A Brief History Of Reincarnation
And Past Life Regression
The concepts of reincarnation and past lives date back a long way, and can be found in the writings of many ancient civilisations. Reincarnation has also been part of many of the world’s religions, including Christianity, before it was removed from Christian teachings in the 6th century AD, for political reasons.
In more modern times, many consider Sigmund Freud a significant influence in the development of past life regression as a therapy. His concept that making the unconscious mind conscious could bring about healing shares many parallels with the past life regression hypnotherapy techniques we see today.
In the years preceding Freud’s death in 1939, another man named Edgar Cayce was also more publicly bringing the concept of past lives into focus in the United States, through his past life channelling sessions. Links to Edgar Cayce’s work can be found in the ‘Useful Resources’ section.
In the 1950s, the famous ‘Bridey Murphy’ case of American housewife, Virginia Tighe, again brought the subject of past life regression into public awareness. In a hypnotised state, Tighe claimed to have been an Irish woman, born in Cork, who lived from 1798 until 1864. The case really captured the imagination of the American public, with a book and film subsequently being produced about the story.
Tighe’s case, however, demonstrated that whilst some of the details she reported under hypnosis were staggeringly accurate and could not have been learned through any other means, others did not match and may have come from conscious memory recall. Thus, the techniques used in hypnotic regression going forward into the future would have to be refined, in order to try and reduce conscious interference.
Dr Ian Stevenson’s work on spontaneous past life recollections is, perhaps, one of the most compelling and important resources available, in terms of reincarnation research. Stevenson began investigating such cases in the 1950s and continued his work well into his eighties. Stevenson’s work involving birthmarks and other marks considered to be related to previous life traumas is extremely interesting and provides a great deal of validational evidence. Stevenson died, aged 88 in 2007, but his work lives on through Dr Jim Tucker. Links to both men’s work can be found in the ‘Useful Resources’ section.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the process of age regression – regressing a subject to earlier memories of their present life – gained widespread acceptance. Age regression is very much the basis for past life regression, the main difference between the two being the size of arena available for the therapist and client to work with.
The New Age Movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s served as a massive catalyst for many spiritual concepts to reach public awareness on a large scale. Many new books reached the printing presses, including works by the likes of Helen Wambach, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Edith Fiore, Raymond Moody, and many other pioneers, too numerous to mention. Links to their work, and that of many others, can be found in the ‘Useful Resources’ section.
In the early 1980s, a traditional psychotherapist named Dr Brian Weiss had been treating a patient for nightmares and anxiety attacks for around a year, with little improvement. Finally, when nothing else seemed to be helping, Dr Weiss used hypnosis, which he had learnt years previously as an intern, to guide the patient into a relaxed state. Dr Weiss then asked the patient to go to the source of her issues and was astonished and sceptical when she began to report having past life experiences, which seemed to cure her symptoms in a very short space of time. It is interesting to note here that the patient did not believe in past lives either, as it was not in her background as a Catholic.
Dr Weiss remained sceptical but curious about his patient’s experiences until one session where, in a deeply relaxed hypnotic state, she began to channel messages from the spirit world, which contained very accurate, private information about Dr Weiss’ own family and which, according to Dr Weiss, no-one could possibly have known or been able to look up.
This proved to be a life-changing moment for Dr Weiss, who went on to write about his experiences with Catherine, his patient. His 1988 book ‘Many Lives, Many Masters’ is considered a classic of its genre, and Dr Weiss has gone on to write several others since, detailing some of the incredible contributions he has made to the field of past life regression in the modern era. Dr Weiss no longer sees patients on an individual basis, but does hold group workshops all over the world, details of which can be found on his website. A link to Dr Weiss’ website can be found in the ‘Useful Resources’ section.
An incredible piece of validation work also emerged in the early 1980s, with the production of an excellent documentary by Australian past life regression therapist, Peter Ramster, following the journeys of four subjects as they travel around the world and attempt to track down evidence of their memories. A link to this documentary can be found in the ‘Useful Resources’ section and it is well worth a watch.
