Year : 2011 | Volume
: 53 | Issue : 1 | Page : 89--90
Can the mind survive beyond death? In pursuit of scientific evidence
Consultant Psychiatrist, Neuro Psychiatric Clinic, # 110, Tagore Villa, Dehra Dun - 248001, India
Consultant Psychiatrist, Neuro Psychiatric Clinic, # 110, Tagore Villa, Dehra Dun - 248001
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Kishore N. Can the mind survive beyond death? In pursuit of scientific evidence.Indian J Psychiatry 2011;53:89-90
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Kishore N. Can the mind survive beyond death? In pursuit of scientific evidence. Indian J Psychiatry [serial online] 2011 [cited 2020 Jul 7 ];53:89-90
Available from: http://www.indianjpsychiatry.org/text.asp?2011/53/1/89/75541
[AUTHOR:1]By Satwant K. Pasricha
New Delhi: Harman Publishing House, 2008.
Pages: xvii +527 (Hardcover, 2 vols.); Price: Rs 1200/-
The author of this book, Satwant K. Pasricha, was a professor of clinical psychology at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) where she has conducted most of her research reported in the book. True to the subtitle of the book, she has been striving to collect scientific evidence for the last over 35 years by investigating various phenomena that directly or indirectly address the question of survival of human personality. Since 2009, she has settled down in her home town Dehra Dun where she continues to pursue her research interest. In 1974, she was trained under Prof. Ian Stevenson, the world authority on reincarnation, after which she became his collaborator and then an independent researcher. As noted in her book, she is the only person in India with training in both clinical psychology and parapsychology. Her first book, Claims of Reincarnation: An Empirical Study of Cases in India, dealt mainly with cases of the reincarnation type which received wide acclaim. She is the leading authority on the subject in India who has been consistently and systematically investigating cases of paranormal experiences to approach the mind-body relationship through her work on the question of survival after physical death.
Pasricha's present book, in two volumes, is an excellent collection of her articles published in 5 national and 17 international journals. It is divided into 22 chapters, each consisting of a previously published article with Pasricha being the sole author or lead author of 17 of them.
Volume I is exclusively devoted to reincarnation research and is divided into six thematic sections with 14 chapters. As an introduction to the subject, first two chapters deal with three illustrative cases followed by methods employed in the research. Chapter three presents two replication studies, one of the contemporary cases while the other compares features of cases investigated two generations apart. The first replication study adds to the authenticity of the cases and the second one to the stability of features which according to the authors, indicates that "the cases of the reincarnation type derive from some fundamentally non-pathological though unusual processes." The next two chapters deal with how beliefs in reincarnation match (or don't match) with the features of actual cases and that the features of cases are not shaped by parental influences even when parents knew of other cases or models were available to the subjects within their own families. Chapter seven includes seven reports of unsolved cases (wherein a deceased person matching the statements of the child could not be identified) from Lebanon, India, Sri Lanka and Burma. The authors have shown the importance of investigation of unsolved cases in better understanding of all cases of the reincarnation type; the study of unsolved cases may also reveal how motives of persons concerned differ in solved and unsolved cases or what purpose do they serve in each case. Following each case, comments have been offered regarding the failure in solving a case. In Chapter eight, an analysis of six important features, namely, age at first and last speaking about the previous life; frequency of mentioning the mode of death in previous life, frequency of phobias related to previous personality's mode of death, frequency of mentioning previous personality's name and frequency of mentioning violent versus natural mode of death. The possible relevance of these findings to the interpretation of unsolved cases is discussed. Chapter nine offers an interesting insight with illustrative case reports that in the absence of personal trauma, or availability of a model in the environment, phobias may have their origin in a previous life. In the next chapter are presented three cases of change of religion; one from Muslim to Hindu and two (a male and a female) from Hindu to Muslim. In all three cases children exhibited corresponding behavior and interest in the religion of their claimed previous lives for which appropriate contesting hypotheses have been offered. Most of the cases presented in both the volumes have been reported and investigated from northern India. The next chapter, Chapter 11, includes a variety of interesting cases from south India; from Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. Features of south Indian cases are compared with features of cases from northern India. In any good research, the role of deception and self deception should be ascertained carefully. In Chapter 12 seven cases from Asia, addressing the question of deception and self deception emphasize the importance of thorough investigation of cases even whey they initially appear authentic. Further investigations of three cases revealed that informants appeared to have deceived themselves, in two cases hoax by villager and in one case the families concerned seemed to have given false testimony. The seventh case was a case of journalistic hoax. The last two chapters present an interesting case from Rajasthan wherein two investigators offer two separate interpretations for the same case but a careful analysis and further follow-up interviews weighed the case in favor of reincarnation hypothesis.
Volume II focuses on reincarnation and related areas such as near-death experiences (NDEs), xenoglossy and possession. It is divided into eight chapters (15-22) under two sections namely reincarnation and other anomalous experiences. First three chapters (15-17) are contributed to the special feature of birthmarks and birth defects in cases of the reincarnation type. In the first of these, Pasricha presents ten carefully investigated and examined cases of children who have birthmarks and birth defects corresponding to the antemortem injuries on the bodies of or wounds suffered by the deceased persons whose lives they claimed to remember; next chapter in the series of birthmarks and birth defects or malformation and anomalies of the skin reports 12 cases, seven of which are case reports and features of five cases are presented in the tabular form. The most impressive feature of these three chapters is that in many of the cases a close correspondence between the birthmarks and birth defects of children and antemortem injuries on the bodies of the identified deceased persons was established through the examination of postmortem reports and police records. To mind these cases present strongest, almost compelling evidence, of survival after death. The next three chapters deal with NDEs which bear indirect evidence on survival of death. Reports of NDEs have been generally published from the West occasionally one finds reports of NDEs in the Indian academic journals. Pasricha's contribution in this area too is unmatching; all three chapters on NDEs are reprinted from the international peer reviewed journals. Very few reports on surveys, especially field surveys, have been published even in the western journals. She has reported the results of systematically surveyed villages in southern India and has presented the cross-cultural similarities and differences in reports of NDEs from north and south India. Pasricha argues that although the expression of experiences differs across cultures, the core features show some common processes that are indicative of some underlying genuine phenomenon.
In the last two chapters, Pasricha with Stevenson presents two thoroughly investigated remarkably unusual cases ever reported in literature. The first one is reported as a case of xenoglossy (ability to speak a language without having learned it normally) with memories of previous life. This is the case of Uttara Huddar, a woman who at the age of 32 shows a change in her personality who has good command of Bengali, which Uttara Huddar did not know. The secondary personality gave her identity as one Sharada and gave names and details of her family in west Bengal, which was eventually traced to a family in west Bengal who lived there in early nineteenth century. Sharada appeared periodically and took over complete charge of Uttara's personality from a few days to several weeks.
The second case in this section is what is described as a case of spirit possession. This is a case of a young married woman, Sumitra, who seemingly died and revived. After a period of confusion, she stated that she was Shiva, who had been murdered in another village. She provided sufficient details to permit verification and her statements corresponded to the life of another woman called Shiva who had died violently. The authors conducted extensive interviews with as many as 53 informants and concluded that the families concerned had not known each other before the development of the case.
To answer the most important question whether mind survives beyond death, this book presents a wealth of information. Pasricha has presented evidence through the cases that she has most thoroughly investigated, carefully interpreted and presented in a lucid manner providing a variety of features with illustrative case reports. It is a remarkable book which takes into account psychopathological as well as paranormal features that have far reaching implications in the field of psychology, psychiatry, and medicine. I would strongly recommend this book to all mental health professionals.