Hello there. My name is Tony Edwards and I am a
Hypnotherapist and Psychotherapist in private practice in Colchester. The
subject of this lecture is "Past Life Regression Therapy (PLRT)". As I am
sure you appreciate, the moment we mention the subject of "past lives",
we open a number of Pandora’s boxes. These boxes contain people’s ideas,
views, opinions, prejudices, beliefs, disbeliefs and a whole range of
emotions. In this lecture I am not going to discuss views pertaining to
emotions or religious persuasions. What I am going to do is to explain in a
plain and sensible manner precisely what Past Life Regression Therapy is all
about and what the various attitudes and beliefs relating to the past life
The most important questions that PLRT raises are those
that have exercised the human race since it began to think and reason. The
two basic but important questions raised are the simple "Do we
reincarnate after death in this life?" and the somewhat more
philosophically complex "Do we have a spiritual evolution on earth that
is realised through successive incarnations". Quite clearly I am not
going to even attempt to answer these questions, that is for you the reader
to do. What I am going to do however is set the facts before you.
Past Life Regression Therapy (PLRT) raises the important
question as to whether or not we have a spiritual evolution on earth that is
realised through successive incarnations. Many oriental cultures have
accepted pre-existence and reincarnation in one form or another for
millennia. Furthermore, due to the cross-fertilisation of ideas between
cultures, these beliefs are becoming increasingly popular in the West.
In this lecture I am not going to ask you, the reader, to
subscribe to any particular religious, spiritual, scientific, or any other
view of what actually is occurring during the performance of a past life
regression session. You must carefully analyse the evidence and, after
gaining experience from carrying out PLRT, form your own opinion.
In essence PLRT involves the use of hypnosis and the
hypnotic trance to assist the subject in moving their mind back through time
to a point before they were born. On reaching this point the hypnotherapist
may then carry out a question and answer session with the subject, drawing
from them the impressions that they are forming in this (putative) time
Contrary to what you may have been informed, creating the
correct environment for the subject to enter hypnosis, assisting the subject
to reach a suitable level of hypnosis, and then releasing them from hypnosis
is relatively easy to achieve. The majority of people undergoing PLRT are
intelligent and imaginative and thus find entering the hypnotic state
Generally speaking the prevalent view amongst past life
therapists is that one is actually dealing with recalled memories of a past
life; reincarnation in fact. It would be very remiss of me if I did not
point out the possibility of other explanations and provide you with reasons
The explanations for what happens during a past life
regression session are :
The Collective Unconscious.
Genetic Memory Transmission.
"As long as you are not aware of the continual law of Die
and Be Again, you are merely a vague guest on a dark Earth." : Johann
Wolfgang von Goethe.
The doctrine of reincarnation states that when a person
dies, the only thing that actually dies, that is to say experiences "death",
is the physical body. The mind, which contains a person's mental
impressions, continues after the body's death. When the person is reborn,
the "birth" is of a new physical body accompanied by the old mind with the
impressions, behavioural patterns, and memories from previous lives. When
the environment becomes conducive, these behavioural patterns and memories
can be brought to consciousness and allowed to reassert themselves in the
new (current) life.
It is generally believed that this process does not
continue on an eternal cycle of life death-life-death-life forever. It is
believed by many that when we attain complete self-realization, the law of
karma is transcended. At this stage the Self gives up its identification
with the body and mind, and regains its native freedom. It is deemed to have
found perfection and a state of bliss.
So, what is karma?
Karma is the law of moral causation. The theory of Karma
is a fundamental doctrine in Buddhism, although it should be acknowledged
that this belief existed in India long before the advent of the Buddha.
Nevertheless, it was the Buddha who explained and formulated this doctrine
in the complete form in which it is understood today.
Observation of life provokes questions such as
What is the cause of the inequality that exists among
Why should one person be brought up in the lap of luxury,
endowed with fine mental, moral and physical qualities, and another in
absolute poverty, steeped in misery?
