A Special Interview with Carol Bowman, the author of <i>Children's Past Lives</i>
In this interview, R = Zhengjian Reporter and C = Carol Bowman.
R: Could you talk about how you got interested in reincarnation research?
C: I became interested in children's past life memories when my own children were young and had memories of other lifetimes. It started when my son Chase was 5 years old and he became extremely frightened of loud booming sounds.
We first noticed that he had this fear when we were at 4th of July fireworks celebration and he became absolutely this hysterical when the loud booming sounds began. And when I tried to ask him what he was afraid of, he couldn't answer me. But it took him long time to calm down and eventually he did. I noticed another incident about three weeks later, we were at a friend's indoor swimming pool. It was public pool and people were diving from the diving board. As soon as Chase and I entered the pool building, again, he began to get hysterical. And I realized that it was the loud booming sounds in the building when people were diving off the diving board that made him terrified. So at that point, I figured out that he was responding to these noises but I still didn't know what to do with this information. A short time after that, I had a friend visiting who was a hypnotherapist. He is very experienced in working with past life regressions in adults. And I just happened to mention Chase's phobia to him. I was thinking that, since he was hypnotherapist, he might give him some him post-hypnotic suggestions, so the next time when Chase was around loud noises, he wouldn't have this hysterical reaction.
So I told my friend Norman, the hypnotherapist, about Chase's fears. He asked if we'd like to try a little experiment. I had no idea what he had in mind. Chase and I both agreed. So Norman told Chase, who is about yay big, he was only five at that time, he said, "Sit on your mom's lap, close your eyes, and tell me what you see when you hear the loud sounds that frighten you."
Immediately, Chase began describing himself as a solider, a male solider, who had a uniform on. And he said he had a long gun with a sword at the end. He said he was crouching hiding behind a rock and there was a battle going on. At this point, I realized that this is not something that Chase had seen on TV, because he barely watches TV. He just watches Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers. And he went on to describe himself in this battle scene. And he said, "I'm scared. I'm confused. I do not want to be here." He was describing it in the first person as if he were actually there. He went on to say that he remembered being shot in the wrist. And he clutched his wrist at this point and he said, "I'm hurt, I'm blacking out. I wake up and I'm in the hospital. But it's not a regular hospital." He said it was just a place with poles in the ground and some material covering the poles. And he said, "They put me on the bed. But it's not like a regular bed. It's just a hard bench." And immediately I started seeing this image myself in trying to figure out where it could be. What he was trying to tell us. And at this point and I knew that we were into something that was beyond anything he had ever talked about before, anything I had observed with children. So he went on to say he was injured. How they wrapped his wrist in a bandage, and they told him that he had to go back to the battle. He said, "I don't want to go. I miss my wife and children." And at this point, I was taken aback. And this is quite remarkable, too. And I wanted to hear more about the story. So Norman encouraged Chase to keep talking about this. He said, "What happened? How do you feel about this? And then what happened?"
Chase went on to say that he had a wife and a family, and he missed them. He didn't want to be a solider. He didn't know what he was doing there. And he was confused. At this point, Norman told Chase in very simple language that it's OK to be a solider. We have lived different lifetimes on earth. And we have played different roles like actors in a play. And he said, in some lifetimes, we are soldiers, and we have to kill others in battle, or we are killed. And there's no blame. And I was wondering if my 5-year-old would understand this big concept. But I could see, since Chase was sitting on my lap, that he began to relax. So Norman detected that he needed some resolution of this. So Chase became more relaxed and he continued on with his narrative. And he said, "They made me go back to the battle. And I'm walking down the dusty road. And I see chickens walking on the road." Which is kind of an interesting detail. And he said, "I see a big canon being pulled, a wagon with big wheels and it's tied down with ropes. And the wagon is being pulled by horses." And he said, "They want me to go behind the canon." And at this point, he just opened his eyes and smiled and hopped off my lap and went off to play.
