Experiential Quests into Past Lives

Hypnotic regression into past lives

Richard Sutphen (1937– ) began his hypnosis and past-lives regression work in 1972 and was probably the first to develop a technique whereby a hypnotist might regress large numbers of men and women to alleged former lifetimes at the same time and in the same room. Sutphen began fine-tuning his style in his Phoenix, Arizona, home with a roomful of people at a time. He continued perfecting his technique in area colleges and high schools and at metaphysical gatherings in the Southwest. In 1973, he founded and directed a hypnosis/metaphysical center in Scottsdale, Arizona. The convenience of working at an established center provided him with the structure that he needed to experiment extensively with both individual and group techniques and the opportunity to amass a large number of case histories for comparison and contrast.

In 1976, Sutphen created and marketed the first prerecorded hypnosis tapes through his Valley of the Sun publishing company. In 1978, Pocket Books published Sutphen's You Were Born Again to Be Together, case histories of men and women who had found themselves and their loves once again after the separation of many lifetimes. The book became a national best-seller, and soon thousands of people wanted to be regressed by Sutphen and explore the possibilities of their past lives. To meet the sudden demand for his hypnotic abilities, he began holding past-life seminars in major cities throughout the United States and hosting an annual Super Seminar in Scottsdale. By the 1990s, over 100,000 people had attended a Sutphen seminar; his inventory had grown to include 380 audio and video titles; and he had written 18 books, including Past Lives, Future Loves (1978), The Master of Life Manual (1980), and Unseen Influences (1982).

"Past-life hypnotic regression can be used as an extremely valuable therapeutic tool to explore the cause of unconscious anxiety, repressed hostilities, hidden fears, hangups, and interpersonal relationship conflicts," Sutphen said. He cautioned, however, that past-life therapy is not a magic wand, and the past-life causes don't always surface immediately. "But it does work," he stated, "and it can be for many the first stop in letting go of a problem. Psychiatrists often spend months or even years searching for the cause of their patient's problem. They are aware that in understanding the cause they can begin to mitigate and, eventually, eliminate the effect. Yet by limiting their search to the time frame of only one lifetime, they may never find the origin of the present-life problem."

During one of his seminars, Sutphen spoke with a woman named Barbara who had driven hundreds of miles to be in attendance because it was important to her to experience past-life regression. She told Sutphen that she had several problems, some he could see plainly, others he couldn't. He could see that Barbara was obviously referring to her excessive weight when she spoke of some of her problems being easily visible. The attractive 29-year-old woman weighed 225 pounds.

As the seminar sessions progressed, Sutphen observed Barbara during two group regressions, trying to be comfortable in two chairs because her weight made lying down on the floor with everyone else too difficult. He could see, though, that she was a good deep-level hypnotic subject, for she had practically fallen off the chairs almost immediately after he had begun the process. During an evening session, Sutphen asked Barbara to join 11 other subjects on the platform for a demonstration of individual regression work.

During the group hypnosis of the 12 volunteers, Sutphen instructed them to think about something in their life that they would like to change—any kind of problem, habit, or personal situation. As he counted backward from three to one, they would move back in time to the cause of their present problem, whether it should be in their past, in their present life experience or in any of their previous lives. They would see clearly and relive the situation before their inner eyes, thereby understanding the problem and be able to release it.

That night a man cried out as he relived an ancient battle. A young woman relived the fear of being lost in the woods as a small child. A middle-aged woman was recalling starving to death in an African village. But when Sutphen came to Barbara, she cried out, screamed, and began to shake. Her voice became that of a young girl on the edge of panic. The hypnotist quickly redirected her from the alarming memory to a state of peaceful sleep. Later, after all the other subjects had been awakened, Sutphen asked if Barbara wished to explore in greater detail the prior life on which she had touched so emotionally. She eagerly agreed, and Sutphen once again induced the trance state.

In a few moments, Barbara was speaking in the voice and persona of a 12-year-old French girl, describing her luxurious home and her perfect life in eighteenth-century France at the time of the Revolution. When the hypnotist moved her forward in time, she experienced the arrival of soldiers who had orders to take her family to prison. Numerous humiliations followed, and the young girl was eventually killed by the revolutionaries.

After her death experience in that lifetime, Sutphen directed a question to Barbara's Higher Self: How had events from the past life in France related to her present life problems? From the depths of her hypnotic sleep, Barbara cried out that pretty people got hurt. She had been very pretty in that life in France and the soldiers had humiliated and killed her. "The only way to be safe is to remain ugly in the world," she said."

