Jim Tucker Transcript

Jim Tucker Interview

Rick: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of conversations with spiritually awakening people and conversations about topics relevant to spirituality and enlightenment and all that kind of stuff. We’ve done over 600 of them now, and if this is new to you and you’d like to check out previous ones, please go to batgap.com, where you’ll see them all organized in several ways under the past interviews menu.

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My guest today is Dr. Jim Tucker. Dr. Tucker is the Bonner-Lowry Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the University of Virginia. He is the Director of the University of Virginia’s Division of Perceptual Studies, where he is continuing the work of Ian Stevenson with “Children Who Report Memories of Previous Lives.” He is the author of “Before: Children’s Memories of Previous Lives,” a two-in-one edition of his books “Life Before Life” and “Return to Life,” which together have been translated into 20 languages and which I downloaded from audible.com and listened to both of them in their entirety over the previous week. It was very interesting.

And I’ve mentioned Dr. Stevenson and Dr. Tucker numerous times over the years on BatGap whenever the topic of reincarnation comes up, because, well, Jim will explain it in a minute, but let me just ask you a question right now, Jim. Is there anybody else in the world other than you two guys, and Dr. Stevenson is deceased, but doing any significant research on reincarnation?

Jim: Well, there have been. There have been several of us who have studied these cases that we’re going to talk about. One was Erlendur Haraldsson, who was quite prolific. He passed away last year, but there’s still Tony Mills up in northern British Columbia, Satwant Pasricha in India, Juergen Keil was another person in Australia. So, there are a few of us who have been sprinkled around the world studying these cases.

Rick: Yeah, it’s funny. I think the first question I should ask you – well, now it’ll be the second – is what motivated you to do this? It’s obviously something that is really meaningful to you, or you wouldn’t be devoting your life to it. Is it your full-time gig, or do you also have other responsibilities at UVA, and this is just sort of a sideline?

Jim: Well, I definitely have other responsibilities, but it’s more than a sideline. So, yeah, I’m a child psychiatrist, so I see patients and supervise the clinic and help the residents and the fellows learn how to do child psychiatry. But then a significant part of my time has been spent doing this research. As far as my motivation for it goes, it’s a bit of a long story, but I became intrigued by this question, which I guess we all are to some extent, “Is there a life after death?” I was here in Charlottesville, Virginia, and discovered the writings of Ian Stevenson, who had gone from being chairman of the Department of Psychiatry here in the 1960s to stepping down from his chair and then spending decades studying this question, in particular these children talking about a past life. So, I was motivated by trying to answer the question or explore the question of life after death, but also struck by the serious-minded nature of his work, that it was analytical, just like you would be trying to explore and analyze anything else, and that really appealed to me.

Rick: Good. A question came in a little while ago from Anna Sulinska in Warsaw, Poland, who hopefully is watching right now, and this is very much along the lines of one of the first things I wanted to discuss with you, so, I’m going to ask it right away. She says, “The cases gathered by Ian Stevenson and yourself are very strong. They definitely prove, if not reincarnation, then something very similar to it. Why do you think science still ignores such a powerful and suggestive evidence? A serious approach to this could add so much to psychiatry, cognitive sciences, medicine, genetics, biology, etc., to humanity.”

Jim: Well, first I suppose we need a little bit of a disclaimer. So, we wouldn’t say that our work proves reincarnation or life after death. Science is about accumulating evidence or data and determining the best explanation for that. That being said, I think the best explanation for our cases is that some of these children do actually have memories of a past life.

Why are people slow to accept that? Well, because it undermines the basic tenets of many people’s understanding of reality, and science in particular. The thought is that everything emanates from the physical. The physical essentially is all there is, and consciousness just was an accidental thing, that our brains produce a sense of consciousness as through evolution, but that ultimately everything comes down to particles and waves and so forth. Well, this really challenges that to the core, if you decide that when the brain dies and decays and everything else, that there’s still this consciousness piece that is continuing on. That that gets pretty hard to explain if you’re not open to there being more than the physical.

Rick: Yeah. I mean, didn’t quantum mechanics kind of undermine that worldview a century ago?

Jim: Well, it certainly shows that reality is a heck of a lot more complicated than what our day-to-day experience tells us. And that’s kind of a huge topic there, but the idea that observation is necessary for events to occur has certainly been demonstrated, or is a very reasonable explanation for the things that have been observed or determined on the quantum level, meaning the smallest particles, smallest level of reality. It does look as if things don’t exactly exist until they are observed, and that holds true not just for the present, but actually the past. And then, you know, I guess we get into pretty funky territory pretty quickly with that. But ultimately, you can surmise, as Max Planck, the founder of quantum theory, did, that consciousness is fundamental and that matter is derived from consciousness. And once you’re open to that, then it’s certainly so that our cases seem quite reasonable, right? Presuming that consciousness is primary, and for whatever reason it has continued on from one brain and somehow become attached to another. But if consciousness is at the core, then what’s going on in the physical realm wouldn’t determine the beginning or end of consciousness.

Rick: Yeah. A good friend of mine, whose mother just had a stroke, and is in pretty bad shape, I guess. And this friend is a deeply spiritual person, and naturally there are all the human emotions one would expect to have when one’s mother is apparently dying. But her deep spirituality brings a whole different quality to the situation than if she just thought, “Well, this body is my mother, and when this body dies, that’s the end of my mother.” So, it seems to me that if reincarnation were really a prevalent understanding in the world, society would be quite different in many ways, and individuals would be quite different. But then I think of Asia, and you spent a lot of time in Asia, where reincarnation is the predominant belief. Do you see a difference in the way that Asian societies function because of that belief compared to Western societies, where it’s not?

Jim: Well, that’s a good question, and Ian Stevenson had a story about that. He said he was over, I think he was in India, talking with a monk and being maybe a little bit too enthusiastic about the potential for his work. And the monk said, “Over here, reincarnation is accepted as fact, but we have just as many rogues and criminals as you do.” And we’re all affected both by our baggage from the past, but also, I think we have a natural inclination to look at the short run and the immediate benefit of things. And being the products of evolution, we are both perhaps spiritual beings, but also certainly physical beings. And being the products of evolution, evolution rewards individual beings who look after themselves and look to stay alive and do things that are selfish. And that’s an aspect that we all have to continue to deal with, even, hopefully, as we become less selfish and become more spiritual.

Rick: Has this work made you more spiritual? Has it, for instance, inspired you to take up a spiritual practice of some sort?

Jim: Well, I would say yes to the first part, but unfortunately no to the second. So, I view myself as being in the category of spiritual but not religious. And I wish that I meditated every day. I have at different points, but I haven’t been able to keep it up. But even so, I think it has made a difference for me. I mean, I think I have a better appreciation of the idea that we’re all in this together. There is this sort of spiritual or consciousness piece of reality that we are all a part of. And we all share more than what it seems like, with our separateness in the physical world. Below that, sort of like islands in the sea, below that they’re all connected. And I think, it seems to be that way here. So, I hope as I have matured, that I have become a better person. And I certainly hope that I treat everyone I encounter with respect. I think this work makes it easier to do that.

Rick: Yeah, I’ve talked to people who feel that when you die, you’re dead, that’s it. And it’s polar opposite of my perspective. They say, “Well, it doesn’t really bother me that much, because if I completely cease to exist, it won’t bother me. I won’t be around to be bothered by that.” But my view is that life is a continuum and that there is this, we could say, spectrum of evolution that is possible to ascend, to move upward on. And you can’t accomplish it all in one life, so, the name of the game is really to accomplish it, to evolve as a soul. And that, if you’re on a journey someplace, let’s say, and your car breaks down, you might need to get a new car. But it’s still the same journey. And of course, that’s just one of many metaphors that are sometimes referred to. The Bhagavad Gita talks about changing your clothing and putting on fresh clothes, but you still continue on living.

Jim: Yeah, and I think, even with that journey, what it comes down to in a way, is each individual moment and being present in each moment. So, I’m kind of sympathetic to the idea that whether we continue on or not, in some ways doesn’t matter, in the sense that we should just fully experience every moment that we can and help others to fully experience. And, that’s enough. I don’t know if it’s acceptance or resignation, but I see I’m not going to figure it all out, at least not in this lifetime. And, that’s kind of okay. So, we will all find out one day or we won’t find out one day. But either way, we’ve got this lifetime to at least work on growth and work on helping others with their growth and making the most of it.

Rick: That’s true. Whether or not we have future lives might not have that much impact on the way we live this one if we make the best of this one. As you said with that monk in India, even in societies where people think there are multiple lives, they can still act like creeps. So, I don’t know what they think. Maybe they don’t believe in it, or maybe they think, “Well, I’m just going to grab all the gusto I can get and face the consequences later,” or whatever.

