Do past life memories prove reincarnation?
Alan W., Singapore, asks:
Hello Creation Ministries. Recently I came across the topic of children have “so-called “past life memories and reincarnation. Most of them claim to have memories of deceased people at the age of two to seven, some of their details in memories claim to have been confirmed by relatives and friends of their “past life identities”.
I am a Christian and a devoted reader of your articles and therefore I certainly do not believe in reincarnation and that God will “reuse” one’s soul as each individual soul is a special creation. What I would like to know is a possible spiritual reason of the situation if all of their claims are true and if it is possible that fallen angels or demons can plant “false memories of other people” into children’s minds, or even masquerade as children’s souls, even though they’re just born or do not sin much as often as other sinful people whose sin gives access to demons. I think that this topic can be explained more thoroughly like what you did with UFOs.Thanks.
Thanks for writing in. As with the UFO issue, we are dealing with experiences that may seem true to the person claiming to have memories of a past life, but which are not truthful, in the sense that the person is not actually reincarnated.
When seeking to interpret any experience, we must start from Scripture. The Bible clearly says that life begins at conception; there is no indication that human souls pre-exist the creation of their bodies. Furthermore, we are judged on the basis of our one life on earth (Hebrews 9:27).
The following is a section from a booklet we wrote called Is Human Life Special?:
“Where does our spirit come from?
There are two views as to how a person gets his or her spirit. One is called traducianism and the other is called creationism. Traducianism is a view that both the material and immaterial aspect of humans (the soul) are derived from the parents. Thus our sin nature can also be transmitted via this means. This means it would also apply to artificially generated persons from IVF, cloning, and other reproductive technologies. Scriptures used to support this view include Psalm 51:5, John 1:14; 3:6, Romans 5:12, and Hebrews 7:10, as well as the fact that Adam’s son Seth was “in his own likeness, after his image” (Genesis 5:3).
The creationist view maintains that at conception God creates a new soul for every individual, because God distinguishes the origin of the soul from the origin of the body. This view would cite Scriptures such as Ecclesiastes 12:7; Isaiah 42:5; Zechariah 12:1; and Hebrews 12:9.
While we believe that there is room for both views, we think the one with the most scriptural basis is the traducian view. The creationist view would have God continually creating new human souls, while Genesis indicates that God ceased or rested from creating on Day 7. Additionally, the traducian view better explains how new human souls are infected with sin (because the sin nature is somehow passed on by the parents).”
So, starting from the biblical foundation that human life begins at conception and does not pre-exist it, and that people only have one life on earth during which their eternal destiny is decided, how do we explain what are described as children with memories of their past lives?
First, children have fantastic imaginations and are capable of dreaming up scenarios that amaze adults. It is very possible for a child to tell something to an adult which is then interpreted by the adult to be memories of past lives. You mention children as young as two years old—anyone who has spent substantial time around 2-year-olds knows that this cannot be referring to a toddler giving detailed discourse about their time as a Prohibition-era gangster or servant in the court of Rameses. Even children in the upper range that you cite—7 years old—lack a lot of abstract reasoning skills that adults take for granted.
Second, adults lie about what children say. We would like to think that no parent would lie about their children to get attention. But in this fallen world, unfortunately this is a possibility that we have to consider. Also, parents can coach their children to say what they want them to say. Or they can even unintentionally influence their children. The phenomenon of false memory is something you mentioned, and it is one possible explanation.
So there are multiple explanations that could help us when thinking about so-called memories of past lives without appealing to anything supernatural. But one thing that is mentioned regarding the alien experiences is that one goal seems to be to undermine Christianity, in the small proportion of cases that may be attributable to spiritual causes. Given that past life ‘memories’ serve to undermine Christianity as well, this is an explanation that would not be responsible for a majority of cases, but might explain some. The book Alien Intrusion: UFOs and the evolution connection, has a whole chapter on what is called False Memory Syndrome. This is a known and demonstrable medical phenomenon where people (including children) claim to have memories of past events that are actually known not to be true. The memories can be brought about by a range of mechanisms such as imagination, or they can be deliberately or inadvertently planted via people or through suggestion or even questioning someone, or even watching a TV show that stimulates the mind, for example. Past traumas can also cause the mind to imagine events to deal with the trauma in a number of ways. In short, there is no one size fits all answer, because what we do know is that human beings are complex creatures who react emotionally, psychologically and physiologically to all sorts of stimuli.
We hope this helps.