Sunday, March 15, 2009
A Tribute To Dr.Ian Stevenson
As one ages it is not uncommon to remember the past.This week I have indulged in recounting some earlier experiences.Especially since several people asked why on earth I was so interested in the paranormal...A very real influence was a Hero from my first teaching position.Directly from graduate school,I went to the University of Virginia to teach the clinical and theory in Psychiatric Nursing.Filled with idealism, enthusiasm and commitment I developed and scheduled the course.
The chairman of the Department of Neurology and Psychiatry in the hospital and for the School of Medicine was Dr.Ian Stevenson.He was very supportive of the nursing staff and the teaching program
As few outside the field have an understanding of what the process of psychiatric treatment is really like,he became along with several of the doctors and nursing staff my main source of support.I greatly admired his skill as an interviewer with patients and staff as well as an administrator of the department.He was a true Gentleman and scholar.
He allowed an interest in the Paranormal to be credible.He shared his research in reincarnation with us and supported several of the other physicians interest in "the unusual"ie paranormal.
He was aware that many of the other faculty were not supportive of his ideas but continued his meticulous attention to details and scientific method. He was strong, rather silent with a wry sense of humor..Once at a Christmas party, while dancing. one of my shoes flew off belted through the air and landed in the punch bowl.I was mortified but he smiled and said "Well,I have heard of kicking up your heels.."
He also was very supportive of an unintended problem I ran into with some students writing a letter to the editor of a Richmond paper deploring that the Legislators who visited the State Hospital did not get off the bus to really look at the situation.Initially everyone was happy that the students were interested enough to do so as it had never happened before .It changed considerably when The University got calls asking for my resignation and the Director of Nursing at that hospital was fired He intervened with the Dean on my behalf.
Ian P. Stevenson, M.D., died February 8, 2007 in Charlottesville, Virginia, at age 88. The picture is of Dr.Stevenson at the University
Dr. Stevenson is known worldwide for his research, conducted over more than 40 years, on cases of the reincarnation type and other evidence for survival after death. Born in Montreal, Canada, on October 31, 1918, he was educated at St. Andrew’s University in Scotland and McGill University in Montreal, and he received his medical degree from McGill in 1943, earning an award for the highest aggregate in all subjects forming the medical curriculum. After a brief period of research in biochemistry, Stevenson, dissatisfied with its reductionism, looked for a way to study what he considered “something closer to the whole human being.” In the late 1940s, therefore, he joined a group at New York Hospital and began research in psychosomatic medicine, particularly on the effects of stress and strong emotions on physical symptoms. This work eventually led him to training in psychiatry and psychoanalysis, and in 1957, at the young age of 38, he was appointed Professor and Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia.
Long periods of seclusion due to a childhood illness helped foster his lifelong habit of voracious reading. In 1935 he started keeping a list of every book he read, and by 2003 it numbered 3535 books. His extraordinarily wide reading in history in particular showed him the transience of ideas and convictions once considered immutable, and he strongly resisted the temptation of many scientists to “accept current knowledge as forever fixed.” As a result, throughout his life he experienced the considerable obstacles confronting a scientist who wishes to conduct and publish unorthodox research. After he published a paper in 1957 questioning the orthodox Freudian view that human personality is determined by early childhood experiences, a colleague asked him whether he could walk the streets unarmed.
satisfactory theories of the origin and body and eventually led him to undertake extensive reading in the literature of psychical research about extrasensory perception and a wide variety of experiences suggesting survival after death, such as apparitions, near-death experiences and deathbed visions, and mediumship. He eventually conducted and published research in all these areas, but it was the discovery in obscure publications of numerous scattered reports of young children who seemed to have memories of a previous life that led to the research that he pioneered and for which he is now best known. In 1961 he took his first field trip, to India and Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), to study at first hand the reported previous life memories of young children. After this first trip, Chester Carlson, the inventor of the Xerox machine, funded additional trips, and when Carlson died in 1968 he left funds for research and an endowed chair, sufficient to allow Dr. Stevenson to resign from his clinical and administrative duties and devote himself full-time to research. In addition, Dr. Stevenson was able to found the Division of Personality (now Perceptual) Studies,
the only university-based research unit in the world devoted to the study of previous life memories, near-death experiences, and related phenomena.
Now this division continues this work.The web site states
"The Division of Perceptual Studies (DOPS), formerly the Division of Personality Studies , is a unit of the Department of Psychiatric Medicine at the University of Virginia. Utilizing scientific methods, we investigate apparent paranormal phenomena, especially:
* Children Who Claim to Remember Previous Lives (reincarnation)
* Near-Death Experiences
* Out of Body Experiences
* Apparitions and After-Death Communications
* Deathbed Visions"
As Dr.Kelley stared in the obituary written for him" He had no children, but he leaves numerous younger colleagues inspired, trained, and encouraged in their own careers by him."
Thank you Dr.Stevenson for allowing me to be among those.