The Case of Jasbir
This case concerns a three and half year old boy, Jasbir who, in the spring of 1954, is suffering from smallpox. His father, Sri Girdhari Lal Jat of Rasulpur, District Muzaffarnarger, Utter Pradesh, mistakenly believes his son to have died from the disease and calls upon his brother and other men of the village to assist him in the burial. However, the hour is late and the burial is postponed till the following morning. A few hours later Sri Girdhari Lal Jat notices a stirring in the body of his son who then revives and makes a complete recovery. However, a number of days pass before Jasbir can speak again and several weeks before he can express himself coherently. At this point he shows "a remarkable transformation of behaviour." Jasbir, who has not yet reached his fourth birthday, states that he is the son of Shankar of Vehedi (a village some twenty miles from Rasulpur) and that he wishes to go there. He also refuses to eat food at the Jat household on the grounds that he belongs to the higher Brahmin caste. To quote Stevenson: "This obstinate refusal to eat would surely have led to a second death if a kindly Brahmin lady, a neighbour of Sri Girdhari Lal Jat, had not undertaken to cook food for Jasbir in the Brahmin manner." (Note that what began as an apparent death has now become an actual death.) After a while, however, Jasbir's family - unbeknownst to Jasbir – begin to provide him with food not prepared by a Brahmin and when Jasbir discovers this fact - coupled with pressure from his family - he gradually abandons his strict Brahmin dietary habits and eats regularly with his family. Jasbir’s resistance lasts for under two years, though he continues to think of himself as a member of the superior Brahmin caste. Jasbir also tells of a life in the village of Vehedi describing how, during a wedding procession from one village to another, he had eaten some poisoned sweets given to him by a man who owed him money. He had become giddy, had fallen off the chariot he was riding and suffered a fatal head injury.
Although Jasbir’s father tries to suppress knowledge of Jasbir's troubling behaviour, news gradually reaches the local Brahmin community. Srimati Shyamo, a Brahmin native of Rasulpur who had married Sri Ravi Dutt Sukla of the village of Vehedi, occasionally returned to Rasulpur and on one such trip in 1957 is recognized by Jasbir as his "aunt." She reports this incident to her husband's family and to members of the Tyagi family in Vehedi and it transpires that Jasbir's memories closely correspond to the life and death of a young man of twenty-two known as Sobha Ram, son of Sri Shankar Lal Tyagi of Vehedi. Sobha Ram had died in May 1954 in a chariot accident in the manner described by Jasbir.
At this point the reincarnationist interpretation of events runs into difficulties because Sobha Ram was alive during the first three-and-a-half years of Jasbir's existence. Jasbir, who was born at the end of 1950, was also living and breathing at the same time as Sobha Ram in 1951, 1952, 1953 until the death of Sobha Ram in May 1954. While Jasbir was living in the village of Rasulpur, Sobha Ram was living in the village of Vehedi just twenty miles away. We shall dwell upon this fact because its significance seems to have completely escaped Dr. Stevenson; he merely describes it as "unusual." According to the doctrine of reincarnation when someone dies their physical body perishes and - if they have residual karma - will incarnate in a new body. Now, to each living person there corresponds one and only one inner self and since Jasbir and Sobha Ram were living and breathing at the same time there must have been two unique spiritual entities expressing themselves in physical form. Now, Hindus believe in the immortality of the self - whether incarnate or discarnate - so that the death of Sobha Ram did not deprive him of his spiritual identity; he continued to exist even after he had discarded his physical body. This means that if two immortal spiritual identities were present before the death of Sobha Ram, then two immortal spiritual identities were present after the death of Sobha Ram - the latter's physical death being an unimportant detail. Since Jasbir was alive at the time of Sobha Ram's death the latter could not have reincarnated in the body of Jasbir unless, of course, Jasbir had really died and the soul of Sobha Ram had somehow reanimated the pox-ridden corpse of Jasbir.