Jim: Well, it’s just as in the Middle Ages where people, many people in the Western world believed absolutely in heaven and hell, and yet they did some truly horrific things, sometimes in the name of those beliefs. So, just the belief of something in and of itself doesn’t necessarily make you a better person.

Rick: Right. Anyway, as you said earlier, it’s not that you have proven this, and I think probably most scientists in most fields are very leery of the word “proof,” anyway. Science is a matter of continuing to accumulate evidence, which could eventually be falsified or changed in different ways, but we do gain greater and greater confidence in certain things. Even though we’ve changed our understanding of the way gravity works, we don’t doubt its existence.

Jim: Yeah, absolutely. Again, more evidence is certainly more persuasive than less evidence. And I think with our cases over the decades, we’ve now accumulated enough cases and enough evidence to say that one may conclude, based on the evidence, that consciousness does continue, that these kids have memories of a life from the past.

Rick: Yeah. A question came in from a fellow named Victor Anderson in Norway, it relates to what you just said. “How can memories of a past life be stored in a brain that has only existed and experienced the current life? Are there any theories or hypotheses around this?”

Jim: Well, I think it’s a great question. I think it would suggest, to me anyway, that you have to go to a sort of a higher realm, that there is this consciousness that exists outside of any of the brains, and that it impacts the developing brain. So, memory is kind of a funny thing, and you look at even this life, I don’t have any memories of when I was a baby, but I certainly have those experiences. But the memory has not matched up one to one. But beyond my individual consciousness this time around, and my individual brain, what I would posit is that I have this larger consciousness that can experience multiple lives and at times can impact the brain, leading to these memories, even though it’s not as simple as just a memory being stored in the brain.

Rick: Yeah, I mean, computers are a good metaphor for that, the way we have stuff on our computers, but then we also back it up to the cloud and can download it from the cloud onto a different computer and so on.

Jim: Yeah, exactly.

Rick: Well, let’s get a little bit more concrete. Through the course of this conversation, I’ll have you tell stories of several children that you’ve worked with. What would be a nice one to start with that really knocked people’s socks off? How about that kid … oh, you go ahead, you choose.

Jim: That’s all right.

Rick: I was going to suggest the kid who crashed his plane on Iwo Jima or nearby.

Jim: Right, that was the one I was going to choose. That’s probably the most well-known case, actually, certainly the most well-known American case. So, if you want the full story, it is about a little boy named James Leininger. Well, he’s not little anymore, actually, he’s a young adult, but he was a little boy who was the son of this couple in Louisiana who had absolutely no belief in reincarnation. In fact, his father was quite opposed to the idea until his son started seeming to remember a past life. So, when James was around his second birthday, age two, he started having these horrific nightmares multiple times a week in which he would kick his legs up in the air and scream, “Airplane crash on fire. Little man can’t get out.” And during the day, he would talk some about how he had been a pilot who had been shot down by the Japanese and he said his plane flew off of a ship. So, his parents asked him the name of that ship and he said Natoma, which is kind of a weird guess for a U.S. aircraft carrier. But his father then went and did an internet search, maybe before Google, but he did an internet search and eventually came across this information on the USS Natoma Bay, which was a U.S. aircraft carrier that was stationed in the Pacific during World War II. And James also gave various details of the crash, how his plane had been shot in the engine and had crashed in the water and quickly sank. And one time his parents asked him, well, several times his parents asked him who he was then and he would always just say, “me” or “James,” which they didn’t make anything of. But one time, they asked him who else was there and he said “Jack, Jack Larson.” And this was all taking place when he was still two. Clearly, he had strong verbal skills, which many of these children do. We know from testing that they tend to be quite verbal.

Then when he was two and a half, his father bought a book on Iwo Jima to give to his own father, James’ grandfather. And they were looking through it one day when James pointed at the picture of Iwo Jima and said “my plane got shot down, Daddy. It got shot down there, Daddy.” And his father said “what?” and he said “that’s where my plane was shot down.” So, then his dad realized that the USS Natoma Bay was in fact involved in the Iwo Jima operation.

Eventually when James was four and a half, his dad went to a Natoma Bay reunion and learned that, in fact, there was a Jack Larson on the ship and Jack Larson was there during the Iwo Jima operation. And he also learned that there was only one pilot from the ship who was killed during the Iwo Jima operation, a young man from Pennsylvania named James Houston. So that meant, if James Leininger was remembering a past life, it had to be Houston’s because he was the only pilot killed on the ship. And what we see is that James’ statements match up perfectly for Houston’s incident. He was a pilot on the USS Natoma Bay. His plane did get hit in the engine, crashed in the water, quickly sank, and on the day that he was killed, the pilot of the plane next to his was Jack Larson. So, you have a case like that along with a lot of behaviors where James was just fascinated with planes and had seemingly uncanny knowledge about planes as well as various details about life on the ship. They really become very hard to explain through some sort of ordinary means. And this was a guy who died 50 years before James was born in another part of the country. It seems impossible that he would have learned about it through just overhearing. So, you’re left with what seems to be a case where a child had memories of a past life.

Rick: Yeah. And you’ve only covered some of them. He mentioned the Corsair as a kind of plane he had flown and some other things.

Jim: Yeah, absolutely. I kind of hit the highlights. But you’re right. The Corsair was another good one. Houston wasn’t actually flying a Corsair on the day he was killed, but he had definitely flown one. He was part of the squadron that tested it for the Navy, and it was a big deal. Yeah, and James talked about how he had flown a Corsair.

Rick: Yeah, he’s a two-year-old kid who had never otherwise heard of a Corsair.

Jim: That’s right.

Rick: I’ve interviewed quite a few people who, like Dean Radin, David Lorimer and Rupert Sheldrake, and quite a few others, who explore this kind of areas, and not only reincarnation but near-death experiences and psychic phenomena and various other things. And they’re generally ignored by the greater scientific community. In fact, David Lorimer was involved in setting up something called the Galileo Foundation, because of the way Galileo, in his day, was ignored by people who wouldn’t even look through his telescope because they refused to believe that what he saw through it could actually be there. So, they weren’t going to bother. And Dean Radin talks about people reacting that way. “Well, I’m not going to look at your research because it couldn’t be true.” So that really seems kind of unscientific to me. And you mentioned something in one of your books, there was the word “consilience,” or maybe this might have been in one of those YouTube videos I listened to. It was about the conservative nature of the scientific process and resistance to change, which actually has good and bad qualities to it. It has its advantages. Maybe you could elaborate on that a little bit.

Jim: Well, that’s right. So yeah, consilience is the idea that new material gets accepted as it fits in with what’s already known. E.O. Wilson wrote a book, I think, with that title, sort of talking about that. The good side of that is we don’t jump willy-nilly with our understandings of how the world works. The downside is that sometimes a lot of material accumulates that goes against the current belief system that gets ignored until it finally can’t be ignored anymore. So that then leads to a paradigm shift. And all of this kind of work in parapsychology and in reincarnation, near-death experiences would all essentially require a paradigm shift to really incorporate them into understandings of reality.

Rick: Yeah. I was a big fan of Thomas Kuhn’s book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, back in the day. I’m by no means a scientist, but I just kind of took a college course on philosophy of science. I just think it’s so interesting, the way knowledge progresses and the resistance to it. There are so many historical examples and even current examples. It’s just fascinating.

Jim: Yeah. So, in the meantime, it means there are a lot of people who aren’t open to this. But that’s OK. We’re putting it out there and then people who are open to it can hopefully read it and learn something from it. And, for the people who aren’t, well, OK. They can believe what they want to believe and we’ll keep trying to learn what we can.

Rick: Yeah. You mentioned Max Planck. It might have been him. I forget who, one of those guys said that science progresses through a series of funerals.

Jim: Yeah. Yeah. The one line I’ve heard is: one funeral at a time. That whole thing may be slightly apocryphal. I think that quote probably evolved out of some similar statement. Yeah. Partly, science advances because people with the old ideas die off. And the younger people tend to be open to newer things, to reconsidering things. So, maybe you target graduate students as opposed to full professors if you’re trying to get people to really consider something.

Rick: Yeah. But it’s funny in a way, because there are so many people working on so many things and they get into very, very specific niches, studying some tiny little such and such in biology or physics or some other area. And these things may or may not have any significance whatsoever. Sometimes they do. But, if in fact we reincarnate, if consciousness is fundamental and material universe is emergent from that, that is huge. I mean, it’s a radical shift in our understanding of the way the universe works. You would think it would be on the front burner of scientific inquiry, and yet it’s not.