Why should one person be a mental prodigy, and another an
Why should one person be born with saintly
characteristics and another with criminal tendencies?
Why should some be linguistic, artistic, mathematically
inclined, or musical from the very cradle?
Why should others be congenitally blind, deaf, or
Why should some be blessed, and others cursed from their
Either these inequalities of mankind have a cause, or
they are purely accidental. No reasoning, sensitive, thinking person would
think of attributing this unevenness, this inequality, and this diversity to
blind chance or pure accident. To do so promotes the view that all is chaos
and that human life is pointless and valueless.
Karma states that in this world nothing happens to a
person that he or she does not for some reason or other deserve, although
the workings of this are usually completely beyond our comprehension. Karma
also informs us that the definite invisible cause of the present life
visible effect is not necessarily confined to the present life, thus by
implication the cause may be traced to a proximate or remote past birth.
According to Buddhism, this inequality between
individuals is due not only to heredity, environment, "nature and nurture",
but is also due to Karma. That is to say, such inequalities are the result
of our own past actions and our own present doings. We, and no one else, are
entirely responsible for our own happiness and our own misery. We are the
architects of our own fate. We create our own Heaven and we can create our
A young truth-seeker, perplexed by the seemingly
inexplicable yet apparent disparity that existed among humanity, approached
the Buddha and questioned him about the problem of inequality:
"What is the cause, what is the reason, O Lord,"
questioned he, "that we find amongst mankind the short-lived and
long-lived, the healthy and the diseased, the ugly and beautiful, those
lacking influence and the powerful, the poor and the rich, the low-born and
the high-born, and the ignorant and the wise?"
The Buddha’s reply was:
"All living beings have actions (Karma) as their own,
their inheritance, their congenital cause, their kinsman, their refuge. It
is Karma that differentiates beings into low and high states."
He then explained the cause of such differences in
accordance with the law of cause and effect. The law of karma.
Let us examine some data concerning a phenomenon known as
cryptomnesia. This is a condition in which a person has memories or
skills which can be accessed, but which were acquired subconsciously or
through subtle, subliminal means. The person in question typically has no
knowledge at all of where or when these memories came from. Such memories or
skills may be stored for long periods of time before surfacing, which
usually occurs at strange times: hypnotic trance, meditation, autohypnosis
or even as a result of head trauma (imagine getting bashed on the head and
suddenly finding yourself fluent in Portuguese!).
The peculiar and often eerie nature of cryptomnesia may
lead those experiencing or witnessing it to the conclusion that these
memories are from some supernatural agency: part of a previous life, a
demonic or spirit possession or even from divine or angelic inspiration.
Researchers often examine purported spirit contacts, past life memories and
the like for errors, which may have been, published somewhere. This is
pretty much ironclad evidence that the case is cryptomnesia and not some
more mystical source.
An example of cryptomnesia is the bizarre phenomenon of
xenoglossy, a condition in which a person may have skills in a language
which they have never studied and may even have no memory of having contact
with. Another type of cryptomnesia is automatic writing, wherein a person
may hand write or type a large amount of strange stuff without consciously
willing to do so. The writer may have no clue where the writing comes from,
and may not remember knowing anything about the content.
A very famous early-recorded case of cryptomnesia
occurred in 1874. An English medium named William Stanton Moses claimed to
be in contact with the spirits of two recently departed Indian boys. This
information was later shown to have been picked up by Moses from a newspaper
obituary days earlier.
Another interesting example of cryptomnesia happened on a
television special in 1977. A woman was hypnotized and told vivid tales of a
past-life experience. She recounted a story about a famous witch who was
tried and acquitted in 1566, but gave the date as 1556. This date had come
from a reprint that the woman had seen in the British Museum.
