by Ernest Pecci, M.D. and Joanne Walsh
The complexity of a human being is amazing, regardless of the fairly simple life he or she may seem to be leading. We cannot judge by a person’s behavior what is happening in his consciousness. Each of us has traveled a long time and our bodies and personal selves represent the sum of our defenses, of our self-judgments, and of the complexities of human existence.
Joanne came to me six years ago. At that time she was a pale, frail housewife with low adrenal gland energy who seemed to have a relatively simple life as a compulsive mother taking care of her children. She had always resisted help from anyone, but her son had allergies and other problems, so she came for him. Only after she had met me and felt that she could be comfortable talking about the disturbing feelings she had been having did she suggest a session for herself. The result was a series of integrated therapy sessions. I think her experiences will strike a bell and begin to awaken ideas and stir growth in those who share them.
I have always believed that fragmentary therapy, working on symptoms, retrieving an exciting past life here and there, is not particularly helpful in achieving evolutionary growth. We need to look for patterns. The awakening of consciousness and the alleviation of fear and guilt begin to take us on that journey home to awaken our true self, an awakening which forms the basic evolutionary path. As one barrier is broken, another is reached. Each barrier has to be addressed as valid and important, even if it is not clear where it will lead. With various therapeutic tools the therapist can move a person from one place to another, releasing difficulties and blocks as the client moves forward, bringing the energy field of the patient into increasing balance.
Joanne’s core issue was guilt. During our years together she passed through one barrier after another in her search to understand this guilt and release it. As often happens, the search took her back finally to her original guilt over separation from the Source. In the understanding of this she became able, not only to release that guilt, which was tied up with her low energy, but to find tools and understanding for working further in her life.
Usually I work with people quite a while before I begin past-life therapy: they have to gain a fairly integrated sense of this life before they can handle data which might otherwise obscure current issues on which they need to work. But because Joanne responded like a deer in her initial session, ready to flee at the least imagined threat, I felt that past-life therapy might shock her into becoming a patient. This thought was an inspiration which tuned out to be a trigger that stimulated her to explore herself. She will tell the story of her experience.
There was a time late in my teen years when I wanted to die. Growing up had been painful, and I saw life as a chaotic, random series of stressful events interspersed with occasional times of respite. It was no accident that at such a time I came to read Dr. Gina Cerminara’s Many Mansions, an introduction to reincarnation. It provided the first sensible explanation for my painful years and demonstrated a level of order in the universe that I had never suspected. Immediately I accepted this view as my personal philosophy of life, but never in my most adventurous imagination did I guess that I would one day relive some of my own past lives and that in doing so I would achieve an unexpected level of emotional resolution and physical vitality.
I was not anticipating a long stay when I came to Dr. Pecci’s office. I had always thought of psychiatrists as the ones who work with people who are “not quite there,” and I certainly wasn’t going to put myself in that category! But when my son developed problems which I couldn’t creatively solve on my own, I became willing to do it for his sake. I was relieved when Dr. Pecci suggested that food allergies were a likely source of his difficulties. I noticed that he easily established a comfortable rapport with my son, and I wondered, in spite of my reservations about psychiatrists, if I should consult with him about an odd, vague, uneasy feeling I often had. On my son’s last visit I found myself asking if he ever worked with adults—without their children. He acted nonchalant and told me that he did, and that I should make an appointment on the way out. Amazingly, I did just that.
Two weeks later, there I was. I was miserably embarrassed and dreaded the moment when he would ask me why I had come. I still had no words for the vague, gnawing feeling that had brought me, and I felt so sure I wouldn’t make it through the hour that I perched on the edge of the sofa, ready to get up and leave in a hurry.
Dr. Pecci welcomed me and asked courteously, “May I call you Joanne?”
My nervous sarcasm surprised even me. “Sure, if I can call you Ernie!”
For a moment he seemed startled. Then he calmly agreed. What an awful beginning, I thought. I was sorry that I had kept the appointment.
