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«JOURNAL OF SCIENTIFIC EXPLORATION A Publication of the Society for Scienti¢c Exploration Volume 22, Number 1 2008 Page Editorial 1 Editorial Peter ...»

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Carr, B. J. (1983). An experiment to discriminate between telepathy and clairvoyance using Ishihara cards and colour-blind agents. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 52, 31–44.

Carr, B. J. (2002). Rational perspectives on the paranormal: A review of the Perrott-Warrick conference held at Cambridge, 3–5 April 2000. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 16, 635–650.

Carr, B. J. (in press). Worlds apart: Can psychical research bridge the gulf between matter and mind?

Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research.

Carr, B. J., & Cornell, A. D. (1970). Detection of emotional telepathy using a psychogalvanometer.

Unpublished report.

Kelly, E. W. (2007). Obituary: Ian Stevenson. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 71, 263–271.

Stevenson, I. (1970). Telepathic Impressions: A Review and Report of 35 New Cases. Charlottesville:

University Press of Virginia.

Stevenson, I. (1974). Some questions related to cases of the reincarnation type. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 68, 395–416.

Stevenson, I. (1981). Can we describe the mind? In W. G. Roll & J. Beloff (eds.), Research in Parapsychology 1980 (pp. 130–142). Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press.

Stevenson, I. (1983). Cryptomnesia and parapsychology. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 52, 1–30.

Stevenson, I. (1990). Thoughts on the decline of major paranormal phenomena. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 57, 149–162.

Stevenson, I. (1997). Reincarnation and Biology (2 vols.). Westport, CT: Praeger.

Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 22, No. 1, pp. 93–94, 2008 0892-3310/08

–  –  –

As many will no doubt come to realize, the science of parapsychology has sustained a grievous loss in the death of Dr. Ian Stevenson. Wearing our ‘‘administrative hats,’’ both the Parapsychology Foundation’s President, Eileen Coly, and I as the PF’s Executive Director acknowledge on behalf of our organization the immense vacuum created at his passing. Since the PF’s inception at the hands of Eileen J. Garrett in l951, we have been privileged to work closely with those striving to understand the complexities of our field. It is by no means hyperbole to state that in our experience over the years working with parapsychologists the world over, we have seldom been graced with the opportunity to work with someone of his academic acumen and overall patrician gentlemanly demeanor.

The PF remains justifiably proud of its early support for Dr. Stevenson’s research in l961 when at the request of Garrett he took a trip to India and Sri Lanka to investigate reincarnation memories in children, a trip which spawned a lifetime of research. Dr. Stevenson graciously acknowledged this support in the ‘‘Remembrances’’ section of the Helix reprint of Garrett’s autobiography, Adventures in the Supernormal. Referring to Garrett, he stated: ‘‘Later I obtained much other funding; but I remain deeply indebted to Eileen for encouraging me and for making possible my first endeavors to study the children who claim to remember previous lives. Without her I could not have even started.’’ The PF remains most gratified that in this manner we contributed to Dr. Stevenson’s research efforts, which culminated in such a prodigious amount of valuable work.

Over time we continued to have a much-valued association with him, which included his publishing articles in PF publications and participating in our International Conference series with continued grant support. But now, switching our ‘‘hats’’ to our personal recollections, we remember with gratitude his warm good counsel and support as we sought to administer and guide the Foundation through the turbulence caused by the death of Garrett in l970, and also the kindness he showed us as we personally came to grips with the loss of our mother and grandmother.

