Helen Wambach became famous because her pioneering spirit and indomitable curiosity about what lies behind everyday life problems led her to continually explore ahead, opening new windows on truths of the human condition. This survey, conducted among her peers, demonstrates once again the debt we owe her and our duty to continue to investigate past lives and similar phenomena concerning human consciousness at the same high levels of originality, integrity, and scientific method.
It has been my privilege to have worked intimately with Dr. Wambach for two years and to have enjoyed her trust and affection. In adapting and presenting this article to our mutual colleagues and peers I feel I am repaying a small part of the immense debt that I owe her and hopefully demonstrating the great loyalty her memory continues to elicit in me.
While remaining scrupulously faithful to Helen’s research results and personal tone, I have carefully reviewed the responses to each question, verifying the percentages cited. I have added elements of an introduction and conclusion, using Helen’s own words and expanding on her comments. I have also taken additional examples from various questionnaire responses and quoted them verbatim, Finally, I have rearranged and adapted the topics mentioned in the original text so that they present a more coherent ensemble.
– Chet Snow
This is a report about the experiences of twenty-six past-life therapists and their 18,463 subjects, tabulated from the results of a questionnaire I distributed at the October, 1982, annual convention of the Association for Past Life Research and Therapy (APRT), held in Los Angeles. The topics investigated via this questionnaire include the general level of past-life regression experience among APRT’s therapists, their degree of success in regressing subjects to past lives, the extent of verified cases of xenoglossy (subconscious knowledge of a foreign language never consciously learned) among their clientele, indications of physical and/or psychological improvements resulting from therapy, and a description of what past-life therapy patients perceive when they recall the death experience during regressions.
When I decided to do this study I had several ideas in mind. At the time (October, 1982) APRT was just two years old and I was interested in knowing the current status and extent of past-life regressions by its therapist members. Although most of the APRT therapists worked individually and not with large groups, as I had done for the research leading to my two books, I was curious to see if a combined tabulation of their cases might not come close to some of my own findings, as well as suggesting new avenues for further research. Since I knew that the best chance to interview my colleagues would be at our annual fall convention, I prepared an eight-part questionnaire covering as many topics as I could think of that seemed applicable.
The following are the results I obtained from the 26 responses which I received from APRT therapists following the meeting.
The first questions I posed referred to each therapist’s level of current experience in regressing subjects to past lives. I asked for the number of years each therapist had spent doing this type of work. The average number of years for the 26 respondents came to 7.2 years of experience in past-life therapy The range varied from just six months for one fledgling therapist to over 30 years experience. Half my respondents (13) reported having between four and ten years experience in this field; five had been regressing people to past lives for more than a decade while the rest (8) were relative newcomers—under four years of therapy work. The majority indicated having advanced degrees in psychology or counseling (M.F.C.C., etc.) but at least one therapist cited instead her “living experiences and years of reading, ‘channeling,’ and own past lives,” as her primary professional qualifications.
It was a mixed-bag as well regarding the numbers of subjects regressed. Overall, the number of past-life regressions was quite remarkable, as the 26 therapists reported on the results of 18,463 cases! This represents many more subjects than have been reported in any other such study. Individual therapists reported anywhere from just one case to over 8,500 cases. The average came to 710 subjects apiece, with six therapists claiming 1,000 or more individual regressions. Clearly the responding group represents an experienced group of practitioners.
They are also highly successful in their work. As reported by the 26 respondents, a total of 94 percent of their subjects or 17,350 patients “went under” and reported a past life during therapy session, regardless of the type of hypnotic or non-hypnotic induction technique used. I find this most significant. It is supportive of my own conclusion that it is not necessary to have a particular style of hypnotic induction or regression in order to gather past-life material, as it seems to lie close to the borders of consciousness.
It is my belief that as soon as subjects enter rapid eye movement (REM), using any technique that asks them to visualize or to get other sensory detail, their brain waves will automatically go to 8.3 cycles per second as measured by an electroencephalograph (EEC) machine. This is true whether or not the recall is from this lifetime on, say their fifth birthday, or from a past life when they have been instructed to go there. But they return to Beta (11-15 cps) as they report, in English, what they have perceived. They also switch much of their brain activity from the right cerebral hemisphere, where the majority of impulses arise during the REM phase, to the left hemisphere: the “word-center” in the temporal lobe of the left side of the cerebral cortex. I have found that my subjects will also often return to the Beta level as they criticize their own answers or sensory recall experiences, whether they answer aloud or silently to themselves, during the regression session. This Beta range thus can be considered as jargon or shorthand for the wide-awake, logical state of consciousness that our society considers “normal.” Beta then, to me, means the ten percent of our brain cells that psychologists once thought was all we used in thinking. Past-life therapists, like others experimenting with altered states of consciousness, are exploring some of the other 90% of the functioning brain. This 90% is not unused: it is merely unrecognized by our society, which emphasizes words, numbers, and formal logic.
