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Soul Retrieval – Janet Cunningham (Is.12)

by Janet Cunningham, M.S.

Practitioners of past-life therapy and research often report a perceived empathic bond with their clients during their sessions. It is not all that unusual for a therapist to report knowing what a client was experiencing before s/he actually described it verbally. Nor is it unusual for a client to report feeling the presence of the therapist during the past-life experience. In this article, the author presents an interesting extension of this, in that she felt obliged to enter into the client’s experience. The description of what occurred leaves us with perhaps more questions than answers.

Past-life therapy has broadened over the years as a result of the pioneers (APRT members and researchers at the forefront of the field) who have been open-minded and willing to learn from clients. As a result we are, hopefully, less likely to make quick judgments about what a past-life regression may entail. APRT therapists and researchers have learned that past-life therapy may involve (1) a past-life issue that was not resolved, (2) an issue that began in the womb or infancy—prenatal or perinatal, (3) repressed childhood memories of sexual and/or other forms of abuse, (4) psychic opening and experiences of the paranormal, (5) dialoging with an unborn fetus after abortion or with a deceased relative, (6) processing a near-death experience, (7) entity attachment, and/or (8) alien abduction. It is not uncommon for a therapist to begin a “typical” past-life regression, and to find himself with a very different set of circumstances than expected.

[Note: pronouns himself/herself, he/she, his/her are used interchangeably throughout the text.]

I would like to add to this list: Soul Retrieval. Although this term has been used in numerous ways and with diverse meanings, I have not found a term that better describes what the experience has been for me. Differing from situations where the client’s images and memories are flowing from the unconscious, or when the client has the ability to dialogue with an entity, in a Soul Retrieval the client has been unable to easily extract herself from the situation. The experience seems to indicate that a portion of the soul energy of the client has been locked away. She needs the energetic assistance of the therapist to retrieve the soul-energy and to integrate the energy with more wholeness into her Being.

I will briefly give four client case histories. These experiences happened approximately two to four years apart, giving an indication that either (1) it is a rare occurrence, or (2) it is a common practice and we dismiss it or have not recognized its uniqueness, or (3) we need to awaken to the possibility of a skill and technique that can be very healing for our clients. My hesitation in encouraging the latter is that it is too easy to “jump on a bandwagon” before we know where the wagon is going. Perhaps my own bias comes in here; nevertheless, I will attempt to convey my concern. Unlike skills and techniques that can be learned, some of the healing methods that APRT pioneers are using today require that the therapist/healer first heal herself! The Mind Mirror research by Dr. Winafred Lucas (Lucas, 1989) suggests that some regression therapists have the ability to join with the client in his experience. In this energetic connection, the therapist can be more fully in the process. The clarity of the therapist, in my view, is based upon his thoughts, feelings, beliefs, biases, etc. The past-life abilities and essence of the therapist, in my opinion, also enter into this phenomenon. It is essential, therefore, for the therapist to put aside any “agenda,” expectation, or unconscious desire. Is this new information? Of course not. And yet, we need to more fully grasp that we cannot walk outside of our consciousness—our soul essence; this is important to understand in Soul Retrieval. Any therapist who has not undergone his own in-depth work in past-life therapy and other clearing for several years should not, in my opinion, attempt to do Soul Retrieval.

I had been working with a woman who I will call Lynn; she was in her mid-forties, formerly married for 25 years and now living with a lesbian lover. I had known Lynn personally for several years; she had always enjoyed the company of males as friends. Now she was making frequent statements about masculine energy not being “good for her” to be around and emphasizing the positive aspects of feminine energy. Lynn was not displaying anger at men, as much as a desire to accentuate feminine energy at the expense of her masculine side. (When she eventually balanced her energies more, she continued to live the lesbian lifestyle that she had chosen).

At Lynn’s request, her lover, who I will call Pat, was in the room with us. I had done some work in current-life and past-life regressions with Pat also. Pat had strong psychic ability and would often go into an altered state to perceive and be with Lynn.

In what I expected to be an “ordinary” past-life regression, Lynn went to a Mayan temple. She saw herself as a spiritual leader or teacher, female, strong and powerful. She loved her people, and they returned the love and admiration. As I moved her forward in time, she became more and more agitated with her people; they seemed to be worshipping her instead of the teachings. Strongly connected to her in the regression, I found myself pushing her more and more to express the anger that I knew she was containing and holding inside of her. Then, she broke through the anger and indicated that she was killing her people in a blind rage; with a type of saber or machete, she was “teaching” them that they were to worship the gods, not to worship the living (her). In the regression, her anger was volcanic. There was no hint or feeling of wrong-doing on her part…until many of her people had been killed. Then she expressed shock with “What have I done? What have I done? I have killed them!” and she took her own life.

