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chelle21689's avatar

How do you explain people that remember vividly past lives?

Asked by chelle21689 (6866points) September 15th, 2013 from iPhone

So my bf and his family were listening to his dad tell stories about what he went through with the Khmer Rouge (when the people turned on their own and killed millions of their own). Very interesting and sad…

Then he started to tell them how he remembers exactly how he died, remembers he had 3 kids, his wife and all their names. That he was reincarnated as his son’s son to stay near his family. He said he also met his past family and they knew they were his past dad when he was only three at the time.

He also had someone discreetly come to him crying that he remembered in a past life what the Khmer Rouge did to him with all the torturing and no one believed him.

My bf and his siblings ate up the story and was so fascinated. I on the other hand had to leave the room because I hate the idea of reincarnation although I am agnostic. It just gives me a bad feeling inside.

Well anyways…I’m very skeptical. First of all, out of everything he just happened to be same gender, same nationality, same family, and a Buddhist?? Buddhists believe in rebirth but you’re not supposed to remember right? and it just so happens that majority of Christians and Muslims don’t have these crazy reincarnation stories but a few Buddhists do?

My bf and his siblings aren’t religious by the way. Never really exposed much to it.

Any scientific or even spiritual explanation as to why would someone be so strongly convinced of this? Or even the other guy who was so traumatized with tortured memories?

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26 Answers

Seek's avatar

Vivid imagination and wishful thinking mostly.

You’ll note no one is ever an Amazonian tribesperson who died of an infection after getting bitten by a snake. It’s always some important historical event, in a part of the world they’re already interested in, and if they’re trying very hard, a language that is well known to us today.

chelle21689's avatar

That’s what I’m skeptical of too. That coincidentally these Cambodians have terrible memories of their country’s history.

Very few Americans that claim to have reincarnated always claim to be a world war 1–2 soldier lol.

But I mean, how was his dad so convinced and where did these stories come from? He claimed he remembered as a baby.

keobooks's avatar

This is a bafflingly amazing story about a little boy about five who talked about what seemed to be a past life from the age of two. He had all of these very exact details about it. His family went to the tiny island he always talked about and they FOUND the house the boy talked about! They walked in the house and he gave the family a tour. He got the family name right.

He got a great many details correct, but a few he got totally wrong as far as they could figure out. Like while he got the family name and several first names in the family, and the dog’s name right—there was no man with the name he said his father was. He also said his father was hit by a car and died—but the family had no record of anyone being hit by a car and dying.

I used to have the entire documentary, which also included a boy who remembered these uncanny details about his dead grandfather’s life – including a family secret that nobody spoke of for at least 20 years before the kid was born.

I don’t know what to make of these, but they are interesting.

Edited to link to the documentary that I found instead of the blurb about the documentary. WARNING it is almost an hour long, but worth it!

chelle21689's avatar

I’ve read that story already. Of course there are articles debunking that from skeptical view point.

keobooks's avatar

The boy’s name was Cameron on my link. He was James in yours. There is no mention of Barra Island on your link. I think it’s debunking a different story.

chelle21689's avatar

Oops no idea why I thought that was the same story.

jca's avatar

I think it’s crazy but who knows? I won’t really know until I die, I guess.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I don’t disbelieve all the stories, some maybe have thinner layers between the past. Skeptical yet polite interest?

chelle21689's avatar

Thanks for the answers but I’m looking for an explanation as to why or how someone could be so convinced of a past life and how did that happen? I mean some even traumatized by the memories

LornaLove's avatar

@keobooks I saw that documentary a while ago. It was certainly fascinating. Maybe he was coached but his parents did not seem that type? Perhaps there is so much we do not understand about life and death and need to leave an open mind at least. Or just accept we will never understand until we get there.

Rarebear's avatar

They’re making it up.

jca's avatar

How do I explain it? I think it’s crazy talk. However, like I said the first time, I won’t know until I die.

drhat77's avatar

I believe it’s impossible to prove paranormal phenomena as a whole false. Since there is no standard definition of a soul, and certainly no agreed upon way to quantify one, that makes things like reincarnation impossible to prove or disprove. I think you can take all the collected stories and disprove them one by one. But the general concept of reincarnation is not falsifiable. As such, I believe it doesn’t bear out to discuss reincarnation scientifically.
As for why some believe their memories are past lives, now we are getting into falsifiable territory. Memory is not the file-cabinet model that most people like to believe. It is much more fluid and responds to. Things like emotional state and how much the memory is reviewed. There are scores of examples of implantation of false memories, from interrogation techniques that lead to “confessions” to multiple personality syndrome to that one per school in the 80s where the prosecution inadvertently made toddlers “remember” how they were molested from poorly phrased questioning.

dabbler's avatar

Let’s right away dismiss all the nay-sayers who have already dismissed the possibility that this could happen. That’s fair, right?

