Even though billions of people around the world believe in reincarnation, and the belief in reincarnation has existed for thousands of years, it remains a highly controversial subject. Personally, I believe that’s a good thing. We should examine our beliefs to determine whether they are based in reality rather than fantasy.
MostÂ occultists, but definitely not all of them, accept reincarnation as a “given.” Aleister Crowley, for example, thought he was the reincarnation of famed French occultist Eliphas Levi. He also thought that in a life previous to that he had been Edward Kelly, the assistant to Dr. John Dee, discoverer of the system of Enochian magick. Why don’t more people accept reincarnation as a fact?
The first problem is that a group of people who claim to be rational and “skeptical” actually have a deeply-held belief system I call “scientism.” This system is believed with the same passion as the follower of any fundamentalist religion, and they will defend this faith as best as they can. They will come up with concepts that are totally unscientific and falsely claim that their belief is representative of science.
One of the most popular of these pseudo-scientific beliefs is the idea that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.” It was popularized by Carl Sagan and has become an accepted truth by the unscientific people who think they know science. I would fully grant that claims of something that isn’t currently accepted should require proof. But why should any claim require “extraordinary” proof? Either you can prove something is valid or you can’t. Period. So why do people want “extraordinary” proof? It’s because they have a predetermined belief system and most of them won’t ever challenge their belief system. They would rather use any trick possible to mock and block alternative beliefs than challenge their own limited thinking. By requiring more than just the proof of something, the chances of ever having to question their beliefs is eliminated. “Okay, you’ve proved that hairy little men exist in Borneo.* But can you prove they exist in Antarctica? Aha! I thought not. That proves they don’t exist at all.”
The concept that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof” is not about science.
It’s about defending a belief system.
At it’s core it is unscientific.
Those of you who have believed this in the past and are now sputtering in your coffee might now be asking how I could make this sacrilegious claim. My answer to you is found in the very expression itself. “Extraordinary claims” is an undefined expression. Who determines what claims are extraordinary? What makes a claim extraordinary? In the case of reincarnation, since billions of people believe it you could hardly say that the concept is extraordinary, but the pseudo-scientists do exactly that. It is extraordinary only in the sense that it doesn’t fit into their belief system.
Further, the expression “extraordinary proof” is also left undefined. This allows the pseudo-scientist to keep changing what is acceptable as extraordinary proof. Commonly called “moving the goal posts,” even if you prove something outside of the pseudo-scientist’s belief system, that person will come back and ask for more and more proofs until it is impossible to provide anything that would satisfy him or her. So proving reincarnation does not in any way require “extraordinary proof.” It just requires proof.
Real Science and the Kabalah
There is, however, a real scientific challenge for proving the validity of reincarnation. This is the challenge of repeatability. Testing for reincarnation can never be done in a laboratory. As a result, all examples provided to prove reincarnation are technically known as anecdotal, and many scientists won’t accept stories that imply reincarnation, no matter how many thousands of them are reported. To such scientists, reincarnation not only can never be proved as true or false, but see it as a belief and outside of the area of scientific study.
Another challenge is that pseudo-scientists tend to follow myths about reincarnation that fit into their own belief system. For example, they’ll ask, “Why does everyone who remembers a past life remember being someone famous, and only know about their past life what could be read in a history book?” I, personally, have helped several thousand people remember past lives using hypnotic past life regression. Not one has ever claimed to have been someone famous. Here, the facts get in the way of the pseudo-scientist. When I’ve met people claiming famous past lives it has always been a bolster to their vanity, ego, and need to feel self-important.
Another attack on reincarnation by pseudo-scientists is based on their own preconceptions. “Why don’t you know more about the time of your past life?” They have an idea of what you’re supposed to remember from your past life, and if you don’t remember it, that past life is a fake. This is called a “straw man” argument. They set up a false or “straw man” idea of what reincarnation should be, show that their fantasy doesn’t exist, and then denounce reincarnation as a fraud. In reality, it only proves that their straw man is a fraud.
The Kabalah easily explains the situation. As revealed in my Modern Magick, in the Kabalah we associate certain aspects of the mind to positions on the symbol called the Tree of Life:
You will note from the diagram that the memory, associated with the fourth sephirah (second from the top on the right column) is mortal. It dissipates and vanishes with physical death. Any memories, therefore, must be important enough to somehow get attached to the immortal aspects of self. You don’t get everything, just what in some way is extremely valuable.
To me, that’s why reincarnation is so meaningful. Not because it proves you lived in a previous life. Rather, because there is some important information your mind is presenting to you in the form of aspects of a previous life. To me, it doesn’t matter whether past lives are objectively real. What does matter is that the experience of past lives is very real and that experience can help you in your life today.
The Greatest Proof of Reincarnation?
But the fact that the objective reality of reincarnation and past lives isn’t as important as the personal discovery possible through the subjective experience of past lives doesn’t stop the pseudo-scientist. Remember, they require the mythic, undefined, and constantly changing “extraordinary proof.” Although the following is anecdotal, it may be the greatest example proving the objective reality of reincarnation that has ever appeared. Here is the story of Shanti Devi.
Shanti Devi was born in 1926 in a town in India known as Chirawala Mohulla. She barely spoke until she was four. She then started claiming she was a different girl and wanted to see her husband and children. She said that her husband owned a cloth shop in the town of Mathura and she called herself Chaubine, meaning “Chaube’s wife.”
