Curt J. Ducasse

C. J. Ducasse

(1881-1969), French-born, highly respected Professor of Philosophy at Brown University. Awardee of the Carus Lectures prize (American Philosophical Association). Contributed to the "Journal Information for Philosophy and Phenomenological Research", "Causation", "Immortality" (Edited by Paul Edwards), "Philosophical Dimensions of Parapsychology" (edited by James M. O. Wheatley). Ex-student of Josiah Royce. Pursued a career in philosophy but retained a strong interest in logic - so much so that he took the initiative to create the Association for Symbolic Logic with its Journal of symbolic logic. Among his many important papers on survival are "How the Case of The Search for Bridey Murphy Stands Today" Journal of the ASPR 54: 3-22, and "What Would Constitute Conclusive Evidence of Survival After Death?" Journal of the SPR 41: 401-406. His books included "A Critical Examination of the Belief in Life After Death", "Paranormal Phenomena, Science and Life After Death" (Monograph), "A Philosophical Scrutiny of Religion", "Nature, Mind, And Death", "Truth, Knowledge and Causation", "Philosophy As a Science: Its Matter and Its Method" and "Philosophy of Art".

A Critical Examination of the Belief in a Life After Death - Part 5

Chapter 23: Verifications of Ostensible Memories of Earlier Lives

1. The rebirth of Katsugoro | 2. The rebirth of Alexandrina Samona | 3. The case of Shanti Devi | 4. The "Rosemary" case

Contents | Previous Chapter | Next Chapter

 - Curt J. Ducasse -

          THE BEST evidenced and most evidential case of "reincarnation" known to the present writer is that described in Chapter XVII, Section 4, which was reported by Dr. E. W. Stevens under the title of "The Watseka Wonder." But what it would illustrate is reincarnation only as conceived by the African Mandingos and by Dr. Wickland; that is, as invasion by a discarnate spirit of the body of a grown person whose own personality is thereby more or less completely displaced. Cases of this kind, when they are not explicable as simply dissociations of the personality whose body is concerned, would ordinarily be described as cases of "possession" or "obsession," rather than of reincarnation. For the term "reincarnation" is commonly intended to mean rebirth, in a neonate baby body, of a "spirit" or "soul" which has had earlier lives on earth.

Such claim as can be made that the cases which will now be cited constitute empirical evidence of reincarnation as conceived in the latter way rests not simply on the purported memories of the earlier life or lives, but on the allegation that some of the facts seemingly remembered have been subsequently verified but could not possibly have been learned in a normal manner by the person who has "memories" of them.

1. The rebirth of Katsugoro

This case is cited by Lafcadio Hearn in Chapter X of his Gleanings in Buddha Fields(1). He states at the outset that what he is presenting "is only the translation of an old Japanese document - or rather series of documents - very much signed and sealed, and dating back to the early part of the present [i.e., the 19th] century." The documents were in the library of Count Sasaki in Tokyo. A copy of them was made for Hearn, who made the translation. Reduced to essentials, the facts related in the documents are as follows:

(1) Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1897.

Katsugoro was a Japanese boy, born on the 10th day of the 10th month of 1815, son of Genzo, a farmer living in the village of Nakano Mura, and his wife Sei. One day, at about the age of seven, Katsugoro, while playing with his elder sister Fusa, asked her where she came from before her present birth. She thought the question foolish and asked him whether he could remember things that happened before he was born. He answered that he could; that he used to be the son of a man called Kyubei and his wife Shidzu, who lived in Hodokubo; and that his name was then Tozo. When later questioned by his grandmother, he said that until he was four years old he could remember everything, but had since forgotten a good deal; but he added that when he had been five years old Kyubei had died, and that a man named Hanshiro had then taken Kyubei's place in the household; that he himself had died of smallpox at the age of six, when his body was put in a jar and buried on a hill; that some old man then took him away and after a time brought him to Genzo's house, saying "Now you must be reborn, for it is three years since you died. You are to be reborn in this house." After entering the house, he stayed for three days in the kitchen; and he concluded: "Then I entered mother's honorable womb ... I remember that I was born without any pain at all!'