Then we ask how could it happen? How could we possibly experience something from the past in any way?
Something that seems fundamental to any explanation of being able to perceive something that happened at another time is that those events were recorded. This question about Akashic Records goes into this idea a bit.

Once you have some concept of a record of the past existing, one needs to examine “how does anyone access this information?” The dream state and deep meditation states seem to be conducive to this kind of experience. Also, hypnosis is a method of connecting one to one’s past. Researchers such as Roger Woolger use hypnosis to assist folks to recover past life information.

Rarebear's avatar

“Let’s right away dismiss all the nay-sayers who have already dismissed the possibility that this could happen. That’s fair, right?”

Of course it’s not fair. But go ahead and dismiss anybody who doesn’t agree with you. That’s a good way to get consensus on a debate.

“Once you have some concept of a record of the past existing, one needs to examine “how does anyone access this information?””

Again, you’re making assumptions on facts that are not in evidence. It’s like my saying: “Once you have some concept that the Earth is hollow and there are people living in the center of the Earth controlling our minds, how do we communicate with them and tell them to stop?”

antimatter's avatar

I cant dismiss it as bull shit, I have heard a few stories, but some of those stories was found to be bull shit and than there are a few that is spine chilling accurate. But I think I would take it with a pinch of salt.
If it is true that we may remember our past lives than I hope I will never remember the past thirty years of my current life! Good lord I don’t even want to remember my messy Divorce of last year.

dabbler's avatar

@Rarebear I usually agree with you but in this case note that I am just saying it’s fair to dismiss the arguments of folks who are already being dismissive. Just not agreeing is different from being dismissive. And if someone has been dismissive then it does, in fact, seem fair to me to dismiss them right back.

The question has a premise “that people remember vividly past lives” and is asking for an explanation. Dismissing the premise out from under the question is not an answer to the question posed.

Because science has not explained the experience of this phenomenon does not mean it doesn’t happen, it just means science doesn’t know about it. I’ll buy that any day. But it also doesn’t at all prove that the phenomenon doesn’t exist.

As far as I’m concerned let’s roll forward past the not useful dismissive answers and get to answers that attempt the explanation requested.

Rarebear's avatar

@dabbler My initial response was not dismissive. It was laconic. The question was “How do you explain people that remember vividly past lives?” I answered, “They’re making it up.” I will add that they may believe they are not making it up, but they are. It is a much more probable explanation than them actually remembering previous lives.

Seek's avatar

Why has no one ever remembered in vivid detail something that is not already a matter of archaeological record, and then later proven to be accurate?

Why are all these “memories” easily lifted from the average tenth grader’s history text?

and how many Cleopatras could there possibly have been?

DominicX's avatar

It’s another one of those things where I just don’t think the world is that interesting. It would be fascinating if it were possible, but I don’t really think it is. If it were possible to access some kind of historical mystery by using past life memory, then perhaps I’d be more convinced. I also agree with @Seek_Kolinahr how it always seems to be memories of important historical events and never a mundane past life, and that they tend to be in cultures you’re interested in, such as an American Anglophile swearing that they must have lived in England in a past life. But does that mean that if your past life was mundane, you’re just going to forget it?

dabbler's avatar

(@Rarebear p.s. I wasn’t directing my ‘dismiss’ remark at you in particular, there are usually lots of unthought critical answers on a question like this, and they don’t add much to the discussion.)

@Seek_Kolinahr incorrect premise.
It is typical in casual chit-chat about past lives that you hear many ‘remember’ the being Cleopatra (very common choice in these fantasies) or Benjamin Franklin, or the guy who invented fire, and I have no problem labelling that “most likely completely made up”.

However, serious researchers almost always get stories from their subjects that are completely mundane. Life situations like rice farmer in China, shoemaker in what is now Germany, someone who cleaned out the baths in a far-flung Roman settlement, or plain old hunter-gatherer are more common in that context.
Some of them like the one @keobooks mentioned can be factually verified, and the source who had those memories has had no exposure in this lifetime to the stories or details of the remembered past life.

Sourkitten's avatar

Sounds like the guy smoked a lotta drugs.

talljasperman's avatar

Psychic powers, like professor X from X-men comics.

mattbrowne's avatar

Should be checked for potential psychosis.

MadMadMax's avatar

and how many Cleopatras could there possibly have been?

I don’t buy into past life stories but to answer that question is seven. The Cleopatra of Caesar and Marc Antony was Cleopatra VII

Strife's avatar

well if your asking me (a wiccan mind you) then he was simply “recycled” from the summerland into who he is now and retained some information from his past life thats why he can remember it he most likley lived it before he was your boyfriends dad hope this at least gives you…... closure i guess

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