by Daniel W. Miller, Ph.D.
Cultural differences may manifest themselves in many ways. Of interest and importance to practitioners of PLT is the awareness of the cultural framework and reference points accepted and understood by the client. Dr. Miller has visited Brazil on many occasions and has used these opportunities to observe and explore some of these culture-specific assumptions as apply to the practice of PLT.
I’d gone to Brazil almost annually since 1981 to participate in Metaphysical Conferences in Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro, conducting past-life therapy and training sessions afterwards. In 1991 I went to Sao Paolo for the Fourth Annual Metaphysical Conference to lecture, and conduct workshops and individual sessions again. From my work with the Brazilians, it became clear to me that, although many of them suffer from the same fears and blocks to accessing the paranormal dimension that North Americans do, many more have already reached accessibility to psychic levels of function. However, it sometimes turned out that what I thought would be a past-life regression took on other forms that I did not anticipate and had not encountered in my workshops with European or North American people.
Brazilians have a unique culture incorporating African, South American Indian, Portuguese, and Spanish influences. Their cultural life, religious beliefs, music, and art have been integrated and synthesized, interweaving all these energies into a tapestry whose form becomes purely Brazilian. Lately, North America has had a powerful impact as well, and this is most clearly evident in the unlikely combination of their music and psychotherapy.
Native Indian and African belief systems keep them extraordinarily accessible to the transpersonal dimension. Spiritism, the everyday version of accessing spiritual entities for healing purposes, is probably better accepted as a mode of physical healing than Western medical practice. One sees children taken by their parents to spiritist healers instead of to medical doctors to heal physical as well as emotional problems. Poverty probably plays a role in this since medical treatment is too expensive for the average Brazilian citizen. However, there are stories of cures which certainly can’t be explained by the Western scientific paradigm. Alternative medical centers specializing in acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic, and relaxation massage are common sights on the streets of Sao Paolo. My first visit to Brazil had been for the combined purposes of investigating psychic surgery, which I found entirely credible despite North American scientific incredulity, and conducting regression sessions.
This acceptance of spiritual energy and alternative treatments as part of the culture makes regression work in Brazil relatively easy. Brazilians certainly have their fears and blocks when it comes to the transpersonal domain, as seen in the following cases, but their initial belief in it gives them the drive to overcome that aspect of the regression process with greater ease. However, the Brazilian Medical Association, which apparently views itself as the determiner of what constitutes scientific research and therapeutic purity, has been attempting to disenfranchise the Brazilian Past Life Therapy Association, headed for many years by Maria Julia Prieto Peres, M.D. The power struggle also involves insurance payments for which past-life therapy has so far been found unacceptable. Accreditation will not be easy.
Despite these obstacles, the Brazilian Past Life Association has developed a training program which includes a variety of familiar therapy concepts and techniques, ranging from Psychoanalysis, through Transpersonal and Humanistic Psychology, Psychosynthesis, Transactional Analysis, Bioenergetics and Gestalt to Past-Life Regression. Its sources are clearly based on the creativity of the North American psychotherapy movement. Because it is so comprehensive, it takes several years to go through the program which seems more thoroughgoing than any single American training program. However, most American therapists have exposure to the other modalities during their own training period, freely choosing their preferences from the American therapeutic potpourri. There are very few capable trainers in those therapies apart from the past-life training program in Brazil so its comprehensiveness is necessary as well as commendable.
The following are a couple of examples of the unusual turns that sessions took in Sao Paolo in 1991.
The Case of the Fearful Shaman
His jerky, nervous movements, wide dark eyes darting bird-like around the room beneath a neatly groomed, wavy head of black hair, bespoke anxiety underneath his clean, pressed clothing. When I asked for a volunteer in the group in Sao Paolo to do a past-life regression I knew I would probably choose him if he showed any kind of openness to the process. For one thing, he spoke English fluently so I wouldn’t need a Portuguese translation. In speaking to the group about himself he revealed that he had images that frightened him—images of being in strange countries that he had never actually visited, like Egypt. He had had spiritual experiences, he thought, since the age of four. Sometimes an impulse came, seemingly from nowhere, which took him out of his body and frightened him. He’d return suddenly, dropping down with a thump back into his body. He liked people and knew he wanted to help them but thought he needed some help himself.