After relating all this, Katsugoro, asked to be taken to Hodokudo to visit the tomb of his former father, Kyubei. His grandmother Tsuya took him there and when they reached Hodokubo, he hurried ahead and, when he reached a certain dwelling, cried "This is the house" and ran in. His grandmother followed and, on inquiry, was told that the owner of the house was called Hanshiro; his wife, Shidzu; that she had had a son, Tozo, who had died thirteen years before at the age of six, his father having been Kyubei. Katsugoro, who was looking about during the conversation, pointed to a tobacco shop across the road, and to a tree, saying that they used not to be there. This was true, and convinced Hanshiro and his wife that Katsugoro had been Tozo, who had been born in 1805, and had died in 1810. (The year of birth of a Japanese child, Hearn states in a footnote, is counted as one year of his age.)

Evidently, Katsugoro's experience, as testified to in the affidavits translated by Hearn and summarized above, is radically different from that of Lurancy Vennum in the Watseka Wonder case. Nothing of the nature of obsession or possession appears in his case. His Katsugoro personality is at no time displaced or interfered with by that of Tozo, any more than is the personality of an adult "possessed" by the very different personality that was his in childhood, but which he remembers. The account presents Katsugoro as a normal boy, whose memories simply reached farther back than the time of his birth. Assuming the objective facts to have been as related in the affidavits translated by Hearn, the only explanation of them to suggest itself as alternative to reincarnation is that of paranormal retrocognition, by Katsugoro, of the various events and surroundings of the short life Tozo lived in another village some years before Katsugoro's birth, plus unconscious imaginative self-identification by Katsugoro with the retrocognized Tozo personality. This kind of explanation would require us to postulate in Katsugoro a capacity for retrocognitive clairvoyance far exceeding in scope any for the reality of which experimental evidence exists. And such postulation, if made at all, would undermine the empirical evidence not only for reincarnation, but equally of course for discarnate survival of the personality after death.

2. The rebirth of Alexandrina Samona

The next case is the well-attested one of the rebirth of Alexandrina Samona, which is peculiar in that, according to the accounts of the affair, it involved not only like that of Katsugoro memories of an earlier incarnation, but also and prominently the announcement by the girl's discarnate spirit that she was about to be reborn.

The facts were recorded at the time in the Italian periodical Filosofia della Scienza, and discussed subsequently there and in the French Journal du Magnetisme. The articles - the Italian ones, translated into French - and the attestations of the several persons who had first-hand knowledge of the facts, are reproduced in extenso together with photographs of the two girls, and discussed, in Dr. Charles Lancelin's book, La Vie Posthume.(2)

(2) Pub. Henri Durville, Paris, no date (about 1920) pp. 309-363. See also the briefer accounts of the case in Ralph Shirley's The Problem of Rebirth, occult Book Society London, no date. Ch. V; and A. de Rochas' Les Vies Successives, Chacornac, Paris 1911, pp. 338-45.

Alexandrina, aged five years, died in Palermo, Sicily, on March 15. 1910. She was the daughter of Dr. Carmelo Samona and his wife Adela. He recorded the facts and communicated them to the editor of the Italian Journal mentioned above. Three her mother dreamed that the days after Alexandrina's death, child appeared to her and said: "Mother, do not cry any more. I have not left you; I have only gone a little away. Look: I shall become little, like this" - showing her the likeness of a complete little embryo. Then she added: "You are therefore going to have to begin to suffer again on account of me." Three days later, the same dream occurred again.

A friend suggested to Mme. Samona that this meant Alexandrina would reincarnate in a baby she would have. The mother, however, disbelieved this - the more so because she had had an operation which it was thought would make it impossible for her to have any more children.

Some days later, at a moment when Mme. Samona was expressing bitterest grief to her husband over the loss of Alexandrina, three inexplicable sharp knocks were heard. The two of them then decided to hold family seances in the hope of obtaining typtological communications from discarnate spirits. From the very first seance, two purported such spirits manifested themselves: one, that of Alexandrina, and the other, that of an aunt of hers who had died years before. In this manner, Alexandrina's spirit testified that it was she herself who had appeared to her mother in the dream and who had later caused the three loud knocks; and she added that she would be reborn to her mother before Christmas, and that she would come with a twin sister. In the subsequent seances, she insisted again and again that this prediction be communicated to various relatives and friends of the family.

