C. J. Ducasse -
A Critical Examination of the Belief in a Life After Death
Verifications of Ostensible Memories of Earlier Lives
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.
Regressions to the Past Through Hypnosis
A FEW of the available cases of spontaneous apparent memory of an earlier life were cited in the preceding chapter. But various attempts also have been made to regress by appropriate commands the consciousness of a hypnotized subject to a time earlier than the birth or conception of his body. We shall now consider some of them.
1. An experiment in New York in 1906
In February 1906, in New York, the writer was present at two experiments in regression to the past through hypnosis. The subject was a young woman whose name he does not now remember, and he long ago has lost touch with the young physician, Dr. Morris Stark, who conducted the experiments. But the writer recorded in shorthand at the time the whole of both experiments and still has the typescript of his notes. The girl was familiar with the idea of reincarnation and understood that the experiment was to be an attempt to regress her consciousness to a time anterior to that of the birth or conception of her body. Besides the two sessions the writer recorded, there had been another at which he had not been present, but the seeming success of which had suggested the desirability of a shorthand record. The name, "Zoe," mentioned in the session of Feb. 25, had been obtained at that earlier session. The difference between the tone and the manner of the Zoe personality and those of either the Roman or the Egyptian personality was most impressive.
In the record of the two sessions there are hardly any items that would lend themselves to verification by objective facts and that yet could not plausibly be supposed to have been learned by the subject in a normal manner at some time and subsequently forgotten. Hence such correspondence as may obtain between the statements of the entranced subject and historical facts is hardly evidence of reincarnation or even of paranormal cognition. And the dramatic form and the contents of the subject's statements can most economically be credited to the mythopoeic faculty-stimulated on that occasion by the commands given under hypnosis - which at other times normally gives birth to novels and other works of fiction. The most economical interpretation, of course, is not necessarily the correct one; but, when no item of evidence rules it out, it is methodologically the safest. Accordingly, the record of those two sessions - which antedates not only the recent "Bridey Murphy" experiment but also the publication (in 1911) of De Rochas' Les Vies Successives in which he relates his own experiments in regression through hypnosis - is presented here essentially as an interesting concrete sample of the sort of material sometimes obtainable under deep hypnosis when the subject is instructed to go back in time to a life anterior to his present one.
The notes of those two sessions are as follows:
Q. Tell us what you see; where are you now?
A. It is very warm. I am walking out somewhere, the sun is hot, I don't know where I am. It is all growing dark.
Q. The picture will clear up in a minute.
A. The sky is very blue and the sun is very warm, it shines through my sleep. I am walking along the water. The water is very blue and the ships are in the water. I don't know what I am doing here.
Q. What is your name?
A. My name, I don't know. It is very beautiful, not a cloud in the air, there are beautiful trees and plants and a great many people.
Q. How are they dressed?
A. They wear loose, beautiful gowns, not like others I have seen. Their arms are bare, they are talking.
Q. What language?...
A. Who are you?
Q. I am a friend of yours.
A. The city is on hills, it hurts my eyes. I live over there. It is getting so warm. Had I not better go home? It is by the water.
Q. What is the name of the water?
A. It is some bay, I don't know the name. The city is in the distance. It might be a river, but I think it is too large for a river. There is a large building here, all open. There are a great many flowers and inside the floors are marble in blocks, some of them are of different colors.
Q. What year?
A. I don't know, I shall have to go and ask some one. There are little statues around. There are wings to the building, people sitting there are looking over the water. Steps lead from the wings to the ground. Back of the building there is some more water. There is a little bridge and you pass over the bridge to go home. It is an arch. I think there must be something very beautiful here; so many of the people have flowers in their hair. It is some feast. They are playing games. One side there is a sandy court. Men are running and jumping over a barrier. The others are looking and cheering. No women out there. I don't find any one I know.
Q. How are you dressed?
A. just like the others. I have a white robe of some kind, it is clasped on the arm by a gold clasp, a bracelet. My hair is tied up some way. Why did you not speak to me about that before? My hair is all puffed up some way behind. My arms are bare.
Q. What sort of material is your dress made of?
A. It is soft wool of some kind. It looks a little bit coarse, but is very soft ... It is not a feast, just a place where people come for pleasure. The men are doing something else now, jumping and running; they take off their robe when they run.
Q. Who is the emperor, what is his name?
A. I don't believe I know.
Q. Ask some one.
A. I shall see if I can find some one in the building. Is it not curious I don't know?
Q. What is your father's name?
A. He is dead.
Q. What was his name when he lived?
A. It sounds like a silly name, I only know one of his names, Prato, that was the name we called him in the house.
Q. How long has he been dead?
A. About 7 years.
Q. How old are you now?
A. Why, I think I am about 29, I must be because I live in the house over there, and it is my own house.
Q. Are you married?
Q. What is your husband's name?
A. I will think of it in a minute. They are waiting for me over the bridge. There is a man in the house; he is one of the slaves, I should not speak to him.
Q. What sort of a looking man is he?
A. An ordinary looking man from the mountains, they bring a great many. My husband brings several home every year.
Q. Is he black or white?
A. Oh, white.
Q. What is the name of the country from which he comes? A. I don't know. It is east somewhere from here. He does not come from the west. Of course he is darker than we are. The east, that is where the war is. My husband is a general, he is away from home.
Q. Do you know your husband's name now?
A. I can't think of his name.
Q. What is the reason you don't remember things?
A ... You stay with me won't you? Some time you seem to go away from me and then all grows dark.
Q. Who am I.
A. I don't know, just a voice. They are waiting for me, my litter is over the bridge. Don't you think it is beautiful on the bridge? It seems to be a road, a beautiful highway. Oh, I know the reason I could not tell you the emperor's name, we don't have one, we have ten.
Q. What are they called? Consuls?
A. They do not call them by that name. The people are very dissatisfied. Of course that is a secret, you must not tell that, you are just a voice. They are talking of a war against the Government. There is one of the most wicked ones, his name is Appius, there is a great deal of talk about his crimes, he does as he pleases. He overrides the authority of the generals over the army.
Q. Do you know who Christ was?
A. No, who was he?
Q. What is your religion?
A. We have many Gods.
Q. Have you temples or churches?
A. Each God has a temple, shrines in the houses. We have household Gods. The road is paved up, then we go into the city; there are four slaves. I like black slaves. We go through the streets. You are coming with me are you not? I know all the streets' there are shops and temples and houses. We go through the principal part of the city and come to some beautiful houses. Many of my friends live there. I have one of these houses. Will you come in? The house is very beautiful. You cannot go with me now, because I am going up to my rooms, and you will have to stay here.
Q. Where do you get the black slaves from?
A. From across the sea to the south, we pay more for them than for the others.
Q. How much do you pay?
A. I never buy the slaves. I think my husband said he paid for those who carry my litter 1000.
Q. 1000 what? What is the name of the money?
A. Sesterces. I am tired. I am going to have my hair dressed. My husband is away to the war, I have not thought of his name yet.
Q. What day of the week is this?
A. About the 5th day.
Q. What is the name of that day?
A. I don't know. I can't tell, I have forgotten so many things. That poet is coming in, Marcus, with his silly flowers in his hair. He is coming to bore me now. I want to talk to you. He comes afternoons and reads odes to me. He is harmless. 1 think he is very lazy. I don't care for his poetry.
Q. Getting suspicious of you, knowing the name of the poet and not that of your husband.
A. He is away so much ... I am going to have my hair dressed. Wait for me. (She shakes and moves her head) ... Here I am; I had to wait, I have so much hair; it is blue black, it comes almost to my knees. The girls dress it.
Q. White girls?
A. Yes, I would not have those Nubians dress my hair. My hair dresser is a very pretty girl. My husband bought her for me. I like her very much.
Q. What is her name?
A. I think it is Ena. I have four girls; one has the care of my jewels, another has my robes and Ena dresses my hair. She is the only one that does not pull it. She puts the filets (P) in it. I think four is a nice number. You can get on with four very comfortably. Now that I am dressed, we will go out where the flowers are. We will sit out there, there is a fountain. Everything is very pretty I take so much pleasure sitting here, except when Marcus comes. The sun is very warm, let us sit a little out of the sun. I have never been ill.
Q. How long have you been married?
A. About five years. (A pillow is put behind her.) Why did you not let one of the girls do that? It does not seem as though I was married very much. I have no children. I have a very good time in every way. Life is a very beautiful thing.
Q. Do you remember your husband's name now?
A. I don't seem to be very much interested in my husband. I don't want to ask any one my husband's name.
Q. Ask Marcus whether he has ever written any ode to your husband.
A. He says that he does not write odes to Flavius.
Q. Do you ever hear from him, do you get letters?
A. One of the soldiers comes, from Sextilius; that is my name that is his name too. What do you care about names? ... just look at him, look at him, look at his lovelorn face! Who takes Marcus seriously?
Q. What does your diet consist of? What do you have when you arise in the morning?
A. We have fruit, pomegranates and honey and cakes of barley. We eat fish. We have different meats. A great deal of some kinds of fowls.
Q. What is the name of those fowls?
A. I don't believe I know. At the feast we have, oh, so many things. Flavius never gives a feast; he does not like to attend. He only goes because he must go. I love to go; there is music, flowers, wine, fragrant wine, very sweet. They have grapes in this country and the wines are sweet and very good. We have fowls of different kinds. They serve them with all the plumage on. They put them inside the skin after they are cooked. The table looks beautiful. Flavius is much older than I am.
Q. What are these birds served on?
A. Gold and silver dishes of different workmanship ... One of the ten is Appius Claudius. The Government was not always with these ten, formerly we had one ruler; now there are ten.
Q. How do the ten dress?
A. In purple.
Q. What do they carry?
A. They have a sign of their office, it is a short ... with a ... tip. Appius rides through the streets in his litter. He controls the others. You must not tell any one what I say, my husband would be very angry.
Q. What is the name of your country? Italy?
A. They don't call it that way, the name is something else
I had better send Marcus home, he can go and sing odes to some one else. Put the pillows around me. I will go to sleep; you will not mind if I go to sleep? I am so tired. I don't know why. There are clouds; where are you ... You have taken me somewhere else. You are taking me across the water, we are going south (she laughs) I did not know I could come so quickly. (She looks sideways and laughs.)
Q. What is the matter?
A. I am not dressed well, that is why I laugh. You should not be here.
Q. What is your name?
A. I am Ula.
Q. Ula what?
A. I forget what name ... Ula Desthenes. You should not be in here. I should not talk to you, where are you?
Q. I am simply a voice.
A. No one is allowed there but we of the temple.
Q. What is the name of the temple?
A. I don't know.
Q. What does it look like?
A. It is not white, it is a different color, red and blue and different colors, and the main color is a sort of a yellowish. It is higher than the other parts of the city. We never go outside. You should not be here.
