The Journey of the Soul
It is our intuition that leads us to realize that we are on a journey of the soul back to our Source and that what occurs in each lifetime is appropriate for the stage of that individual’s journey. Pecci states the underlying assumption: ‘There is a primordial Essence characterized by unconditional love, joy, serenity, and wisdom, from which we have become separated and to which we can return by moving out into the vaster realities of awareness. Journeying toward this universal flow of energy is the meaning of spirituality and the purpose of our stream of lifetimes. It embraces a consciousness essentially unlimited, that is continuous, has no boundaries, knows everything, and forms our essential core.
Snow reaffirms this transpersonal quality of past-life experience: The process is at heart a profoundly spiritual one. It implies the existence and accessibility of deep spiritual wisdom within each of us. This wisdom may carry a myriad of names and faces: it may even at times seem contradictory on the surface, yet underneath all the apparent contradictions is a fundamental unity behind our definition of being human.
Woolger describes this unity in non-linear terms: When we gain the perspective of the great wheel of existence, we can see that all spokes emanate from the Center–only at the rim are spokes seen as separate and in a sequential relationship with each other. The Self is at the heart of all beings and all Being.
He discusses the relationship between individual roles and the Self: At the unitive level all past lives are present to the Self and all roles are known aspects of the Self, like an actor playing many parts. Good and evil roles exist, but merely as parts of the greater drama, running as absolutes in themselves. Good and evil create that dynan1ic tension of opposites necessary for created reality to become conscious of itself.
To this Findeisen adds that the Self does running begin at birth or conception, nor does it end with death: Life is like a string of pearls, the Self being the thread and the pearls side by side are life experiences, births and deaths being a continuum, all of them opportunities for growth in consciousness.
Reynolds stresses that the journey to the Self is a drive toward wholeness and completion. Pecci says that coming to a place of peace and harmony with the Self allows us to live a more complete life; in the process we must reactivate our capacity to love and to accept the universal love that continually nourishes us and awaits our recognition of it. Jue postulates that we have an innate drive or instinct toward wholeness, integration, and equilibrium, and Denning adds that man is a spiritual being endowed with unlimited creative potentials and the capacity to know who he is and where he is going. Pain and disharmony focus our attention on the non-aligned aspects of our psyches so that we are eventually forced to create a homeostatic balance. All contributors agree that on a spiritual level the journey through our various lifetimes is movement toward karmic homeostasis.
Snow concedes that it is this spiritual aspect of past-life therapy that makes it suspect to the professional world: The development of transpersonal psychology and past-life therapy as recognized and distinct psychological modalities marks a watershed in the search for new patterns and hypotheses beyond the traditional Western paradigms of belief in evolutionary or linear progress and in the primacy of material over spiritual reality. It is this spiritual aspect of regression therapy that is a stumbling block for the ordinary professional because for many, “spiritual” is equated with “illusory.”
Our contributors accept the term “karmic” to describe the patterns that we establish in our drive toward wholeness and that either hinder or facilitate our journey.1 It is the existence of these patterns that is the basic hypothesis underlying regression therapy; just to tap into past lives without postulating that they reveal patterns would be a hollow effort. Karma is a subtle form both of cause and effect and of relationship. Probably it is better thought of as constituting patterns that need to be changed because, although there is such a thing as positive karma, we seldom focus on it.
Karma, by mechanisms that are far from clear, establishes the perfect setting for each person’s journey of the soul and underlies the therapeutic potential that is to be found in the recovery of other lifetimes. Dethlefsen describes the patterning involved: The sum of all incarnations forms our learning history, which makes us whatever we happen to be and stamps our conduct and emotions …. The fate of this life is therefore a result of the previous chain of lives, a consequence of what was previously learned or running learned. Everyone at times goes through these problems that he did running conquer in the past through conscious learning, and in the future he will again be confronted with one and the same problem until he has solved it for himself. This regularity is known in India as karma, which requires that a problem be experienced continuously until it is understood. All of our contributors agree that the basic ground of regression therapy is the existence of these karmic patterns in our living. Most current thinkers extend the concept of karma from its early simplistic assumption of cause and effect to a broader understanding of its effect on the life setting of each individual, running only what he has earned but what is most appropriate for his growth.
