Experiential Quests into Past Lives

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Experiential Quests into Past Lives

Some speculate that the phenomenon of past lives can answer troubling questions in the present and explain deja vu, a feeling that one has seen or heard something before. Many people report that they have walked down a street in a strange city and been overwhelmed with the sudden familiarity of its shop windows, sidewalks, and store fronts. Others say that hidden memories have been stimulated by witnessing a dramatic reenactment of some scene from the past in a motion picture or television production.

Throughout the centuries, millions of individuals, especially those who live in India and Asia, believe that they have lived before, and in recent years increasing numbers of men and women in the Western cultures have begun to explore the possibility that reincarnation is a spiritual reality.

Accomplished Broadway lyricist Alan Jay Lerner (19181986) said that the first-act ending of his musical Brigadoon (1946), which features an outdoor wedding ceremony in seventeenth-century Scotland, seemed at first to have sprung spontaneously from his mind. Several years later, when Lerner was in London, he came into possession of a book entitled Everyday Life in Old Scotland and found "his" marriage ceremony word for word. Lerner's later musical success, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, openly declared his fascination with the subject of reincarnation. The storyline tells of a Brooklyn model who is hypnotically regressed to an earlier life in eighteenth-century England.

British psychiatrist Dr. Denys Kelsey believed that his acceptance of the cycle of rebirth enabled him to show his patients how they might begin anew at any given moment. He was also convinced that it was occasionally possible for subjects to recall experiences that were felt centuries before their present incarnation. Belief in the doctrine of rebirth may have come somewhat easier to Kelsey than it might to the average psychiatrist because he was married to Joan Grant, an author who claimed to be 25,000 years old and to have soul memories of 30 prior-life experiences. Grant wrote seven popular historical novels without doing a bit of research, yet none of the material in her books has ever been successfully challenged by skeptical scholars. To the contrary, a good deal of the material in her books that was considered controversial at the time of publication has since been validated by archaeologists and historians. Every time, when queried how she could have acquired such knowledge, she attributed her accuracy to memories of her past lives.

Winged Pharaoh, the novel that Joan Grant wrote in 1937, described her life as a woman pharaoh in the first dynasty of Egypt, 4,000 years ago. On those frequent occasions when she was asked to comment on the book's almost biblical style, she replied that the words had just come out that way. She insisted that she never did any research at all and that she had previously known nothing of Egypt on the conscious level, yet Egyptologists had been unable to fault the book. Grant stated that even her critics had said that she couldn't possibly have made it all up, so she must have experienced it all to write in such detail.

Yonassan Gershom, a neo-Hasidic rabbi who lives in Minnesota, tells in his book Beyond the Ashes: Cases of Reincarnation from the Holocaust (1992) of hearing the terrible memories of concentration camps, gas chambers, barbed wire, swastikas, and the sadistic henchmen of Nazi Germany not from elderly Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, but from young people, many of them blonde, blue-eyed Gentiles of Nordic descent, who were being forced to deal with what appeared to be past-life memories of having died as victims of Hitler's "final solution" to the "Jewish problem." At the time he was writing his book, Gershom stated that out of the hundreds of people who had told him their dreams, visions, regressions, or intuitions of having died as Jews in the Holocaust, two-thirds had been reborn as non-Jews. Later samplings, however, indicated that many more Jews have also experienced such past-life memories. Gershom's later book, From Ashes to Healing (1996), focused on stories about the acts of physical or spiritual healing that have resulted from the act of recalling a Holocaust lifetime.

The aspect of physical and spiritual healing that accompanies a past-life recall is one of the principal motives in regression into prior-life experiences for therapeutic reasons. Benjamin Smith of Port Orchard, Washington, has been involved in past-lives therapy for over 25 years, and he stated that when he first began doing regressions, he was concerned with establishing dates, names, and locations associated with the past-life personality of his clients. "Then I discovered that they didn't really care if they would be able to trace and to prove a particular lifetime. All they were interested in was removing the personal problem that they had come to me for help in solving. I quit worrying whether reincarnation was real or not. The important thing to my clients was whether or not they discovered the origins of their pains, their traumas, and their problems. If the solution came from their previous lifetime or from their Higher Self, it really didn't make any difference to them."

In Volume 9 of Collected Works (1981) Dr. Carl G. Jung (18751961) expressed his opinion that "the mere fact that people talk about rebirth and that there is such a concept at all, means that a store of psychic experiences designated by that term must actually exist. Rebirth is an affirmation that must be counted among the primordial affirmations of mankind."

Benjamin Franklin (17061790) saw the whole matter of past lives and rebirth as a practical cosmic recycling: "When I see nothing annihilated [in the works of God] and not a drop of water wasted, I cannot suspect the annihilation of souls, or believe that He will suffer the daily waste of millions of minds ready-made that now exist, and put Himself to the continual trouble of making new ones. Thus, finding myself to exist in the world, I believe I shallalways exist; and with all the inconveniences human life is liable to, I shall not object to a new edition of mine, hoping, however, that the errata of the last may be corrected."