While some people might feel a little disappointment over
the holes apparently blown in the case for past-life regression or spirit
visitation, cryptomnesia is an extremely interesting phenomenon from a
psychological perspective. Jung made the claim that cryptomnesia is a normal
part of the process of learning and the process by which memories are stored
and consolidated in the mind. This phenomenon is sometimes termed
cryptanamnesia or source amnesia (because the source of the memory is
What I have just set down is very much the orthodox
"scientific" view. You will note that I write "scientific" in quotation
marks. I do this because science demands proof, incontrovertible proof.
Since the orthodox view does not provide any proof it can hardly be
dignified by science.
The Collective Unconscious.
A view that does not embrace the idea of reincarnation is
that, in past life recall, a person's unconscious may be dipping into a
universal memory bank, analogous in some way to Carl Gustav Jung’s idea of
the collective unconscious. In this case the
subject may be drawing upon a story, with mythic components, from the past.
This story mirrors the client's own real-world problems.
In Jung’s understanding of the structure of the psyche,
Consciousness is described by him as developed as part of the evolutionary
process. The ego is considered the centre of conscious personality
and with it the individual is born. Jung considers it to be less developed
in preliterate cultures as he considers persons from such cultures to have
less concentrated reflection and therefore have a smaller "area of
consciousness" although how Jung could or would have measured this remains
somewhat of a mystery. Jung concluded that preliterate cultures are more
easily influenced by the stirrings of the unconscious that those more
literate cultures of the West.
In Jung’s structural hierarchy of mind, the unconscious
realm lies below the conscious realm. The unconscious is considered to be
the matrix out of which consciousness emerges in each succeeding generation.
Immediately below the consciousness is the personal unconscious. The
character of the personal unconscious is determined by the personal past of
the individual. Its contents are the personal experiences of the
individual's own lifetime, some of which have been repressed and others
which have simply been forgotten.
Within this personal unconscious lie what are referred to
as complexes. Complexes are ideas and thought that are coloured by
emotion. These are split-off from consciousness as a result of traumatic
influences and/or incompatible tendencies in the person’s past. Such
complexes may help or hinder conscious activity.
A complex, for example the mother complex, can become an
autonomous and fragmentary personality within the individual. This
fragmentary personality appears to live a life of its own. It dominates the
individual's thoughts, feelings and actions. Usually disturbing or harmful,
complexes can act positively by challenging the individual to seek new
possibilities. Jung believed that such unresolved problems were essential
for psychic, that is to say coherent mental, activity.
Deeper yet in the psyche, according to Jung, hidden
beneath the layers of the personal unconscious, are other layers that have
been formed over the millennia and in every member of our species. Here,
Jung says, lie the deposited residue of the experience of pre-human
evolutionary forms. Images retained in the human psyche from our long,
uphill, evolutionary struggle.
These layers beneath personal consciousness form what
Jung called the collective unconscious. This is the most important
and controversial of Jung's theories. In the dreams and fantasies of his
patient's Jung found ideas and images whose origins, he felt, could not be
traced to the individual's personal experiences. The resemblance of these
ideas to religious and mythical themes led Jung to refer to them as
primordial images or archetypes.
Jung thought that Archetypes are not memories of past
experiences but "forms without content" representing the possibility
of a certain type of perception and action. Archetypes provide a certain
kind of readiness to produce the same or similar mythical ideas over and
over again in all people. Jung considered them to be "the ruling powers,
the gods, images of the dominant laws and principles, and of typical,
regularly occurring events in the soul's cycle of experience."
Archetypes are responsible for that quality that makes us what we are –
human beings. They are also active agents that cause the repetition of these
same experiences in all of us.
We can only know of the manifestations of the archetypes,
historical and individual, and thus we are able to say very little
concerning them. Jung speculated that there are as many archetypes as there
are typical persons and typical situations found in human experience. In
view of the fact that archetypes appear to penetrate all of human experience
it is not possible to clearly describe them or circumscribe their limits of
operation or manifestation. To put it more simple archetypes do not lend
themselves to reductive explanation. To C. G. Jung, such explanation or
circumscription was neither possible not even desirable.
