Excerpt from Children's Past Lives

Children's Past Lives by Carol Bowman

Chapter 10:   The Four Signs

When I talk to people of children's past life memories, invariably the first question they ask is: "How can you distinguish past life stories from fantasies?"

At first I could answer by saying only, "Well, the parent just knows." Not a very satisfactory answer, I admit. But as I studied the cases that came in and listened to parents describe their experiences, I began to see and hear the same comments over and over, almost word for word. These comments were becoming very familiar. I found I could rely on them as a test of past life memories. When parents described their experiences to me for the first time, I found myself going down a mental check-list to help me decide if the memories they were describing were real or fantasy. This checklist evolved into the Four Signs.

The more I spoke to parents and compared cases, the more I understood why these signs work. Past life memories sound, look, act, and feel distinctly different from fantasy because they issue from a different source. Fantasy is the mind at play. Past life memories, on the other hand, are full-bodied images of real events. The difference can be discerned by any sensitive observer who understands the signs.

The Four Signs of Children's Past Life Memory are:

1. Matter-of-Fact Tone

Most past life memories are first communicated in statements of fact from the child. Quite spontaneously, while riding in a car, or playing on the kitchen floor, a young child will say, very matter-of-factly, "This is just like where I died," or, "My other mother used to make that." This switch to a matter-of-fact tone imparts a significance to the child's communication that suddenly commands the attention of a busy parent.

2. Consistency Over Time

Children will retell a past life experience repeatedly over a period of days, weeks, months, or years without significant changes in the story or details.

Consistency over time marks a major difference between past life memory and fantasy. With fantasy, a child will fabricate a story—even an elaborate story—but rarely can he repeat it with the same details the next week, the next day, or even the next minute. Fantasies spout from the imagination of the child. They are volatile and soon embellished, changed, or forgotten altogether. But past life memories are a mental movie of real and personally significant events that actually happened. They are stable, like memories of crucial events from this life. Each time the story is told, the child looks inward and describes the same coherent image residing in his mind.

3. Knowledge Beyond Experience

If you hear your young child speak of things that you know he or she hasn't learned yet, or could not have been exposed to, it is likely you are hearing a past life memory. Remember, when evaluating this sign, that you, the parent,are the judge of what is beyond the experience of your own child.

Obviously, it is easier to know what your child could or could not know if your child is very young and hasn't been far out of your range. You know what he has been exposed to through conversation, radio, TV, movies, and books. So, for example, when your one, two or three-year-old accurately describes the daily routine of a sailor, and correctly names the types of masts his ship had, and you know that this is something that he never learned, (you don't even know these details), this could be a sign of past life memory.

4. Corresponding Behavior and Traits

If you hear statements from your child that you suspect are describing a past life, look for behavior and physical traits that might be explained by the story. Think of any phobia, unusual mannerisms, unlearned skill or pronounced talent that would otherwise have no explanation or are out of place for your family. The same is true of physical traits: if your child tells you a story of a past life injury or death, and has a birthmark, a birth defect, or a chronic physical problem that matches the past life incident, this is evidence that the story is a real past life memory, and not fantasy.

Conversely, if your child has an unexplainable behavior that baffles you, ask yourself if you recall anything your child has said that might be related to the unusual behavior. Be alert for snatches of conversation, or odd remarks. Or, as Tommy's mother did in one of the cases below, wait for the right opportunity and simply ask the child directly. But if no story emerges, don't force it. There may be another explanation, or your child simply does not remember.

How Parents Use the Four Signs

Not all past life memories show all four signs. The memories come in an infinite variety, and emerge in different ways and to different degrees for different children. But, as far as I've seen, the signs always appear in combination: some cases have as few as two, some have all four. I have yet to see a case with only one sign. Whatever the combination, no matter how rich or sparse the case, the signs always outline a coherent past life story. The best way to understand how they work together is to practice looking for them in the cases in this book. Even in cases where I highlight only one sign, others are usually visible in the story as well.

These Four Signs are for parents to use with their own children. They point to subtle clues that only a person who knows the child well would be sensitive to. They depend on parents being able to spot changes of countenance and tone of voice that a stranger would miss; on the parents' awareness of what their young child has or hasn't been exposed to; and on the parents watching the child over a period of time, detecting small changes, remarkable consistencies, or unusual behaviors for that child.

The Four Signs have nothing to do with the scientific proof of past life memories or reincarnation. They are tools for private assurance and recognition, not public proof. When the memories emerge, the questions you ask, the clues you listen for, should have nothing to do with proving the case to outsiders who don't know your child—even to neighbors or skeptical relatives. Proof is not the point.

In fact, worrying about proof can bend your perception and block the flow of the memory. Healing and growth and understanding are the point.

This is why you should not confuse the Four Signs with the methods of researchers like Dr. Stevenson. This is important. His methods are designed to verify the memories of children who are strangers to him. And his cases are not typical: they are the very rare cases of extreme past life memory. The Four Signs are appropriate for the more common cases, those where the child has only fragments and traces of memory.

And Maybe It's Not ...

Of course, not all unusual statements or stories that children blurt out are past life memories. Children often say things that make their parents wonder, "Where did he get that?" I caution you not to over-react to every intriguing remark your child makes. You might be witnessing a past life memory. But odds are you are not. Children's minds are so wonderfully loose and alive, they come out with startling and fresh statements all the time. Fantasy and imagination are the natural occupation of young minds, and most of the time this torrent of wonder has nothing to do with past lives. Children often make believe they are living in the past, imitating story books, TV or movies.

But sometimes the veil does lift, and children do speak of genuine past lives. If you know the signs, you can catch this magic moment when it happens.

This is totally unfamiliar territory for most people. When a child suddenly starts talking about a past life, most parents are unnerved and confused. They feel their heart pulling them one way, their mind the other. Past lives just don't fit into their world view, and their rational mind would rather believe that the strange behavior has some logical explanation, somehow. At the same time, their heart feels the sincerity of the child, their body tingles with profound energy, and their intuition signals that something special and timeless is happening. This confusion is normal.

I offer these Four Signs as compass points to orient heart and head both—to help you find your bearings within the different reality that rushes in and spins you around when your little one solemnly says, "I remember when I died."

A mother comments:

"With these memories, she comes up with the same story consistently. When she tells a fantasy story, she will add pieces from other stories, from her imagination, and from fairy tales, mixing it all together with the story she's making up. I can identify these easily: she alters them and the stories always change. But, in this past life story, there is no fantasy about it. She is very matter-of-fact, and is very clear about the details. She has told this at least three times, and it's always consistent."

From the case of Tommy Hibbert:

"Around the same age, when Tommy was four or five, he lost a button from his pants and I didn't get around to sewing it on right away. So Tommy went and got a needle and thread, threaded the needle, and sewed that button on so expertly that I couldn't believe it. I had never taught him to sew and he had never even seen me do it. Amazed, I asked him, "Where on earth did you learn to sew buttons on like this?"

"Well, we used to do it on my ship all of the time," he answered.

"You were a sailor?"

"Oh, yes." And then he told me about how his ship would creak in the night while he was lying in his bunk in what he described as an old sailing ship with tall masts and many ropes. This memory proved to be very important to his life because when he grew up he joined the Navy and went to sea for four years, hardly ever on land that whole time, and loved it."

Copyright 1997 Carol Bowman and Steve Bowman. All rights reserved.