Through Time Into Healing by Brian L. Weiss, M.D., 1993, Fireside Book, Simon and Schuster, New York, $11.00, pp. 202

Reviewed by John A. Speyrer

Brian L. Weiss is definitely not the kook who lives next door. A magna cum laude graduate, Phi Beta Kappa from Columbia, medical degree from Yale where he was chief resident in psychiatry, and even more.But I am sure you get the idea that Dr. Weiss has the credentials to get into just about any field in psychiatry that he wishes.

So when he writes a book that describes his work in prior lives regressive hypnotherapy he deserves that we listen to what he has to say. What he says is that he believes in reincarnation. The author is also convinced that we have all lived lives before this life and by returning to them and to their traumas and experiencing them we can be relieved of our present day problems.

Like the rest of us, he was skeptical about such paranormal possiblitiies, but he begins his book with a blockbuster of a case study of Catherine. This patient challenged his earlier beliefs and changed his mind about the possibility of paranormal happenings. It was the recounting of details by Catherine of his own life, details which no one could have known, that converted him to the possibility that past lives was a genuine phenomenon.

Dr Weiss writes that only about 40 percent of his patients have to go into past lives to resolve their present symptoms. Like Dr Stanislav Grof, he believes that sometimes you've got to go into transpersonal areas (though he doesn't use that word) and to earlier lives to resolve an issue in the here and now. But are past lives stories ones subconscious makes up to replay the conflictual issues? In other words, are past lives merely symbolic manufactures; something like a dream-state in which the elements of our conflicts unconsciously play out with different story lines?

The author considers this option but does not believe the past lives are symbolic re-enactments. In fact, he says. to the contrary, that it works the other way around, and that ". . . memories, impulses, and energies from past lives seem to form or create the childhood pattern in this lifetime. It is simply another repetition or coming together of long, preexisting patterns." He claims his patients enjoy a regression success of 70 percent. As in other regressive therapies, the material evoked is emotionally charged. Unfortunately, he is not concerned about verifying historical accuracy. Perhaps, past life therapy would become more credible if historical verification could be made.

At times one re-lives a "key moment flow" pattern. This would be an amalgamation of incidents in various lives which have similar emotional content. This phenomenon is also common in primal and other regression therapies but usually the happenings are restricted to our present lifetime! He doesn't write about re-living birth trauma but says that one can relive a prior life from birth to death so perhaps one can re-live one's birth in this lifetime. In primal therapy it is such an important and common regression which makes me wonder why Weiss does not discuss birth trauma. He believes that the "key moment flows" can be as equally healing as living an entire birth to death sequence in a prior life. The author writes that when you regress you don't necessarily go to past lives, you can return to your childhood in this life, so at times in reading the book, I felt that I was on familiar territory. It is so easy to decide that Weiss' patients are living their earlier (this life) traumas symbolically. I have been regressing to my early childhood, infancy, and birth and even before birth, but, I have never had a prior life regression.

I've spoken with some primal therapists and asked them if they believed that such relivings were possible and if any of their patients regressed to prior lives. Some were noncommital but said that they work with their clients the same way as though they were regular primals and if a "prior life" came up during regular therapy, they were supportive and helped their clients to relive it.

A primal patient from Arthur Janov's Primal Institute told me while she was undergoing therapy there in the 1970s occasionally a patient there in group primal therapy would relive prior lives or descend into transpersonal spaces but never mentioned it to the therapists, only among themselves, since it was not in accord with primal theory.

Twenty-five years later it is still a heretical belief. Dr. Janov, in his most recent book, Why You Get Sick and How You Get Well (1996) writes, "I have never, ever seen past lives in my thousands of patients over a quarter of a century of primal treatment. It is not because I don't believe in it. It is because I am careful to see that each and every pain is properly integrated so that there is no flooding of consciousness." (p. 183) Perhaps in the Institute's group environment such individual transpersonal experiences were not obvious to the therapists, and there might have been a need on the part of the patients to conform to accepted primal theory.

Dr Weiss has come to believe that a person chooses his parents for each lifetime experienced. This is based on the need to resolve persistent behaviors which continue through one's reincarnations. The object of the repetition is to promote growth of our spiritual selves. We continually meet the same "souls" in lifetime after lifetime in order to perfect our development.

For example, this repetition can be illustrated by the well known compulsion of some in serial marriages and relationships to choose partners who are abusive, or alcoholic, or angry, etc. The same relationships are repeated time after time because there is an unconscious need of making the "bad" partner into a good mother. This repetition of choosing wrongly can also be re-experienced in prior lives therapy. Dr Weiss believes that even the origins of one's present day obesity and substance abuse can sometimes be found in our prior lives.

The author looks at death as another way to allow growth. He recounts a number of cases of post-death contacts with recently deceased family members by their survivors. He writes that such "psychic experiences concerning a departed loved one can also induce profound changes in a person's life and in his or her attitude toward death and dying." Following these experiences severe grief and fear of death can become diminished. So death is another way for us to realize that "we move from lesson to lesson, from lifetime to lifetime."

Many become more spiritual and intuitive after they undergo past lives therapy. The author describes some of his own experiences with sprituality. He feels it is a wonderful gift. In any event, remembering one's past lives is not necessary for everyone of us, since our problems may be in the "here" and not in the "then." Those who have the experiences described in Through Time Into Healing will experience

"(m)any different types of altered states, psychic insights, perception of beautiful colors, feelings, thoughts, and solutions to present problems (which) may pop into the mind of a patient under regression, as well as experiences with guides and memories of past and present lifetimes. A patient may even have experiences that seem to take place in other realms altogether, realms that are very beautiful and sacred. . . . An expansion of consciousness . . . . can be very therapeutic, a wonderful thing, and can be just as healing as past life regression." (p. 170)
With each re-living of a prior life trauma, the emotion surrounding the re-living is lessened and the chance of deep insights increase. That's how it is in primal therapy also. And like primal therapy sometimes visual images accompany the re-lived material being accessed.

Dr. Weiss says that you don't have to see a past life regression therapist to get the benefits. He includes a script which you can use to make your own tape recording for self-regressing. In additon to the tape, he recommends keeping a record of your dreams, doing meditation, using visualization and self-awareness techniques, all which can allow past life recall. Various body work methods, such as, acupressure massage and reflexology can also access both one's early present life and past life issues.

An interesting "play" technique is described. It consists of free association of emotionally charged words; a list of 36 such universally appropriate words is furnished. The "faces" game is also recommended. In "faces" the subject sits a few feet away from a friend. Both are in dim light with soft background music playing. One looks into his partner's face and observes any changes in appearance. You then describe the changes. The author says that this technique is a very powerful method of viewing energy fields surrounding a person. Sometimes one sees dead relatives, spirit guides, or even an entire past life scene. But whatever one sees, Dr. Weiss writes, will be consistently dramatic.

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