A thought about the reincarnation topic popped into my head this afternoon while I was listening to the latest Skeptiko podcast. We've heard stories of people remembering past lives, either through spontaneous memories when they are small children or through hypnotic regression (also see this link and this earlier post of mine for more information about the topic).
For those that believe in reincarnation, these stories seem like evidence of that. But maybe it isn't. Another interpretation of what may seem like memories of a past life can be read about on Sharon Day's Ghost Hunting Theories blog. She says she had dreams where she saw scenes from the life of a Jewish girl back in the 1930s and 40s somewhere in Europe. She was viewing the scenes through the girl's eyes and it seemed as if she were seeing a past life. Yet, she doesn't think that's what was actually happening. She said it felt more like a psychic reading. So could that be what past life memories are? A type of psychic reading of someone else's life at an earlier time?
So anyways, the thought I had was this: Of all the NDE and OBE stories I've read, I don't ever recall hearing one where someone who returned from the other side reported remembering any past lives while they were on the side. We hear about what they saw and what they felt and many report having their life "flash before their eyes." But I don't recall anyone reporting having multiple lives pass before their lives. If there are stories reporting having multiple lives flash before their eyes, I am not aware of them.
So with that in mind, what should we make of this? Should we assume people who have reported having NDEs or OBEs are all 'new' souls who've only lived one life? Or should we assume it just takes longer for any past lives a person has lived to 'download' after crossing into the other side and no one has been on that side long enough and returned to tell about it? Or should we assume that the traditional view of reincarnation isn't accurate and souls don't actually return to a new physical body after crossing over? My guess is it is the latter, but who knows? Maybe it is something more complex that any of that.
Some questions just seem to lead to more questions!