“The Reincarnation of Peter Proud”
- What is reincarnation?
- Karma – “As you sow, so shall you reap.”
- Dr. Ian Stevenson & his scientific paper proving the existence of reincarnation.
“The Reincarnation of Peter Proud” is a movie, of the suspense-thriller genre, that was released in 1975. It concerns a Californian college professor, Dr. Peter Proud (Michael Sarrazin) who is traumatized by recurring nightmares that haunt him. He is even more baffled when after attending a ‘sleep lab’, he finds out that his dreams do not register as dreams; in fact, they do not register at all. One evening, he sees a local documentary on the television entitled, “America Past & Present.” He is increasingly rattled, filled with dread and fearful when sees his very ‘visions’ being played out in front of his eyes – yet it is of a place that he has never seen or visited before. He becomes more and more convinced that he has experienced flashbacks of an earlier incarnation of himself. He finally manages to visit the American town that features in his dreams and finds himself unwittingly in the company of the wife of his previous birth – Marcia Curtis (Margot Kidder). Marcia soon discovers – to her increasing horror – that Peter shares startlingly similar behavioral characteristics with that of her late husband, Jeff. Even the timbre of his voice seems to be the same as that of Jeff. Peter manages to befriend Marcia’s daughter, Ann (Jennifer O’Neill) at a local country club and soon finds himself romantically involved with her. Marcia suspects Dr. Proud as being the reincarnation of her dead husband, Jeff and she wastes no time in recognizing the incestuous nature of this relationship – since Ann was, in reality, Jeff’s daughter in his previous life. Marcia finds herself in a dilemma that offers no escape plan. She finds it more and more difficult to keep Peter and their daughter apart – but in doing so she will have to share with Dr. Proud the horrifying moments of their last encounter – she would need to reveal to him a crime that was committed many years ago.
Reincarnation is a religious or philosophical concept that is so complex and controversial that – in my opinion – even though many people have given it serious thought, they are too scared of the consequences of openly voicing an opinion. They would rather not touch this concept even with a barge pole. However, let me share with you a thought of universal truth – never be afraid that you will be criticized for undertaking something that many people consider to be debatable. In fact, be afraid of the fact that you never tried at all!
This is only a blog – a vehicle by whose means a writer chooses to express his/her and other people’s views ,opinions and theories concerning a certain subject. I am not here to contradict or discredit anyone – I am in no way attempting to start a global controversy on a subject that is so steeped in the unknown. Reincarnation is a concept that induces a feeling of real terror and trauma in a person who has never seen or visited places that seem uncharacteristically familiar to him/her. The same holds true for people – those with whom they mysteriously share a connection that is so ‘electric’ – so powerful and spontaneous that it is uncanny. Do you believe in “first impressions?” How can you explain the fact that we take an instant liking to certain people and yet for others – we express an instant dislike, disgust, contempt or even fear? Yet, we are certain that we have never seen, interacted with or met these persons before. This despite the fact that the latter class of people have not done anything overtly or ostensibly wrong to warrant such a strong reaction. Very strange and spooky, isn’t it?
To understand reincarnation, one must first take into account that the body and the mind are two separate entities. If you can understand the mind; you can understand the existence of past and future lives. Some people believe that after biological death, the body disintegrates and the life of the mind is snuffed out like a candle – that the continuum of the mind ceases completely and that it becomes non-existent. Do you know what the mind is? It is your soul or spirit – it is composed of all the subjective elements of one’s life – of all one’s feelings, emotions, character and personality traits – that distinguishes one mortal from the other. Even though it is true that we have all evolved from animals, the existence of the soul is the core element that distinguishes animals from the complexities that make up human beings and their behaviour. Many others believe that the continuum of the soul remains unbroken – the mind leaves the body and continues its journey on to the next life. The spirit then begins a new life, in a new body, that could be either animal, human or spiritual – depending on the moral quality of the previous entity’s actions. This theory implies that the principle of “KARMA” is also in play at such a time.
The Buddhist scriptures state that the body is like a guest-house and that the soul is only a guest that inhabits it. After biological death, the mind is said to leave the body and go to the next life/incarnation – just like a guest that leaves a guesthouse and goes elsewhere. The doctrine of reincarnation has been advocated by the Indian religions and it was a belief held by certain historic figures such as Pythagoras, Plato and Socrates. It is a common belief of certain pagan religions (such as Druidism, Spiritism, Theosophy and Eckankar) and is found in many tribal societies around the world, in places such as Siberia, West Africa, North America and Australia.
