Paul Edwards. Reincarnation: A Critical Examination. Prometheus, 1996.
A major, sceptical critique of the claims and evidence for reincarnation, along with (although not suggested in the title) the near death experience, written by an American philosopher. Edwards examines the evidence for reincarnation, whether in the form of claimed abilities such as those of child prodigies. or the claims of hypnotic regression, spontaneous recall and the cases collected by Ion Stevenson. He launches a full-frontal attack on the idea of Karma, showing its proponents invariably lead themselves into morally repugnant and absurd notions. He also fairly definitively demolishes the idea of an astral body.

Of particular interest is his critical re-examination of the story of George Ritchie, which practically launched the modern NDE movement, showing how one key episode has been told with quite contradictory details in various tellings. He also notes a number of misstatements and examples of 'gilding the lily' in Robert Moody's version of the Ritchie story. He could have made an even more important point; that Moody and other more recent retailers of Ritchie's story hove been careful to remove some of the more conservative Christian propaganda from it.

Whilst I was generally sympathetic to the arguments of this book, I did find that the use of ridicule in the Prometheus house-style, and a degree of class condescension was at times grating. Writers such as Sue Blackmoor who avoid this style often make their points more convincingly. I also think it is rather dishonest of sceptics to keep quoting Ian Wilson as if he was one of their number, in view of his Montague Summers-ish views on other topics. Nevertheless, recommended. -- Peter Rogerson

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