Q. How old are you?
Q. What is your religion?
A. We worship our mother. She is the mother of everything, everything in the world, the Great Mother. We attend to the temple.
Q. Tell me your duties.
A. We must deck the altars with flowers, we serve at the ceremonies.
Q. Describe the ceremonies.
A. There are priests who officiate at those ceremonies, but we never see them at other times. They wear beautiful robes, incrusted with jewels. On the back is the sun in jewels. We all wear a gold circlet on the head. My robe is white. The priests wear circlets, but not like ours, more like the sun. I don't know everything. The priests come here at the ceremonies and we help them, and we have flowers and something that we bum. It must be some kind of incense. There is chanting and the people are outside, they cannot come where we are. They look on from the distance at the ceremonies. While I have been here a long time, I have not tended the temple long. My father and mother are dead. I have always been here ... We must never ask questions, we are told.
Q. Who teaches?
A. One of the older ones, an old priestess.
Q. What name is given to you, what are you called?
A. I don't know, the other ones are called priestesses, but we are not, we are just maidens, we serve.
Q. Are you married?
A. Oh no, never. How can you speak of such a thing. I am afraid to speak of such a thing in the temple. They tell us that we would incur the wrath of our Mother, we might die.
Q. What becomes of you when you die?
A. We go to the underworld, and we go through so many places in the underworld! There seem to be dangers; it is not pleasant, but we have to go there, everybody. Then we are told that we go somewhere else after the underworld.
Q. How long do you stay in the underworld?
A. There are two places, we don't stay very long in the first underworld, only so long that we are not afraid any more. There seem to be seven grades of dangers that we must pass; it is more like trials, something you must pass through. You go down to the underworld, and then you are taken by some God who leads you. If you pass through them all with brave courage in your heart ... You have something to take with you to help you, something you are given, either a word you can repeat, or something, and if you remember that, you can pass. When you reach the seventh gate, according to the way you passed, you are very happy and you dream in happiness, or else you are very miserable, it depends upon the seven gates and how you passed.
Q. What do they give you when you die?
A. I know what it is, something to hang around your neck, some sort of a charm and they make it in the temple, a word or some words in a case, written in a little piece of parchment and hung around the neck of the dead, and no one dies without that, so that they may pass the gates of the underworld. There is a name for the first underworld, it is Amenta.
Q. After you pass through the underworld and the other place, what becomes of you?
A. You may come back. They tell me that one must be very good or one comes back as a very evil person.
Q. Do you come back in the forms of animals?
A. I think they tell me one does if one is wicked.
Q. What animals are there?
A. There are cats. Some are painted in the temple. They do not mean cats, it is some God. There are tall birds with long red bills. They stand motionless all day in the reeds. I am not so tired here.
Q. What do the buildings look like?
A. Flat, with soft colors. There are a great many people in the streets. I can see them all from the windows here. I can see the river.
Q. What is the name of the river? Is it Nile?
A. That sounds like it. It is a sacred river, a beautiful river.
Q. How long ago is this, what year?
A. I don't know how to say what year.
Q. What day of the month?
A. I don't know what you mean.
Q. How do you designate time?
A. Why, there are men who count time from the stars, but I don't understand about it; from the stars and the moon. It is very warm.
Q. Have you change of seasons?
A. Summer all the year round. Are you not afraid they will find you?
Q. They cannot see me. Is it not strange to you to hear a voice?
A. Strange things happen in the temple, the gods speak, we are forbidden to tell. They can make the dead speak.
Q. By what means?
A. They have a good deal of magic. I never see those things, there are some secret ceremonies where the priests are and there is that by which the dead can be made to speak, or they say so, I don't know.
Q. Do you believe it?
A. Yes, I have seen some very wonderful things. They bring the dead to the temple, a dead king or some great person. There is a place, not where our Mother is. This is a great place divided into a separate temple. The temple of our Mother is connected with the other by an underground passage. They bring the dead man there and lay him so that he is very near the gods in the inner shrine. They lay him there by the gods, and in the night they come, the priests, and they walk around in a circle and sing something, a chant that it is forbidden to hear. One of the older priestesses told me this, that is strange, something that no man may hear. They draw a circle with a sacred wand; the temple is very dark, there are no lights in it. They go inside the circle so that those outside may not hurt them, the dead, or something that might hurt them. Then they chant. I am told that upon the dead man comes a flame, a tongue of flame, from the gods, and then they may ask the dead man if he has a burden on his mind to prevent him from passing on. This is only when people die suddenly, when the people are not old but die suddenly in battle before they have had time to say parting words. After this flame comes, the dead man speaks, they say he does, and they remember what he says, and after they have recorded it so that they can give his message, they say "be gone" and he goes. They must remain a long time in the circle, because those outside will hurt them. The next day the dead man may be embalmed. Before that, he cannot go, he would remain chained. That is why they have this ceremony. This is never told outside the temple, those in the street don't know. It is a secret. Something dreadful would happen; I don't know of any secret ceremony, one of the priestesses told me ... There are big flat boats when the kings go out.
Q. What is the name of your King?
A. Why, we call him Ra. They are building his temple in the desert over there, the slaves work there all the time. I am very tired.
Q. How do the people travel?
A. They almost always walk; they wear different colored robes, drapery. They don't wear very much. They have carts in the streets with bullocks. The soldiers ride horses.
Q. Do they have any locomotives?
A. They don't have any locomotives (shakes her head) what are those things? You seem to be always behind me Ra is the sun. Potas is a God of the underworld.
Q. How are you dressed?
A. I have a white robe, very rich. We have different robes, jewels on our arms, anklets. We have something on our feet and sometimes walk barefooted.
Q. Is your King's name Rameses?
A. Yes, that is why I said Ra.
Q. Has he any other name?
A. There was a Rameses before this one, he has a great many names, ceremonial names, I cannot remember now.
Q. Do you ever see the Mother?
A. (She motions yes)
Q. What is her name?
A. Isis ... I am very tired ... (She awakes)
FEBRUARY 25, 1906.
Q. Zoe, Zoe, how do you do? Good morning, how are you?
A. I can't see, who called me by that name? It is long since any one called me that, it was Zoe. Where do you come from? You speak a dead tongue... something ... it is confused. Those were happy days in the streets. I have been called nothing for so long.
Q. What country is this?
A. A warm country. Zoe, it is good to hear the name again. The wife of Dedro.
Q. How old are you now?
A. That I forget. I am too old to be alive. Everything is gone, nothing remains but sorrow and hunger; I have had a hard life. Do you remember Metha, years ago, she used to tell me tales. She was a good old crone. Did you know me when I was young? Do you see my wrinkles? Oh, what a change (she shakes her head). I was not bad to look at, was I? My eyes were bright, and I laughed in the street. I was often hungry.
Q. How old were you when you were married?
A. I was very young. Dedro is dead, my children are all gone; I had twelve children, all gone. An old woman sits alone in the sun and thinks, thinks. It is very little profit.
Q. What religion do you follow?
A. Oh, there is a religion, but I know very little about it. The lords govern this realm, the highest one represents the God ... You gave me something, you gave me a gold coin, the only one I ever had.
Q. Was I alone?
A. No, you rode in some sort of a cart, and there were horses, you drove through the streets. I kept it, I never spent it, though many a day I went hungry, and then Dedro came, and he had something, some little saved, he had some business. I had better take Dedro, so they said, so I married Dedro.
Q. Do you remember the marriage ceremony?
A. We have none, what do they care about us? He comes, he takes us and that is all. He often beat me, yes. There is nothing to tell, just a hard, bitter life... It is very warm, the buildings have flat roofs. Mountains way off. You can see the snow in the distance. The plain stretches in sand for miles.
Q. What is the name of the city you live in?
A. It begins with S. I think I can tell you in a few minutes. It is like Saraban, but that is not it. Some great man built the city, I don't know his name.
Q. What is the color of the skin of the people?
A. Pale, no color, rather yellow, but clear. Their eyes are set like mine, slantwise. Our hair is dark. My curls, that was something unusual.
Q. Have you heard of Shinto? What is your god?
A. The god is the sun. We have a temple built up high in the city, the city is built tier after tier. In the temple dwells the Lord, and in the higher temple dwell the priests of the sun. There are many other gods, but the sun is the Lord of all.
Q. What is his name?
A. The Sun God. We know nothing of the temple, they rule the country with a rule of iron, they are oppressors.
Q. What becomes of you when you die?
A. We go to an underworld, we meet our ancestors. If we have revered them, if we have fulfilled our duties, we are passed through happily, if we have not, some fate overtakes us, some punishment. If we fulfill our duties we go to some happy place after the underworld, where we meet them again. I know nothing more.
Q. Do you ever come back to this earth?
A. No, not that I know.
Q. What animals do you use?
A. The camels carry things. There are also little shaggy horses. They don't look like any horses ... Who are you? Why do you ask me this question?
Q. What is your age, 70, 80?
A. As old as that, 86 I think.
Q. Can you tell the names of some of your children?
A. There were eight girls and four boys. Two boys died. Sina is the youngest, a girl; how hard it is to remember. And Boro, he was my eldest.
Q. Go to sleep; clouds, back, back, back, back. The clouds are going up, what do you see?
A. I don't know where I am. It is dark. The sun is shining now.
Q. What are you, a man or a woman?
(She looks herself over several times.)
A. Why of course, I am a woman.
Q. What do you see?
A. A room I am sitting in, on the floor.
Q. Are there any chairs around? Do you know what chairs are?
A. Whatever they are, there are not any here. I am sitting on a rug. There are cushions.
Q. How are you dressed?
(She looks herself over)
A. Why, I am not very much dressed. (She looks inside her hand, at her arm, etc.) How did I come to be brown? My hand is brown. My arm is bare and covered with bands of some description and a sort of a gauzy shirt and anklets, and that is all.
Q. What is your name?
A. My name is Rella.
Q. Is it a Turkish rug you are sitting on?
A. I don't know what a Turkish rug is. It is very warm. My features are oval, dark eyes, dark brown hair. I dance, there are some others here.
Q. How old are you?
A. I am very young, 16, Rella the dancer.
Q. Are you married?
A. No. I live at a court. There is some monarch, but not a very great monarch, there are others as great as he, and I live here at the Court of Naobas.
Q. Ever heard of Turkey, Persia, China, japan, Hindustan, Arabia, India?
A. No, India is more like it. We live in the North of our country.
Q. What is your religion?
A. We have a God, the Lord Ganga; he is in the other world.
Q. What becomes of you when you die?
A. We go on to other worlds, there are many ... There is a palace and a great pleasure garden, the pleasure garden slopes down to the river.