I’d observed him enter the workshop room about an hour late with a woman who said she read Tarot. She was light-skinned, of stout build, and looked rather atypical for a Brazilian. She said his problem was that he was too good to others; he gave too much of himself away and others took advantage of him. She was obviously a strong supporter. I felt that his energy was probably the most available for a regression so, when he volunteered, I chose him for the demonstration.
He lay down on the royal purple 5′ by 8′ rug covering the foam rubber, followed instructions to breathe deeply and as I helped him to relax his body and enter into the trance state I could see that he rapidly entered deeper layers of the unconscious. His body began twitching uncontrollably with a fairly regular pattern centered around his feet, a pulse was visibly pounding in his stomach near the diaphragm, and his lips were moving though nothing was audible. Following the trance part of the regression I directed him to a door in a warehouse which contained all the memories of present and past lives. He was to open it to enter a past life. He started by opening the door, but reached a problem very quickly.
The dialogue that follows is not verbatim but is very close to what occurred. “FS” stands for “Fearful Shaman” and “DM” stands for myself.
FS: I can’t go any further.
DM: You can’t go further?
FS: Something is blocking me.
DM: What are you feeling?
FS: Frightened, very frightened.
DM: What are you seeing?
FS: Nothing, nothing.
FS: Just a vague form.
DM: O.K. Let’s go slowly. Let it take a shape.
FS: Yes, it’s forming something.
DM: Yes? (pause for an answer, nothing forthcoming) Is it a person?
FS: I can’t tell. (pause) Yes, perhaps.
I thought that we had very quickly reached a past-life figure, but it turned out that we had not. The person that he saw was his father in his present life. He was there to block his path and to prevent him from going any further into the past. FS asked him to get out of the way but he wouldn’t budge. I realized that I had neglected to do my usual inquiry about relationships with parents in this life by asking for information and memories that would help establish the continuity between the past life and problems in the current life. However, the priorities reasserted themselves anyway. As I inquired about his present life experiences, particularly in relation to parents, I realized that he was coming out of the trance state, but continued anyway because I thought the information was important.
His father had always been a very distant person with whom he’d had very little contact even though he never left the family. He felt neither anger nor love toward his father. He was essentially a non-entity in his life. He had died approximately three years ago and he had no feelings about his death. I briefly challenged his lack of feeling about his father, but felt that his defenses were too hardened to deal with in this session. I hoped we could get around them. He had been raised by his mother with whom he shared loving feelings. (Any Oedipal elements of that relationship were not explored). His mother was warm; she made all the decisions, if he wanted anything he just went to her. He never wanted to talk to his father.
I didn’t want to lose the trance state completely so with just that sketchy family biography I asked him whether he could return to the relaxed state. He said he thought he could. He lay down, breathed deeply again, and after a few minutes the leg movements and the diaphragm pulse returned. I asked him to see his father again and to ask him to leave. He did so. He told him he had no right to block his path. His father resisted leaving, claimed his right to do what he thought best for his son, but finally complied with his son’s request. I asked him to continue breathing deeply, to allow himself to sink more deeply into his body and to return to the entrance to the past life. His body continued the involuntary twitch and when, after awhile, I asked whether he was in the past yet, he said he was. Was his father present? No, he was not. What could he see? He could see another figure forming.
DM: Can you see his feet? Can you see what he is wearing? Just tell me whatever you can see.
The pulse in his diaphragm was vibrating rhythmically and fast, legs were moving in and out, side to side, and breathing was deep and regular.
FS: Yes, it’s forming—a man—strange clothing—dark skin, thin, like in India.
DM: Yes? What else is there?
FS: He is alone.
As he became clearer, the man’s personality also started to take shape. He was an Eastern Indian, well-dressed, of some special status in that society. He was a spiritual man and appeared to be clothed in flowing religious garments. As the description of the man grew sharper and stronger, FS became more agitated. His body movements became more spasmodic and his breathing became laborious. It was evident that he was becoming more frightened.
