Ian Stevenson

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"Ian Stevenson (1918-2007) was a psychiatrist who worked for the University of Virginia School of Medicine for 50 years. He was Chair of the Department of Psychiatry from 1957 to 1967, the Carlson Professor of Psychiatry from 1967 to 2001, and a Research Professor of Psychiatry from 2002 until his death. He was also the founder and Director of the University of Virginia's Division of Perceptual Studies investigating parapsychological phenomena such as reincarnation, near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences, after-death communications, deathbed visions, altered states of consciousness and psi. He became internationally recognized for his research into reincarnation by discovering evidence suggesting that memories and physical injuries can be transferred from one lifetime to another. He traveled extensively over a period of 40 years, investigating 3,000 cases of children around the world who recalled having past lives. His meticulous research presented evidence that such children had unusual abilities, illnesses, phobias and philias which could not be explained by the environment or heredity...

"Dr. Stevenson's reincarnation research began in 1960 when he learned of a case in Sri Lanka where a child reported remembering a past life. He thoroughly questioned the child and the child's parents, including the people whom the child recalled were his parents from his past life. This led to Dr. Stevenson's conviction that reincarnation was possibly a reality. That same year, Dr. Stevenson published two articles in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research about this child who remembered having a past life. The more such cases he discovered, the greater became his ambition to scientifically quantify the possibility of reincarnation - one of the world's greatest mysteries - which had been virtually ignored by science in the past.

"In 1982, Dr. Stevenson co-founded the Society for Scientific Exploration. He authored around 300 papers and 14 books on the subject of reincarnation. His 1966 book, "Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation," became a classic in the annals of reincarnation research. In 2003, Dr. Stevenson published his second book on reincarnation, "European Cases of the Reincarnation Type". In 1997 he published his major classic: the 2,268-page, two-volume book, "Reincarnation and Biology: A Contribution to the Etiology of Birthmarks and Birth Defects," which focused mostly on deformities and other anomalies children are born with which cannot be traced back to inheritance, prenatal or perinatal (created during birth) occurrences. This monumental classic contains hundreds of pictures presenting the evidence he discovered. It documents 200 cases of children having memories and birthmarks which corresponded with the lives and wounds of deceased people whom these children recalled as having lived in a past-life. In 1997, Dr. Stevenson published a condensed version of this book for the general public entitled, "Where Reincarnation and Biology Intersect." Dr. Stevenson's research into reincarnation also became the subject of two important works, "Old Souls: Compelling Evidence from Children Who Remember Past Lives" authored by Tom Shroder (a Washington Post journalist) and "Life Before Life: Children's Memories of Previous Lives" authored by Dr. Jim B. Tucker (www.jimbtucker.com) a psychiatrist at the University of Virginia. Many people, including skeptics and scholars, agree that the cases presented by Dr. Stevenson offer the best evidence yet for reincarnation." [1]


"He preferred the concepts of the unconscious mind developed by the likes of William James, Carl Jung, and Frederic Myers, which "allowed for unconscious mental processes to be the sources or the conduits of man's higher creative achievements (as well as some of his pathological aberrations); they allowed also for the experiences we call paranormal and even for a soul" (Stevenson 1989). One thing he agreed with the Freudians on was their "awareness of the importance of mental processes in human disease. This element is minimized or openly denied by most investigators in psychology, genetics, and neurobiology. For them mind is a byproduct of cerebral processes and free will an illusion" (Stevenson 1989). Stevenson's recurring self-portrait was that of a maverick bucking the mainstream.

"His interest in the paranormal derived from the influence of his mother, a devotee of theosophy. He was quite fond of the Society for Psychical Research, even though one of its early leaders, Richard Hodgson, had thoroughly debunked Madam Blavatsky, the creator of theosophy. (The Hodgson report has been disputed, but the facts of Blavatsky's deceptions remain.)..

"In 1957, he became head of the department of psychiatry at the University of Virginia (UVa) School of Medicine. In 1961, he began investigating past-life experiences (PLEs) and began collecting the first of some 2,500 stories, mostly coming from children, that he thought indicated memories of past lives. He left mainstream psychiatry in 1967 and established the Division of Personality Studies (now the Division of Perceptual Studies) at UVa. He retired in 2002, but not before logging in over a million miles to conduct his investigations.*

"In 1964, Chester F. Carlson (1906-1968), attorney, inventor of xerography, and a man with a strong interest in the paranormal gave UVa a million dollars to support paranormal research.*..

"It would be pointless to go through each of the 2,500 anecdotes collected and try to debunk, say, the top 100. Little would be gained by such an exercise. (For an example of a debunking of the case Stevenson thought was the best in his Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation, see Leonard Angel's deconstruction of the case of Imad Elawar.) " [2]

Also see Angel, Leonard. (1994). Empirical evidence for reincarnation? examining Stevenson's 'most impressive' case. Skeptical Inquirer. September.

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