Cover image for Old souls : the scientific evidence for past lives
Old souls : the scientific evidence for past lives
Shroder, Tom.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Simon & Schuster, [1999]

Physical Description:
255 unnumbered pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
BL515 .S46 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
BL515 .S46 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
BL515 .S46 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
BL515 .S46 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
BL515 .S46 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Ian Stevenson has been travelling the world, tracking reports of children who claim to have lived before. From the hills of Beirut to the slums of northern India, this text offers an insight into Stevenson as he struggles to understand the mysterious phenomenon of old souls reborn into new bodies.

Author Notes

Tom Shroder has been an award-winning journalist, writer, and editor for more than twenty years. A fourth-generation author Shroder edits the Sunday Style section of The Washington Post. Previously, he was executive editor of the Miami Herald's Tropic magazine, which during his tenure was awarded two Pulitzer prizes for content. He lives in northern Virginia.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Journalist Shroder accompanied Dr. Ian Stevenson, a groundbreaker in the field of reincarnation, as he interviewed children who said they had lived before. The journey takes the pair to remote parts of India, the hills of Lebanon, and eventually back to America. Shroder tries to maintain the veneer of a skeptic, but he has no real explanation for the reports of children who matter-of-factly recall previous lives. Since Shroder is inside the narrative, a part of the story becomes how he comes to terms with what he is discovering and how it applies to his own questions about life. That proves fascinating in itself, but the real draw here is the children--their remarkable stories and the seemingly unending questions they raise: Are children influenced by cultural expectations of reincarnations? Is the ability to remember incarnations somehow genetic? And, of course, What other factors might be responsible for a child's remembrances of lives past? Involvingly written, this intriguing account raises more questions than it answers. --Ilene Cooper