Jim: Well, maybe it’s a little too big. But Ian Stevenson said he’d rather be 90% sure of something important than 100% sure of something unimportant. And this is not controlled laboratory science looking at some little particle. That can be very important work. But it is looking at the big picture and trying to see what we can learn about it.

Rick: In one of the videos I listened to, your colleague Edward Kelly was talking about physicalism or materialism versus the idea that consciousness is fundamental. And he implied that he thought that all that had major implications even for the survival of the human race. Do you agree with that? Do you feel as if climate change and many of the other problems that we face are somehow ramifications of our misunderstanding of the deeper nature of reality?

Jim: Well, I’d have to give that some thought, to be honest. But I do think that recognizing the value of consciousness, or the primacy of it, leads to a more optimistic, hopeful way of being. So hopefully that would make us less selfish and destroy the planet less as we focus less on our immediate needs and more on the bigger picture. And, if it helps us be less materialistic, then in an economic sense, not in a scientific sense, but if we spend less and use up the Earth’s materials less, then that would certainly be great.

Rick: Yeah, here’s a question from my wife, Irene. She said, “Children are the ones that usually come in with memories of a past life, but usually forget them as they grow up. But sometimes adults develop memories of previous incarnations. I sent you that thing about Christian Sundberg, whom I’m going to interview in a month or so, who at the age of 30 all of a sudden had this recollection. Do you want to speak about that?

Jim: Yeah, there are several reasons why we focus on children. And one is that, as far as we can tell, those are typically the people who have memories of a past life. There are exceptions, as you say, that through meditation or through psychedelics or whatever, that people, adults, may develop memories of a past life. But for the most part, it seems to be young kids who largely bring the memories with them. Once they get verbal enough to describe them, they do describe them. So, the average age when a child starts talking about a past life is 35 months. So, they can be quite young. One advantage of that is that you know a two- or three-year-old has not read up on World War II and the USS Natoma Bay, whereas with an adult, you don’t know that. And, if you look at hypnotic regression, for instance, we’re quite skeptical of for a number of reasons. One is that sometimes people will come up with these details from a quote unquote, from a past life. And then there have been times where they’ve been re-hypnotized and asked where the material came from. And it was from a book they read 20 years before and had completely forgotten about. So, we’re all exposed to a tremendous amount of information. Even before the Internet, we get a tremendous amount of information in our lives. So, it makes it harder to be certain that someone has not gotten that information through some sort of ordinary means. They may be completely sincere, but during meditation or hypnosis or whatever, that information gets put into a story which then, to them feels like a memory of a past life.

Rick: Yeah. The only memory I ever thought might have been from a past life was when I was on a long meditation course, a six-month course. And I had a dream in which I was running in a panic along a beach at night and there was this rumble of bombers or something flying overhead. And I was just running for my life. And then I woke up in a cold sweat and feeling like, “Oh, wow, I just went through something so heavy.” I thought, “I wonder if I was killed in World War II.” That’s the only thing I’ve ever had.

Jim: Yeah. And actually, in one of my books, I think the second one, I did write about a couple of dream cases just like that, but one was having to do with the tsunami. But it was with one dream. You think, or you know, maybe, that it was a glimpse of a past life. But with these cases, people had them repeatedly for years and again, starting actually in childhood. So, with that, you think “something’s going on there.”

Rick: Yeah.

Jim: Now, as with your dream, it’s completely unverifiable. I mean, you have no way to know. But emotionally, it may feel important, and I value what emotion tells us, as well. There are some times where people do have a dream or something, where it really feels like it was something extraordinary to them.

Rick: Yeah. It felt like a big release, too. As if I just released the stress of that death or that experience. I felt lighter afterwards. You mentioned hypnotic regression. I read both of Michael Newton’s books many years ago, before I started this show. And I found them interesting and compelling. One thing that was kind of interesting was that there seemed to be such an agreement among such a variety of people that he hypnotized. And he hypnotized well over a thousand, I guess, but they all kind of sketched out a similar territory. And then in his books, he stitched it all together and gave a general outline of what he felt might be happening between lives. I presume you’ve read those books.

Jim: A little bit. I’ve got Journey of Souls. And actually, several of us underwent Newton-like hypnosis at one point. For my own self, and this may be through no fault of the technique, but more just me, I didn’t feel as if I experienced anything that was not coming from my mind, that my mind was not creating. But that’s not to say that other people can’t have meaningful experiences. I will say that, if you’re open to unconscious connections between us, the expectations that the hypnotist brings to the session may well impact what the person experiences. Sometimes that is by accidentally leading them on, but also in that state, the boundaries get more blurred than usual. So, you get a telepathy kind of thing where the hypnotist does affect the hypnotic subject, even when they’re certainly trying not to. But in any event, I’m not trying to discount his work. I’m not an expert in it, but I think there are reasons to be cautious about it.

Rick: Yeah. OK. So many questions I could ask you. We’ll just keep poking along here. I think I’ll ask another question from a listener first. And this actually was about what I was almost tempted to ask you just now. This is from Carol McCracken in Bloomington, Indiana. She asks, how many of your interviews recall the period they experienced between lives? And if so, are there any similarities in their description? This is what we’re talking about.

Jim: Yeah! About 20 percent of the kids will talk about events between lives and they can vary. Some of them describe what essentially seems like a near death experience. So, where they’re floating above their bodies, they may then see other beings or guides or that sort of thing. Some described going to another realm like heaven. The American kids may use the word heaven and then some talk about either watching their parents or choosing their parents or being led to their parents to then lead the next life. And we published a paper, years ago now, comparing this phenomenon with near death experiences. And what we see is that there are a lot of similarities, particularly in the transcendent kind of experiences that people report. Now, people with near death experiences often reach a point of no return and are either told they have to go back or choose to return to life. Obviously, that doesn’t happen in our case of a child remembering a past life because they didn’t go back. They died and then seemingly were reborn. But there’s certainly a lot of similarities there. And sometimes they will give verifiable details. There are cases where they will describe the previous funeral accurately. There was one case in Thailand where the little girl complained because her ashes had been scattered rather than buried the way she wanted them to be. The previous person was a woman who studied at the temple and wanted her ashes buried under the bow tree there. Well, when her daughter went to bury them, the root system of the tree was so extensive she couldn’t bury them, so she scattered them instead. And James Leininger, whom we were talking about a minute ago, his is verifiable on the other end of coming back, because he one day told his dad that he was glad that he had picked him to be his father. And his dad asked him what he meant. And he explained how he had seen his parents at a big pink hotel in Hawaii eating on the beach and decided he wanted to be born to them. Well, before he was born, his parents took a trip to Hawaii, stayed at a big pink hotel and on the last night had dinner on the beach. And it was during that trip that they began trying to conceive. So, they didn’t actually get pregnant then, but the intention started then. And that was the time that James seemingly had observed.

Rick: Yeah, I know that some people in the Indian tradition and probably some other of those Eastern traditions say that we do choose our parents. And some say that, well, Michael Newton would say this kind of thing, that we’re assisted by some wise guides or elders or something on the other side, who help us decide what would be the most appropriate life to live next. Do any of your cases provide evidence for that?

Jim: Yeah, I mean, some kids will report similar things. Not necessarily sitting before a panel of guides and kind of mapping out your next life. But I will say also, there are some kids who seem so miserable in the families they’re in. It doesn’t seem like they chose them. There are some kids who just complain bitterly and want to be taken back to their previous family and back to their previous lives, basically. But it may well be that the level of control that an individual has is not necessarily the same from person to person. That for whatever reason, some individuals may have more control over the process than others.

Rick: Yeah, and people might ask, why would you choose to be born in a Syrian refugee camp or in the barrios of Rio de Janeiro or something, in these horrible circumstances? But then we get into the whole karma thing and whether there’s an evolutionary agenda to the universe and whether suffering and difficult circumstances can actually be conducive to our evolution in some way. I don’t know if we want to speculate about that here or not.

Jim: Yeah, certainly there’s something to be said for the idea that we gain more resilience by going through stressors. But, with some of the horrible suffering that some people experience, it’s a little hard to say there’s a whole lot of meaning there. I think, yeah, it may well be sort of a combination of things that may be sort of a naturalistic process that, unfortunately, some people have unfortunate things happen to them and there’s not necessarily a plan or a cause for it. Even though in the bigger picture, it may well be that there is growth that can happen through difficult circumstances.

Rick: Yeah, this is just a matter of belief on my part, but I feel like all is well and wisely put, and there are no mistakes, no accidents, and that there’s a kind of a divine orchestration of the universe. And it might be hard to understand from a human perspective, it might seem cruel, and you can’t blame somebody for doubting the existence of God, considering what happened in the Holocaust, for instance. But, at some point, the Sun will become a red giant, the Earth will be a molten blob. Long before that happens, life will get very difficult on Earth and everyone will die. And yet, in the big scheme of things, the death of stars is necessary for our very existence. So, it’s a cosmic perspective you can take.

