Various sources for discussion of evidence for/against rebirth

Here Ven Brahmali and I are going to list some links relating to evidence for rebirth and discussions around this. We’ll be drawing on some of these for the next w/shop. Feel free to add your own.


From: :

“Towards the end of her own storied life, the physicist Doris Kuhlmann-Wilsdorf—whose groundbreaking theories on surface physics earned her the prestigious Heyn Medal from the German Society for Material Sciences, surmised that Stevenson’s work had established that “the statistical probability that reincarnation does in fact occur is so overwhelming … that cumulatively the evidence is not inferior to that for most if not all branches of science.”

Quotes from

“It is not more surprising to be born twice than once; everything in nature is resurrection.” Voltaire

“As long as you are not aware of the continual law of Die and Be Again, you are merely a vague guest on a dark Earth.” —Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Live so that thou mayest desire to live again - that is thy duty - for in any case thou wilt live again!” —Freidrich Nietzsche

“I am confident that there truly is such a thing as living again, that the living spring from the dead, and that the souls of the dead are in existence.” —Socrates

“As we live through thousands of dreams in our present life, so is our present life only one of many thousands of such lives which we enter from the other more real life and then return after death. Our life is but one of the dreams of that more real life, and so it is endlessly, until the very last one, the very real the life of God.” —Count Leo Tolstoy

“God generates beings, and sends them back over and over again, till they return to Him.” —Koran

Quotes from Jim Tucker’s book Life Before Life:

“Either he [Ian Stevenson] is making a colossal mistake, or he will be known … as the ‘Galileo of the twentieth century.’ ” (Dr. Harold Lief, Journal of Nervous and Mental Disorders)

“He [Ian Stevenson] has placed on record a large amount of data that cannot be ignored.” (Lester S. King, Book Review Editor of The Journal of the American Medical Association)

“At the time of writing there are three claims in the [parapsychology] field which, in my opinion, deserve serious study … [the third being] that young children sometimes report details of a previous life, which upon checking turn out to be accurate and which they could not have known about in any other way than reincarnation.” (Carl Sagan, astronomer and founding member of the debunking organisation the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal)

In the Bible, Jesus says that John the Baptist is the prophet Elijah who had lived centuries before. (Matthew 11:10-14 and 17:10-13).

In the Bible a disciple asks Jesus whether particular man was born blind because of his sins or those of his parents. (John 9:2).

Quote from:

Alex Tsakiris: I have interviewed some folks who hold very firmly to this materialistic view of consciousness of mind. There’s a certain fallback position they use when they realize there’s an absurdity to it. I’d like you to talk about this emergent property of the brain idea, where we’re still 100% brain based but somehow we introduce this idea of an emergent property of the brain.

Bernardo Kastrup: Yeah, I think it’s an appeal to magic, it’s a label for something that we don’t know or that we can’t even conceive to give it a label and it sounds like we know because we give it a name. Emergence is a phenomenon that exists, for instance, sand dunes are an emergent phenomenon of grains of sands and wind. They form beautiful patterns and when you look at those patterns they are unexpected. How can just grains of sand and wind form those patterns in those designs? But these are all examples of what philosophers call weak emergence.
Basically, weak emergence is when you have a phenomena that’s surprising compared to its components, like in this case sand and wind. But which is still explainable by its components. You can still get used to both properties of what you’re seeing from the properties of its basic components like grains of sand, sand and wind. You can simulate sand dunes on a computer and get the same beautiful patterns. What people call consciousness emergent phenomena of the brain appeal to what Dave Chalmers, a philosopher, calls strong emergence and that’s when the phenomena you observe – the emergent phenomena cannot be deduced from the properties of its components. Consciousness cannot be deduced from spin, momentum, mass of subatomic particles. You simply cannot deduce the redness of red, the pain that we feel when we lose a loved one. You cannot deduce that phenomenology from spin, charged momentum, mass and whatever from the material world. So that’s an example of what philosophers would call strong emergence – I’m of the opinion that strong emergence isn’t coherent. It’s an appeal to the unknown. It does not appeal to magic, it’s not only an unknown it’s something that we can’t even conceive. There’s a gaping black hole in our view of reality. We’re given a name and we say we will find out about this in the future and it looks all cozy and warm and we get that fuzzy feeling as if we are honest there, but in fact there is a universe to be breached here. Once that will never be breached because it’s incoherent, it’s based on the fundamentally flawed interpretation of reality, that’s the position I take.