I was a little shocked. We were sitting around my kitchen table when this happened. My 9 year-old daughter was also sitting there and observing all this. "That was very exciting," she said, "Mom, Mom, that place where Chase was hit in the battle on his wrist. That was the place where he has his eczema." Ever since Chase had been a baby, he had had chronic eczema, just on that spot on his wrist. We had taken him to several doctors because it was so severe. It was so bad that he used to scratch it at night and it would bleed. So I would have to bandage his wrist before he went to bed. I was a little surprised and realized that there was some connection with Chase's symptom. I hadn't thought about it at the moment. But…
Anyway, the eczema had not responded to medical treatment although we had tried different therapies. Nothing worked. So after this experience from Chase's memory, he talked about 15 min. after this, his fear of loud booming, loud noises went away. And within a few days, that eczema, which he had had since he was baby, completely cleared up and never returned. Until he was 18 years old and one day when he walked in the house, he was scratching his wrist. And I said, "Chase, what's happening?" He said, "I don't know but my eczema is coming back." I said, "What have you been doing? What's going on with you?" He thought for a moment and then he said, "Oh, I just registered for the draft." So, somehow, even the thought of being in the army brought up this body memory for him again. And then it disappeared again.
So after that remarkable afternoon, I became fascinated with these memories. And at that point, I realized that it must be a past life memory. I was not only surprised at how easy it was for my son to bring up the memories when asked, but the fact that after he talked about this battle scene, where there would be loud booming sounds, his fear was reminiscent of being in battle, his fear of loud sounds. That phobia completely went away, so did his chronic eczema. So, for me, to see that there were some correction between rememries and curing this physical symptom, I found absolutely amazing. So after that, I started informally doing research and asking other parents in my neighborhood in my community if they have ever experienced anything like this with their children. And some of them had stories about their three or four years old who would say things like, do you remember when I was big and I had a horse. Or do you remember when we were together and the ship sank and we all died. Really, little remarks that left the parents floored. So I started collecting these stories and, after a few years, I was doing this research more and more and collecting more and more cases. I was also putting together a picture of what these memories were about. How parents identify these memories in children, how they could tell that they weren't fantasies. What made them think that they were memories rather than fantasies. And over the years, I developed techniques for parents to use with their own children to help them process these memories as they came up. Because they do come up spontaneously in children up to about the age of 7. What I mean by that is that every young child, just out of blue, will start talking about when I was big before, or when I died before, or remember when I was a mom, and I had five children. So these memories just come up naturally, spontaneously in children in the U. S. and Canada, as well as in Asian countries where there is a belief in reincarnations. So there is a natural phenomenon in young children all over the world.
R: Did you believe in reincarnation before you had this experience with you son?
C: When I was a college student, in the late 1960s, I had some experiences which led me to this study of Buddhism and Hinduism. I started reading about reincarnation, and it made a lot of sense to me. So I think that at that point I adopted it as this possibility more on an abstract philosophical level than as any kind of practical reality. So when my children had these experiences, I was very open to it and understood how reincarnation could be something real and personal. Also how we can have these memories as young children that consciousness seem to continue through death, and all young children naturally remember the previous lives and deaths. And then something happens around the age of 7, whether it's .. it seems to be developmental, maybe some kind of spiritual development, that these memories tend to fade. Not always, but usually as we get more grounded in this reality. But I think many children have these memories.
R: You believed in reincarnation before, but how did this experience with your son change anything for you? In terms of your view of your life, reincarnation, the relationships among family members and with other people?
C: I think the experience with my children completely changed my view of life and death. It made me realize that life really does continue after death. Because I think that even as adults we adapt to reincarnation. It's more in intellectual level until we have some strong evidence that it is true, and something happens in our personal life which leads us to believe or to see this as a reality. Like what happened with my children when they had memories. Especially with my son, his were so vivid and the results were so dramatic. I think it helped me in understanding why we feel a particularly close connection to someone, when we feel we have deep bond with someone, as I see now I believe that it's because we've known them in previous lives. And sometimes we all do come together again, or our lives are intersected some ways, and there is connectness in life. It's not random. And through reincarnation, I really understand how we are all connected, and to me, that is the foundation of life.
R: Talking about the connections, do you know of any typical examples of people who had a karmic relationship in the previous lives being reincarnated in the same family or in the same group. Can you give an example?
