by Alan Vaughan
This article introduces the concept of channeling, or receiving paranormal information, as a model for past-life recall. Past-life “memories,” says the author, can be channeled for others as easily as for oneself, as demonstrated by a group of past-life therapists. Contrary to Ian Stevenson’s assertion, he finds that the efficacy of past-life therapy does not depend on the beliefs of therapist or client.
An interview with the late Helen Wambach gives an overview of her research finding that 98 percent of people are able to have “controlled daydreams” of their past lives. It is suggested that channeling past lives for others is an equally common capacity.
Past-life therapy is viewed by many psychologists and psychiatrists as a memory phenomenon under hypnosis. I view it as channeling, since the personalities that come through are spiritual entities. As the subjects do not normally remember past-life events, we can classify the recall of memories of persons long dead as extrasensory perception or telepathic channeling. Furthermore, I find it just as easy to channel past lives for someone else as to do it for myself.
At an APRT workshop on channeling past lives in 1986, I read this statement by Virginia psychiatrist Ian Stevenson, a noted researcher of children’s spontaneous past-life memories:
The claims of therapeutic benefit from hypnosis that include the recall of apparent memories of previous lives have no support from scientific investigation because of what is called the psychotherapist’s fallacy. Many people get well just from somebody listening to them. In psychotherapy, people can get well under a variety of circumstances. If you believe that the recovery of a memory of a previous life is going to help you, and you are in the hands of an understanding, sympathetic person who is willing to listen, you may indeed get better. The fact that incidentally you seem to remember details of a previous life may have little or no bearing on your improvement.
(Venture Inward, Vol. 1, No. 1 , p. 42.)
The group members, many of whom were professional past-life therapists, unanimously and vehemently disagreed with Stevenson. They pointed to the extraordinary successes of PLT in curing both mental and physical problems, adding that many of their clients had already tried conventional therapists who were quite sympathetic but whose techniques just couldn’t help. Past-life therapy was often a last resort.
Stevenson’s downgrading of hypnotic past-life recall seems to stem from his own disappointment in hypnotizing subjects. He and another hypnotist had worked on 14 cases with this technique, hoping to bring out more details, especially those which could be verified. It was his conclusion that it was unsuccessful in every case.
Perhaps Stevenson should have persevered. According to Canadian psychiatrist Joel Whitton, only one person in 10 is capable of going deep enough into hypnotic trance to provide verifiable details of past lives. Checkable data, such as names, dates and places, are logical, left-brain information; channeling operates mostly through imagery of the intuitive right brain. It is a rare person who can access extrasensory left-brain information while in hypnosis. So-called “past-life memories” are not physically in the brain, as would be memories of a car accident in the brain of a witness who is asked to recall a license plate number under hypnosis.
Stevenson’s objection that past-life therapy works only because of a therapist-client shared belief system does not hold up. There are cases of successful PLT in which neither the therapist nor the client believed in reincarnation. Such a case was stumbled upon by a British psychiatrist, Denys Kelsey, and it introduced him to the concept of past-life therapy over thirty years ago. He tells the story in Many Lifetimes, co-authored with Joan Grant (Doubleday, 1967).
Kelsey was treating an English clergyman who felt deeply that his homosexual lifestyle didn’t work for him. For the first 13 sessions Kelsey used standard therapeutic techniques, including hypnosis. Nothing helped. The clergyman still had a fascination for young men, who consistently left him heartbroken and lonelier than before.
On the 14th session, Kelsey induced hypnosis with the intention of asking the clergyman what made young men so desirable. But, instead, he said, “See who is causing you to have these feelings.”
The clergyman unexpectedly began to describe a past life in which he had been “the Hittite wife of the governor of the foreigners who have invaded my country.” This Hittite woman lived in luxury for a time. Then she discovered that she had been supplanted, not by another woman, but by a handsome boy. Humiliated and jealous, she stole her husband’s dagger to have it cursed by the priests of Baal so that her husband would find life bitter. The curse backfired: the Hittite wife was herself stabbed to death.
Taking advantage of this surprising response, Kelsey asked the clergyman to imagine that he was a priest listening to the Hittite wife’s confession. “She understands the nature and the magnitude of her transgressions, and has resolved never to act in this way again,” Kelsey explained. “What would you say to this woman?”
“I would give her absolution,” was the reply. Then, kneeling in prayer for the Hittite wife within him, the clergyman found serenity and release. “I know it is finished,” he said. “I am no longer a homosexual.”
Four years later the clergyman wrote Kelsey that he had found happiness with a woman. The old compulsion had been exorcised.