2. De Rochas' hypnotic attempts to bring back consciousness of earlier lives
In a book, Les Vies Successives, (Paris, 191 L) Colonel Albert de Rochas (1837-1914) describes experiments, most of them made by himself, with some nineteen persons in whom what he calls "magnetic" sleep was induced, and whose consciousness was then apparently regressed to various ages down to the time of birth, then to intra-uterine life, then purportedly to life as discarnate spirit, and then, still farther back, to one or more earlier lives. Also, prima facie progressions of consciousness to ages future to the hypnotized subject's age, and even to future incarnations.
In these experiments, age regressions were induced by means of longitudinal passes, and age progressions by means of transverse passes. But an incident in one of the experiments led De Rochas to remark that, "apparently the mode of magnetization, that is, the direction of the passes, has no great importance" (p. 80, note). He does, however, hold to the idea of a magnetic fluid and of the efficacy upon it of the passes; also to the existence on the subject's body of areas, e.g., the wrists, on which pressure has conjugate hypnogenic and hypnopompic effects; and of a point (the forehead at the root of the nose,) the pressing upon which has mnemonic effects. He seems to overlook or underestimate the fact that such pressings and passes constitute modes of suggestion, and appears to assume that only verbal suggestion is suggestion at all.
In the sixth experiment with the first of the subjects on his list, Laurent, in 1893, De Rochas hit accidentally upon the possibility of regressing the subject's personality to earlier life (p. 57); but it was not until eleven years later (1904) that, having regressed an 18 year old girl, Josephine, to the time of her birth, the idea occurred to him to continue the longitudinal passes (p. 67). This brought forth purported consciousness of the intra-uterine period and of a discarnate period preceding conception. De Rochas says that further deepening of the trance then resulted in manifestation of a personality whose nature at first puzzled him - that of a man who "would not say who he was, nor where he was. He replied in gruff tones, with a man's voice" (p. 68). Eventually, however, this personality declared himself to be Jean-Claude Bourdon, born in 1812 in the village of Champvent, district of Polliat, where he died at 70. He gave various details of his life, but subsequent inquiry turned up no evidence that such a man had lived in Polliat at the time stated.
This experiment was what led De Rochas to subsequent attempts to regress the consciousness of his subjects to earlier lives. Deepening Josephine's trance while the Bourdon personality was manifest brought out the personality of a wicked old woman, who said that she was born Philomene Charpigny in 1702, that she had married a man named Carteron in 1732 at Chevroux; and that her grandfather, Pierre Machon, lived at Ozan. De Rochas states in a footnote that families by the names of Charpigny and Carteron did exist at Ozan and at Chevroux, but that he found no positive trace of Philomene herself (p. 74 n). Additional deepening of the trance brought out that, in anterior lives, she had been a girl who had died in infancy; before that a bandit who robbed and killed. Then came the shamefaced avowal that, in a life anterior to that bandit incarnation, she had been a big ape!
The attempts to progress Josephine to later ages in her present life brought out various episodes. Those relating to dates near enough to admit of verification - for example, foreseen employment as a salesgirl in the Galeries Modernes at Grenoble - did not come to pass. When progressed to the age of 32, i.e., to 1918, she sees herself back at Manziat where her mother lives. There she is seduced by a young farmer, and has a child who eventually dies. De Rochas then progresses her to the age of nearly seventy when she dies; purportedly then reincarnating first as a girl, Elise, who dies when three years old; and then as Marie, daughter of a man by the name of Edmond Baudin, who runs a shoe store at Saint-Germain-du-Mont-d' Or, and whose wife's name is Rosalie. When progressed to the age of sixteen in that life she says the year is 1970. This means that her birth as Marie would have occurred in 1954.
It would of course be interesting to inquire now at that place whether such a child was in fact born there in or about 1954 to parents of that name and occupation; also, of course whether in her life as Josephine she was indeed seduced in 1918 at Manziat and had a child there. De Rochas gives the seducer's name only as Eugene R, stating in a footnote (p. 78) that he had made inquiries which revealed that a man of that name, born in 1885, son of well-to-do farmers who were neighbors of Josephine's mother, was actually living there in 1911, and that he and Josephine, being of the same age had made their first communion together.
The non-fulfillment of the "Galeries Modernes" episode, however, makes all the more improbable that the later ones of the Josephine life, and of the reincarnation as Marie, have turned out to be veridical. But if hypnotic progression in 1904 to rebirth as Marie Baudin in 1954 should turn out to be corroborated by existence now of such a girl at the place named, this, so far as it went, would lend some weight to the hypothesis that the purported regressions to earlier lives are really this.
De Rochas declares that, by means of passes, one certainly can regress the subject to earlier ages of his present life: "It is not memories that one awakens; what one evokes are the successive stages of the personality" (p. 497). He also declares certain "that in continuing these magnetic operations beyond birth and without need of recourse to suggestions, one makes the subject go through analogous stages corresponding to preceding incarnations and to intervals between them" (p. 497). He adds, however, that "these revelations, when it has been possible to test their veridicality, have not in general corresponded to the facts" (p. 498). In case No. 8, where ten earlier lives are described by the entranced subject, numerous anachronisms occur. And in cases nos. 10, 11, 13, where details susceptible to verification were mentioned, the attempt subsequently made to corroborate them failed to do so. Thus, although the idea of reincarnation evidently appeals to De Rochas - and certain peculiar features of some of his experiments, to which he points, suggest it - he is on the whole far from fully convinced that the regressions under hypnosis which he relates really are regressions to earlier lives of the persons concerned.
In the absence of definite verification of the details they relate, the most plausible explanation of the facts appears to be that they are effects of suggestion and/or of stimulation of the mythopoeic imagination in the trance state. One feature of De Rochas' cases, which also points to this explanation, is that in almost all of them the purported earlier lives of those French subjects are likewise lives as French men or women; which, of course, especially for persons of simple minds, and who had never read much or travelled abroad, would be the psychologically easiest and most natural kinds of earlier lives to imagine.
3. The "life readings" of Edgar Cayce
A few words may be added concerning the accounts, purportedly of earlier incarnations of many persons, given by the late Edgar Cayce while in a state of trance. Cayce, who died in 1945, was a farm boy, born in Kentucky in 1877, who had only a grade school education and was a persistent Bible reader. He did not care for farm work and eventually became a photographer's apprentice. It was accidentally discovered that, while in hypnotic trance, he had the capacity to diagnose, and to prescribe often successful treatment for, the illnesses of persons who desired him to do this; and to do it even when the person was far away, provided the latter's name and the place where he was at the moment were given to Cayce. In the course of time Cayce, who had become able to put himself into the state of trance, gave many thousands of such "health" readings. After some years, however, it was found, again accidentally, that while in the trance he could also give what came to be know as "life readings." These purported to report one or more earlier lives on earth of the person concerned, the name he or she had borne then, and the actions or experiences in those past lives which had as remote consequences in the present life certain features of body, mind, or character, and certain special abilities. Although in these readings the persons concerned were generally entire strangers to Cayce and far away at the time, his delineations of their present personality and vocational capacities was often surprisingly accurate. Dr. Gina Cerminara, a psychologist who made a study of the records of these readings, states that obscure historical details mentioned in the accounts of earlier lives of some of the persons who had "life readings" - including "the names of obscure former personalities ... in the locality" have been verified by looking up historical record(1). But, in the absence of citation of specific cases where details of an earlier life were given - as in the cases of Katsugoro, of Alexandrina Samona, and of Shanti Devi - and where careful verification of those details was made and is on record, the mere statement that such verification has been made does not constitute for us empirical evidence that the Cayce "life readings" really describe past incarnations of the persons concerned. And, although correct delineation of the present character and abilities of strangers at a distance would require clairvoyance of a high order, such delineation in itself has no relevance to the matter of rebirth.
(1) Many Mansions, New York, Wm. Sloane Associates, 1950, p. 301.
Under these circumstances, the chief importance of the Cayce "life readings" in connection with the question as to the reality of reincarnation is the suggestion it affords that the hypnotic trance may be a means of bringing back in certain persons memories of presently verifiable details of earlier lives of their own; and possibly a means of arousing in exceptional individuals retrocognition of the lives of deceased persons, such as Cayce's "life readings" purportedly constituted, but with presently verifiable details(2).
(2) In 1943, the present writer had a "life reading" of himself done by Cayce. According to it, in his preceding incarnation, his name had been jean de Larquen, and he had come to America from France as an intelligence officer associated with Lafayette. Such inquiries as he has been able to make have brought no evidence either in the United States or in France that any one ever bore that name.
The Case of "The Search for Bridey Murphy"
THE WIDELY discussed recent book, The Search for Bridey Murphy(1), sets forth the six attempts made by its author, Mr. Morey Bernstein, between November 29, 1952 and August 29, 1953, to regress the consciousness of a deeply hypnotized subject, "Ruth Mills Simmons" (pseudonym for Virginia Burns Tighe) to a life earlier than her present one; and to obtain from her concerning that life details that would be verifiable but that could not have become known to her in any normal manner.
(1) Doubleday & Co. Garden City, N.Y. January 1956; Pocket Books, Inc. edition, with a new chapter by Wm. J. Barker, New York, June 1956.
The experiment appeared to be notably successful, and verification was obtained of a number of the obscure details about Ireland which the entranced subject furnished. This, and the conversational form - reproduced verbatim in the book - in which those intrinsically drab details were supplied by her gave to the idea of reincarnation a concreteness which made it more plausible to many of the readers of the book than had such references to it as they had met with before. And this in turn opened their eyes to the fact that reincarnation, if true, could furnish a rational explanation for the great disparities - otherwise so shocking to the human sense of justice - which obtain from birth between the endowments and the fortunes of different individuals.
In consequence, the book became a best seller almost immediately after publication. The idea of reincarnation, however, runs counter both to the religious beliefs prevalent today in the West, and to certain assumptions which, although really gratuitous, are at present commonly made in Western scientific circles. Hence the sudden emergence of the reincarnation hypothesis into public attention quickly moved the protagonists both of religious and of scientific orthodoxy to impassioned attacks on the book.
These sociological aspects of the Bridey Murphy case give it exceptional interest even aside from such evidence for reincarnation as it may be thought to provide. They furnish eloquent footnotes to what was said in earlier chapters concerning the psychology of belief and of disbelief both in scientists who approach the "enchanted boundary" of the paranormal, and in custodians of institutionally vested religious dogmas. For these reasons, and because the case is still fresh in the minds of many today, it will be worth while to devote the whole of the present chapter to a review and discussion of the Bridey Murphy affair.