Ernie began to ask me a variety of questions about my background, interests, and health, ferreting out a number of puzzling physical symptoms I would not have thought to tell him if he hadn’t asked, including my limited energy and frequent spells of extreme fatigue. Raising four small children is an exhausting occupation, but this fatigue seemed more intense than even their demands could account for. Ernie suggested possible physiological causes and also wondered aloud if we might not explore some psychological possibilities. I did not feel receptive to the idea, but his gentleness encouraged me to attempt to describe the gnawing discomfort inside.
Ernie persisted that sometimes such feelings and states related to emotions one has experienced early in childhood, but at this suggestion my head snapped up, and twisting to face him directly, I let my words pour out “No! You don’t understand! I’ve thought about every painful thing that has ever happened to me, and nothing touches this feeling, nothing! I just can’t reach it, and I can’t try anymore.” I was sure he would tell me to leave, to stop wasting his time.
“Well…” He pondered the situation for a few seconds. “Then we’ll do a past-life regression.”
I opened my mouth but nothing came out. Finally, “Can you do that?”
“Sure. I do it all the time.” He glanced at his watch. “There isn’t enough time today. Let’s go and check my appointment book.”
I arrived for our second session a bundle of anticipation and apprehension. But when I settled onto the reclining chair in the corner of his office, I found it wasn’t so hard to do after all. No dangling gold watches, no sinister commands, just simple step-by-step directions until I found myself in that relaxed state everyone experiences just before falling asleep.
Ernie: Let yourself focus on that feeling you’ve been telling me about. Describe what you’re feeling.
Me: Remorse. I am astonished. The word is just there, a word I rarely use, and it fits precisely!
Ernie: Okay. We’re going to trace the roots of this remorse…deep down feelings of remorse. Now I’m going to countdown from 10 to 1 and I want you to see a scene in which you had this feeling of remorse.
Me: Children. Children hurting. (Tears are streaming down my face so that it is difficult to speak).
Ernie: Gradually you’ll get a sense of what this means. Follow those heavy feelings. Dare to let yourself…
Me: Babies…Children being killed…God! In the Holy Land.
Ernie: Do you mean when Jesus was born and Herod had all the children killed?
Me: Yeah…I’m just making all this up!
Ernie What are you seeing? Describe what else. I’m going to count from 10 to 1 and you will see more vividly where you were in that period of time.
Me: I am in the middle of a village and there is a battle going on. It is night and very dark. The people everywhere are terrified and running around. I am a young man, 18 years old, on a horse. I have just killed a young child.
The scene becomes more vivid: screams…horse hooves…shouts… clinking metal…terrified screams. I am looking down from my horse into the face of a mother whose child I have just killed. She is a beautiful woman, very dark eyes and dark hair. I’m sure if I met her today I would know her, the vividness is so intense. And I am aware that the mother sees in her child something precious and valuable and important—all the things I don’t see in children in that lifetime. I always have thought, “What difference do a few kids more or less make?” Therein something in that eye contact with her that stops me in my tracks. I am painfully aware that my sword is still wet and red.
Ernie: Go back and see how you got into that situation. Go back an hour.
Me: I am young…wild…I have terrific energy…wild. The colors are vivid. The sounds are sharp. I am a young man, constantly preoccupied with my own intense energy.
Ernie: Look at that wild, terrific energy. Is it the antithesis of the energy you feel now? Are you keeping down that wild energy, afraid of what that wild energy can lead to?
Again I see the scene: racing happily wildly on my horse one moment, killing in the next.
Ernie: All right. Go to the end of that lifetime.
Me: I’m an old man now, and it won’t be long until I die. I’m just doing my job. My spirit is broken. I’m haunted. I carry guilt and remorse and don’t know what to do about this, so I just keep carrying it. I die, but the guilt and remorse, like come celestial hot potato, go on.
I begin to realize that somewhere, buried in the personal unremembered history of each of us, are the ghosts of unresolved experiences.
In follow-up sessions Ernie helped me resolve the inner turmoil and reach self-forgiveness, a letting go, an appreciation of the wisdom I had gained. One day I realized that the gnawing feeling was gone, and in a variety of subtle ways my body was feeling better and my energy levels were increasing.
