"When I was your age, I used to change your diapers," said eighteen month old Sam Taylor to his father. Two years later, Sam correctly picked out his grandfather from a photo of his grammar school class of 27 children, shouting "That's me!" Sam's father believes his father has returned as his son to share the love he was unable to express in the former lifetime.

Jim B. Tucker, M.D., medical director of the Child and Family Psychiatric Clinic at the University of Virginia, oversees reincarnation research conducted through the Division of Perceptual Studies (DOPS), a unit of the Department of Psychiatric Medicine. In his book "Life Before Life: Children's Memories of Previous Lives," Dr. Tucker communicates to the layperson the scientific basis for the phenomenon. Accounts come from around the world in 2500 cases authenticated by research begun forty years ago by the late Dr. Ian Stevenson (October 31, 1918–February 8, 2007).

Results of the research has turned up several commonalities in past life reports:
• Children recognize family members or friends from the earlier life.
• Subjects provide accurate details of the way in which they died and of the funeral.
• On average, children are born 38 months after the death of the other person.
• Seventy percent of the deaths were sudden or violent.
• Children often have birthmarks corresponding to fatal wounds of the deceased.
• The family of origin is often from within the family or a nearby community.
• Reports come from every country in the world except Antarctica – where no researcher has inquired.
• An illness or one related to the death carries into the present lifetime.
• Children suffer a phobia toward the mode of death in the previous life and sometimes re-enact the death scene in play.
• Strength of the case does not depend on the parent's attitude toward reincarnation.
• The return satisfies a purpose – to care for a loved one or correct an injustice.
• Children rarely remember details beyond the age of six or seven.
• Few describe more than one life.
• Many demonstrate the same interests or occupation from the previous life.

The research is thorough and well-organized. Statements and facts are documented with scientific discernment. Situations that can not be verified by public records or testimony from family or friends of the deceased person are dismissed. Researchers quickly eliminate those eager for publicity or children prompted by parents.

Skeptics of reincarnation are quick to quip, "Why is that people always remember being Cleopatra or Napoleon?" In reality, that is not born out in the research. Past lives were spent in normal occupations, a policeman, an incense maker. More important is the relationship to the family or community: a father fulfilling his promise to always be there; a grandfather; a girl from a neighboring town.

Michael Levin of Forsyth Institute, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, considers Dr. Tucker's book and research crucial to our understanding of consciousness. Levin's review appears in the Journal of Scientific Exploration http://www.scientificexploration.org/journal/reviews/reviews_19_4_levin.pdf . Levin dashes my hopes of reincarnation as a move toward a better conscience, pointing out there are just as many villains in countries where reincarnation is a commonly-accepted fact. However, he believes the research presents scientific challenges to learn what of human cognition might reincarnate and how; a new understanding of the universe as a whole with a discussion of problems with conservation of mass/energy; quantum approaches; and embryogenesis of a human fetus – citing cases where children chose their parents of particular interest.

© copyright 2010 by Diana deRegnier