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A case of purported past life memory

Channel 5 screened a programme last night about Cameron, a small boy in Glasgow who claimed to remember a past life on the island of Barra, off the west coast of Scotland. Cameron said that his father on Barra had been called Shane Robertson and had died "because he didn't look both ways" (a traffic accident?).

We saw the family visit Barra, accompanied by a psychiatrist from the University of Virginia, where research into alleged cases of reincarnation has been conducted for many years. After a good deal of searching they did find a house which fitted the boy's description and which had been used as a holiday home by a family called Robertson in the 1960s or 1970s. They visited the house, which seemed to affect the lad emotionally, and he appeared to say that this was the house he had lived in.

Back in Glasgow they tracked down a woman who was a member of the Robertson family and who had spent time in the house as a young girl. However, there was no one called Shane Robertson in the family and no one had died in a traffic accident so far as she knew. The psychiatrist suggested that discrepancies of this kind could be explained by the superimposition of memories from more than one past lifetime, which seems like a get-out clause to me.

The programme was better than TV investigations of the paranormal often are but inevitably many questions remain. There is always the suspicion that the story has been tidied up to make it more dramatic. We were told that there was little if any possibility that Cameron could have heard about Barra from TV or conversations, but this seems difficult to exclude. Nothing was said about Cameron's this-life father, but could the fact that he was no longer at home have triggered a fantasy in the lad?

The fact remains that there are many cases on record of purported memories of past lives, some of them surprisingly convincing. Not all have occurred in societies that traditionally believe in reincarnation. But the ever-increasing evidence that consciousness depends essentially on the brain makes reincarnation very difficult to accept. For a critical discussion of the whole subject, see Reincarnation: a critical examination, by Paul Edwards.

I certainly hope there is no such thing as reincarnation. The prospects for humanity are not such as to make one wish to come back in the future. If a belief in reincarnation ever became widespread, however, it might do quite a lot to stimulate genuine efforts to stem global warming.


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Tom on :

Maybe we don't have enough info to decide. If we take a look at some books about near death experiences, there's a lot of examples for something which may lead us one step closer to the truth. Some of those experiences sound really truthful. It's all about what we believe at the end. Nothing really change if we do believe in it, there's just an understanding that we belong into "bigger picture" than we thought, which is beautiful.

Jan Long on :

Ginny Robertson said "there were certainly no (child) deaths in "THAT close family" whilst showing a picture from her album of a family of 4 children and 5 adults (including Peggy and Calum Johnston)which one assumed were her own siblings etc. She did not say "MY close family".ODD!! Also, what was the relaionship between Peggy and Calum who "owned the black and white dog" and the Robertsons who holidayed at the cottage? They were at the house at the same time! We know nothing of her side of the Robertsons and I think there are many unanswered questions here!

jennifer hutchison on :

Strange reading this page. I have an 9 yr old Autistic daughter who talks about a past life on the Isle of Barra! She says her name was Lilly Robertson, strange I know but she actually cries for her other family! She believes she was murdered in her former life!

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