Life Before Life: A Scientific Investigation of Children's Memories of Previous Lives

Life Before Life: A Scientific Investigation of Children's Memories of Previous Lives

Dr. Jim B. Tucker
NY: St. Martin's Press, 2005. Hardcover, $23.95, 256 pages.

Dr. Tucker is a child psychiatrist connected with the University of Virginia Medical Center who, in addition to his professional duties, has taken over, from his colleague Dr. Ian Stevenson, the investigation of children who claim to remember their immediate past lives. Like Stevenson, Dr. Tucker has traveled to various countries to interview the children who tell of their previous life. In his book, he occasionally makes reference to some of the cases Stevenson published in his several books, but more importantly discusses details of his own investigation of new cases. Despite his caution in identifying these cases as merely suggestive of reincarnation, there is no doubt whatever that the children he interviewed remember their previous incarnation and are able to give details which only the previous personality could have known. There are also birthmarks and other physical marks on the "present personality" which relate to something that happened to the "previous personality" (to use Stevenson's cautious terminology). This furthers Stevenson's publication of such evidence in his two volume book Reincarnation and Biology: A Contribution to the Etiology of Birthmarks and Birth Defects, a copy of which is in the Olcott Library.

As Stevenson writes in his introduction to the book, Dr. Tucker "asks, almost requires" readers of this book "to reason along with him as he describes and discusses each objection to the idea of reincarnation." Stevenson did the same in his book Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation, pointing out the difficulties of each alternative hypothesis to account for the cases. In fact, for members of the TS, who already are predisposed to accept the idea of reincarnation, this caution seems quite unnecessary in light of the quantity of evidence.

Since I have read all of Stevenson's books—and have corresponded with him and have met and talked with him personally—I found Tucker's caution curious. The evidence for reincarnation is overwhelming, not only from Stevenson's and Tucker's careful investigations, but from several other books as well, some of which have been published by the Theosophical Publishing House. I suppose Tucker felt his caution necessary, since the opposition to the idea of reincarnation is so strong from materialist scientists and philosophers as well as fundamentalist Christians and Muslims. But those people are unlikely to read this book anyway. So it seems to me the caution is quite unnecessary.

TS members may want to read this book, but may also, as I did, find its caution curious—perhaps even irritating—in light of the evidence he presents. The book is well written, even if somewhat "clinical." And it is but one more support for the theosophical teaching about reincarnation.

Dr. Richard W. Brooks