Tuesday, 4 October 2011
Past Life Regression: Have We Lived Before?
Reincarnation is an ancient belief shared by both historic cultures such as the Aztecs, the Egyptians, the Romans and the Greeks, and modern day religions such as Hindu. Although reincarnation is not accepted by Christian, Muslim or Jewish cultures today, many millions of others worldwide do believe independently. Past life regression is a controversial subject for many because if it is indeed possible to look back into our previous lives then it would surely suggest the existence of reincarnation; or would it?
Is there life after death? Do near death experiences and the visions people report lend weight to the argument? Do we simply die and fade into nothingness? When the brain dies does the mind die with it? Or are the two entirely separate entities? These are just a few of the many questions raised by such a topic, one that is near impossible to conclude with the evidence available.
Reincarnation would suggest the mind/spirit does not die with the body and somehow ends up getting recycled into another body sometime before birth, the infant growing up typically in complete ignorance of its former life until it eventually dies and then gets born again in one never ending cycle of death/rebirths.
Past life regression (PLR) is a technique whereby a person is put into deep hypnosis and the hypnotherapist guides them back through time, past their childhood, past their birth, past their time in the womb and into their previous life. From a therapeutic point of view it is believed that long standing problems in the current life can be caused by events that happened in a previous life. I studied with an American man who never liked his neck being touched, or even having tight fitting clothing around his neck and he had had that feeling since a very young age. When he was regressed he saw himself being hanged to death in his previous life. This might sound like an uncomfortable story, but after he had explored his feelings of being hanged, in his opinion unjustly, the problems surrounding his neck sensitivity began to ease for the first time. Regressions are used a great deal in hypnotherapy in a similar way; there is some kind of an emotional blockage stored away in someone’s past (either in their current life or the previous) that is causing them either emotional or physical discomfort (sometimes even severe pain). Through regression the blockage is uncovered and brought to the surface where it can be dealt with, and the person can then get back to their life without such baggage from the past holding them back. It is a proven method used time and time again to great effect in therapy.
It has been known in PLR sessions that many lives can be skipped back at once leaving people to report a very distant past, with seemingly no limit on how far back someone might go, although it does seem as if past life experiences tend to focus on lives/events of significance, as if the subconscious is attempting to make conscious certain things, possibly for the reasons stated above. Or maybe it is just that important events remain in the memory bank in a stronger form than less important life events.
Many ‘scientific’ studies have tried to uncover the truth of past life experiences, with varying levels of success. One method was to investigate what people reported in their past life visions, then compare it with historical data. Many such studies found that what people described did not match with historical fact, and concluded that what people were describing were merely fantasies dreamt up in the mind and were based upon themes in movies or books that had manifested into the unconscious. Others studies conclude by saying that PLR success (it does not always work well) is based upon the individual’s belief system and whether or not they think it is possible to be regressed into a previous life. If the individual has a strong belief in the subject then PLR tends to be a success, while if they think such a thing is impossible there is no success. Similar studies also claim that leading questions from the therapist have a lot to do with what is experienced during the regression, suggesting the therapy itself goes some way in actually producing the effect of past life experiences.
In 2008 I had my first experience of PLR, conducted by a hypnotherapist named Vanessa De La Rocha (incidentally also my wife). The regression took some time to deepen and at one point I must admit I thought nothing would come of it. But as the questions continued I found myself connecting with some rather vivid scenes. I looked down at my feet and to my surprise I could see a pair of old fashioned brown leather shoes! I was sitting in an old style library with leather bound books around me, and I was sitting in a chair looking out onto some lavish garden lawns. I could tell I was a very old man with fluffy white hair, who was sitting reading in the library of his country home. After some investigation it became apparent that the old man was interested in Botanical nature of some kind, and some of the books on his reading desk were ones that he had authored. During the PLR I was able to wander slowly around the old library and pick up various books, I was even able to describe the initials of ‘my’ name written on the cover, although I could not see the book in enough detail to read what was written inside. I later did some research into those initials but found no matches. What could that experience mean?
While it was not the most exciting vision it certainly did enough to intrigue my interest. Was what I experienced a glance of a previous life of my own or was it pure fantasy? Botanical reading is not something I have ever done or held a definite interest in, but could it be something of interest inside my subconscious? The subconscious mind is such a challenge to understand because it is not linear, objective and measurable. Many testimonies in court crumble in questioning because the mind cannot retrieve information 100% accurately, and if the mind cannot recall information accurately that only occurred a few months previously, how can it possibly be expected to recall information hundreds of years ago or many lifetimes ago with complete accuracy? Maybe of course the historic accounts are the ones that are wrong; for instance do we know that every person was on the local register in bygone times? Or in the register by the name they actually used? To dispel someone’s PLR account because the name given doesn’t appear in a local record book seems a little harsh to me.
In other studies the information brought up during PLR has been investigated and proved correct. People have remembered a life and a family in a town that has matched up to the records, and the grave stones, to the letter. How can these cases easily be explained? If it is not the past life of the individual being remembered then could it be the past life of someone else being envisioned in some kind of connection of consciousness? Or could these people just be fabricators intent on fooling as many people as possible?
Two cases spring to mind that I think anybody would find hard to explain in terms of accepted scientific belief. The first is a young child that lives in Scotland. Since he learned to talk he spoke to his mother about a life he had on another island, Barra, more than two hundred miles away, describing his life there in considerable detail. His family had no connection with the island or the people there, and the island is so remote it would rarely, if ever at all, be in the news. His mother was distressed by the whole episode, especially as her son claimed he ‘missed his Barra mum’ and wanted what he was saying to stop rather than encouraging it to continue. But his claims did only continue. A documentary was made about the boy and he was taken to the island where he claimed his previous life existed, and also to the house owned by the family the boy named back in the 60’s. The boy was even able to show his mother the different places he had talked about from his visions, including a beach where planes once used to land. He had certainly not been there before in his (current) life, so how had this little boy come up with such stories and unquestionable knowledge? (I will post the full account of this story soon). His case is not unique however, and there have been more than 2000 reported cases of young children claiming to have lived before as different people.
The second case concerned an Englishman who regularly had vivid dreams and visions of an ancient city in Jordan. The visions were so strong he could actually map out the ancient city and describe it in its entirety. The trouble was where he thought the city lay there was completely no evidence of it, neither on modern maps or ancient ones. No one had ever heard of this city, and there was no record of it whatsoever. The man was not to be perturbed, his visions continued and his curiosity only increased. He was so curious in fact that he lead an expedition to the area in Jordan where an archaeological dig took place. And just what did they find under the layers of sand? They found the remains of a city mirroring the exact map drawn out by the Englishman.
It cannot be said that these two people are frauds, or even that their ‘memories’ were being drawn from their social environment. Somehow these two people drew their memories naturally and were strikingly accurate. Many cases of PLR may very well be false memories drawn upon films or stories, figments of the imagination made to seem very real. But just because some cases do not appear to be ‘real’ does that necessarily mean they all are? Some cases appear to be very real and certainly suggest it is possible to ‘remember’ a past life in some shape or form, although I have no idea if that would be your own personal past life or someone else’s. Regression has proved itself to be a valuable tool in hypnotherapy, and regardless of whether trapped memories are real or not real, if by exploring these visions improvement can be made to someone’s life easing them from emotional or physical discomfort, or even understanding their emotions a little further, then for me PLR is something very worthwhile to undertake.