DM: Who is this man?
FS: I don’t know. He’s a spiritual man.
DM: What are you feeling?
FS: I’m frightened, very frightened.
DM: Tell me about your fear.
FS: I don’t want to be him.
DM: No? Why not? Why don’t you want to be him?
FS: He is an important person. He is somebody special. I don’t want to be somebody special.
DM: How can you tell that he is somebody special?
FS: There are many people around him. They expect something of him. He is a very spiritual man.
DM: Can you tell what country you are in? Do you know?
FS: I can’t tell for sure. From the clothes they’re wearing, Egypt maybe.
DM: What do they expect of him?
FS: There is a fire.
DM: There is a fire?
DM: Where? Is the house burning? Is it in a fireplace?
FS: It is in a box.
DM: In a box? (My confusion must have been very plain).
FS: Yes. He is being given the fire by an old man. The old man is someone special too.
(I quickly decided to accept the irrationality of “a fire in a box” since it appeared to be a religious rite).
DM: Why is he being given the fire in the box?
FS: He is one of them now. He is a spiritual leader of the people. He has done many good things for them. He doesn’t want to be a leader, but he is.
DM: What are they saying to him?
FS: It is in a strange language, but I can understand it somehow.
DM: Can you speak it now?
FS: No. It’s Hebrew. I don’t know Hebrew.
(I made a mental note of the shift in identity from Indian to Egyptian to Hebrew and decided not to challenge it at present. Either way, it was a strange country with a strange language and I didn’t think that the consistency and logic of it was the most important thing. Perhaps it would be possible later to verify the fire in the box ritual as a spiritual rite in either culture).
He next described a scene in which he in turn was handing over the fire in the box to someone else. He was now older, and this was a younger man who would help him in his work.
It had been over an hour already. I felt we had a fairly long way to go to resolve this experience and I sensed the group was getting restless and losing interest, though I was intensely involved. I asked whether he knew the name of the spiritual man, but he didn’t know it, nor the exact century in which the event was taking place. Later I thought that the shift from an Egyptian to a Hebrew culture, though confusing at first, may have indicated a time period that scaled the flight from Egypt to the early period of the Hebrew nation. There is also sometimes, especially in early regression sessions, pressure from different past lives as if several want to come in at once and there is a consequent shift in identification of various elements in the story. However, I didn’t want to shift him into a logical mode because it would seriously interfere with the story line which itself appeared cohesive and consistent.
When I asked for information about the manner of death of the religious leader, FS’s body abruptly began shaking in great agitation and he began to cry.
FS: No, I don’t want to.
DM: No? Why not? Is it too terrible to see?
FS: Yes. I don’t want to see it.
DM: I understand, but it is very important for you to see it. This seems to be a strong cause of your fear. It will help to release you from your fear if you can let yourself see it, and experience your death in that life.
FS: Alright. (He regains control of himself and his body stops shaking).
DM: Tell me what happens. How do you die?
FS: (abrupt) I am asleep in my bed and I am murdered.
DM: How are you murdered?
FS: With a knife.
(I note that in order to relate the event he has to avoid his emotions so has detached himself. He has become factual and rational).
DM: Please start at the very beginning. Take it one step at a time. What are the circumstances? Go slowly up to the moment of death itself and experience it as fully as you can.
FS: I am in my bed, asleep. I can feel him in my room. It is dark so I can’t see him. I know that he wants to kill me.
DM: Why does he want to kill you? Who is he?
FS: He is my first assistant, but he is jealous of me.
DM: He’s jealous of you?
FS: (Quiet sobbing) He is jealous of my power and of my standing among the people.
DM: What does he want?
FS: He wants power for himself.
DM: Is he doing this alone, or is he part of a group?
FS: A group. It’s another sect, a sect that wants to have more power. He is the leader of that sect.
DM: What do you feel?
FS: I want him to kill me. I am waiting for him. I can see him now. (The intensity of his crying increases).
DM: Yes? And what happens next?
FS: (He is obviously very frightened but accepts the inevitability of the murder without resistance. He struggles, puts his hand on his diaphragm, and breathes heavily as if struggling for air. He thrashes about uncontrollably, then his body gradually grows calmer, his breathing becomes steady and easy).
