Children’s Past Life Memories And Healing ~ Part II
by Carol Bowman
PAST LIFE HEALING
Because I had my own physical and emotional healing as the result of a past life regression before my children’s memories emerged, I recognized the healing potential of past life memories for children. But I wondered, why were none of the professionals in the field of past life therapy writing about this? I read all of the best books on regression therapy with adults. In many published case studies, psychiatrists and psychologists demonstrated how current emotional and physical problems could be resolved by accessing past life memories and processing them with the patient. Some of these memories emerged spontaneously, some through hypnosis during the course of therapy.
Here is how past life healing works. As my teacher and friend Roger Woolger writes, “We come into each life with unfinished business of the soul.” Most often, the unfinished business relates to past life trauma, when the impressions of feelings, thoughts, and even physical injury get locked into place in our souls, our energy bodies, and are carried forward into our current lives. The beauty is that once the past life story becomes conscious, and the circumstances of that life understood, the energy frozen in the trauma is released, changing us and healing us in the present.
The most debilitating issues in the present stem from past life trauma and tragedy. But there is also great benefit in remembering more benign and ordinary past lives in which we honed talents or gained wisdom and compassion. Bringing positive memories to the surface can re-energize these talents and wisdom.
The same principles worked with my own children. After accessing and processing their past life traumas, their phobias went away. And, in my own son Chase’s case, his eczema, which related to his battlefield injury, healed.
DR. IAN STEVENSON
While I was pondering how children’s past life memories could heal, I discovered the work of Dr. Ian Stevenson. I felt I had struck gold.
Dr. Stevenson was the former Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia Medical School. In the early 1960s he gave up his prestigious position to investigate cases of children’s spontaneous past life memories and other paranormal phenomena. For more than 40 years Dr. Stevenson traveled around the world rigorously documenting between 2,500 and 3,000 cases of young children who had spontaneous recall of other lives. I emphasize rigorously because he was a brilliant man who was preparing these cases to present to his scientific peers. He knew his work would be carefully scrutinized, so he was careful to cover all bases with his methodologies and explore all possible alternative explanations for what he was finding.
Most of the cases Dr. Stevenson investigated were from Asia, in cultures that believed in reincarnation. Because there was a cultural belief that this could happen, these cases were more likely to be noticed, discussed, or reported. They are also his strongest cases, because Asian children remember more specific detail: their former names, where they had lived, and they recognized people they had formerly known. Because their memories were so detailed and specific, the child’s former identity could be verified in more than seven hundred cases. From this sample of cases, Dr. Stevenson found recurring patterns. The most obvious was the young age at which children talked about past lives.
Generally, these memories are most vivid between the ages of two and five. Cross-culturally, regardless of the parents’ beliefs, these memories tend to fade around the age of seven. (I have found this to be true in American children, too.)
Since Dr. Stevenson could verify the child’s former identity in some cases, the surviving relatives confirmed that the present child had behaviors corresponding to the person whose life they remembered. It wasn’t just statements about that life – it was also behaviors, some of which were specific and quirky. Some children would implore their parents to go back to their “other home” because they missed their families. In some cases, Dr. Stevenson or the families would accompany the child. The child would lead them to a particular house. The child would then comment on changes to the house that occurred after their death, correctly identify former relatives, even using their pet names or nicknames not known outside the family. They would ask for their former belongings – a pair of blue jeans purchased before their death, or a prized Rolex watch. (If this sounds familiar, each new incarnation of the Dalai Lama is determined by testing several young candidates’ past life memories. They see if the young child can correctly identify people and possessions known to the former Dalai Lama.)
One striking pattern in Dr. Stevenson’s research is that 75% of the children talked about their past life deaths. Of those, 51% remembered dying traumatically, and 35% had phobias relating to the way they died. This not only confirmed what I found with my own children, it also conformed with what past life therapists were finding: a traumatic death leaves deep emotional, mental, and physical impressions on the reincarnating soul, deep enough to manifest in a future life.