C: After my first book, Children's Past Lives, with published in 1997, which was a great time to have the book published because of the Internet, we had a website and I had e-mail address in the book. So I started getting many many cases from all over the world from parents who found the website or found the book and wanted to share their stories with me. This was because, especially in the U. S., in the west, parents didn't want to talk about this, because it goes against the mainstream belief. So I was finding that people would write to me and say, please don't think I'm crazy, but I think my grandmother who died ten years ago is my 4 year-old. And this is why I believed this. They would go through whole list of the child's behaviors, every idiosyncratic thing, unique things that matched the grandmother. Or the three year-old would say something about the grandmother's life that the three year-old couldn't possibly know. Or the three year-old would look at the old family album, and look at the family picture with the grandmother and say, "Oh, remember when we were on that picnic and uncle Ted fell off the boat?" You know, they would just know things that they couldn't possibly know.
So I was finding more and more of these cases, and then I got one particular case from a woman from Chicago area whose two year-old-son had died of neuroblastoma, which manifested as tumors all over his body. A terrible disease. At the time of this child's death, his name was James, he had a large tumor behind his left eye, which caused blindness in that eye. He had large tumor behind his right ear that had been biopsied. And they had inserted a central line in his neck which left a scar and this little boy died at the age two years two months from the disease. But these were characteristics that you could see on his body at the time of the death. Thirteen years later, the mother Kathy had her fourth child, and this child she named Chad. He was born by cesarean section and after he was delivered, they went to Kathy and said, "We have some bad news." The doctor said, "It looks like he's blind in his left eye." And she was a little shocked to hear this. But she was also grateful that he was alive. They brought the baby in to her and, immediately, she noticed there was a surgical scar on his neck. And she saw what looked like a tumor behind his right ear. She said, "What is that?" And the doctor said, "Oh, that's just a cyst behind there. That will go away." She said, "What's on his neck? It looks like an incision." He said, "Oh, it's just a birthmark." When Kathy held this baby for the first time, there was a familiarity, a bond she felt with this child. She knew, she just knew, this was James reborn, the first child. And this time, he started exhibiting behavior like his brother who died. He had mannerisms like the child who died. And by the age of 4, he was saying things about James' life that he couldn't possibly have known. He asked for specific toys that belonged to the first child. And one day he went up to his ten brothers and said, "Well, I was here before. I got sick and died and now I'm back."
But, at this point, Kathy knew that he knew, which he had suspected, that he was the reincarnation of his brother. This case was actually very involved. But it was the central piece of my second book, because I realized that reincarnation in the same family within a very short period of time, three, five, ten years, occurs all the time. I think it happens much more frequently than anyone realizes. But we don't have enough documents in many cases to say exactly how often it occurs. But that to me is quite remarkable. That there seems to be a choice perhaps and how we reincarnate. Because if reincarnation were just a random process, we wouldn't see many cases in the same family. So there is something, some kind of consciousness, or some kind of natural law that draws the soul, the spirit, back to be with the same group again in the same family. And from looking at a lot of these cases, sometimes there is unfinished business with the family, and maybe that child who died wants to come back to be with the family again. Or a grandparent has a strong attraction to someone in the family and wants to be back with them again. So there seems to be love, unfinished business, and probably some other factors which draw the soul entity back into the family. Of course, we don't understand all of it. But, we can get hints and some clues from these cases.
R: How can parents tell when their child is talking about the past life?
C: After looking at hundreds on hundreds of cases, I began to see patterns in the cases. And I started looking for ways that parents' could tell these were past life memories and not fantasies. And what I found is that first is the age of the child. Children have these memories spontaneously up to until the age of 7. So if you two, three, or four year-old who starts talking about when they were big before, or how they died before, that's one indication that they might be talking about past life memory. And when children talk about these memories, they're very serious, direct, and matter of fact. When children talking about fantasies, you can tell they are going on, (changing tone to be more dramatic,) "Well, when I was big, I was this… I was a princess…" There is a kind of sing song quality in their voice. But when children are talking about past life memory, they would say, (serious tone) "Do you remember when I died before?" And they say it in such a direct way, parents usually stop what they are doing and pay attention. They can tell that this is some kind of important communication.
