Past-life memories research and karma

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This thread gave me the opportunity to post something that's been in the back of mind as a possible thread subject, namely the pertinence of the notion of karma to the data regarding "reincarnation cases", but almost broadly survival data in general.

I remembered Ian Stevenson explaining how the data in his work did not match the expectations of Hindu or Buddhist philosophies on karma.

I went back to the source book I quoted, though, Cases of the Reincarnation Type Volume I: Ten Cases in India (Charlottesville, University Press of VIrginia, 1975), and Stevenson makes it clear he's referring to "retributive karma": " the idea of some kind of justice-dispensing process that guides a discarnate person to the conditions and circumstances of the next life according to the summed accounts of his good and evil actions". (p. 66)

In a psi encyclopedia article, KM Wehrstein discusses the topic and indicates Jim Tucker also investigated this:

Quote:Reframing karma as an hypothesis, reincarnation researcher Jim B Tucker used Stevenson’s database of cases to test it, attempting to correlate five traits in previous incarnations (saintliness, criminality, tendency to moral transgression, philanthropy and religious observance) with three measures of current-life good fortune (wealth, social status and, in Indian cases, caste). The only correlation was found to be between ‘saintliness’ and ‘degree of wealth’, which Tucker suspects, being isolated, was a statistical anomaly.

However,  it is interesting that Stevenson in the same book finds that the data does fit with something we could conceptualize as what he chooses to call "developmental karma":

Quote:If we now turn again to the data of the cases we find abundant evidence of correspondences between the behavior of the subject and that of the related previous personality. And if we interpret cases in which such correspondences occur as instances of reincarnation, then they provide us with a basis for what we might call developmental karma, by which I mean the tendency for habits of conduct to be come fixed and to continue with the additional concept that, if we survive death and reincarnate, we shall find ourselves in the next life with the same habits that we developed in this one. I am assuming under the word habits not only such superficial details as the way we dress or the manner in which we hold a knife and fork, but the whole range of our attitudes and emotions - our loves and our hates, our fears and our hopes - and also all our talents and skills; in short, most of the ingredients of what we call our personality. (p. 66-67)

Going back to the article by Wehrstein above, she indicates that James Matlock also conceptualizes the same idea as what he calls "processual karma".

Quote:Stevenson, Matlock and Tucker all emphasize that while good actions are not necessarily rewarded, or bad actions punished, there certainly is psychological continuity across lives. A central category of signs sought by researchers is behavioural memories: correspondences of behaviour between subjects and previous incarnations. These can be skills, habits, preferences, interests, aversions, mannerisms, posture, retained cultural or religious customs, phobias, attachments, sex roles, language, post-traumatic stress disorder and others. Thus, both choices and harms suffered in past lives can influence the current life by simply persisting into it. In a nod to Western notions of karma that incorporate these carryovers, Matlock introduced the term ‘processual karma’:
Quote:It would make sense that we would see signs of such ‘processual karma’ if what passes from life to life is a continuous stream of consciousness which is duplex in its nature because the subconscious would preserve the memory, behavioral dispositions, elements of personality, and so on, that comprise a person’s identity.32

One thought I have reading this is that, amidst the varied religious and philosophical movements born out of India, I'm not so sure some of them aren't speaking in fact about this type of karma, rather than the retributive one. In Advaita Vedanta, it's happiness or unhappiness that is the result of your good or bad state of mind and actions that follow, and that gets carried over (at the empirical level of reality).

Quote:Whenever we perform any action and whenever we think any thought, an imprint—a kind of subtle groove—is made upon the mind. These imprints or grooves are known as samskaras. Sometimes we are conscious of the imprinting process; just as often we are not. When actions and thoughts are repeated, the grooves become deeper. The combination of “grooves”— samskaras—creates our individual characters and also strongly influences our subsequent thoughts and actions. If we anger easily, for example, we create an angry mind that is predisposed to react with anger rather than with patience or understanding. As water when directed into a narrow canal gains force, so the grooves in the mind create canals of behavior patterns which become extraordinarily difficult to resist or reverse. Changing an ingrained mental habit literally becomes an uphill battle.

If our thoughts are predominantly those of kindness, love, and compassion, our character reflects it, and these very thoughts will be returned to us sooner or later. If we send out thoughts of hatred, anger, or pettiness, those thoughts will also be returned to us.

Our thoughts and actions aren’t so much arrows as boomerangs—eventually they find their way back home. The effects of karma may come instantly, later in life, or in another life altogether; what is absolutely certain, however, is that they will appear at some time or other. Until liberation is achieved, we live and we die within the confines of the law of karma, the chain of cause and effect.

https://vedanta.org/what-is-vedanta/karm...carnation/
Note that the samskaras are imprinted in the "causal body", which is the unconscious in Advaita Vedanta (the unconscious being that which Matlock sees as preserving the personality habits).

In that sense, I wonder if this is a more subtle, psychological reading of "retributive karma" that finally harmonizes with "developmental" or "processual" karma. And that Stevenson (and Tucker's) reading of Indian retributive is perhaps naively materialistic, e.g. someone was bad in a past life and therefore they don't deserve material wealth (!), as opposed to that person perhaps landing in a wealthy family but with the same unhappiness-producing mind/personality.