Publisher's Weekly Review

While it is easy for Western science to dismiss as fantasy or wish fulfillment the recollections of individuals who "remember" being Cleopatra or Napoleon, how is one to explain a young boy's insistence that he is really a nondescript auto mechanic who died in a car crash a few years before? American psychiatrist Ian Stevenson has spent more than 30 years studying the cases of some 2000 children who spontaneously remember concrete details about dead strangers whose experiences can be documented. On his two final field trips, to Lebanon and India, he was accompanied by journalist Shroder, Sunday Style editor of the Washington Post. Shroder's account of these expeditions emphasizes physical detail over in-depth analysis but nevertheless makes for engrossing reading. In many cases, the subjects exhibit birthmarks or extreme phobias corresponding to injuries or traumatic events in their "past lives." They recognize the deceased's relatives and friends; in one case, a Lebanese boy asked the deceased's mother if she had finished knitting the sweater she was making for him when he died. That the compelling questions raised by such cases are ignored by the scientific establishment causes Stevenson great disappointment. "For me," he claims, "everything now believed by scientists is open to question, and I am always dismayed to find that many scientists accept current knowledge as forever fixed." The journalistic objectivity Shroder brings to his material makes this an exceptionally valuable treatment of an often disparaged subject. Agent, Al Hart, Fox Chase Agency. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Shroder, an editor at the Washington Post, persuaded psychiatrist Ian Stevenson to take him along on six months of field research in Beirut, India, and America. The research involved tracking reports of children claiming to recall vivid details about a stranger who has lived before and possessing certain birthmarks related to that person's violent death, such as a bullet wound. When the historical data are matched, we have a mystery suggesting that old souls are reborn into new bodies. During 37 years of research, Stevenson has documented over 2500 alleged cases of reincarnationÄevidence that has been ignored by mainstream science. Shroder has effectively captured some of Stevenson's work, but we are still left wondering about the mechanics of the transfer of identity and markings. For larger collections on reincarnation/paranormal studies.ÄLeo Kriz, West Des Moines Lib., IA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One The Question It is late, nearly lightless. Smoke from a million dung fires hangs in the headlights as the Maruti microbus bangs along the narrow, cratered hardpack that passes for a paved road in the Indian outback. We are still hours away from the hotel, an island of First World comfort in this simmering Third World ocean, and the possibility that we will never get there looms as large as the oncoming truck, absurdly overloaded and undermaintained, shuddering violently as it hurtles toward us dead in the middle of the road. Using every inch of the rutted dirt shoulder, we barely escape. Through the thin tin of the Maruti, I can feel the truck vibrate, smell death in the exhaust pumping from its tailpipe. In escape, there is no relief. We bounce back onto the road's pitted surface and immediately overtake a wooden cart lumbering to the heavy gait of yoked oxen with immense horns. Our driver leans on his horn as he swerves around the cart into a blind curve that I can only pray is not occupied by a bus loaded to the dented metal ceiling with humans and farm animals. I try not to think about the lack of seat belts or the mere half inch of glass and metal that separates the front seat from whatever we plow into -- or the Lonely Planet article I read that said fatal accidents were forty times more likely on Indian roads than on American highways. Or the account of a Western traveler who hired a car and driver in northern India, exactly as we have, only to crash head on into a truck, then regain consciousness in agony in a crude hospital, stripped of passport, money belt, and insurance papers. I try not to think about dying ten thousand miles from home, about never seeing my wife and children again, about their lives going on without any trace of me. I try not to think about absolute darkness. But even within my bubble of fear, I am aware of the irony. Sitting in the backseat, apparently unconcerned about the two-ton mud-splattered torpedoes racing toward us, is a tall, white-haired man, nearly eighty, who insists that he has compiled enough solid, empirical evidence to demonstrate that physical death is not necessarily the end of me or anyone else. His name is Ian Stevenson, and he is a physician and psychiatrist who has been braving roads like this and worse for thirty-seven years to bring back reports of young children who speak of remembering previous lives and provide detailed and accurate information about people who died before they were born, people they say they once were. While I struggle with my fear of dying, he is wrestling with his own fear of annihilation: that his life's work will end, largely ignored by his peers. "Why," he asks for the third time since night has fallen, "do mainstream scientists refuse to accept the evidence we have for reincarnation?" On this day, and for the past six months, Stevenson has shown me what he means by "evidence." He has permitted me to accompany him on field trips, first to the hills surrounding Beirut and now on a wide swath of India. He has responded to my endless questions and even invited me to participate in the interviews that are the heart of his research. The evidence he is referring to does not come from fashionable New Age sources, past-life readings, or hypnotic regressions during which subjects talk about being a Florentine bride in the sixteenth century or a soldier in the Napoleonic Wars, rendering the kind of details one might garner in an hour's time paging through a few romance novels. The details Stevenson's children recall are far more homely and more specific than those. One remembers being a teenager called Sheila who was hit by a car crossing the road to collect grass for cattle feed, another recalls the life of a young man who died of tuberculosis asking for his brother, a third remembers being a woman waiting for heart surgery in Virginia, trying and failing to call her daughter before the operation she would not survive. It goes on and on: These children supply names of towns and relatives, occupations and relationships, attitudes and emotions that, in hundreds of cases around the world, are unique to a single dead individual, often apparently unknown to their present families. But the fact is, the people the children remember did exist, the memories that the children claim can be checked against real lives and their alleged feats of identification verified -- or contradicted -- by a variety of witnesses. This is what Stevenson has been doing for almost forty years; it is what we have been doing in Lebanon and India: examining records, interviewing witnesses, and measuring the results against possible alternative explanations. I have seen close up, as few others have, how compelling some of these cases can be -- and not just factually, but in the emotion visible in the eyes and the voices of the subjects, their families, and the families of the people they claim to have been. I have seen and heard astonishing things, things for which I have no easy explanation. Now we are near the end of our last trip together, perhaps the last trip of Stevenson's career. It dawns on me in the noisy chill of the microbus, droning and rattling through the night, that Stevenson's question is not rhetorical. He is asking me, the outsider, the skeptical journalist who has seen what he has to show, to explain. How can scientists, professed to hold no dogma that reasonable evidence cannot overturn, ignore the volumes of reasonable evidence that he has provided? I begin to go into some long riff about how, in the absence of any knowledge about the mechanism of the transfer -- the means by which personality, identity, and memory can be reassigned from one body to another -- it is hard to talk about proof. But then I stop cold. I hear myself rambling, and realize what he is really asking: After all I have seen and heard, do I, at least, believe? I, who have always felt mortality in my marrow, who have stared inward but never seen a ripple nor heard a whisper of any life but my own, who have seen people near to me disappear into death with an awesome and unappealable finality and learned in my flesh, where it counts, that the only thing abiding is an unyielding sense of diminishment. What do I think? He wants to know. He is asking me. He deserves an answer. Copyright © 1999 Tom Shroder. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Part I Prologue--Children Who Remember Previous Lives
Chapter 1 The Questionp. 13
Chapter 2 You Only Live Oncep. 16
Chapter 3 The Man Behind the Curtainp. 28
Part II Beirut--Children of War
Chapter 4 The Book of Danielp. 41
Chapter 5 Speed Killsp. 65
Chapter 6 The Love of Her Livesp. 79
Chapter 7 The Hereticp. 96
Chapter 8 In the Name of the Familyp. 111
Chapter 9 New Jersey Is a State of Mindp. 122
Chapter 10 To Stop a Trainp. 140
Chapter 11 The Last Easy Answerp. 145
Part III India -- Children of Poverty
Chapter 12 The Milkmanp. 151
Chapter 13 City of Glass and Glamourp. 170
Chapter 14 Marked for Lifep. 180
Chapter 15 Sumitra Doesn't Live Here Anymorep. 197
Part IV The United States--Children Next Door
Chapter 16 A Land Called Dixiep. 215
Chapter 17 The Edge of Sciencep. 224
Chapter 18 Chrysalisp. 240
Acknowledgmentsp. 254
Selected Bibliographyp. 255