Whatever the method we are using as therapists, we seem to be tapping the same material and we are probably tapping it in the same way, though our induction methods may differ significantly. That 94% of the subjects of my respondents reported having a past-life experience during their regressions corresponds closely to my own group results as published in Reliving Past Lives. It therefore seems demonstrated that “normal,” ordinary people can easily and automatically experience this phenomenon we describe as “past-life recall” just as they dream each night. It suffices to assist them in slowing their brain wave patterns to 8.3 cycles per second and to request sensory-recall of data expressed in visualization, hearing, smell, or taste, thereby bypassing the “censoring” function of the logical, analytical left side of the cerebral cortex.
Having determined that nearly all of my colleagues’ subjects succeeded in recalling past lives, I was interested to know just how many of them reported the ability to remember a foreign language during the experience. In my opinion, one of the most interesting findings of this survey is that only 21 of the 18,463 regressed subjects, or .001% were able either to speak or chant a foreign tongue, speak with a marked non-American accent, or use a written symbol from another language or culture. All of these 21 subjects reported being consciously ignorant of the language they used during the regression. Of these 21 subjects, drawn from the files of 12 therapists, about half (11) had their xenoglossy ability verified by tape recordings which were then analyzed by language experts. It is important to realize, therefore, that xenoglossy has been verified among past-life recall subjects but nevertheless remains extremely rare. But it does represent one possible avenue for verifying past-life recall, if only in a very limited number of cases.
One can certainly ask the question, why are such cases so rare when the experience of past-life recall itself seems so prevalent among regression therapy subjects? It is my belief that a subject must be in a special, somnambulistic state of consciousness before he or she can speak a foreign language unknown during waking consciousness. In EEG terms, somnambulistic refers to the Delta slate, or from zero to four cycles per second of brain-wave activity. This very low, coma-like, state of consciousness is obviously much less commonly achieved during regressions than is the REM or 8.3 cps phase where “ordinary” past-life recall occurs.
It is also true that the material which we, as therapists, are getting from our patients in past-life regressions is essentially from the “right brain” where words are virtually absent and sensory details and emotions are recalled. When we ask a subject to respond out loud to our questions, we force him to return his brain waves to Beta and to the “left brain” word center temporarily in order to answer us. This is one reason why so many subjects during regression therapy sessions mumble or resist answering aloud when we question them under hypnosis or use similar methods stimulating direct sensory recall.
Many of my own subjects have been able to hear a foreign-sounding language spoken while in the 8.3 cps or REM state, and sometimes they try to repeat the syllables heard upon “waking.” But in most cases, even though this material is rather easily heard (i.e. passively received) while under hypnosis, it is not retained long enough to be written down after the return to ordinary awareness (Beta state). Until we are able to convince those not directly involved in regression therapy that we are exploring a part of the brain where words play little or no part of consciousness, we, as past-life therapists and researchers, will continue to have trouble with those “common-sense” critics who insist that a foreign language spoken under hypnosis is the only way to “prove” that this material is something other than mere imagination.
Because the topic of xenoglossy has so often been cited by such critics of past-life recall, I requested additional information from those dozen respondents who had indicated that they had such cases among their clientele. Let’s look at some of these cases where foreign languages, unknown to the subject in waking consciousness, were spoken during past-life regressions. Six cases where subjects clearly expressed themselves aloud in foreign tongues stand out.
In the first case, a woman was able to speak German, French, and Polynesian in three separate regression sessions to three different past lives. These sessions were recorded and the therapist was able to recognize both German and French phrases and sentences. The Polynesian dialect was never verified. Another case involved a subject who recalled being a German aircraft designer during World War II. His use of German was recorded and verified by the therapist. Interestingly, both times that German was spoken involved lifetimes spent during the highly emotional and difficult Nazi-World War II era there.