From his years of experience of psychiatric work and
phenomenological research into religions and mythologies, Jung was able to
identify several key motifs or roles that archetypes can take. The ones that
he believed were of particular importance included the persona, the
shadow, the anima/animus, the mother, the child,
the wise old man, and the self.
The persona is the mask we wear to make a
particular impression on others; the persona may reveal and conceal our real
nature. It is called an artificial personality because it is a compromise
between a person's real individuality and society's expectations of what the
external personality should be. Generally speaking we can mostly observe
that society's demands have a tendency to take precedence. The persona is
made up of things like professional titles, roles, habits of social
behaviour and so forth. It does have a purpose which is to both guarantee
social order and to protect the individual's private life. That is, when the
ego identifies itself with the persona, the individual become particularly
susceptible to the unconscious.
The shadow is a step further towards
self-realization providing one can recognise it and integrate it. The shadow
is the negative or inferior (that is to say undeveloped) side of the
personality. It is said to be made up of all the reprehensible
characteristics that each of us wish to deny, including the animal
tendencies that Jung claims we have inherited from our infra-human
ancestors. The shadow is said to coincide with the personal unconscious and
because all of us has one, albeit different, it may be considered to be a
The more unaware of the shadow we are, the blacker and
denser it is. The more dissociated it becomes from our conscious life, then
the more it will display a compensatory demonic dynamism. Sometimes it
projected outwards on individual or groups who are then thought to embody
all the immature, selfish, or repressed elements of the individual's own
psyche. Jung considered that symbols of the devil and the serpent contain
elements of the shadow. As an interesting aside, those readers who are
familiar with the major arcana of the Tarot, will be able to note the
significance of card XV The Devil as a partial instance of the shadow.
One is confronted by the anima (female) or
animus (male) once one has come to terms with one’s shadow. This is the
archetype which is said to personify the soul, or inner attitude. It is
usually a persona and can often take on some of the characteristics of the
opposite sex. The anima is represents the feminine in men, and is
derived from three sources namely, (a) individual man's experience with
women as companion; (b) man's own femininity which has its roots in the
minority of female genes and hormones present in man's body; and (c) the
inherited collective image that has been formed from man's historical
collective experience of woman.
The anima often appears in dreams particularly when it
remains submerged in the unconscious. It may also be projected outwards onto
other women, in the first instance the mother, then lover and wife as the
man develops and grows. This projection can be responsible for the
passionate attraction or aversion that a particular woman may cause in a
man. It is also responsible for the adult male’s general apprehension of the
nature of women and of the feminine principle. Jung was of the opinion that
should a man mistakenly identify with the anima then the result can be a
tendency towards effeminacy or more extremely homosexuality. The anima can
appear in a variety of manifestations. It can be an ambivalent image and has
occult connections with the ancient mysteries and hence a religious tinge.
The animus is the comparable counterpart in the
female psyche. It is said to be the woman's image of a man. Unlike the
anima, the animus appears in a plurality of forms. To Jung this reflected
the differences in male and female conscious attitudes. Jung’s view was that
the woman's consciousness tends to be exclusively personal and centred upon
the family, whereas the man is made up of various worlds of which the family
is only one.
The range of images of the mother archetype
are almost inexhaustible. The usual image is some form of maternal aspect.
This can manifest itself as the underworld, or the womb for example. The
most important form of this archetype is "mothers" taken in the literal
sense. It may also be symbolized in various impersonal forms such as church,
university, city or country, earth, woods, sea, moon, gardens, caves,
cooking vessels, as well as certain animals such as the hare or the cow. In
the Western cultural context other symbols include dragons, witches, graves,
the ocean, and death.
The child archetype takes many forms such as a
child (obviously), god, dwarf, hobbits, elf, animals, or objects such as
jewels or chalices. It represents original or child like conditions in the
life of the individual or the species, and thus reminds the conscious mind
of its origins and helps to keep them continuous. It can also signify the
potentiality of future personality development; it anticipates the synthesis
of opposites and the attainment of wholeness. The child archetype is said to
represent the urge and compulsion towards self-realization.
