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Xenoglossy (Is It Really Possible to Speak a Language You’ve Never Been Exposed to or Taught?)--Pt.2

In last week’s blog article, I discussed Dr. Ian Stevenson’s interesting case involving an American couple, Carroll and Delores Jay. While Delores was under hypnosis, Gretchen, a personality manifested in Delores. Unlike Delores, Gretchen spoke fluent German. While that case was very interesting, there are others. Today, I discuss a case from India that Dr. Stevenson researched with Satwant Pasricha involving a 32-year-old woman in India, Uttara Huddar. The information discussed here comes from the researchers’ article, “A Preliminary Report on an Unusual Case of the Reincarnation Type with Xenoglossy,” The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 74, July 1980, available at

In 1974, Uttara suddenly exhibited a totally different personality from her normal one. While in this state, she did not recognize her family and friends and her behavior was unlike any other time in her life. She performed religious rituals common in another culture – a culture unfamiliar to her and her family and unlike the culture where she lived all her life. Also, she no longer could speak the three languages, Marathi (native), English and Hindi, that she had learned as Uttara. Instead, she fluently spoke a language from another culture (Bengali) – a language unfamiliar to her and her family.

At that time, a new personality suddenly emerged and she claimed to be “Sharada.” In addition to not recognizing Uttara’s parents and friends, “Sharada dressed in Bengali style, woke up earlier than Uttara, took a head bath every morning, left her hair loose, put a vermilion into the parting of her hair. (Only married Hindu women in North India did this.) She behaved distantly toward Uttara’s parents and she shuddered when any male person – even Uttara’s father or brother – touched her…. Her tastes in food were closer to those of Bengalis than to those of Uttara’s family or of Uttara in her normal condition.”

Also, Sharada “was completely unfamiliar with tools, instruments, and appliances developed after the industrial revolution.” She did not understand “electric appliances, gas stoves, fountain pens or modern automobiles like cars and trains.” She was comfortable with a wood stove, “utensils and vessels made of either metal or earthenware.” When she was shown a glass jar holding pickles, she was baffled to the miracle before her. The transportation methods known to her included walking, horses, boats, bullock carts, and palanquins.

The periods of time for these Sharada phases varied from one day to six weeks. “The median duration was two days, but the average duration, because of two long phases lasting 41 and 43 days, was a little over eight and a half days.” Interestingly, Stevenson and Pasricha reported that these phases usually started on the eighth day of the waning or waxing moon and ended “with [her] performance of Aarti, a type of worship that includes moving candles or oil lamps in front of a picture of a god or goddess. Toward the end of the Aarti ritual, Sharada sneezed and [usually] Uttara’s normal personality returned [at that time].” Early on, when Uttara returned, she appeared to know nothing about Sharada and those people she met as Sharada, although some vague awareness was noticed later on. These Sharada phases continued intermittently until at least 1979.

When Sharada was interviewed, she identified ancestors from her family. Based on the information she provided, the experts identified “[t]he [p]robable [p]eriod of Sharada’s [p]resumed [l]ife” as 1810-1830 in multiple locations most of which are small villages in India. She spoke an older “English-free and Sanskritized” version of Bengali that was used at that time and not the modern version that is characterized with the predominance of “English loan words.” This last point is important. “If Uttara had learned Bengali-accidentally or fraudulently-she would have acquired modern Bengali, not that spoken 150 years ago.”

According to these experts, “Sharada showed a remarkable knowledge of places in Bengal as well as of the food and customs of Bengal that seems to us far outside the range of information a woman living in Maharashtra would ordinarily have. Her knowledge of the details of the obscure genealogy of the Chattopadhaya family of Bansberia in West Bengal impressed us.” Yet, her ability to fluently speak Bengali, especially an older version of Bengali, was the biggest factor that led the experts to conclude that this was a valid case of xenoglossy.

This research is another twist in the study of paranormal phenomena related to the study of past life claims. In this case, if true, the second personality (Sharada’s) survived the original death and somehow possessed someone else’s body more than 140-years later. As stated in last week’s blog article, “Dr. Stevenson believed that ‘authentic cases of responsive xenoglossy provide … important evidence of the survival of human personality after death’” (citing “A Preliminary Report of a New Case of Responsive Xenoglossy: The Case of Gretchen,” The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, Vol 70, Jan. 1976 (emphasis added)).




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