He devoted most of his career to investigating cases of children who claimed to remember previous lives, also known as cases of the reincarnation type (CORT). He collected and analyzed over 3000 cases from different cultures and regions of the world, documenting his findings in numerous books and papers.
Stevenson’s method was to interview the children and their families, as well as any witnesses or relatives of the deceased persons they claimed to be.
He also verified the details of their statements by checking official records, visiting the locations, and examining any physical marks or birth defects that matched the alleged previous lives.
He applied rigorous standards of evidence and was careful to rule out alternative explanations such as fraud, fantasy, or influence from the parents or the media.
Stevenson’s research revealed some remarkable patterns and features that suggested a genuine phenomenon of reincarnation. Some of these were:
– The children usually began to talk about their past lives between the ages of two and four, and stopped by the age of six or seven. Stevenson wrote: “The age at which children begin to speak about previous lives is usually between two and four years; it is seldom earlier than two years or later than five years.”
– The children often showed emotional attachment to their previous families and homes, and sometimes expressed a desire to return to them. Stevenson observed: “Many children who claim to remember previous lives show an emotional involvement with their statements that is usually stronger than that shown in their ordinary talk.”
– The children sometimes displayed skills, talents, or preferences that were unusual for their current families or cultures, but consistent with their past lives. Stevenson noted: “Some children show abilities that seem related to their claimed previous lives but are not explained by any hereditary or environmental influences in their present lives.”
– The children often recognized people, places, or objects from their past lives, even when they had never seen them before in their current lives. Stevenson reported: “Some children recognize persons whom they have not met in their present lives but who were connected with the previous personality; they may also recognize places and objects unfamiliar in their present lives.”
– The children sometimes spoke words or phrases in languages that they had not learned in their current lives, but that belonged to their past lives. Stevenson called this phenomenon “xenoglossy” and stated: “We have investigated a few cases in which a child has appeared to speak a language that he has not learned normally; we call this phenomenon responsive xenoglossy.”
– The children frequently had birthmarks or birth defects that corresponded to wounds or injuries that caused or contributed to the death of their previous personalities. Stevenson claimed: “In many cases birthmarks and birth defects correspond to wounds (usually fatal) on the body of the deceased person whose life a child later claims to remember.”
One example of Stevenson’s cases is that of a Sri Lankan girl who recalled drowning in a river after being pushed by her mentally challenged brother.
She also remembered details about her previous family, such as her father’s name, occupation, and appearance, her house with a skylight and dogs in the backyard, and the Hindu temple next to her home where people smashed coconuts.
Stevenson was able to locate and confirm all these facts, as well as identify the girl’s previous personality and family.
Stevenson’s research has been praised by some scholars and scientists as a groundbreaking contribution to the understanding of human consciousness and its survival after death.
It has also been criticized by others as flawed, inconclusive, or biased by his own beliefs. However, Stevenson always maintained an open-minded and cautious attitude towards his data, and invited others to examine it for themselves. He never claimed to have proven reincarnation, but only to have provided evidence that supported its possibility.
Stevenson’s work remains a unique and valuable source of information for anyone interested in the mystery of reincarnation and its implications for our lives.
As he wrote in one of his books: “I believe that we can learn more about ourselves by studying our possible reincarnations than we can by studying only our present personalities.”