Initially, her parents thought this was just a child’s fantasy. But she kept repeating her story, often adding things such as describing the type of clothes she wore and foods she ate. She described her husband, including three features: he was light-skinned, had a mole on his left cheek, and wore reading glasses. She described his cloth shop’s location as being across from a temple. She described how she died during childbirth.
After two years of this, her parents were worried. Their family physician was astounded at her description of complex surgical procedures that had been done to her in her other previous life.
Shanti Devi kept insisting that she be taken to Mathura. She wouldn’t mention her husband’s name (among some people in India wives do not say they names of their husbands), but insisted that she would recognize him. Eventually, a distant relative said that if she told him the man’s name, he’d take her to Mathura. She whispered in his ear, “Pandit Kedarnath Chaube.” He wrote a letter to Chaube, definitely a real person, sharing what Shanti Devi had claimed. Chaube replied, claiming that what she had said was true and suggested that she meet with a relative of his living near Shanti Devi.
At the meeting, she accurately recognized the man none of them had ever met before as her supposed husband’s cousin. She described to him details about her home with her husband, even where she had secretly buried some money. She also said that if she was taken to the railway station in Mathura, she could find her way to her house.
The cousin brought Kedarnath, Shanti Devi’s supposed husband in a previous life, to meet her on November 12, 1935. She was just nine years old. Trying to fool her, the cousin described the man he had brought as “her husband’s older brother.” Shanti Devi said, “No, he is not my husband’s brother. He is my husband himself.” Indeed, he had a light complexion, a wart on his left cheek, and used reading glasses. She went on to describe their home and even her husband’s favorite foods.
So who was she in a previous life? It appears that she was a girl name Lugdi, born in 1902. Lugdi was married at age 10 (child brides were common at that time) to none other than Kedarnath Chaube. Her first child was stillborn. Her second, a son, was born through Cesarean section on September 25, 1925. Unfortunately, as was frequently the case of young women at that time, complications set in. Lugdi died nine days later. Shanti Devi was born a few months after Lugdi’s death.
Kedarnath, after speaking for some time with Shanti Devi, became convinced that she was the reincarnation of Lugdi. There were many things she told him that only Lugdi could have known.
The story of Shanti Devi spread like wildfire all over India. Mahatma Gandhi became interested. He set up a committee of fifteen people, including national leaders, members of parliament, and members of the media. They finally took her to Mathura. She immediately recognized the real older brother of her supposed husband even though they had never met in this life. She gave directions to where she supposedly lived. As they drove, she described the way things had been when she had lived there, noting all of the changes. She was correct.
As they neared her supposed home she saw a man in the crowd and recognized him as her father-in-law. Again, she was correct. When they got to the house she immediately went to her bedroom. She told them where the bathroom was. She even correctly described the meaning of little “pet words” they had for certain foods.
But this wasn’t the only house she and her husband had lived at. She guided them to the previous home. She was confused, however because she remembered a well. It turned out to be hidden under a stone. She led them to the second floor and to the spot where she had hidden money. However, there was no money there. Kedarnath admitted that he had found and removed it after Lugdi died.
There are many other things that Shanti Devi remembered from her previous life, but that would take a book to describe. A critic of the story, a Swedish journalist named Â Sture LĂ¶nnerstrand, came from Sweden to expose her. He ended up writing, “This is the only fully explained and proven case of reincarnation there has been.” He ended up writing a book called I Have Lived Before.
Dr. Ian Stevenson (1918â€“2007), a professor of psychiatry at the University of Virginia and one of the foremost experts on reincarnation (he thought that reincarnation should combine with genetics and environment to help medical practice), stated that she made “at least 24 statements of her memories that matched the verified facts.”
While I have heard of other cases that are indicative of the objective reality of reincarnation, I know of none more complete than this. Still, I don’t worry about whether reincarnation is an objective fact. More important is what the experience of past lives can do for a person today.
Some Books to Help
If you’re interested in learning more about past livesâ€”both the potential of their objective reality and the value of the past life experienceâ€”here are some books that can assist you:
In The Case for Reincarnation, J. Allan Danelek presents an overview and all sides of the phenomenon. This is perhaps the most fair and objective analysis of past lives currently available. It’s a great book for people who are scientifically-minded or beginning to explore reincarnation.
The late Ted Andrews, one of the most popular Llewellyn authors, wrote How to Uncover Your Past Lives. In this practical book Ted describes a variety of ways to have past life experiences. More importantly, in my opinion, he reveals how to make changes in your life using these techniques. Danelek’s book is great for people looking for information about past lives. Andrew’s book is excellent for people who want to learn about and use their own past lives.
One of the challenges of having past life experiences is that techniques which will help one person have such experiences aren’t effective for other people. The more methods you know, the better. Andrew’s book provides several methods. Richard Webster’s Practical Guide to Past-Life Memories gives twelve more approaches. These two books are a great combination for people seeking expertise in this area.
Finally, Joe H. Slate and Carl Llewellyn Weschcke added a new wrinkle to this study. In Doors to Past Lives & Future Lives they show how to use self-hypnosis to experience both past lives and potential future lives. This way you can take what you learn from the past life experience and program it into your future, a very magickal way of discovering what you really need, making it an achievable goal, and using all of your resources to make it a reality. By the way, I also introduce the concept of working with your future in the 12th lesson of the current 3rd edition of Modern Magick.
*When early explorers in Borneo reported finding tribes of small, hairy “men,” many of the scientists of the day mocked them and said they didn’t exist. Eventually, one of these creatures, now called an “orangutan,” was produced, much to the dismay of the skeptics of the time.