(From book cover) Can anyone speak a language that he has not learned normally, in childhood or later? Claims to have accomplished this are made from time to time, but only rarely do they receive support when carefully examined. A report of one case that seemed to him authentic was published earlier by Dr. Stevenson, and in this volume he presents detailed reports of two other cases that seem authentic.
The major part of the book is devoted to lengthy reports of the two new cases. Transcripts of tape recordings provide evidence that the subjects could speak the foreign language intelligently and were not just repeating a few phrases of a language that they may have learned casually in some other way. The results of extensive inquiries into the possibility that either subject might have learned normally in early life the foreign language he spoke in adulthood were negative in each case.
One of the two cases developed under hypnosis. The other case occurred during spontaneous, involuntary alterations of personality. This "new" personality, unlike the personality of the case occurring with hypnosis, could open her eyes easily, move around freely, and talk fluently in the foreign language she spoke (Bengali), at least some of the time. During this phase, not only did the subject (a native of Maharashtra in western India) speak Bengali, but she also showed a remarkable knowledge of obscure details about life in Bengal, such as fooodstuffs and social customs, which appeared to be completely beyond her scanty normal knowledge of Bengal.
A concluding chapter discusses alternative explanations for cases of responsive xenoglossy. Dr. Stevenson believes that the ability to speak a language is a skill that must be learned. Skills cannot be transmitted to other persons, either normally or by extrasensory perception. Therefore, authentic instances of speaking a language that has not been learned normally (responsive xenoglossy) suggest that another personality (perhaps one of a previous life) had learned the language. Cases of responsive xenoglossy thus add to the evidence concerning the survival of human personality after death.
The personality of Gretchen demonstrated during hypnotic past life regression of a U.S. housewife the capability to carry on an intelligent conversation in German. No means of learning that language could be found during Dr. Stevenson's extensive investigation.
Details provided by the past personality of Gretchen suggested a life in the second half of the nineteenth century in a specific German town, but many of the details could not be verified.
A language cannot be learned except by practice. Extra-sensory perception between humans cannot explain the ability to converse responsively in an unknown language. The best explanation for the case of Gretchen is either (1) reincarnation or (2) possession by a discarnate personality.
The personality of Sharada in India emerged spontaneously--sometimes for many days--and demonstrated the capability to speak Bengali and act in almost all other respects as an individual female living in the early 1800's.
There was no indication that the original personality had ever had the opportunity to learn Bengali, which was different from her normal language.
The fundamental importance of these two cases is that learning a language cannot be accomplished through extra-sensory perception and therefore a personality who did learn the language must have come to occupy and control the body of the original personality either through strong memory of a past life or through "possession". In either case, it strongly implies the existence of a soul or personality which has inhabited a different body in the past and yet survived death of that body.
Primary Reason to Read this Work
For over a hundred years, researchers addressing the question of survival of the human personality after death have been stymied by the possibility that observed phenomena possibly relating to survival were caused by extra-sensory perception (ESP). This book addresses two of the few cases investigated where a foreign language, unknown to the original personality, is spoken in responsive conversation by a separate inhabiting personality, an impossibility to explain by ESP.
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