Jim: Yeah, well I hope you’re right. I hope that there are no pointless events, that everything has meaning. It can be awfully hard to see that in some of the things people go through, but I certainly hope you’re right.

Rick: Yeah, you have to really zoom out and try to take a God’s eye view as best you can. And, of course, I’m not hammering this as some kind of belief that one should adopt, I just find it makes sense to me. All right, so here’s a question from Jay in Victoria, British Columbia. Have there been any children who have talked about future events that have come true?

Jim: Well, so the larger question, which I think he’s asking, is do some kids remember a future life? And the answer is: not as far as we can tell. I mean, none of them talk about, flying around in spaceships, or whatever. But I will say, we have plenty of cases where a child talks about a life, but then, no one’s ever able to verify that it actually matches somebody who lived in the past. And in that case, especially in places where things change slowly, it’s conceivable that a child has remembered a future life, and you just don’t know it because you’re not able to track it down. But there’s no evidence that that happens.

Rick: You know, when you think about this, it could be that, at a very early age, a majority of children remember their past lives, but either they’re too young to talk about it or they talk about it and then they’re ignored, or something along those lines, and then they forget.  Who knows? Maybe when we’re a week old, we’re really clearly cognizing our past life, but obviously we can’t talk about it.

Jim: Yeah, so, I mentioned that these kids tend to be very verbal and have good verbal skills. And it may well be that talking about these images that they have in their minds solidifies the images, and then you get the complete story of the past life. Whereas with other kids, if they’re not able to verbalize things, they have these images, but they fade before the kids are really able to process them. But it’s not to say we have evidence that that happens. I mean, our cases don’t really say whether we all have had past lives or not. And it may be that we do, and either we don’t remember or we don’t remember long enough to tell people about it. But it may also be that these are exceptions, that even if there is survival of consciousness, it wouldn’t mean that we’d all come back here necessarily, that we may have another kind of experience after we die.

Rick: Yeah, well that’s a nice scientific way of putting it. My feeling is that we do actually have multiple lives, but that’s just my belief or feeling. I don’t have the kind of access to scientific methods that you do. Also, I think we need to take into consideration that the Earth isn’t the only place in the universe where we could live. Not only would there be perhaps trillions of other habitable planets throughout the universe, but then there are all these other levels and dimensions, such as whatever it is people go to between lives. And there could be many such levels or subtle dimensions that we don’t ordinarily perceive.

Jim: Yeah, absolutely. So again, my own personal belief is that consciousness does survive and continue on, but whether it continues on here in another life on this planet, in my own mind, is an open question.

Rick: Yeah, I was once with a spiritual teacher and he was pondering about talking about immortality. And he said, “If we’re interested in immortality, there must be better bodies than these in which to do it.”

Jim: Right. Yeah. And as far as immortality goes, if consciousness can step out of this space-time, then what does immortal mean exactly? But there are a lot of things to think about.

Rick: Here’s another question from Irene, she asks good ones. “Some amazingly gifted children have highly developed skills at only two or three years old, like playing the piano,” thinking of Mozart here, “and composing well or better than someone who studied all their life. They may not have memories of a past life, but is this not a good indicator of bringing a previous life development into the current one?”

Jim: Well, it’s certainly hard to explain those cases. You look at some prodigies, and Mozart is obviously a good example, because he was incredibly skilled at a very early age. It may be a mixture of environment with something else. In Mozart’s case, his father was what, a music teacher? But that doesn’t explain three-year-olds who were composing symphonies or whatever.

Rick: My grandmother was a music teacher, I didn’t get very far with it.

Jim: So, I will say we are not aware of prodigies who have recalled a past life with those skills.

Rick: Oh, but there’s the golf guy.

Jim: Well, that’s right, I was going to say that. That’s sort of the closest that I’ve come.

Rick: Tell that story.

Jim: Well, it is about a kid who seemed extraordinarily skilled at golf at a very early age. Around the time of three or four, and I’ve seen videos of him at that age or at four or five, and he had a smooth swing. And he talked about a past life. Then, his dad was going through the channels on cable one day, didn’t even know they had the golf channel. I mean, his parents weren’t golfers. But they hit it, and his son got all excited, and eventually said how he had been Bobby Jones, who, for people who don’t know golf, was quite a famous golfer.

Rick: Yeah, even I had heard of him, and I’m not into golf.

Jim: Yeah, from a long time ago, not something typical that a three or four-year-old would hear about. And this kid remained extremely talented. I haven’t heard from the dad in the last few years, but he won scores of golf tournaments as he was growing up. So that is one where, whether he is called a prodigy, he was extremely talented at an extremely early age with no clear explanation for how he was so talented. And he did recall memories of the past life with that skill.

Rick: Yeah, and I should mention that in your books, when you tell these stories, you sometimes go on for a whole chapter or the better part of a chapter with all kinds of detail. So, we’re just kind of touching some of the highlights here. But if people find this interesting, they could find much more detail in your books. I had a friend years ago who claimed to have been Abraham Lincoln in his past life, and one of his proofs was that he had a bump on the back of his head. But that does lead us into a whole thing about birthmarks and birth defects and various other markers of people who might have had a gunshot wound, or some other thing showing up again in their next body.

Jim: Yeah, that’s right. So, Ian discovered that phenomenon of where kids would be born with birthmarks or full birth defects that match wounds, usually the fatal wounds on the body of the previous person. And he spent years studying a lot of these cases and then years more writing them all up and eventually published this two-volume set of over 200 such cases, and the set is 2,000 pages long. There is a synopsis version for people who are interested. But it has pretty remarkable stories, examples or pictures, frankly, one of a girl with very gnarled fingers. She recalled the life of a guy who got his fingers chopped off as he was being murdered. There’s one case where the child remembered the life of a man who had been killed by a shotgun blast to the side of his head. And this kid was born with just a stub for an ear and an underdeveloped right side of his face. Ian listed 18 cases where kids were born with double birthmarks, two birthmarks, wounds that match both the entrance wound and the exit wound on the body of a gunshot victim. So, they pose all kinds of questions about how that can be. Right, I mean, even if you believe in reincarnation, why would a wound on one body then show up in the next life? And he explored this, and I write about it some in my books, where we know that images sometimes can have really imprinted consciousness and can sometimes have physical effects. One example would be stigmata, these people who deeply in prayer then develop what look like the wounds of Christ on their bodies. Or I mentioned hypnosis, but with hypnosis, sometimes people under hypnosis can be, say, touched with the finger and told that’s a burning ember and they will develop a burn. So, their consciousness or the images in consciousness can certainly have physical effects. Well, if the consciousness continues after a traumatic death, then the memories of that death perhaps can affect the developing fetus. So instead of a kind of a temporary mark from hypnosis, you get a permanent defect, as it affects the developing fetus.

Rick: Yeah, let’s talk about this a little bit more. There is the whole question of what is the vehicle which carries us from one body to the next? There might even be a 50-year lapse between lives, or it might be a shorter one, but what is the container for our personality between lives? And I’d like to introduce and have you comment on the notion of a subtle body. I’m going to show a graphic on the screen here, which I’m afraid you can’t see, but there’s a term “kosha” in Sanskrit, which refers to five sheaths, and we’re said to be like Russian dolls in the sense that we have this gross body that we all see, which is called the food sheath or the annamaya kosha. And then there are subtle ones. I won’t go through all the Sanskrit and all, but there’s a vital breath or prana sheath, a mental sheath, a vijnanamaya or intellect sheath, and then ultimately the anandamaya or bliss sheath. And it’s said that when the annamaya kosha or the food body dies, then these other sheaths just carry on without the food body, and then we exist in those bodies. We can’t function in the gross physical realm anymore, obviously, but we function in subtler realms for a while until we again take on a food body, a gross body. Those subtle bodies seem to retain all the samskaras or impressions that we’ve accumulated through our various lives, and that’s why so much carries over into the next life. Any comments on that? I know it’s rather speculative, perhaps, but what do you think? Is that intriguing to you?

Jim: Yeah, those sorts of conceptualizations obviously have been around for thousands of years, that people have had those sorts of things, and there can be real value to them. I take it, I guess, one step, or in the view from 10,000 feet or whatever. I don’t get into those specifics for myself, as I think about it. I think there is this continuation, and it seems to be something where, not just that it retains the memories of the past life, but can actually experience new things and learn new things with the intermission memories we were just talking about. It seems there is an active life force of some sort, that is continuing on. But there are different shades and so forth, and many people find that very valuable. I just focus more on the fact that there is something like that that continues on.