Dear Ajahns,
Thanks for this fascinating post. Concerning the quote by Nietzsche, I am not sure to what extent his thought of the Eternal recurrence can be likened to rebirth, since he taught that when we die we actually disappear (which would seem to correspond to the annihilationist view – in fact in the latest Woody Allen movie there’s a character who holds the annihilationist view and thinks that all psychic phenomena are fake – as indeed they turn out to be in the film -, and quotes precisely Nietzsche to support this). But then since according to Nietzsche time is cyclical we will be reborn again in the distant future to live a life which will be exactly the same as that we are living now. And this will happen - and has happened already - an infinite number of times.
So in practice his teaching does have in common with those of kamma and rebirth the consequence that it intimates us to live with a sense of seriousness, as we must be careful in how we shape our life and in what decisions we make, since we will have to re-live it exactly in the same way an infinite number of times. It is also consistent with the idea of no self and no free will (Nietzsche said somewhere that when we say ‘I will’ it’s like saying ‘It rains’, ie there is no ‘I ‘ that wills, just like there is no ‘it’ that rains). And it teaches amor fati, which is so important in Buddhism too.
But Nietzsche’s ethics, which he also tried to ground in how life is (ie in the Dhamma) are fundamentally different to those of Buddhism, I think because he saw no ‘way out’, as your quote shows. So his positive ideal was that of affirming the will-to-power, where he saw great health, whereas the Buddhist ideal is actually to stop willing, which I understand is where supreme health is to be found in Buddhism.
Thought I’d share these thoughts since I have sometime seen some parallels between Nietzsche and Buddhism amongst some lay Buddhist groups and I personally think that the differences are no less important than the similarities.
With metta to all,


Thanks Stefano, I’ll admit I was a little sceptical about this one, too!

##The story of Nicola Wheater

One of the reincarnation stories screened as possible evidence in Week 4 of the Kamma and Rebirth course, was this one of Nicola Wheater:

The story goes that, from the age of 2, Nicola started to talk of having lived before. She could not remember her own name, but “she remembered that her father’s name was Thomas Benson and that she had a mother and 2 sisters.” She believed she had been a boy who lived near the town of Haworth, near her current home in Yorkshire, and that he had died there as a result of having been hit by a train.

It struck me as curious that the family had dipped into the archives and found a registered baptism for a Benson boy – John Henry, in June 1875 – but no mention was made of a having found a registered death or a burial for him. Clearly, they had not been able to locate one. John Henry’s death had been construed from the fact that his name did not appear alongside those of his two sisters Hephizibah aged 3 and Lellis aged 6 months, in the 1881 census.

So, I came home and researched the case further, checking the 1881 census to see if John Henry had been staying anywhere else on the night the census was taken. He had not. Birth records at the General Registry Office show that there was no John Henry Benson born in Keighley (the district containing Haworth) at that or any other time. They did however show an Eli Benson born in Keighley in the June quarter of 1875. I have not purchased a copy of the birth certificate, so cannot confirm whether or not Eli was this same child of Thomas Benson, here registered under a different name, but anyway, Eli died shortly after he was born.

There was certainly no death of any other male Benson child of more than a few months old, in the entire Keighley district, between 1857 and 1946 when that district was rezoned. There was a girl, Georgina, aged five, who died in 1891, but the census for 1891 shows that she came from a different family.

In the film, Nicola’s mother, relates that Nicola had became hysterical one night, aged two, when up late with her parents watching a black and white thriller, “The October Man”, which contains a terrifying scene of the hero contemplating throwing himself in front of a fast approaching steam train. Nicola’s subsequent fear of trains appears to have led the family, and Nicola, to the conclusion that the boy had died as a result of being hit by a train, at Damems station, near Haworth, close to the Benson home.

There is no evidence in the public record to substantiate this story.


Wow, thanks so much Barbara. So it would seem that a little investigation is enough to throw some doubt on this story: congratulations on having followed it through.

We won’t be showing this one at the Perth w/shop!

After watching the video from the BSWA on evidence, I was interested that ordinary learning e.g. of language was raised as evidence for rebirth.

It reminded me of these experiments about the rate of learning in successive generations of rats.


Huh, thanks for that, a very interesting read.