1. The hypnotist and author, and his subject
The author of the book, Morey Bernstein, is a Colorado businessman who received his bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania. His studies there apparently did not include a course in abnormal psychology, for it was not until later that-after unexpectedly witnessing a private demonstration of hypnotism-his prior disbelief in the reality of hypnosis gave way. He then proceeded to study the literature of the subject and to experiment with hypnotism. At the time of the first of the "Bridey Murphy" sessions in 1952, he had had some ten years of experience with hypnotism, had hypnotized hundreds of persons and, in many of these experiments had regressed his subjects to various ages of their childhood. Thus although the later attacks on the book have insistently termed Bernstein an "amateur" hypnotist, he is so in the sense that he has made no charges for services he has rendered as a hypnotist; not in the sense of lacking practical experience or of being but casually acquainted with the standard literature of the field. For as regards these two desiderata, he is doubtless better equipped than were a number of the dentists and physicians in the seminars he attended, who because of their professional degrees, received at the end a certificate of competence to use hypnotism in their practice
An acquaintance of Bernstein's, familiar with the idea of reincarnation, eventually brought it to his attention; and he then learned that attempts, prima facie successful, had been made by some hypnotists to regress their entranced subjects to times earlier than their birth or conception. This led him to undertake a similar experiment on one of his subjects, Virginia Tighe - the "Ruth Simmons" of his eventual book.
Virginia is a young married woman, born April 27, 1923, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George Burns, who lived in Madison, Wis. Their marriage did not endure and, shortly after Virginia's third birthday, her father's sister, Mrs. Myrtle Grung, took her to Chicago to live with her and her Norwegian husband. There Virginia grew up a normal girl, went through grade and high schools, and eventually attended Northwestern University for a year and a half. At the age of 20, she married a young Army Air Corps man who died in the war a year later. Some time after, in Denver, she married her present husband, businessman Hugh Brian Tighe. They have three children. In Pueblo, Colorado, where they have lived for some years, she and her husband became casually acquainted with Mr. and Mrs. Bernstein.
When Bernstein decided to attempt regressing the consciousness of a hypnotized subject to an earlier life, it occurred to him that the chances of success would be greatest in a subject capable of the state of deep, somnambulistic hypnosis. He then remembered that, some time before he had had any idea that regression to an earlier life might be possible, he had hypnotized Mrs. Tighe twice and that she had readily attained that deep hypnotic state. This, and the fact that she knew nothing of his then recent interest in reincarnation, led him to wish to have her as subject for the regression experiments. Although such leisure as she and her husband had was much occupied with other interests, they eventually consented. The six sessions which are the basis of the book were then held at intervals during the course of the next few months, and were tape-recorded.
2. Emergence of "Bridey Murphy" during Virginia's trance
Although neither Virginia nor Bernstein had ever visited Ireland, as soon as she had in deep hypnosis been regressed first to the years of her childhood, and then instructed to go farther back to times anterior to her present life, and to report what scenes she perceived, she began to describe episodes of a life in which she was Bridey (Bridget) Kathleen Murphy, an Irish girl born in Cork in 1798, daughter of a Protestant Cork barrister, Duncan Murphy, and his wife Kathleen. She said she had attended a school run by a Mrs. Strayne and had a brother named Duncan Blaine Murphy, who eventually married Mrs. Strayne's daughter Aimee. She had had another brother who had died while still a baby. At the age of 20, Bridey was married in a Protestant ceremony to a Catholic, Brian Joseph McCarthy, son of a Cork barrister. Brian and Bridey moved to Belfast where he had attended school and where, Bridey said, he eventually taught law at the Queen's University. A second marriage ceremony was performed in Belfast by a Catholic priest, Father John Joseph Gorman, of St. Theresa's church. They had no children. She lived to the age of sixty-six and was - to use her own expression - "ditched", i.e., buried, in Belfast in 1864. Many of her other statements referred to things which it seemed highly improbable that Virginia could have come to know in any normal manner, but which might possibly be verified or disproved. And the "search" for Bridey Murphy is the search that was made for facts or records that would do one or the other.
3. The chief documents of the Bridey Murphy controversy
No attempt will be made in what follows to review all the special points on which debate has focused in the Bridey Murphy controversy. But the chief of the documents which together constitute the history of the case, and on which are based the conclusions that will be offered, must be listed. For convenience of reference, a symbol will be assigned to each, made up from initials in the title of the corresponding document.
SSBM. The first published account of the Bridey Murphy regression experiments appeared Sept. 12, 19, and 26, 1954 in Empire - the Sunday magazine section of the Denver Post - in three articles entitled "The Strange Search for Bridey Murphy" written by Wm. J. Barker, of the Denver Post staff.
MAB. This was followed by "More About Bridey," in Empire for Dec. 5, 1954.
TSBM. The next document is the book itself, The Search for Bridey Murphy, by Bernstein, published in January 1956 by Doubleday & Co. The last chapter of it gives an account of the results up to that time of the search which the book's editor had instituted through an Irish law firm and various librarians and investigators. Then the Chicago Daily News, which was publishing a syndicated version of the book, instructed its London man, Ernie Hill, to go to Ireland for three days and look for additional verifications from Cork to Belfast. In view, however, of the extent of territory to be covered and of the brief time allowed, this assignment could hardly turn out other than, as it actually did, virtually fruitless.
TABM. Next, the editor of the Denver Post sent Wm. J. Barker to Ireland for three weeks on a similar assignment. What he found and failed to find was objectively reported in a twelve page supplement to the Denver Post for March 11, 1956, entitled "The Truth about Bridey Murphy."
FABI. Then Life for March 19, 1956, published an article in two parts, one of which was entitled "Here are facts about Bridey that reporters found in Ireland." This part was stated to have been compiled from the reports of W. J. Barker, Ernie Hill, and Life's own correspondent Ruth Lynam.
OSAB. The second part of the Life article was entitled "Here are opinions of scientists about Bridey's 'reincarnation.'" It gave an account of views of two psychiatrists, Drs. J. Schneck and L. Wolberg, concerning the case.
SACA. The next document consists of a series of articles published in May and June 1956 by the Chicago American and reproduced in other Hearst papers (the San Francisco Examiner, the New York Journal American,) purporting to show that Virginia's supposed memories of a life as Bridey Murphy in Ireland really were subconsciously preserved memories of her childhood in Madison, Wis. and in Chicago, and of stories about Ireland with which, one of the articles claimed, she had been "regaled" by an aunt of hers who was "Irish as the lakes of Killarney." Another of the Chicago American articles had it that the real Bridey Murphy had been found and was a Mrs. Bridie Murphy Corkell, whose house in Chicago was across the street from one of those in which Virginia had lived.
CNCU. Then the Denver Post, on June 17, 1956, published an article by a member of its staff, Robert Byers, captioned "Chicago Newspaper Charges Unproved," and commenting critically on the allegations of the Chicago American series of articles.
BSE. Next, on June 25, 1956, Life published a short article, "Bridie Search Ends at Last," summarizing the Chicago American's contentions and printing a photograph of Mrs. Corkell with her grandchildren.
CFBI. Also in June 1956, Pocket Books, Inc. published the paper back edition of The Search for Bridey Murphy, in which a new chapter, "The Case for Bridey in Ireland," by Wm. J. Barker, was added. In it, he gives an effective presentation of the chief conclusions which, notwithstanding various allegations, appear valid in the light of the results of the investigations made by himself and others; and he adds that "Bridey's 'autobiography' stands up fantastically well in the light of such hard-to-obtain facts as I did accumulate" (p. 271).
SRSBM. In the spring of 1956 a book, A Scientific Report on "The Search for Bridey Murphy," edited by Dr. M. V. Kline and containing a chapter each by him and by Drs. Bowers, Marcuse, Raginsky, and Shapiro, and an Introduction by Dr. Rosen, was published in New York by the Julian Press.
HBCL. In October 1956, the Denver Post published in six instalments an interview of Virginia in Pueblo by W. J. Barker, entitled "How Bridey Changed my Life," in which she comments on various of the allegations about her that had been published.
In addition to the articles cited above, numerous others concerning the case, by psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, and other members of the professions appeared in a number of periodicals.
TM. For example, the summer 1956 issue of Tomorrow magazine contained several.
AW. The case furnished occasion also for a series of articles in the March to December 1956 issues of the monthly theosophical periodical, Ancient Wisdom - some dealing with reincarnation itself, and others pointing out the weak spots in the Chicago American series.
RIS. In a review of SRSBM in the January 1957 issue of the journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, Dr. Ian Stevenson, Head of the Department of Neurology and Psychiatry, University of Virginia School of Medicine, expresses disappointment with the book and states a number of reasons for this.
4. The Bridey statements that have not so far been verified
No verification has yet been obtained that a barrister named Duncan Murphy and his wife Kathleen lived in Cork in 1798 and in that year had a daughter, Bridget Kathleen; nor that a Bridget Kathleen Murphy married in Cork a Catholic called Sean Brian McCarthy; nor that she died in 1864 in Belfast; nor that there was in Belfast in her days a St. Theresa's church; nor that it had a priest named John Joseph Gorman who, as Bridey states, performed a second marriage ceremony there.
That no traces of her birth, marriage, or death have been found, however, is not surprising since, aside from some church records, vital statistics in Ireland do not go back beyond 1864. Indeed, that any traces of her or of her people should be found would be the more surprising if an impression is correct, which Bernstein gained early and which the reader may test for himself from the recorded conversations between Bridey and Bernstein - the impression, namely, that her references to her father and to her husband as "barristers" were partly attempts to upgrade her family socially, and partly stemmed from the fact that she had only a vague idea of what their occupations actually were outside the home, or of what a Barrister really was. She states at one place that her father was a "cropper," i.e., a farmer; and she names correctly what crops were raised there at the time. He may well have had also a part-time clerical job, perhaps in a law office. And as regards her husband, Barker, at the end of his chapter in the paper back edition of the book, declares his conviction that Sean (John) Brian M'Carthy was not a barrister but a bookkeeper, who kept books for several of the business houses in Belfast and perhaps also for Queens' College. This would be supported by the fact that, in the 1858-9 Belfast Directory, one John M'Carthy, clerk, is listed; and that, in the 1861-2 Directory, he is listed as a bookkeeper. (CFBI p. 287-8)
5. Examples of the Bridey statements that have been verified
The statements of the Bridey personality, on the other hand, that have been verified notwithstanding (in the case of some of them) expert opinion that they could not be correct, are effectively presented with references to the verificatory findings in the chapter Wm. Barker contributed to the paper-back edition of the book. They constitute, as the title of his chapter indicates, The Case for Bridey in Ireland. In order to invalidate it, what would be necessary would be to show that Virginia learned those recondite facts about Ireland of a century ago in a normal manner in the United States. The attempts of the Chicago American to show this have patently failed. The most they could be held to have shown would be that some of Virginia's statements, not those which constitute the case for Bridey in Ireland, are perhaps traceable to experiences of Virginia's childhood in Chicago.