Now, while such beliefs are common in the voodoo religions of the Caribbean they are not found in the doctrine of reincarnation; nevertheless, this is the route Stevenson chooses to follow. Why? - because, in the doctrine of reincarnation, an individual does not reincarnate in the body of a living person; therefore, Stevenson needs the body of a dead one. A careful reading of Stevenson's text will show that while he employs the phrase "presumed death" to describe what happened on the night in question he uses it synonymously with the phrase "actual death." In other words, although Jasbir did not really die - he made a complete recovery - the reader is invited to assume that he did. Thus, Stevenson transforms a living body into a dead one. This is confirmed in a follow-up discussion he has with Jasbir in 1971 in which the latter firmly believes he is a reincarnation of the superior caste individual, Sobha Ram. To quote Stevenson: "I asked Jasbir if he had any idea as to what happened to the mind or personality that had occupied the body of Jasbir before it apparently died of smallpox and before that body had seemingly been taken over by the mind of Sobha Ram." Now, if Jasbir had only apparently died of smallpox then, of course, nothing would have happened to the mind or personality occupying the body of Jasbir; it would have continued to remain in the body of Jasbir. Yet Stevenson uses the phrase "had occupied the body of Jasbir" to suggest that Jasbir had actually died when, in fact, he had not. In reply to the question he puts to Jasbir about what happened to the mind or personality that had occupied the body of Jasbir, Stevenson simply says:
"He did not know and nor do I" – and leaves the matter there, thus creating a problem where none previously existed.
It should be stressed that in the investigation of Jasbir's family background, Stevenson carefully eliminates all mundane and super-mundane explanations - such as village gossip and ESP - which might have accounted for Jasbir’s memories of Sobha Ram. Since Jasbir could not have been a reincarnation of Sobha Ram - they were contemporaries of one another and, in any case, Jasbir did not die - there can only be one possible explanation for Jasbir’s memories and behaviour, namely, that Jasbir was obsessed by the spirit of Sobha Ram. The significance of this result cannot be over-emphasised because it proves beyond reasonable doubt that discarnate personalities exist and can impress the living with their thoughts, feelings and memories. But this is evident from Jasbir's dramatic change of personality following the death of Sobha Ram. When Jasbir recovered from smallpox, he talked like an adult. He then refuses to eat with his family and claims to be a member of the Brahmin class. He uses the present tense to proclaim himself the son of Shankar of Vehedi and shows a strong attachment to members of the Tyagi family. During a short stay with the Tyagis at the village of Vehedi, he shares the same cot as Baleshwar (the son of Sobha Ram), unusual for strangers, Stevenson notes, but appropriate for a father and son. Furthermore, when someone calls to take him back to Rasulpur he strongly resists. When in Rasulpur, Jasbir remains lonely and something of an outcast. During his visit to the Jats in 1961, Stevenson notes that Jasbir did not play with the other children, but stayed aloof and isolated. Three years later, in 1964, Jasbir is even more isolated and depressed. According to Stevenson: "His face lacked animation. Although on this occasion he talked more than in 1961, he did not seem particularly eager to do so and remained a bystander in our interviews."
Stevenson's pretence that Jasbir had died of smallpox and his insistence on a reincarnationist explanation of Jasbir’s behaviour is further evidenced by his efforts to find a local child who is claiming to have been Jasbir in a previous life. To quote Stevenson: "I have from time to time enquired in the area where he lives about the existence of a child who has claimed that in a previous life he was one Jasbir of village Rasulpur who died of smallpox at the age of about three; but I have never found any trace of such a child." (Hardly surprising since Jasbir never died.) The problem that Stevenson is attempting to solve is this: given that the Jat and Tyagi families were complete strangers to one another and that information could not have passed to the Jats through mundane or super-mundane channels how could Jasbir have acquired such detailed information about Sobha Ram’s life? As we have seen, Stevenson's solution is uninspiring: he changes Jasbir’s apparent death into an actual one so that Sobha Ram could - in the minds of readers - be thought to have reincarnated in the vacant body of Jasbir. Thus, Jasbir’s memories will be one and the same as Sobha Ram’s. But of course Jasbir’s memories are not one and the same as Sobha Ram’s because Jasbir’s memories relate only to Sobha Ram’s final days and to his traumatic passing. Nowhere in his conversations with Stevenson does Jasbir report, for example, incidents in Sobha Ram’s early life. Furthermore, by focussing entirely on the means by which Jasbir could have obtained his memories in mundane or super-mundane terms, Stevenson misses an essential point, namely, that even if he had identified such a means of communication, it would not have accounted for Jasbir's early emotional attachment to the Tyagi family. According to Stevenson: "Jasbir felt (and still felt in 1964) a strong attachment to the Tyagi family in Vehedi. He threatened to run away from Rasulpur to Vehedi on at least one occasion."