Anyhow, that's just ideas brewing in my mind these days.

But I wonder in general if other paranormal data, such as NDE science, can inform us about what if any types of ideas of karma are potentially correct or incorrect. Thoughts?
(This post was last modified: 2022-08-27, 01:16 AM by Ninshub. Edited 1 time in total.)
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I am very wary of introducing terms like developmental karma, processual karma etc - they remind me of the 50 different types of free will that some people like to discus!

I don't know to what extent past lives discovered by hypnotists and other therapists are valid, but there you come across the idea that the soul actively chooses its next life with the intention of experiencing as many situations as possible.

I wish I knew what we do with all that experience!
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(2022-08-27, 12:58 AM)Ninshub Wrote: But I wonder in general if other paranormal data, such as NDE science, can inform us about what if any types of ideas of karma are potentially correct or incorrect. Thoughts?

I may have more to add about this (other cases) when I can remember, Ian.  Julie Chimes, who had a profound NDE when she was stabbed to within a inch of her life, reported the very distinct knowing that it wasn't the first time it had happened to her.

I've tried to reason on what basis anyone would have to experience something as horrible as that, again and I'm reluctant to even try because it would quite understandably attract incredulous scorn. Nevertheless, that's what she said.
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(2022-08-27, 08:59 AM)David001 Wrote: I am very wary of introducing terms like developmental karma, processual karma etc - they remind me of the 50 different types of free will that some people like to discus!

I don't know  to what extent past lives discovered by hypnotists and other therapists are valid, but there you come across the idea that the soul actively chooses its next life with the intention of experiencing as many situations as possible.

I wish I knew what we do with all that experience!

I don't know if what you're said contradicts what Stevenson and Matlock (and Tucker) say, David.

Again, read carefully:

Quote:Stevenson, Matlock and Tucker all emphasize that while good actions are not necessarily rewarded, or bad actions punished, there certainly is psychological continuity across lives. A central category of signs sought by researchers is behavioural memories: correspondences of behaviour between subjects and previous incarnations. These can be skills, habits, preferences, interests, aversions, mannerisms, posture, retained cultural or religious customs, phobias, attachments, sex roles, language, post-traumatic stress disorder and others. Thus, both choices and harms suffered in past lives can influence the current life by simply persisting into it. In a nod to Western notions of karma that incorporate these carryovers, Matlock introduced the term ‘processual karma’:

This doesn't say the subject doesn't necessarily choose the next life, it just says the imprints of the behaviour/personality continue into the next life (chosen). It's an argument for persistence of individuality/personality across the different lives, and fits what Stevenson observed.

Now whether this is a reality that is universal for humans or represents those cases where children remember past lives is another question.
(This post was last modified: 2022-08-27, 12:34 PM by Ninshub. Edited 1 time in total.)
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(2022-08-27, 12:32 PM)Ninshub Wrote: Now whether this is a reality that is universal for humans

Tony Cicoria believes so.
(This post was last modified: 2022-08-27, 01:03 PM by tim. Edited 1 time in total.)
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I guess my intention in that last statement is wondering to what extent the cases involving children remembering past lives (and carrying over all those personality traits or habits from the previous life) is a universal fact (let's take it as a given that most or all humans choose to reincarnate) says something about those particular lives - often that they were cut short or prematurely, etc.

Perhaps in that case there's a stronger pull to "continue" the previous life into a next one, psychologically speaking, whereas other discarnates (that don't figure in the Stevenson cases because the child did not remember the previous life) may have progressed further, for example, or incarnate from a higher "level" (?), and the choice of re-incarnation is less automatic, freer, and maybe has less of a carryover of the psychological baggage of the previous life. Just speculating here of course.
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(2022-08-27, 01:22 PM)Ninshub Wrote: Just speculating here of course.


Makes sense to me, but others may not think so.
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(2022-08-27, 12:32 PM)Ninshub Wrote: I don't know if what you're said contradicts what Stevenson and Matlock (and Tucker) say, David.

Again, read carefully:


This doesn't say the subject doesn't necessarily choose the next life, it just says the imprints of the behaviour/personality continue into the next life (chosen). It's an argument for persistence of individuality/personality across the different lives, and fits what Stevenson observed.

Now whether this is a reality that is universal for humans or represents those cases where children remember past lives is another question.

Well what I am getting at, is that a process in which people choose each life to provide themselves with comprehensive experience sounds very different from Karma - where the next is a punishment/reward for their behaviour in this life.
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(2022-08-27, 08:53 PM)David001 Wrote: Well what I am getting at, is that a process in which people choose each life to provide themselves with comprehensive experience sounds very different from Karma - where the next is a punishment/reward for their behaviour in this life.

I'm getting the impression you didn't read the opening post, which described the notion of retributive karma that you're now coming back to.
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(2022-08-27, 10:12 PM)Ninshub Wrote: I'm getting the impression you didn't read the opening post, which described the notion of retributive karma that you're now coming back to.

Well I read it, but did not follow the links. I suppose, as I said, I rather balked at the idea of defining several different sorts of karma, and compared it with the unhelpful (IMHO) practice of defining many different kinds of free will.

Maybe my issue is mainly semantic.

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