It had been a deeply emotional experience. As I moved Lynn to the Light, something unusual happened; she did not go. Instead, I felt Lynn’s consciousness move further and further away from the room. I glanced at Pat and she looked frightened, whispering “I can’t find her, Janet!”

Lynn’s breathing slowed more and more. Her energy/essence felt very distant from the room; she was quiet for a long time. When I asked where she was, she could barely move her lips to respond; her whisper was only air, with no audible words. It was as if she had no energy left in her body to assist. With my ear at her mouth, I asked again and got the same response: an attempt to whisper with even less energy.

I asked for “Higher Guidance,” and knew that I had to go to her at where she was in consciousness, and energetically bring her back. In a regression, even though I am psychically perceiving, I am empathic (author’s emphasis) about keeping myself out of the client’s experience; I do not lead or direct. This was different. This required my going to her—going into her experience with her.

Holding Lynn’s left hand with my right, I told Lynn that I was coming after her to bring her safely back. I spoke slowly and softly as I said the words that came into my mind at the time: I included explanations about how she had locked a portion of her soul away in darkness, indications of forgiveness from her people, encouraging her forgiveness of herself, reminding her that she had work to do on the earth with greater wholeness and balance, and directions to follow my voice to the Light. For a long time I had to use my “sensing” of where her consciousness was; her outer responses were non-existent. I kept talking to her, repeating forgiveness and instructions to “rejoin” her soul energy for greater balance.

I have no idea how long it took before Lynn began to respond; it was a very long time. But I knew that I was with her in consciousness…and I was going to stay with her as long as it took. Changes were almost imperceptible initially except through my sensing of where she was. At the slightest willingness of the soul portion to move, I “pulled energetically” while gently and firmly directing Lynn to follow my voice, coming back into the room fully with the loving acceptance of the wholeness of her soul energy.

Lynn was very psychic and we had done a lot of work together that was “out of the ordinary.” But when she came back into the room, she was in wonder. “Janet, I didn’t know where I was; it was just darkness. The only thing I could sense was your soul presence. It was that energy and your voice that brought me back. I didn’t have strength to get out of that place.”

We followed up the session with discussion about how Lynn may have interpreted her ending acts in that life as “masculine power” out of control, and that she may have locked a portion of her soul energy away, not trusting that aspect of herself. We discussed the importance of balance, and using her power in positive and loving ways for herself and others. Lynn called me the next day, recognizing a difference, and as months went by it seemed that she had, indeed, acquired more acceptance of her power. I considered the experience to be one of those unusual past-life regressions that we sometimes run across.

Approximately four years later, I was with a small group of people at the end of a long day. We had gone to a show with an artist and were back in his studio. The artist, who I will call Paul, had been emotionally touched by an outpouring of appreciation for his work at his one-man show. We were sitting on the floor while Paul was walking around the room looking at his work. When he came to our circle, he sat down and with a big sigh started to relax. We watched as he spontaneously began to go into an altered state. The small group of people present were comfortable with meditative states, and simply watched and noted.

Paul began to become agitated and his facial expression indicated fear. He called out for me and reached his left hand out. I took his hand, holding it firmly, and asked where he was and what was happening, He was in a place that terrified him; he vividly described the darkness and skeletons around him. Although I had heard people speak of “the Astral,” as being a place that is the “garbage dump” and that negative energies existed there, I had not done any personal research or reading in that area. I thought back to my experience with Lynn and wondered if she had locked a portion of her soul away in the Astral, and if a portion of Paul’s power had also been locked away—in his case, due to fear of his visions, of what he could see and know about negative energies. In sessions, Paul had indicated fear of negative or evil entities coming after him; he had seen grotesque faces at night as he drifted off to sleep. Now, while in the altered state in his studio, Paul felt frozen and afraid to move. It was too dark for him to see much other than the skeletons.

I told Paul that I was going to go into the place with him and to look for me, that I would be there, would walk alongside him and we would go through this place together to the Light. I moved my energy/consciousness to where he was; he was still afraid to move. Although it was my desire to have Paul move through this experience of fear with his own power, I realized that he was unable at that point to do it. So, I indicated that I would walk in front of him, that it was okay, and he could follow and in so-doing, would move through his fear. “Janet, I see you!” he exclaimed, “I see your Light dancing in front of me.” Paul cautiously walked through the realm of his experience, eventually coming back into the room with me. Following up, in discussion, I reminded him of his own power and inner strength: something he had not acknowledged before that experience. It may be that a portion of his soul was in utter fear of his abilities to see in other dimensions. Without doubt, it was holding Paul back from utilizing his talents as an artist more effectively. Once again, I considered the experience as one with a unique individual with strong psychic abilities.