On November 22, 1910, Mme. Samona gave birth to twin daughters. One of them closely resembled Alexandrina, and was so named. The other was of a markedly different physical type and eventually proved to have a very different disposition - alert, active, restless and gregarious - whereas Alexandrina II, like Alexandrina I, was calm, neat, and content to play by herself. She had, like her namesake, hyperaemia of the left eye, seborrhea of the right ear, and noticeable facial asymmetry; and, also like her, was left-handed and enjoyed playing endlessly at folding, tidying, and arranging such clothing or linen as were at hand. She insisted, like Alexandrina I, that her hands should be always clean, and she shared the first Alexandrina's invincible repugnance to cheese.

When, at the age of ten, the twins were told of a projected excursion to Monreale where they had never been, Alexandrina asserted that her mother, in the company of "a lady who had horns," had taken her to Monreale before. She described the large statue on the roof of the church there and said they had met

with some little red priests in the town. Then Mme. Samona recalled that, some months before the death of the first Alexandrina, she had gone to Monreale with the child and with a lady who had disfiguring wens ("horns") on her forehead, and that they had seen a group of young Greek priests with blue robes ornamented with red.

Attestations were obtained by Dr. Samona from several of the persons who were personally acquainted with the facts - in particular, from his own sister; from his wife's uncle; from an Evangelical Pastor to whom Dr. Samona had related the prediction of the rebirth before it was fulfilled; and from a lady to whom, in March 1910, Mme. Samona had described the dream, and, in June, the seances announcing twins.

The comments relevant to this case are essentially the same as those made on the preceding one, and therefore need not be repeated.

3. The case of Shanti Devi

In 1936, a pamphlet was printed by the Baluja Press in Delhi, India, setting forth the results of an inquiry into the case of Shand Devi by Lala Desh bandhu Gupta (Managing Director of the Daily Tej,) Pandit Neki Ram Sharma (a leader in the Nationalist movement,) and Mr. Tara Chand Mathur (an Advocate.) The chief facts recorded in their statements are as follows.

They concern a girl, Kumari Shangti Devi, born October 12, 1926 in Delhi, daughter of B. Rang Bahadur Mathur. From the age of about four, she began to speak of a former life of hers in Muttra - a town about 100 miles from Delhi - saying that she was then a Choban by caste, that her husband was a cloth merchant, that her house was yellow, etc. Later, she told a grand-uncle of hers, Mr. Bishan Chand, that her husband's name in her previous life had been Pt. Kedar Nath Chaubey. The uncle mentioned this to Mr. Lala Kishan Chand, M.A., a retired Principal, who asked to meet the girl. She then gave him the address of "Kedar Nath," to whom he wrote. To his surprise, it turned out that Kedar Nath Chaubey actually existed; and, in his reply to the letter, he confirmed various of the details Shand Devi had given and suggested that a relative of his in Delhi, Pt. Kanji Mal, interview the girl. When he came to see her, she recognized him as a cousin of her former husband and gave convincing replies to questions of his concerning intimate details.

Pt. Kedar Nath Chaubey then, on November 13, 1935, came to Delhi with his present wife and his ten year old son by his former wife. Shanti Devi recognized Kedar Nath and was greatly moved, answering convincingly various questions asked by him about private matters of her former life as his wife, and mentioning that she had buried Rs. 150. in a certain room of her house in Muttra. After they left, she kept asking to be taken to Muttra, describing various features of the town. On November 24, 1935, she and her parents, and the three inquirers who author the pamphlet, went to Muttra. On the railway platform an elderly man in the group of people there paused for a moment in front of her, and she recognized him, saying that he was her "Jeth," i.e., the elder brother of her former husband.

The party then took a carriage, whose driver was instructed to follow whatever route the girl told him. She mentioned that the road to the station had not been asphalted when she lived in Muttra, and she pointed out various buildings which had not existed then. She led the party to the lane in which was a house she had formerly occupied. In the lane, she met and recognized an old Brahmin, whom she correctly identified as her father-in-law. She identified the old house, now rented to strangers. Two gentlemen of Muttra, who then joined the party, asked her where the "Jai-Zarur" of the house was - a local expression which the party from Delhi did not understand. She, however, understood it and pointed out the privy which, in Muttra, that term is used to designate.

After leaving the old house, and as she led the way to the newer one still occupied by Chaubey Kedar Nath, she recognized her former brother now twenty-five years old, and her uncle-in-law. At the house, she was asked to point out the well she had mentioned in Delhi. There is now no well in the courtyard there, but she pointed out the place where it had been. Kedar Nath then lifted the stone with which it had since been covered. She then led the way to the room she said she had formerly occupied, where she had buried the money. She pointed to the spot, which was then dug up, and, about a foot down, a receptacle for keeping valuables was found, but no money was in it. Kedar Nath Chaubey later disclosed that he had removed it after the death of his first wife, Lugdi, at the age of 23, on October 4, 1925, following the birth of her son on September 25. Later, Shanti Devi recognized her former father and mother in a crowd of over fifty persons.