Most astounding, though, was that Dr. Stevenson found a physical correspondence between lifetimes. In 1997, he published a weighty, two-volume, 2,200-page tome called Reincarnation and Biology. In this work, Dr. Stevenson documents 225 cases of birthmarks and birth defects on children that corresponded to fatal wounds, injuries, or illnesses of the person the children remembered being in their former life. These children gave enough specific detail about their former lives (proper names, locations, descriptions of their deaths) that their former identities could be verified. When Dr. Stevenson checked police or autopsy reports of the deceased, he found a direct correspondence between the site of fatal wounds and injuries to present physical symptoms or birthmarks. Some of these birthmarks were multiple, corresponding to gunshot or stab wounds from the previous life. In 19 of these cases, when a child remembered dying of a gunshot wound, the present child would have two birthmarks (round, pigmented areas) corresponding to the entry and exit wounds of the bullets.
Through this monumental work, Dr. Stevenson has provided physical evidence for the validity of these memories. Dr. Stevenson summarized his findings in a very readable, shorter volume: Where Reincarnation and Biology Intersect, which was also published in 1997. I encourage anyone with a serious interest in reincarnation to read this extraordinary work.
Someone at the 2010 ISSSEEM Conference suggested to me that there could be a “super-psi” explanation for these memories. Perhaps children are tapping into an existing energy field coded with this information, the personal imprint of the life of a deceased person. This might be an explanation if a child made only statements about the life of a deceased person, providing factual information. But when a child makes verifiable statements about the life of a particular deceased person, and has corresponding behaviors and has a birthmark relating to the way they died in the past, I believe reincarnation is the best explanation. There must be some mechanism – an encoded energy field, an auric body, or an etheric body – that maintains the impressions from one life to another. The mechanism is mysterious. But we don’t have to prove the mechanism in order to recognize the fact that there is a constellation of characteristics relating to the deceased which suggests that an intact consciousness carries forward from one life to another. What should we call it? I call it “reincarnation,” an old and useful term. With all of the stunning evidence Dr. Stevenson found, he never publicly stated that all of these cases were proof of reincarnation. Instead, he would say they were evidence for or suggestive of reincarnation.
Through a series of synchronicities, I met Dr. Stevenson in Charlottesville in 1998 after my first book was published. His research associate, Dr. Jim Tucker, (who has since taken over Dr. Stevenson’s research after his death), married an old friend of mine, Chris, from Asheville. It was Chris who told Jim about my book, and gave a copy to Dr. Stevenson. When they invited me to visit them in Charlottesville, I was absolutely thrilled. There I was, without any scientific qualifications, finally meeting the man whose work I most admired. I had been reading and studying his cases for years.
In my first meeting with Dr. Stevenson, in the first few minutes, I asked him a question that had puzzled me, and I had been burning to ask: “Dr. Stevenson, in all of your research, you never mention anything about healing.” He looked at me sternly and directly and said, “There is no evidence for it. You can never prove that there is a direct cause and effect.”
I said, “Well, actually there is evidence for it.” I proceeded to tell him about some of my cases that were not in my book. I proposed that spontaneous past life memories can be opportunities for healing past life trauma, if the memories are acknowledged and processed. Past life trauma manifests in very much the same way as post traumatic stress disorder from a present-life trauma. So, in a real sense, young children may suffer from post traumatic stress disorder – but from a previous life. If that’s the case, why not treat it so?
In the following few years, I had the opportunity to accompany Dr. Stevenson and Jim Tucker on field investigations of some of my best cases that I shared with them. In my conversations with Dr. Stevenson, he would never acknowledge a correlation between healing and past life awareness. He dismissed the validity of past life regression with adults, although I assured him I was walking proof of it.
I found it puzzling that he was immersed in evidence that children could have spontaneous memories, but concluded that adults couldn’t access these memories through hypnosis, meditation, or a focused state of awareness. I saw that some children seemed to go into a light trance state – an altered state of awareness – when they remembered. Why couldn’t adults?
I have seen many cases in my twenty-two years as a past life therapist with adults in which the past life memories that first emerged spontaneously in childhood, that were not resolved in childhood, continued to affect the person throughout their adult life. These unresolved issues from previous lives created patterns that persisted from childhood into adulthood.
I came to realize that Dr. Stevenson didn’t need to cloud his research by introducing the question as to whether or not these memories could heal. He applied his expertise and brilliant mind to the sole objective of gathering empirical evidence of children’s past life memories that could verified through his investigative techniques. He established a correspondence between personality traits and even physical imprints that carried over from one life to another. He has left us a mighty legacy. I have the utmost respect for him, and what he did. Without his work, I wouldn’t have a foundation for my work.