Perhaps at first blush thought to be difficult to approach, Dr. Stevenson was in truth an extremely kind man and consummate gentleman. He will always hold a revered spot in the hearts of many, myself included, for I am sure there were

9394 L. Coly

many acts of kindness – such as what I experienced that I hold most dear – that will stand testament to the man. He had just published his first book on the reincarnation research, Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation, and had come to visit Garrett at our offices, then at 29 W. 57th Street in Manhattan, with his book proudly in hand and with gratitude for the Foundation’s initial support of his studies. I was a young girl of 16 who had started her apprenticeship by doing odd jobs at the Foundation, drawn within the orbit of Eileen Garrett, who, as many will attest, was hard to resist. After a brief meeting with her in her tastefully appointed office, and fully expecting a private tete-a-tete luncheon allowing for the opportunity to discuss at length various research projects and future directions for more advanced study, he was ushered out of her ‘‘inner sanctum’’ and introduced to me. Garrett, with her arms waving expansively, stated: ‘‘Now, Ian, my granddaughter Lisette will be happy to take you to lunch!’’ thus rendering him unceremoniously saddled with a somewhat clueless young teen. Now others in that same situation might well have declined the invitation for understandable reasons; but not so Dr. Stevenson. He gallantly and with good humor shared an elegant formal luncheon at Mrs. Garrett’s favorite ‘‘of-the-moment’’ French restaurant, Le Baroque, all the while patiently introducing me to the concept of reincarnation and the ramifications for its continued study for humankind. How I would appreciate having the opportunity for that private tutorial to be replayed so that I could experience it as an adult!





Not only did he gamely escort me to the restaurant and back to the office, but I was so impressed to receive by mail a few days later a copy of his book inscribed to me personally – a habit he continued, sending me all his subsequent titles and usually with an inscription alluding to our first meeting. He watched me grow up literally and figuratively within the Foundation and was a quiet and ever available resource that both my mother and I were free to draw on for support.

He inspired many students – myself included – to investigate more closely the mysteries raised by psychic functioning.

Parapsychology and the PF family are greatly diminished by his loss.

Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 22, No. 1, pp. 95–99, 2008 0892-3310/08

–  –  –

Ian Stevenson’s work came to my attention in the early 1970s. During my years as a graduate student at Berkeley in the 1960s, I had developed a strong interest in the approach to meditation through yoga, but had not fully come to grips with the issue of reincarnation so central to Hindu philosophy. I was unsure about the subject and maintained a natural degree of skepticism (which extended to some of the other more mystical aspects of yoga), but took a conscious attitude of wait-and-see, a form of suspending disbelief. Berkeley in that period was a center of interest in Eastern religion, partly under the influence of psychedelic agents that were popular at the time, and the Tibetan Book of the Dead was featured reading. For such an unfathomable subject, I was intrigued by Ian’s scientific approach and arranged to meet him on a trip to Charlottesville. By then I was on the faculty in the Section of Biochemistry of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

My first impression of Ian was how dignified and serious he was for someone working on such an unorthodox subject: well-coiffed, meticulously dressed in suit and tie—elegant from head to toe (of his wing-tipped shoes). We exchanged occasional letters over the following years and met once in Ithaca when he was traveling in the region. We began a period of serious collaboration when Ian suggested that I look at material related to sickle cell anemia with respect to reincarnation in equatorial Africa. For many years I had been actively investigating the molecular basis of this genetic disease and with my group at Cornell had recently established the structure of the complex 14-stranded helical cables of the mutant form of hemoglobin responsible for distorting red blood cells into their characteristic sickle shape. I was fascinated by the idea of pursuing how this molecular disease could elicit cultural responses in traditional African societies and followed up on Ian’s suggestion to learn more about ‘‘repeater children.’’ My reading kindled serious interest, and in the 1980s we made two trips together to Nigeria, with additional stops on the way in Senegal and the Côte d’Ivoire on the second trip.1 I made a subsequent trip to Africa alone that included a stop in Senegal, where I investigated the case of TadØ Sarr (for a report of this case, see Stevenson, 1997a: vol. 2, pp. 1644–1645).

