..The Intuitive Times


Children's Past Lives: An Interview With Carol Bowman

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Carol Bowman is a respected researcher on Spontaneous Past-Life Memories of Children. She is author of two groundbreaking books, ‘Children's Past Lives,' and her newest book, ‘Return from Heaven.' ‘Unsolved Mysteries' (NBC) aired a full segment on Carol's work; the segment is now in constant rotation on the Lifetime cable channel. Carol was featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show in March, 1994.

IT: What got you interested in past life research and spontaneous past life memories with children?

CB: Being brought up in American Judeo-Christian culture, I was never exposed to reincarnation until I was a college student in the late sixties. Once I had heard about it, it made a lot of sense to me because it explained to me all kinds of things that seemed to be missing from the traditional teachings. Around 1986 I became very ill with lung problems and during the height of my illness I had a very strong vision of myself having been a male in the 19th century and in this vision I saw I was dying of consumption. I actually saw my death in that life as an observer. I was very puzzled by that and thought my present illness had something to do with this past life memory, but I didn't know how to connect the two.

IT: Was that just a spontaneous vision?

CB: Yes. I was very sick. And then as fate would have it, about six months later there was a hypno-therapist passing through the city I was living in, Ashville, North Carolina. He was literally passing through town from Florida. A friend heard about him and told me there is someone who does past-life regression. And perhaps I should contact him. I did and that three hour session changed my life. I saw two lifetimes in which I died of afflictions of the lungs. And by going through those lifetimes re-experiencing the deaths, it turned the course of my illness. I started to get better and this was a chronic illness I had had for years. That's when I saw how reincarnation could be something very personal and can effect us directly.

Within a year both of my children developed phobias. I didn't relate it to reincarnation at all at the time. I just figured it was something that had triggered it in my son especially. He was five at the time and developed an hysterical fear of loud noises, which we first noticed at a first of July fireworks display.

We had no idea where the phobias came from, but when the hypno-therapist, my friend Norman Inge came to visit me about a year after I did my first regression, I happened to mention my son's phobia of loud noises thinking that he could give my son, Chase some post-hypnotic suggestions so the next time he was around loud noises he wouldn't have an hysterical fit.

Much to my amazement when Norman asked him to close his eyes and tell us what he saw when he heard the loud sounds that frightened him, he was immediately in a past life as a black Civil War soldier in the American Civil War. He recounted the story in extremely vivid detail. Things that I knew he couldn't possibly know, as a five year old. He told the story from the perspective of an adult who could have been there. He talked about the kind of equipment they used , his uniform, a lot of little details that were very surprising to me, because I wasn't even that clear on these things. He explained that in that battle he was injured on his right wrist. They had taken him out of the battle to a field hospital, where they bandaged his wrist and sent him back into battle. At which point he apparently died behind the cannon.

The whole session lasted about 15 minutes after which my son hopped off my lap and merrily went about his way. As a result of that session his phobia of loud noises, apparently which was connected to this battlefield experience, went away, as well as a chronic excema he had on that spot on his wrist, which had not responded to medical treatment. Within a few days the excema went away completely, never to return. Apparently he had some cellular memory from that wound on the battlefield, connected with the conflicted emotions he was feeling as a soldier, which came out during the re-telling of his story. So that experience opened my eyes to something completely new. I never thought that children could remember past lives. I had just experienced it as an adult. I had no idea it was so easy for children to access these memories.

The same thing happened with my nine year old daughter with her phobias. We asked her about it and she recounted dying. She was afraid of our house catching fire. She remembered dying as a child in a house fire at some time in the past. It was not clear exactly when or where it was. After talking about it her fear went away too.

Having had both of my children experience these memories and experience the benefits of healing by remembering them, I was completely intrigued. I got very curious. Did other children have these memories too, and if they did, had they experienced the same kind of healings that my children had as a result of just talking about these memories? That was really the beginning of my quest. That was in 1988. I started doing my research by talking to parents in my community first. This was in the days before the internet. It was very different doing research then.

By 1994 I had written a couple of articles for the Edgar Casey Foundation and the Association for Past Life Research and Therapies, which is an international organization now. I started getting cases from people who described these memories in their own young children. I was seeing that it's not uncommon for children to have spontaneous memories of past lives up until about the age of seven.

During the course of my research, I discovered that Dr. Ian Stevenson, at the University of Virginia Medical School, had been documenting and collecting cases of spontaneous past life recall in children for about 40 years. He had almost 3000 cases documented in his files at the University of Virginia Medical School. That completely blew me away, because I had never heard of him and he had been doing this research for so long. I thought what a wealth of information. It tied into my children's experiences and it taught me a lot about these memories. I discovered that children all over the world have them up until about the age of seven, that they have them spontaneously and that they don't require prompting or hypnosis by an adult to remember them. They're just there.