Rick: I think we can take something like that as an hypothesis, that could possibly be explored, and those of the tradition who came up with that sort of explanation consider themselves to have been exploring it for a few thousand years through a more introspective method.

Jim: Sure.

Rick: Mystics and yogis and so on, who do this inner research and presumably are actually coming upon some kind of experiential verification for such things rather than just speculating.

Jim: Right, I agree. Again, there may be great wisdom and value to those things. So, that’s right.

Rick: We’re jumping around a little bit, because we’re getting a lot of good questions. So, here’s one that came in from Ron Gang in Kibbutz Urim in Israel. “I understand that you have reservations about past life data attained through hypnosis,” that we were just talking about. “I have read Dr. Brian Weiss’s first three books, in which he has treated the traumas of thousands of patients through hypnotic regression. If you are familiar with this, I would like to hear your comments on his work.”

Jim: Sure. So, yeah, I’ve read several of Dr. Weiss’s books, and I certainly believe that hypnotic regression can be therapeutic. He documents the cases where it is therapeutic. But whether people are actually accessing a life that they lived in the past is another question. So, hypnosis, even for memories of this life, tends to be a very unreliable tool. There are times where it’s remarkably accurate, and people recall license plate numbers at crime scenes or whatever. But there are a lot of times where essentially the mind fills in the blanks. Once that happens, it’s very hard for somebody to know if it was an actual memory or if it was something that they got created during hypnosis. There are very few, not zero, but there are very few cases where there is documented verification that the memories the person had were from an actual person who lived before, who was not someone well-known that, again, the people might have just learned about through ordinary means. Some of that, if you’re recalling an ancient life in Rome or whatever, is essentially unverifiable. So maybe you shouldn’t hold that against them. But there are plenty of reasons to think that hypnotic regression is unreliable, and not much reason to think that they actually are past lives. But again, with a good therapist and somebody like Dr. Weiss and other people who follow his work, if it can be useful to people and cure phobias or whatever it is, then by all means use it. But I’m a little bit unsure, and I think Brian Weiss is one of these who say, “Well, it doesn’t really matter if it’s a past life as long as it’s therapeutic.” Well, in one way it doesn’t matter, but on the other, if it looks like you’re saying, “Okay, well, we’re doing past life regression, but it doesn’t matter if it’s really a past life,” well, it seems to me that’s a little bit of a cop-out. I mean, if you’re claiming it’s past life, then it seems to me it matters if it is. But again, people can be helped by it. There are also times where people are not skilled therapists. They may not be therapists at all. They may just have a past life hypnotic certification or something. And then I think it has the potential for harm as well as for benefit.

Rick: A spiritual teacher once said that he dissuaded people from trying to even look into past lives, because he felt that it’s a lesser-developed state. Just don’t bother about it. Just focus on the life you’re living and proceed from here.

Jim: Even though past lives are what I research, I agree with that in many ways. The present moment is what’s important. And certainly, there are people who get really involved in trying to sort out their past lives. So just work on this one.

Rick: As I recall, Michael Newton was – I guess maybe he was doing past life regression and then – there have been some cases where hypnotists have just been trying to regress people to childhood or something, and then they go beyond that, and next thing you know, they’re in a past life. I think in Newton’s case, as I recall, and you can correct me, he was doing past life regression, but all of a sudden, he found people kind of glomming on to a between-life period, and so then he specialized in that.

Jim: Yeah, and I think Brian Wise actually is more the former, where his first patient– you know, “Many Lives, Many Masters,” his first book– where he stumbled into this. By accident, he had regressed the patient, but then suddenly she was talking about a past life. He used to be credited that he was open enough to go with it and to see what he can learn.

Rick: Yeah. We have another question from Anna in Warsaw. She asked one earlier. She said, “As a psychiatrist, can you see any connection between multiple personality disorder and the research you are working on?”

Jim: Well, there are similarities. I mean, the multiple personality disorder, what’s known now as dissociative identity disorder, does involve some unusual things related to consciousness and the seeming simultaneous consciousness existing within one person. But I think the resemblances are essentially – I shouldn’t say “coincidence,” but I think recalling a past life is very different from people who have dissociative identity disorder. And even in our cases, the child says that they’re a different person, and there’s not this change in awareness. Some of the kids have their memories at all times. There are a lot of the kids who have to be in the right frame of mind to talk about it, and it is during relaxed times, but it’s not as if their primary personality leaves and then an alter comes. It’s more just them recalling things from when they were a different person. So, I think the two phenomena are more different than they are alike.

Rick: Yeah, there’s some relevance, I think. You hear of people with multiple personality disorder in which maybe one personality is allergic to peanuts and the other isn’t or something, and they actually have different physiological reactions depending upon which personality is running the show. This points to the possibility, if we believe in disincarnate entities, that different entities are taking turns driving that particular vehicle. And then it’s not a big step from there to think of disincarnate entities incarnating in a body, usually, one of them at a time, which is a healthier arrangement than several trying to crowd in there.

Jim: Yeah, there are some amazing, remarkable cases with multiple personality, just the kind of things you’re talking about. The interplay between consciousness and the physical and the body are things that we still have a lot to learn about.

Rick: Yeah. One thing that this brings to mind is that people with multiple personality disorder usually have been traumatized severely in their youth. And a lot of the cases that you have studied have involved trauma of some sort, a violent death or some such thing, almost as if people who die suddenly or violently are more likely to remember their past lives than people who just live to a ripe old age.

Jim: Absolutely. So, in 70 percent of the cases, the child died by some sort of unnatural means, murder, suicide, accident, combat, which of course is far more than what happens in the general population. So that’s certainly a factor here. I view it more, not necessarily connected with multiple personality, but more connected with PTSD. In this life, unfortunately, the traumatic memories sometimes stay with us even if we don’t want them to. And in our cases, it seems that dying a traumatic death makes it more likely that those memories stay and then continue on into the next life.

Rick: Yeah. If you just had a nice, quiet retirement and died peacefully in your sleep, there’s no big impression from that, but if something really horrible happened to you, chances are you still remember it in your next one.

Jim: Yeah. That’s right. We do have those cases where somebody died of old age. But there is going to be a spectrum with any phenomenon, but certainly, it’s much more likely if it’s a traumatic death.

Rick: Carol in Indiana is psychic. She keeps asking questions that pertain to just what we had been talking about. So, Carol has another question. “What percentage of your subjects have died suddenly from deliberate violence or tragedies, such as burning to death or accidental drowning? It seems that all of them have reincarnated rather quickly versus what is classically” – now here is a new part of the consideration – “what is classically understood to be a 200 to 300 year or more period between lives. Is the fact that their previous lives were relatively recent the reason they recall them so readily?”

Jim: Well, that’s a good question, but she’s certainly right that they do tend to be recent lives. I mean, the average interval between the lives in our cases is only four and a half years. So, it seems with this phenomenon that we’re studying, there are exceptions again, but for intact memories to come through, it’s much more likely, if it is a recent life that ended traumatically. So, you could look at it and say that the normal process, where we don’t remember lives, gets short-circuited and either led the spirit to be held to this realm and then come back quickly, or perhaps held to this realm and not go off to another kind of existence like other individuals do. I will say we occasionally do get reports where it sounds like it’s an ancient life, but again, those are usually completely unverifiable. So, now with the Internet and records, it’s conceivable, say from Civil War or something, that you might be able to document things. But for the most part, it has to be a recent enough life. Certainly, with Ian’s cases in Asia, it had to be a recent enough life that there were still people around who could confirm the things the child remembered.

Rick: Yeah, I was impressed with the guy who read the audio books on Audible because he was having to pronounce these incredibly complicated names from Sri Lanka and Thailand. I can’t even read them, much less pronounce them. It was impressive.

Jim: Yeah, hopefully he did them confidently, if not correctly. But he convinced you that he was saying them correctly anyway.

Rick: Yeah. There are some interesting verses in the Bhagavad Gita about reincarnation. I don’t know if you have ever read it, have you?

Jim: I have not, actually.

Rick: There’s some cool things in there. One thing that came to mind just now, because of what we’re discussing, is a point at which Arjuna asks Krishna, “Well, what happens if a person is on the spiritual path but dies before reaching the goal, before reaching enlightenment?” And Krishna said, “Well, he tends to spend a long period of time living in the heavenly realm and then he’s reborn in a pure and illustrious family, or if he’s really fortunate, in a family of yogis.” But the implication there was that, if it’s a person who’s really had a spiritual orientation, he might have a long period between lives. But my hunch is that anything goes. There might be an urgency for him to come back and do something. And so, it might not be a long time, but we can only speculate.