Our investigations revealed that West African societies had integrated

9596 S. J. Edelstein

reincarnation as an active element in their lives, even to a greater degree than some societies traditionally identified with a strong belief in reincarnation such as, for example, the Hindus. Among the Igbos of southeastern Nigeria, parents generally consulted an oracle shortly after the birth of each child to identify which deceased ancestor had reincarnated. Even more interesting was the practice of marking the cadaver of deceased children in order to ascertain if the next child born to the same parents carried the mark, which would be taken as evidence for the reincarnation of a ‘‘repeater child.’’ It was surprising to discover that traditional societies were conducting virtual ‘‘experiments’’ in reincarnation across a wide swath of West Africa. The idea that this practice might provide unique opportunities for reincarnation research heightened our interest. At the time of our travels, Ian’s research was focused to a large extent on birthmarks and birth defects related to purported instances of reincarnation, and our investigations in Africa provided a number of interesting new cases, which he summarized principally in Reincarnation and Biology (Stevenson, 1997a), particularly in Volume 2. These major tomes follow upon his many earlier published works covering cases from various parts of the world, most of them based mainly on verbal testimony, but some of which also included birthmarks and birth defects.

Whether or not the cases could be used to substantiate the existence of reincarnation, I found it intriguing from an anthropological point of view that such practices could be so widespread. By adopting this anthropological perspective, I was able to present the essence of the cases of repeater children in West Africa (along with other features of sickle cell anemia, including its molecular basis) without crossing the line into parapsychology, and my book The Sickled Cell: From Myths to Molecules was published by Harvard University Press in 1986. We observed the consequences of marking children by amputating the last bone of the left little finger among the Igbos, as well as several other distinctive forms of marking which were observed by us or reported by other witnesses. For example, my own investigations among the Serer ethnic group in Senegal along the coast south of Dakar documented the practice of cutting a notch in an ear (see the case of TadØ Sarr in Stevenson, 1997a: vol. 2, pp. 1644–1645).

These and other birth defects that we studied are far more specific and atypical than the forms that have been reported in the medical literature and are difficult to explain by any conventional biological arguments. In some extreme cases discussed in Chapter 20 of Reincarnation and Biology, more extensive birth defects were observed on children that corresponded to amputations allegedly carried out on the cadaver of a deceased child. The unforgettable encounter with Cordelia Ekouroume, who lacked portions of many fingers and toes, is documented there (1997a: vol. 2, pp. 1634–1640). These cases bear some resemblance to others from different parts of the world described in Chapter 17, but the African cases have a systematic quality that challenges explanations based on conventional biological mechanisms.

The Quest for Acceptance 97 As I look back on these cases and the many others that are thoroughly documented in the two volumes of Reincarnation and Biology, I am again struck by the challenges they present for mainstream developmental biology. I also recall the great hope that Ian placed in the publication of these volumes (which he considered to be his masterwork) to attract the attention of establishment scientists. I remember only too well the disappointment that he expressed in our final meetings in Paris when the volumes had been largely ignored. I had moved to Geneva in 1986, but we continued to meet regularly when Ian was in Paris, where he came to conduct bibliographic research at the Bibliotheque national.

` I often reflected on why his findings remained so far outside the pale of establishment science, generating the sense of frustration that Ian increasingly experienced over the years as he realized that scientific recognition of his work was not forthcoming. Ian tended to blame the scientific community for faintheartedness, but in the many discussions during our travels and other meetings, I tried to use my knowledge of the scientific community in which I lived and my sympathy and interest for his research to formulate the reasons for the enormous gap—a veritable Grand Canyon—that separated his research and establishment science.

My view was that orthodox science had no way of dealing with his findings, because they could not be connected with the large body of scientific knowledge. Without a new cosmology or theoretical biology that could accommodate the concept of reincarnation in some form, no field of scientific deliberation could seriously enter into studies of the subject. I strongly felt that if reincarnation were to emerge as a natural phenomenon finding its place in our understanding of the Universe, it would not be in opposition to traditional science, but as a complementary feature, an additional perspective on the nature of being. It seemed to me that reincarnation would have an impact on scientific thinking only if it could be integrated into existing biological concepts, with, for example, reincarnating birth defects viewed as an extreme manifestation of psychosomatic medicine.



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