by Brad Steiger
Since childhood I have been challenged by the idea that we have lived before on this or other worlds. One of my early articles, “How Many People Are You?” (Exploring the Unknown, February, 1963) led to my first book-length exploration of past lives, The Enigma of Reincarnation (Ace, 1967).
By 1968 I was ready to begin personally exploring cases suggestive of reincarnation through individual regressions, but at that time my sole motivation was to prove that such phenomena existed. I sought to obtain solid documentation that would satisfy the most rigorous skeptic that the human soul might indeed express itself in more than one incarnation during the process of spiritual evolution.
But while extensive in-field research did produce birth certificates, death certificates, land grants, deeds and real estate transfers for many of the personalities who spoke through our regressed subjects, the rigorous skeptics remained unconvinced. I discovered that just as there exists in certain people the will to believe, the will to disbelieve rigidly thrives in others. Although I had accumulated the kind of proof of identity that would have satisfied any court of law in the nation, for the most part the materialists, the religious dogmatists, the physical scientists, and the behaviorists, remained unimpressed. Depending on their particular perspective, they all had their prized interpretation of what phenomena such laboriously amassed documentation might be demonstrating other than reincarnation.
When Other Lives (Hawthorn), my collaborative work with Loring G. Williams, appeared in 1969, a team of journalists followed our path through various villages, interviewing the historians and local residents. While they later declared that we hadn’t “faked” our research, they decided that the bizarre stories that we had uncovered must certainly demonstrate something other than reincarnation.
While we may not have offered proof of past lives that had converted the entire Western world to an acceptance of the philosophy of rebirth, we began to appreciate a very gratifying by-product of our research. Dozens of people wrote remarkable letters which told in rich detail of their own past-life memories. Others wrote to say that while they had never thought previously about the possibility of reincarnation, the book had helped them to accept the recent death of loved ones or to deal with their own approaching deaths due to fatal illnesses.
And then we began to discover that many of the volunteers for the experiments we were conducting in 1969 to 1971 were awakening from their hypnotic sleep to find that their present life phobias, compulsions, neuroses—and even physical health problems—had suddenly been alleviated or removed completely while we were in the process of exploring a past-life memory.
About this time, “Bill” Williams made his own transition into the Great Mystery, and I continued to write of the challenge of exploring alleged past-life experiences in such works as Minds Through Space and Time (Award-Tandem, 1971) and You Will Live Again (Dell, 1978). By 1979, I was steadily working with men and women from all over the United States and overseas who had come to be regressed because of their belief that a past-life problem was painfully intruding in their present-life relationships.
I became increasingly amazed when some clients—many of whom had been undergoing some form of therapy for as many as twenty years and who had been sent to me by their psychiatrists or therapists—were “cured” of their distressful condition after only one session.
As clever or compassionate as I might hope to be, I knew without question that I certainly was not that good a regressionist or healer. I have always understood that all healing comes from the Source of All-That-Is, but I began to suspect that certain other factors were at work as well.
Things came into sharper focus for me one night in a large southern city when a woman approached me to request a regression just as I was about to walk out on stage. I was there that evening only to lecture, so it was certainly not convenient or appropriate for her to prevail on me for a private consultation. But then I learned that she had driven 700 miles to see me because of her fear of flying. She had been accompanied by her husband who was not only an accomplished professional hypnotist—but also a pilot! I told them to speak with me after my lecture, and I would see what could be arranged.
It turned out that the woman had a childhood friend in the city who, it happened, had been the one who had informed her that I would be there on that evening. The friend offered her home for the session; and as we drove there, I was told of her husband’s repeated attempts—and growing frustration—to hypnotize her. Our entourage had added two other gentlemen who attested that they were accredited hypnotists, colleagues of her husband, who had also failed to induce the slightest trance state in the woman, “the most difficult subject they had ever encountered.”
To make the story brief, I was able to place the subject in deep trance in less than three minutes. While her husband and his colleagues looked on with expressions of awe—and slightly veiled irritation—I worked through her past experience, left her with positive affirmations, and according to all subsequent feedback, removed her fear of flying.