The 1990s saw more groundbreaking literature emerge, with the works of Carol Bowman and Jenny Cockell, amongst numerous others, hitting the shelves. Carol Bowman’s work on children’s past lives and same family reincarnation cases is extremely interesting and a great resource. Carol also runs a past lives discussion forum, where people can share their experiences with others of a like mind and ask important questions. Links to Carol Bowman’s work and forum can be found in the ‘Useful Resources’ section.
Jenny Cockell’s work is an astounding piece of reincarnation evidence, and stands alone as one of the most important landmarks in the history of this field. From an early age, Jenny grew up with intrusive past life memories from three completely separate lives. However, it is her life as Mary Sutton, an Irish woman who died in the 1930s, for which her work is most well known.
As a young child, Jenny would frequently have dreams about dying and leaving behind a young family, waking up feeling absolutely heartbroken and helpless to do anything about it. Her memories, however, were not confined only to dreams. Jenny had strong recollections of, amongst other things, Mary’s home, Mary’s village and, most importantly of all, Mary’s family.
Throughout her childhood, Jenny would draw maps and pictures of landmarks she remembered from the village. She would later be able to verify these as being accurate, despite having never been exposed to these places in her life up to that point. Jenny continued to wrestle with these memories and feelings throughout childhood.
In 1988, she undertook a series of hypnotic regression sessions, which brought up several details about her life as Mary Sutton, which she would then go on to attempt to research. Jenny’s painstakingly in-depth research, often in the face of massive setbacks, which is detailed in her books, is a testament to the importance for her of resolving her memories of Mary and of finding the family she left behind in the 1930s.
In June 1989, Jenny was finally able to make her first visit to Malahide, the Irish village where she had lived as Mary Sutton. Whilst there, she recognised several landmarks from her dreams, memories and hypnotic sessions, and when she returned home to England, she began to make enquiries she had been unable to make whilst in Malahide due to time constraints.
Through her contacts with Mensa, Jenny wrote to two members located near Malahide, one of whom was able to give her the name of the owner of an old building she had come across near the location of Mary’s home. Jenny subsequently wrote to this man, who was able to tell her that there had indeed been a family there in the 1920s which matched Jenny’s description. They had been the only family in the lane who had a large number of children, and the mother of the family had indeed died at a young age in the 1930s. Jenny also learned the, up to this point, elusive family name of Sutton from this man, as well as the fact that Mary’s children had been split up and sent to separate orphanages.
This information made Jenny even more determined to find the family, so she set about painstakingly writing to many potential sources of information, such as records offices, orphanages, historical societies and various other people. Jenny had to suffer many months of dead-ends and bureaucracy, before a breakthrough finally occurred. In early 1990, she received a letter from a priest in charge of a boys’ home in Dublin, which provided her with the names of six of Mary’s children, their years of birth and some other genealogical information.
Jenny then set about writing to a great number of people in Ireland whom, from searches, she felt might potentially have some connection to the family. She also received a copy of Mary’s death certificate and two of the children’s birth certificates, through a helpful contact she had made in the course of her enquiries. At this time, Jenny also wrote to the Dublin Evening Press, asking for anyone with information on the family to get in contact with her.
A couple of months later, Jenny received an anonymous note in the post, which contained contact details for a member of the Sutton family. Jenny spoke to the daughter of one of Mary’s sons by phone, which subsequently led to her first contact with Mary’s eldest son, Sonny. After months of going back and forth, with an independent researcher recording statements from both Jenny and Sonny, without each knowing what the other had said, a meeting was arranged. In September 1990, Jenny finally met Sonny at his home in Leeds. Together, they spoke and compared their respective lists of statements, finding a massive amount of matching details, some of which were extremely personal things no-one would have been able to gain through research.