In the course of a conversation with Jasbir in 1961, Stevenson asks Jasbir to describe what happened between the death of Sobha Ram and his own recovery from smallpox with memories of Sobha Ram. According to Jasbir, after Sobha Ram had died he met a sadhu (holy man) in the discarnate state who advised him to "take cover" in the body of Jasbir, son of Girdhari Lal Jat. Assuming that the encounter was a real event and not a post-mortem fantasy, what did the sadhu mean by "taking cover"? From the context of the discussion it is evident that the sadhu was urging Sobha Ram to reincarnate in the body of Jasbir but that the decision was left to Sobha Ram. If so, we are presented with a problem because a member of the Brahmin caste would not willingly reincarnate in the corpse of a lower caste individual. On the other hand, if he were compelled to do so by karma then, in order to merit such a 'demotion', Sobha Ram must have been an evil person during his relatively short stay on Earth. However, no evidence of serious wrongdoing on the part of Sobha Ram can be found in any of the witness statements given to Dr. Stevenson; by all accounts he seemed to have been a fairly normal person. Furthermore, since Sobha Ram had risen to the Brahmin caste in his current incarnation he is unlikely to have been an evil person in his previous incarnation. (Hindus believe that evil people reincarnate as lower animals.) Clearly, there are inconsistencies in Jasbir's story. Following a later meeting with Jasbir, Stevenson admits that "by 1964, Jasbir's images of this period had become confused and he made several statements contradictory with other evidence."
When the reincarnation hypothesis is discarded, it is relatively easy to explain what happened. When Sobha Ram cast his physical body aside, Sobha Ram remained Sobha Ram retaining his beliefs, feelings, desires and memories. However, his strong belief in reincarnation coupled with his expectation of occupying a new body prevented him from passing on to a less material plane of existence. Instead, he hung around waiting for a body to become available, and this he believed he had found in the prostrate body of Jasbir. Whether or not he was urged to “take cover” by the discarnate sadhu – who, incidentally, was probably waiting to reincarnate himself but was repelled by the pox-ridden body of Jasbir – is unimportant because, either way, Sobha Ram became trapped in the magnetic aura of the living body of Jasbir impressing the latter with his thoughts, beliefs, feelings and memories.
In Thirty Years Among the Dead Dr. Carl Wickland recounts the case of a boy, Jack T., who exhibited a dramatic change of personality at the age of five and was found to have been obsessed by the spirit of a Charlie Herrman - a man who had died some fifteen years before Jack had been born. (For details of this case the reader is referred to Wickand's book)
A direct comparison with the case of Jasbir reveals striking similarities. The following statements have been arranged in pairs (a) and (b):
(a) Wickland: "Jack T. had been normal until the age of five, when he began to manifest precocious tendencies and acted strangely."
(b) Stevenson: "Prior to that age [three-and-a-half] Jasbir seemed a normal child." "When he recovered the ability to speak he showed a remarkable transformation of behaviour."
(a) Wickland: "Formerly he had had the natural disposition of a child but began to fret about things ordinarily foreign to a child's mind and acted in many ways like an adult."
(b) Stevenson: "He seems to have thought of himself very much as an adult and at first talked freely in Rasulpur of having a wife and children."
(a) Wickland: "He was a boy of good appearance but talked constantly of being old, homely and ugly looking, and was so intractable that efforts at reprimand and correction proved of no avail."
