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Lions Roar : May 2018
For Jim Tucker, though, the spiritual connections—Buddhist or otherwise—are incidental. “I’m purely investigating what the facts show,” he says, “as opposed to how much they may agree or disagree with particular belief systems.” Rebirth is just one component of a theory of consciousness that Tucker is working on. “The mainstream materialist posi- tion is that consciousness is produced by the brain, this meat,” he says. “So consciousness is what some people would call an epiphenomenon, a byproduct.” He sees it the other way around: our minds don’t exist in the world; the world exists in our minds. Tucker describes waking reality as like a “shared dream,” and when we die, we don’t go to another place. We go into another dream. Tucker’s dream model parallels some key Buddhist concepts. In Buddhism, reality is described as illusion, often compared to a sleeping dream. In Siddhartha Gautama’s final realization, he reportedly saw the truth of rebirth and recalled all of his past lives. Later that night, he attained enlightenment, exited the cycle of death and rebirth, and earned the title of “Buddha”— which literally means “one who is awake.” In fact, according to scripture, the Buddha met most—if not all—of Jim Tucker’s six criteria for a proven case of rebirth. Maybe he would have made an interesting case. MEMORY IS ONLY ONE PHENOMENON associated with past lives, and memories alone are not enough to make a case. In order to proceed with an investigation, Tucker’s team requires that a case meet at least two out of six criteria: 1. a specific prediction of rebirth, as in the Tibetan Buddhist tulku system 2. a family member (usually the mother) dreaming about the previous personality (PP) coming 3. birthmarks or birth defects that seem to correspond to the previous life 4. corroborated statements about a previous life 5. recognitions by the child of persons or objects connected to the PP 6. unusual behaviors connected to the PP Tucker’s research suggests that, if rebirth is real, much more than memories pass from one life to the next. Many children have behaviors and emotions that seem closely related to their previous life. Emotionality is a signal of a strong case. The more emotion a child shows when recalling a past life, the stronger their case tends to be. When children start talking about past-life memo- ries, they’re often impassioned. Sometimes they demand to be taken to their “other” family. When talking about their past life, the child might talk in the first person, confuse past and pres- ent, and get upset. Sometimes they try to run away. In one case, a boy named Joey talked about his “other mother” dying in a car accident. Tucker recounts the following scene in Life Before Life: “One night at dinner when he was almost four years old, he stood up in his chair and appeared pale as he looked intently at his mother and said, ‘You are not my family—my family is dead.’ He cried quietly for a minute as a tear rolled down his cheek, then he sat back down and contin- ued with his meal.” In another unsettling case, a British boy recalled the life of a German WWII pilot. At age two, he started talking about crash- ing his plane while on a bombing mission over England. When he learned to draw, he drew swastikas and eagles. He goose- stepped and did the Nazi salute. He wanted to live in Germany, and had an unusual taste for sausages and thick soups. In some cases, these emotions manifest in symptoms that look like post-traumatic stress disorder, but without any obvious trauma in this life. Some of these children engage in “post-traumatic play” in which they act out their trauma— often the way the PP died—with toys. One boy repeatedly acted out his PP’s suicide, pretending a stick was a rifle and putting it under his chin. In the cases where the PP died unnaturally, more than a third of the children had phobias related to the mode of death. Among the children whose PP died by drown- ing, a majority were afraid of water. ➢ Researchers believe that behaviors may carry from one life to the next. A British boy, Carl (right), remembered being German WWII pilot Heinrich Richter (top). He would draw swastikas, goose-step, and do the Nazi salute. LION’S ROAR | MAY 2018 46