Reviewed by Thomas G. Shafer, M.D.
(as included in the The Journal of Regression Therapy Volume ΧIII, No. 1, Fall 1999)
Old Souls is an interesting volume which details an investigative reporter’s first hand experience with the work of Ian Stevenson. I found it to be well written in a narrative style more like a novel or quality newspaper feature piece than the usual “kiss and tell” personal experience book or dry recital of facts and theories. The author paints very vivid word pictures of Lebanon and especially India and also develops his “characters” with good description and a marked sense of their inner motives and conflicts much more typical of quality fiction. In short, it is a very readable book.
The content, a review of Dr. Ian Stevenson’s work and methodology, is way overdue. Like most of us, I have been fascinated by the good doctor’s work for decades, in my case ever since he lectured to myself and a group of other medical students at the University of Virginia in 1974. Like many others though, I have to admit that I find his prose just about impenetrable. Of course, Stevenson is writing scientific papers and academic material for an academic audience so it is no surprise that his work reads like a college textbook. But it is hard enough to read a college textbook when you have to.
I certainly can’t fault Mr. Shroder’s research. He clearly read much of Dr. Stevenson’s work along with numerous other papers supporting or controverting it. Also, he accompanied the research team on trips to Lebanon and India, as well as observing and later conducting interviews in the United States. He saw all levels of cases from follow-ups many years later to initial interviews.