And one thing that catches parents' attention is that their three-year-old will be talking about things that a three-year-old couldn't possibly know about. For example, the detail of what it is like to wear a gas mask in a war situation, or a bomb is falling, or things that the child has never been exposed to. Or could be something like, "When I was a mother, I had six children and we didn't have cars then, we rode horses." When a two or three-year-old speaks of these things in that tone, pay attention, because they could be communicating a past life memory. And sometimes they know details of things or use words that they ordinarily wouldn't use.
One three-year-old told her mother how she had been a woman by the name of Mary. That wasn't her name in this life. And that she had died of deconception, which is a 19th century term that no one uses any longer. So they could tell by what the child is saying, and sometimes the child will have certain behaviors as my son did. He had the fear of loud booming sounds, and then he talked about being in a war. So the behaviors can be connected to the story, too. Usually if the child makes more than one statement, they will also repeat the same story again and again with the same details over a long period of time, could be weeks, months or even over a few years. And the story will remain the same; it won't change over time. As this child develops or acquires more vocabulary, they will fill in the story as they develop their language skills. But the same story remains constant over time.
R: Do you see any differences between the families that do not believe in reincarnation as opposed to the ones that do believe in reincarnation? Is the reaction different?
C: In most of the cases I have investigated, the parents did not have any belief in reincarnation before their experiences with their children. But after listening to their child and observing their child and realizing that reincarnation is probably the explanation for they're saying, they completely change their worldview. They understand very personally that we do live again and again and if they see this in their child, they understand that it applies to them too. So it really expands their views of life and death. And in lots of cases, parents have told me that it takes away their fear of death. I think that with parents who are open to reincarnation, as I was, it just expands our understanding. It makes it very real and personal rather than some abstract philosophy. And I think it can be very liberating. I think that it can explain a lot of things about human personality that genetics and environment don't fully explain. So I think for people whose religious beliefs say that this is impossible, some people will put up a wall so strong that even if they observe this in their child, it won't change their beliefs. And I don't hear from those people. But I'm sure that there are many cases out there aren't reported, because the parents' beliefs are so strongly, firmly, saying that this doesn't happen. So I think it would take a very strong case to start breaking down that wall of their beliefs.
R: Can you talk about what drove you to write the two books?
C: After I had that experience with my son, and started doing the research and started talking with other parents, I found that no one had really put this information together for parents. How do I identify these memories? And what you should do if your child starts talking about a past life? Is it good, or bad, can you help them? What should you do? So I realize that I was probably the one who was going to write a book about these things. I had the interest and I had the cases. And I thought that it would be really helpful for other parents to have some guidance, because when I first went through it with my children, I had no clue. I had to put it all together myself. So I wrote the book, Children's Past Lives, mainly for parents but also for anyone who has an interest in reincarnation. And it was specifically for parents, so they would have techniques to use with their children if they encountered past life memory. And I want to explain to them that it's really… It can be beneficial to the child to talk about these memories. In fact, my feeling is that it's probably more harmful to a child if you ignore this, or dismiss it, or repress it in any way. Because there is something the child needs to communicate. Sometimes, even with a happy memory, they need for it to be acknowledged that, yes, this is true. This was in the past, and you're here now. And isn't this wonderful. And with the more traumatic memories, sometimes they just need to process them and get them out as we do with any trauma we experienced in this life. If you repress it, it causes more problems. So by talking about it, and helping the child dealing with it, and the feeling around the memory, you're actually helping quite a bit. So that is why I wrote the first book.
R: How about the second one?
C: I wrote, Return from Heaven, my second book, because I was getting cases of children who had died in car accidents or diseases and then returned to the same mother within a relatively short period of time. And to me, this is a miracle that this can happen. And with the mothers I talked to who experienced this, it completely changed the grieving process for them. It gave them hope. It gave them comfort to know that, in some miraculous way, there are some aspects of the soul of the other person who's back with them. And they would continue to love the soul that they loved so dearly before. I think that we're just beginning to understand what the implications of that are for death, for the continuity of life. For the continuity of relationships. And how we get another chance to be with the loved ones again and death is not the end. So I think it's a reality that offers people hope and comfort when they face the death of a loved one. It doesn't take the place of the grieving process, because we still have to grieve the loss of those we loved. But, it gives us the hope that, in the future, we can be reunited with this soul either in this life or in another lifetime. So to me, that's very important.