(b) Stevenson: "He would eat no food at the home of the Jats on the grounds that he belonged to a higher caste, being a Brahmin. This obstinate refusal to eat would surely have led to a second death . . ."
(a) Wickland: "Someone had told him [Charlie Herrman] that after death individuals could reincarnate."
(b) Stevenson: "Jasbir said that this sadhu had advised him to 'take cover' in the body of Jasbir who had ostensibly died."
It should be noted that whilst Jack T. was released from the negative influence of Charlie Herrman through the timely intervention of the Wicklands, no such help was available to Jasbir. A further comparison of statements shows their relative educational attainments:
(a) Wickland: "In a letter written a few days later by the boy's mother we were informed that a remarkable change had occurred in the child. He remained normal and received excellent grades in school."
(b) Stevenson: "During my visit in 1961 I easily noticed that he did not play with the other children, but stayed aloof and isolated . . . always wearing a sad expression on his quiet, pock-marked, but handsome face." And again: "Jasbir, who was born at the end of 1950, had continued in school up to the tenth class. But he did not pass the work at that level and in 1969 he stopped school."
If Jasbir's condition had been properly diagnosed and treated, his childhood would not have been so blighted. Admittedly, Jasbir's family had tried to weaken his ties with the Tyagis - there is ample evidence of this in Stevenson's study - but there is no evidence that they had tried to break his identification with Sobha Ram. By contrast, the Tyagi family positively encouraged it. According to Stevenson, the Tyagis regarded Jasbir as a full member of their family: they had consulted him about the marriage of Sobha Ram's son and he had attended the wedding ceremony. He had also been consulted about the marriage of one of Sobha Ram's daughters. Although Jasbir eventually shook off much of Sobha Ram's influence, he retained the latter’s last memories and feelings of superiority.
In an interview with Stevenson in 1971, Jasbir denied that his memories of Sobha Ram had faded; he clearly remembered falling off the chariot on his return from the wedding he had attended (as Sobha Ram) at the village of Nirmana. He even mentioned the exact place where he fell off the chariot (Dabal Pathak), a detail Stevenson does not recall Jasbir having mentioned earlier. (Stevenson passes over this point but it illustrates how Jasbir used later information – probably acquired from the Tyagis – to fill out gaps in his memories of Sobha Ram.) Jasbir still believed he had been poisoned at the wedding ceremony by a man to whom Sobha Ram had loaned money. (It should be noted here that Jasbir had a strong financial incentive to remain the reincarnation of Sobha Ram because the man in question gave Jasbir 600 rupees!)
That Sobha Ram's influence had faded by 1971 is recorded by Stevenson himself: "I remarked in 1964 that he was noticeably depressed. But in 1971 he had developed into a smiling, self-confident young man." Stevenson, woefully (or wilfully) dismissive of the phenomenon of discarnate spirit influence says: "I think we should allow a large share of credit for this happy change to his parents [i.e. the Jats] who had done their best to adjust to a situation which must at times have been very difficult for them." Jasbir also says that his older brother, who had formerly been particularly hostile to his pretensions of superiority, fully accepted him in the family. Sobha Ram’s weakening influence is also evidenced by Jasbir’s willingness to marry a girl of the Jat caste.
It is often claimed that the possession of recondite, historical information retrieved under hypnotic regression provides convincing evidence of reincarnation. That this conclusion is unwarranted is proven by the case of Jasbir. He was not only impressed with thoughts, feelings and memories he was impressed with detailed information relating to Sobha Ram's life on Earth. Following his illness, when he regained his powers of speech, Jasbir gave the exact name of Sobha Ram’s father, and said that he lived in the village of Vehedi; he employed language and terms of speech characteristic of the Brahmin caste, saying "haveli" not "hilli" for a house, and "kapra" not "latta" for clothes. According to Stevenson: "The higher levels of society, e.g. Brahmins, use the former words and the lower levels the latter ones." Jasbir also knew that Brahmins cooked their meals in metal vessels as opposed to earthen ones, and he also wore around his neck the sacred thread which is a distinctive habit of upper caste Hindus. When Sobha Ram's father and other members of his family had visited Rasulpur in 1954, Jasbir recognized them and "correctly placed them as to their relationships with Sobha Ram." A few weeks later, when Jasbir is taken to Vehedi, he is put down near the railway station and asked to lead the way to the Tyagi quadrangle; according to Stevenson: "This Jasbir did without difficulty." Jasbir remained in the village for some days and demonstrated to the Tyagi family and other villagers "a detailed knowledge of the Tyagi family and its affairs."
