140 of 141 people found the following review helpful
on September 5, 2005
First, I have to say that several of the reviewers have said that somewhere on the cover it was stated that this book provided PROOF of reincarnation, and they then rated this book poorly for not providing such iron-clad proof. After reading these reviews, I studied the cover once again, trying to find where it states that any proof will be given - yet, there's no such statement ANYWHERE! What it states is that they will provide "compelling evidence" - and in my opinion they have achieved this goal.
"Old Souls" discusses some of those cases suggestive of reincarnation that Dr. Ian Stephenson had investigated during his career. These cases are found all over the world, but this book tends to discuss only those found in Lebanon, India, and a few in the US. Much of the info. provided tends to be clinical in a sense, but one has to remember that Dr. Stephenson is trying to pursue this from a scientific point of view - in an effort to bring this sort of research into the mainstream.
The author, Thomas Shroder, is a journalist skeptic who followed Dr. Stephenson on the last few of his journeys. I must say that it's hard at times to read how the skeptics view the evidence, as it seems to show without a doubt the saying that believers don't need extraordinary proof, but to the skeptic, no proof is good enough. However, by the end, this skeptic was at least left wondering - not willing to deny everything he saw and heard - at least thats a start...
Overall, I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in spirituality in general, and more specifically reincarnation. It provides an excellent view into the research, and how & why the skeptics tend to rip it apart.
168 of 181 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2000
Overall, this was a bit of a disappointment. The subtitle, "The Scientific Evidence for Past Lives," is typical of the "grabber" subtitles which publishers use to sell books but which often bear little relationship to the contents. Shroder accompanies Dr. Ian Stevenson (who is now 80 years old and has been meticulously documenting past-life memories for 40 years) on follow-up visits to Lebanon and India. A really huge portion of the book comprises Shroder's whining about the conditions he is forced to endure, which is interesting in small doses but eventually gets tedious. (Rethink your vacation to India, folks.) We do get snippets of Stevenson's interviews with subjects who remember past lives, but these are disjointed and hardly rise to the level of "the scientific evidence." In fact, all Stevenson seems to encounter on these visits are fairly weak cases and dead-ends. The real evidence -- reams of it -- is found in Stevenson's own works, such as "Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation" and "Where Reincarnation and Biology Intersect." Shroder's book gives the reader some insight into Stevenson's personality and methodology, but no real understanding of the scope and depth of his work. Shroder's knowledge of this field is distinctly thin -- this book is at precisely the level of what you see in the newspaper every day, where a reporter spends a few days immersed in a highly complex subject to which others have devoted their entire lives, then purports to sum it all up in a few pages of generalities. Shroder's attitude was also somewhat off-putting to me. Although he frequently expresses admiration for Stevenson, his tone occasionally struck me as arrogant and condescending -- as though the reader were supposed to give him (Shroder) credit for even undertaking this project instead of laughing at a subject so widely regarded as silly by his journalistic peers. His doubts regarding Stevenson's research are standard fare which Stevenson and his colleagues have been wrestling with for decades, yet the responses are not fleshed out and the reader is left with the impression that Stevenson was no match for a hard-boiled journalist. I suspect that those who will derive the greatest enjoyment from this book will be those who have assumed that reincarnation is complete nonsense with no basis in fact, and who thus will be intrigued that "one of their own" came away puzzled if not convinced. For those who are already familiar with the work of Stevenson, this book may be worthwhile as an insight (albeit not a very deep one) into the man and his methods. For those looking for "the scientific evidence for past lives" -- well, it's really not here.