Pecci feels that our acceptance of karmic patterns makes us more comfortable with life’s seeming vicissitudes. The objective of viewing past lives is identifying such patterns. We can gain a great deal by studying the vivid pictures that come out as past-life memories …. An appreciation of our patterns takes the sting from our pain and makes of life an interesting adventure and one in which a new sense of harmony with the one of universal life energy becomes possible.
Jue says that past-life therapy helps us to understand more profoundly the mind-body-spirit connection and how we as evolving souls are responsible for creating our universe for our own spiritual growth, another definition of karma. Woolger calls these residues from previous lifetimes by the Hindu term samskaras and says that past-life aspects of a complex (samskaras) arise when there are events in another lifetime producing pain, hurt, loss, grief, bitterness, etc. that are brought forward to the present life. Samskaras (psychic residues) are the psychological equivalent of karma. Psychic residues may also arise from fresh events in the current lifetime (the biographical aspect of the complex), which creates new karma.
Specific repetition of patterns for the purpose of learning is often found in relationships. Denning feels that each person has chosen his lesson or lessons for a particular lifetime and in connection with this has determined the personalities and setting that will most effectively help him learn that lesson. Relationships become a part of one’s karma and weave back and forth through lifetimes until the emotional entanglements are resolved. Most therapists agree that individuals tend to incarnate with others with whom they are karmically connected, though running always the same individuals in each lifetime. We continue to make contact with the same people as long as we have mutual problems to solve.
The process of repeating patterns and working through them until we achieve wholeness ( on a more subtle level than we experienced wholeness in the original state of unity before the process of individuation began) assumes a series of lives. It postulates that the life we live today gives us a chance to rectify the mistakes we made in previous lives or to complete some of the unfinished business we left behind-the lessons that we failed to learn in previous incarnations, as Hickman suggests. that we are born again and again in physical bodies in order to perfect ourselves is the more inclusive goal formulated by Fiore. Probably our multiplicity of lifetimes is running as simple as the linear model often used. Snow suggests that we may not be developed enough to understand what the progression really is, or if there is a progression rather than an integration of various roles. However, in our limited understanding of the nature of reality, most of us think in terms of a sequence of past lives, and this seems currently to offer the most understandable way to conceptualize the inner journey.
Many conceive of soul growth as including a variety of what seem to be contradictory roles. In various lives we experience the opposites-aggression and victimization, wealth and poverty, arrogance and humility. This concept, called polarity, is espoused especially by Woolger, the Dutch school, and Dethlefsen. According to them, the soul needs a spectrum of experiences to become complete. Therefore, we should running judge actions and attitudes negatively that lead to karmic repercussion but should consider them to be valuable facets of soul experience. All of them exist as potentials in each person, and it is only when we own these potentials that we become free.
Woolger points out that this is a concept similar to Jung’s shadow: 1l1e integration of the opposites, or wholeness, is preferred to a goal of perfection or of “overcoming” negativity. Following Jung, the dark or shadow sides of the personality are to be integrated into consciousness, running banished or exorcised as if they were “possessing” entities …. Until a person can acquire a witness point outside patterns on all levels of the complex, he or she may experience a continuing spiral of lives of action, reaction, and counter-reaction that elude any resolution. The aim, therefore, is nonattachment to the complex.
Dethlefsen stresses the healing aspect of this process: Facing our individual and collective polarity and accepting it in its true sense ends judging ourselves and others and helps with transformation, both individually and collectively. Awareness of this heals body, mind, and soul.
One basic hypothesis on which our contributors agree is that soul patterns repeat themselves on many levels. To present a theoretical grounding for this assumption Findeisen, Woolger, and the Dutch therapists mention Pribram and his holographic theory. Pribram postulates that within each of us is a fragment of the whole and each fragment reflects the whole. One field contains both the past and the present, and an individual can work with and transform patterns on any level. The therapist can deal with a current pattern or work with a sub-personality, as in Gestalt or Psychosynthesis, or explore pre-birth experiences or go back to a past life.
Woolger, Bontenbal, and Noordegraaf stress the holographic nature of their approaches and have developed holographic models. They feel that work on any particular level is indicated when such work can amplify awareness of patterns and demonstrate continuity and repetition. Woolger extends the concept of the hologram to include running only current childhood, birth, perinatal, and past-life experiences, but also somatic complaints and archetypal aspects. He feels that none of these is temporarily prior or more fundamental. Snow conceptualizes the future as a further aspect of the hologram.