Sexual orientation is notoriously resistant to change by therapy. Yet in one hour the clergyman’s innermost sexual feelings had been transformed by channeling a past life and absolving past misdeeds. Modern psychiatry no longer regards homosexuality as a disorder. But in this particular case it was the source of much pain and loneliness — cured in an hour by a technique neither the client nor the therapist even knew existed.
In 1969 I had the opportunity to interview Denys Kelsey, who was then working with his wife, Joan Grant. Kelsey would hypnotize clients and ask them to look at past lives that had caused present problems. Grant, who also wrote novels about her own previous incarnations, would channel the past lives retrieved by the client to gather additional information. They reported many successful cures.
Joan was ill on the day of the interview, but Denys volunteered to give me a demonstration of his hypnotic technique. He induced a hypnotic state by asking me to stare at a black spot on the ceiling. Then he took me back in time to find an answer to my question. I witnessed a scene in the Roman arena, where I saw a giant of a man, dressed in leather as a gladiator. The crowd roared as he crushed someone to death with his incredible strength.
I had seen this same scene a few months earlier, under hypnosis with another past-life therapist. Then I was the gladiator. Now I was the crushee.
Many years later, in 1982, I became editor of Reincarnation Report and decided to have my first past-life reading. I wrote to Ed Monroe, a trance channeller in Taos, New Mexico. His tape-recorded reading started off with the same past life: I had been a gladiator in the Roman arena, he said, and I would seek the public arena in this life. That crumbled my skepticism. I had indeed sought the public arena. Perhaps I was trying to learn how to be in that arena without hurting anyone.
I can trace other attitudes to possible connections with the Roman gladiator. In college, I majored in Greek and Latin, and was fascinated by Roman history. I have an abhorrence of arena-style violent sports, such as boxing and football. Could these attractions and repulsions be in reaction against that gladiator?
Channeling Past Lives of Others
At my APRT workshop in 1986, I asked the participants to channel past lives for others — a novel idea to the therapists. Many of them were using hypnosis to help clients recall past lives. Several had personally undergone such hypnotic therapy, but none had attempted to channel information about someone else’s past lives.
I had the participants pair up, and then guided them into an altered state of consciousness. (I call my technique “guided meditation,” rather than hypnosis, since it puts my subjects in contact with their higher selves to get information on their own, instead of at the command of the hypnotist. Besides, my subjects go into a lighter trance than is usual in hypnosis.) I then gave instructions for each of them to get information about a past life of his or her partner. Because so many of these therapists had extensive experience exploring their own past lives, the group offered an unusual opportunity for confirmation of the material retrieved.
Every one of them was able to get past-life information about their partner. Some reported that the past lives channeled for them dovetailed with elements of their personal histories and interests. About 25 percent said that the channeled material corresponded with past lives they had themselves seen in earlier hypnosis sessions.
I have used the same technique with hundreds of people and find that the results are generally remarkable — to both channeller and subject. Many channellers, when they begin to see mental pictures and hear phrases, feel that they are “just making it up.” That is exactly how the creative process works — and the associated psychic process as well.
Helen Wambach on Past Lives
Some of the most sophisticated research into past lives was done by the late Helen Wambach, a clinical psychologist who became my good friend and teacher. Her two important books are Reliving Past Lives (Harper & Row, 1978) and Life Before Life (Bantam, 1979). In an interview, she summarized some of her findings:
Vaughan: How many people have you hypnotized in group sessions?
Wambach: A lot more than I should have — at least six or seven thousand. That includes people in Canada and England. I wanted to find out if my statistics were stable over a larger group than the thousand in my first group. But I felt it was more important that other hypnotists, using my method, using other subjects, would get the same results. So I concentrated mostly on training other hypnotists to regress subjects to the same time periods that I had, and had them send me their data sheets. That way I could see if their percentages corresponded to mine…
My study was easy to repeat because I made a manual, word for word, of everything I said. All anybody had to do was read that to a group of people and have them fill out the data sheets and mail them to me. The variables then would be the personality of the hypnotist, the geographical or social nature of their subjects, as opposed to mine. I found the data very stable. The larger the sample, the closer they came to my statistics.
Vaughan: The primary objective of your research has been to come up with sample statistics to show the distribution of past lives throughout time. How does that work out? A question people often ask is, “Aren’t there more people living now than ever lived in the past?” And here you have 98 percent of the current population who can recall past lives.
Wambach: This is a common question. And it’s most difficult to grasp intellectually. In the first place, my charts of population do not include the current life of the subject. If I put in the number of current lives the graph would go way up in the 20th century. However, each of my subjects chooses one out of five time periods. So the way I did the research means that I could chart population growth only to the year 1900.