Karma implies that “Life is an echo – what goes around, comes around”. It is based on the philosophy – “As you sow, so shall you reap”. If you lead your life based on the principles of righteousness, you will benefit from all the elements of goodness and benevolence that return back to you. If one has led a life of sin, evil and crime – the same will come back to you too. It is like the rebounding action of the Australian boomerang. To put this matter in the simplest terms – “Do unto others, as you will have them do unto you.” That is the basis of Karma. It is a continuous cycle of birth, death and rebirth – a person could be reincarnated several times so that he/she can redeem and cleanse his/her soul of the sins of his/her past life. It is akin to saying that the portals of the Heavenly Abode will be open to only those spirits who have completely purged themselves of all sin and negative words, thoughts, gestures, actions and behaviour.
I remember an instance many years ago of talking to the father of a good friend of mine – he is a very wise old man. We got to talking about reincarnation and whether there is a grain of truth to the philosophy of ‘life after death’. He rightly said that each child is born innocent and blameless. Yet how can you explain why a particular child is born in misery, extreme poverty and in a decrepit hovel; whilst another child is born into extreme wealth and enjoys all the possible material comforts and luxuries? How can you explain how certain victims – whether innocent children or adults – suffer the intense trauma and indignity of rape and body mutilation? How certain people are tortured and then murdered horribly? How certain people lose all their loved ones in a terrible accident leaving only one survivor – left with nothing? How certain people are left devastated, penniless and homeless, without a stitch of clothing – except that on their bodies – when a hurricane, tornado, typhoon, tidal wave or cyclone claims the lives of their entire families; robs them of their only dwelling and all their belongings? Why do some people find their houses robbed of every single thing – as if the theft is, in itself, an open proclamation of vengeance? Why should certain horrific crimes afflict only certain people – but not others? Why do we say that a certain person is so fortunate or so unfortunate? Does ‘Lady Luck’ really smile down on certain blessed people or is there more to it than meets the eye? The list is endless……one can go on and on and on!
Dr. Ian Stevenson has made it his life’s work, since the last forty years, to prove scientifically that reincarnation does exist. He collected the cases of thousands of children who had spontaneous past-life memories – without the use of hypnosis. He uses strict scientific protocols for his studies. He opines that while hypnosis is deemed useful in verifying the existence of a past life, it does not have much value from a scientific perspective. In order to collect his data, Dr. Stevenson methodically documents the child’s statements of a previous life. Then he identifies the deceased person the child remembers being, and verifies the facts of the deceased person’s life that match the child’s memory. He even matches birthmarks and birth defects to wounds and scars on the deceased, verified by medical records. His strict methods systematically rule out all possible “normal” explanations for the child’s memories. He has over 3,000 cases in his files. His scientific evidence has been accepted by many people, including scholars and skeptics as the best evidence yet for reincarnation. Dr. Stevenson is a medical doctor of high-repute and his credentials are nothing short of impeccable. Many scholarly papers concerning paranormal research are to his credit. He is the former head of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia, and now is Director of the Division of Personality Studies at the University of Virginia. “Either he [Dr. Stevenson] is making a colossal mistake or he will be known as the Galileo of the 20th century.” – that is Dr Harold Lief ‘s prophetic comment on Dr. Stevenson and his work – as published in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease.
In conclusion, you might ask – what is the author’s opinion? Well, I am inclined to believe that too many unexplained, illogical and uncanny ‘coincidences’ have been reported, by too many people globally, that support the existence of reincarnation. Certain troubling and traumatic recollections, steeped deep in one’s subconscious mind cannot be summarily dismissed as irrelevant. While it is possible that these memories are of a trauma or of a fearful event in one’s current life, one is unable to overlook the fact that certain events could very well have taken place in a previous incarnation. These terrifying memories probably never came up in one’s previous life because they were suppressed too deep in one’s subconscious mind.
It is a distinct possibility that prophecies could be linked to events in one’s past and future lives. It is possible that when Nostradamus predicted the end of the world, he had unconsciously accepted the philosophy of reincarnation as a way of predicting the downfall of the evil that rules the world today. He probably felt that if in each new reincarnation, people tended to further propagate evil – instead of atoning for all their sins – then it would spell the doom of civilization, as a whole.
In conclusion, it is not so important what scholars, historical figures, philosophers, religious teachers, scientists or skeptics believe – finally, what really matters is what YOU believe. Is there, or isn’t there, a grain of truth to the concept of reincarnation?