Jim: This idea of unfinished business, which would apply for a life if it’s suddenly ended, and even ones where people die of old age, you can always come up with an interpretation. But certainly, for many of them, it is as in one case where a child seemed to be his grandfather reborn. His dad felt that his own father, the grandfather, had not been able to express his love to his children the way he would have wanted to. So, the boy’s dad, again, felt as if his own father had returned, and it was so that they could have more of a connection. He did have a very tight connection with the child. So, it was unfinished business, this idea that there would be this emotional tie or emotional pull that would bring the individual back quickly into the same family. There’s certainly a logic to that.

Rick: Yeah. Have you come across the concept of soul groups? You’re just kind of alluding to it, really, where it could be within families where there’s a sequence of incarnations where people play various roles within the same small family group. And then there’s the thought of larger soul groups, like people in some kind of a larger mission who all incarnate together to fulfill that mission.

Jim: Yeah, certainly. There are people, especially with hypnotic regression, who have reported that kind of thing. In our cases, it’s extremely rare for the child to say that a family member was somebody else with them in the previous life. I won’t say it never happens, but it doesn’t happen very often. Now, they still could be traveling together and the child does not recognize the other person, but it’s not something that’s typically part of our cases.

Rick: Yeah. This is a little bit off the topic of reincarnation. It’s more of a near-death experience thing, but have you ever read Dannion Brinkley’s books, where he talks about his four near-death experiences and how he had a life review where he ended up experiencing the effects of his actions from the perspective of the people who were affected by them?

Jim: Yeah, I think it was 25 years ago when I read those, but I remember one in particular. I think it was where a general or somebody got assassinated and he could experience it through the soldiers who were so shocked by this death or something like that.

Rick: Yeah, he had been a sniper in Vietnam, and he also experienced it from the perspective of the family members of that man and the hardships it put them through and all kinds of stuff.

Jim: Yeah. Again, I think there may well be something to that, of us being connected on the consciousness realm more closely than we are now. So, it wouldn’t shock me if, in that other state, we could essentially experience things through other people’s eyes and be empathic to other people’s experiences, if that makes sense.

Rick: Yeah. I suppose, as we were discussing earlier, people who are really skeptical of what you do don’t even bother to look at it because they figure it wouldn’t be worth their while. Have you had many encounters with people who are skeptics who do take the time to challenge you? And have you ever debated any of them, and what are some of the main objections they raise, and how do you answer them?

Jim: Yeah, no, I haven’t done debates with people. I don’t think that would be particularly fruitful because we’re not going to change each other’s minds, I don’t think. But the objections can vary, and sometimes, to be honest, the skeptics who raise the objections don’t really know the details of the cases. But there are people who have, as in many of Ian’s cases, no one wrote down the child’s statements before they went looking for the previous person. So, it’s a fair criticism to say, well, once the family’s met and exchanged information, then they credited the child with more information about the past life than he actually had. And that may well happen in some cases. People have looked at that a little bit, and haven’t really found much evidence for it, because if you look at cases where people did write down the child’s statements before the families met versus ones where they didn’t, what you see is: the ones without the written records, the families are not crediting the kids with more information. In fact, it is actually a little bit less, because they forget some of the details over time if they didn’t write it down. But that’s a fair criticism. I think some of the cases people will say maybe it’s just coincidence that the child had these details. In some cases, that clearly doesn’t work. For a child such as James Leininger to talk about the Natoma and Jack Larson and the exact details of the one plane crash at Iwo Jima, whatever the explanation is, it is not coincidence. So, with the various criticisms, there is not one way to explain away the cases that will work for all the cases. So, some of the criticisms may well have value, and we consider them, but I haven’t heard anything that makes me think it’s easy to discount this phenomenon.

Rick: Okay. There are so many different interesting aspects of your book, but here is one thing that jumps out at me from my notes right now, and that is kind of unusual behaviors among children who remembered past lives. They might have an unnatural phobia regarding something that related to their earlier death, or they might have strange tastes, like a two-year-old with a craving for cigarettes and whiskey, or children who play at things that they did during their previous lives. Perhaps you could tell us some anecdotes of those kind of things.

Jim: Yeah, they’re certainly there, that’s for sure. So yeah, with the phobias, in the cases where a traumatic death was involved or an unnatural death, 35% of those kids show an intense fear toward the mode of death. So, as in the drowning cases. There is one, the little girl hated being in water, so, from the time she was an infant, it would take three adults to hold her down to give her a bath. Then, when she got old enough to talk, she talked about a girl from another village who had drowned in an accident. And yeah, with the likes and dislikes, yes, there are cases, a number of cases where the young child is trying to sneak cigarettes or even sneak liquor, where the previous person was a heavy smoker, heavy drinker. Ian found a couple dozen cases in Burma of children who said that they had been Japanese soldiers who were killed in Burma during World War II, and a lot of them would complain about the spicy Burmese food, want to eat raw fish, that kind of thing instead. The behaviors, sometimes in the play, they are compulsively playing themes from the past life, most often the occupation, where the kids will just spend hours on end doing this occupation that had nothing to do with their current family. So, all of this shows that it’s not just information that has carried over. But there is this emotional piece that has carried over as well, that the experience as a whole has affected the child not just with what they know, but also with their behaviors and emotions.

Rick: Yeah. Do you think that reincarnation is relevant and perhaps helps to explain homosexuality or transgender issues and things like that, where one has actually changed genders from one life to the next, and that would explain their current orientation?

Jim: Well, I wouldn’t say it explains in the sense that I would want to pathologize.

Rick: No, not pathologizing. It’s not saying it’s bad. I’m just saying, maybe that’s a… Go ahead. Yeah.

Jim: Well, yes. I mean, I think we do have good reason to think, at least in some of our cases, that the past life has had an impact on either sexual orientation or gender development. So, in 10% of our cases, the child remembers a life as a member of a different sex. In the general population, most young children show what’s called gender typical behaviors and stereotypical behaviors. So, little boys tend to prefer to play with trucks and little girls with dolls and that sort of thing. We can certainly discuss how that comes about and the environmental influences and so forth. But about 3% of young boys and 5% of young girls show gender nonconformity, where they show behaviors that are more typically associated with the other gender. In our cases, where the child remembered a life as a member of the opposite sex, 80 percent of those children showed gender nonconformity. So, certainly in those cases it seems that the past experiences have impacted their development in those areas in this life.

Rick: Interesting. Okay. So, this again is a bit of an abrupt segue, but I have a section here on opposing points of view: materialist worldview, other pieces of evidence, unknown mechanisms, the population explosion, Alzheimer’s disease, religious objections. It might be fun to explore a few of those, because there might be people listening to this who are skeptical. Well, for instance, the population explosion. One might say, where are all these people coming from? If it’s a one-to-one sort of relationship between you die, you get reborn, you die, you get reborn, then the world, the population is many times greater now than it was a couple hundred years ago. So where did all these souls come from?

Jim: Yes, there are certainly more people alive now than there used to be. But there are still plenty of people who died. There are a lot more people who have died than there are alive now. So, if you look at sort of estimates of what counts as human and how many people are around, it looks like there have been, I think I’ve got these stats right, 105 billion people that have lived before. And what are we, eight or nine billion now? So certainly, there are enough there now. The time between lives would have to be getting shorter.

Rick: Of course, those 105 billion people who lived before could actually just be the nine billion people here on Earth now who’ve gone through a bunch of lives. And if you add them all up, you get 109 billion.

Jim: Well, that’s right. But at the same time, it may be that new souls get created. Why would they have to all be there in the start? And then as you were talking about earlier, if you look at other planets or other universes or whatever, the animal kingdom, I mean, there are plenty of ways where reincarnation could occur even as our population is growing.

Rick: Yeah, that’s right. One Indian belief is that there are several different kinds of animals, I think it’s cows, monkeys, dogs and some other thing, that are either always or many times reborn as humans. Cows especially, which is why Indians revere cows. And they’re not only born as humans, but they’re born as teachers supposedly. And if you don’t allow a cow to reach its full development as a cow, you end up with an undeveloped teacher getting born who is incapable of teaching higher knowledge. Bet you never heard that one.

Jim: Yeah, so there are certainly those beliefs in a lot of places about transmigration across species, and yet we have very few of those cases.

Rick: Right, you did have one or two, didn’t you? Somebody who thought he was a snake, right?

Jim: Yes, we have had cases. Yeah, there’s a snake case. I think Ian said somewhere maybe he had seen 30 cases. But anyway, it’s a rare phenomenon. And of course, those can be completely unverified. So, it would suggest that these cases don’t necessarily follow the belief systems in the places where they’re occurring. And also, I was talking earlier about how they tend to be recent lives. They also tend to be fairly nearby and are usually from the same country and the same species. So, for intact memories to come through, it may have to be a close life in a lot of different ways, including a human life, again with outliers. But for the most part, it has to be a human life for the memories to come through intact.