What Dr. Stevenson didn't address was the healing potential of these memories. That's what I thought parents or adults needed to know. Not only do these memories happen naturally in children, but they do have the potential to heal the child of phobias, of physical symptoms, and even of emotional problems.

I wrote my first book in 1995. It was published in 1997 and then my second book, A Return From Heaven, came out in March of 2001.

IT: What do you find makes the study of reincarnation with children special?

CB: I think it's most interesting because the memories I'm looking at are coming directly from 2, 3 and 4 year olds mostly. These are children who have not had very much experience in this life so far, yet they know details of other lifetimes which are totally beyond their experience. Since these children are so young, their memories are pure. They haven't been contaminated by our cultural beliefs saying, "no, this doesn't happen", or, "yes, it does happen". They're just talking from their direct experience I find these memories extremely interesting to study because, with adult memories, especially those elicited with hypnosis, we don't really know how much is imagination or something we may have learned when we were young but may have forgotten as we got older. We don't consciously remember learning it. With 2, 3 and 4 year old it's pretty clear the memory is real. They couldn't have learned it any other way. Because these memories are relatively pure, they give us a very unique window on reincarnation. That' why I like working with these memories, rather than trying to say that every past life memory an adult has it real or evidence of reincarnation, because there are too many gray areas in that.

IT: When you speak of memories that children have, what kind of memories do they have typically have, or is there a typical kind of memory?

CB: I think that what adults notice first are unusual statements a child will make. A 2 or 3 year old will talk about when they were "big before" or, when "they died before" and talk in detail about some experiences you know they haven't had in this life. I think a lot of times children have images in their minds from the past and they're speaking from these images. Sometimes these memories are emotional. Sometimes children have phobias relating to the way they died in the past or from some trauma in a past life.

Many children have phobias. I think children's phobias are extremely common. If we listen carefully to what children are saying about them, sometimes they are telling us where they come from. They might have a fear of airplanes, for example. I actually have cases where young children, upon hearing an airplane, would run and hide under a table or a chair and say "the bombs are coming." For children growing up in North America, until recently, that was not something they could have experienced in their lives. When questioned about this, they would talk about having died in a war or having died when the bomb hit wherever they were living.

Sometimes the memories become phobias, sometimes the memories translate into behaviours. Sometimes the children have unlearned skills. I talk about this in my first book especially. For example, a three year old who knew how to sew a button on his pants without having been taught. When questioned about this by his mother, he said that he had learned this when he was "big before", and he was a sailor. It's certainly a complex skill that a 3 or 4 year old ordinarily wouldn't know without training. Children sometimes show these aptitudes or skills they haven't learned. In the extreme case, sometimes they speak a foreign language they haven't been exposed to. There are actually documented cases of that.

Sometimes the memories come out in attitudes toward people. Especially in my second book, which is about reincarnation in the same family. Families have recognized that a child born into the family is in fact the soul of a deceased relative who has reincarnated back into the family within a short period of time. The surviving relatives recognized that this is true through the statements, the behaviour, the idiosyncratic behaviours or mannerisms of the child that resembled the deceased.

In some cases children actually have birthmarks or birth defects relating to past life injuries or disease. Dr. Stephenson wrote a two volume set called "Reincarnation of Biology" which addresses this. It came out in 1997. He has 210 cases of birthmarks and birth defects relating to previous lives. These are cases in which children gave enough information about their past lives, that their identities could be traced to someone who lived and died before the children were born. In the present, the child would have two birthmarks on his head and say that he died in his other life when he was shot in the head. He would give his name in his former life and the town he came from. Most of these cases Stephenson investigated are in India. They would investigate the case and find there actually had been someone in that town who fit the child's description who had died from a gunshot wound to the head. In checking the medical reports, the autopsy reports, or the hospital records they would find this present child's birthmarks corresponded in size and location to the gunshot wound in the head. The present child would have two birth marks corresponding to the entry and exit wounds of the bullets. He has about 19 of these cases with double birth marks.

With physical evidence, it's really hard to dismiss these cases. It seems that the Asian cases are much fuller in detail than North American or European cases. I think a lot of it has to do with the cultural consciousness, since we aren't really tuned into this. The memories are not as clear for the children.

IT: Are there cases of children in North America, remembering how they were killed and tracing back their families to meet their parents in a previous life?