The wise old man is the archetype of meaning or of
spirit. More than often it appears as a grandfather, sage, magician, king,
doctor, priest, professor, or any other authority figure. It represents
insight, wisdom, cleverness, willingness to help, moral qualities. As with
the other archetypes, the wise old man also possesses both good and bad
Jung considered that the self is the most
important of all archetypes. It is called the "midpoint of the personality"
and is a centre between consciousness and the unconsciousness. It signifies
the harmony and balance between the various opposing qualities that make up
the psyche. It remains basically incomprehensible, as ego consciousness
cannot grasp this supra-ordinate personality of which the ego is only one
element. The symbols of the self can be anything that the ego takes to be a
greater totality than itself. Thus many symbols fall short of expressing the
self in its fullest development. Symbols of the self are often manifested in
geometrical forms called mandalas or by the quaternity which
indicates any figure made up from four parts or components. Prominent human
figures which represent the self are the Buddha or Christ.
As you will appreciate it is important to gain some small
understanding of the meaning of the collective unconscious and archetypes.
During hypnotic regression it is possible that the past life being described
is developed out of a series of archetypal projections used to form a story
that, while apparently realistic, is actually a mythical story in the sense
that the mind has created a myth to explain unconscious memories that may be
too traumatic to bring fully to conscious recognition. Thus the recall of a
past life is no more than a mask to release repressed memory of traumatic
events in the subject’s real life. Archetypes are used to create a symbolic
yet highly plausible story masking the true reality.
Genetic Memory Transmission.
Another possible explanation is that ancestral memory is
The majority of neuroscientists believe that long-term
memories are built into the brain by creating and strengthening connections
between neighbouring neurons. These physical connections called synapses,
are believed to join neurons together to form extremely complex networks.
These networks can then recreate specific patterns of brain activity such as
recall of memories, long after the initiating event.
The problem with this model is that these connections
would need to be permanent and stable, and the brain is not. Nearly all the
brain's molecules, including those that form the neural connections thought
to be involved in memory, are replaced every few weeks. How long-lasting
memories can be stored by such an impermanent medium has confounded
neuroscience for years.
The idea that our memories are stored in our genes is a
very recent and controversial one. It has been accepted since the
experiments of Wilder Penfield back in the nineteen fifties, that hidden
away in each of us is a permanent record of our past. We are reminded of it
regularly; for example how many times have you smelt a particular smell or
heard a particular song, and been instantly transported back to an intense
childhood memory? I am quite sure that every reader reading this lecture can
recall such an event.
So far we are aware of only three 'memory systems
occurring naturally. These are:
our evolutionary memory of which tells us how to build
a cognitive memory of events that we have experienced
a memory of past infections that assist in the efficient
functioning of our immune system.
Since two out of three of these systems are based upon
DNA, would we not expect nature to be efficient and seek the easiest way?
Surely nature is efficient enough to use the identical tools for the third
system as well, and not evolve yet another unique method.
If this theory is true, then our identity, our "self",
leaves a permanent mark on our genome. This, like the colour of our eyes, is
passed on to our descendants. It has been estimated that perhaps some 40% of
known personality traits are inherited, such as introversion/extraversion.
This theory could explain how.
If memory is stored in the genes do we have access to
instinctive memory? Is it possible to access other ancestral memories
located in our DNA? Could this be an explanation for past-life regression?
When your client regresses to memories from a previous life, is he or she
actually then accessing something in their genome blueprint? Perhaps it
could it be that he or she is actually recalling details of a life lived by
a genetic ancestor.
Hypnosis has been found to be an important tool for the
exploration of past lives. This is because hypnosis involves the
experience of an altered psychological state. It is this altered
psychological state that makes a person more receptive and responsive to the
suggestion of inner experiences.
