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It is written:
1 Timothy 4:1-Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,
Proponents of reincarnation (i.e., the belief that when a person dies their spirit returns to Earth in another physical body) claim that personal memories of past life events provide evidence of this phenomenon.
The name of Ian Stevenson is very familiar to those who have studied past life research. While being an avid defender of the theory of reincarnation, he acknowledged there are many potential explanations for “past-life recall” besides a person actually living a past life. In his works, he discussed such potential explanations as ESP (extra sensory perception) and genetic memory.
However, it is what Stevenson said regarding the subject of demonic influence and past life memories that should give every researcher pause for consideration on this matter:
“He provided an alternative, one he claimed should be taken seriously: “Possession of the living by a foreign spirit.” 14 This can’t be overstated: One of the world’s top research scientists in the field acknowledged that a foreign spirit could occupy a living person. Gary Habermas, 15 a Christian scholar, is quick to caution that Stevenson is not suggesting demonic possession. Instead, Stevenson is explaining the phenomenon as possession by the disembodied “spirit of the actual person who had previously died.” 16 Stevenson himself acknowledges that “the distinction between reincarnation and possession becomes blurred.” 17 Here is how he defines the terms: . . . if the previous personality seems to associate itself with the physical organism at the time of conception or during embryonic development we speak of reincarnation; if the association between previous personality and physical organism only comes later, we speak of possession. 18 It’s possible that what we think of as reincarnation is really a foreign spirit taking hold of, or possessing, a living person. This causes the person to think he or she was someone else in a previous life. Habermas observes: Researchers and theorists have not proved that these cases demand reincarnation. . . . There are several cases where either discarnate or demonic possession serves as the best explanation and seems to be accepted as such by most researchers, including Stevenson himself. 19 Sometimes the deceased person (supposedly reincarnated) died after the birth of the individual who was later influenced. This sequence dispels any notion of “I died” and then “I was reborn.” The timing is simply off. As Stevenson says, “No matter how you look at it, reincarnation gets the short end of the evidential stick.” 20 Xenoglossy, or speaking a previously unlearned language, can be accounted for by possession, so it doesn’t constitute solid evidence for reincarnation. Neither does sharing birthmarks or a physical defect with a dead person. Stevenson cites mystics who sometimes develop stigmata, or wounds corresponding to those suffered by Jesus on the cross. Having those wounds does not make them reincarnations of Jesus. Similarity does not prove sameness.” (Keith Wall & James L. Barlow, Heaven and the Afterlife, 235-236 (Kindle Edition); Bloomington, Minnesota; Bethany House Publishers)
Other researchers (even those who espouse belief in reincarnation) have noted the same:
“Having said that, there are a few rare but well-documented cases that suggest spirit possession can occur, in which case it could be argued that the same phenomenon could be happening with children who appear to remember a past life. There are, however, important differences. One of the earliest cases, 1 which occurred in the USA in 1877, involved Mary Lurancy Vennum, who at the age of thirteen appeared to be possessed by two different entities. The first was described as a sullen old hag, whereas the next was a young man who had run away from home. At this point, it sounds very much like a case of multiple personality disorder. Her parents were introduced to a hypnotist who induced a trance and spoke to Mary’s “sane and happy” mind, which told him that “an angel” named Mary Roff wanted to replace the other two. Sure enough, Roff not only appeared but took over Mary’s body completely. The possessing spirit was easily identified: She was the daughter of the people who had recommended the hypnotist and had died when she was just one year old. This possession was so total that Mary Lurancy Vennum went to live with the Roffs, until, three months and ten days after she appeared, Mary Roff suddenly disappeared and the teenager returned to her natural parents. This case is not unique. Two similar cases, but with different outcomes, have been investigated in the twentieth century—both in India. The first involved a young married woman, Sumitra Singh, 2 who in 1982, soon after the birth of a son, had suffered fits and then began speaking as if she were three other people, two of them women (one a goddess, the other a woman who had drowned) and the third an unidentified man. It was the goddess, Santoshi Ma, who announced in 1985 that Sumitra would die in three days’ time. That is precisely what appeared to happen and her family testified that her body had no pulse for three-quarters of an hour. Then, as preparations began for her funeral, she suddenly revived . . . not as Sumitra, but as Shiva, who claimed to have been the mother of two children and who was murdered by her in-laws. Shiva remained for the rest of her life in Sumitra’s body, writing letters to her natural father complaining that “God has dumped me here” in Sumitra’s body and in a dirty home, which she compared unfavorably to her previous existence. Shiva’s spirit has since died a second time, following the death of Sumitra, whose body she had taken over. This fascinating case was recently re-investigated by Antonia Mills and is the subject of a lengthy report in the Society for Psychical Research’s Proceedings. 3 A very similar and remarkable transformation, but without a death apparently occurring, was experienced in 1974 by a thirty-two-year-old unmarried woman, Uttara Huddar, who awoke one day in her home in Nagpur, in west-central India, and instead of speaking Marathi, her native tongue, began speaking a language her parents could not understand. Her personality had also changed and she called herself Sharada. Others recognized the language she spoke as Bengali, which Uttara had never learned. This was extremely disturbing for the family, naturally, and also for Sharada, who could not understand why she was suddenly in a different place. However, it was not a permanent change. The Sharada personality “appears” for different periods, from one day to six weeks, and then Uttara repossesses her body again. Each personality, when it takes control of the body, is oblivious to the existence of the other. This may sound like a form of multiple personality disorder, but it seems Sharada did once enjoy a totally separate existence, living between 1810 and 1830 and dying from a snake bite on her toe. Also, she provided investigators with details of her Bengal family and they were able to trace its genealogical records and confirm information she gave. Lastly, her ability to speak Bengali—a phenomenon known as xenoglossy—would also appear to rule out the possibility that the “intruder” is just an aspect of Uttara’s personality. Sharada, incidentally, said she had no idea where she had been since her death. If the Sumitra/ Shiva and Uttara/ Sharada cases are as reported—and both have been investigated by seasoned reincarnation researchers—they would seem to offer unusual, even unique, variations on a reincarnation theme in which, for whatever reason, a soul either replaces another in an adult body, or takes on a shared “tenancy” with the original owner.” (Roy Stemman, The Big Book of Reincarnation: Examining the Evidence that We Have All Lived Before, 203-205 (Kindle Edition); San Antonio, TX; Hierophant Publishing)
When investigating the evidence, the theory of reincarnation is found wanting. In contrast, the evidence of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead provides the true and living hope of the Christian faith (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). Why not surrender your life to Jesus Christ today?
Acts 22:16-And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.