Later, while her husband and the other hypnotists were pumping me for my “secret techniques”—of which I professed to have none—the words of a great Native American Medicine practitioner were quietly echoing in my inner ear: “Brad, what you are is a white Medicine man. You are a shaman.”
And then it became clear to me: the books, the articles, the lectures, the seminars—they had given me my Medicine, my power. As much as a bit of ego might wish, it was not my technique, the sound of my voice, or the skill of my phrasing that was working their magic. It was, pure and simply, my reputation. I had all those trophies “on the mantel” which proved that I could accomplish successful regressions.
Psychiatrist-anthropologist Dr. E. Fuller Torrey has classified what he considers to be the four common components of curing which are utilized by shamans and by orthodox physician-healers all over the world.
- The naming process. Since there is nothing more frightening to a patient than the unknown, the very act of giving the illness or complaint a name that fits in with the patient’s world view may activate a series of associated ideas that are capable of producing emotional reaction and general catharsis.
- The personality characteristics of the healer. A shaman or healer who possesses the qualities of empathy and non-possessive warmth and genuineness will achieve the best results.
- The patient’s expectations. The physical stimulus of amulet, rattle, stethoscope, or diploma are common ways in which expectations are increased. It has also been often observed that the farther the patients have to travel to visit the healer, the greater are their chances that they will be cured.
- The doctor-healer’s training. All genuine and sincere healers in all cultures undergo rigorous training programs that may last many years.
To apply Dr. Torrey’s universal components of healing to the process of past-life therapy, we may certainly see that 1.) The very process of giving a client’s distress an identification and declaring it to have originated in a past-life experience distances the problem from the client’s present and replaces vague or acute sensations of discomfort with an identity that allows it to be isolated and dissipated. 2.) The more that past-life therapists conduct themselves in a warm, but professional, manner, the greater confidence the client will exhibit toward them. 3.) The artifacts of the therapist’s environment—books, tape recorder, metronome, crystals, soft music, etc.—help to increase expectations of a cure; and of course, the fact that most clients must travel considerable distances to find a therapist of their choice accentuates expectations of success even higher. 4.) The longer the period of time that the therapist can document that he or she has been conducting successful regressions, the more likely the client will feel secure in his or her hands.
The more that I have come to realize the limitless multidimensional aspects of the human spirit, the greater my belief that such cosmic adventures as past-lives therapy are rediscoveries of personal shamanism. We each possess the ability to seek out the diverse facets of our true selves and begin the life-long process of making ourselves whole.
An integral element in the work of the shaman is his or her ability to rise above linear time. I believe that the truly accomplished past lives therapist has also discovered that the conventional concept that time exists in a sequential stream that flows along in only one dimension is totally inadequate to provide us with a full assessment of true reality. The most effective past lives therapist has learned the shaman’s truth that our Essential Selves may rise to a level of consciousness wherein past, present, and future form an Eternal Now—and that it is our access to this level of consciousness that may provide us with dreams, visions, knowledge of past lives, and glimpses of a possible future.
I ceased attempting to prove the reality of past lives many years ago. Whether past-life recall is the actual memory of a prior existence or pure fantasy, I have now observed hundreds of men and women who have obtained profound release from a present pain or phobia by reliving in an altered state of consciousness the ostensible origin of that problem in some real or alleged former existence.
I have come to regard knowledge of alleged past lives as a form of awareness that may greatly assist individuals to restructure their lives in order to shape a more positive present and a more productive and peaceful future. If this process of extended self-awareness can assist individuals to know themselves more completely, then they have been led to a greater sense of self-mastery.
More recently, my approach to past lives has been to guide subjects through a series of inner journeys that may enable them to view alleged past lives, receive vision teachings, obtain a preview of significant future alternatives, and receive a more complete understanding of what their true mission on Earth is to be.
When the process is successful, the participants have a much clearer picture of their responsibility toward family, friends, lovers, mates, and unseen intelligences. They have also acquired an awareness that they have within them a multidimensional faculty, a spiritual essence, that interacts with an ever-powerful energy force that permeates all life on this planet—and quite likely all life in the universe.