BLAKE’S TRAUMATIC DEATH
As I delved more deeply into the cases, I merged my observations of how past lives of adults and children can heal with Dr. Stevenson’s findings of the patterns in children’s spontaneous memories, especially the preponderance of memories of traumatic death. I realized that it might be possible to heal children’s spontaneous memories of traumatic past life deaths. But in the first few years of my research, I had no way to test my ideas. Then in 1992 I got a call from a mother in Chicago, Colleen Hocken, whose son was having what she believed were past life memories that were deeply troubling him. Colleen, a mother of three, saw my classified ad in ‘Mothering Magazine’ and hoped that I could give her the help she needed. She told me her story.
When her middle son, Blake, had just turned three, he told her he had been hit by a truck, after seeing a garbage truck passing their house. Colleen assumed he was confused and meant a child had hit him with a toy truck in pre-school. When she questioned him, he said, “No, a real truck. The truck hurt me.” Then he started holding his left ear.
It just so happened that the previous day Colleen had seen Dr. Brian Weiss on Oprah, and Brian made one statement saying that sometimes children remember previous lives. This was just the day before. Recalling this remark, Colleen opened her mind, listened carefully, and asked Blake questions. She asked him what had happened.
He told her he went under the wheels of the truck, indicating with a wave of his hand down the left side of his body, that’s where he had been struck. She asked, “Then what happened?” He said, “They took me to this big building.” When she asked again, “What happened?” He said, “I died.”
Colleen asked, “Where were mommy and daddy when this happened?” He said, “Gone bye-bye at the store.” Colleen didn’t know what to make of this, and hoped that Blake would forget it. But a week or so later when a garbage truck passed by he told her the story again.
Colleen said that she noticed Blake’s behavior changed radically after he talked about being hit by the truck, but she didn’t attribute this change to what he had told her. He had become depressed, lost interest in playing, and complained about aches and pains on the left side of his body. When Colleen tried to comfort Blake, he would push her away and say, “I love you. I hate you.” She took Blake to the doctor, but there was nothing physiologically wrong with him. Colleen tried to give Blake extra attention, thinking he felt neglected as the middle child. She felt guilty and considered taking him to therapy. It wasn’t until some months later, when the family took a trip to London, that Colleen started piecing things together. While in London, they were stopped at a busy intersection. Blake was in a stroller. Suddenly, he jumped up out of the stroller and walked into the path of an oncoming truck. Fortunately, the driver was able to stop in time, and Blake’s father grabbed him by his collar and pulled him off the street.
At that moment something clicked in Colleen. She wondered if Blake’s statements about being hit by a truck had anything to do with this event. She wondered if this was some type of repetition from a previous life. And, if so, what could she do about it?
When she returned from London she saw my ad in ‘Mothering’ and immediately called me. Here was the opportunity I had been waiting for. I was going to put everything I had been learning to the test. I told Colleen what I had learned from my experiences with my own children, and the other mothers I had talked to. I explained that children carry beliefs and feelings with them from their previous lives into the present. Children experience a continuum of consciousness from death through rebirth. To a very young child, a past life memory feels and appears to be the same as something that happened days or weeks ago. They can’t distinguish past from present. Part of their consciousness is still stuck in the past life trauma; they don’t know they have made a transition into another body. I asked her to tell me more about what Blake was feeling. She said, “I try to comfort him, but he pushes me away.” I thought back to my daughter Sarah’s past life memory. At the time of her death in a burning house, she had falsely believed that her parents hadn’t loved her because they hadn’t saved her from the fire. She carried that anguish into this life. I explained Sarah’s experience to Colleen and suggested that Blake might be confusing Colleen with the mother who had left him to go to the store when he was hit by the truck. He needed to know it wasn’t Colleen who had left him. I told Colleen to wait until she was alone with Blake and he was relaxed, before bedtime, or at bath time. I told her to acknowledge Blake’s memory. Join his reality and let him know that she knew he was hit by the truck. Then let him know that he is now safe in a new body.
Blake needed to know that he had made the transition into a new life and that he was now protected by her. I imagined this may have sounded strange to Colleen. But I assured her that by knowing this, she should use her motherly instincts to find the right words to reassure him. I prayed this would work, because I didn’t know what else Colleen could do. I couldn’t imagine her taking this to a traditional therapist.