41 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 1999
I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in adventure stories. A man sets out against incredible odds, traveling through perilous lands and braving endless tests of faith to deliver Truth to the masses. Is reincarnation a reality? No one can prove it, not definitively. But no one seems to be looking for concrete proof either way. With the exception of Dr. Ian Stevenson and a small handful of other researchers he has inspired to believe in his work. "Old Souls" is a fascinating portrait of one of the last true heroes: the scientist. Dr. Stevenson has dedicated his life to investigating children's claims of past-life memories, claims the majority of modern science has turned it's back on. The book, filled with descriptions so vivid you feel as if you can smell, taste and touch the surroundings, takes the reader on a colorful journey to Beirut, India and Middle America. We are following the 79 year-old scientist on what may be his last interviews with the families, past and present, of the children who have memories of another life. These spontaneous memories are not the grand, theatrical "I was Cleopatra"-type claims that have become old hat in New Age philosophy. They are not a product of regression-hypnosis. The past life memories in Stevenson's research are simple, plain and out of the mouths of babes--often with enough details and names to identify the adress and family of the person they claim to have been. In almost all of the cases covered in the book, the families of the past personality support the cliams of the child, believing, despite any descrepancies, that they have regained their departed relative. Stevenson has fought to keep his records accurate, copious and, most of all, sane. His research is unquestionably thorough, which you'll find is quite an accomplishment when you read about the daunting odds he is up against--travels all across the globe to conduct interviews with subjects who are sometimes unwilling, often surly and occasionally downright dangerous. "Old Souls" seves as testimony to the doctor's relentless dedication to accuracy. In places that have been too busy trying to survive multiple wars to keep exact records of anything beyond the past month, Stevenson has spent days searching for 20 year-old documents helpful only to verify a small portion of a child's claim. I found the studies conducted to be fascinating and the book to be extraordinary in it's ability to make feild research seem thrilling. Although I was not fully convinced, by the end of the book, that reincarnation was the only explanation for these children's stories, author Tom Shroder did convince me that this research can no longer be ignored. If any part of these cases of past-life awareness, numbering over 3,000 documented cases to date, can be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, the implications could be revolutionary. These investigations cannot end with Stevenson's retirement. As I've said, Stevenson, by virtue of his dedicated search for truth outside what our society has deemed possible, seems to be one of the last true heroes. And this book is the story of one of the last true adventures.
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on May 12, 2001
I've gone through several copies of this book. Everytime it finds a comfy space on my shelf, a friend gets a hold of it and away it goes. Suffice to say, it changes those who read it. Fundamentalist christians and athiests alike find the research of Dr. Stevenson deeply disconcerting and for good reason. When people think of reincarnation evidence it's usually the hypnotic-regression fantasies which share the bed with alien abduction. But Dr. Stevenson's research is as far away from that as you can get. Imagine if your 4 year-old suddenly mentioned that he liked you better than his old parents and told you that he lived on a ranch in New Mexico. You would probably think his imagination was getting the better of him. But if he provided details which you later verified, how would you react? This scenario has indeed occurred in reality and has done so many times as the research of Dr. Stevenson shows. When reading this book remember a few things. Dr. Stevenson has outstanding credentials. He never jumps from point A to point C. If there is no B he admits so. And all of these cases involve deceased persons. No child has reported being someone who is still living or from the future(which weakens psychic ability as being a cause of this phenomena). And lastly, if reincarnation exists, and I believe Dr. Stevenson's research suggests so, what does that say about human consciousness and our place in the universe?
145 of 168 people found the following review helpful
on December 18, 1999
If someone told me that a fairly mainstream journalist was going to travel with Dr. Ian Stevenson, the world's leading scientific researcher on reincarnation, to investigate the scientific proof for reincarnation, and what would I expect, "Old Souls" would fit quite well. I would suspect tnat the book would show more humanity than Dr. Stevenson's rather dry accounts of his cases, but most importantly, if a conventional, rational thinking person needs to travel to various countries to find "proof" of reincarnation to convince them, it is unlikely that they would ever be convinced that reincarnation is a fact.
"Old Souls" is easy and pleasureable to read, and I agree with tne reviewers who compliment Mr. Shroder on the travelogues of his and Dr. Stevenson's tales in Lebanon and India. He very effectively describes the conditions in the two countries, clearly and honestly, and conveys both the terrible effect that many wars have had on Lebanon, as well as the rather gruesome and awful poverty in India. The author also depicts the drama of meeting people in the flesh who can clearly remember what I believe is a fact, their lives in other bodies. There are several cases in "Old Souls" that I feel would convince anyone with an open mind that reincarnation is true.
"Old Souls" in a way is an attempt to vindicate Dr. Stevenson, who comes across as a very noble, persistent, but frustrated scientist, largely ignored by the mainstream scientific community despite thousands of solid cases in many countries which point to reincarnation. And in a way the books succeeds in vindicating Dr. Stevenson.