Delving Deeper

Gershom, Yonassan. Beyond the Ashes: Cases of Reincarnation from the Holocaust. Virginia Beach, Va.: A.R.E. Press, 1992.

Goldberg, Dr. Bruce. The Search for Grace. Sedona, Ariz.: In Print Publishing, 1994.

Guirdham, Arthur. We Are One Another. Wellingbor ough, Northamptonshire, Great Britian: Turn stone Press Ltd., 1982.

Jung, Carl Gustav, and Herbert Read, eds. Archtypes and the Collective Unconscious (Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Vol. 9, Part 1). 2nd edition. Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1981.

Lane, Barbara. Echoes from Medieval Halls. Virginia Beach, Va.: A.R.E. Press, 1997.

Stearn, Jess. The Search for the Girl with the Blue Eyes. New York: Bantam Books, 1969.

Sutphen, Richard. You Were Born Together to Be Together. New York: Pocket Books, 1976.

Hypnotic Regression into Past Lives

Richard Sutphen (1937 ) began his hypnosis and past-lives regression work in 1972 and was probably the first to develop a technique whereby a hypnotist might regress large numbers of men and women to alleged former lifetimes at the same time and in the same room. Sutphen began fine-tuning his style in his Phoenix, Arizona, home with a roomful of people at a time. He continued perfecting his technique in area colleges and high schools and at metaphysical gatherings in the Southwest. In 1973, he founded and directed a hypnosis/metaphysical center in Scottsdale, Arizona. The convenience of working at an established center provided him with the structure that he needed to experiment extensively with both individual and group techniques and the opportunity to amass a large number of case histories for comparison and contrast.

In 1976, Sutphen created and marketed the first prerecorded hypnosis tapes through his Valley of the Sun publishing company. In 1978, Pocket Books published Sutphen's You Were Born Again to Be Together, case histories of men and women who had found themselves and their loves once again after the separation of many lifetimes. The book became a national best-seller, and soon thousands of people wanted to be regressed by Sutphen and explore the possibilities of their past lives. To meet the sudden demand for his hypnotic abilities, he began holding past-life seminars in major cities throughout the United States and hosting an annual Super Seminar in Scottsdale. By the 1990s, over 100,000 people had attended a Sutphen seminar; his inventory had grown to include 380 audio and video titles; and he had written 18 books, including Past Lives, Future Loves (1978), The Master of Life Manual (1980), and Unseen Influences (1982).

"Past-life hypnotic regression can be used as an extremely valuable therapeutic tool to explore the cause of unconscious anxiety, repressed hostilities, hidden fears, hangups, and interpersonal relationship conflicts," Sutphen said. He cautioned, however, that past-life therapy is not a magic wand, and the past-life causes don't always surface immediately. "But it does work," he stated, "and it can be for many the first stop in letting go of a problem. Psychiatrists often spend months or even years searching for the cause of their patient's problem. They are aware that in understanding the cause they can begin to mitigate and, eventually, eliminate the effect. Yet by limiting their search to the time frame of only one lifetime, they may never find the origin of the present-life problem."

During one of his seminars, Sutphen spoke with a woman named Barbara who had driven hundreds of miles to be in attendance because it was important to her to experience past-life regression. She told Sutphen that she had several problems, some he could see plainly, others he couldn't. He could see that Barbara was obviously referring to her excessive weight when she spoke of some of her problems being easily visible. The attractive 29-year-old woman weighed 225 pounds.

As the seminar sessions progressed, Sutphen observed Barbara during two group regressions, trying to be comfortable in two chairs because her weight made lying down on the floor with everyone else too difficult. He could see, though, that she was a good deep-level hypnotic subject, for she had practically fallen off the chairs almost immediately after he had begun the process. During an evening session, Sutphen asked Barbara to join 11 other subjects on the platform for a demonstration of individual regression work.

During the group hypnosis of the 12 volunteers, Sutphen instructed them to think about something in their life that they would like to changeany kind of problem, habit, or personal situation. As he counted backward from three to one, they would move back in time to the cause of their present problem, whether it should be in their past, in their present life experience or in any of their previous lives. They would see clearly and relive the situation before their inner eyes, thereby understanding the problem and be able to release it.

That night a man cried out as he relived an ancient battle. A young woman relived the fear of being lost in the woods as a small child. A middle-aged woman was recalling starving to death in an African village. But when Sutphen came to Barbara, she cried out, screamed, and began to shake. Her voice became that of a young girl on the edge of panic. The hypnotist quickly redirected her from the alarming memory to a state of peaceful sleep. Later, after all the other subjects had been awakened, Sutphen asked if Barbara wished to explore in greater detail the prior life on which she had touched so emotionally. She eagerly agreed, and Sutphen once again induced the trance state.

In a few moments, Barbara was speaking in the voice and persona of a 12-year-old French girl, describing her luxurious home and her perfect life in eighteenth-century France at the time of the Revolution. When the hypnotist moved her forward in time, she experienced the arrival of soldiers who had orders to take her family to prison. Numerous humiliations followed, and the young girl was eventually killed by the revolutionaries.