I found the same population curve of increase starting in 1600 that Aldous Huxley talks about in his book The Human Situation, when he is quoting biologists’ estimates of population increase. So my figures from 2000 B.C. to 1900 [A.D.] actually do follow the projected populations that the biologists have reported.
What many people don’t understand is that in former times many people died by the age of 30 or 35. One of the important things that has happened in our time period is the great extension of the life span. So there are more people alive now than there ever were in the past — because of the conquest of disease. Also, the death rate of children under five is 50 percent in most primitive cultures. That means that souls would come in, see a chicken pecking in the yard, and die at 3 of summer diarrhea. So souls get a lot longer period of life here on earth now. That may be why the population has increased at such a fantastic rate.
Vaughan: What do you say to skeptical parapsychologists, such as Dr. Ian Stevenson, who dismiss hypnotic regression material as fantasy — no more believable than dreams?
Wambach: But exactly! I’ve got people in the dream state. I have no argument with Dr. Stevenson. I simply wanted to know if people dream my dreams instead of their own. Because I direct the dream to a past life, what would I get? Would I get the normal phenomenon of dreams, in which the movie or television show you saw last night appears fleetingly in your dream, along with the office next Tuesday and your childhood home? There is no doubt in my mind that the dreaming mind, which I would call primary process in Freud’s terms, is a huge grab bag of everything that we have ever seen or experienced, as well as everything that we have experienced secondhand. I can’t rule this out. I just have to test it.
I went at my research backward. First I found out what I could check, and then organized my data sheets to answer my null hypotheses. For example, in Edgar Cayce’s readings everybody was around Jesus. I reasoned that there weren’t that many people in Israel, and therefore I used 25 A.D. as one of my time periods. I wanted to see where the population was distributed. If it was fantasy, I would expect far more in Israel, or in Rome with Caesar, than could have been then.
So for each time period I set up a hypothesis based on American culture. In 500 B.C. I am going to get Egypt or Greece, because that’s all we know about. In 25 A.D. I am going to get Israel or Rome. I picked 1700 because I was going to get American Pilgrims, as we are all exposed to Thanksgiving Day stories. I picked 1850 because I figured I would get Scarlett O’Hara and the Civil War. So I picked these time periods with the hypothesis that we would get more past lives as things we know about our culture.
But when I tested, I found that in 500 B.C. I had more people in China than in either Greece or Egypt. In 25 A.D. only six out of 1050 subjects were in Israel. The great majority were in Turkey, over the Indus River and Pakistan. Only three subjects reported listening to somebody preach in Israel; two of them didn’t know who was talking, and only one subject out of 1050 was listening to Jesus.
Vaughan: How about present-day psychic past-life readers? How do their readings compare with material of your regression subjects?
Wambach: My method is very special. Most regressions say, “Go to the past life where you had a problem,” or, “Just go to any time.” People seem to be drawn to traumatic episodes in past lives when they are allowed to go to them spontaneously. One of my questions was, why is it that in the National Enquirer past-life stories everyone seemed to be eaten by a bear or had some dramatic end to their life? I reasoned that most of us don’t die by murder. So I wanted to do it rigorously by time period, not by its meaning to the individual. That’s why I made my study so rigid. As a result, I got a much more normative picture of past lives than either past-life readers, who may pick up emotional things, or the kind of person who regresses to a problem life and goes to a therapist because they feel bad. So the therapist says, Go to that period when you felt bad again.
My subjects mostly die lying on straw mats in little huts. They died because their lungs weren’t working very well. I figured the statistics on death by murder or violence and found it reasonably low — about nine percent of all past lives.
Hints for Channeling Past Lives
In channeling past lives for yourself, it is best to have a reason. You may want to investigate the possible origin in a past life of some present situation or problem. You may want to find out if you can draw upon talents and wisdom of a past life for present unfoldment, expansion of your creative talent.
Often it is easier to channel past lives for other persons in response to their need to know. Your ego is less likely to get in the way and distort the material. If, as Helen Wambach suggests, past-life channeling is the same as controlled daydreaming, all you have to do is have the intent to focus your consciousness on a past life that may be of particular interest to someone or to yourself. Your intent will trigger information from the higher self of the other person. You can think of the process as asking your own higher self to contact the higher self of the other person; then all you have to do is observe the images and speak them out.
Don’t get overly concerned with names, dates, countries, places — that is logical, left-brain material. What counts most are the emotional and vivid scenes that evoke a response—of healing, of enlightenment, or at least, “So that’s why I feel like I do.”