When this process was over I didn’t see Ernie for a while. But dreams began to build up and odd feelings came, and I made an appointment to go back. During the following years I saw Ernie at sporadic intervals. We might work for a couple of sessions or a couple of months. At times we dealt with current-life issues and current childhood experiences. At other times past-life regressions provided necessary clues to the resolutions needed. They also provided surprises.
In one regression I am a colonial American doctor who is well-accepted professionally but who is a lonely man, unable to make contact with others emotionally in a meaningful way. I am surprised to find myself in such dark rooms and am amazed at the difference that electricity has made in our current lifetime.
Then I am a highly intelligent African woman who fails to respect and appreciate her less bright neighbors. I die in childbirth utterly alone, because those in my village believe my condition to be a curse from the gods. I experience the grief of a mother who carries a child she can never hold. To relieve the agony Ernie performs an emergency Caesarian section. In that life I feel different from the rest of the villagers, with an attitude I maintain today—never a part of the crowd.
Another time I am a 13th century monk who keeps accounts and who is unjustly accused of mismanaging funds. I am later murdered for these apparent misdeeds. The unexpectedness of the death is more traumatic than the physical pain. This life is basically one of solitude and cold feet—solitude and flowing robes and cathedral bells—but cold feet? (Is that why even today I never wear sandals?) Walking through the abbey grounds I become aware of unbelievably pure air, the scent of freshly turned earth, of specific kinds of green leaves, even of the scent of sun warmed water in the hollows of the rocks.
Once I am a charismatic Atlantean leader who wields great authority—with even greater insensitivity. (In the waking state I didn’t believe this ancient continent even existed). In this ancient life, if people do things I don’t approve of, I exile them and separate mothers or fathers from their families for long periods of time without any sensitivity to what I am doing.
In the life just before the current one I am another soldier, this time a young man who is ambushed, captured, and tortured to death. When I leave my body I hover over my hastily dug, well-hidden grave.
Ernie: Why, at some level of your being, did you choose to experience this terrible death?
Me: I thought if I suffered enough I could be rid of my deep guilt. But I realize that the guilt was not moved and my pain was useless. Is it all hopeless, trying to release this guilt?
As the former lives emerged one by one, I couldn’t help wondering when all these earth lives began. Was there a time when I existed before Earth? Without a body? I had felt that I didn’t feel wholly comfortable on Earth and that I wanted to go “home.” But where, or what, was that?
Finally, I came to see Ernie in a time of especially low energy. I felt that I had to get some energy out of my body somehow. We began to concentrate on trying to discover the origin of this low energy, wherever it might be.
As the session progressed, I found myself saying over and over, “I want to go home!”
Ernie: All right. Go all the way back before you were on Earth. Go home. What’s it like? Go back before you were the Roman soldier, before you were the Atlantean leader. Go back as far as you can go.
Me: I’m not in a body. I’ve never been in a body.
Ernie: Where are you?
Me: I seem to be a beam of light. I am like molten gold but indescribably more brilliant. I am a flowing of energy more powerful than all numbers can express, more concentrated than the greatest laser light and utterly pure. This light bends and curls like delicate plants at the bottom of the sea in intricate harmonies, expressing each subtle nuance of all that exists in the universe. Yet, in some way, everything existing in the universe is encompassed in this beam of light.
I am a point of consciousness surrounded by other points of consciousness. Between us all exists perfect awareness and a symphonic harmony. I can direct a portion of this energy, and in doing so, I can express and arrange new harmonies. I can direct. I can control. I can imagine the power is me.
I become preoccupied with wielding the power. Gradually this subtle, exquisite immense energy begins to seem heavy and obliterates all awareness of those other points of consciousness. I am alone…trapped.
Ernie: How could you return to awareness of the beam of light?
Me: I have to see the point of error and acknowledge it. That is the key, acknowledging the error. Punishment is of no use. Nor is merely being “good.” One has to acknowledge error and then turn around. That is all.
