Zelda G. Knight, Ph.D.
In 1995, Dr. David Edwards presented an article in the Journal in which he discussed the case of “Marian” and her processes of healing and growth through spiritual emergence (Edwards, 1995a). From the perspective of transpersonal psychology, Dr. Edwards’ colleague, Dr. Zelda Knight, now adds to our knowledge of “Marian,” focusing on two of her past lives that involved traumatic sacred initiation rites and the effect they have had on her insights and growth. On page 99 of this issue of the Journal, Dr. Janet Cunningham discusses similar difficult initiation rites, those of the ancient Egyptians.
Transpersonal psychology has developed a particular approach to psychotherapy – transpersonal psychotherapy – which seeks to incorporate and expand upon the assumptions and methods of traditional mainstream psychotherapy. Its principle assertion is that the experiences of non-ordinary states of consciousness – transpersonal experiences – have healing potential. Collectively, such experiences inspire an inner process Grof (1980, 1985, 1988) termed “spiritual emergence.” Spiritual emergence is an intensive process of psychospiritual transformation in which individuals experience a dramatic shift from an identity based solely on the personal self to an identity based on a spiritual and expanded sense of self. Under optimal conditions this may constitute a form of healing.
There are various types or varieties of spiritual emergence; one is past-life experience. This is the central concern of this article. Past-life experience is often interpreted as evidence for or against the concept of reincarnation. However, research and the experience of hundreds of past-life therapists has shown us that a belief in reincarnation is not a necessary prerequisite for the occurrence of a past-life story since this experience may often occur in psychotherapy despite the disbelief or doubt of both client and therapist (Knight, 1995, 1997a; Woolger, 1987, 1993).