Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

Traditionally there have been many objections to reincarnation in the Spiritualist literature. While this is not the place to discuss this literature, I would like to summarize the content of an early article presented by O.S. Posten in his short note about “Prenatal Existence,” published in the Religio-Philosophical Journal (February 6, 1869, p. 3; available in IAPSOP; on this virtual library click here).

“I do not consider the theory of another life of the spirit, antecedent to this”, wrote Posten, “as probable nor sustained by any evidence that is not liable to objections.” He seemed to suggest mediumship, suggestion, and psychometry as possible alternative explanations, topics he did not develop in any detail. He wrote:

“I know that there have been individuals famous in the past and present who have entertained strong impressions that they have passed through another life, or lives, and stated recollections they possessed of such antecedent existence.”

“Many of those persons were devoted to intellectual pursuits, possessing more or less imagination and were, no doubt, also mediumistic. We know that many persons are singularly impressible, and whether awake or asleep, are psychologically influenced by other persons or spirits, and many impressions of a previous existence, may have been derived from such sources.”

“We are often unable to discriminate between some of our dreams and imaginations, and the real scenes of life through which we have passed. What assurance have we that every apparent recollection of past scenes and circumstances is derived purely from the memory of the fact as it transferred in action?”

“Nor can we say what impressions may be made on the embryonic mind by the mother during the period of gestation. We know that many marks of the body, many peculiarities of the mind and spirit, are the result of circumstances of which the mother alone took cognizance during that period.”

“Again, we have many persons who have a singular psychometric capacity, who by coming in contact with the handwriting or clothes of another individual, or even fragments thereof, or any other substance, have a long train of thoughts and visions connected with the scenes and persons with whom such relics were associated, and that presents, probably another solution of this mystery.”

“Indeed it appear to me much more probable that our prenatal recollections may have been derived in some of the foregoing methods, than that the human soul by some strange fatality should again and again seek a habitation in some mortal body, and undergo an earthly pilgrimage from childhood to old age, merely for the purpose of development.”

Some of these arguments, particularly those regarding ESP processes, have continued to recent times, issues that have been discussed by Ian Stevenson and others.