The past life journey begins in the traditional manner of
a hypnotherapy session; that is to say with hypnotic induction followed by
deepening. This is followed by suggested regression and it is after
regression to a pre-womb time that the client identifies with a character
which is not his or her current life self. The first experience reported is
usually that of being in a physical body. The narrative may begin with
self-description or the description of a neutral scene in which the client
is participating. Alternatively, it may begin with a flashback sequence of
events as the past life drama unfolds.
A significant component of past life therapy is the
re-experience of a past life trauma. This is done differently with different
therapeutic methods and ranges from the temporary (psychic) removal of the
client from the painful situation, to the intensification of the stressful
experience. Conventional analytical therapists believe that the emotional
stress associated with a past life trauma should in no way be attenuated,
but should be experienced fully, and possibly intensified, so that the
client experiences abreaction and the trauma released.
Many physical complaints, fears, phobias, compulsions,
preferences, dislike and personality traits in the present life have been
shown to originate in former lives. The age of onset of a specific
psychosomatic symptom in the current life may well be significant, and may
correspond to the age when a trauma that is related to the current symptom
in the client’s actual life took place in a past life. Often people re-enact
past life experiences in their current life; therefore details of the
current problem, and of the age of onset, may provide valuable clues for
accessing a past life.
The past life death experience and the after-death are
valuable tools for transformation. This stage begins the process of
dis-identification with the past life character. There are individual
differences in the way the past life death and the inter-life are
experienced and reported. Most people describe sensations of floating above
a scene, moving towards the light and experiencing the spirit world. Almost
everybody going through this stage describes bodily sensations of lightness
and floating, and an experience of inner peace, joy and freedom. The
majority of reports appear to parallel what is known in current literature
as "near death experiences" and thus provide an interesting mutual
The after-death experience offers the opportunity to
review the life just re-lived and to look at the experiences in that life
from a different perspective. The client now can experience being more
detached and dispassionate towards the events just re-lived. When the
perception of a past life traumatic situation is changed or reframed, its
impact on the current life is reduced.
A great value of past life exploration is that valuable
insights can be gained into current behaviour patterns. A significant amount
of healing may result from releasing blocked emotions and from forgiveness.
A turning point in the current life direction is made when a client fully
understands and appreciates how past life experiences may have shaped his or
her present life and as a result of this is prepared to let go of entrenched
beliefs and behaviour patterns and start out on a new path. When past
behaviour patterns which operate unconsciously, compulsively and rigidly are
understood and released, the opportunity is there to experience freedom from
the past and, finally, to become the master of one's own destiny.
A final comment in this lecture; so far, no one has
produced any absolutely conclusive evidence either in favour of, or against,
reincarnation or any other theory. The existence of reincarnation is not a
necessary prerequisite for past life work to be successful. Also a psychic
experience or an imagined story created by the unconscious can offer
valuable insights to the person being regressed. This, however,
not in any way detract from the therapeutic value of past life regression
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Antony J. Edwards
DHyp DHP BCH FRSH MIAH MBIH MPLTA
Registered Clinical Hypnotherapist,
Hypnoanalyst and Psychotherapist
Tony Edwards is certified as a Registered Clinical
Hypnotherapist within the General Hypnotherapy Register and by the
validation board of the General Hypnotherapy Standards Council.
Tony has earned advanced qualifications in Clinical
Hypnotherapy and Hypnoanalysis. He has further advanced qualifications in
Psychotherapy and Behaviour Modification, in Stress Management and
Consultancy, in Transpersonal Psychology and in Meridian Energy Therapies.
He is a Member of the International Association of
Hypnoanalysts, a Member of the British Institute of Hypnotherapy, and a
Fellow of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health. He is also a Member
of the Association for Meridian Energy Therapies and other professional
bodies concerned with Hypnotherapy and Psychotherapy. Tony is a Member of
the NHS Directory of Complementary and Alternative Practitioners. He is a
Member of the Past Life Therapists Association.
Tony may be contacted by telephone at:
+44 (0)1206 503561
or by email via his website at
© A J Edwards, Colchester, Essex, 2006