After she was once again awakened from the trance state, Barbara provided additional information about her weight problems. She explained how she had attended the best and most highly recommended weight-loss centers, but she could never shed the pounds. In some cases, she had begun to lose a little, then she would go on an eating binge and bring her weight right back to 225. One well-known specialist had told her that once she found out why she psychologically needed to retain weight, then she would be able to keep it off.

"You know you can do that now, don't you, Barbara?" Sutphen asked. She answered with a smile that now she knew that she could.

Sutphen has never been dogmatic in his definition of what reincarnation may be, but he remains convinced that regardless of how the question of rebirth is viewed philosophically, it would appear that which is perceived as the past is somehow affecting the present. And once one has pondered the significance of one's past lives, one learns how to transform the present into a meaningful growth experience and in this manner prepare for as significant a future as possible.

One of the best documented cases of reincarnation in recent times had another incarnation of its own when, on May 17, 1994, CBS presented a television movie "inspired by an actual case history," Search for Grace, starring Lisa Hartman and Ken Wahl. As fictionalized for mass viewing, the television drama is a thriller about an attractive young woman named Ivy who becomes ensnared by an over-whelming attraction for a powerful, suspicious stranger who turns physically abusive. When Ivy seeks psychological therapy for this irrational compulsion and for related nightmares, she is hypnotically regressed and begins to relive the events leading to the brutal death of a woman, Grace Lovel, which had taken place more than 60 years before. In her waking state, Ivy has never heard of the woman, and she has never been to the city in which her murder occurred. Ivy's confusion and terror grow as she learns that Grace Lovel actually did live and die exactly as she relived in the hypnotic trance. Even more frightening is the uncomfortable awareness that Ivy's violent new lover, John, bears an eerie resemblance to Grace's murderous boyfriend, Jake.

All of the above makes for an exciting evening in front of the television set, but it was based on an actual case researched and documented by renowned hypnotherapist Dr. Bruce Goldberg and reported in detail in his book The Search for Grace: A Documented Case of Murder and Reincarnation (1994). "Ivy's past-life regression revealed an eternal love triangle, a terrifying karmic dance of passion and murder, culminating in the short tragic career of one Grace Doze, a headstrong flapper from Buffalo, New York, whose reckless love life ended in murder," Goldberg states in his book. Exhaustive research enabled Goldberg to discover that even the smallest details of Grace's life and death could be explicitly documented through contemporary newspapers and police reports.

In Goldberg's actual transcript of the regression in which Ivy/Grace recalled the details of the murder that took place on Tuesday night, May 17, 1927, Grace had ditched her "boring" husband Chester and gone shopping. Although her new bobbed hairstyle, short skirt, and red shoes might be everything that dull old Chester hates, Jake finds them magnetically appealing. When he picks her up that night, Jake has already had a few too many drinks.

As Goldberg listened to Ivy/Grace altering her voice to speak both parts, Jake's foul temper is displayed, and the two of them get into a heated argument as they drive. Jake is angry that she dresses so cheaply and is still flirting with other men, and he punches her on the jaw. Although she is in pain, Grace is still conscious when Jake stops the car, threatening to teach her a lesson. He beats her badly, strangles her, and dumps her body in Ellicott Creek.

Goldberg guided Ivy/Grace to the super-conscious mind level and asked her if she knew Jake in her current lifetime. She answered without hesitation that he was John.

As a therapist, Goldberg was not particularly interested in obtaining documentation for his various patients' claims to past lives, but a search of old files from Buffalo, New York, newspapers for May 19–21, 1927, produced accounts of a "handsome bob-haired woman found floating in Ellicott Creek," who had been strangled to death "before she was thrown in the water." At first there was doubt that the identity of "the beautiful young woman" would ever be determined. And then, on June 1, 1927, the Buffalo Courier reported the find of a "small black suitcase owned by Mrs. Grace Doze and carried by her the night she was thrown into the Ellicott Creek." When the police showed the suitcase to "Chester Doze," husband of the murdered woman, he identified the bag and contents as the property of his wife.

Goldberg's book contains an astonishing 54 pages of documentation—death and birth certificates, newspaper accounts, police reports, and so forth—that prove to any reasonable person that Grace Doze, the victim of a murder in 1927, did most certainly exist. Exactly how Ivy's psyche gained that information remains a mystery. "Could it have been the unquiet spirit of the murdered young woman, working through her reincarnation as Ivy, that demanded at long last public resolution of the mystery of her death?" Goldberg asks.

One more eerie "coincidence" regarding the case must be mentioned. When Search for Grace was telecast on that Tuesday night in May 1994, it was 67 years to the hour since Grace Doze was murdered.

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