A week later, Colleen called and said, “You won’t believe what happened. I did what you said. I waited until Blake was relaxed, right before bedtime. I said to him, “Blake, you were hit by a truck, right?” He said, “Yes.” She continued, “That was a different life. You were in a different body and you had a different mommy.” As she said this, Colleen reported that for the first time in months Blake’s face lit up. He said, “I had a different body? A different mommy?” He seemed genuinely surprised. She assured him, “Yes, and now you’re safe.” Then she named all the people in his present life: his brothers, his relatives. She said his comprehension was immediate. She felt something lift from Blake. The next day Blake was back to his old smiley self as he had been before he started remembering the accident. All the aches and pains that he had been complaining about on the left side of his body went away.
Colleen said, “We got our Blake back.”
Blake’s case showed me that my model worked. When a child’s past life memory emerges spontaneously, adults can help the child in the following ways:
1. ACKNOWLEDGE what the child is saying. Even if you’re not sure if this is a memory or fantasy, don’t dismiss any statements, or shut down the conversation. Listen calmly. Ask open-ended questions. This keeps the memory flowing.
2. DISCERN what the child may be trying to express. Is this a benign memory, or a troubling one? Listen carefully to see how this memory might be affecting the child’s current life.
3. If a traumatic memory comes up, allow the child to EXPRESS the emotions with it, even if it’s disturbing or intense. Be a calm and safe presence so they can release feelings, if they need to. Most often, though, children are very matter-of-fact in talking about the past.
4. CLARIFY the difference between past and present. As in Blake’s case, an adult’s reassurance that the life is over and that the child is now safe can work wonders in helping a child let go of the past.
When parents ask if it’s safe to engage in such a conversation when a memory is emerging, I explain that it’s more damaging not to acknowledge the memory, which can confuse the child and denies the child a chance to process it and let it go.
I gathered many other cases, and in 1994 I started writing the book I couldn’t find when I was trying to understand what happened with my own kids.
Children’s Past Lives was published in 1997. It is now translated into about 16 foreign languages. And, because of the Internet, I’ve been getting hundreds of cases from all over the world. Each case is unique, but I see the same patterns over and over. The general model I wrote about still holds up.
I wasn’t planning on writing another book. But shortly after Children’s Past Lives was published, I got a poignant case from a Chicago mother that convinced me that there was another dimension to this phenomenon that needed to be explored, and another amazing story that needed to be told.
REINCARNATION IN THE SAME FAMILY
Kathy Luke was a teenage, single mother when her first son, James, was born in March of 1978. Kathy was estranged from James’s father. When James was 16 months old, he was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, and rapidly became very ill. By April of 1980, he had 17 tumors in his left leg, a large tumor behind his left eye which caused opaqueness and blindness in that eye and distortion on the left side of his face, and a tumor behind his right ear. When he was in the hospital, doctors inserted an IV on the right side of his neck which left a linear surgical scar.
After treating him in the hospital, the doctors told Kathy to take him home. There was nothing more they could do for him. Kathy was devastated. She lovingly cared for her son. One day when two-year-old James saw her crying he said to her, “Momma, don’t cry for me.” And then he died. Kathy honored her dying son’s wish and kept her grief bottled up inside.
After James died, Kathy married Don (not James’s father) and had a daughter, Katie. That marriage ended after four years. She then married Billy. Finally, she was in a good, stable relationship. They had a son, Josh.
Then Kathy became pregnant again in 1992. Twelve years after James died, Kathy gave birth to a son, Chad, by C-section. As she was waking up from the anesthesia, the doctors walked into her room telling her that they had some troubling news. After having lost a child, Kathy assumed the worst. They informed her that her son appeared to be blind in his left eye; there was no color in it. When they brought the baby in for Kathy to see, she immediately noticed what looked like a linear, surgical scar on the right side of his neck, in the same spot where James had an IV inserted while undergoing treatment. The pediatrician assured her that it was just a birthmark. But Kathy thought it looked like a scar. She also noticed what appeared to be a tumor behind his right ear, on the same spot where doctors had performed a biopsy on James. The doctor assured her that it was just a functional cyst that should go away in a few weeks. Rhetorically, she said to the doctors, “How can this be?” realizing that the blind left eye, the birthmark on the right side of his neck, and the cyst behind his right ear looked like the same abnormalities that had been apparent on James’s body right before he died.
When Kathy held Chad for the first time, she felt an ocean of relief wash over her. She said, “It was as if a great weight lifted from my soul.” She felt a strong bond with Chad, as if they had been connected before. She could sense it and feel it. She hadn’t felt that way when her two other children had been born after James’s death. But she said when she held Chad for the first time she had a feeling that “went straight to her heart.”