But I can’t do that. Pride prevents the acknowledgement. My energy continues to feel heavier and heavier. And now I become aware, some time after this, that I am in a body, though some part of me still remembers the beam of light. But I have not acknowledged it nor have I turned around and am filled with guilt. I see that the separation from the Light because of my obsession with power was the beginning of the guilt that I have carried through so many lifetimes. Finally being able to acknowledge my error has released it.
When I awakened from that session I knew that all the life experiences I’ve had here in this body and this earth came after that. It was a downward spiral. From that session on, I knew beyond all doubt that we, each of us, are more than beings in bodies, We are beings of awesome potentiality, We are beings whose heritage it is to live in a harmony and beauty that exists beyond our present ability to perceive. I knew that each of us is more than we have believed ourselves to be. And my view of myself can never be quite the same.
What has been the outcome of these regression experiences? Recalling painful situations and resolving them has led to peace of mind and an almost unbelievable increase in physical energy. Each separate experience was prompted by a specific problem, and each of these has been improved or entirely resolved, but I have also learned that who I was doesn’t matter at all unless it tells me something about who I am and what I may become. I have learned that I can’t change the past but I can change my feelings about it, and I can change me today. My recent soldier lifetime taught me that suffering and punishment can never assuage guilt, so his pain was useless. But his learning that his pain was useless was essential On the other hand, acknowledging a point of error, letting go of it, which is self-forgiveness, and turning it around, are steps I can follow as I continue to grow. I still have down days and bad moods. I get impatient with my husband and grouchy with the kids. I work in my husband’s business, cook meals, dust the furniture, and drive lots of miles. And like most mothers of teenagers, I answer the phone a lot! But I am still growing, still discovering more about myself. It seems to me that my life is like an episode of an adventure serial, i.e. “to be continued.”
Our complexity as personalities stems not only from our experiences in various lifetimes but also from the decisions we have made about them. Joanne had a vivid experience of separation from the Source, which, because of the feelings of power she experienced in that process, she interpreted as selfish—and therefore “bad.” This experience became the perpetuator of chronic guilt, which influenced lifetime after lifetime. Her “fall” from the beautiful and brilliant Light resulted in a diminishing of energy as she moved into a self-system different from the Source. This seems the inevitable course of the journey of self-realization of the soul, and probably there is no turning back if the process of self-realization is to be completed, but Joanne interpreted this individuation process as a refusal on her part to turn back due to pride.
This pride and its accompanying guilt led to lifetimes characterized by an increasingly aggressive yang type of energy, in which she was inconsiderate of others and even totally selfish. She experienced the culmination of this yang energy through the killing of babies in the time of Herod. What she felt at that time was an adrenal rush and so violent was her reaction when she finally was able to perceive the pain of the mother that at that moment she renounced her yang energy. In subsequent lifetimes she struggled with the result of this renunciation, and when she came to me she was suffering from hypo-adrenal corticoidism, a low adrenal activity so debilitating that she could not tolerate a single adrenal capsule. Unconsciously she remained determined not to experience an adrenal rush because of the disastrous insensitivity she felt it had led her into in the lifetime when she killed the babies. Most of the time people balance themselves with energy they can handle, but she didn’t want any energy.
Much of the energy Joanne did have she used in cutting back feeling because she didn’t want to feel. She closed off all feeling—of guilt and also of pain. She had dreams of being iced below the waist and not being able to communicate with other people. She was afraid of her own power, of her own energy, and found herself trying desperately to hold the world together and not go crazy. She expended energy in accomplishing this.
This closing off of feeling became especially visible in the lifetime in which she lost her baby. She refused to let anybody know her pain. Her attitude was that nobody should know; she wouldn’t utter a sound. This is what made it so difficult for her to come into therapy. In that birth session, in order to release the pain and also make it possible for her to acknowledge it, I had to do a rescripting via a midwifery process in which I performed a Caesarian section, released the boy baby, let it suckle at her breast, and then healed her wound. Only in this way did it seem possible to heal the longstanding psychic wound she had inflicted on herself. (In actuality, the next day she went through several days of post-partum bleeding, though it wasn’t the time of the month for her period. In a psychic release the body changes physiologically).