After her death experience in that lifetime, Sutphen directed a question to Barbara's Higher Self: How had events from the past life in France related to her present life problems? From the depths of her hypnotic sleep, Barbara cried out that pretty people got hurt. She had been very pretty in that life in France and the soldiers had humiliated and killed her. "The only way to be safe is to remain ugly in the world," she said."

After she was once again awakened from the trance state, Barbara provided additional information about her weight problems. She explained how she had attended the best and most highly recommended weight-loss centers, but she could never shed the pounds. In some cases, she had begun to lose a little, then she would go on an eating binge and bring her weight right back to 225. One well-known specialist had told her that once she found out why she psychologically needed to retain weight, then she would be able to keep it off.

"You know you can do that now, don't you, Barbara?" Sutphen asked. She answered with a smile that now she knew that she could.

Sutphen has never been dogmatic in his definition of what reincarnation may be, but he remains convinced that regardless of how the question of rebirth is viewed philosophically, it would appear that which is perceived as the past is somehow affecting the present. And once one has pondered the significance of one's past lives, one learns how to transform the present into a meaningful growth experience and in this manner prepare for as significant a future as possible.

One of the best documented cases of reincarnation in recent times had another incarnation of its own when, on May 17, 1994, CBS presented a television movie "inspired by an actual case history," Search for Grace, starring Lisa Hartman and Ken Wahl. As fictionalized for mass viewing, the television drama is a thriller about an attractive young woman named Ivy who becomes ensnared by an over-whelming attraction for a powerful, suspicious stranger who turns physically abusive. When Ivy seeks psychological therapy for this irrational compulsion and for related nightmares, she is hypnotically regressed and begins to relive the events leading to the brutal death of a woman, Grace Lovel, which had taken place more than 60 years before. In her waking state, Ivy has never heard of the woman, and she has never been to the city in which her murder occurred. Ivy's confusion and terror grow as she learns that Grace Lovel actually did live and die exactly as she relived in the hypnotic trance. Even more frightening is the uncomfortable awareness that Ivy's violent new lover, John, bears an eerie resemblance to Grace's murderous boyfriend, Jake.

All of the above makes for an exciting evening in front of the television set, but it was based on an actual case researched and documented by renowned hypnotherapist Dr. Bruce Goldberg and reported in detail in his book The Search for Grace: A Documented Case of Murder and Reincarnation (1994). "Ivy's past-life regression revealed an eternal love triangle, a terrifying karmic dance of passion and murder, culminating in the short tragic career of one Grace Doze, a headstrong flapper from Buffalo, New York, whose reckless love life ended in murder," Goldberg states in his book. Exhaustive research enabled Goldberg to discover that even the smallest details of Grace's life and death could be explicitly documented through contemporary newspapers and police reports.

In Goldberg's actual transcript of the regression in which Ivy/Grace recalled the details of the murder that took place on Tuesday night, May 17, 1927, Grace had ditched her "boring" husband Chester and gone shopping. Although her new bobbed hairstyle, short skirt, and red shoes might be everything that dull old Chester hates, Jake finds them magnetically appealing. When he picks her up that night, Jake has already had a few too many drinks.

As Goldberg listened to Ivy/Grace altering her voice to speak both parts, Jake's foul temper is displayed, and the two of them get into a heated argument as they drive. Jake is angry that she dresses so cheaply and is still flirting with other men, and he punches her on the jaw. Although she is in pain, Grace is still conscious when Jake stops the car, threatening to teach her a lesson. He beats her badly, strangles her, and dumps her body in Ellicott Creek.

Goldberg guided Ivy/Grace to the super-conscious mind level and asked her if she knew Jake in her current lifetime. She answered without hesitation that he was John.

As a therapist, Goldberg was not particularly interested in obtaining documentation for his various patients' claims to past lives, but a search of old files from Buffalo, New York, newspapers for May 1921, 1927, produced accounts of a "handsome bob-haired woman found floating in Ellicott Creek," who had been strangled to death "before she was thrown in the water." At first there was doubt that the identity of "the beautiful young woman" would ever be determined. And then, on June 1, 1927, the Buffalo Courier reported the find of a "small black suitcase owned by Mrs. Grace Doze and carried by her the night she was thrown into the Ellicott Creek." When the police showed the suitcase to "Chester Doze, " husband of the murdered woman, he identified the bag and contents as the property of his wife.

Goldberg's book contains an astonishing 54 pages of documentationdeath and birth certificates, newspaper accounts, police reports, and so forththat prove to any reasonable person that Grace Doze, the victim of a murder in 1927, did most certainly exist. Exactly how Ivy's psyche gained that information remains a mystery. "Could it have been the unquiet spirit of the murdered young woman, working through her reincarnation as Ivy, that demanded at long last public resolution of the mystery of her death?" Goldberg asks.

One more eerie "coincidence" regarding the case must be mentioned. When Search for Grace was telecast on that Tuesday night in May 1994, it was 67 years to the hour since Grace Doze was murdered.