In order to outline all the essential facts, the allegations that they have been explained in an orthodox manner, and the refutations of those allegations, far more space would be required than is available here. But a few samples will make evident the lack of real basis for the belief - now widespread as a result of the wishful attacks of orthodoxy on Bernstein's book - that every puzzling feature of the case for Bridey Murphy in Ireland has now been explained away in a satisfying orthodox manner.
Bridey mentions the names of two Belfast grocers from whom she bought foodstuffs - Farr's and John Carrigan. After considerable search by the Belfast Chief Librarian, John Bebbington, and his staff, these two grocers were found listed in a Belfast city directory for 1865-66 which had been in preparation at the time Bridey died in 1864. Moreover, Barker reports, they were "the only individuals of those names engaged in the 'foodstuffs' business," there at the time. Bridey stated also that in her days a big rope company and a tobacco house were in operation in Belfast; and this has been found to be correct. (CFBI, 271, 284) She also mentioned a house that sold "ladies things," Cadenns, of which no trace has been found. Directories, however, listed individuals rather than business houses, and the proprietor of Cadenn's house might not have been himself named Cadenn.
Even more impressive than the verification of Farr's and of John Carrigan, however, is the fact that a number of Bridey's statements which according to experts on Ireland were irreconcilable with known facts were shown by further investigation not to be really so. One example would be the following.
The very first of the utterances ascribed to Bridey on the tape of the first session is that (as of age four, i.e., 1802) she had scratched the paint off all her bed, that "it was a metal bed," and that she got an awful spanking. Life (in FABI) states that "iron bedsteads were not introduced into Ireland until at least 1850." Dr. E. J. Dingwall, however, states that "they were being advertised by the Hive Iron Works in Cork in January 1830 ... Mallett's portable iron bedsteads were often used in Ireland at about that date, although it is somewhat doubtful whether they were at all common about 1802" (TM, p. 11). And the Encyclopedia Britannica (1950 edition), states that "iron beds appear in the 18th century." So Bridey could, in 1802, have had an iron bed in Cork.
But however this may be, attention must now be called to the fact that in the published transcript of the tape recording (TSBM p. 112) Bridey does not speak of an iron bed at all but of a metal bed; and to the recently noticed fact that a careful rehearing of the tape seems to show that the word (which like many others uttered by Virginia in trance is not clearly articulated) was not "metal" but "little," i.e., "little bed."
This is made the more probable by the fact that hardly anybody - least of all a child of four - would ordinarily speak of a metal bed, but rather - as all commentators on the episode have indeed done spontaneously - of an iron bed; or as the case might be, of a brass bed.
One of the Chicago American's articles claims that the aunt who brought up Virginia in Chicago remembered such a bed-scratching and spanking incident in Chicago when Virginia was six or seven; and that Virginia remembered it and laughed about it with her aunt when, a dozen years later, she was given a bedroom suite as a birthday present.
Virginia, on the other hand, told Robert Byers (CNCU) that she recalls no such incident, and most especially that she never recalled it to a relative when, at the age of eighteen, she was presented with a new bedroom set. Worth bearing in mind in connection with statements alleged to have been made by relatives of hers (unnamed by the newspaper) is Virginia's statement to Barker (HBCL, part I) that "both Hugh's and my relatives in Chicago are very much opposed to the whole Bridey phenomenon on religious grounds." This would easily open the door to wishful thinking unawares on their part.
Aside from this, however, it should be noticed that the statement about the bed-scratching and spanking episode is the very first which Virginia, supposedly as Bridey, makes; and that it comes immediately after those which Virginia, as regressed to her own childhood, had made. It is therefore possible that the memory of the incident did belong to her own childhood, rather than to that of the girl who, when asked for her name immediately afterwards, gave it as Bridey.
But in any case, it has not been shown that there were no metal beds in Cork in 1802, but at most that they were probably not common there at that time. Hence, - even if Bridey said "metal," not "little" - it has not been shown that she cannot really be remembering a metal bed in Cork in 1802.
Let us turn next to the fact, of which much has been made, that in view of the scarcity of wood in Ireland, Bridey's house in Cork could hardly have been a wooden house.
According to the published transcript of the first session, Bridey, when asked what kind of house she lives in, answers: "it's a nice house... it's a wood house ... white... has two floors." But here again, a careful rehearing of the tape appears to show that the word Bridey uttered was not "wood," but "good": a nice house.... a good house...;" and this is the more probable because one would not ordinarily speak of a "wood" house, but - as Life spontaneously does in its comment - of a wooden house or, today, of a frame house.
Again, immediately after quoting the passage quoted above, the Life article adds: "and was called 'The Meadows.'" But reference to the passage where "the Meadows" are first mentioned (in the second tape) shows that Bridey did not say the house was called "The Meadows." The question asked her is "What was the address in Cork?" and her answer is: "That was ... the Meadows ... just the Meadows" (TSBM 140; Pocket Books ed. 159). Also, in the third tape, she is asked: "What were the Meadows in Cork?" and she answers: "There's ... where I lived" (TSBM 160; Pocket Books ed. 183). Moreover, the Denver Post article (TABM) reproduces on its p. 9 a section of an 1801 map of Cork showing an area named Mardike Meadows, where some halfdozen houses are indicated.
So Bridey's statements about her house in Cork have not been shown to clash with known facts. On the contrary, her statements turned out to be compatible with what research in Ireland showed the facts in Cork really to have been.
We now pass to Bridey's statement that her husband taught law at the Queen's University in Belfast some time after 1847. Life attacks it, not on the ground suggested by Barker that Brian McCarthy was probably not a lawyer after all, but on the ground that there was no law school there at the time, no Queen's College until 1849, and no Queen's University until 1908.
This, however, is an error; for the facts are that on December 19, 1845, Queen Victoria ordained that "there shall and may be erected ... one College for students in Arts, Law, Physic ... which shall be called Queen's College, Belfast" (CFBI 278). At the same time, she founded colleges at Cork and Galway. Then, on August 15, 1850, she founded "the Queen's University in Ireland," directing "that the said Queen's Colleges shall be, and ... are hereby constituted Colleges of our said University" (CFBI 279). So here again Bridey's statement is consistent with the facts, and the allegation that it is not rests on an error concerning the facts.
Again, Bridey spoke of ... tiny little sacks of rice. which were snapped on an elastic band on the leg: "It is a sign of purity" (TSBM, 199; Pocket Books ed. 231). Life's "Folklore Expert" Richard Hayward is quoted as saying: "Nonsense! Rice has never been a part of the folk tradition in Ireland. Corn, oats or potatoes, yes, for centuries. But rice, never!"
Rice, however, was imported into Ireland about 1750. Doubtless, it took some years for it to become widely known there. And it takes some more years for a "tradition" to develop out of ideas that happen to arise spontaneously in a number of individuals. Rice, being white, would naturally suggest purity to some of its early users. How it eventually came to symbolize fertility is less obvious. But anyway, what is relevant to the question whether Bridey's statement can represent a genuine memory of an earlier life in Ireland is not whether rice has ever been a part of the folk tradition in Ireland; but only whether the whiteness of that until then unknown grain is likely to have struck some of its early consumers and to have caused them to think of it as symbolizing purity - as white orange blossoms are today used to signify a bride's purity, i.e., virginity. To this question, it is highly probable that the answer is Yes. Indeed, rice, as a symbol of purity, may well have been imagined to aid a girl in preserving purity if worn by her in little bags on the leg, as today medals symbolizing holy beings are given children to wear as an aid to them in conducting themselves as their religion expects them to do.
Again, the word Bridey uses to refer to interment of the bodies of the dead is not "burying" but "ditching." Life is of course right when it states that "ditch" does not correctly mean "bury." Yet Life itself mentions that "ditching" was used to designate the mass burials of the many who died during the potato famine of 1845-47. So there can be little doubt that, as Professor Seamus Kavanaugh of University College, Cork, has suggested, a good many persons came to use "ditch" colloquially to mean "bury." Similarly, "croak" does not correctly mean "die;" yet today "to croak- is sometimes slangily used among us to mean to die."
Again, Bridey said that "tup" meant a rounder; and she used a linen" to mean a handkerchief. Life states that "Scholar Hayward... laughed at tup, linen ... as being any sort of Gaelic." But where Hayward got the idea that Bridey, or Bernstein, claimed that "linen" is a Gaelic word is a complete mystery. Bridey mentions "a linen" at all only when, having sneezed during the fourth session, she said "Could I have a linen? ... I need a linen." And Professor Kavanaugh endorsed this use of the word as, in Bridey's days, referring to a handkerchief.
As regards "tup," it is quite true as a matter of linguistics that the word is not Gaelic. It is a Middle English word of unknown origin, which properly means a male sheep but also has slang meanings. Bridey mentions "tup" when asked by Bernstein for some Gaelic words. But Bridey is no linguistician, and reference to p. 156 of TSBM makes evident that, for her, "Gaelic" means essentially the language the peasants use. Associating as these did with persons who spoke English, some words of this language, such as "tup," doubtless got into the peasants' vocabulary; and Barker states that Professor Kavanaugh indeed found the word in one of his dictionaries in the sense Bridey gave for it (CFBI, p. 281).
Again, Bridey used the word "lough" to designate rivers as well as lakes (TSBM, pp. 136-7). And Life - apparently on Expert Hayward's authority - states that "Lough simply does not mean 'river' but 'lake.'" Yet Murray's English Dictionary - which presumably is at least as authoritative as Mr. Hayward - gives "low" as an obsolete variant of "lough" and meaning "a lake, loch, river, water" (Vol. VI, p. 271).
Again, Barker states (CFBI p. 280) that, notwithstanding Hayward's statement that "no Irishman would refer to another as an Orange but always as Orangeman or Orangewoman, - he (Barker) "can recall no one in Ireland questioning the slang term Orange as a synonym for 'Orangewoman.'"
Of Bridey's mention that she read, or that her mother read to her from, a book on the sorrows of Deirdre, Life's would-be invalidation consists of a statement that according to The English Catalogue - said to be "a complete list of books published between 1800 and the present" - the first appearance of Deirdre's name in a title is in Synge's play The Sorrows of Deirdre published in 1905. But Barker cites to the contrary "a cheap paper-back published in 1808 by Bolton, entitled The Song of Deirdre and the Death of the Sons of Usnach" (CFBI p. 278). So here again Bridey's statement turns out to be consistent with the facts notwithstanding that Virginia Tighe had no normal way of knowing that such a paper-back had existed nor any interest in the question; whereas Life, which had such an interest, and whose possible sources of information were surely as ample as Barker's, overlooked that 1808 paper-back.