“I knew he was James. It gave me so much comfort to know that he had come back to me.” These realizations were coming from a woman who was raised in a strict, religious, Baptist home in America’s Bible Belt, who had never read any books about reincarnation. In fact, the very concept of reincarnation was heretical to her faith.
She cautiously shared what she was seeing with her husband Billy; he didn’t know what to think. When she shared this with her ex-husband, he told her she had lost her mind. Kathy decided to keep this to herself. She couldn’t discuss it with her family because of their strong religious beliefs. They would think she was mad. But when Chad was four years old, he shocked Kathy by telling her he wanted to go back to his “other” house. He described the apartment she had lived in with James. Chad also asked for specific toys that had belonged to James, which they didn’t have in their house. When Kathy asked Chad why he wanted to go back to his other house, he said, “Because I left you there.” This was the first indication that Chad knew about James’s life.
During the next couple of years, Chad occasionally talked about the life of James. Kathy didn’t question him. She waited for him to bring it up. She didn’t want to influence him in any way. Besides, she had no idea what to say to him. Once, when she brought out a photo of James, one she had never shared with her family, Chad got a shocked look on his face and said to her, “I’ve been wishing for this picture. I want it because it’s me.”
Another time, Chad went up to his ten-year-old brother and said, “When I was two years old I got so sick I couldn’t keep 7-Up down. Then I died and came back. When I die again, I’ll be back again.” This sent his brother running from the room! Kathy said no one else knew about the 7-Up. Chad’s statement was as direct as it could be.
At about this time, Kathy found my book in a bookstore and had a friend who owned a computer contact me. When I first read her story, I was deeply moved – and excited. Here was a mother who was convinced her dead son was back. Her feelings were bolstered by evidence – multiple physical symptoms relating to her first child’s death. I was eager to talk to Kathy.
We talked on the phone frequently for the next year and a half. Kathy reported each new statement Chad made about James’s life. I also asked her if she would be willing to meet with Dr. Stevenson. I knew he would relish the opportunity to investigate such an intriguing multiple birthmarks case in the U.S. He and Jim Tucker met with Kathy and her family and documented the case.
Kathy and I discussed why James may have come back to be with her again. Did he feel unfinished with his life when he told Kathy he wanted to go back to her former apartment because he left her there? We agreed that souls sometimes return to be with the same family because of strong bonds of love. Sometimes the soul feels that they’re needed, they can help the family, or they need to make amends. There could be many reasons why the soul returns to be with the same people – especially if they die young. We also discussed the possibility that the blindness in Chad’s eye, which had no physiological basis, might be healed if Kathy talked to Chad and explained to him that she knew he was back, and that he was now in a new body. It had worked in other cases. It was certainly worth a try, and couldn’t do any harm.
It took months for Kathy to muster the courage to talk to Chad directly about his memories. She reported, “One evening I sat Chad down on my lap and said, ‘I don’t know everything, but I know you were here before and you were a very sick little boy. Then you had to go away so you could come back in a healthy body.’ Chad just sat and listened to me as I spoke. Then his eyebrows lifted, his face lit up, and he chirped, ‘I know.’ Then he ran off to play. That’s all there was to it.”
Two days later, an excited Chad ran to Kathy and told her that he could see out of his left eye. She tested him by having him hold his hand over his right eye and holding up her fingers. He correctly told her how many fingers she was holding up. She tested him again later that day. To her amazement, he could now see something with his left eye. This was the first time he had any vision in that eye. Kathy took Chad to the ophthalmologist to have his eye tested. The doctor noted a slight improvement. To Kathy, any improvement was cause for celebration.
The change in Chad’s vision gave Kathy encouragement that her words had penetrated Chad’s soul. She told me, “I pray that both of our souls continue healing. My ultimate desire is for Chad’s soul to be at peace. In order for that to happen, there has to be closure on the past for both of us. If he felt guilty about leaving me or needed to know how sad I was when he died, he now knows I’m okay and he’s loved. It seems that healing the soul is like reading a book slowly: You finish one chapter at a time.”
Kathy noticed that she began feeling lighter. She told me that she no longer carried that heavy load of guilt about James’s death. She was finally at peace. These new feelings surprised her. She said that over the years she had prayed to have James back as a healthy child, to be given another chance to do it over. But now that she knew that this was real, and that James’s soul was back, she felt her prayers had been answered, but not in a way that she could have thought possible. This was a true miracle.
