Dr. Ian Stevenson: Background information when reading The Forgetting Time

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The Forgetting Time

by Sharon Guskin

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin X
The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin
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    Feb 2016, 368 pages

    Feb 2017, 368 pages


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Dr. Ian Stevenson

This article relates to The Forgetting Time

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Dr. Ian StevensonSharon Guskin's debut novel, The Forgetting Time, explores reincarnation – specifically children who seem to experience it. In an interview about her research, she explains that after stumbling across a book about Dr. Ian Stevenson and his intense research of children and reincarnation, she was hooked.

Ian Stevenson (1918-2007) was a psychiatrist and professor at the University of Virginia School of Medicine for 50 years. His work focused on reincarnation and he spent over 40 years traveling around the world, studying over 3000 children who said they remembered having past lives. During that time, Stevenson pinpointed evidence suggesting that memories and physical injuries can be transferred from one lifetime to another. He specifically suggested that children who had unexplained memories, phobias, injuries, birthmarks or illnesses had gotten them during previous lives. (For instance, a child with an unexplained phobia of water might have drowned in a previous life.)

One child in particular triggered Stevenson's fascination with reincarnation. In 1960, he heard of a Sri Lankan boy who remembered a past life. Stevenson interviewed him, as well as his current parents and the people he said used to be his parents. The accuracy with which the boy described his former life, and the improbability of anything in his current life contributing to that knowledge, amazed Stevenson. After this experience, he felt that reincarnation was, indeed, real and his in-depth research began. Over the course of his lifetime, Stevenson wrote 300 papers and 14 books on the subject. Most of his cases come from countries where reincarnation is an accepted belief, and he posited that children were discouraged from exploring past life memories in cultures where it is not. The cases he studied typically had five things in common: the child communicated a past-life memory as soon as he could communicate at all (around 2 years old and sometimes up the age of 5), the child remembered his previous death in detail, the child's previous-life family is identified, personality traits and tastes are consistent between both lives, and gender usually stays the same.

There are many critics of his work, of course. They suggest that Stevenson was deceived by either the parents or the children themselves (or, in some cases, translators), that he asked leading questions, and that he only presented cases that supported his ideas.

Stevenson's obituary, published in The Telegraph, noted his feelings about his own death: "…he was apprehensive" but not scared... 'I have a feeling I'm going to be confronted with memories, some of which I won't like, and would like to expunge. But I do wonder, what parents could possibly want me as a baby?'"

Dr. Ian Stevenson, courtesy of Wikipedia

Filed under People, Eras & Events

This "beyond the book article" relates to The Forgetting Time. It originally ran in February 2016 and has been updated for the February 2017 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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