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Friday, 3 August 2012

Self-professed skeptical believer on his book about reincarnation

Self-professed skeptical believer on his book about reincarnation

by Jeffery Pritchett

http://www.afterlifestudios.net/gallery/afterlife.jpgRoy Stemman is the author of the new The Big Book of Reincarnation: Examining the Evidence that We Have All Lived Before? He is a self-professed skeptical believer tackling the subject of reincarnation and death and the afterlife with some compelling evidence and information that might convince the most skeptical believers. Which seems to be the case with himself regarding reincarnation and proof of life after death. We have tackled many spiritual discussions at my radio show The Church of Mabus , dancing around the topics of the afterlife. And I for one do believe in reincarnation and an afterlife. My number one reason: if none of this existed, then what would be the point of life? Well let us get into the mind and spirit and heart of Roy Stemman with this compelling interview…

Heavenly returns
Heavenly returns
Photo credit: Crystalitas

1. What was your inspiration behind creating such a book as The Big Book of Reincarnation: Examining the Evidence that We Have All Lived Before?

Roy Stemman: Having studied reincarnation for more than five decades, and followed the work of the leading researchers in the field, I know just how good the evidence for it is. There are thousands of cases, some stronger than others, which suggest that certain individuals have survived death and been reborn on Earth again. Yet the public seldom hears about them. As a result, debate on the subject usually centres on a single case that hits the headlines. The recent American case of James Leininger is a good example of this. However, there are even more evidential cases on record but these are usually to be found in scientific and parapsychological journals, which I happen to read even though I’m not a scientist. As a journalist I know a good story when I see one, and I realised there was a need to lift many of these cases out of their academic context and share them with a wider audience. In addition, I also needed to address hypnotic regression cases, since many people have seemingly recalled apparent past lives during such sessions. These raise an important question: Are these “induced” regression memories among adults as evidential as the “spontaneous” cases that usually involve children? So I decide to write The Big Book of Reincarnation to put these experiences into context, as well as to discuss more than 100 cases, drawn from many countries and cultures, some of which tell stories that are as exciting and moving as a movie script.

2. You were a skeptical believer. Or are you still? What changed after investigating death and the afterlife in your book and how?

Roy Stemman: I write a Blog (www.ParanormalReview.com) on which I describe myself as a “skeptical believer” so that visitors will have a better idea of my stance on paranormal topics. Basically, I’m open to the possibility that certain phenomena occur even though the evidence for them has so far failed to convince the scientific community as a whole. Having studied some of these phenomena I am satisfied in the genuineness of a few (so I’m a believer) but that does not mean I accept every claim that is made about them (so I’m also skeptical). My early interest, from my teenage years, was in the Big Question – something every human being asks themselves at some time in their lives – What happens to me when I die? I landed a job with a Spiritualist publication, Psychic News (www.psychicnews.org.uk), of which I am chairman today, and that gave me access to Britain’s top mediums. I received remarkable evidence at my very first sitting with a medium and that convinced me that consciousness was capable of surviving death and that it retained memories of its earthly life and was capable of communicating with the living, usually through mediums, and providing evidence of its continuing existence. But I remain sceptical of much that is said or written about Spiritualism and mediumship, particularly as the quality of many mediums is of a much lower standard than when I first began investigating spirit communication and writing my first book (Medium Rare: the psychic life of Ena Twigg). And, as a member of the Society for Psychical Research, I appreciate the need to examine alternative theories for what takes place at seances. Nevertheless, I have concluded that death is not the end, but that still leaves me asking many questions about the after-life.

3. What exactly do you think happens when you die?

Roy Stemman: I believe that depends on many factors, so the after-life you and I experience could be very different. One possibility is that there are various levels in the next world – what are often referred to as astral planes – and we each gravitate to a plane that is most suited to our spiritual development, or lack of it. I suspect when we arrive we experience a scenario similar to that often described in near-death experiences, with those of our loved ones who have passed on waiting to greet us, and at their side are evolved spirits, maybe our own spirit guides, whose role is to work with us, after we have reviewed the life we have just left behind, in determining the direction our soul needs to take on its journey to perfection. Returning to Earth and living another life – or series of lives – could well be an option for most of us. But some may be able to avoid that and gain new experiences on other levels in the next world. This is conjecture on my part, and I refuse to be dogmatic about it, but it is based on reading a wide range of literature relating to after-death communications and other insights.

4. Is reincarnation forced upon us or can we continue to live our lives elsewhere in the infinite beyond without our bodies?