Eventually, Jenny managed to meet a number of Mary’s children, bringing together family members who hadn’t seen each other in many years. Her full story can be found in her books, which are listed in the ‘Useful Resources’ section under ‘Recommended Reading’. They also touch on Jenny’s other remembered lives and are very, very highly recommended.
In 1994, Dr Michael Newton published his first book, ‘Journey Of Souls’, which is widely regarded as a groundbreaking work in the field of Life Between Lives, or spiritual regression as it is sometimes known. Like Brian Weiss, Dr Newton began his career as a traditional therapist, and in his own words regarding his initial stance towards the metaphysical “was dragged to the party kicking and screaming”.
Dr Newton’s career began in the 1950s, and saw him primarily working in behaviour modification. With the public interest stirred up by the aforementioned ‘Bridey Murphy’ case, he soon began to receive enquiries from people regarding past life regression. Newton dismissed them, however, as he was sceptical of both the concept of reincarnation and the New Age Movement generally.
After a number of years in traditional practice, Dr Newton’s belief system was changed forever with the unexpected experience of his first past life case. A male patient, suffering from an early age with a pain in his side, had been to many medical professionals to try and get to the root of his condition, who had all been unsuccessful in finding the problem, convinced it was psychosomatic. As a last resort, the patient had turned to hypnosis, asking Dr Newton if he could find any root cause in childhood, with a view to desensitising the problem.
Newton asked his patient to go to the first time he ever felt the pain, and was surprised when he began to describe being bayoneted in the side during the Battle of the Somme in World War I. Despite his scepticism, Dr Newton deprogrammed the trauma, asking the patient several questions in the process, in order to glean factual information. This information was later checked with the British War Office and was found to be accurate. There had indeed been a soldier of the name and number the patient gave whilst hypnotised, who had died at the time the patient had stated.
From that point on, Dr Newton began to take past life cases, but it wasn’t until a couple of years later that he had his first spirit world case. In this instance, a woman had come to see him regarding feelings of isolation and loneliness. After exploring her present life and not finding any root cause there, they began to look at her most immediate past life, where some close friends were found, but the patient was insistent that she wanted to see them all together.
Dr Newton then asked her whether there was a time in her existence when she was not lonely, as she was with a group of friends. With great emotion, the patient pointed and said “I see them all now”, going on to describe eight of her spiritual soulmates. Using the word ‘group’ had been the trigger to open this up, as the patient’s subconscious had taken that to mean her soul group.
Upon further examination, it was discovered that none of these soulmates were with the patient in her present life, as she had come to rely too much on them in previous lives and this was an exercise in developing more independence. With the benefit of this knowledge, the patient was able to accept that this was something purposeful and planned, for her benefit and growth, and she subsequently wrote to Dr Newton, telling him how much more fulfilling and enjoyable her life had become as a result.
This case was a massive revelation to Dr Newton, who then closed his practice to any other form of therapy and focussed entirely on the area of Life Between Lives for the next thirty years, working with thousands more patients and amassing a great deal of fascinating and revealing information in the process.
In the early 2000s, after publishing his second book, Destiny Of Souls, Dr Newton retired from actively regressing patients, focussing his energies upon setting up an institution to train other hypnotherapists in his techniques. Today, the Newton Institute has many certified therapists worldwide and runs regular training courses in many different locations around the globe. A link to the Newton Institute’s website can be found in the ‘Useful Resources’ section.
In recent years, more compelling reincarnation cases have emerged, most notably the case of James Leininger, a young boy who had memories of being a World War II fighter pilot named James Huston. His case is, again, notable because of a sceptical element. In this case, James’ father, Bruce, found that his son’s claims did not fit with his Christian ideology, but also found that he could not deny the evidence right in front of his eyes. The book ‘Soul Survivor’ is a fascinating read and a link can be found in the ‘Useful Resources’ section.
Going into the future, as more and more compelling evidence emerges for the existence and validity of reincarnation and past lives, we hope that the truth about these important subjects becomes more and more widespread, so that more and more people can be helped through methods such as past life regression and life between lives hypnotherapy.