Another undocumented case also included a subject regressed to Nazi Germany who spoke some German phrases, this time as a concentration camp inmate. One therapist reported the case of a young woman subject who, while recalling a life spent in Eighteenth Century France, spoke fluent French, although totally ignorant of that language ordinarily- Two other subjects spontaneously answered questions in Italian while remembering lifetimes spent in that country. Finally, a 23-year old woman began speaking ancient Hawaiian during her past-life regression to those islands. The session was recorded and later verified as authentic by a Hawaiian Kahuna or native healer/priest. When translated by the Hawaiian, the woman’s words implied a message on ancient Kahuna healing techniques virtually unknown to outsiders. The reaction of this subject, when learning of the verification of the “unknown” message she had given while regressed, was that she felt she had had several important lives in Hawaii which were affecting her attitudes in this current lifetime.
Similar, but slightly different, were the three cases where a regressed subject spontaneously began chanting or singing rhythmically in an unknown tongue under hypnosis. One woman found herself singing a lullaby to her unborn child while experiencing a life spent in the Judean wilderness. Alas, on this unique occasion the therapist failed to record the session. Both, however, reported deep feelings of reverence and awe after the experience. A male subject of another therapist began chanting the Catholic mass in Latin as he recalled a lifetime as a Spanish priest several centuries ago. Finally, a woman from Marin county near San Francisco channeled a Native American poem and was later able to translate it into English. Her therapist reported that she was “deeply moved” in response to what happened during the regression.
In each of these instances the subjects not only used a foreign language but also heretofore unknown melodies or rhythms. I believe that incidents, such as “channeling” or chanting in unknown languages, occur when the subject is in a deep or Delta state of consciousness (0-4 cycles per second). This phenomenon is like the “speaking in tongues” study, such as the one at Stanford University, which seems to show that sleepwalking also occurs in Delta. In sleepwalking, as in most channeling episodes, there is no memory of what occurred during the experience upon awakening. The same post-hypnotic amnesia was reported by five of the six cases where past-life subjects merely spoke in unknown languages and in two of the three chanting or channeling cases. This all suggests what I mentioned earlier, that these xenoglossy subjects lowered their brain activity to about four cycles per second on the EEG scale while regressed. Nearly all of these subjects were said to have been quite surprised and often emotionally moved when told of their unsuspected abilities afterwards. Two of the dozen therapists with xenoglossy cases reported subjects with the ability to write letters or symbols in unfamiliar scripts. One case, which was verified by experts, involved writing in ancient Persian. Another, unverified, occurred when a subject used an alphabet resembling Roman numerals. A third subject made completely alien markings that his therapist suggested might be Atlantean, as he was reliving a past life on that fabled lost continent at the time. Other, less complete, cases which nonetheless suggest similar xenoglossic patterns, included one where a man spoke a few Chinese words and traced one Chinese symbol accurately, and another where an immigrant woman with a strong foreign accent in her everyday English manifested perfect diction and grammar when regressed to an earlier American lifetime. Perhaps the best indication of the extreme rareness of even such “imperfect” xenoglossy cases comes from the report of the therapist with the highest number of past-life cases—over 8,500 during 10 years of practice in northern California. His report indicated that out of all these clients, only four spoke or chanted or wrote in unknown tongues during therapy sessions. I, myself, have had only one such subject who, while in deep hypnotic trance, spoke ancient Egyptian and who was also able to write hieroglyphic symbols while hypnotized. He was completely unable to duplicate these feats when awake. As I have hypnotized over 8,000 people, in groups and individually, over the past decade, my finding of only one xenoglossy case seems typical of what other regression therapists have found, that is, that less than one percent of all subjects recalling past-life experiences are able to speak and/or write their original languages during the therapy session.
I feel that undoubtedly this rarity of xenoglossy subjects is due to the depth of trance required for such a phenomenon—a depth completely unnecessary for ordinary past-life recall where sensory images or impressions are captured by the subconscious while the brain’s electrical impulses vibrate at 8.3 cycles per second (REM). These nonverbal images or impressions are then translated automatically into current speech patterns with temporary fluctuations up to the Beta State as data is passed from the right cerebral hemisphere to the language centers of the left side of the brain. Still, these findings do indicate the need for more research into the entire area of xenoglossy: not to prove the veracity of past-life recall but rather to expand our understanding.
