Recently I read two books on psychology and therapy, which dealt with past-life regression and clairvoyance. The first one was Many Lives, Many Masters by Dr. Brian Weiss and the other was Many Mansions: The Edgar Cayce Story on reincarnation by Gina Cerminara. Both left a deep impact on me, enough for me to mull over the concepts discussed in them. I am sharing some thoughts here.
Disclaimer: I am not a theologian or a psychologist, nor do I claim deep knowledge of these subjects. I have merely shared some thoughts after reading the two books mentioned, which left a deep impact on my mind. And oh, in that sense, this is not a regular book review either!
First we should understand what ‘regression’ is, before going to past-life regression. This is the technique used by psychiatrists to ‘regress’ their patients under hypnosis, to their earliest childhood in order to probe into events which might have been erased from normal memory but which are creating problems in their adult lives. The problems are generally of the behavioural and emotional kind. Once the cause is found, suggestions to remove or alter the memories are planted in the subconscious minds of the patients to help them overcome the problems in their conscious life.
In his book, Dr.Brian Weiss recounts his experiences with a patient named Catherine, who had psychological problems and didn’t respond to the technique of ‘regression’ carried even to her earliest childhood. Puzzled, Dr.Weiss told her to go back to the time ‘from which your symptoms arise’.
What he discovered was most astonishing and life-changing for both doctor and patient, for she went back several lifetimes to recount a traumatic event. Over several sessions, she went back to past lives spanning millennia and recounted events that had happened to her in those lives. Dr. Weiss then used suggestions based on her experiences in various lives to cure her of all her problems — physical, mental and emotional.
During her sessions with Dr.Weiss, Catherine not just recounted her observations of the lifetime she was regressed to, but also relayed what the ‘masters’ said to her about life, spirituality and other matters. They were apparently the souls who were waiting to progress to the ‘next level’. Intrigued and curious, when he tried to ask more questions of these ‘masters’, she sometimes said that they had ‘gone’.
Just as reincarnation is an accepted concept in Hinduism and Buddhism, it is also believed that souls wait for the right time to reincarnate. So it is quite plausible to accept that some of the evolved souls or masters biding their time out there, spoke through the voice of Catherine.
After three and half a months of therapy, Dr.Weiss was astounded at the change in his patient. In his own words, “Not only had Catherine’s symptoms virtually disappeared, but she had progressed beyond merely being cured. She was radiant, with a peaceful energy around her.”
The awareness of the causes and effects of karma is perhaps the single most important factor that can help spiritual evolvement of human beings. Our sages reiterated the fact that we are born as humans so that we may have the chance to work out our karma, both good and bad.
For in Hinduism unlike Abrahamic religions, the soul does not go to heaven or hell for eternity. True we have Chitragupta, the book-keeper of Yama the god of Death, who reads out our good and bad deeds and calculates the period for which we are to live either in Swarga or Naraka. These are just transitory places before the soul is reborn again for another shot at balancing the karma to attain moksha, which is salvation from the cycle of birth and death.
The concept of karma was instilled into my head even as a kid. I grew up hearing admonishments that went, ‘Don’t squash the ant,’ or you will be born as one in your next birth and get crushed like that.’
Or my father saying with great equanimity after losing a large sum to a bad loan, ‘I must have owed him in my previous birth and have just settled that debt in this life.’
Cause and effect, action and reaction: Karma was simply explained in simple language using every day situations.
To my mind, karma is a wonderful spiritual concept to be familiar with. When one is going through a bad patch in life, or when is laid prone by some disability, it makes things easier to own up responsibility for the situation. For going by the law of cause and effect, we are only paying for some action in this life or an earlier one. But this certainly doesn’t mean that those who believe in karma are passive, fatalistic or apathetic to one’s own sufferings of or that of others. But I will come to that later.
Though past-life regression has been used by modern day psychiatrists since the 1950s with astounding results in terms of permanent cure, it has been used by yogis in our country for millennia. Called prati prasav, which means re-birth, it finds mention in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. Even today there are many sadhaks in India who practice this form of yoga. Some interesting links to browse.
As a yogic practice, past life regression needs to be done under the supervision of trained masters. And even as a tool of psychiatric treatment it needs to be used cautiously as some times the patients are too disturbed by them even after coming out of the hypnotic trance. You can read more about the clinical aspect of past-life regression here.
According to Wiki, in the religious mythology of China, the deity Meng Po, also known as the Lady of Forgetfulness, prevents souls from remembering their past lives by giving them a bittersweet drink that erases all memories before they climb the wheel of reincarnation. Just imagine what would happen if we remembered our past lives in detail. I am sure we have the benevolent deity Meng Po to thank for making us forget them!
Coming to the second book, Many Mansions: The Edgar Cayce Story on Reincarnation, the author Gina Cerminara has analysed the thousands of clairvoyant readings given by Edgar Cayce with a focus on karma and reincarnation. A devout Christian, Edgar Cayce had the uncanny gift of clairvoyance. But unlike ancient seers and sages who could summon the power at will, his clairvoyant capabilities were induced only under a hypnotic trance.
While under trance, he could diagnose and suggest treatment to a host of medical problems of people whom he had never met. All he was given during the trance were their names, addresses and problems. When carried out, even if they seemed odd and at variance with medical truths, the treatments he prescribed had astonishing results.
From simple medical solutions, Cayce progressed to what Cerminara calls ‘life readings’ which were about the past lives of the subjects. Unlike past- life regression where the subjects themselves went back to earlier lives and recounted their experiences, it was Cayce who ‘looked’ into the past lives. Without using the word karma, he created the cause and effect scenario, telling the subjects whom he referred to as entities, what corrective course of action they should take in terms of improving their behaviour and progressing spiritually while carrying out the prescribed physical corrections.
Cerminara has made a strong pitch for using clairvoyants to help psychologists under controlled lab conditions in order to study the process scientifically, in order to convince those who only believe what she calls the Modern Messiah – Science.
Once again, the art of clairvoyance is not a new concept to Hinduism. It was possessed and perfected by our sages and seers and with which they could see and sometimes feel events and situations happening elsewhere — thousands of miles away or even in another time and age.
This facility is called Divya drishti or gnana drishti, that is, ‘the super-sight obtained through knowledge’. Our ancient rishis had controlled their minds through severe austerities to such an extent that they not only gained divya drishti to look beyond time and space, but also could be in two or more places at the same time, leave their bodies and travel in their astral bodies and do many such feats. Even in this day and age we have evolved spiritual masters amongst us, who have this power to see into the past and the future.
…. Next: Gina Cerminara’s analysis of Edgar Cayce’s life readings, karma and reincarnation and my reactions to them. Stay tuned!