RETURN FROM HEAVEN
After my experience with Kathy, I knew it was time to write another book. I wondered how many other families would be comforted to know that reincarnation in the same family was possible. As soon as I made the decision to write the book, the cases began pouring in.
Return from Heaven was published in 2001. The book is full of cases of families who recognize a young child born into the family as a former relative who died before the child was born. The child is identified through direct statements he makes about the deceased’s life, quirky behaviors (that can’t be attributed to heredity), and through birthmarks and physical abnormalities that correspond to bodily trauma at the time of death of their loved one (again, something that cannot be attributed to heredity). For many members of the family, it was a shock to realize this. This often ran counter to their religious beliefs. Some family members refused to believe it, even after a child made startling statements about the deceased’s life that no one had ever mentioned to the child.
In the last decade, since the publication of Return From Heaven, I have collected more amazing cases of reincarnation in the same family. When I give lectures on the topic, invariably someone in the audience gasps as they realize they may have a case in their own family. It is confirming for them to hear that they aren’t imagining things, that this is really possible. It is most surprising (even to me) that reincarnation can occur in less than nine months. The cases I’ve gotten have shown me that reincarnation can occur quite soon (even the same day!) after death. This observation challenges widely held assumptions that there is a long or set interval between lives. It also suggests that there is flexibility as to when the soul, spirit, or consciousness joins the body.
In 2000 I joined Drs. Stevenson and Tucker for a follow-up visit to see Chad and his family in Chicago. During our time in Chicago we discussed the mystery as to why, based on the cases that were available, Asian children remembered more specific details of their previous lives than American children. We all agreed on the importance of finding detailed American cases that could be verified. We believed they existed, and because of the rapid growth of the Internet, obtaining them might become easier.
In 2002, I got a call from Shalini Sharma, a producer at ABC News. Shalini, whose parents are from India and who grew up in a Hindu household in the U.S., wanted to introduce Americans to reincarnation. She was familiar with children’s cases, and thought that a verifiable one would offer compelling evidence of reincarnation to an American audience. She asked if I had any cases of a child who remembered specific details of dying in war. I scanned hundreds of cases from my emails, and I found one from a year earlier that looked promising.
The email from Andrea Leininger, a mother from Louisiana, began like so many other emails I received: “I hope you don’t think I’m a kook, but . . .” Andrea told me that her mother had just sent her Children’s Past Lives because they believed her two-year-old son, James, was having memories of a previous life. One of James’s first words was “airplane.” Soon after that, anytime he would see a plane he would say, “airplane crash.” The only toys he wanted were airplanes, and he seemed to have an uncanny knowledge about flying and World War II airplanes.
When James was two and a half, he started waking up screaming and thrashing from nightmares about “his plane” crashing. He was having horrific nightmares about three times a week. This had been going on for months. When they asked him what kind of plane, he always said, “A Corsair.” They didn’t know what a Corsair was, but when they looked it up they found it was a plane used in World War II.
I replied to Andrea’s email and told her to read my book, and suggested she engage James in conversation about his plane crashing. I gave her my standard advice about assuring him that he was now safe and that that life was over. Since hers was like many other emails I received, I didn’t follow up. I assumed she would write back if she had any success with James or had any further questions.
When I eventually followed up with Andrea in 2002, after Shalini contacted me, I learned that indeed a lot had happened! Andrea reported that after she talked to James about his nightmares, they diminished in frequency from three times a week to one every two weeks. But that wasn’t the end of it. James talked more and more about his life as a pilot. Bruce, James’s father, was skeptical. His strong religious faith wouldn’t allow him to believe that reincarnation was the explanation for James’s knowledge about World War II, or for his nightmares. Andrea, on the other hand, felt that the most logical explanation was that he was remembering something painful that had happened to him in a previous life. So, for the most part, it was Andrea who talked to James about his memory.