Roy Stemman: I partly dealt with one aspect of this question in my previous answer. For those individuals who do reincarnate, I assume that they have agreed to come back and live another life on Earth. The big problem with taking that view is that it suggests predestiny and I have trouble getting my head around the mechanics of that. If an individual agrees to return in order to learn certain lessons – and I assume that we all have free will as far as this and future lives are concerned – that assumes that even before he or she is born the experiences that will be encountered are already known. I have to say that it is difficult to determine a rhyme or reason for any of the present and past lives in the cases I have examined. But if those lives can be likened to a couple of pearls on a long necklace, then perhaps we can only detect some purpose or reason for being reborn, time and again, by looking at several consecutive lives and then a pattern may emerge. For those who don’t need to be reborn, I assume an infinite number of possibilities are open to the soul to progress in other dimensions.

5. Using case studies, anecdotes, and physical evidence from the best-documented cases from around the world your book's description states. Could you tell us what physical evidence and other info you used to come to your conclusions?

Roy Stemman: The most convincing reincarnation cases, in my opinion, are those which appear to display a physical “remnant” from a previous existence as well as detailed memories. That physical element comes in the form of birthmarks and birth defects, some of them very unusual. This was realised by Prof Ian Stevenson, a psychiatrist at the University of Virginia and the scientist who devoted more time than any other researcher to traveling the world to investigate cases which he described as “suggestive of reincarnation”. He noticed that one third of these cases involved physical marks or abnormalities and began collating and comparing them, publishing his results in a monumental, illustrated two-volume study, each of more than 1,000 pages (Reincarnation and Biology: A Contribution to the Etiology of Birthmarks and Birth Defects). In tribute, I have dedicated my book to him.

Each case is different, of course, but typically a child recalls a previous life in which he said he was murdered. He probably provides names of himself and family members in that past existence together with other identifying information, such as place names or references to the work he did. In addition, he is born with small circular birthmarks which he indicates were caused by the bullet wounds he suffered in that attack. Usually, a family member or friend is sufficiently intrigued by these claims that they go off to see if there is any truth in them ... and locate a family where most of the details fit perfectly. That’s usually when a reincarnation researcher gets called in. As well as checking and recording the child’s statements he or she would also interrogate eye-witnesses from both the past-life and present-life families, and also examine post-mortem reports, where available, to determine the position of the wounds on the deceased. What Prof Stevenson found was that in one group of 895 cases, out of the more than 2,000 he had studied, 35% involved birthmarks. When he isolated 49 cases where it was possible to obtain adequate data to compare the child’s birthmarks with the wounds suffered by the person he claimed to be, it was found that they coincided in 43 of them – an impressive 88%. What’s more, it was found that in cases where a child remembered a life in which he was shot through the head, he usually displayed two birthmarks, coinciding in position and size to the entry (smaller) and exit (larger) wounds recorded on the deceased.


6. Why do we choose to come to Earth you think from the afterlife? Feels forced to me and how do you feel about the whole self helpy situation of "Oh I signed up to live in poverty and to get cancer to evolve spiritually" I'm a cancer survivor myself so when I hear this I'm kinda iffy on it.

Roy Stemman: Frankly, I don’t think any of us is in a position to know the answer to that question, and certainly not to judge others. Some people evoke karma in explaining why people suffer or develop certain diseases. Others suggest that we make our choices in advance as part of our spiritual evolution. I fall somewhere in between, being open to both possibilities but refusing to be dogmatic. After all, some people develop cancer because they have smoked all their lives. Was the smoking part of some spiritual evolution to enable them to suffer from cancer? That doesn’t make sense to me. I would prefer to opt for the possibility that we all have free will to make our own decisions in this life and to suffer the consequences of bad decisions or enjoy the benefits of good decisions. Those decisions may help direct our path on the next stage of our soul’s journey.

7. I think your book is a great one during these times. Many people are in denial of death. Which has sprung up the vampire subculture and gothic cultures on many levels. Even myself I can say easily I am in denial of death. I just don't like it really. What can you tell us to comfort us about death?

Roy Stemman: I’ve indicated that my experience with mediums convinced me of after-life at an early age, so I have no doubt that when I die, my consciousness will survive and find itself in another state of existence in which I will have the opportunity to continue to grow spiritually. Those who have not received such proof must rely on their own beliefs, which can be very strong, of course. Another reason for writing The Big Book of Reincarnation was to make people more aware of the evidence for immortality. After all, even if only one case in my book convinces a reader that reincarnation has occurred, it demonstrates the existence of a soul, or of an indestructible consciousness – call it what you will – that does not die when our physical body expires. There are a number of metaphors for this transition: it’s like walking from one room to another, or discarding an old coat and putting on a new one.


8. Have you found in your research any beings like angels or the grim reaper or guides or spirits who help us during this transition?