Delving Deeper

Gershom, Yonassan. Beyond the Ashes: Cases of Reincarnation from the Holocaust. Virginia Beach, Va.: A.R.E. Press, 1992.

Goldberg, Bruce. The Search for Grace: A Documented Case of Murder and Reincarnation. Sedona, Ariz.: In Print Publishing, 1994.

Sutphen, Richard. Past Lives, Future Loves. New York: Pocket Books, 1978.

Sutphen, Richard. You Were Born Again to Be Togeth er. New York: Pocket Books, 1976.

Bridey Murphy

To a great number of Americans, the name Bridey Murphy has become synonymous with reincarnation and accounts of past lives. The story of the Pueblo, Colorado, housewife who remembered a prior incarnation as a nineteenth-century Irish woman while under hypnosis made a dramatic impact upon the public imagination. Newspapers, magazines, and scholarly journals debated the validity of the "memory," and the controversy surrounding this alleged case of reincarnation has not resolved itself to this day.

William J. Barker of the Denver Post published the first account of this now-famous case in that newspaper's Empire magazine. Barker told how Morey Bernstein, a young Pueblo business executive, first noticed what an excellent subject "Mrs. S." was for deep trance when he was asked to demonstrate hypnosis at a party in October of 1952. It was some weeks later, on the evening of November 29, that Bernstein gained the woman's consent to participate in an experiment in age-regression.

The amateur hypnotist had heard stories of researchers having led their subjects back into past lives, but he had always scoffed at such accounts. He had been particularly skeptical about the testimony of the British psychiatrist Sir Alexander Cannon, who reported that he had investigated over a thousand cases wherein hypnotized individuals had recalled past incarnations.

Mrs. S., who later became identified as Ruth Simmons (and many years later by her actual name, Virginia Tighe), was not particularly interested in hypnotism, either, nor in becoming a guinea pig for Bernstein's attempt to test the theses of those psychical researchers who had claimed the revelation of past lives. She was, at that time, 28 years old, a housewife who enjoyed playing bridge and attending ball games with her husband.

With Rex Simmons and Hazel Bernstein as witnesses, the hypnotist placed Simmons in a trance and began to lead her back through significant periods of her childhood. Then he told her that she would go back until she found herself in another place and time and that she would be able to talk to him and tell him what she saw. She began to breathe heavily and her first words from an alleged previous memory were more puzzling than dramatic. She said that she was scratching the paint off her bed because she was angry over having just received an awful spanking. She identified herself by a name that Bernstein first heard as "Friday," then clarified as "Bridey," and the strange search for evidence of a former incarnation had begun.

Brideyshort for BridgetMurphy began to use words and expressions that were completely out of character for Ruth Simmons. Bridey told of playing hide'n'seek with her brother Duncan, who had reddish hair like hers (Simmons was a brunette). She spoke of attending Mrs. Strayne's school in Cork where she spent her time "studying to be a lady." With sensitivity she recreated her marriage to Brian MacCarthy, a young lawyer, who took her to live in Belfast in a cottage back of his grandmother's house, not far from St. Theresa's Church.

In her melodic Irish brogue, Bridey told of a life without children, a life laced with an edge of conflict because she was Protestant while Brian was Catholic; then in a tired and querulous voice, she told how she had fallen down a flight of stairs in 1864 when she was 66. After the fall, she was left crippled and had to be carried about wherever she went.

Then one Sunday while her husband was at church, Bridey died. Her death upset Brian terribly, she said. Her spirit lingered beside him, trying to establish communication with him, trying to let him know that he should not grieve for her. Bridey told the astonished hypnotist and the witnesses that her spirit had waited around Belfast until Father John, a priest friend of her husband's, had passed away. She wanted to point out to him that he had been wrong about purgatory, she said, and added that he admitted it.

The spirit world, Bridey said, was one in which "you couldn't talk to anybody very longthey'd go away." In the spirit realm, one did not sleep, never ate, and never became tired. Bridey thought that her spirit had resided there for about 40 Earth years before she was born as Ruth Simmons. (Ruth/Virginia had been born in 1923, so Bridey's spirit had spent nearly 60 years in that timeless dimension.)

At a second session, Bridey again stressed that the afterlife was painless, with nothing to fear. There was neither love nor hate, and relatives did not stay together in clannish groups. Her father, she recalled, said he saw her mother, but she hadn't. The spirit world was simply a place where the soul waited to pass on to "another form of existence."

Details of Bridey Murphy's physical life in Ireland began to amass on Morey Bernstein's tape recorders. Business associates who heard the tapes encouraged Bernstein to continue his experiments, but to allow someone else, a disinterested third party, to check Bridey's statements in old Irish records or wherever such evidence might be found. Ruth Simmons was not eager to continue, but the high regard that she and her husband had for Bernstein led her to consent to additional sessions.

Utilizing her present-life incarnation as Ruth Simmons, Bridey Murphy demonstrated a graceful and lively rendition of an Irish folk dance which she called the "Morning Jig." Her favorite songs were "Sean," "The Minstrel's March," and "Londonderry Air." Ruth Simmons had no interest in musical activities.

