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Passport to Past Lives: The Evidence by Robert T. James

Reviewed by Thelma B. Freedman, Ph.D.
In JRT Issue 20, 2005


Robert James has written a fascinating account of his extensive research projects and the findings from them. He first presented two brief overviews of his work in the pages of the Journal, V. VII (1993) and V. IX (1995), and spoke about it at the APRT Spring Conference of 1995 in Washington, DC, which focused on research. This book expands on his previous work and provides rich detail about his results.

Dr. James’ first research project was designed to test many of the claims that critics raise about past life regressions and therapy. Noting that some critics claim that most published regressions come from people in therapy for emotional problems, he asked whether or not normal, mentally healthy people would report past lives as well.

He also wondered if age, education, or religious belief would have an effect on the ability to report a past life, a claim sometimes made by critics. Other frequent assertions of critics is that only those who have a belief in reincarnation will report past lives, or that a hypnotherapist who has such a belief will either deliberately or inadvertently structure the session in such a way that the person will report a past life. Dr. James wanted to test these claims also.

Dr. James’ second research project was designed to answer questions arising from his first project, such as how past lives might fit into our evolutionary past. He also tried to get material that was verifiable from public records. For these reasons he asked the participants to regress to 1) the first lifetime they had lived on Earth and 2) their most recent lifetime.

For his first project, Dr. James worked with 104 people who reached a reasonable depth of hypnosis (out of 107 original volunteers), 81 of whom reported past lives. These were all well-functioning people who were not and had never been in treatment for any emotional problems. They were of all ages and both genders, and had varying religious beliefs and levels of education. For his second project, he worked with 49 people; 44 regressed to two past lives, one their most recent and the other their first lifetime on Earth, as Dr. James requested.

The book is divided into three parts. In Part One Dr. James describes his first research project and his rationale for it; in Part Two he presents transcripts of past lives reported by many of the participants in the first project; and in Part Three he describes the past lives reported in his second project. Although all of the transcripts are fascinating, the most unusual are the “first lives on Earth” presented in Part Three. These range from animal to primitive human to alien, and as Dr. James would agree, they raise more questions than they answer.

The book contains four excellent appendices: Appendix A: the Information Survey questions, Appendices B and C: the Statistics of the first and second research projects, and Appendix D: “Verifiable Past Lives?” which presents encapsulated descriptions of 22 of the lives reported in the second project that may be verifiable. These descriptions include names, dates, and places, all in the United States in recent time periods, and one of Dr. James’ hopes is that readers who live in those places may become interested in tracing the records to see if those people actually existed, and if so, whether or not the circumstances of their lives are consistent with the past lives the participants reported.

Dr. James describes himself as a skeptic, and one who is ready to follow the evidence wherever it leads. He was a lawyer for many years before he retired, and his work reflects the precision and care one expects from a lawyer. Here you will find no wild claims, no theories presented without evidence, just the facts, folks, the facts of what his participants reported. And in the process, he has presented us all with a wealth of evidence to follow.

Passport to Past Lives is an invaluable addition to the literature on past lives. It is that rare bird, a book that is accessible and interesting to the lay reader as well as informative and useful to the professional past life therapist. What’s more, his findings do succeed in de-bunking the critics’ claims.

Dr. James inscribed my copy of Passport to Past Lives with this quote:

 “Do not go where the path may lead.

Go instead where there is no path,

and leave a trail.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Dr. James has indeed gone where there was no path, and he has left a trail for all of us.

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