The experience of separation from the Source, which Joanne interpreted as “the fall,” led her to going deeper and deeper into a materialistic egoism and power until the experience of the shock and horror on the women’s face started a re-evaluation—“My God, what am I doing?”—and turned her in another direction: the striving to be good.
After that she led a succession of altruistic lives—as doctors, monks—but always without feeling, so that the altruism in itself could not effect healing because it was not concerned with true love. Her soul had now begun to punish her, and she was terrified. When she came to me, her body was permeated with fear. She had become paralyzed with an expectation of what she was going to suffer next. She was afraid of herself and of her life decisions, which might end up punishing her because she had been so wrong.
This tendency to punish herself because she was so guilty peaked in her most recent lifetime in World War II when, as a soldier on Borneo, she was captured and terribly tortured by the Japanese. She died in the middle of a scream. In this life she retained an unexpressed fear that was like terror, that she would repeat such suffering, and often she was awakened in the middle of the night by this fear. Such suffering still wasn’t enough—in fact, it was a total failure. One cannot punish oneself out of guilt.
In Joanne’s therapy, therefore, it became important for her not just to elicit scenes but to look at these scenes in terms of forgiving and understanding herself. I needed to be there to help her change the scenes, to work with traumas, either in this lifetime or earlier ones. I needed to say the things she needed to hear, to regress her to a time filled with guilt and fear and say, “Look, it’s not your fault. You’re all right.” When she felt acutely vulnerable, she had to have someone there showing her a way out.
Sometimes I would play low music and work with various chakra areas, especially with her third chakra, the solar plexus, in order to help her recover her lost feeling. She began to believe for the first time that she could trust the universe. She developed a sense of being grounded and wanting to be on the earth. She became more comfortable with her feelings, her sexuality—she was at first terrified of sexuality—her power, as well as with spirituality and love. Formerly she had felt that she had no right to love and that she had been cast out in terms of spirituality. She had closed off in nearly every area and had existed in the world in a detached way. In a sense she functioned out of her body and even experienced her birth as though it were an out-of-the-body event. She dealt with molestation and traumatization as a child by watching from a distance. While she was with me she kept leaving her body, and I had to bring her back and make her feel comfortable.
Gradually, as we progressed through the regressions and the peripheral work associated with them, her energy systems became re-integrated and she became able to accept and love all of them. But in order to do this we had to go back through the different ego states and love the child at every level. We had to accept that child back and re-incorporate these frightening aspects of her through saying the right things and through enticing her, like a timid deer, back into self-acceptance and love.
Much of the terror in Joanne was guilt and fear of what she had done to herself to atone for that guilt. Guilt had led to alienation from her world and from herself. The return back home, like the journey of the prodigal son, involved self-acceptance. Then she could dare to live and experience fully, to return home no matter how “wrong” she thought she had been. She experienced a major transformation in her entire perception.
The business of guilt, of perceiving the Fall as the result of sin or evil or willful disobedience toward God, seems to be inaccurate. In the process of separation from the Source we are probably innocent, not all that bad. Apparently we’re all growing. All kinds of experiences lend themselves to the totality of it, so nothing awful or bad really happened. It’s just an experience which may make us all the more beautiful and close to each other.
The idea of guilt is destructive. Guilt is something that stands in the way of our returning home and of our growing. Even if at the time of the separation we did feel willful, that is not necessarily bad, and we’ve grown since then. We can change our minds. Seen from the higher realms it isn’t a horrible thing that we have done and from which we can’t recoup. But we insist on judging ourselves. That’s what’s important and what makes the difficulty.
Joanne came in thin, pale, with cheeks sunken in. Her vital energy was almost blotted out—a compulsive housewife wearing blinders. In terms of her own experience and those of her friends there’s been a total transformation. But there is no ending to her growth. She, like all of us, can never say, “I’ve made it!” because every time she thinks she has reached a final balance, something else comes up. She has begun the endless study of herself, and there is no greater joy than ongoing self-discovery. She feels now that she is in a place where she can begin to be truly wide awake.