2014 Reading: Life Before Life by Jim B. Tucker

lifebeforelifeLife Before Life: Children’s Memories of Previous Lives
Jim B. Tucker, M.D.
St. Martin’s, 2005

Dr. Tucker recently spoke at my local bookstore. I was interested in attending but had a conflict. I did however, pick up one of his books and have just read it. The book doesn’t claim to prove reincarnation, but it does offer considerable evidence for it in the form of the statements by children of their memories of previous lives. Many cases are offered, and these are, apparently, just a small sampling of the data that Dr. Tucker and his colleagues have amassed.

The cases reported include birthmarks or birth defects that somehow reflect the mode of death of the “prior personality,” or experimental birthmarks that are placed on the prior personality’s body and then carry over, or other memories that are in various ways “verified.” As a good rhetorician, Dr. Tucker also addresses both the objections to the evidence and the alternative explanations, concluding in most cases that reincarnation offers the most logical explanation for the cases.

The author includes an entire chapter to the issue of materialism, and the objection based on the fact that only the material world exists. But, he argues, our knowledge of physics is evolving, and some physicists now acknowledge that materialism may not be all that there is.

It’s all very interesting to me. On the one hand, I am a firm believer in the material world until another form of existence is proven. On the other hand, I find the notion of reincarnation extremely attractive.

When I was in high school, using hypnosis to achieve past life regressions was something of a fad. One of my friends was able to get a local dentist who was a hypnotist to come to small gathering in her basement and to “put us under” to see what he could learn about our past lives. I don’t recall specifics, but some of our group did offer details of past lives. My recollection is that I did not.

Anyway, I’m still fascinated by the subject and now, having read this book, I need to do some more reading.

About the author


  1. The book actually deals with that. Depending on when you start counting human beings, it has been estimated that 105 Billion people have lived on the planet. Since there are only going to be 10 Billion by the end of the century, there’s more than enough to go around. Furthermore, who’s to say more “consciousnesses” (cuz I don’t love the idea of a “soul”) couldn’t be created/come into existence to accommodate the newbies?

    Basically, if we’re going to accept the pretty-farfetched idea of reincarnation, there are ways to explain the extra people.

  2. Why is it far-fetched? A kabillion people have believed this for a long time, and there’s evidence that some early Christians, did too, as well as some of the tribal societies that existed in Europe (and America) before Xtianity.

    I try not to take it literally–it’s AS IF this or that happened in a previous live and it resonates as a message for this life, perhaps. But I also have no problem with the idea of a new consciousness being created. It had to happen in the beginning, after all, right. But whether or not reincarnation is the mechanism, I had a very powerful experience with the incarnations of both my children. I wonder if mothers have less of a question of whether the soul exists? There was this pregnancy and there was a sense of individuality from the beginning, but in both cases for me there was a sudden and strong sense of PRESENCE at around 20 weeks. My theory is that a soul has dibs on a particular pregnancy and then commits at a certain point. That’s what I’m going with for now. No idea where souls come from, but the mystery is wonderful.

    1. I think it’s far-fetched, despite the appeal, because I believe in the material world and so far have experienced nothing but the material world. My point was clear–if you think reincarnation is real, it isn’t hard to explain the numbers. If you don’t, it’s moot.

  3. Hi Cliff,

    I, too, find the notion of reincarnation attractive. I once told a friend it’s as believable as the virgin birth. Maybe someday physics will “prove” otherwise?

    Wishing you a productive retreat week.


  4. Life is inscrutable, that’s what makes it so awesome! I’m with you Cliff on believing only the material. This is interesting though – does the book talk about the “third eye” and the pineal gland and the belief by some that the soul appears in 47 ( I think it is) days? My nephew was talking to me about this last night when I mentioned this blog post to him….

    1. No, and in fact it is careful not to use the term “soul” either, but does use the term “continuity of consciousness” or something like that

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