Thursday, 1 March 2007

Reincarnation vs. eternal return

Hi Anthony,

Let me take this opportunity to contribute a first post to your blog.

In my view, Ian Stevenson is one of the main psychical researchers of the last two centuries. I'm looking forward to the day he will be recognised as a scientific giant on a fairly general scale.

Now, what intrigues me is how his work could possibly be reconciled with your own theories? For instance, if I understand your theory rightly, the question what he will come back as, should be answered: as a baby called Ian Stevenson born in October 1918 in Montreal. Your theory and real reincarnation simply seem totally incompatible.

If I'm right about this, I wonder how you would explain Stevenson's better cases, including paranormal information, an emotional identification with the claimed past life, a paranormal skill, and birthmarks or birth defect. As I try to make clear in my SPR-lecture Past Life Interpretations: We need all of them , there are certain cases for which real reincarnation seems to be the best explanation. Do you agree? But if you do, would that not undermine your own theory?

Best wishes,

Titus Rivas

4 comments:

Anthony Peake said...

Hi Titus,

Sorry for the delay in coming back to your very challenging question. I suppose that my approach is rigidly scientific in that I try (not always succesfully) to keep my ideas and theories within the parameters of modern scientific knowledge. As such within these boundaries the transmigration of souls is simply impossible. This is not to say that it doesn't happen but simply within our knowledge of science - a science which in other areas keeps the Mir space station in orbit, planes in the air and the internet fuctioning correctly - is inexplicable. I have tried to put forward a theory - and it is only a theory - that fits within this scientific paradigm.

I have read a few of Dr. Stevenson's books and although absolutely fascinating I am left with the feeling that he is just a little too trusting of his respondees. I am always fascinated by the fact that in most cases of reincarnation it is a lower caste person who recalls the life of a higher caste. It rarely happens the other way. I have also read some of the critiques of Dr Stevenson's work which leads me to believe that what initially seems like a fantastic 'proof' of reincarnation seems to be less so.

This is not to say that I dismiss his work - far from it - but I feel that my role is to get the hard-nosed scientists on board and the only way I can do that is present evidence from science.

Does that make sense?

Regards

Tony

Titus Rivas said...

Well, Tony,

I understand your position but I'm afraid I do not agree with you. The critics of Stevenson's work are generally very unfair and simply ignore the important evidence he's collected.
Is it safe to say that your theory cannot be reconciled with reincarnation?

By the way, mainstream science also claims ESP, including in the sense you write about in your book, is simply impossible. So I don't know if this criterion can really be valid for your own approach.

Best wishes,

Titus

Anthony Peake said...

Hi Titus,

Thanks again for your comments.
Clearly we will not agree on the level of 'proof' that Ian Stevenson's work presents as regards the 'reality' of reincarnation. As I said I have read a few of his books and unlike you I am far from convinced as indeed are many others. I would like to make the following observations:

1. If reincarnation is really what happens to us after death then we should reasonably expect to find recurring patterns or rules as to what takes place. For example the amount of time between one life and another and also the distance consciousness may travel in order to become reincarnated into a new body. Now the interesting, and crucial, fact for me is that these are reported differently by Stevenson's subjects and are always consistant with the 'rules on reincanation' of their culture. For example the Jains contend that the soul reincarnates straight away, the Tlingit Indians of Alaska believe that they will reincarnate within the same family. Without exceptions the reports reflect the cultural beliefs. This leads me to conclude that this is more a cultural belief than a spiritual reality.

2. If you set down a singe column the social status and wealth of each child that claims reincarnation then place next to it a column showing the wealth and social status of the person of whom the claim to be a reincarnation you get a consistent pattern. Low status present life - high status previous life. I will give a few examples:
a. Prakash lives in a mud hut. Claimed he was the reincarnation of a person who came from a wealthy family of shopkeepers living in a brick house. b. Jasbir: Low-caste peasant family , was High-caste brahmin. c. Sukla, Railway worker,was a wealthy son of a rich family. Gopal Gupta, kept a petrol filling station , was a millionaire's son. This list could go on and on but I think the point is made. For me this is not proof of reincarnation but of motive. All I am doing here is applying the rules of evidence as applied in a court of law.

This does not mean that I reject Stevenson, far from it, but to say, as you do, that Stevenson's work somehow disproves mine is a little unfair. I can shoot holes in Stevenson's case in the same way that you are attempting to do with mine. However I still maintain that my theory is within the boundaries of modern scientific theory and knowledge, reincarnation is not. There is nothing in modern science that can explain how a 'soul' can disappear in one body then reappear in another located in a different place and time. That is not to say it cannot happen but science cannot explain it.

By the way, I am puzzled as to your comment regarding me using ESP to back up my theory. Where exactly in the book do I do this? As far as I am aware I never discuss ESP and as such my theory does not depend in any way upon it. I do discuss precognition which I explain as being a memory from a previous life-run. This is not ESP. As far as I am aware memory is a scientific fact.

I try to be as objective and as scientific as I can be. I have approached all my material and readings with a completely open mind. If I genuinely thought that reincarnation was a 'scientific fact' I would, of course, agree that my ideas fall down. As such I make a suggestion. If you can explain the process of reincarnation within any known, and experimentaly varified, scientific theory of matter/consciousness/neurology/cosmology/physics etc in the way that I attempt to do with my theory I will happily accept that my theory is flawed.

Best Wishes

Tony

Titus Rivas said...

Hi Tony,

We obviously disagree about the amount and quality of the evidence for reincarnation and its relation to established scientific theories. In my view, the evidence for reincarnation is evidence that goes against current theories, but for me this is not a problem because it simply means the evidence falsifies current theories in a scientific way. Falsifiability for many scholars is a good criterion for the scientific worth of a specific theory, so science should rejoice if attempts are made at falsifying its established theories, for example by evidence for reincarnation.
I fail to see the relevance of your own criteria in this respect.

I generally believe that Stevenson's evidence deserves more attention and cannot be dismissed just because it does not confirm tenets of mainstream science or even your own theory.

But anyway, let's concentrate on a phenomenon about which we do seem to agree: precognitive impressions. You state that you simply reduce precognition to memory (via the theory of eternal return) and that memory is already part of established science so that there would be no problem in reconciling precognition with mainstream insights.
However, I'm afraid this way of looking at it is not entirely fair, because memory in the everyday sense is accepted by normal psychology but precognition obviously is not! So there really remains a gap between your theory and mainstream science and you cannot use the existence of such a gap as an argument against reincarnation anymore, as it also concerns the status of your own theory.

Best wishes,

Titus