CB: There have been a few. I have only had one case in which a child remembered proper names. It's very rare in the West for the children to give proper names. It does happen, and I have read accounts here and there of children giving enough details that they could collaborate with surviving relatives. There's also a problem in the West because this is such a new concept for most of us that a lot of parents are afraid to go public with this. It's a big problem that I have, trying to get parents to go on television with their stories.

I have a really touching case in my new book, "Return Form Heaven," in which a little child remembers being his grandmother's cousin who died in a car accident. Once the grandmother figured out that her grandson was her cousin reborn, the mother of the child and the grandmother had a dilemma, whether they should approach the rest of the family and say, "look, look, he's back isn't this wonderful", because some people are not ready for that.

IT: Can you, in your own words as a researcher, define your sense of what reincarnation is?

CB: It's the continuity of consciousness from one physical body to the next. There is a part of us that does not die with physical death, which we call the soul or consciousness which travels from lifetime to lifetime in different physical bodies. What I am finding from this research that I think is most fascinating and what the children are teaching us is that there are aspects of personalities which are part of our soul which travel from lifetime to lifetime. It's almost as if each soul has its own identity or individual fingerprint that travels through time with certain attitudes, certain abilities, certain proclivities that are unique.

IT: Have you discerned any purposefulness to reincarnation in your research?

CB: Actually, it's pretty interesting that some of these 2 and 3 year olds say they came back because of love. They wanted to learn how to love or were sorry they left their families and wanted to return to love them again. I haven't heard of any revenge, but I'll bet that happens though. It seems that children talk about love a lot as a reason why they come back. As I see it, from my adult perspective, we are engaged in this process of learning from lifetime to lifetime. It's not necessarily linear. I can't say we progress each lifetime. I think in some lifetimes we make progress, in other lifetimes maybe we don't, but we're learning along the way.

IT: Of course, it would depend on how you measure progress.

CB: I also believe in the Buddhist view too, that in any moment you can attain enlightenment. That you just transcend all of it and become an enlightened being and then you are a light in this world.

IT: Can you share with us some of the things that make researching past lives in children most difficult?

CB: I think the fact there's still a taboo. It's not as strong as it was, but there is a taboo in Western culture about reincarnation that it's non-Christian or it's of the devil. There is still that mentality and I think the Church back in the 3rd century and the 6th century, did a pretty good job eradicating the belief system related to reincarnation from our culture.

IT: Why did they do that? Do you know?

CB: If we took responsibility for our own spiritual progress and we knew that we came back from life to life to learn and we knew we had another chance to learn or to grow, I don't think we would need an intermediary for our salvation. I think that was big way the Church wanted to take control of our Spiritual destiny. We had to do it through the Church. - one specific way. And (I'm generalizing of course, but) I'm talking about the early Church, when they were consolidating their power. And during the Inquisition, they did kill and persecute people who believed in reincarnation. It was a heretical belief. It's about freedom to think, freedom to question and as I see it, just to observe, because this is something that almost anyone can observe. Through an adult or in a child or through someone in their family.

IT: Do you think the taboos in Western culture is largely due to Christian influences?

CB: Yes. It's interesting in Brazil. They have a very interesting mix of religions. French Spiritism, African religion, Catholicism, they have an interesting blend where they do believe in reincarnation. That's the exception.

IT: Have children described what the heaven world is like?

CB: Yes, and I actually do talk about that in my second book. Children speak of the time between incarnations. They call it heaven and describe it as some place they long for sometimes, someplace they where not alone and they where loved. They talk about angels and spiritual beings. They talk about deceased relatives as having been their with them and they talk about choosing their coming life time. A lot of these two and four year olds say they remember choosing their parents. I love that it is very direct. Sometimes they talk about being with Jesus and this is from some children who are not schooled, who don't go to Sunday school and who's parents haven't really talked a lot about God or Jesus. Children come up with this on their own.

Something I find fascinating is the research for the second book since I was focusing on same family reincarnations. We can deduce from that research that reincarnation is not a random process because if it where what are the chances of a soul returning to the same family. Since there are so many cases then it appears that their are forces or that their is choices which attracts the soul back to the same group even within a few years, a few months or sometimes it is even less then nine months that the soul can return to the same family.

IT: What kind of guidelines do you use to discern true past life experiences in children from those which are not ?

CB: I think from seeing hundreds of cases in the past twelve years, it is what the children are doing; what they are saying; and how they are saying it. The age of the child and just looking at the whole story, I can get a feel for whether it is real or not and, of course, some parents contact me because their child has a phobia or a physical problem and it is hard to determine if it a past life related issue or not because the child has not said anything. I think the direct statements are the best way to tell and if the child is saying "when I was big before" or "when I died before" and they are three or four years old then I think it would be a good idea to pay attention and see what else they are doing and saying.