The pamphlet reproduces also the confirmatory testimony of Kedar Nath's cousin in Delhi, Choubey Kenji Mal, including a statement of the questions he asked Shanti Devi when he interviewed her, and of her replies.

A number of Indian cases, similar in essentials to those of Shanti Devi and of Katsugoro, are described and the relevant attestations of witnesses quoted, in a booklet, Reincarnation, Verified Cases of Rebirth after Death, by Kr. Kekai Nandan Sahay, B.A., LL.B., Vakil High Court, Bareilly, India, no date (about 1927)(3).

(3) For a photostatic copy of this now rare booklet, the present writer is indebted to the kindness of Dr. Ian Stevenson, of the University of Virginia Medical School.

4. The "Rosemary" case

Another case, and one worth citing here at some length, is the "Rosemary" case. It is of interest for various reasons, but in this chapter in particular because the incarnation to which the purported memories would refer is not, as in the three described above, one which would have terminated only a few years before the beginning of the present life of the person concerned, but instead would date back some 3300 years. The case is reported by Dr. Frederic H. Wood in several books, the essential facts being as follows.(4)

(4) After Thirty Centuries, Rider & Co. London, 1935; Ancient Egypt Speaks, (in collaboration with A. J. Howard HuIme) Rider, London, 1937; This Egyptian Miracle, McKay Co. Philadelphia, 1940; 2nd. ed. revised, J. M. Watkins, London, 1955 (Titles abbreviated respectively ATC, AES, TEM.)

Shortly after the death of his brother in 1912, Dr. Wood's investigations of psychic phenomena convinced him that survival of the human personality after death is a fact. Eventually, as a result of a common interest in music, he became acquainted with the girl referred to in his books by the pseudonym, "Rosemary." Late in 1927, she spontaneously began to write automatically. She viewed this development with repugnance and distrust and, knowing as she did of Dr. Wood's interest-which she had not shared in psychic phenomena, she turned to him for light on the matter (ATC 19,20).

Her automatic scripts purported to emanate from the surviving spirit of a Quaker girl of Liverpool, who gave her name as Muriel. At a sitting in Oct. 1928, Muriel brought a new "spirit guide" to take her place, whom she introduced as "the Lady Nona" and described as "an Egyptian lady of long ago." Nona, in the course of the many sittings which followed, stated that she had been a Babylonian princess who had come to Egypt as consort of the Pharaoh Amenhotep III (ca. 1410-1375BC.); that is, some 3300 years ago.

Dr. Wood mentions that, on June 28, 1930, he had, remaining incognito, a seance with a London medium, Mrs. Mason, whose spirit guide, Maisie, described to him both Rosemary and Nona, saying that the latter gave the name of "Ona, Mona, or Nona." The description of her which Maisie gave agreed with that previously given by a "spirit guide" other than Nona, which occasionally manifested through Rosemary. Maisie also stated that Rosemary had been with Nona in Egypt, and that Nona's name there had been Telika.

On July 3, 1930, Nona confirmed both of these assertions through Rosemary's automatic writing. On December 5, 1931, Nona introduced the word "Ventiu," and later (June 6, 1935) explained that her name had been Telika-Ventiu, which means "The wise woman of an Asiatic race;" "Telika" having been her Babylonian name, and "Ventiu" a name given by the Egyptians to the Asiatic races generally. Dr. Wood surmises that she had first given the pseudonym "Nona" because at that time she wished to be "nameless"; and this because in those early days of her communications she could not be sure that her real name would come through correctly (TEM p. 46).

Dr. Wood mentions that a clay tablet found at Tell el-Amarna in 1887 is generally accepted as evidence that Amenhotep III had married a Babylonian princess(5). Her name, however, appears nowhere; so that, should a papyrus eventually be found giving it as Telika Vendu, this would be strongly confirmatory evidence. Nona, when she added the "Ventiu" insisted that it was or would be important as evidence (TEM 49-51, AES 37).

(5) Dr. Wood states in a letter that his authority for this was the late Shorter Assistant Keeper of the Egyptian Antiquities at the British Museum.