William Barker of the Denver Post asked Bernstein if the case for Bridey Murphy could be explained by genetic memory which had been transferred through Simmons's ancestors, for she was one-third Irish. Bernstein conceded that such a theory might make the story more acceptable to the general public, but he felt the hypothesis fell apart when it is remembered that Bridey had no children. He also pointed out that other researchers who have regressed subjects back into alleged previous-life memories have found that blood line and heredity have nothing to do with former incarnations. Many have spoken of the afterlife as a kind of "stockpile of souls." When a particular type of spirit is required to inhabit and animate a body that is about to be born, that certain spirit is selected and introduced into that body. Bernstein observed that a person who boasts of having noble French ancestry might have been a slave or a concubine on his or her prior visit to the physical plane of existence.

In Bernstein's opinion, one could take only one of two points of view in regard to the strange case of Bridey Murphy. One might conclude that the whole thing had been a hoax without a motive. This conclusion would hold that Ruth Simmons was not the "normal young gal" she appeared to be, but actually a frustrated actress who proved to be a consummate performer in her interpretation of a script dreamed up by Bernstein because he "likes to fool people." Or if one did not accept that particular hypothesis, Bernstein said, then the public must admit that the experiment may have opened a hidden door that provided a glimpse of immortality.

Doubleday published Morey Bernstein's The Search for Bridey Murphy in 1956. Skeptics and serious investigators alike were interested in testing the validity of Bernstein's experiments and in determining whether or not they might demonstrate the reality of past lives.

In mid-January of 1956, the Chicago Daily News sent its London representative on a three-day quest to check out Cork, Dublin, and Belfast and attempt to uncover any evidence that might serve as verification for the Bridey Murphy claims. With only one day for each city, it is not surprising that the newsman reported that he could find nothing of significance.

In February, the Denver Post sent William Barker, the journalist who first reported the story of the search for Bridey Murphy, to conduct a thorough investigation of the mystery. Barker felt that certain strong supportive points had already been established by Irish investigators and had been detailed in Bernstein's book. Bridey (Irish spelling of the name is Bridie) had said that her father-in-law, John MacCarthy, had been a barrister (lawyer) in Cork. The records revealed that a John MacCarthy from Cork, a Roman Catholic educated at Clongowes School, was listed in the Registry of Kings Inn. Bridey had mentioned a "green-grocer," John Carrigan, with whom she had traded in Belfast. A Belfast librarian attested to the fact that there had been a man of that name and trade at 90 Northumberland during the time in which Bridey claimed to have lived there. The librarian also verified Bridey's statement that there had been a William Farr who had sold foodstuffs during this same period. One of the most significant bits of information had to do with a place that Bridey called Mourne. Such a place was not shown on any modern maps of Ireland, but its existence was substantiated through the British Information Service.

While under hypnosis, Ruth Simmons had "remembered" that Catholics could teach at Queen's University, Belfast, even though it was a Protestant institution. American investigators made a hasty prejudgment when they challenged the likelihood of such an interdenominational teaching arrangement. In Ireland, however, such a fact was common knowledge, and Bridey scored another hit. Then there were such details as Bridey knowing about the old Irish custom of dancing at weddings and putting money in the bride's pockets. There was also her familiarity with the currency of that period, the types of crops grown in the region, the contemporary musical pieces, and the folklore of the area.

When Barker dined with Kenneth Besson, a hotel owner who was interested in the search, the newsman questioned Bridey's references to certain food being prepared in "flats," an unfamiliar term to Americans. Besson waved a waiter to their table and asked him to bring some flats. When the waiter returned, Barker saw that the mysterious flats were but serving platters.

Some scholars believed that they had caught Bridey in a gross error when she mentioned the custom of kissing the Blarney Stone. Such a superstition was a late nineteenth-century notion, stated Dermot Foley, the Cork city librarian. Later, however, Foley made an apology to Bridey when he discovered that T. Crofton Cronker, in his Researches in the South of Ireland (1824), mentions the custom of kissing the Blarney Stone as early as 1820.

Bridey was correct about other matters that at first were thought to be wrong by scholars and authorities. For example, certain authorities discredited her statement about the iron bed she had scratched with her fingernails after the "awful spanking" on the grounds that iron beds had not yet been introduced into Ireland during the period in which Bridey claimed to have lived. The Encyclopedia Britannica, however, states that iron beds did appear in Bridey's era in Ireland and were advertised as being "free from the insects which sometimes infect wooden bedsteads." Bridey's claims to have eaten muffins as a child and to have obtained books from a lending library in Belfast were at first judged to be out of proper time context. Later, her challengers actually uncovered historical substantiation for such statements.

Throughout the regressions conducted by Morey Bernstein, one of the most convincing aspects of the experiments had been the vocabulary expressed by the hypnotized subject. The personality of Bridey Murphy never faltered in her almost poetic speech, and of the hundreds of words of jargon and colloquial phrases she uttered, nearly all were found to be appropriate for the time in which she claimed to have lived. The songs that Bridey sang, her graphic word pictures of wake and marriage customs, were all acclaimed by Irish folklorists as being accurate. Her grim reference to the "black something" that took the life of her baby brother probably referred to famine or disease. The Irish use of "black" in this context means "malignant" or "evil" and would have nothing to do with the actual color of the pestilence.