I think the best way to approach it is with and open mind and discern what you can from your observations. Maybe not all the cases are real past life memory but I think enough of them are to definitely warrant our attention. Usually by the time a parent contacts me they are pretty sure that their is something going on otherwise it would be very embarrassing for them to contact me. They have to take that leap to even get that far and some are very eager to talk to me to because they have been carrying this around not knowing who to go to that they can ask for advice or get confirmation that this is really happening. We also have the reincarnationforum.com where people can log on their own experiences and we also have some wonderful moderators who have taken over the site just because my husband and I don't have time to do that to and it is a fairly active board where people share stories and advise like what should I do? and has any one ever experienced this? So that's out their in cyberspace which couldn't have happened 15 years ago and ten years ago.

IT: One of the things I think you mentioned that I think is important is to validate people experiences.

CB: I think that sometimes that is all they need in turn they can validate their child's experiences and I think what I try to convey to adults is just to be open minded and that this is possible. Listen for it, watch for it. and if a child is trying to express a memory either through statements or behaviours or attitudes anything just be aware that this is a reality and let them express it because it is better to express these memories then to leave them unexpressed. .

IT: What over the last decade of research what kind of patterns have you seen if any?

CB: The patterns are the young age. That these children when they speak of these memories spontaneously it is generated from them you can't really illicit this memories easy from children. It has to originate from them. Their is some impulse and sometimes these children speak of these memories for just a few moments a few minutes and that's it. Sometimes these children speak of these memories over a few years and then they fade usually by the age of seven. I think what is important to remember since the soul does continue on it's journey from lifetime to lifetime and that their are different aspects of personality that are part of the soul which seem to travel from lifetime to lifetime. When we look at any one of us we aren't really a composite of everything we where before . I think that certain characteristics tend to stand out in a particular lifetimes.. I don't think that we can be everything that we have been before but in each lifetime we realize that they are soul and that they have come in with their own experiences. I think that we can begin to see patterns and we can begin to understand a child's core issues of why they are here if we pay attention when they are very young because I think sometimes the themes do come up in childhood.

IT: In your second book "Return from Heaven" the fact that children are returning back into the families from which they left Do you have any sense of how often it happens.

CB: I know that this happens often enough that I get cases all the time. I don't think that their is any way to determine how often it really happens. In your own practice you probably run into somebody, like you said you ran into that one case.

IT: Are sense says that it happens a lot.

CB: I would say so.

IT: Their is certainly a lot of evidence that points to it.

CB: Maybe over the next thirty years if reincarnation becomes more of a mainstream idea we will get a sense of what really happens. Once people are willing to speak up about it. I think that sometimes people just don't know. Sometimes they might see it in a child but think that is just eerie and that its just a very strange coincidence but they wouldn't attribute it to reincarnation . They might call it genetic.

IT: On a personal note what has your research meant for you in terms of your beliefs and the way you look at the world.

CB: When you don't see this lifetime as the only one, I wonder where I have been before. I know of some of my past lives and I also wonder what I will create for the future and when their is a large disaster like we experienced on September 11th to I wonder about how much these souls knew before they came in about this event like was this all planned, if some of the souls knew that they would be leaving. I think I just look at life and death differently nothing less.

IT: You mentioned using our understanding of past lives to heal ourselves. Is their away to use that therapeutically such as past life regression and the vehicles that can be used.

CB: Definitely with children , we can help them with their spontaneous memories by just acknowledge what they are going through and helping them process it. When this comes up spontaneously. it is an opportunity for us to help them with the healing so that they understand that they are in a different lifetime and that they can leave what they need to behind from a previous life or help them to encourage them with the abilities and the wisdom that they have brought in with them and I think as we get older we need hypnosis or other tools to help us remember. Past life regression is a wonderful way of helping the soul to heal. It is on that level and it works on the soul level.

IT: What would you say was the greatest challenge to further research in past life?

CB: Overcoming the cultural belief that this doesn't happen.

IT: Do you have any final thoughts you would like to share?.

CB: It would be wonderful if people could open themselves to this possible even a little bit because it could change how they view life and death. Death is always painful when it comes but if you don't have a belief in something more after death I think it just makes it so meaningless and pointless.

IT: With respect to past life regression can you identify some creditable resources?

CB: My web site and the International Association of Regression Research and Therapies based in riverside California and they do conference, training programs and they have a newsletter and that's about the only network I know about.

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