But unfortunately Mr. Shroder himself, typical of people indoctrinated in cultures which reject reincarnation, can never seem to accept it, and his objections are also the same reasons we hear over and over, e.g., since he can't remember past lives, he can't accept it; since science, which he obviously accepts as the arbiter of truth, cannot "prove" reincarnation, it can't be true; and so on. I found this aspect of the book quite tiresome. I must wonder if there can ever be "scientific proof" of reincarnation, the soul, Karma and so on. And I must ask, "Who cares?" I certainly do not, I do not consider scientific materialism the arbiter of ANY truths when it comes to metaphysical questions.
So as I understand it, "old souls" like the author's do indeed keep reincarnating until they learn that evolving as souls through multiple human experiences is indeed our true mission. I can't "prove" that either. There are simply some truths that we must come to by non-rational methods and experiences, and it's really sad that rational proof is the only way so many people can decide on the veracity of crucial matters.
God is an experience, not an experiment.
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on August 30, 1999
Tom Shroder's OLD SOULS is a well-written and compelling book dealing with a still mysterious and controversial subject: children who believe they have lived before. Far from being a dry academic research project documenting cases textbook fashion, this book draws the reader along with the author on a fascinating adventure.
Shroder's descriptions of the cultural flavor of both Lebanon and India, his vivid impressions and sometimes alarming experiences, keep the reader well-involved and continually questioning the evidence. At no point is the reader led to believe Shroder has any agenda except to report on his experiences as he accompanies Ian Stevenson, a professor from the University of Virginia, for what is perhaps Stevenson's last visit to Lebanon and India to reinvestigate claimants of reincarnation.
There are varying degrees of how convincing each case is, but even for one who does not subscribe to the belief of reincarnation, there are other cases that are exceptionally compelling. Photographs lend added credibility to some individual cases.
No matter where one stands on the subject, OLD SOULS is a thought-provoking and thoroughly digestible inquiry into an unsettling phenomenon. Tom Shroder did a very masterful job on this book.
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on January 19, 2003
Although Tom Shroder's stated purpose for writing "Old
Souls" was to bring Dr. Ian Stevenson's work to life,
making it approachable by the lay audience, there is a
deeper purpose to it. The only rational (note I stress
rational) argument against Stevenson's findings is to
attack Stevenson's credibility. One must assume that
either he is fraudulent, that his methods are sloppy,
or that somehow he is not really getting the evidence
This is where Tom Shroder steps in and puts the final
seal on Stevenson's work. Because, what he's done is
to act as a *professional witness*, i.e., a
highly-credentialled, objective journalist,
to confirm the credibility of Stevenson's research.
The book "Old Souls" fulfills this mission faithfully,
and the results of Shroder's investigation are
affirmative--Stevenson is, in fact, getting the
results he claims to be getting, and he is using the rigorous
methods he claims to be using.
The point is not whether the cases provided in "Old Souls" are convincing in and of themselves. The point is that Shroder's
conclusion means that the *other* cases Stevenson
reports--as in "20 Cases Suggestive of
Reincarnation"--are *also* credible, and hence even
And if Stevenson's credibility holds, then his
conclusions hold. And if his conclusions hold, then
the philosophical bases for about 90% of our predominant Western
culture--our science, religion, philosophy, relationships, everything--will have to be seriously revisited. Turned upside-down, actually.
No wonder it's met with so much resistance.
35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on October 29, 1999
I have been familiar with Stevenson's reincarnation research since the late 60's and early 70's but was frustrated that his works were so far removed from the non-academic public. It was the only "scientific evidence" that I knew of. Even large public libraries didn't carry his books. One of his best books is expensive and I was elated that the library I interlibrary loaned it from was willing to send it. So I was SO EXCITED to see the review of "Old Souls: The Scientific Evidence for Past Lives", and ordered the book for our library (I'm a public librarian). So with the attitude "Finally! Stevenson's scientific evidence for public palate!", I read the book.
I was D-I-S-A-P-P-O-I-N-T-E-D ! I was not at all interested in the very detailed descriptions of the hotel dining room and how often the table cloths were changed: "It was a long, narrow room with windows stretching across one side and a blank wall on the other. The tables were covered with freshly ironed white table cloths, which the staff changed after every meal and sometimes in between courses. Waiters in white jackets lurked inconspicuously behind the pillars in the center of the room, always appearing, as if by telepathy, when they were needed."
