Past Life Experiences in Children

BG writes: “If there’s no such thing as reincarnation, why do so many children remember past lives with details they couldn’t possibly have known about?”

Great question!

The Washington Post just published a story entitled “The children who remember their past lives,” which detailed the work of Jim B. Tucker, MD, a director of the Division of Perceptual Studies (DOPS) at the University of Virginia. Tucker manages a database for the University’s Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences which houses detailed records of children’s descriptions of past life memories, some of which are indeed remarkable.

For example, the case highlighted in the Post article details a two-year-old girl named Aija (not her real name) who talked about a girl named Nina since the time she could talk. According to Aija, her “friend” Nina played piano, liked the color pink, and loved to dance. Remarkably, Aija was able to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on the piano – with no instruction from them – and said Nina taught her how to play it. Sometimes Aija would speak about Nina in the first person, and when she did, her whole demeanor would change.

One day, Aija told them that Nina had “numbers on her arm” that made her sad and that she was taken away from her family. It became apparent that Aija was talking about a child caught up in the Holocaust, something she knew absolutely nothing about.

In another case, a two-year-old boy named James Leininger would wake up screaming “Airplane crash on fire! Little man can’t get out!” His baffled parents slowly put together information from the child via drawings about a World War II pilot who died when he was shot down by the Japanese. The child’s account included names of people and places that he could not possibly have known about.

Then there was five-year-old Ryan Hammons from Oklahoma who told his parents one day, “I think I used to be somebody else.” The child would frequently lay awake at night and ask, “Can I go home? Can I see my mom? What happened to my children?”

Tucker’s work, which was inherited from the late Ian Stephenson, MD, has found certain consistent patterns among the more than 150 testimonies he has personally heard.

First, the most convincing stories tend to occur in children between the ages of two and six. As the Post article states, the children “might suddenly describe places they have never been, people they have never met, sometimes using words or phrases that seem beyond their vocabulary. Nightmares or sleep disturbances are occasionally reported. Many of these children are highly verbal and start speaking earlier than their peers. Their descriptions of past-life recollections often fade away entirely by the time the child turns seven or eight.”

So how does this happen? If there is no such thing as reincarnation, what explanation is there for how children so young could possibly know these kinds of details?

Actually, there are several very plausible explanations.

First, as pointed out by Trent Horn in this article appearing on Catholic Answers, there were problems with Stevenson’s research in that it relied too often on children in cultures where reincarnation was a part of their belief system.

“So, a lot of these children are in India, where there’s a cultural expectation for reincarnation. So, we’d expect them to come up with stories like these.”

A second explanation is that many times, the child’s information is ambiguous and could be interpreted in various ways. Horn cites the work of skeptic Robert Todd Carroll who gave the example of a two-year-old girl in Idaho who would point at a picture of her deceased sister who was killed three years before she was born and tell her parents, “That was me.” A believer in reincarnation would assume the girl was saying this was her in a past life; a non-believer would say that the child was simply saying that the little girl in the picture was her.

Third, if we’re all reincarnated souls, why isn’t the world’s population stagnant? Why does it continue to grow by the millions every year? This was the argument of Tertullian who said, “If the living come from the dead, just as the dead proceed from the living, then there must always remain unchanged one and the selfsame number of mankind” (A Treatise on the Soul 30).

Fourth, Horn asks, “If we are reincarnated, then why don’t more people have memories of their previous, past lives?”

A fifth explanation can be found in a basic understanding of demonology and the nature of demons. They have been observing mankind since the beginning of history and are more than aware of every tiny nuance of every human being who ever lived. If they can mimic the souls of the dead to mediums with startlingly accurate descriptions, why can’t they mimic a person from a past life and present this information to an unsuspecting child either through the imagination, dreams, or other psychic means? The answer is that they can. And because demons are wholly concerned with destroying faith in God, what better way than to attack a core Christian belief in the Resurrection of Christ and life eternal?

However, those who understand Catholic teaching on the soul and its connection to the body won’t be so easily fooled.

As Tim Staples explains in this article, “Reincarnation implies a previous bodily existence. Or, as the term indicates, a former ‘fleshly’ existence. Philosophically speaking, ‘reincarnation’ is impossible because the soul is the form of the body. In other words, it is the soul that ‘gives form to the body’ as it is.”

In other words, we were created as a body and soul composite and the two were always meant to be together. Our soul cannot “come back” in another body or form because it was not created to be with any other body than the one we were given when conceived. When we die, our soul will temporarily leave our bodies, but will eventually be reunited with a glorified version of the same body at the Resurrection of the Dead.

“Thus, ‘resurrection’ is reasonable, but ‘reincarnation’ is not,” Staples explains. “The ‘resurrection’ produces the same body and, of course, the same person.”

This is why the Church teaches that “Death is the end of man’s earthly pilgrimage, of the time of grace and mercy which God offers him so as to work out his earthly life in keeping with the divine plan, and to decide his ultimate destiny. When ‘the single course of our earthly life’ is completed, we shall not return to other earthly lives: “It is appointed for men to die once.” There is no “reincarnation” after death. (CCC 1013)

© All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly®/Women of Grace®

Send your New Age questions to

Comments are closed.