Nona states that she expresses herself by impressing her thoughts on Rosemary's mind, which then spontaneously formulates them in English either orally or in writing. But Nona, in the course of the many years' sittings, has given out orally some 5000 phrases and short sentences in old Egyptian language. In the case of these, Rosemary states that she "hears" the Egyptian words clairaudiently and repeats them aloud-this having first occurred on August 18, 1931 (TEM 171). As she utters them, Dr. Wood records them phonetically as well as he can in terms of the English alphabet. It is unfortunate that he was not then familiar with, and therefore did not use, the more adequate alphabet of the International Phonetic Association; but his recording was anyway good enough to enable an Egyptologist, Mr. Hulme, to identify with but a correction here and there, and to translate the first eight hundred of these thousands of Egyptian utterances, which constitute coherent communications manifesting purpose, intelligence, and responsiveness to the conversational situation of the moment. Dr. Wood, in order to qualify himself to meet certain criticisms by Prof. Battiscombe Gunn of Oxford University, then (1937) took up the study of scholastic Egyptian and eventually became able to translate himself the word sounds, which previously he could only record without understanding them.

In the course of the many years of sittings with Dr. Wood. Rosemary has developed ostensible memories, extensive and detailed, of a life of hers in Egypt as "Vola," a Syrian girl brought captive to Egypt, whom Nona befriended (AES Chs. VIII, IX.).

So much being now clear about the ostensible situation and process of communication in the Rosemary case, attention must next be directed to the fact in it which is of central interest in connection with the topic of the present chapter. That fact is Nolia's assertion that Rosemary was with her in Egypt, her name then having been Vola; so that Rosemary would be a reincarnation of Vola. Nona states further-although this is not essential to the point-that Vola was the daughter of a Syrian king killed in battle with the Egyptians; that she was brought to Egypt as a captive and given to Nona who liked and adopted her, and had her appointed a temple maiden in the temple of Amen Ra; and that the enemies of Amenhotep Ill, who were plotting to wrest the power from him and were afraid of Nona's influence on him, contrived an accident in which she and Vola drowned together.

In this complex affair the most arresting fact, which has to be somehow explained, is the utterance by Rosemary's lips of those thousands of phrases in a language of which she normally knows nothing, but concerning which Mr. Hulme, an Egyptologist, states that, in the eight hundred of them he had examined, the grammar and the consonants substantially and consistently conformed to what Egyptologists know today of the ancient Egyptian language.

The phrases as uttered supply vowel sounds, which are otherwise still unknown since the hieroglyphs represent only the consonants(6). There is today no way of either proving or disproving that these vowel sounds are really those of the ancient speech, although a presumption in favor of it arises from the consistency of their use throughout those thousands of phrases, and from the substantial correctness of the xenoglossy as regards grammar and consonants. But in any case, the Rosemary affair remains the most puzzling and yet the best attested instance of xenoglossy on record.

(6) Two exceptions to this are claimed by Dr. Wood; see TEM ist. ed. p. 93, 2nd. p. 95.

The present chapter, however, is concerned not with xenoglossy as such, but with verifications of ostensible memories of earlier lives. The questions relevant to this in the Rosemary case are therefore two. The first is whether Rosemary's ostensible memories of an earlier life in Egypt as Vola have been verified and are truly memories. And the second is whether the xenoglossy is explicable only, or most plausibly, on the supposition that Rosemary is a reincarnation of a girl, Vola, who supposedly lived in Egypt 3300 years ago.

The first question subdivides into: (a) whether the ostensible memories have been found to correspond to objective facts - as were the ostensible memories of Katsugoro, of Alexandrina, and of Shanti Devi; and if so, (b) whether there are sufficient reasons to believe that Rosemary cannot have come to know or guess those objective facts in some normal manner but have forgotten having done so.