Recently I was working with a woman in her late thirties. She desires a career change and has struggled with how to make it happen—it is against her husband’s wishes and she is concerned about the effect that going back to school would have on her three children. She determined that it was necessary for her to postpone school for a year or more. Although she felt a great responsibility to her children she would, nevertheless, find herself constantly impatient and short-tempered with them. Her husband, however, was often the brunt of her anger. His lack of cooperation in the household and lack of support for her seemed to be reason enough to justify her anger, yet she sensed it came from something deeper. She feared that her anger was beginning to engulf her.

In a past-life regression to go to the source of her anger, Alice, as I will call her, went to a lifetime where she, as a young boy, was taken as a slave. He had to perform whatever degrading acts his captors desired. Threat of death by being eaten by a crocodile or alligator was ever present. The life ended with extreme torture (his tongue was cut out) and he saw a crocodile before blackness came. The moment of death occurred with intense hatred and anger.

When I attempted to guide her to the Light after death, Alice was unable to find it. Alice had done two other regressions with me previously; this time she was confused and puzzled at her inability to go to the Light. Instead, she described only darkness.

Unlike Lynn, Alice’s energy was more present. Nevertheless, this was a situation that went beyond a need to forgive the perpetrators or to release emotion. Alice’s soul had taken the hatred and anger with her at the time of death. The heaviness of that vibration held her, and she was unable to extract herself from it. I asked Alice if I could hold her left hand; she indicated yes. I held it with my right hand and asked (mentally and privately) that I be used as a channel to lift that portion of her soul to the Light. I talked to her, indicating that she was to follow my energy to lift to a higher vibration. I gave time for her to feel the healing energy of the Light and then to send whatever stream of Light she could to the group of perpetrators. She sensed them as evil. After a “laser beam” of light had been sent, I had her cut any connection she had to them previously as a result of the intense hatred. Before bringing her back into the room, I gave suggestions for balanced soul energy in her mind/body system and for her to bring more joy, humor, lightness and loving energy into her life. Alice was surprised at what had transpired, saying “That was bizarre.” She indicated that she felt “different.”

Approximately six weeks after her session, Alice called me to say that she had signed up to go to acupuncture school, had been approved, and her husband was in agreement. “I don’t understand it, Janet; all I know is that there was some kind of shift that took place after that session.”

I don’t think that my experiences are exceptional or different from many past-life therapists who have worked in the field for several years. I do believe that we need to recognize Soul Retrieval as another experience that we may face with clients. Soul Retrieval, in my experience, requires that the therapist go in to the experience and be with the client in consciousness. If the therapist is unable to feel/sense/know energetically where the client is in consciousness, this should not be attempted. Lynn was my “teacher” in Soul Retrieval. Paul and Alice’s experiences were different in that they were energetically present enough that I could have guided them out of the darkness and brought them back into the room, employing more usual techniques. However, an opportunity for greater healing presented itself when I recognized that I could go into the experience with them, be there, and bring a soul energy back that was more whole and intact.

Only in retrospect do I realize that my first experience with this occurred while working with a psychic in the early 1980’s. She was doing what we called “soul travel” at the time. Her interpretation was that she traveled into other dimensions to bring back soul information for a person who was present. The information was presented by Patty, as I will call her, in a vivid and colorful manner, often symbolically. It was her perception that she left her physical body and traveled astrally because she felt rapid movement, saw herself sometimes whizzing by planets, and saw a silver cord back to her body. In one of those experiences, Patty went so far “out” that she said she was unable to “find my way back to my body.” When she became frightened, I automatically took her hand and told her to follow my energy back to her body. When I did that, she saw a blue-green “cord,” recognized it as me, and followed the blue-green cord back to her body. After that experience, Patty was willing and anxious to do soul travel with more comfort for a few of her friends as long as I was present. Patty’s interpretation of this was that we were fragments of the same soul band and that when she got so far out that it was difficult to find her way back through the outer dimensions, she could seek out the blue-green cord and follow it back to my hand grasping hers, returning to her body and the room.

In time, through my own prompting and Patty’s increased confidence in her abilities, she could return unassisted by my direct hand contact. Eventually she did “soul travel” without my presence. By that time, Patty was a more “grounded” person than when I had first met her. I assumed this was an experience unique to Patty’s abilities and development.

As I consider these four experiences now, I recognize that we may have an ability to reach each other in other dimensions, when the intent and desire for healing is strong and without fear. I am sure there may be other explanations for what these experiences were. For myself, I would welcome further exploration by people who have experienced similar events.



Lucas, W.B. “Mind Mirror Research on the Retrieval of Past Lives” The Journal of Regression Therapy, IV (I), 60-71, 1989.