Remember Past Lives, a book published by Jim Tucker, a psychiatry professor at the University of Virginia, he compiled hundreds of case that fit this pattern.

Some doctors and scientists who study this are hesitant to refer to this as children experiencing “past lives” because that crosses into reincarnation which crosses over to religion.

These cases are not the result of “past life regression” which is a technique that uses hypnosis to recover what practitioners believe are memories of past lives or incarnations. I question those results of stories gained under hypnosis and the practice is widely dismissed and considered unscientific by medical practitioners. These experts generally regard claims of recovered memories of past lives as fantasies or delusions or a type of confabulation (in psychology, a memory error).

Ironically, though past-life regression is often considered a spiritual experience and advocates belive in reincarnation, those religious traditions that incorporate reincarnation generally do not include the idea of repressed memories of past lives.

Tucker believes parents need to know that these statements from children don’t indicate psychological problems. And though children may be troubled by these memories at an early age, such memories appear to fade by the time children are 6 or 7.

Another book by Tucker along with Ian Stevenson, Life Before Life: Children’s Memories of Previous Lives, examines a collection of 2,500 cases that investigators have carefully studied since Stevenson began the work more than forty years ago.

Children usually begin talking about a past life at the age of two or three and may talk about a previous family or the way they died in a previous life. Their statements have often been found to be accurate for one particular deceased individual, and some children have recognized members of the previous family.

Further eeriness comes when some children have birthmarks or defects that matched wounds on the body of the deceased person.

There doesn’t seem to be permanent problems from these memories. When the kids studied got older, they embraced their present life and identity.

Another Psychology Today article on children and past lives asks readers if they believe in reincarnation. This points to the separation between those who believe that the children are seeing into a life they once lived, and those who believe that the children have somehow tapped into the past or someone else’s memories.

His Holiness the fourteenth Dalai Lama has said “When science doesn’t find something, there are two possibilities: The not finding of something that doesn’t exist, and the case of even though something exists, it can’t be found. They are different. For instance, about past and future lives and not being able to prove them scientifically, it is just that scientists cannot find them, but that doesn’t prove that they don’t exist.”

Where do I stand in this debate? I had my own story of a possible past life experience that happened when I was a college student. At least, that was the explanation I was given by others who heard my story. So, I am open to the idea. That experience mad eme research past lives, reincarnation, and past life regression, but I’m still unsure.

Any thoughts?

10 Mysterious Kids Who Remember Their Past Lives (video)

Tales Told by Children Remembering Their Past Lives

Children’s Past Lives: How Past Life Memories Affect Your Child by Carol Bowman

Old Souls: Compelling Evidence from Children Who Remember Past Lives by Tom Shroder

I’m Not a Star Seed

I’m not a star seed. I didn’t even know there was the possibility that I could be until this week. I’m still not so sure that anyone might be one.

I am sure that we are made of stardust, just as Joni Mitchell sang in “Woodstock.”

Science bears this idea out – “Everything we are and everything in the universe and on Earth originated from stardust, and it continually floats through us even today. It directly connects us to the universe, rebuilding our bodies over and again over our lifetimes.”

But Star Seeds are way beyond that. Star Seeds are defined as beings that have experienced life elsewhere in the Universe on other planets and in non-physical dimensions other than on Earth. They may also have had previous life times on earth.

Also known as Star People, this New Age belief seems to have been introduced by Brad Steiger, a very prolific writer of oddities, in his book Gods of Aquarius. He posited that people originated as extraterrestrials and arrived on Earth through birth or as a walk-in to an existing human body.

Alien-human hybrids sends my mind right to some X-Files episodes and more than a few science-fiction tales. Going back further, there are “star people” in some Native American spiritual mythologies.

Steiger said that one of my favorite sci-fi writers, Philip K. Dick, had written to him in the late 1970s to say he thought he might be one of the star people, and that his novel VALIS contained related themes.

There are several websites listing characteristics of a Star Seed – and I definitely have a few of them – but I don’t think I am one of them.

But humans are made of stardust, in that humans and their galaxy have about 97 percent of the same kind of atoms. The building blocks of life are carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur and fairly recently astronomers have cataloged the abundance of these elements in a huge sample of stars.

What Dreams May Come

“That which you believe becomes your world. ” – Richard Matheson

Richard Matheson is a fantasy, horror, and sci-fi writer whom I discovered through the episodes he wrote of The Twilight Zone. That was my favorite TV series as a kid. It scared me, amazed me, made me think and sometimes amused me.  I was happy to discover he was, like me, born in New Jersey (Allendale, 1926).

He also wrote for Star Trek and other shows. A good number of his more than 20 novels and 100 short stories became films.  Later, I discovered Matheson’s books, including I Am Legend and The Shrinking Man, which was later retitled The Incredible Shrinking Man as a film.

Stephen King said that “When people talk about the genre, I guess they mention my name first, but without Richard Matheson I wouldn’t be around. He is as much my father as Bessie Smith was Elvis Presley’s mother.”

His 1978 novel, What Dreams May Come, is my favorite. The film that was made based on his novel stars Robin Williams. Along with The Fisher King, it is one of my favorite films with Robin.  In the book, Chris dies and goes to Heaven, but descends into Hell to rescue his wife.

Matheson stated in an interview, “I think What Dreams May Come is the most important (read effective) book I’ve written. It has caused a number of readers to lose their fear of death – the finest tribute any writer could receive.”

As far as the science in the fiction, Matheson says in an introductory note that the characters are fictional but almost everything else is based on research. He even included a bibliography.

The title comes from a line in Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be…” speech: “For in that sleep of death what dreams may come / When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, / Must give us pause.”


The plot also makes several allusions to the journey through the underworld in Dante’s epic poem The Divine Comedy. Characters quote the 18th century Christian mystic Emanuel Swedenborg, theories from Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and Raymond Moody.

Matheson was struck with the stories told by revived suicides which were much more frightening tales than those near death experiences of others who came back. The references are often ones that might be termed “New Age.” For example, reincarnation is viewed as a choice rather than the automatic cycle found in Hinduism and Buddhism.  It is a subject that everyone considers at some point in their life. A new TV show, Proof, focuses on investigating supernatural cases of reincarnation and near-death experiences funded by a terminally ill man who hopes to find evidence that death is not final.

Trailer for What Dreams May Come (film)