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Past Life Regression in Hypnosis: Is It Real? Does It Work?
By David Quigley

Past life regression (henceforth referred to by its commonly-used acronym PLR) is a highly controversial subject in the field of therapy. In one camp are its often fanatical detractors, who regard PLR as a method used by unscrupulous amateurs to rob and deceive the gullible masses. On the other hand, the "true believers" of PLR have written volumes of data about the subject, in an effort to prove both the existence of past lives and the necessity of "clearing" past life memories from the subconscious mind. Unfortunately, in the frequently heated debate about whether past lives are "real", there is one question that is rarely asked: is PLR as effective in helping people to solve their everyday problems and improve their lives as other short-term interventions? This series of articles will concern itself largely with this critical question, which is perhaps more important in the long run for PLR to become a proven therapeutic system than proving the "reality" of past lives.

First, however, I'd like to address the question of whether or not "past lives" are real. In my years of both academic research and experiments with PLR, I have found huge volumes of data that would prove to any legitimate scientist that many "past life" memories are based on real historic people and events. I refer the reader to Helen Wambach's seminal research work Reliving Past Lives, Marge Rieder's extraordinary and well-researched Mission to Marlboro, and Ian Stevenson's exhaustively scientific 30 Cases Suggestive of Re-incarnation written by a skeptical scientist. It seems to me that there are a sufficient number of books to prove that past life memories have been documented as accurate for a statistically significant number of test subjects.

Those who continue to deny this may present themselves as scientific. Possibly they are trapped in an irrational dogma comparable to the beliefs of those church "scholars" in the 16th Century who maintained their belief in an earth centered solar system in the face of Galileo's telescopes. In the past, tragically, these hardened dogmatists were in charge of much of the research funding and training of therapists, just as the Church had a stranglehold on science in the 16th Century. In any event, I have no particular desire to "prove" the existence of past life recall to the fanatical skeptic, since I feel the literature on the subject is replete with such proof. More practical is my concern that many people today are interested in experiencing past life memories for themselves. And they want to know if their past life memories are real. One must admit that many past life memories recalled by clients are not easily provable. They may even be products of the client's subconscious imagination. As an example, the client sees himself as Sir Lancelot approaching the great castle of Camelot in shining armor and mounted upon a white charger. While the client may or may not have been Sir Lancelot, historically, King Arthur's knights, if they existed at all, wore leather armor and lived in primitive wooden forts circa 600 AD.

There are a number of indications according to researchers that a past life memory, whether spontaneously recalled or found under hypnosis, is an accurate recollection. First, are the emotions evoked by the experience more powerful than those evoked by a movie or novel? Some clients even experience PLR emotions as more powerful than any evoked by present life experience. These powerful feelings can be an indication that a past life memory is accurate. One client weeps prolifically over the fallen bodies of his family, victims of a massacre. Later he describes the emotions evoked as far more powerful than anything he has ever experienced in present life. While hardly scientific, this evidence is often used as a measure of the validity of the memory.

Sometimes a creative ability emerges from a past life memory for which the client can find no other easy explanation. Musical or artistic abilities, for example, can be brought forward from past lives that might be otherwise hard to explain. For example, one client with no artistic gifts or experience emerges from trance and starts to draw animal figures beautifully.

One of the paramount proofs is when historic details of an experience can be validated by research. A therapist I know asked his subconscious mind for a past life that could be historically validated. He was given precise biographical details of a life as an architect in Venice in the 15th Century. In a later visit to Venice he was able to view some of the buildings he had designed hundreds of years before, as well as confirm the precise biographical details he had received in trance. While such historical proof may be beyond the reach of many subjects, it is not difficult to examine such things as clothing, architecture, diet, and technology to find historical parallels.

Another validation of past life memories occurs when we meet people who have shared our past life experiences and remembers them the way we do. I had the disturbing experience of taking a client into trance and helping him recall a duel in Paris with an arrogant musketeer. I knew who he was in a past life! Together we both described every detail of the scene, including our clothes, our weapons, and the reason for the duel, and its outcome. He killed me. This is one of many such experiences I have had which has confirmed my belief in the reality of my own past lives.

The most important question in my view however is not whether PLR is "real" but whether it works in solving the client's problems. This question continues to be very difficult to answer. My concern is that most PLR therapists have received very little formal training in the field. Hypnotherapy as a field has made great strides in the last 50 years. But, PLR as a specialty is a valuable new technology that is still in its infancy. Therefore, I find most hypnosis trainings offer only a few hours of brief instruction, without adequate supervised practice, and with little emphasis on the specific therapeutic issues that respond best to PLR. Many other trainings in hypnotherapy and psychotherapy simply dismiss the whole concept of PLR as "unproved" and therefore beneath their need to teach or explain. We may compare the relative success or failure of many modern PLR therapists to the clumsy chopping of "surgeons" in the 15th century. Surely, if we judged "surgery" by the success rate of these practitioners, it would be found to be mere quackery by any modern analysis.

Copyright © September, 2005 By David Quigley CHT

The Alchemy Institute, at is America's oldest spiritually oriented hypnotherapy training program has trained over 2000 hypnotherapists since 1983. The Alchemy Institute is approved by the state of California BPPVE (Bureau of Private Postsecondary Education) and the ACHE (American Council of Hypnotists Examiners).The Alchemy Web Site offers over 100 pages of information on Alchemical Hypnotherapy and the amazing spiritual and physical transformation of graduates of our training, students of Empowerment Weekends and hypnotherapy clients. This article is available online at along with links to 5 additional articles in this series.

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