Rick: Yeah, so what you’re saying is that maybe you were a snake or some other kind of animal, but the likelihood of you remembering that when you’re now a baby is much less than if you had been a human in your past life. Is that what you’re saying?

Jim: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And for me personally, I don’t mind the idea that I might have been an animal in the past life. I wouldn’t be too excited to think about being one in the future. But hopefully we all have the experiences that we need to have for growth.

Rick: Yeah. Personally, I don’t have a problem with the thought that we could actually have been incarnate and lived on other planets, and now we’re living on this one, because I don’t think that the soul would be limited by the speed of light in terms of getting from there to here. I think that probably there is that complementarity or something where one thing polarizes up and the other polarizes down, even if they’re separated across the galaxy?

Jim: Yeah, right. I mean, I see no reason, if you’re looking at consciousness, why it would be limited just to one planet. And we now know essentially there are an infinite number of planets, so sure, why couldn’t we have experiences there?

Rick: Yeah. I think probably some people, some Christians, would have objections to reincarnation because they don’t think it’s part of their tradition. But I’ve heard various bits of evidence, including from you, that it actually is. It just was edited out at various councils and whatnot, because for some reason the people who were trying to control things didn’t think it was a good idea for their followers to believe it. You want to elaborate on any of that?

Jim: Yeah, well, there are certainly early Christian groups that did believe in reincarnation.

Rick: Yeah, the Gnostics.

Jim: Yeah, exactly. And there’s this big debate about the existence of the soul, not even just in the past life, but even existing before birth, or before conception, I guess. And eventually, yeah, there are councils that said no. But again, there are plenty of early Christians who believed in it, and there are actually plenty of Christians today. There have been polls that show about 20% of American Christians believe in past lives. So, they have their Christian beliefs, but then they’ve also incorporated this belief as well, which is exactly what James Leininger’s dad did. He was a conservative Christian, and he still is, but he’s convinced that his little boy remembered a past life. So, it’s mentioned a little bit in the New Testament, or one may infer it in the New Testament in a couple of places. It’s certainly not a central part of Christian dogma now, but it’s not necessarily in conflict with it. It’s the same idea of life after death and spirit and so forth. It just is appearing in a different way than what we usually think of.

Rick: Yeah, if you’re really attached to the idea that you only live one life, and when you die, you either go to heaven for all eternity or to hell for all eternity, then I guess you’d have a hard time incorporating reincarnation, but a lot of people are kind of fed up with that way of looking at things anyway.

Jim: Well, sure, but even with that, you could say, okay, well, maybe it’s a series of lives, and then you get judged.

Rick: Yeah, you could think of it.

Jim: I don’t try to dissuade people from their own religious beliefs, but, if you think of people, we’re not typically all good or all bad, right? We’re all shades of gray, so I don’t know where you would make the cutoff as far as heaven or hell goes, but maybe I’ll find out, hopefully, on the good side, if I find out one day.

Rick: Buddhism and Hinduism both believe, at least certain branches of them, in multiple heavens and multiple hells. They’re different lokas, as they call it, and there are higher and higher heavens and lower and lower hells. But none of them say that you just get stuck there forever. It’s more like you work out some karma, then you move, you come back, or you go to a different one, or something. It’s a very multifaceted understanding.

Jim: Well, I kind of like that better, right? You get a second chance, or multiple chances as you evolve and develop.

Rick: Yeah. All right. So, as I said before we started, if any ideas pop into your mind that we’re not talking about, feel free to just launch into them, and we’ll do that. Let’s see here. There’s some other good examples of people, there was that boy from Berra, and there was the Hollywood example, a fire on C Street. Are there any other stories that you feel would be worth bringing up?

Jim: Well, certainly the Hollywood case. That one again is one that is now fairly well known, because we had it on the NBC Nightly News and the Today Show, but it’s an interesting case. It’s a little boy named Ryan, and his mom mailed us, not emailed, but actually the U.S. Mail, mailed us a letter one day saying that she and her husband were just ordinary folks in Oklahoma, but their little five-year-old Ryan for the last year had said he had a life in Hollywood and would beg his mother to take him back there. To try to help him process that, she went one day to the public library and checked out some books on Hollywood. One day, they were looking through one, when they came to this picture from an old movie called Night After Night, and he pointed to one of the guys and said, “Hey, Mama, that’s George. We did a picture together.” And then he pointed to another one and said, “And that’s me. I found me.” Well, the first person he pointed to was George Raft, who, you know, those of us of a certain age may remember. But the one that he said he had been was an extra with no lines in the movie. So, Ryan’s mom wrote to me to see if I could help determine who this was. I went and visited Ryan and his parents. And then afterwards, as we’re trying to figure out who this was, his mom was sending me email after email, documenting Ryan’s statements about a past life and describing, frankly, quite a life. Eventually, with the help of a Hollywood archivist, we did figure out who this guy was. The archivist went to the library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, got all the materials on Night After Night, most of which is about the stars, including Mae West. It was her first movie. But there was one picture of this guy. He was identified and it was a guy named Marty Martin. So, with that, then we can compare Ryan’s statements. And Ryan said how he had danced on stage in New York and Marty Martin danced on Broadway. Ryan said that he then went to Hollywood and worked in the movies. Marty Martin did that, working mostly on dance in the movies. Ryan said he then worked at an agency where people changed their names and Marty Martin started a successful talent agency. Ryan said he had a big house with a swimming pool, which Martin did, and that the street address had the word rock or mount in it. And Marty Martin lived on North Roxbury. And Ryan even said that he didn’t see why God would let you get to 61 and then make you come back again as a baby. And, this is kind of an interesting question to ponder, but Marty Martin’s death certificate said he’s only 59. But his daughter and stepson both said that, in fact, he was 61. So, I looked into it, found three census records, two marriage listings and a passenger list that all gave ages that meant Marty Martin was in fact 61. So even though the death certificate said 59, Ryan was correct about 61. And altogether, we verified over 50 of Ryan’s statements matched Marty Martin’s life.

Rick: Interesting. And I should remind people that you’re giving us some of the more dramatic examples, but between you and Dr. Stevenson, you’ve researched how many thousand?

Jim: Well, it varies depending on what you count, but over 2,500.

Rick: And do most of them make you really raise your eyebrows and think, well, there seems to be something to this one.

Jim: Well, some more than others, to be sure. And of course, some are unverified. We haven’t identified the past life. Most of them, two thirds of them, we have. But, yeah, I’m telling the ones of the richest kind, with the most details. But there are a lot of them that are persuasive. And then you put them all together and you think, yeah, there’s definitely something going on here.

Rick: Yeah. So, what are you working on now? More of the same or some new avenues of research?

Jim: Well, I was just going to say both, really. We are doing more of the same because I think continuing to study strong American cases can be persuasive. So, if we had 50 cases, American cases as strong as James’ and Ryan’s, that would get pretty hard to ignore. So, we’re hearing from a lot of American families these days. We heard from over 100 of them last year. Again, varying degrees of potential strength of the cases. But there are a lot of these kids out there talking about a past life. Another thing that we’re working on now is going back and interviewing adults who we originally studied when they were children. And looking at how the memories affected their development and affected their lives. We’re still crunching the numbers on that, but that’s something that is interesting.

Rick: What are some of them saying?

Jim: Well, some of them say that, while they’re experiencing the past life, it can be quite difficult for the child and for the parents. There can really be suffering there, crying about missing people. But in the long run, some of them say that it was a positive, that it gave them a more spiritual outlook, even after they lost the memories. And even some of them who don’t even remember that they talked about a past life, but their families have told them that they did, that has helped to give them a more spiritual outlook, a sort of a bigger picture view of things. So, that was real benefit to them. And as well, we’re also talking with the parents and seeing how they were affected by the child’s memories. And again, for many of them, it was opening them up to possibilities about past lives that they’d never thought about before.

Rick: I’ll be interested to hear what happened to that Bobby Jones guy. I guess his name is Hunter something.

Jim: Yeah, yeah. That’s a pseudonym, actually. But yeah, I should check in with the dad sometimes, see if he’s still playing golf. There are some kids who are prodigies, but then when they get older, they let those things go. And of course, there are pressures on prodigies and it can all get complicated. But yeah, I should get some follow up on him.

Rick: Yeah, they might feel like, all right, done that, been there, don’t need to do golf anymore. Simone Biles might be a concert pianist next time around or something.

Jim: Yeah, really. One lifetime as a gymnast is enough.