Bridey Murphy did not always score hits, though. Numerous Irish historians and scholars felt that she must have been more Scottish than Irish, especially when she gave the name Duncan for her father and brother. Certain experts sympathetically suggested that she may have been attempting to say Dunnock, rather than Duncan.

William Barker could find no complete birth data for either Bridey or her kin, and he learned that she had shocked most Irish researchers with her crude term "ditched" to describe her burial. The Colorado journalist was informed that the Irish are much too reverent about the dead to employ such a brutal word.

Bridey demonstrated little knowledge of Ireland's history from 1800 to 1860. Bridey and Brian's honeymoon route was hopelessly untraceable and appeared to be confused with the trip that she had made to Antrim as a child of 10. The principal difficulty in accepting the whole of Bridey's story lay in the fact that so much of the testimony was unverifiable.

While most psychical researchers agree that the Bridey Murphy case is not a consciously contrived fraud, they will not rule out the role that some psychic or extrasensory ability may have played in the "memory" of the Irish woman allegedly reborn in a Colorado housewife. Other investigators have suggested that Mrs. S., Virginia Tighe, could have had several acquaintances throughout her life who were familiar with Ireland and who may each have imparted a bit of the memory of Bridey Murphy as it was mined from her subconscious by the hypnotic trance induced by Morey Bernstein.

As other researchers explored the claims of The Search for Bridey Murphy, the phenomenon of cryptomensia was also applied to the case when reporters for the Chicago American discovered that a woman named Bridie Murphey Corkell had lived across the street where Virginia Tighe had grown up. To say that cryptomensia was responsible for Tighe's alleged memories of a nineteenth-century Irish-woman is to propose that she had forgotten both the source of her "memory" and the fact that she had ever obtained it. Then, under hypnosis, such memories could be recalled so dramatically that they could be presented as a past-life memory.

The attempts to discredit Bridey Murphy as a manifestation of cryptomensia fail in the estimation of researchers C. J. Ducasse and Dr. Ian Stevenson (1918 ). In Stevenson's estimation, the critics of the Bridey Murphy case provided only suppositions of possible sources of information, not evidence that these had been the sources.

The controversy over Bridey Murphy and the value of past-life regressions still rages. Those who champion the case state that it cannot be denied that Bridey/Virginia possessed a knowledge of nineteenth-century Ireland that contained a number of details that were unfamiliar even to historians and authorities. Such details, when checked for accuracy after elaborate research, were found to be correct in Bridey's favor. Others insist that such data could have been acquired paranormally, through extrasensory means, and therefore does not prove reincarnation. Skeptics dismiss the evidence of Bridey Murphy's alleged past-life memories by stating that they originated in her childhood, rather than in a prior incarnation.

On July 12, 1995, Virginia Tighe Morrow died in her suburban Denver home. She had never again submitted to hypnosis by any researcher seeking to test her story. Although she never became a true believer in reincarnation, she always stood by the entranced recollections as recorded in The Search for Bridey Murphy.

Delving Deeper

Bernstein, Morey. The Search for Bridey Murphy. New York: Doubleday and Co., 1956.

Steiger, Brad. You Will Live Again. Nevada City, Calif.: Blue Dolphin Publishing, 1996.

Past-Life Therapy

In past-life therapy, subjects arrive at the office of a past-life therapist with a phobia, an obsession, or a compulsion that seems unrelated to anything they can remember in their present life experience. Their problem has increasingly begun to become awkward, stressful, or embarrassing. When they relive a past life during a hypnotic regression or in a dream or a vision, they view a scenario in which they see themselves setting in motion that karma, the initial action or deed that created their phobia, obsession, or compulsion. Dissociated from their present life experience, they become capable of accepting responsibility for a past action that was performed in a prior existence. Once the subjects have made the transfer of responsibility to the present life and have recognized that the "fault" or the trauma lies in a time far removed from current concerns, they are able to deal with the matter with a new perspective and without embarrassment or shame.

Today, a great number of past-life therapists have learned that it really doesn't matter whether past-life recall is pure fantasy or the actual memory of a prior existence. What does matter to the therapists is their claim that thousands of men and women have obtained a definite and profound release from a present pain or phobia by reliving the origin of their problems in some real or imagined former existence.

While skeptics may scoff at men and women who claim to recall past lives while under hypnosis, and even question their mental balance, psychiatrist Reima Kampman of the University of Oulu in Finland has said that her research demonstrates that people who are able to display multiple personalities or alleged past lives under hypnosis are actually healthier than those who cannot. According to Kampman, one of her subjects, a 28-year-old woman, revealed eight different personalities in progressive chronological order, ranging from a young woman who lived in Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution to an eighteenth-century titled English lady to a girl named Bessina who said that she lived in Babylonia. Contrary to what the established psychiatric literature would lead one to believe, Kampman stated, these were not troubled minds on the verge of fragmentation.