DM: What’s happening?
FS: I can see my soul, my spirit? (His voice has a questioning intonation).It seems to be over me now. But it isn’t me. It is me and it isn’t me.
DM: (I’m a little confused by this because it is usually clear which is body and which is spirit).What do you mean?
FS: There’s my spirit but it’s not me, it’s like somebody else’s spirit.
DM: It’s not the spirit of the spiritual leader?
FS: Yes, but it’s not me.
DM: (I develop a sense that he’s talking from his present self). Are you in your present body?
(This is not the way it usually happens. The spirit of the dead person does not hover over the present person but over the body of the deceased).
DM: Do you mean he is here in present time?
FS: Yes, he’s here.
DM: Why is he here? What does he want of you?
FS: He wants to give me instruction. He wants to direct me on the right path.
DM: OK. But he belongs to the world of the other spirits.
FS: No, he doesn’t want to go there. He wants to stay here to instruct me.
DM: Is he like your spiritual guide?
DM: Do you want him to remain as your spiritual guide?
FS: I don’t know.
DM: You have a choice here. He doesn’t have to remain if you don’t want him to. Although he is a very powerful entity you have the power to make him go if you want him to.
FS: (long silence, no answer)
DM: Do you want him to stay?
DM: Do you want him to guide you on your spiritual path?
DM: You can do that if you want to, you can let him stay. But he had a terrible death. He was murdered. People who have been murdered, or commit suicide, often either don’t realize they are dead or they don’t want to leave the earthly plane. They’re not ready to go because of the circumstances around their death. A part of you is afraid to go on the spiritual path because of what happened to him.
FS: Yes, I know about that now.
DM: Since he was murdered and he was your own past life you carry in you the fear of his death happening again on your own spiritual path.
FS: Yes, I don’t want that.
DM: But this is also a new life. You can do it differently this time. That fear doesn’t really belong to you now in this life. Can you separate that fear that belongs to him in the past life from you in your present life to go on without it?
FS: Yes, I want to do that.
DM: OK. You may continue to need help with that. But he is a very powerful spiritual leader, he has a lot to teach you and it’s worth a try. (It’s been a very long session, I’m tired, and he seems content to keep his situation as it is). Later on, you many need some help again. Are you ready to return fully to your present body?
DM: OK. I’ll count slowly backwards from 20 to 1 and when I’m finished you will be fully present in the here and now, in your present body, in this room, fully in your own life. Are you ready?
(When I finish counting, he opens his eyes. They are steady, his body is resting quietly, he looks around, and then at me).
DM: Are you fully here?
FS: Yes. But I’m very tired.
DM: Would you rather talk to the people here now, or would you rather rest quietly in a private room?
I take him to a room and make him comfortable. We chat a bit. He is feeling fine, the anxiety is not evident. In his discussion with the group later he shows that he has recalled and fully grasped what has happened during the session. He understands the implication of keeping the spiritual guide with him and that it means he is committed to his spiritual path. I support his purpose and assure him that he has a great deal of spiritual ability which is well worth developing. We part company and I am not sure that I will ever see him again since I’m leaving Brazil the next day.
The Case of Isadora and the Inca
On Thursday, June 6, 1991 at 9:00 A.M., working in the Pax Center in Sao Paolo, I found out that the client for that hour had canceled and, having too many clients, or so it seemed, I had no regrets. At 9:15 I was told by an interpreter that a woman with an appointment with another therapist had seen Gular, a Brazilian TV personality, interviewing me on his popular TV show and insisted on having a session with me.
I’d come down to Sao Paolo for the third year in a row to deliver a paper about homeostasis and “Quontic Psychology” (my theoretical rendition of the way spiritual and material consciousness are interconnected, with ample use of scientific research) at the Fourth International Metaphysical Conference. It was my sixth trip to Brazil. After the conference came the TV show, newspaper interviews, and a weekend workshop. My sessions in Organic Process/Past-Life Therapy took hold and I was much in demand. However, someone trying to break the door down because it was urgent for her to see me was unusual.
