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Old Souls: The Scientific Evidence For Past Lives Hardcover – August 5, 1999

3.8 out of 5 stars 181 customer reviews

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As our understanding and awareness of who and what we are advances through the grueling gauntlet of scientific process, we continually face a debilitating dilemma: we must simultaneously question everything and at the same time proceed as if we know something. As a result we continually battle ourselves, questioning the ground on which we stand while using that same ground to prove our questions irrelevant. It's a gift, then, when a writer emerges who will grapple with any of these battles at the event horizon between science and conjecture and take himself wholly into the fray, reporting back to us the subtle forces at work within the storm and how those forces play upon him and the subject he explores.

In Old Souls, journalist Tom Shroder manages this feat and hands us a volume that is considerable and engaging. Not only do we explore the work of a brave and committed researcher on the slippery slope of reincarnation, we are also treated to a remarkable tour of worlds foreign to us: human existence in post-war Beirut and in the depths of poverty in India. Through the entire journey, Mr. Shroder keeps the primary question lively, carrying the reader through to a closing bit of personal memoir that brilliantly ties the book together into a provocative whole.

Whether you believe in reincarnation or not, you can't help but appreciate Mr. Shroder's disciplined, scrupulously fair, and soul-searching explication. Along the way, we learn immensely about the process as it is revealed and a great deal about exploration itself. The book works on many levels, and readers will benefit from them all. --Donald A. Freas

From Publishers Weekly

While it is easy for Western science to dismiss as fantasy or wish fulfillment the recollections of individuals who "remember" being Cleopatra or Napoleon, how is one to explain a young boy's insistence that he is really a nondescript auto mechanic who died in a car crash a few years before? American psychiatrist Ian Stevenson has spent more than 30 years studying the cases of some 2000 children who spontaneously remember concrete details about dead strangers whose experiences can be documented. On his two final field trips, to Lebanon and India, he was accompanied by journalist Shroder, Sunday Style editor of the Washington Post. Shroder's account of these expeditions emphasizes physical detail over in-depth analysis but nevertheless makes for engrossing reading. In many cases, the subjects exhibit birthmarks or extreme phobias corresponding to injuries or traumatic events in their "past lives." They recognize the deceased's relatives and friends; in one case, a Lebanese boy asked the deceased's mother if she had finished knitting the sweater she was making for him when he died. That the compelling questions raised by such cases are ignored by the scientific establishment causes Stevenson great disappointment. "For me," he claims, "everything now believed by scientists is open to question, and I am always dismayed to find that many scientists accept current knowledge as forever fixed." The journalistic objectivity Shroder brings to his material makes this an exceptionally valuable treatment of an often disparaged subject. Agent, Al Hart, Fox Chase Agency. (Aug.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (August 5, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 068485192X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684851921
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (181 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #277,736 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
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.Read more ›
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