An additional statement made by Bridey is that in her days one of the coins in use was a tuppence. This is correct; but very few persons know that such a coin was in use in Ireland only between the years 1797 and 1850.
Barker's chapter mentions a number of additional obscure facts testified to in Bridey's tape-recorded statements, which some persons presumably expert in matters of Irish history disputed, but which subsequent investigation turned out likewise to corroborate. Those cited above, however, will suffice to make evident not only that reputed experts are not omniscient, but also that the allegations of critics of disturbing ideas need to be scrutinized with quite as much care as must the assertions of proponents of those ideas. For, as repeatedly has been pointed out in earlier chapters, the temptations to wishful thinking and to emotionally biassed conclusions are even greater on the side of the entrenched religious orthodoxy of the time and place concerned, or on the side of the vested "scientific commonsense of the epoch," than on the side of the protagonists of prima facie paradoxical views.
At all events, the items Barker's investigation brought out, about which Bridey was right and the experts were wrong, constitute the central feature of the Bridey Murphy affair so far as concerns the question in view in Parts IV and V of the present work - the question, namely, whether any empirical evidence is available that the human mind survives after death, whether in some discarnate state or in the form of reincarnation. For the evidence, so far as it goes, which the Bridey Murphy case furnishes for survival consists essentially of the fact that those obscure items were correctly supplied by the lips of Virginia in trance, and of the fact that it is hard even to imagine how she could have come to know in a normal manner about the Ireland of over a century ago details so numerous and so uninteresting in themselves - details, moreover, the confirmation of which by researchers in Ireland was so laborious that the wonder is not that some of them have so far eluded verification, but much rather that it has been possible to verify so many of them.
6. The allegation that the true Bridey statements are traceable to forgotten events of Virginia's childhood
We may now consider briefly the allegation that the Chicago American's articles brought out facts which explain away Virginia's utterances in the character of Bridey Murphy as being simply revivals and dramatizations under hypnosis of buried memories of her own childhood and youth in Madison and Chicago.
Barker's "The Truth about Bridey Murphy" was an objective report both of the verifications he obtained and of those he did not succeed in getting during his three weeks in Ireland. In that report, he did not conclude either for or against the supposition that Bridey and Virginia are two different incarnations of one same individual, but let the reader draw his own conclusions, if any. Unlike Barker's, however, many of the other articles on the case in newspapers and periodicals are patently attempts to exorcise the demon which, in the shape of Bernstein's book, was then tempting the hundreds of thousands of its readers to belief in reincarnation - a doctrine unorthodox both in contemporary Christian theology and in contemporary psychology. Indeed, the Denver Post's staff writer points out in the article "Chicago Newspaper Charges Unproved" that the Rev. Wally White, whose name appears at the head of a number of the Chicago American articles, "stated clearly [that] his purpose was to debunk reincarnation because of its assault upon established religious doctrines."
The American's articles hardly mention most of the facts summarized by Barker in CFBI, on which the case, such as it is - for Bridey as an earlier "edition" of Virginia really rests. Rather, the American dismisses them wholesale with the allegation that Virginia was "regaled" with Irish stories by an aunt of hers who was "as Irish as the lakes of Killarney."
Virginia, however, states that the aunt so alluded to, Mrs. Marie Burns, was born in New York, was of Scotch-Irish descent, and spent most of her life in Chicago. Virginia adds (HBCL, part IV): "I didn't become really well acquainted with her until she came to live with us when I was 18. You'd think I would recall her having 'regaled' me with Irish tales if she had, at that tender age, wouldn't you?" Virginia further states that she does not remember anybody telling her anything about Ireland any time, and knows about Ireland only the few things everybody has heard.
But the article appears to regard the mere fact that Aunt Marie was living with Virginia at about the time the latter left Chicago as warranting the assertion that 'It seems likely that some of the Irish references used by Bridey ... stem from the tales of Aunt Marie" (San Francisco Examiner, June 5). The American's articles, thus virtually ignoring the real evidence for Bridey's existence, concentrate their attention instead on "parallels" - of which some samples will presently be cited - between incidents in Virginia's childhood and in Bridey's life; incidents, however, which, even if truly derived from Virginia's childhood, would leave wholly untouched the real case, based as we have seen on verifications of obscure Irish facts, for the contention that the Bridey statements represent genuine memories of Ireland.
As a sample of the American's "success" in tracing back to Virginia's childhood various items in Bridey's statements about Ireland, may be mentioned its "discoveries" in Madison relevant to the name of Father John Joseph Gorman who married Bridey, and to Bridey's address in Cork, "the Meadows." What the American's reporter discovered in Madison is that, less than 100 feet from the house on Blair St. where Virginia lived in Madison until age 3, Blair St. is crossed by Gorham St.; that a block and a half from the house is St. John's Lutheran Church; and that the pastor of the church attended by the parents of that three year old child was called John N. Walsted! But the reporter need not have gone so far to find persons called John. It is safe to say that on the very block of her house, or indeed on virtually any block of any city in the United States, half-a-dozen Johns could be found.
As regards "the Meadows," the American's discovery was that "less than two blocks from Ruth's house [i.e., Virginia's, in Madison] is a lake front park - a 'meadow' where she must have played many times."
But the American's prize discovery in Madison was that, like Bridey, "Ruth [i.e., Virginia] ... did have a little brother who died," October 29, 1927, still-born. The fact, however, is that Virginia never had a brother, still-born or other. Indeed, reference to this mythical brother appeared only in the original June 14, 1956 article in Chicago; and was left out of the syndicated version of the article.
Another typical example of the "parallels" which the American's investigations brought to light refers to the fact that, in the fourth hypnotic session, Virginia suddenly sneezed hard. A friend of hers, referred to in the article merely as "Arm," is quoted as saying; "if anyone could sneeze hard, it was Ruth."
One may well ask, So what? for Bridey was not reporting at the time some hard sneezing she might have done in Ireland. It was Virginia's nose that sneezed; just as it was Virginia's larynx and lips that were uttering Bridey's memories.
Bridey's then calling for "a linen" is accounted for in the article by the fact that the same "Ann" always called her white linen handkerchiefs "white linen handkerchiefs"!! Comment on these various "parallels" would be superfluous.
The Hearst San Francisco Examiner, which reproduces the May 28 article of the Hearst Chicago American by the Rev. Wally White, pastor of the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle, states that the American's investigation "was launched after it was learned that Mrs. Simmons [i.e., Virginia Tighe] had attended Sunday School as a girl in Rev. White's church."
The reader would naturally infer from this that the Rev. White had known Virginia as a girl in Chicago. It is therefore interesting to refer to what Virginia has to say when questioned by Barker on the subject. She states (HBCL, part V): I went to Sunday School at the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle from the time I was about four till I was thirteen or so." The Rev. Wally White "was not there when I was. The first time I met him was this summer [19561 when he suddenly appeared at our door here in Pueblo ... he said he wanted to pray for me."
It would seem, then, that the featuring of this clergyman's name at the head of several of the American's articles was Just psychological window-dressing for the benefit of pious but naive readers. For such readers, seeing articles under the by-line of a clergyman, and having been told that he is the pastor of the church Virginia attended in Chicago, would naturally assume that he has first hand knowledge of her childhood and youth; that his articles are based on that special knowledge; and therefore that, since clergymen are truthful, the articles bearing the Rev. White's by-line must be authoritative. But although the reader is likely to infer all this from the articles, they carefully refrain from actually asserting any of it.
The incident of the bed-scratching and the ensuing spanking, of which the American makes much, may indeed as we stated in our account of it belong to the life of Virginia in Chicago rather than to that of Bridey in Cork. But this is less likely in the case of Bridey's "uncle Plazz."
The American claims that he really is "a sixty-one year old retired city employe," to find whom its reporters "combed Chicago," and whose first name is Plezz. But the paper withholds his last name and address "in order to protect his privacy." It describes him and his wife, however, as old friends of the aunt who brought up Virginia in Chicago; stating that he and his wife would visit Virginia and her aunt and uncle two or three times a week and that the visits would be returned; and that he and two of his daughters would play with Virginia. He is said to remember her "very well from the time she was about three or four until she was in the eighth grade," which would be until she was thirteen or fourteen. This would mean a close association for some ten years.
But let the reader now ask himself how credible is such an uncle Plezz" in Chicago, in the face of the fact that Virginia, at age 33, has "no conscious memory of any such person" nor even of the name' as she emphatically declares when questioned about it by Barker. (HBCL, part IV).
Again, the May 29, 1956 Chicago article states that Virginia took her early lessons in forensics from a Mrs. H.S.M." (left otherwise unidentified.) Immediately after this, it prints long passages from stage - Irish dialect pieces, and states that Ruth [i.e., Virginia] memorized them.
This immediate juxtaposition would lead a hasty reader to assume that that teacher is the authority for the identification of the particular pieces of which passages are quoted, and for the statement that Virginia memorized them. Attentive reading, however, reveals that the article carefully refrains from so asserting. it only asserts, nakedly, that Virginia memorized those particular pieces.
What the lady teacher apparently alluded to actually taught was elocution, not forensics which has to do with argumentation or debate. And what Virginia herself has to say on the subject of that lady's lessons is this: "I took elocution lessons back in 1935 or 36 ... there was a well-to-do woman ... who offered that kind of training for small groups of youngsters ... When I was 12 or 13 I went to her after school on certain days. I'm afraid I wasn't much good - I can't remember anything specifically that she taught us" (HBCL, part VI).
Robert Byers, of the Denver Post's staff, located that teacher. She is Mrs. Harry G. Saulnier. She remembered that "Virginia was a pupil for a short time, but she must have been rather average or I would remember her better." Mrs. Saulnier said that "she had no recollection specifically of the pieces Mrs. Tighe memorized," and that she has anyway never heard of any entitled "Mr. Dooley on Archey Road," which the American asserted Virginia had learned (CNCU).
So far as concerns the "Irish jigs," which the paper asserts Virginia learned to dance, Virginia identifies them as having been The Black Bottom, and the Charleston!
The climax, however, of the Chicago American series of articles was the discovery of a Mrs. Bridie Murphy Corkell in Chicago, who lived across the street from one of the places where Virginia and her foster parents had resided; whom Virginia knew; and on whose son John, Virginia is asserted to have had "a mad crush."
Virginia remembers John as "Buddy Corkell;" but as regards the alleged "mad crush," she says: Heavens, he was 7 or 8 years older than I was. He was married by the time I was old enough to have any romantic interest in boys." She also remembers Mrs. Corkell, but although the article states that she "was in the Corkell home many times," Virginia never spoke with Mrs. Corkell - nor does the article assert that she ever did.