Roy Stemman: It is the “induced” cases that provide more information about this aspect, though what is said depends very largely on what questions the hypnotist asks. Usually, a subject is regressed in order to identify the cause of a problem in this life, and the search – if it fails to find a reason in this lifetime – can span several lifetimes, jumping from one event or another. The transition period between one life and the next is seldom explored. There are exceptions to this and one notable example is Brian Weiss’s experience with a patient named Catherine (recounted in his book, Many Lives, Many Masters) who described her discussions whilst in a between-incarnations state with people she described as Master Spirits. They told her she had lived 86 previous lives on Earth and were even able to give information to Weiss about his dead father and son which his entranced patient could not have known.

In “spontaneous” cases involving children, however, there is little evidence about an inter-life state, largely because they appear to recall only the previous physical existence, and also, I suspect, because researchers have not questioned them about the period before they were reborn. Those cases where some inter-life recall is present indicate that what is experienced depends very largely on cultural beliefs and expectations, such as seeing beings like Jesus or Buddha. In one case, twin boys said they had waited in trees before being reborn. And a Burmese girl who recalled a past-life as a British airman, who died in a crash in her country, said that after death she had tried to return to England but the “King of Death” would not allow it. However you interpret these accounts, it certainly seems that others in a spiritual dimension are involved in assisting us, between lives and possibly throughout our lives.

9. The Tibetan way of life is of course beautiful and divine. What can you tell us about their views on reincarnation?

Roy Stemman: Buddha’s teachings are all about evolving consciousness in which a soul lives many lives in order to progress. What is particularly fascinating is the way in which the different sects interpret those teachings and put great emphasis on their leaders reincarnating to continue in that role. This began with the Kagyu (Black Hat) sect, led by the Karmapa, at the end of the 12th century when its founder not only made predictions about future Karmapas but also wrote a prediction letter providing details of his next incarnation. Two hundred years later, the Gelugpa (Yellow Hat) sect, led by the Dalai Lama, adopted the same tradition of reincarnate lamas, known as tulkus, succeeding to their monastic and religious seats. This institution continues to this day. Though their beliefs are based on Buddha’s teachings, I am impressed that when they search for a tulku it involves various tests of the likely candidates, including identification of objects that were associated with the lama in his previous life.

10. What is Roy up to in the future and how has this book changed your skeptic perspective? Any last departing words before we end our journey? Only to begin again apparently.

Roy Stemman: I shall continue to collect and evaluate past-life cases, in the hope that we’ll eventually have one which satisfies even hardened sceptics. That would involve researchers getting to a child before it has had an opportunity to meet its past-life family (there are a handful of such cases on record) and therefore no “contamination” of evidence has occurred. Witness statements would be recorded on video, of course, and then a team of experts would accompany the child and its family on a visit to the location of his claimed previous life, recording all the events, statements and corroborations that occur. Perhaps my book will not only open minds to the possibility of reincarnation but also lead to more cases being reported. And, as you rightly indicate, if I don’t achieve that in this life, perhaps I’ll have the opportunity to do so in my next incarnation.

About the book


In The Big Book of Reincarnation, Roy Stemman attempts to answer one of the big questions of existence: Is death the end? Or, is it the merely the end of a chapter in the book of existence?

A self-described "skeptical believer," Stemman uses his skills as a professional journalist to perform an in-depth exploration of reincarnation. Using case studies, anecdotes, and physical evidence from the best-documented cases from around the world, Stemman shines a bright light on this subject, inviting readers to decide for themselves on the basis of facts, rather than on the basis of hearsay, speculation, and superstition.

Stemman finds fascinating examples of evidence of reincarnation in the nightmares of a Louisiana bayou boy, the past-life recall of a renowned neurosurgeon, the research of a highly respected university professor, and the unique system of governance in the mountains of Tibet, to name just a few. He examines the lives of those affected by reincarnation, such as children who can actually remember their previous lives. Instead of shying away from the skeptics, Stemman evaluates their leading theories and compares them to the findings that he has accumulated throughout his global research. The Big Book of Reincarnation is thorough, well researched, engaging, and the most comprehensive book ever published on this fascinating subject.

About the author

Roy Stemman has been researching a range of paranormal subjects since his teenage years. A professional journalist and self-described "skeptical believer," Roy applies a scientific analysis of the claims made by those working in the fascinating area of reincarnation. He is the author of numerous books.

His book can be purchased at Amazon.com

Jeffery Pritchett is the host of the Church Of Mabus radio show bringing you guests on UFOs and alien intelligences and the paranormal. Saturday nights at 11pm Eastern or come listen on our archives at your own leisure for free.

From http://www.examiner.com/article/interview-with-self-professed-skeptical-believer-on-his-book-on-reincarnation

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