As regards (a), a great deal of the detail supplied is not claimed to have been verified or to be verifiable, and hence, although dramatically impressive, is not evidence at all. This would apply for example, to a large part of the ostensible memory of sights seen on the market place at Thebes (AES 128); for instance, that of "a man with some dear little black and white baby goats to sell." Indeed, another of the putatively remembered sights there-that of camels with tents on their backs in which people travelled-constitutes a difficulty in the way of the memory hypothesis rather than a support of it. For, on the one hand, if scholars are right in maintaining that domesticated camels (as distinguished from camels as food animals) were not used in Egypt prior to the Persian conquest in 525 B.C.(7) then that sight of domesticated camels in the market place at Thebes during the reign of Amenhotep III would be anachronistic by some 900 years. And if, on the other hand, another statement by Rosemary, in rebuttal of the opinion of the scholars on this point, is accepted as correct, then her memory of camels being used as conveyances for persons in Thebes at that time must be incorrect, since her rebutting statement is that although there were camels in Egypt, "the Egyptians ... would not use them in their cities" because of their unpleasant habits and smells, but used them in the desert (TEM 177, italics mine).

(7) Their opinion apparently being based on the fact that camels are not mentioned in the hieroglyphic records until Persian times.

Another ostensible memory - recorded on Oct. 7, 1932 - contains descriptions of buildings, of steps, of a river in the distance, of boats, and of a temple with carved figures in front. Dr. Wood takes this to refer to Karnak, and - relevantly to sub-question (b) states that, at the time that memory was recorded, "the normal Rosemary had taken no special interest either in Thebes or Karnak. She had always refused to discuss or read about them" (AES 129). On an earlier page of AES, however, he described Rosemary as "a well-educated girl" (p. 25); and, as such, it is unlikely that she had never seen any of the numerous pictures or photographs of Egypt in history books and magazines.

Relevantly to sub-question (a), Dr. Wood further states that neither he nor Rosemary have visited Egypt, but intimates that the content of her memories is consistent with what he subsequently found in guide books and in a certain book of photographs. This, of course, is much less of a verification than was obtained in the three cases described in the earlier sections of this chapter. And, concerning the memories relating to Vola as a maiden serving in the Temple, which have to do with music and ritual and are of course very interesting in themselves, no objective verifications are offered.

It would seem, then, that much the larger part or perhaps all of the ostensible memories either lack clear-cut objective verification, or are susceptible of explanation otherwise than as genuine memories of an earlier life in Egypt.

Let us turn next to the second main question and ask what various explanations of the xenoglossy, of its vast extent, and of its substantial correctness of grammar and consonants, are conceivable; how plausible or the reverse each of them is; and what, if anything, the most plausible imply as to whether Rosemary is a reincarnation of Vola.

(1) What may be called the standard explanation of xenoglossy is that the person manifesting the phenomenon did at one time associate with someone who was in the habit of reciting aloud words and sentences in the foreign tongue concerned; that these sounds, although not understood by the hearer, registered on her subconscious mind as they would on the tape of a recorder; and that later, under the circumstances of the sitting, she reproduces some of them automatically. This explanation, mutatis mutandis, would apply to the xenography of the Argentine medium, Sra. Adela Albertelli, as reported by Sr. Jose Martin to the present writer in correspondence, and through articles in the periodical, La Conciencia.

Such an explanation, however, does not apply to the case of Rosemary, both because she never associated with or knew any scholar addicted to such recitations, and because the Egyptian phrases uttered by Rosemary - whether as being Nona's or Vola's - are not random ones but are shaped by the purpose of conveying specific information, and in many cases directly relate to questions or incidents occurring at the moment (TEM Chs. IX, X, Xl. Summary, p. 179).

(2) Concerning the hypothesis that all such correct facts about Egypt as Rosemary - whether as Nona or as Vola - relates, are obtained by her through present exercise of retrocognitive clairvoyance, all that need be said is that, even if this should be regarded as plausible so far as knowledge of those facts goes, it would anyway altogether fail to account for the conversational appositeness and responsiveness of the xenoglossy.

(3) A third possible explanation is that which Spiritualists would regard as the obvious one; namely, that Nona is indeed the surviving spirit of Telika, which uses Rosemary as medium.

This, however, would not entail that Rosemary is a reincarnation of Vola, but would leave the matter open. For the mere fact that something is asserted by a discarnate spirit does not automatically guarantee that it is a fact not a mere opinion. That is, the question how Nona knows that Rosemary is a reincarnation of a girl whom she knew in Egypt 3300 years ago is just as legitimate but unanswered as would be the question how I know, if I were to assert that the eighteen year old daughter of a friend of mine is a reincarnation of a woman I knew in New York 55 years ago, who died shortly thereafter. That Nona is discarnate at the time she makes the assertion, whereas I would be incarnate at the time I made mine, is irrelevant unless one assumes - gratuitously in the absence of independent evidence - that an ad hoc cognitive capacity is automatically conferred on a person's spirit by the mere fact of his body's dying.