After some discussion I agreed to talk to her to find out why it was so important for her to see me rather than another therapist who had been assigned to her. She entered my office, not over five feet tall, rotund, with dark skin and black hair, wearing an unattractive dress. She said she had received “a message” (from a spirit was implied) saying that she was supposed to see a past-life therapist and when she saw me on Gular’s TV program she said “that’s him.” Perhaps more out of curiosity than anything else, I agreed to give up my unexpected free time to work with her.
I conducted the usual questioning period that I use to find out what problems exist in the here and now of a person’s life. This will help later to establish the continuity between past and present problems. She said that she didn’t have big problems, only little things here and there that she could manage by herself and that she was happy enough with her husband and her children. I assumed that I was being given the standard defensive maneuver of “I’m not going to take responsibility for myself by telling you anything, but perform a magic feat and heal me of everything immediately with one past-life regression.”
However, further inquiry about her present life and her childhood did not reveal anything traumatic or even very painful. She described her childhood as one in which she had enough freedom to make her own choices and to enjoy herself. She came from Bolivia where the family wasn’t at all prosperous, but had enough for ongoing needs. I could not locate very strong blocks against feelings; she seemed honest and open enough. I then decided that I didn’t have to wait for another session to conduct a regression to see what would happen.
During the trance relaxation her breathing was deep and more complete, without fear, than I expected. However, as the relaxation procedure, which starts with the feet, proceeded toward her head her breathing became very labored and she made sounds that seemed to come from a great depth. I wondered whether she had entered a birth primal, but as I listened further I felt she was in a deeply unconscious trance state. I asked her to tell me what she was experiencing but she only continued her intense breathing while making deep sounds. I considered the possibility that she had become a medium for a spirit entity.
As an exploration of that idea, I invited a possible entity to make itself known and to speak to Isadora. Her breathing became more labored, as if she were becoming very anxious. I thought I was on the right track and reassured the entity that we were its friends and would not harm it. We just wanted to make contact. Almost inaudibly, in a deep voice, it said, “I’m here.”
The following is not verbatim; it is a summary of the interactions that occurred as I recalled them on the following day. “DM” stands for my inquiries and “SE” stands for Spirit Entity. When she speaks, “I” will stand for Isadora. In effect, it is a summary of a session that lasted over an hour and a half.
DM: Why have you come to visit Isadora?
SE: I’ve come because she is one of us.
DM: Who are you?
SE: There are many of us here.
DM: Why are you here? Why are you still connected to an earth person, a human being with flesh and blood?
SE: She is one of us.
DM: What do you mean? Who are you?
SE: We are Inca.
DM: Where are you from?
SE: We are guardians of Machu Picchu.
DM: Is there anything you want Isadora to know?
SE: Yes, there is much that we want her to know. They have caused us great suffering.
DM: Who has caused you suffering?
SE: The people of flesh and blood who have come and destroyed us and our places.
(Later, I realized that I was puzzled by this but didn’t pursue it. It’s possible that as entities who died in a terrible way centuries ago, they didn’t go on to prepare for another life but have remained at Machu Picchu to protect it from other ravaging humans. Isadora’s entity may not be aware of the human quality of time).
DM: What do you want Isadora to do?
SE: She must tell other humans of flesh and blood about us. She must tell them about us.
DM: That you are the guardians?
SE: Yes, that we guard the temples and the secret places. She must know this.
DM: What is your name?
SE: (There is a long pause, then a period of stuttering and reiteration of a “Ka, Ka, Ka” and a long “O” and an aspirated “Ah” which sounded to me like Kakakakoah).
SE: (the name is repeated again laboriously). She must visit Porto do Sol and Machu Picchu.
DM: What must she do there?
SE: At Porto do Sol there is a door with an inscription surrounding it. This is a secret inscription and she must read what it says. It is very important for her to know what the inscription says.
DM: Why is it important?
SE: I am forbidden to tell. It is a secret. She must decode the inscription around the door.
DM: But if it is a secret how can she decode it?
SE: She must read it. She will know how to read it.
DM: The Porto do Sol is in Machu Picchu?