She asked him if he remembered where his plane took off. He said it took off of a boat. She asked if he remembered the name of the boat. He told her it was “Natoma.” Bruce, who was determined not to accept a reincarnation as the explanation, started doing research online. He found that there had been an aircraft carrier in the Pacific during World War II, the Natoma Bay. When they asked James if he remembered his name, he would always say it was James. When they asked if he remembered the names of any of his friends, he said Jack Larsen. Bruce found that there had been a Jack Larsen on the Natoma Bay. This went on for a couple of years, and the case progressed. James was remembering more and more details about his life as a pilot. One day, Bruce had just gotten a book about battles in World War II and opened to an aerial shot of Iwo Jima. James, who was sitting next to him, matter-of-factly said, “Daddy, that’s where my plane went down.” This was the moment when Bruce became a believer. Something in him just clicked. He got it on a visceral level.
James made many drawings of planes being shot down by boats. In these chaotic, frenetic drawings there was fire and enemy flak in the sky. He would sign his drawings “James 3.” When his parents asked why he signed his drawings in that way, he said, “Because I’m the third James.”
Bruce was so intent on figuring out this mystery that he went to a reunion of Natoma Bay veterans in the guise of doing research for a book about the Natoma Bay. In talking to one of the veterans, he found out that there was one pilot who was shot down in the way James described it near Iwo Jima. His name was James Huston, Jr. (James said he was the third James!), whose plane took a hit in the front and went down in the ocean. James Huston died in 1945 at the age of 21. James Huston also flew a Corsair. The pieces of the puzzle were rapidly falling into place.
The Leiningers found that James Huston had a sister, Anne Barron, who was still alive and living in California. They contacted her and were able to corroborate specific details young James recalled of James Huston’s family life – details only Anne Barron knew. Anne sent the Leiningers photos of her brother. There is a striking resemblance between the two boys.
ABC “Prime Time” aired the Leiningers’ story in 2003 and did a fabulous job of telling the story. In 2006, a Japanese film crew saw the story and offered to fly the Leiningers to Japan and have a memorial service where James Huston’s plane was shot down. The family and a film crew took a boat to the site of the crash. When they arrived at the place where James Huston’s plane went down, eight-year-old James burst into tears. He recovered enough to throw a bouquet of flowers in the water. He said, “Goodbye, James M. Huston. I’ll never forget you.” Andrea told me that by that point everyone on the boat was crying.
After the trip to Japan, James’ memories started to fade, and his drawings changed. Instead of boats firing at airplanes, he drew happy scenes of dolphins jumping and an intact airplane flying over the boat, without hostile gunfire. James seemed to finally have closure on his former life after visiting the site of his former death and honoring the person he was in the past. He was finally able to let go. In the last drawing Andrea sent me, James drew an intact airplane flying over a field of flowers. He signed these drawings “James,” no longer “James 3.” I think the drawings say it all.
The complete story of James Leininger, in much more detail that I can present here, was published in 2009 in their book, Soul Survivor. It’s the best American reincarnation case I’ve seen. It’s not only a rare, verifiable American case – it’s also the story of James’s soul healing from his traumatic death of a young pilot whose life was cut short by war.
I hope that as you read the cases of Chase, Sarah, Chad Luke, Blake Hocken, and James Leininger, you saw examples of the three ideas I mentioned at the beginning of the article:
1. Evidence for the continuation of a personal consciousness after death
2. Evidence of personality traits carried over from one lifetime to another
3. Opportunities for healing the soul
The implications from cases such as these are profound. They point to a theory of personality that doesn’t begin and end within the bounds of one life, but spans many lifetimes. Traditional theory relies on some combination of hereditary and environmental influences – nature and nurture – to explain why we are the way we are. But the body of cases of children’s spontaneous past life memories suggests there is a third influence. Along with nature and nurture, we need to consider patterns and traits from previous lives that inform our present personalities.
This new theory is not mere speculation. The continuity of personality traits from lifetime to lifetime is observable from these cases. Behaviors, phobias, knowledge, talents, attitudes, and even the quality of relationships can persist from one lifetime to another.
Taking it a step further, by applying what we have learned from fifty years of past life therapy with adults, we have a model for healing traumatic memories that emerge spontaneously in young children. From adult therapy we know that some of our emotional and physical problems have origins in traumatic past life deaths, and they can be resolved by accessing the original past life trauma. We can apply the same principles to help children heal when memories of past life trauma and death emerge spontaneously, so these issues don’t follow the child into adulthood. As you saw in the case of my children and with Blake, the healing can be relatively simple and quick.
Think about it: A continuum of personality that spans lifetimes. If true, it offers a logical, commonsense framework for understanding why we have certain personality traits and how we can heal ourselves at the deepest levels of our being.
See Part I here.
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