Ian Stevenson was a biochemist and psychiatrist, and before his death he was the head of the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University Of Virginia School Of Medicine. Over four decades he traveled the world investigating thousands of cases of reincarnation because he believed memories from past lives may have an impact on this one and could possibly be used to diagnose psychological problems.

I recently read his book Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation, and it was interesting. The writing was about as exciting as watching paint dry, but the man was a scientist, not a writer, and he documented his research in excruciating detail. The book covers 20 cases where a child has memories of a past life and may even exhibit xenoglossy, or the ability to speak a language she or he has never heard.

The book doesn’t prove reincarnation, but it makes a fairly good case. Memories of past lives usually occurred in children between the ages of three and seven and faded soon afterward. They also usually involved people who died suddenly and who didn’t have any time to mentally prepare for death.

One of the oddest parts of his research was that over a third of the kids had birthmarks or birth defects that corresponded with the site of wounds of the deceased.

Elephant gods aside, maybe Hinduism isn’t as silly as I thought.