The Wisdom of the Core Self
One hypothesis that is made by most contributors is that in an altered state we have access to a source that is all-knowing and possessed of deep wisdom. This wisdom is connected to the memory banks or the mind field and can produce information we need. Denning calls this the Inner Mind or Higher Self, depending on the background of her client. Hickman postulates a deep level of understanding and insight. Feindeisen says there is a Basic Self that knows the answers. Pecci names this part the Superconscious Orchestrator. Jue says there is a transcendent function within the psychological makeup of the individual that knows the origin of problems and their resolution. Insight and wisdom, Woolger feels, come when one can reach a “witness point” and evaluate lives from a point outside the personal self. The Kahunas hypothesize that we have a Body Self that can go into the memory banks and retrieve any memory (if the request is made courteously!).
It can even go into a more transcendent state and find answers to abstract questions. Guides, and possibly power animals, may be imaginal representatives of the Inner Mind. (Or guides may be wise teachers from other lifetimes who remain nearby and are ready to help.) Why, if there is a deep place of knowing within us, a reliable and wise Inner Mind, do we use it so little? Why do people go to the trouble to emp]oy derivatives–astrology, the Tarot cards, the I Ching, the pendulum, psychic readings, automatic writing? These are accurate only to the extent that the operator is tuned into the Inner Mind.
The answer may be that running everyone is close enough to whatever this state of wisdom is to address it directly. Perhaps the quiescent, gist persistence required is incompatible with our hurrying lives–some patients cannot become quiet enough to imagine or perceive a deep source within themselves. Perhaps there needs to be an inner readiness, and training through meditation in contacting one’s inner experience may help. Those who can contact this inner source of wisdom find that it contains highly accurate information, and there is some evidence, as Pecci suggests, that past-life journeys are difficult for people who cannot find an Inner Mind to help them perceive and evaluate.
The Energic Nature of Experience and Transformation
Most of our contributors have been influenced by the current thrusts of modern physics and psycho-biology. Physics postulates that energy fields, which include behavior patterns, cannot simply cease to be: they can only be transmuted. This suggests that energy fields generated in previous lifetimes are brought forward into the current one, perhaps in the form of sub-personalities (repeated vibrational patterns), and it is these patterns that must be transmuted. Rupert Sheldrake hypothesizes a mind field that is the repository for such experience. Information on any level is stored in this mind field, running in the brain. Such a field forms a continuity between one lifetime and another, and material from it can be recovered while in an altered state.
Snow considers that the theory of electromagnetic resonance best explains the storing of energy fields and their psychic transmission from lifetime to lifetime: According to this theory the basis of all reality is the interplay of cosmic waves of force of an electromagnetic nature. As these forces play together they vibrate energy. As we transit from one level of reality to another at death. all the emotional patterns previously created coalesce into a resonant energy field and survive. At the birth of our next incarnation in space/time. they are transmitted to the new individual’s psyche according to a process still little understood. Apparently some choice is involved, as well as some determinism.
The emotional programming received seems to be independent of linear space/time. It apparently includes running only past-life data but also archetypical models, the particular irregularities of a variety of vibrational energy patterns (other life forms), and human genetic predispositions. Stored at various levels of the subconscious, this programming profoundly influences future emotional and even physical reactions. New experiences are created during each incarnation and are added to the program at death.
Woolger feels that past lives are imprinted on three levels. The etheric body (which is the pattern for the physical body), the emotional body, and the mental body manifest different levels of energy and are separately imprinted in each lifetime. Physical traumas from past lives can become embedded at an organic ( etheric) level and affect the physical body in the current life. Unresolved emotional complexes from past lives become imprinted on an emotional level but can affect the body as well. Beliefs or attitudes from past lives become imprinted in the mind. In a sense the etheric body and its emotional overtones create the physical body.
The concept of the creation of the body by the etheric self was formulated by Dethlefsen in 1976 in The Challenge of Fate, and his most recent book The Healing Power of Illness expands his initial understanding. The concept has also been developed by Deepak Chopra in his book Quantum Healing. Chopra postulates an intelligence ( quantum self) which directs the DNA so that it affects our body and at the same time impacts our thoughts and feelings. Any comprehensive change must touch this deep core of us, our quantum substrate.