Satisfied that my own experience regarding xenoglossy was typical, I then decided that it would be beneficial to find out how many past-life recall subjects experienced physical symptom improvement as a result of hypnosis (or other altered states) therapy sessions. Twenty-four of my twenty-six respondents reported that their practice included working with physical symptoms in conjunction with past-life regressions. Of these, eighteen reported that their patients had improved at least in one physical symptom after therapy. The six other therapists replied that they did not know whether or not any physical improvements had resulted from their treatments, apparently because they failed to follow up their cases. I also asked for the therapists’ best guess at the percentage of subjects who did improve in at least one physical symptom as a result of past-life therapy. Of the eighteen respondents mentioned above, the average percentage reported that 63% of all subjects regressed to past-lives improved in a physical symptom of their current lifetime.
Another question in this same area asked the therapists whether or not they could relate the physical symptom improvement to the past-life experience of physical death. I asked this because I wanted to know whether such physical symptom improvement related more to the trauma supposedly associated with the physical death experience or to some other trauma from a past life. The question was posed as a simple “yes” or “no.” Sixteen therapists replied that the physical symptoms in this current life were related to the death experience in a past life. Thirteen reported that current physical infirmities came from past-life traumas not related to previous death experiences. There is a great deal of overlapping here because many of the therapists reported that current physical symptoms came from both types of past-life traumas. When considering the effects of reliving such traumatic incidents during past-life therapy sessions, my respondents reported that about 60% of their clients felt relief of physical symptoms after re-experiencing their past-life deaths, while 40% obtained similar relief after reliving other traumatic past-life incidents during therapy sessions. Four therapists said that they didn’t know or hadn’t asked their clients to specify what seemed to have led them to the symptom relief reported.
Important as these results are, because they clearly demonstrate the connection between perceived past-life traumas and current-life physical symptoms, the most important finding of this survey, to me, came from the next section of the questionnaire where I asked the therapists about their experience with subjects who reported reliving a past life in which they identified someone who is once again in their life today. Much of the emphasis in the current (1982) literature on the benefits of past-life regression has been concentrated on physical symptom improvement. The findings of my APRT survey, however, indicate that experiencing a past life with someone who is again in your life today is more common, and more beneficial, for improving current conditions than finding a physical ailment that dates back to a past-life trauma.
Of the twenty-four therapists who reported that their clients had experienced finding a relationship in a past life with someone they currently knew again, 20 said that yes, they did discover “karmic” ties relating the two entities and two lifetimes. It is interesting to note that this karmic relationship of “cause and effect” often came up spontaneously during the therapy sessions, even when the therapist had not asked the subject to identify past-life relationships with souls who were again in the subject’s life. Further, sixteen therapists reported that relationships between their clients and those whom the clients identified from previous lives showed definite improvement as a result of the therapy sessions. Four therapists said that they did not follow up on their cases or did not know if there had been improvements in relationships resulting from past-life regressions.
Interesting as these results are, however, the most important finding of this section of the survey involved the kinds of benefits that seemed to occur when people found a soul in a past life with whom they were again involved in their current life. According to the therapists’ responses in this survey, all the results seemed to be positive! Marked improvements in their subjects’ personal relationships were reported by therapist after therapist. These results are extremely important in any overall evaluation of this kind of therapy. Some of the responses were so interesting that they bear repeating in this report. The following are a couple of typical responses by APRT therapists on how recalling a past life with someone you know again today can improve the relationship in the here and now.
“They (subjects) achieved closure and completion. After the past-life connection was recognized, the relationship either improved or the subject was ready now to let go of what was still a bad relationship.”
“It enhanced the relationship because problems now occurring in that relationship seemed to dissolve after they (both) understood the karma from a past life with that soul.”
“They (patients) achieve a better understanding of why they are together now and what they are learning from one another In some cases, the relationship was broken off (after therapy) as it was realized to be a repeat of past (mistakes). Once the lesson was learned, unhealthy relationships were ended. Healthy relationships were enhanced as patients were now able to understand why their partner or they themselves reacted to a certain stimuli. Again, once the lesson was learned they were able to move on and work on other aspects of themselves or of the relationship.”
Another example reported by a therapist respondent was that the recalling of the past-life relationship helped clients to end their guilt and to release suppressed hostile feelings, replacing them with forgiveness. In general, experiencing a past-life relationship during therapy enabled subjects either to let go of what were essentially repeated errors in today’s relationships or to clear up current problems.