I wish this detail were applied to the cases. The cases got lost and dispersed in the travelogue and other irrelevant detail. The title of the book should have been more accurately, "Travels with a Reincarnation Researcher". But since that was not the title, I am rating this book only two stars, because I felt the title was misleading. Also, in metaphysical circles, the word "old souls" describes spiritually advanced souls who have had many, many lifetimes (hence the term old souls), not just "any soul", as the cases seem to discuss. An example of an "old soul" might have had the character Gandhi had.
The other reviewers were right, not much meat in here in so far as the "scientific evidence". Though I understand that Shroder could only write first-hand about the cases that they investigated in those few weeks, like I said, the title was misleading. However the book was not without value. The value is in an appreciation of what Dr. Stevenson has to go through to collect the "scientific evidence" and other data for me to sit in an armchair and read. He has to find remote villages, find the people, and suppose he has to make a long grueling trip out there and they aren't there anymore, or at least not for the day, as not everyone has a phone. I suppose many of his efforts are without fruit. The book also gives glimpses of Dr. Stevenson's personality and it answered what I always wondered: "Where does the money come from to finance his research and pay for his worldwide travels?" I used to think that is why the books (earlier editions or previous publishers) cost so much. But now that I know, I feel "God" provided the way that his research was financed.
If one wants true scientific evidence of reincarnation, I recommend "Where Reincarnation and Biology Intersect", by Dr. Stevenson, which is the condensed version of the much longer (and more expensive) title "Reincarnation and Biology: A Contribution to the Etiology of Birthmarks and Birth Defects". I read the latter, which is a medical monograph with extensive documentation, references, numerous tables, and many footnotes. The "Where Reincarnation and Biology Intersect" has none of this. I especially found fascinating, the chapter "Birthmarks Corresponding to Wounds Verified by Medical Records".
"Old Souls: Scientific Evidence for Past Lives" would be a better title for "Where Reincarnation and Biology Intersect", than Shroder's book . I like reading case after case after case after case, which books written by Dr. Stevenson provide. He gets to the NITTY -GRITTY! Stevenson also covers his methodology and interview methods. It's just that it's very academic, as a physician would write about a patient in their chart.
Some of Stevenson's other titles, which you can interlibrary loan, if not purchase, are:
Cases of the Reincarnation Type: Twelve Cases in Thailand & Burma
Children Who Remember Previous Lives: a Question of Reincarnation
A Handbook on Reincarnation
Reincarnation and Biology: a Contribution to the Etiology of Birthmarks and Birth Defects
Telepathic Impressions: a Review and Report of Thirty-Five New Cases
Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation
Unlearned Language: New Studies on Xenoglossy
Xenoglossy: a Review and Report of a Case
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on June 28, 2004
As a recommended book, I had set my expectations fairly high. I wasn't disappointed. Tom Shroder takes us on a ride through the dung fires and rutted roads of India, the bombed out buildings of Beirut, and the norms of agricultural America in the company of after-life researcher, Ian Stevenson.
There are lots of reviews about this book presented on this page, so I'll bottom line it. Was I over-all satisfied with the book? Yes. Would I recommend it? Yes. Did it present facts as facts and postulates as postulates? Yes.
Personal likes - 1. Shroder presents his own skeptical anticipations before we go with him to explore Stevenson's encounters with children who remember pieces of past lives. 2. Shroder's writing style makes the journey well worth the read. 3. Evidence presented from the children's testimonies often raised my eyebrows. I especially was drawn into the birthmark incidents (where some children in this generation display birthmarks in the similar locations where they supposedly were mortally wounded in their prior life.)
From what I could tell, Stevenson pulled no punches and told no lies. Worth the read.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on April 24, 2005
The first half of the book is absolutely fascinating, and I couldn't read it quick enough. When the men traveled to India, it began to crawl. The stories about India just weren't as interesting to me as the anecdotes from Lebanon. It did, however, pick up again when the story came back to the United States. I found it an overall interesting book, and while there was a healthy dose of skepticism in it, which I liked, it also wasn't as hard-hitting and skeptical as I would have liked. It seemed to me that the author wasn't quite the skeptic he would want the reader to believe, but nonetheless, it was an interesting read. What I find most interesting is that it is a look at reincarnation that does not discard evidence that does not fit the pattern; it merely presents all information available and lets the reader decide.