Mary Lurancy Vennum. a thirteen year old girl, lived in Watseka, Illinois in 1877. Following a fit, she woke up claiming to be a neighbour’s dead daughter, Mary Roff. For four months she literally became the dead girl before reverting to her former self.

This is one of the most famous cases of reincarnation. Typical was Dorothy Eady, who became convinced she was an ancient Egyptian. She moved to Egypt to live the life of her previous incarnation in a small village until her death in 1981. Jenny Cockell from Northamtonshire had dreams from a child about ‘Mary’ who lived close to Dublin. In the late 1980s she located the woman, who had died in 1932, and met her children.
Reincarnation is the belief that people live many lives, the soul transferring to another upon death. Centred around eastern religions, the belief can be traced back to early tribal societies, who lived according to the cycles of nature.
This understanding of ‘cycles’ could lie at the heart of the belief, with everything in eastern religions being cyclical. Therefore it is obvious that such cycles would intrude upon beliefs in life after death.
Dr Ian Stevenson researched many eastern cases from the 1960s onwards. Typical of such cases is Kumari Shanti Devi, born in Delhi in 1926.As a girl she claimed to be the wife of Kedar Nath Chaubey, a hundred miles away. Taken to his village, she had accurate information about this previous life.
Evidence of reincarnation can come in two forms. Typically, as seen, a child can awake and seem to have knowledge of a previous life. Often the facts are confirmed, but could similarly arise from hearing of a dead person and taking the facts into the mind.
The second form is evidence grasped from past life regression during hypnosis. However, it is often the case that such previous lives are only gained when hypnotized by a therapist who believes in the phenomenon. Has he transferred the belief on?
One explanation for the correct information that can be given is cryptomnesia. This is the ability of the mind to remember facts from films, books, etc, that you seem to have ‘forgotten.’ When remembered, they ally themselves to a believed previous life.
A typical case is that of Jane Evans who, in the 1970s, recounted six previous lives. One was of Livonia from York when the future Constantine the Great lived there. The accurate facts were eventually traced to a novel by Louis de Wohl.
A related phenomenon to supposed reincarnation could be multiple personality. Here, a person’s mind fragments into many different characters which take it in turn to take over the body. A combination of this and cryptomnesia could account for much of what we think of as reincarnation.

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