Further, Virginia never knew that Mrs. Corkell's first name was Bridie, and still less that her maiden name was Murphy, if indeed it was. For when the Denver Post tried to verify this, Mrs. Corkell was not taking telephone calls. And when its reporter Bob Byers inquired from her parish priest in Chicago, he confirmed her first name as Bridie, but was unable to verify her maiden name as Murphy (HBCL, p. VI), nor could the Rev. Wally White do so.
But the reader will hardly guess who this Mrs. Corkell, whom the American "discovered" turns out to be. By one more of the strange coincidences in the case, Mrs. Bridie (Murphy?) Corkell happens to be the mother of the editor of the Sunday edition of the Chicago American at the time the articles were published!
7. The comments of psychiatrists on the Bridey Murphy case
Life's first article (OSAB) states that "the psychiatrists who have considered the case have no doubt that if Ruth Simmons could completely reveal her life to them, preferably under hypnosis, they could end the search for Bridey Murphy abruptly."
What this opinion actually represents, however, is only their adhesion to the methodological principle that a phenomenon whose cause is not actually observed is to be presumed to arise from causes similar to those from which past phenomena more or less similar to it were observed to have arisen. This is good scientific procedure, of course; but only in so far as, in order to be able to follow it, one is not forced to ignore some patent dissimilarities between the new phenomenon and the old; or forced to postulate ad hoc similarities which are not in fact observed; or forced to stretch beyond the breaking point some of those which are observed. For were it not for these limits of applicability of that methodological principle, no as yet unknown laws of nature would ever be discovered; every new fact would be trimmed, bent, or stretched to fit into the Procrustean bed of the already discovered modes of explanation.
One would be guilty of doing just this if, for example, one were to claim that, in the "Rosemary" xenoglossy case, her ability while in trance to converse in ancient Egyptian language is scientifically explicable in a manner similar to that in which is scientifically explained the case of xenoglossy mentioned by Dr. Rosen in his introduction to the book, A Scientific Report on "The Search for Bridey Murphy." In the latter case, a hypnotized patient's ability to recite some ten words in the ancient language, Oscan, was scientifically explained by the discovery that once in the library while day-dreaming his eyes had rested on a book near him which happened to be open at a page where those words in Oscan were printed. The "Rosemary" case is similar to this only in that both are cases of xenoglossy. For, patently, nothing like what accounted for the ability of the patient to recite a certain ten words of an ancient language unknown to him would account for "Rosemary's" ability to converse in responsive phrases in an ancient language she had never studied.
Similarly, the emergence - whether spontaneously or under hypnosis - of personalities seemingly distinct from that of the individual concerned, but which actually are dissociated portions of his own total personality, is today a well known phenomenon. But as we saw in an earlier chapter, some cases of emergent new personalities stubbornly resist assimilation to cases of mere dissociation, either because, as in that of the "Watseka Wonder", the new personality is unmistakably identified as that of a particular other individual who has died; or because the new personality demonstrates knowledge which the individual through whose body it expresses itself certainly never had or which it is exceedingly improbable it could ever have had.
In such a case, to postulate as a number of psychiatrists have done in the Bridey Murphy case, that Virginia must some time have somehow learned in an ordinary manner the recondite Irish facts Bridey mentioned, is not scientific procedure, but is just piously conservative wishful thinking. The kind of statements it brings forth from some of the experts are what Dr. Jule Eisenbud, a keen and open minded Denver psychiatrist, was alluding to when he wrote in commenting on the Bridey Murphy case that "psychology and psychiatry experts ... were lured into talking more gibberish than Bridey at her worst" (Tomorrow, Vol. 4, No. 4, p. 48). And another psychiatrist, likewise gifted with a keen and open mind, Dr. Ian Stevenson, in his review mentioned earlier (RIS) justly charges the authors of A Scientific Report on "The Search for Bridey Murphy" with gratuitously assuming ab initio that memories of a past incarnation could not possibly be a valid explanation of Virginia's verified statements; with evident ignorance of some of the facts turned up by Barker in Ireland; and with resorting to the old trick of explaining away the data by "analyzing" Bernstein's motives.
Indeed, insistence on turning every puzzling ad rem question into a question ad hominern is the occupational disease to which psychiatrists are most susceptible! In psychiatrists whom it affects, it has a way of generating fantasies even more fantastic than those of their patients. Whether or not that self-styled "Scientific Report" reveals hidden motivations in Bernstein and in Virginia, it affords in any case an edifying exhibit of the emotional thinking which Bernstein's book let loose in the psyches of the supposedly coldly scientific experts who authored that report.
It is important in this general connection to bear in mind that psychiatrists are concerned with hypnotism essentially as an instrument of therapy; and that, even if the notions to which they have come as to what is a "true" hypnotic state or as to the "true" nature of the interrelation between subject and hypnotist are valid for therapeutic purposes, these notions are on the contrary myopic or parochial if supposed to apply automatically to hypnotism in general. For the status of those notions then becomes that of dogmas of a creed, which function somewhat as do side-blinders on a horse: they confine the attention and the hypotheses of the "wearers" of those dogmas to but one particular segment of the total range of the possible capacities of hypnotism, or of the possible meanings of some of the things which occur in hypnosis.
For instance Dr. Raginsky, in the paper on "Medical Hypnosis" which he contributes to that "Scientific Report" comments at one place on the fact that in the sixth of Bernstein's sessions, Bridey talks back to Bernstein and even asks him questions. This, Dr. Raginsky writes, is "hardly a true hypnotic state;" for she ceases to be "the passive receptive typical hypnotic subject" (p. 15).
Thus, because Dr. Raginsky's horizon is specifically that of medical hypnosis, and by a "true" hypnotic state he therefore automatically means a hypnotic state suitable for medical purposes, it never occurs to him that the subject's behavior on that occasion perhaps was evidence that hypnosis can sometimes be effective for certain purposes foreign to psychiatry - possibly in particular for that of awakening latent paranormal capacities in the subject, such as would be capacity to remember a life that really had preceded birth and conception; or the capacities for telepathy or clairvoyance which the early hypnotists did at times successfully awaken in their subjects. The success in this, of those "mesmerists" or "magnetizers," as compared with usual failure of hypnotists to achieve the same today, may indicate that the procedure of the former was shaped by dogmas which, even if like the present ones somewhat fanciful, were anyway different, and, as it happened, effective ones for the purpose of awakening latent paranormal capacities.
The field of hypnotism is peculiar in that, in it, any particular belief held by the hypnotists as to the relation of a hypnotized subject to his hypnotist - for instance belief that the relation is one in which the subject is passive and receptive and the hypnotist active and directive - is likely to generate automatically empirical proofs of its own correctness! For the hypnotist's belief as to the nature of the relation between subject and hypnotist automatically shapes the hypnotist's own attitude, the tone of his voice, his manner, and his particular procedure in the induction of hypnosis; and these characteristics of his behavior constitute powerful suggestions - additional to any which he may explicitly give to his subject - as to the particular role the subject is to enact. And the subject's faithful enactment of the role thus automatically handed to him, which the hypnotist believes is the subject's role in the "true" relationship between the two, is then taken by the hypnotist as evidence confirming the correctness of his conception of that relationship!
Medicine is not a science but a practical art; which, however, like other branches of engineering, draws so far as it can on the knowledge the sciences have so far won. In the case of medicine, the relevant sciences are chiefly physics, chemistry, and biology. Psychology, which in its behavioristic and physiological branches has recently though barely been admitted to the company of those adult sciences, has so far contributed but little to medicine. And psychiatry, which is as yet but an infant branch of medicine, has still less claim than have most of its older branches to the status of a science. The title of the book, A Scientific Report on "The Search for Bridey Murphy," is therefore naively pretentious. The fact is that the more really scientific a psychiatrist is, the less is he likely to pontificate in the name of Science, as do at many places the authors of that book.
8. What conclusions are and are not warranted about the case
The outcome of our review and discussion of the Bridey Murphy case may now be summarily stated. It is, on the one hand, that neither the articles in magazines and newspapers which we have mentioned and commented upon, nor the comments of the authors of the so-called "Scientific Report" and of other psychiatrists hostile to the reincarnation hypothesis, have succeeded in disproving, or even in establishing a strong case against, the possibility that many of the statements of the Bridey personality are genuinely memories of an earlier life of Virginia Tighe over a century ago in Ireland.
On the other hand, for reasons other than those which were advanced by those various hostile critics, and which will be set forth in the next chapter, the verifications summarized by Barker, of obscure points in Ireland mentioned in Bridey's six recorded conversations with Bernstein, do not prove that Virginia is a reincarnation of Bridey, nor do they establish a particularly strong case for it. They do, on the other hand, constitute fairly strong evidence that, in the hypnotic trances, paranormal knowledge of one or another of several possible kinds concerning those recondite facts of nineteenth century Ireland, became manifest. This brings us directly to the question of what sort of empirical evidence, if we had it, we would regard as constituting definite proof of reincarnation.
How Stands the Case for the Reality of Survival as Reincarnation
THE DISTINCTIONS formulated in Secs. 2, 3, and 4 of Chapt. XIV make it possible to give to the expression "survival after death" a meaning which is precise but involves no assumption as to whether the life-after-death one has in view is life discarnate, or life reincarnate. In the present chapter, however, what we are concerned with is survival specifically as reincarnation of the mind, or of some part of the mind, of a deceased person in another human body. The question before us is therefore whether the facts we have reviewed, which seem to evidence reincarnation, admit of alternative interpretations perhaps more plausible.
1. Mediumistic communications from minds surviving discarnate, vs. memories in a reincarnated mind
If the possibility of life at all after death is assumed, then the most obvious of the alternative interpretations of the facts which suggest reincarnation is the one Spiritualists would ordinarily adopt; namely, that the person, through whose organs of expression true statements are uttered concerning the past life on earth of a deceased person, is not a reincarnation of the mind of the deceased, but is a medium through whose temporarily borrowed lips or hand the surviving discarnate mind of the deceased speaks or writes, mentioning facts of its past life it remembers, that are adequate to identify him.
This hypothesis concerning the source of true communications of past facts recommends itself especially when, as for instance in the case of Mrs. Piper, the true communications received appear to emanate from several quite different persons who were contemporaries of one another. On the other hand, the reincarnation hypothesis remains as plausible as the Spiritualistic when, as in the Bridey Murphy case, virtually only one personality manifests itself through the entranced organism, and does so steadily throughout a prolonged series of experiments; or, if several personalities appear, they present themselves as a series of incarnations of the same entity, memory including experiences of discarnate existence during the intervals between the several incarnations. In the Bridey Murphy case, there seemed to be memory of a brief and painful life as a sick baby in New Amsterdam at some time before the birth of Bridey; but because of its brevity, of the distress attaching to it, and of the unlikelihood that it could have contained memories of verifiable details, Bernstein did not push the attempt to explore it. There is no evidence, then, that this brief life as a sick baby actually occurred, nor that the scanty account of it Virginia gave represented a memory of some episode rather than only an invention to satisfy the hypnotist's demand for regression to a time before Bridey's birth.