In the light of the importance of such relationships in people’s lives, for good or for ill, such findings represent a significant benefit of this kind of regression therapy and should not be overlooked in favor of “curing” physical symptoms possibly inherited from past-life traumas.
I should like to note that here also, the findings of my therapist colleagues come very close to what I have personally observed in my own research and therapy practice. Since I finished Life Before Life I have gone on to explore relationships between people in the “here and now” and how they have been affected by past lives together. I have collected over a thousand cases of past-life experiences, from group hypnosis sessions, in which subjects were asked to relive significant past-life relationships with people they again know today. Some of these group regressions include cases where two subjects simultaneously recalled the same past-life relationships together although they had had no opportunity to discuss it either before the regression or until after the hypnosis experience had been written down on my data sheets. In all of these cases, the current relationships clearly improved after the sessions.
The last section of my survey concerned reliving the death experience during past-life therapy. I wondered if the experience of other APRT therapists, some using quite different induction and recall methods, would correspond to my own findings, summarized in Recalling Past Lives, and those of others such as Dr. Raymond Moody in Life After Life. Thus I asked my colleagues to describe what their subjects told them when taken to the death experience during therapy sessions.
Of the twenty-six therapists responding, twenty-five said that their subjects did go to the death experience in past life. Only one therapist replied. “I don’t take them there.” The reports concerning details of the past-life experience of physical death were remarkably similar. Seventy-two percent of all subjects taken to their physical death in a past life reported the experience of floating above their body and observing it from that position. Fifty-four percent said that they perceived a light while in that state and moved towards it, although only 15% of subjects reported experiencing a tunnel leading to the light they perceived. This percentage may be deceptively small as most of the subjects were not taken into the light by their therapists during this phase of the regression and therefore they were not asked to describe how they got there. Twenty-three percent of the subjects reported meeting previously deceased relatives after they had separated from the physical body. All of these findings are pretty much in keeping with what Dr. Moody and Dr. Kenneth Ring have described in their books concerning the “near-death” experience.
I was keenly aware that at the time of this survey, Dr. Moody’s book had been given wide publicity in the United States. In order to check on any possibly conscious-mind influence from it on my therapists subjects, I also asked if any of the subjects experiencing past-life death recall had mentioned reading Life After Life. Given its widespread popularity in the late 1970’s, I felt it might have given quite a few subjects preconceptions about the after-death experience if they had read the book before their regressions. However, only twenty-seven of the 18,463 subjects reported reading the book.
I think it is appropriate that I mention here my own procedure when dealing with therapy patients and the past-life death experience. In my sessions I have found it wisest to take subjects who are undergoing the death experience through it until they see the light. Then I ask them to move to a time when they are in the light. Then I take them to a time when they are reviewing that past lifetime and ask what their relationship is to those entities. I then ask them to review the life in terms of mistakes made that must be redone in “future” lifetimes. I have found that this is the most useful way to explore the death experience with both group and individual subjects.
Finally, I asked my colleagues if they were undertaking any ongoing research in the area of past-life therapy. The response was very much a potpourri. Most of the therapists responding indicated that their primary concern was helping individual clients. This being a full-time occupation, they had little time or inclination to do formal research. One therapist did mention doing research in Hawaii, comparing past-life therapy with Hawaiian Kahuna philosophy and religion. Another mentioned doing formal research with the Riverside (California) Parapsychological Society. Still another mentioned turning up two subjects who recalled past lives as 19th century pioneers related to the ill-fated Donner party, most of whom perished while trapped in a Sierra Nevada winter. Another research project involved three therapists who independently regressed subjects that recalled past lives linked with the last of the Romanovs (the former Russian imperial family). Finally, a Southern California therapist indicated that she had begun a project working with men who are “spouse/mate beaters.” This work was leading her to a better understanding of the past-life connections behind this important contemporary sociopathic problem, especially in relation to strong emotions such as anger.
What does this all add up to? I have been gratified to see how the results of my own research have held up when compared with over 18,000 regressions by some two-dozen of my respected friends and colleagues. I am impressed with the evidence that the psychological benefits obtained from reliving past-life experiences with souls who are again closely connected with subjects outweighs even possible physical symptom relief. I am pleased by the finding that many sincere professionals–psychiatrists, psychologists, ministers with degrees in counseling–have begun to use this tool known as past-life regression to help those who come to them for answers to problems they can’t seem to solve in this life. I believe we are moving from a point where past-life therapy is simply another “new therapy” to the time when we can use it to gain greater understanding.