Stevenson provides a long list of things that Jasbir knew about Sobha Ram, his family, where he lived and his immediate environment. We itemize them as follows:
(1) Sobha Ram was the son of Shankar of Vehedi.
(2) Sobha Ram was a Brahmin.
(3) There was a culvert in the village where Sobha Ram had lived.
(4) There was a peepal tree in front of his house.
(5) The wife of Sobha Ram lived in the village of Molna.
(6) Sobha Ram had a chariot he used for weddings.
(7) Sobha Ram had died while returning from Nirmana in a marriage party.
(8) Sobha Ram was poisoned by sweets given to him at the party.
(9) Sobha Ram died after falling off a chariot.
(10) The chariot was pulled by two oxen, one white and one black.
(11) Jasbir recognised the road to Vehedi.
(12) Jasbir recognized Sobha Ram's aunt.
(13) Jasbir recognised Sri Ravi Dutt Sukla.
(14) Jasbir said there was a tamarind tree in front of a certain courtyard.
(15) Jasbir said the Tyagis had a well that was half in and half outside the house.
(16) Jasbir recognized Sri Shankar Lal Tyagi, giving his name correctly.
(17) Sobha Ram had a son, Baleshwar.
(18) Sobha Ram had an aunt, Ram Kali.
(19) Sobha Ram’s mother was Sona.
(20) Sobha Ram had a sister, Kela.
(21) Sobha Ram had a mother-in-law, Kirpi.
(22) Jasbir recognized Sri Santoshi Tyagi.
(23) Sobha Ram's wife was called Sumantra.
(24) When Sobha Ram died he had ten rupees in a black coat in a box.
(25) Jasbir recognized Surajmal, younger brother of Sobha Ram.
(26) Jasbir recognized a certain neighbour of the Tyagis.
(27) Sobha Ram had been bitten by a certain dog.
(28) Jasbir recognized Prithvi, maternal uncle of Sobha Ram.
(29) Jasbir recognized the way from the railway station to the Tyagi quadrangle.
(30) Jasbir recognized Baleshwar, son of Sobha Ram.
(31) Jasbir recognized Sobha Ram's aunt.
(32) Jasbir remembered villagers of Vehedi with whom the Tyagis were not on good terms.
(33) Jasbir recognized Sri Ram Swaroop, brother-in-law of Sobha Ram.
(34) Jasbir recognized Sri Birbal Singh, younger cousin of Sobha Ram.
(35) Jasbir recognized Sri Mahendra Singh Tyagi, younger brother of Sobha Ram.
(36) Jasbir recognized fields belonging to the Tyagi family in Vehedi.
(37) Jasbir recognized Sri Raja Ram, grandfather of Sobha Ram.
(38) Sobha Ram's white ox had longs horns, his black ox short horns.
Helen Wambach, Edith Fiore and other reincarnation researchers maintain that the possession of such information - often impossible to obtain through normal channels - is convincing evidence for reincarnation. Yet Jasbir - who was not a reincarnation of Sobha Ram - possessed more detailed information about a previous life than any of Helen Wambach's subjects!
The case of Jasbir alone is sufficient to refute all claims that recondite or hard-to-obtain information retrieved under hypnotic regression is evidence of reincarnation. That Jasbir's case has been woefully ignored by reincarnationists is a testament to their lack of objectivity. This means that all other cases of past life recall studied by Dr. Stevenson must be reinterpreted as instances of overshadowing by discarnate spirit personalities.
(See Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation by Ian Stevenson)