SE: No. Porto do Sol is different. Porto do Sol is in Tihuanaco. It is in Bolivia.
DM: Porto do Sol is in Bolivia? Then why must she go to Machu Picchu?
SE: There is a mountain which has eternal silver. It is a place that is very special. There is a lot of energy in the silver mountain.
DM: Is it silver because of the snow?
SE: Yes, the snow never melts. It is a very important point of energy. It throws the energy everywhere.
DM: This is a very special kind of energy?
SE: Yes. You will feel its power.
DM: Do you live in Machu Picchuor in Porto do Sol?
SE: Lake Titicaca was made by Inca. We live deep under the waters of Lake Titicaca. But we also protect Porto Do Sol.
DM: Why is it important to go to Machu Picchu?
SE: In Machu Picchu there is a door to a staircase. This staircase leads to a secret city. There is a secret city under Machu Picchu.
DM: How will she know where to find the staircase?
SE: She must go there and she will know. We appear as lights and we will be able to help her.
A strange sense of my own possible relationship to Isadora and the Inca began to weigh upon me. I knew I wanted to do a kind of pilgrimage to Machu Picchu for several years. Now an opportunity presented itself in a way that I had not expected. I decided to talk to the Inca on my own behalf.
DM: Do I have any connection to all this? Do you have any knowledge, any connection with me?
SE: (Pause and heavy breathing) Yes. You are a brother, one of my brothers, from the same civilization. He chooses you.
I wasn’t convinced but I asked what I was supposed to do, how I might serve. He said that I was to go to Porto do Sol and there I would find out something that was written. There would be many details for me to see, and that I was to spread the word of their problems. (This was prior to the current civil warfare in Peru). I wondered how this could happen and if I might be able to speak to the directress of the Pax Center.
Because she found herself in such a beautiful place, Isadora resisted returning to her body and required coaxing. Her voice shifted from the deep Inca tones to her normal voice saying, “I am very content to know what I must do.”
After she returned to present time and place, I was concerned about how she felt but there was nothing to be alarmed about. She was happy to have made the contact, and her affect was cheerful as we discussed another appointment to channel the Inca again. This time she said she didn’t want to pay the fee because it would be for my benefit. (Very much in touch with reality, I thought). I agreed to split it with her since it was for the benefit of both of us. She would return on Monday, the morning of my departure from Sao Paolo.
The trance induction for the second session was brief. Isadora made contact with the Inca after just a few minutes of relaxation. His voice came through more deeply and firmly than before. I acknowledged the strength of his presence. I wanted to clear up the uncertainty about his name. This time it came through without the alliterated “Ka” as “Karooa” with a heavily accented “aaah” at the end. I asked him to spell it. I gave Isadora a pen and paper and without opening her eyes she painstakingly wrote his name.
I remarked that there was a “k” in the middle, sounding like “Kakooa.” He said it could also be spelled “roa,” which she wrote on a second line, and that either way was acceptable. Verbally, however he always pronounced it “Karooa” with the “r.” I know nothing about Inca language. He said something about having a different language than the one we speak, presumably Inca. We exchanged further conversation about possibly meeting again. I was startled by his statement that he would appear to me as a light form in Machu Picchu.
DM: As a light? (Tensely) How will I know you from other lights?
SE: I will come close to you. Do not be afraid.
It was as if he sensed my mood. I was struck by the connection between Isadora’s appearance and the strong attraction I felt to Machu Picchu. It seemed like a synchronistic merging of energy, a resonance between this and another dimension. Later, I asked the therapy center’s director about the possibility of organizing a trip to Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca, but that was not to be.
Isadora was in good spirits when we parted. There was an affectionate farewell after this last intriguing regression session in Brazil.
These two cases demonstrate the ease with which Brazilian clients accept the presence of spirits in their lives and sometimes find them helpful. This is very different from the usual American reaction to the presence of spirits, which are often assumed to be hostile or at least alien and intrusive. This benevolence may stem from the Brazilians’ wider and perhaps more holistic and interconnected view of the “self-in-the-world” than American individualism accepts. This factor makes past-life regression work in Brazil always different and always new.