Introduction to Books on Studies of Reincarnation in the West (Part 10): Unlearned Language -- New Studies in Xenoglossy
[Note: In Eastern culture, the idea of reincarnation is familiar to people, and is generally accepted through stories and anecdotes passed down from generation to generation. In many classic works from Chinese culture such as Journey to the West, the idea of reincarnation is taken for granted and does not need any explanation. In the West, the reincarnation is not as widely accepted culturally, but a number of scientific studies have been performed on the subject and the results published. For the readers' interest and reference only, and not as an endorsement of any particular book, we would like to introduce the results of some of these scholars' research.]
Ian Stevenson, M.D., Unlearned Language -- New Studies in
Xenoglossy, University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, 1984.
According to results from several Gallup polls, at least a quarter of westerners believe in reincarnation, and the number of those who believe in the possibility is still increasing. The credit for this should be attributed to the sustained efforts of many scientists and medical scientists in the past half century. Among these, Professor Ian Stevenson is an outstanding, well-acknowledged representative. Since 1961, Professor Stevenson has been busy traveling around the world, collecting, sorting and verifying reincarnation cases from different countries. He has been doing this for 40 years and has collected 2,600 cases.
The term, "xenoglossy" refers to the capability of using a foreign language without the common practice of study. In the study of reincarnation, some children recalled that they had lived in a different country, and were able to recall the foreign language that was used in their previous lives to different degrees. If we can prove that it is impossible for the child to have learned this language through the common practice of study, then the case would provide powerful evidence for the genuine existence of reincarnation.
In Professor Stevenson's book Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation published in 1966, he mentioned this phenomenon in some of the cases, and claimed in a footnote that he would publish a book specializing in this. However, he did not publish his first book in this field until 1974. Xenoglossy: A Review and Report of a Case, in which he recorded an American called Jensen who remembered living in Switzerland, and was able to speak Swiss when under hypnosis. Unlearned Language -- New Studies in Xenoglossy was his second book in this field.
The first case in this book was about an American woman whose name in a previous life was Gretchen. Her husband (in this life) was a Christian minister, who was also an amateur hypnosis therapist and knew something about past life therapy. When she had a backache in May 1970, her husband gave her a hypnosis therapy session. After she entered into hypnosis, her husband asked her, "Do you feel pain in your back?" Surprisingly, she answered "No" in German. Since then, she has been able to recall more and more of her life in a place in Germany during her previous life in the hypnotized state, and describe that life in German. Her German was not very fluent and had some grammatical errors. But she indeed described many things from the previous life, especially about the details of her religion and her family life.
The second case came from India. Her name was Uttara, and her name in the previous life was Sharada. She could spontaneously enter the "Sharada state" without being hypnotized. She then would speak only Bengali and even change her clothes to the style of the Bengali women. She spoke fluent Bengali and talked about many details from her previous life. What's most important was, the place and family that she lived in her previous life in Bengal were investigated and confirmed. She jumped back and forth between the two states of being "Uttara" and "Sharada." For this, her parents especially hired a Bengali interpreter. When their daughter became "Sharada," they would completely lose their daughter, because she not only spoke a different language, but also totally turned into a Bengali stranger with different behavior and habits. The author of this book met "Sharada" in May 1976, and invited 8 Bengali language specialists on different occasions to give a careful examination of Sharada's language.
The author's careful observation and analysis in the language phenomena showed his rigorous research style. He also pointed out that linguists could learn something valuable through studying these cases.