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Has there been any "scientific" research on past lives?

        There are different uses of the word "research." Some writers refer to their "research" when what they really mean is the experience they have had with clients. This is one form of research, and it is important, because from the experience of many therapists we begin to see how past life regressions actually work. But although this kind of research is important, it is usually dismissed as "anecdotal" by the scientific community.

      To scientific researchers, "research" is much more formal than mere anecdotes about what a therapist's clients say. But one should remember that in any new field, it is only through anecdotes that a "real" research study can be developed in the first place. Put another way, and using phobias as an example, it is only after many therapists tell stories about how their clients with phobias were cured after past life therapy that a potential researcher will even notice this and conceive of doing formal research to test the true effectiveness of past life therapy for people with phobias.

        Fortunately, there has been some of this other kind of "research," "scientific" research, done on past life regressions. Not much yet, but a little, and more is being done as I write. Briefly, what we know so far from that "scientific" research is this:

      1) People's brain waves change when they are in a past life regression, and they are different from the brain waves of any other mental state we know of (normal wakefulness, sleep, dreaming, hypnosis alone, etc.). (Study by Winafred Lucas, Ph.D.).

      2) Ordinary, normal healthy people report past lives more readily than mentally ill people. (Studies by Kampmann and Hirvenoja, Ph.D.s; Robert James, JD, CHT).

      3) People are more likely to be able to report realistic and detailed past lives if they are in a medium to deep level of hypnosis than if they are in a light trance or simple relaxation state. (Study by Robert James, JD, CHT).

      4) Past life therapy is extremely effective for phobias of all kinds. Also, there are significant predictable and different patterns in the kinds of past life and interlife experiences people with various phobias report. (Study by Thelma Freedman, Ph.D.).

      5) When past life therapy was combined with other forms of therapy for phobias, the participants who experienced past life therapy improved more than those who did not. (Study by Johannes Cladder, Ph.D., in The Netherlands).

      6) Past life therapy is very effective for people with Tourette's Syndrome. Out of 10 people who suffered from this affliction, 8 said that their symptoms were much fewer after past life therapy. (Study by Ronald van der Maesen, M.A., in The Netherlands.)

      7) When the details and demographic information people report in past life regressions are checked they are almost always accurate. (Study by Helen Wambach, Ph.D.)

      8) In all studies, between 70% and 80% of the original volunteers for each study reported past lives. Since this is believed to be the same percentage of the population that can go into hypnosis itself, the people who did not report past lives may be the same ones who did not go into hypnosis. However, we do not know this. But it may be that if some of those other people could go into hypnosis they might report past lives too.

      This kind of scientific research is just beginning in the field. There are difficulties. The field is very new, only about 20 years old, and we have only recently arrived at the point where therapist's anecdotes can be shaped into scientific studies. And most past life therapists are more concerned with helping their clients than with researching past lives, and that is as it should be. Furthermore, there are none of the usual funding sources available for past life research: no government or corporate grants, and no university support. All of the studies mentioned above were funded by the researcher him or herself and conducted privately, and that situation means small studies that are not too expensive. But just the same, more and more people are becoming interested in doing this kind of research, and more is done each year.

      Furthermore, more psychologists, psychiatrists, graduate students, and other professionals in mental health fields are joining The Association for Past Life Research and Therapies (APRT) every year, and a good many of them have an interest in research. So it is sure that research will continue. The field is open, and it is tempting precisely because it is so new, so little has been done, and so many questions remain unanswered.

IBRT certifies Past Life Researchers as well as Therapists and Training Programs. Check the Therapist listings for those who are active in research.

(From Notes of a Past Life Therapist: Questions and Answers, by Thelma B. Freedman, Ph.D. Copyright 1998; in press)