Anyway, the hypothesis that Nona is the surviving spirit of Telika leaves with us the problem of accounting for such of Rosemary's ostensible memories of herself as Vola as perhaps correspond to objective facts known. That she is a reincarnation of Vola would be a possible explanation of this; but another, which Spiritualists generally would probably regard as more plausible, would be that the alleged memories are dramatic imaginations subconsciously constructed by Rosemary partly out of her years of acquaintance with the contents of her automatic speech and writing, partly out of what any well-educated person knows about Egypt, and partly out of telepathic borrowing from Nona's mind of appropriate items of information or of Egyptian words which the conversational situation at particular times calls for.

(4) Still another possibility would be that Nona is a dissociated part of Rosemary's personality. The fact Dr. Wood stresses (AES 103-5), that the Nona personality is of a type radically different from that of Rosemary, does not invalidate this hypothesis; for such marked difference is almost a normal feature of cases of dissociated personality. In the Beauchamp case reported by Dr. Morton Prince, for example, the contrast was sharp between the "Sally" personality and that of Miss Beauchamp; and so was that between the Eve Black and Eve White personalities in the recent case of The Three Faces of Eve, described by Drs. Thigpen and Cleckley(8).

(8) Pub. Secker & Warburg, London, 1957. And, the Beauchamp case, The Dissociation of a Personality, New York, Longmans Green, 1906.

But if Nona is a dissociated part of the personality of Rosemary, the xenoglossy remains to be accounted for; and the only supposition in sight which would seem capable of doing so is that of Rosemary's being a reincarnation of some person who lived in Egypt in ancient times, and of whom Nona, or Vola, or both were perhaps even then dissociations.

(5) Finally, of course, there is the possibility that the facts of the case really are just what they purport to be: That Nona is the spirit of Telika surviving discarnate; that Rosemary is a reincarnation of Vola; and that her ostensible Vola memories are - like the ordinary memories of all of us - in the main veridical though occasionally erroneous. This explanation is bound to appear the most likely to Dr. Wood and to Rosemary for the same reason which, when in the theater we watch a well-acted, vividly dramatic presentation of a scene in a play, makes us forget for the time being that it is a play. Dramatic verisimilitude tends to generate belief, and can make fiction more credible than truth. Yet the strange things which this pisteogenic power of dramatic verisimilitude may make credible are not therefore necessarily fiction. Even at the play, the fact may turn out to be that the villain's sword, by a fluke, really does pierce the hero's chest, that the latter is really dying, and that the play is after all not altogether a play!

What now, in the light of the whole preceding discussion, can we conclude as to the evidentiality of the Rosemary case for reincarnation? The answer would seem to be that, granting substantial accuracy to the identification and translation of anyway most of the thousands of Egyptian phrases of the Nona and the Vola personalities, then the fact that those phrases were uttered by Rosemary's vocal organs is explicable at all only on the assumption either that Nona is the surviving spirit of an Egyptian of an ancient period who now uses Rosemary as medium for expression, or that Rosemary is the reincarnation of the spirit of such a person, or both. But, in the absence of clear-cut verifications of the ostensible Vola memories by objective facts that Rosemary certainly could not have at some time learned or inferred in a normal manner, the account we have of the case does not provide strong evidence that Rosemary is a reincarnation of Vola, but only suggests and permits the supposition of it. The xenoglossy, however, does provide strong evidence that the capacity once possessed by some person to converse extensively, purposefully, intelligently, and intelligibly in the Egyptian language of three thousand years ago, or anyway in a language closely related to it, has survived by many centuries the death of that person's body(9).

(9) A considerable number of other cases of purported memories of anterior incarnations are cited and critically examined by Dr. Ian Stevenson in a paper which, at the date of the present writing, has not yet been published, but is scheduled to appear in two parts in the April and the June 1960 issues of the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research.

Contents | Previous Chapter | Next Chapter



Contents | Preface | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 | Chapter 16 | Chapter 17 | Chapter 18 | Chapter 19 | Chapter 20 | Chapter 21 | Chapter 22 | Chapter 23 | Chapter 24 | Chapter 25 | Chapter 26

Home | Intro | News | Investigators | Articles | Experiments | Photographs | Theory | Library | Info | Books | Contact | Campaigns | Glossary | Search


Some parts The International Survivalist Society 2004