Whether you believe in life after death or past life regression (PLR), you can’t help but wonder about those two things.
But, before we can even look at the question of life after death (which is far too heavy a topic for just one blog post), let’s look at PLR.
Firstly, does PLR even work? What really needs to be addressed is are these experiences real and do they actually help the patients they come from?
Proof has shown time and time again that fabricated memories are indistinguishable even to the most trained psychologist and that those with strong imaginations and who are susceptible under hypnosis are more likely to evoke any experience a hypnotist or psychologist may prompt.
So what’s really going on here? The debate is as heated as it is fascinating. Check out this article below from GoodLifeZen.com that debates the efficacy of PLR and brings up the idea of the makyo.
After you read this article, I want your honest opinions on PLR. What do you know about it and have you experienced it before? Or maybe you know someone who has. Just drop a comment below :) .
Past Life Regression: Evidence of Life after Death?
Dr. Michael Newton was a traditional psychotherapist opposed to past life regression work when a client spontaneously entered what seemed like a past life regression.
.The man had complained about a persistent pain in his side that doctors couldn’t diagnose or treat. In the regression, the man found himself in the battle of Somme of World War I on the British side. He was dying of a bajonet wound. Newton, a keen scholar of martial history immediately asked him to look at the division patch on his arm. The client could describe it correctly. That was the clincher for Newton. But was it proof a past life?
I’m in two minds about past life regression because on one hand I have reservations about the validity of so-called past life experiences. On the other hand, I’m happen to be one of the people who may have had a past life experience. (I’ll tell you about it further down).
Past life regression
This is a form of therapy where people allegedly access previous lives in the course of hypnosis. It’s a controversial form of treatment and there are two main questions one could ask. One is: are these really previous lives? The other: is this therapeutic intervention useful?
Are past life regression memories real?
They certainly feel real to the person experiencing them and seem convincing to therapists who evoke them. Whilst I have some reservations about the validity of this therapy, it’s fair to say that there are respected psychotherapists and psychiatrists amongst the PLR (Past Life Regression) therapists, as well as people whos qualifications are more doubtful.
One of the leading developers of PLR therapy was Brian L. Weiss, M.D., the Chairman Emeritus of Psychiatry at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami. The well-known psychotherapist Dr. Michael Newton explains why he became a PLR therapist in this video.
I’m not sure whether past life regression is a useful tool for well-being and mental health. I would hate to see people whose psyche is already fragile burdened with more life-times of trauma. To heal the wounds of this life seems to be more than enough for many people.
Prof. Ian Stevenson’s work, whom I introduced in my article on reincarnation, is often quoted by therapists as supporting evidence for the validity of Past Life Regression. Actually, he was dead set against it. In an article he voiced strong concerns:
“The subconscious parts of the mind are released from ordinary inhibitions and they may then present in dramatic form a new “personality.” If the subject has been instructed by the hypnotist–explicitly or implicitly–to “go back to another place and time” or given some similar guidance, the new “personality” may appear to be one of another period of history. Such evoked “previous personalities” may be extremely plausible both to the person having the experience and to other persons watching him or her…
In my experience, nearly all so-called previous personalities evoked through hypnotism are entirely imaginary and a result of the patient’s eagerness to obey the hypnotist’s suggestion. It is no secret that we are all highly suggestible under hypnosis. This kind of investigation can actually be dangerous. Some people have been terribly frightened by their supposed memories, and in other cases the previous personality evoked has refused to go away for a long time.”
From his response I can’t help thinking that he would have been delighted with a current book title, ‘The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Past Life Regression’!
I think we need to consider the fact of False Memory Syndrome [FMS] when discussing past life regression. Here is an example False Memory Syndrome from Kathleen Flannery’s article on FMS. She relates:
In the mid-nineties, a sniper’s shots echoed through an American playground. Several children were killed and many injured. A 1998 study of the 133 children who attended the school by psychologists Dr. Robert Pynoos and Dr. Karim Nader, experts on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder among children, yielded a very bizarre discovery. Some of the children who were not on the schools grounds that day obstinately swore they had very vivid personal recollections of the attack happening.
Prof. Elisabeth Loftus, a leading researcher of False Memory Syndrome, explains in an interview:
Psychological studies have shown that it is virtually impossible to tell the difference between a real memory and one that is a product of imagination or some other process.
Consequently, it could be that what we experience as ‘past life memories’ are actually images fabricated by our brain and stitched together by our mind. Prof. Sam Wang explains how our brain lies to us in arecent NY Times editorial.
Some people are particularly vulnerable and susceptible to hypnosis. In some cases, it’s quite clear that the therapist has primed the client for particular experiences. The following is from a woman’s description of a Past Life Regression therapy session:
Upon reaching the bottom of this very special staircase, I found myself in what my Regression Therapist called the Hall of Wisdom. This hall had many doors and openings. My Regression Therapist advised me in advance that this “Hall” looked different depending upon the individual being regressed.
I think you can see in this description that the client was obligingly fulfilling the therapist’s expectations!
I was struck by this woman’s experience of the ‘great hall of wisdom’ because it echoed an experience of mine. Some fifteen years ago I had this vision or deep dream during meditation:
I found myself in an ancient temple. I had the body of a man. I was kneeling on a huge flagstone near one of the great pillars. By the faint light of lamps I could see an ornate coffered ceiling high above me. At the other end of the huge temple people in robes were lighting fires in big bowles. They were preparing for my ceremony and I was waiting to be called.
Even now I can recall minute details of the ceiling and the temple This is very different from night dreams that fade in time. My experience has remained undimished and feels significant.
Was this a past life regression?
I interpreted it as a makyo, a Zen expression for ‘mysterious vision’ -which is not seen as a past life experience. According to my teacher Robert Aitken, Roshi, a true makyo experience has three characteristics:
- A sense of the ancient,
- A religious drama in which the dreamer is chosen or confirmed as a disciple,
- A sense of encouragement.
What was this experience? Why does it feel so significant even years later? Was my mind just playing tricks, or did I really glimpse a past life?
What do you think?
Have you ever had odd experiences like this? Or have you heard of some first-hand? Please share them with us in the comments.