Compared with those who could not rise to the hypnotist's challenge, the multiple-personality group had greater stress tolerance, more adaptability, and far less guilt. Internal identity diffusiona neurotic quality defined as the discrepancy between what one feels about oneself and how one feels that others perceive onewas also greater in the nonresponsive group.

Kampman suggests that in the ego-threatening situation induced by the hypnotist's request for other personalities, only the mentally healthy can afford to respond creatively: "Creating multiple personalities is evidence of a highly specialized ability of the personality to extricate itself adaptively by a deep regression of the conflict situation created by the hypnotist" (Human Behavior, May 1977).

Bettye B. Binder, former president of the Association for Past-Life Research and Therapies, has conducted over 3,600 individual past-life regressions and has taught nearly 20,000 students in workshops and classes since 1980. The author of six books on past lives, her Past Life Regression Guidebook (1992) has become a popular textbook in the field. When asked to provide a case history demonstrating the benefits of past-life regression, she often makes reference to the case of "Darrell," whose story was featured on the television programs Sightings and 20/20.

A native of Toronto who has lived in Southern California for many years, Darrell came to Bettye Binder with a terror of drowning in the middle of the ocean. He was not frightened of seashores, swimming pools, or other bodies of water, but he would not venture far into the ocean because of a morbid fear of drowning there. In three separate regressions with Binder, Darrell discovered that he drowned in the middle of the ocean in three previous lifetimes. In one, he was a black slave in the South, about 1840, who tried to escape in a small boat that sank due to an explosion on board. In 1940, before the United States entered World War II, he was a young man from Pennsylvania who joined the Canadian Air Force and was shot down over the Pacific Ocean. His death on the Titanic, however, was the most important experience related to his phobia.

In regression, Darrell experienced being a crew member on the Titanic, which sank after striking an iceberg in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean in April 1912. He was asleep in his bunk when the crisis began. He was awakened and told to go to the boiler room where he worked. It was flooded, so he went to the next available boiler room that was still free of seawater. He and his workmates did their best to get the ship moving, but it soon became evident that the huge ship was sinking. Darrell's last memory in that lifetime was being tangled up in ropes as the ship began to lurch and dive into the depths of the sea.

Binder has had Darrell undergo this particular regression on many different occasions, both as a demonstration before students and for television. Each time, she has observed, Darrell receives more resolution from such explorations of his past life as a victim of the Titanic disaster. In June 1992, when she regressed him for a television crew, Darrell saw his angels leading him away from the body that was entangled in heavy ropes and being pulled down into the ocean. He felt peace and light come over him as he rose toward the heavens, and he also experienced great compassion for the man that he had been.

What is most significant about Darrell's case, Binder pointed out, is how the experience of past-life regression has turned his life around. When he had first come to her, she said, he was a timid, withdrawn, fearful young man, whose life and career were going nowhere. He had dreams of becoming an animator for a major movie or television studio, but those aspirations were not being realized. After a series of regressions in 1992, Darrell's career began to move in an exciting new direction. He began to exhibit a sense of peace and happiness that he had never before known. He became poised and self-assured. He was hired as an animator on a major feature film, and at Christmas in 1994, he was hired to direct an animated feature film, a huge career breakthrough.

According to Binder, "Darrell has learned lessons that he was unable to learn in his previous past lives in which he drowned, and he is no longer phobic about the ocean. Today, Darrell is a man who smiles easily and who is doing what he loves most in life. He has gained a spiritual peace for the first time in several lifetimes."

In her view of past-life exploration, Binder believes that the key to making reincarnation acceptable in the Western world lies in the culture learning to acknowledge individuals' true identities as souls that exist in a multidimensional universe where time is not limited to a linear construction. Through the altered states of consciousness available in meditation or hypnosis, one can experience what "multidimensionality" and "simultaneous time" feel like even if one does not yet understand what the words mean.

A teacher of reincarnation since 1980, Binder frequently emphasizes in her classes that individuals don't have souls, they are souls. "All of us are souls who chose to become human beings, but our human identity is limited to being in this body," she said. "The soul is pure energy, and energy cannot be destroyed. The soul's existence is independent of the body it occupies. It is the soul that continues to exist after the human body dies, and it is the soul that reincarnates lifetime after lifetime."

Dr. Russell C. Davis was editor of The Journal of Regression Therapy and practiced past-life therapy for 40 years before his death in 1998. According to Davis, the concept of an eternal part of oneself that moves from lifetime to lifetime is fundamental to conducting past-life regressions. Whether one chooses to call this "eternal part" the soul or the Higher Self, it is "the very core of the person that is accessed during the experience and in which is stored that collective awareness of what is and what was. Over the years, I have come to call this 'the part of us that knows and understands,' and it is this element of the person that I address during the regression experience. In essence, in conducting a past-life regression, this 'part [of the subject] which knows and understands,' the 'Higher Self,' is asked to reveal to the client's conscious awareness information and under-standing about a past life (or lives) and what its meaning is to the present."