2. Reincarnation as "possession"
The best case on record of reincarnation as "possession" is that of the Watseka Wonder described in Sec. 4 of Chapt. XVII. In that case, the mind of a definitely identified person, Mary Roff deceased at age 18 some 12 years before, did to all intents and purposes reincarnate in the body not of a neonate but of a 13 year old girl, Lurancy Vennum, displacing altogether the latter's personality for a period of some 14 weeks.
Reincarnation in the sense this would illustrate is very rare, and is anyway not reincarnation as ordinarily conceived, which is not thus episodic but lasts through the whole time between the birth and death of the body concerned; and in which what is reincarnated is not a developed mind and therefore can be supposed to be only a set of latent aptitudes brought from one or more previous lives.
It should, however, be noted that aside from this, reincarnation in the "possession" sense illustrated by the Watseka Wonder case differs from the cases of direct control of a medium's body by the surviving mind of a deceased person only in two respects, which are a matter of degree rather than of kind.
One is that, in the mediumistic cases, the "possession," i.e., the direct control, is but momentary - usually a matter of minutes rather than of even as long as an hour - whereas Mary Roff's possession or "direct control" of Luraney's body endured for more than three months.
The other difference is that the body Mary Roff "controlled" was not in trance like that of a medium used for communication by the surviving mind of a deceased person, but was as aware of and active upon its physical environment as that of a normal person. It is true that some mediums or automatists do not go into trance while giving communications purporting to emanate from the surviving mind of a deceased person. But in this case this means that they remain aware that they are functioning as an intermediary, while so functioning. That is, only a part of their organism is being "possessed" - only their organs of speech or of writing. Their body does not, even for the duration of the séance, proceed to behave and to occupy itself as it would if the "possessing" personality were controlling the whole body instead of only its organs of speech or its hand. In the Watseka case, on the other hand, the Mary Roff personality possessed the whole of Lurancy's body which, during 14 weeks, then did occupy itself and respond to its environment as Mary Roff's own body would have, had it been still alive and occupied by the mind of Mary Roff.
3. Reincarnation and illusion of memory
If the possibility of survival after death is not, as in the two preceding sections it was, assumed ab initio, then the verified memories that purport to be memories of an earlier life on earth of the person who has them are likely to be dismissed by the critic as being really illusions of memory similar to those cited in Sec. 2 of Chapt. XXII, of a man whose memories of incidents in the Harrison presidential campaign really were memories only of the images of those incidents lie had formed as a child from descriptions of them by his uncles.
The difference would be only that the experient's verified memories, instead of being referred by him to an early part of his life, would be referred to an earlier life he imagined he had lived on earth; whereas the truth would be that the facts he really remembers are facts he learned in a normal manner during his present life and then forgot, but which the subconscious part of his mind retained, and which eventually emerged again into his consciousness in dramatized form as content of a so-called "progignomatic fantasy;" that is, of an imagination or day-dream which he does not realize to be this, of himself as living on earth a life anterior to his present one. The fantasy might be presenting itself spontaneously as an effect of repression of strong but unacknowledged impulses or cravings. Or it might be created under hypnosis, in compliance with the hypnotist's command to the subject to push back his consciousness to a time earlier than the birth or conception of his body.
Evidently, the acceptability or not in a given case, of this explanation of the fact that the incidents remembered and ascribed to an earlier life did really occur, though in the present life, turns on the probability or improbability or perhaps the certainty or impossibility - in the light of all we know about the person's contacts, his education, his available sources of information, etc. - that he should have learned normally during the course of his present life the past facts he now remembers but refers to an earlier life.
The probability that he did so learn them, however, depends in part on the "antecedent" improbability that the mind, or any part of the mind, of a deceased person survives after death; for if it does not, it could of course not remember anything. But in Part III it was shown that such survival is not antecedently either improbable or probable - the allegations to the contrary being based not on facts known, but only on gratuitous fideistic or scientistic assumptions.
4. Extrasensory perceptions, vs. memories of an earlier life
If one proceeds under the assumption that survival after death is not possible, and if it turns out to be highly improbable or impossible that some of the memories purportedly of an earlier life should really be memories of facts normally learned in the present life and then forgotten, then one might attempt to account for the correspondence of those purported memories to real facts by supposing that the person concerned ascertained those facts not normally but by extrasensory perception - by telepathy, perhaps, from the minds of persons who know them, or by clairvoyance or retrocognition. The probabilities or improbabilities of this, however, are the same no matter whether the survival to which this supposition would provide an alternative be survival as reincarnation, or survival in a discarnate state. It will be recalled that in Chapt. XIX, we examined Prof. E. R. Dodds' contention that the identificatory information alleged by believers in survival to emanate from the surviving discarnate spirits of deceased persons is really obtained through unconscious exercise of telepathy or/and clairvoyance by the mediums or automatists who communicate it; and we concluded that although some of the prima facie evidence for survival may with some plausibility be explained away in this manner, nevertheless certain others of the evidential items cannot be so accounted for without postulating for extrasensory perception a scope far outranging that for which there is independent evidences; nor without depending even then on certain additional and unplausible postulations.
These conclusions apply with equal force when the form of survival under consideration is not discarnate survival specifically but is survival as reincarnation, whether immediately after death or after survival in a discarnate state for some time.
5. What would be the best possible evidence of reincarnation
That the mind of a now living person is the same mind as that of a person whose body died some time before means, according to the analysis offered in Sec. 4 of Chapt. XIV, that the mind of the person who died has become the mind present in the now living person. If they are in this sense the same mind, then automatically the history of the later one includes the history of the earlier one. Such knowledge, however, as a mind has of its own history consists of such memories as it has of its past experiences.
At this point, we need to distinguish between memories and memory. Memory is the capacity of a mind to "remember" past events that were its own subjective experiences, and objective events or facts that it experienced, i.e., perceived. According to the analysis of the notion of "capacity" - or "ability" or "disposition" or "power" - given in Sec. 2 of Chapt. VI, a capacity is an abiding causal connection between any event of a given kind C and some event of a given other kind E, occurring in any state of affairs of a given kind S. And exercise of a capacity - e.g., of the capacity designated "memory" - is what occurs when an event of kind C occurring in a state of affairs of kind S causes in it an event of kind E. - e.g., awareness of an event experienced in the past.
A memory, on the other hand, is the present awareness of an event or fact one experienced in the past, which occurs if something now causes exercise of one's capacity to remember that event or fact. Memory, then, is a capacity, not an occurrence; whereas a memory is an occurrence, not a capacity.
If now we ask how a given mind knows itself to be the same mind as one which existed earlier, the answer is as follows.
If a memory it has is of a subjective experience - e.g., of a thought, an emotion, an intention, a desire, etc., which it had - and it is a genuine memory of it, then the mind that has this memory is necessarily the same mind as the mind that had the subjective experience remembered; for nobody but oneself can remember his own subjective experiences. Another person could, at most, only remember such perceptible objective expressions, if any and whether candid or deceitful, as one gave to them; and anyway one gives no perceptible expression to many of them. This, however, brings up the question whether memory of any of one's subjective experiences can be illusory not genuine; and I submit that, if one distinguishes clearly between subjective experiences themselves, and such status - e.g., of "dream," or "hallucination," or "perception," or "sign of..." etc. - as one may ascribe to them, then it becomes evident that memory of one's subjective experiences, like presentness of them, cannot be illusory. For illusion is possible at all only where interpretation enters. And pastness of a subjective experience one remembers is not inferred but is just as direct an experience as is presentness of a subjective experience. Vacuousness of the supposition that one's memory of a subjective experience can be illusory (e.g., of a subjective experience one calls "pain," or "dizziness," or "fear," or "bitter taste," etc.) follows from the fact that any attempt one might make to prove either that it is or is not illusory would automatically presuppose that one does remember the subjective experience one designates by the particular one of those words one employed.
If, on the other hand, a memory is of some objective fact or event, then the only evidence there could be - which, however, would be adequate - that a mind whether incarnate or discarnate having that memory is the same mind as a certain mind that was incarnate at a given earlier time, would consist of the following three items together: (a) that the memories of objective facts or events the present mind has include memories of them which the earlier mind had; (b) that these included memories were veridical, i.e., are known to correspond to what those objective facts or events were; and (c) that those memories are known to be genuinely memories because the person having them is known not to have had opportunity to acquire his knowledge of those objective facts or events in any way other than personal observation of them.
Possession by a given mind of memories of subjective experiences of an earlier mind. or/and possession of memories of objective facts or events also remembered by that earlier mind, would thus mean that the earlier mind had eventually become the given mind and was thus an intrinsic early part of it.
This relation, however, is precisely the relation which, according to the accounts we have of the cases of Katsugoro, of Alexandrina Samona, and of Shanti Devi, did obtain between the whole of the memories each had, and the portion of these relating to a period anterior to the birth of their present body.
These cases, then - if the reports are accurate, which we have of them and of other cases where memory likewise spontaneously extends to a period earlier than the birth or conception of the present body - provide the best conceivable kind of evidence that the person having those memories is a reincarnation of one who had died earlier. Indeed, the account we have of each of these cases, if it is accurate, constitutes an account of what it means, to say that the mind of a given deceased person reincarnated in the body of a neonate who has now reached a certain age.
If, however, we wish to speak - as ordinarily - of reincarnation also in cases other than these; that is, in cases like that of each of the rest of us, where no such spontaneous memories of an earlier incarnation are possessed; then that which is supposed to be reincarnated in our body cannot be an earlier mind. It can be only the "seed" left by an earlier mind - a seed consisting of the set of what Prof. Broad would term its "supreme dispositions," and which we have described as the set of its basic aptitudes; that is, of its capacities to acquire under respectively appropriate circumstances various more determinate kinds of capacities.
It is conceivable, however, that one of those reincarnated basic aptitudes should be aptitude to regain, under appropriate stimulus, memories now latent that would satisfy requirements (a), (b), and (c) above, and would therefore be memories of an earlier incarnation. Moreover, the appropriate stimulus - or a sometimes adequate stimulus - for the regaining of them whether temporarily or enduringly, might consist of a demand to this effect made on a person under hypnosis by the hypnotist.
To have regained them in this manner would then mean that knowledge of the sameness of the mind of the deceased person and of the mind of the person who has been given that stimulus, has been temporarily or enduringly achieved, instead of having been spontaneous and native as in the cases of Katsugoro and of the other children cited.