PAST LIFE THERAPY
The system of Past Life Therapy (PLT) or Past Life Regression (PLR) necessarily entails a belief in the theory of reincarnation. The therapy works on the premise that the cause of a patient`s physical and/or psychological ailments might result from a trauma that a patient had experienced in an earlier existence, or at any rate, by some sort of personal ordeal buried deep within the subconscious.
Practitioners of PLT use methods ranging from hypnosis to acupuncture for inducing patients to regress to their past lives and identify the root of their present problems. This is the first phase (the `realistic-cathartic` stage according to Jungian psychotherapist, Roger J. Woolger). The next step (`symbolic-archetypal`) is for the patient to project the present self onto a past personality. The third step is to come to terms with what has been relived through regression in this `integral-mystical` stage. The therapy proves to be beneficial only when the patient is able to accept the past trauma and is ready to progress beyond that.
SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT:
Schools of thought dealing with PLT vary according to their degree of leaning towards the theory of reincarnation. The concept of regression is as old as Patanjali`s Yoga Darshan, which was written around the 4th century BC. In his treatise Patanjali, the ancient Indian Yoga philosopher, talks about the soul (chitta) being burdened with the accumulation of impressions (samskara) of karmas from previous existence. He advocates the practice of yoga meditation for alleviating the soul from such interminable encumbrances. The Buddhist concept of Nirvana works along similar lines.
Madame H.P. Blavatsky, cofounder of the Theosophical Society, and her particular brand of theosophy were together responsible for introducing the idea of reincarnation to the Western world. But much before the theosophical school, Spiritism—the French branch of spiritualism in the 19th century—under the leadership of Allan Kardec, was to have a brush with past lives. In his book, The Book of the Spirits (1857), Kardec writes about "spirits" who spoke through mesmerized patients about reincarnation and karma. But the first person to use regression as a therapy was probably Dr Denys Kelsey. Co-authored with Joan Grant, Kelsey`s Many Lifetimes (1967) is the first book on PLT, which focuses more on the therapeutic aspect of the technique than on stories of relived experiences. In some ways the book triggered off tussles between a predominantly spiritual and a growing scientific/clinical attitude towards the system of PLT.
Transpersonal psychology, the branch of psychology which recognizes the spiritual aspect of the mind, explains the therapeutic basis of PLT with the help of parapsychology, altered states of consciousness and brain anatomy. Even though the theory of reincarnation forms the substratum of this alternative therapy, a lot of PLT practitioners focus on treating the behavioral problems of patients rather than dwelling on spiritual aspects of life. However, nearly all schools of thought affiliated with PLT invest in the basic belief of karma and cycles of rebirth. Some—like Dick Sutphen, the past life therapist responsible for popularizing PLT in the West—even believe in the non-linearity of time and the multilevel existence of souls. But most of these differing views finally all come down to Patanjali`s theory of the chitta (soul) being burdened by samskaras (impressions) from past existence and weighing down on our present lives. And therefore the need to cleanse the soul of all its excess burden by identifying the source of all suffering and uprooting it right from its origin.
Center of Scientific and
R. Aurea, 226,
Sao Paulo, Brazil
The Journal of Regression Therapy