Delving Deeper

Binder, Bettye B. Discovering Your Past Lives and Other Dimensions. Culver City, Calif.: Reincarnation Books & Tapes, 1994.

Binder, Bettye B. Past Live Regressions Guidebook. Torrance, Calif.: Reincarnation Books, 1992.

Moody, Raymond A., Jr. Life After Life. New York: Bantam Books, 1985.

Sutphen, Richard. Past Lives, Future Loves. New York: Pocket Books, 1978.

Wambaugh, Helen. Reliving Past Lives: The Evidence Under Hypnosis. New York: Harper & Row, 1978.

Weiss, Brian. Many Lives, Many Masters. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988.

Whitton, Joel, and Joe Fisher. The Case for Reincarnation. New York: Bantam Books, 1984.

Ian Stevenson (1918 )

Dr. Ian Stevenson is the former head of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia, and now is director of that school's Division of Personality. In the more than 40 years that he has devoted to the documentation of past-life memories, Stevenson has done a great deal to put a serious study of reincarnation on a scientific basis. His classic work,Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation, which was published by the American Society for Psychical Research in 1966, is an exhaustive exercise in research in which Stevenson dons the mantle of historian, lawyer, and psychiatrist to gather evidence from as many percipients as possible.

Stevenson has now collected over 3,000 cases of past-life memories of children from all over the world, and in 1997 published Reincarnation and Biology: A Contribution to the Etiology of Birthmarks and Birth Defects. In the first volume of this massive work, he primarily describes the various kinds of birthmarks, those uniquely distinguishing marks on a newborn's skin cannot be explained only by inheritance. The second volume focuses on deformities and other anomalous markings with which certain children are born and cannot be traced back to inheritance, prenatal, or perinatal (formed during birth) occurrences.

Although Stevenson concedes that nobody has "as yet thought up a way that reincarnation could be proved in a laboratory test tube," he argues that even in the laboratory the scientist cannot escape from human testimony of one kind or another. In his essay "The Evidence for Survival from Claimed Memories of Former Incarnations," which won the American Society for Psychical Research 's 1960 contest in honor of William James (18421910), Stevenson discussed a number of hypotheses that he feels deserve consideration in attempting to comprehend data from cases suggestive of reincarnation. Among these hypotheses are the following:

Unconscious Fraud. In some cases, other individuals have attributed statements to the subjects alleging past lives that they never made, and in this way have permitted the initial claim to grow out of proportion. Stevenson terms this a kind of "collective hallucination" in which further statements are imaginatively attributed to the subjects.

Derivation of the "Memories" through Normal Means with Subsequent Forgetting of the Source. Stevenson holds this hypothesis to be most often responsible for the many cases of pseudo-reincarnation. He quotes from the work of E. S. Zolik, who studied the ability of students to create fictitious former lives while under hypnosis. These fantasy personalities were the products of bits and pieces of characters in novels, motion pictures, and remembered childhood acquaintances. Because of the remarkable ability of the human mind to acquire paranormal information and to create fantasy personalities all its own, Stevenson cites another difficulty in serious research into cases suggestive of reincarnation: "We need to remember that items normally acquired can become mingled with those paranormally derived in the productions of persons apparently remembering past lives."

Racial Memory. Stevenson, a medical doctor as well as a psychiatrist, is well aware that science has not yet discovered the parameters of genetic transmission. He feels, however, that such a theory applied to the alleged memories of previous lives will encounter serious obstacles. While he concedes that the hypothesis of "remembering" our ancestors' lives might apply in those instances where it can be shown that the subject having the past-life memories belongs to a genetic line descending from the personality whom he or she claims to be, in most cases, Stevenson believes that the separation of time and place makes "impossible any transmission of information from the first to the second person along genetic lines."

Extrasensory Perception of the Items of the Apparent Recollections in the Minds of Living Persons. Stevenson finds it difficult to accept the theory that an individual gifted with paranormal talents should limit the exercise of such abilities only to communication with the specific living persons who might have relevant bits of information about the deceased personalities from whom the subjects claim to derive their memories.

Retrocognition. Stevenson is receptive to the notion that the psychic ability known as retrocognition could be responsible for some cases suggestive of reincarnation. The subjects in such cases could be stimulated by being at the scene of historical events, by some object connected with the events themselves or persons who participated in them, or in an altered state of consciousness, such as staring at a crystal ball or being in a trance.

Possession. The doctor recognizes the plausibility of temporary possession as an explanation for some apparent memories of former incarnations. But he makes a very important distinction: In cases of possession, the entity that has accomplished the transformation of personality usually does so solely for the purpose of communication with its loved ones on the physical plane, and it never claims to be a former incarnation of the subject who has temporarily provided a physical body. In true cases suggestive of reincarnation, there is no other personality claiming to occupy the body of the subject and the entity speaks of a former life, not of communication with surviving loved ones.

Delving Deeper

Stevenson, Ian. Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarna tion. 2d ed. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1974.

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