“Samsara-the Wheel of Existence, literally, the “Perpetual Wandering”-is the name by which is designated the sea of life ever restlessly heaving up and down, the symbol of this continuous process of ever again and again being born, growing old, suffering, and dying. (It) is constantly changing from moment to moment, (as lives) follow continuously one upon the other through inconceivable periods of time. Of this Samsara, a single lifetime constitutes only a vanishingly tiny fraction.”
- Gautama Buddha
The practice of Past-Life-Regression Therapy has a history that goes back till ancient times. Examples of regression practice during ancient times are the Greek dream incubation centers, Greek and Egyptian Mystery schools, Prati-Prasav (references to which can be found in the Vedic literature of ancient India), Jati Smaran (the name given to past-life recall in Jain scriptures) etc. References of past-life recall also exist in Buddhist Scriptures. In spite of its ancient history, past-life regression is a continuously evolving field with a wide range of techniques that have been developed till date and continue to be developed even now.
Freud can be considered as the grandfather of present day regression work. He came up with the idea that by making the unconscious conscious, one could restore choice and bring about healing. He discovered the link between past trauma and present symptoms and called it Psychic Determinism. He established that our past experiences determine our present behavior. This changed the face of psychotherapy forever and is the basis of regression work. Later, Jung postulated the concept of a Collective Unconscious and Archetypes (universal patterns).
In the 20′s and 30′s, Edgar Cayce brought about an increased awareness of past lives by channeling the past life information of people. In 1927, Paul Brunton wrote about a technique that the yogis developed to tune into past-lives. Wilhelm Reich made a great contribution by his classification of “Character Structures” . Rank, who was the first to focus on birth memories, was clearly ahead of his time. In the 50′s Stanislav Grof worked with altered states of awareness. He performed clinical trials with the drug LSD and found that, under the influence of LSD, many of the participants experienced previously inaccessible childhood memories and pre-birth & past-life memories. He later found that these states could be achieved using deep breathing sessions rather than LSD. Roberto Assagioli, the founder of the therapy called Psycho-synthesis and contributor to the branch of psychology called Transpersonal Psychology, found that altered states could be achieved through meditation.
Awareness of past lives reached much higher levels in the 60′s after the book “The Search for Bridey Murphey” which contains the detailed account of a Colorado housewife’s previous life as an Irish woman named Bridey Murphey. The book created a sensation at that time. Later, Morris Netherton established the affect bridge as a form of induction. In the late 60′s and early 70′s, age regression (moving backwards in time to tap early childhood memories) gained wide acceptance. Denys Kelsey and Joan Grant reported that people were able to remember the time of their conception and concluded that we all have the capability to function and record events even in the absence of a physical body. This was a turning point in past-life therapy.
1978 was a highpoint in past-life therapy work with four innovative books published in the same year. These were “Reliving Past Lives” by Helen Wambach, “You have been here before” by Edith Fiore, “Past Lives Therapy” by Morris Netherton and “Voices from other lives” by Thorwald Dethelfsen. Some of the major contributors to the field of Past-Life Therapy are Hazel Denning, Ronald Wong Jue, Ernest Pecci, Helen Wambach, Chet. B Snow, Roger Woolger and Hans TenDam. Ian Stevenson pioneered the research related to spontaneous recall of past-lives, particularly in children. Special mention needs to be made of the immense contribution made by Dr. Brian Weiss. His book “Many Lives, Many Masters” has become a modern day classic and is the most widely read book about past-life regression therapy. His other books are “Only Love Is real”, “Through Time into Healing”, “Messages from Masters” and “Same Soul, Many Bodies”.
Although we could mention only a few pioneers, there are many other stalwarts who have made significant contributions to the field of Past-Life-Regression Therapy.