Rick: Yeah. So, I’m sure there’s more we could talk about, but that’s what comes. Oh, wait a minute. Here’s another question that was sent in earlier that we haven’t talked about. This could be interesting. This is from a John David Bannon in Queensborough, New York. He said, “I’m curious about whether a spirit returning to the earth plane always comes back in sequence. If I now live in 2021, die and return, do I always return in the future relative to the current time? Is there any indication that we reincarnate in the past, say years before? Maybe I die now and reincarnate in the year 1600?”

Jim: Yeah, we talked about that a little bit earlier. No, there’s not any evidence of that. I like the idea of it, though, that maybe it would be a different reality or something. But I think it would be interesting. Personally, I’d like to come back, say, in Boston in the Revolutionary War period or whatever. So, I hope we can do it, but that’s not what our cases report.

Rick: Yeah, there’s a Stephen Wright joke. He goes into a cafe and it says breakfast served any time. And he said, “I’ll have French toast during the Renaissance.”

Jim: Yeah, why not?

Rick: Some people I’ve talked to do say, I don’t know how they know this, but they feel rather confident, that time is not linear, we just perceive it as linear. We’re kind of wired to perceive it that way because it makes living more practical. But in fact, we are living all of our multiple lives simultaneously in sort of different dimensions.

Jim: Yeah, there are also some near-death experiences where people report that they saw their whole life at once, in a kaleidoscope kind of thing. So, you know, if consciousness exists separate from this space-time, then it can be mind-boggling to think about what the interaction with time might be. And yeah, is it simultaneous? And what does that mean to be simultaneous as time is marching on? So, it gets complicated.

Rick: Yeah, you have an interesting section in one of your books about physics and the relativity of time and so on. You go into Einstein’s theories. I always love listening to that stuff. I can never retain it well enough to tell you the difference between the special theory and the general theory of relativity, but it’s all very interesting. Time is so malleable. You know, if you could ride on a photon, so to speak, you’d go from the Andromeda galaxy to here instantly. But from our perspective, as a stationary observer, it takes two million years for the photon to get here.

Jim: Right, it’s not the constant that we think it would be. There are different perspectives that have different times.

Rick: Here’s a question from Akshay in Pune, India. You’ve probably heard the phrase “old soul,” the idea that people have lived so many lives that they’ve accumulated a lot of wisdom and so on. In any of your cases, have you felt like the child that you’re talking to is an old soul, is a really wise young person?

Jim: Well, they’re mostly small children. Some of them come out with kind of philosophical statements, but many of them not. They’re often focused on the events at the end of the previous life, often missing people, often traumatized by the death. So, they’re kind of like everyone else. And, I suppose that’s good. And then, most of the kids seem to lose their memories of the past life. They certainly stop talking about them. And then they just go on to be ordinary kids, which again, is good, so that they’re experiencing this life without too much of things overhanging from the previous life.

Rick: Yeah. There are some stories in India of child saints, who just became extremely precociously wise at a very young age, like Shankara, for instance. He was giving lectures at the age of six and commenting on the Brahma Sutras at the age of 10 or 11 with disciples around him and stuff like that. Anyway, it’s kind of inspiring. Here’s another question from Anna in Warsaw. She said, “Many children talk about love as something crucial for their memories. People who have had NDEs also mention it.” Yeah, you often hear people with NDEs say, “The big lesson in life is how much you loved,” and they realized that when they had their NDE. Anna asks, “Maybe love is the vehicle that carries our consciousness from one life to another. Maybe it is the recent achievement of evolution.”

Jim: Well, that’s a little hard to respond to. I certainly agree that love is what gives life meaning, and we understand very little about consciousness and vehicles or anything else and how those tie in together. You know, spirit and love, obviously there’s a connection there. So, I can’t really respond to the specifics of her statement or question, but I get that love is an important part of the story.

Rick: Yeah, it’s probably a nice note to end on. Obviously, what the world needs now is love, sweet love. That’s the only thing that there’s just too little of. It’s an old song.

Jim: Yes.

Rick: Whatever the reality of all these things that we like to speculate on, and in your case, more than speculate, you’ve done significant research on it. We would like to be happy, and ideally, we should like others to be happy. I remember one time I was in the Philippines, and I was taking a bus ride to this waterfall, and the countryside was so beautiful, it was heavenly. And yet my experience with so many of the people I’d encountered there was that they were miserable. And I was just thinking, “It’s so sad and kind of ironic that they’re in this heavenly place and feeling so desperate and suffering so much.” I feel like the potential is there for our inner experience to be as heavenly as the most lovely places on Earth are, outwardly. And that we could have a situation of 200% of life where it’s 100% outer beauty and abundance and 100% inner fulfillment for all of us.

Jim: Right. So, there’s a lot about the environment that, as an individual you don’t have control over, but you do have control over your internal environment. So, it’s an ongoing effort. We all can get wrapped up in the various stressors that we have, and of course some people have more than others. But there’s also an opportunity to appreciate what is here that is good and to help those around us have the good things and appreciate them too, and to share the love and have a good life, even if some of the exterior things are not so good. So, there’s the internal work that continues on even while we also work on the outer world as well.

Rick: Good. Well, let’s keep working on it. Thanks for what you’re doing. It’s very interesting. And we touched on what your work is now, but do you have any big future goals or aspirations in this line of work that you haven’t even gotten to yet that you’d like to accomplish?

Jim: Not exactly. I think, again, continuing to strengthen what we’ve already done is worthwhile. I would like to, my big dream would be to connect this to the physics we were talking about earlier, in a way that would contribute more to the development of a new paradigm. And I probably have to wait until my next life to make a lot of progress with that. But it’s all there. There are plenty of people coming at it from different angles, as far as what reality is and how it’s more than just the physical. And, in fact, it may be basically idealism more than physicalism that we should really be focused on. So anyway, I continue to explore in my mind that connection between past lives and consciousness and also the physics. And maybe at some point we’ll pull it all together and go from there.

Rick: Yeah. We were talking earlier about paradigm shifts, and I really do feel like we’re in the midst of a big one. And that it’s hard to see, you know, from a ground-level perspective exactly what’s happening and how it’s shifting and so on. But I think the time will come when we look back, maybe you and I won’t be alive anymore, maybe we will. But when we think, whew, that was a radical transformation of society, unlike anything the world had ever gone through in recorded history.

Jim: Well, I hope so. And you’re right. I mean, if you’re taking a step at a time, then you lose the sense of the marathon. But hopefully, we’re making progress. And sometimes it’s two steps forward and one step back. But, yeah, it is, and then there’ll be these leaps, right?

Rick: Yeah.

Jim: You know, as with Einstein or whatever. So maybe we’re getting primed for a big leap. So that would be great.

Rick: Yeah, could be. And the way phase transitions work, you often don’t see them coming. As water heats up, it could be 99 degrees centigrade, nothing strange about it. All of a sudden, one more degree and it’s boiling. So, we could be closer to a big shift than we realize.

Jim: Yeah, I hope so.

Rick: Yeah, hope so. Anyway, what you’re doing is an important part of the puzzle, a piece of the work. We’re all on one big team pulling our various ropes. So, thanks. I really appreciated, delving into your work and spending this time with you.

Jim: Well, I appreciate the chance to talk with you. And as you say, we’re all contributing. And certainly, programs like this, and clearly with all the thought that you’ve done, we’re all kind of working together to grow basically. So, thanks for the opportunity to share some time with you.

Rick: Yeah, and I’ll be in touch. I’m interested in your comrade Edward Francis Kelly down there. You introduced me to him on one of the things you asked me to watch. And he sounds like he’d be an interesting guy to talk to. Maybe if you run into him, tell him we’ll be getting in touch at some point.

Jim: Yeah, he would be a great guest for you.

Rick: Yeah, he would. All right, so thank you, and thanks to those who have been listening or watching. As always, I will create a page on batgap.com about this interview with links to Dr. Tucker’s websites and books and so on and so forth. And I think your email address is right on one of your websites so people can get in touch with you if they have a kid that remembers past lives or if they want to get in touch with you for any reason. You’re pretty accessible.

Jim: Yeah, I confess I get enough emails where I’m not always quick to respond and to be honest may not always respond, but I’ll certainly try.

Rick: Good. All right, thanks to those who have been listening or watching, and we will see you for the next one. The next one is going to be kind of a one-two punch because next week I’m going to be talking to Dr. Julie Beischel of the Windbridge Institute, and she’s been doing scientific research on mediums. Obviously, a little bit different than what we’re talking about here, but mediums are people who talk to people who have passed over, so it’s kind of related.

Jim: Well, give her my regards. She does good work.

Rick: Yeah, I will. All right, thanks. See you all next time.