Experiential Quests into Past Lives

Past-life therapy

In past-life therapy, subjects arrive at the office of a past-life therapist with a phobia, an obsession, or a compulsion that seems unrelated to anything they can remember in their present life experience. Their problem has increasingly begun to become awkward, stressful, or embarrassing. When they relive a past life during a hypnotic regression or in a dream or a vision, they view a scenario in which they see themselves setting in motion that karma, the initial action or deed that created their phobia, obsession, or compulsion. Dissociated from their present life experience, they become capable of accepting responsibility for a past action that was performed in a prior existence. Once the subjects have made the transfer of responsibility to the present life and have recognized that the "fault" or the trauma lies in a time far removed from current concerns, they are able to deal with the matter with a new perspective and without embarrassment or shame.

Today, a great number of past-life therapists have learned that it really doesn't matter whether past-life recall is pure fantasy or the actual memory of a prior existence. What does

Dr. Brian Weiss with his book on reincarnation. One of his patients in his book claims to have 86 past lives. (AP/WIDE WORLD PHOTOS)
Dr. Brian Weiss with his book on reincarnation. One of his patients in his book claims to have 86 past lives. (
matter to the therapists is their claim that thousands of men and women have obtained a definite and profound release from a present pain or phobia by reliving the origin of their problems in some real or imagined former existence.

While skeptics may scoff at men and women who claim to recall past lives while under hypnosis, and even question their mental balance, psychiatrist Reima Kampman of the University of Oulu in Finland has said that her research demonstrates that people who are able to display multiple personalities or alleged past lives under hypnosis are actually healthier than those who cannot. According to Kampman, one of her subjects, a 28-year-old woman, revealed eight different personalities in progressive chronological order, ranging from a young woman who lived in Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution to an eighteenth-century titled English lady to a girl named Bessina who said that she lived in Babylonia. Contrary to what the established psychiatric literature would lead one to believe, Kampman stated, these were not troubled minds on the verge of fragmentation.

Compared with those who could not rise to the hypnotist's challenge, the multiple-personality group had greater stress tolerance, more adaptability, and far less guilt. Internal identity diffusion—a neurotic quality defined as the discrepancy between what one feels about oneself and how one feels that others perceive one—was also greater in the nonresponsive group.

Kampman suggests that in the ego-threatening situation induced by the hypnotist's request for other personalities, only the mentally healthy can afford to respond creatively: "Creating multiple personalities is evidence of a highly specialized ability of the personality to extricate itself adaptively by a deep regression of the conflict situation created by the hypnotist" (Human Behavior, May 1977).

Bettye B. Binder, former president of the Association for Past-Life Research and Therapies, has conducted over 3,600 individual past-life regressions and has taught nearly 20,000 students in workshops and classes since 1980. The author of six books on past lives, her Past Life Regression Guidebook (1992) has become a popular textbook in the field. When asked to provide a case history demonstrating the benefits of past-life regression, she often makes reference to the case of "Darrell," whose story was featured on the television programs Sightings and 20/20.

A native of Toronto who has lived in Southern California for many years, Darrell came to Bettye Binder with a terror of drowning in the middle of the ocean. He was not frightened of seashores, swimming pools, or other bodies of water, but he would not venture far into the ocean because of a morbid fear of drowning there. In three separate regressions with Binder, Darrell discovered that he drowned in the middle of the ocean in three previous lifetimes. In one, he was a black slave in the South, about 1840, who tried to escape in a small boat that sank due to an explosion on board. In 1940, before the United States entered World War II, he was a young man from Pennsylvania who joined the Canadian Air Force and was shot down over the Pacific Ocean. His death on the Titanic, however, was the most important experience related to his phobia.

In regression, Darrell experienced being a crew member on the Titanic, which sank after striking an iceberg in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean in April 1912. He was asleep in his bunk when the crisis began. He was awakened and told to go to the boiler room where he worked. It was flooded, so he went to the next available boiler room that was still free of seawater. He and his workmates did their best to get the ship moving, but it soon became evident that the huge ship was sinking. Darrell's last memory in that lifetime was being tangled up in ropes as the ship began to lurch and dive into the depths of the sea.

Binder has had Darrell undergo this particular regression on many different occasions, both as a demonstration before students and for television. Each time, she has observed, Darrell receives more resolution from such explorations of his past life as a victim of the Titanic disaster. In June 1992, when she regressed him for a television crew, Darrell saw his angels leading him away from the body that was entangled in heavy ropes and being pulled down into the ocean. He felt peace and light come over him as he rose toward the heavens, and he also experienced great compassion for the man that he had been.

What is most significant about Darrell's case, Binder pointed out, is how the experience of past-life regression has turned his life around. When he had first come to her, she said, he was a timid, withdrawn, fearful young man, whose life and career were going nowhere. He had dreams of becoming an animator for a major movie or television studio, but those aspirations were not being realized. After a series of regressions in 1992, Darrell's career began to move in an exciting new direction. He began to exhibit a sense of peace and happiness that he had never before known. He became poised and self-assured. He was hired as an animator on a major feature film, and at Christmas in 1994, he was hired to direct an animated feature film, a huge career breakthrough.

According to Binder, "Darrell has learned lessons that he was unable to learn in his previous past lives in which he drowned, and he is no longer phobic about the ocean. Today, Darrell is a man who smiles easily and who is doing what he loves most in life. He has gained a spiritual peace for the first time in several lifetimes."

In her view of past-life exploration, Binder believes that the key to making reincarnation acceptable in the Western world lies in the culture learning to acknowledge individuals' true identities as souls that exist in a multidimensional universe where time is not limited to a linear construction. Through the altered states of consciousness available in meditation or hypnosis, one can experience what "multidimensionality" and "simultaneous time" feel like even if one does not yet understand what the words mean.

A teacher of reincarnation since 1980, Binder frequently emphasizes in her classes that individuals don't have souls, they are souls. "All of us are souls who chose to become human beings, but our human identity is limited to being in this body," she said. "The soul is pure energy, and energy cannot be destroyed. The soul's existence is independent of the body it occupies. It is the soul that continues to exist after the human body dies, and it is the soul that reincarnates lifetime after lifetime."

Dr. Russell C. Davis was editor of The Journal of Regression Therapy and practiced past-life therapy for 40 years before his death in 1998. According to Davis, the concept of an eternal part of oneself that moves from lifetime to lifetime is fundamental to conducting past-life regressions. Whether one chooses to call this "eternal part" the soul or the Higher Self, it is "the very core of the person that is accessed during the experience and in which is stored that collective awareness of what is and what was. Over the years, I have come to call this 'the part of us that knows and understands,' and it is this element of the person that I address during the regression experience. In essence, in conducting a past-life regression, this 'part [of the subject] which knows and understands,' the 'Higher Self,' is asked to reveal to the client's conscious awareness information and under-standing about a past life (or lives) and what its meaning is to the present."

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