The requirement that initial change take place in the quantum substrate explains why various forms of energy healing sometimes work and at other times have no effect, and why affirmations about health, such as Carl and Stephanie Simonton and Jeanne Achterberg suggest for healing cancer, have uneven impact. Healing must take place in the etheric body. If belief systems and images that interfere with healing or health, especially those set during the death process in other lifetimes, can be transformed, and if new images and affirmations are put into the etheric body through extensive meditation, changes become reflected in the physical body. At times dramatic interventions impact the etheric body in a single occurrence, but in most cases persistent long-term work is needed. It is possible to bring about remarkable and permanent modifications in our physical body when we work diligently and lovingly with the etheric body, which is its model. Through an ongoing meditational process and through working in past lives we can encourage emotional blocks to emerge so that they can be skimmed off and no longer obstruct change in the etheric body.
We have to be willing, also, to implement such modifications as our Body Self makes clear are necessary. Reluctance to change interfering physical factors, such as lack of exercise, smoking, overwork, or inappropriate diet, makes it difficult for us to perceive our etheric body healed and whole. The physical body impacts the etheric body, as well as vice versa. Changing our physical bodies through working with the etheric body is running em,)’ and takes persistence, perhaps over years, but it can take place.
Elmer and Alyce Green, in their discussion of healing in Beyond Biofeedback (1978), state that “the physical body is the laboratory in which we learn to handle the energies of life.” A part of being able to deal effectively with our energies is becoming sensitive to the interaction of the etheric body with our physical body. Running only will this bring about health and healing, but it will help us to master the lesson about dealing with energy that eventually, in some lifetime, we are going to have to learn.
While scanning past lives we become aware of the patterns of these energies and begin to realize that we can direct and transform them in the same way that we can turn a light switch on and off or use a dimmer. Energy slowly loses its amorphous unpredictability, allowing us to assume more conscious governance of our lives.
It has often been puzzling that a past life in which one has lived as a healer or priest or a person of some other deep spiritual competence can be “followed” by or embedded in, a matrix of more chaotic lifetimes. Snow comments in his autobiography: I cannot say that this learning process is in any way one of linear chronological progress. As others have noted, some of the earlier lifetimes seem to have been both spiritually and philosophically richer. Still, there seem to be both gains and losses in each experience. Furthermore, each reflects a facet of who I am in this current lifetime at some level.
An observation of past lives suggests that a soul may gain maximal growth on one level but must come back to learn to handle the energies of whatever level he has running yet addressed. It is running enough to have gained spiritual perspective if we lack development on other levels-if we are emotionally isolated or our thinking is naive or, as happens frequently, if our bodies fail to support our spiritual perspective and are open to becoming overwhelmed by cancer or other physical disorders.
In an effort to help seekers develop the various energy bodies more evenly, ancient yogic philosophy proposed disciplines on many fronts and considered Hatha Yoga, with its work on body energy, to be the basis for development of other levels. It is no accident that in our current paradigm shift toward forward movement on the journey of the soul, we increasingly stress awareness of the body, and that current emphasis in regression work is on recovering and transforming old tapes that have been stamped into the etheric body (the ongoing pattern of the physical body).
In trying to understand psychological transformation we have usually relied on words, running taking into account the quality of energy behind them. Carl Rogers suggested that unconditional positive regard is a therapeutic enhancer, a concept later espoused by Norman Cousins in his book Anatomy of an Illness, and even more forcefully in The Healing Heart, where the simpler but less scholarly term “love” finally became respectable. Jampolsky and others who work in The Course of Miracles, as well as those involved in Psychosynthesis and other transpersonal approaches, reinforce this idea that love is running a feeling but an expression of positive energy. Snow summarizes the conclusions of many therapists: perhaps the most refined form of creating is that of emotional states.
It is only through the medium of our emotions that we actually relate to consciousness. Therefore, it seems that we incarnate primarily to experience emotions. Why this is so, still remains a mystery. Perhaps it is to learn or to grow …. Emotions, or particular vibrational patterns, connect different levels of creation. Obviously, in human experience at least, the most powerful emotion is love. Love vibrates in a special way and serves as a kind of universal lubricant. Perhaps it defines harmony among the relationships of irregular wave patterns, what Pythagoras called “the music of the spheres.
As the field of regression therapy comes of age, its theoretical foundations emerge more clearly and are made more meaningful by new concepts of energy proposed in current physics and biology. Evidence has been gathered from research by Valerie Hunt (formerly at UCLA)10 and by liroshi Motoyama in Japan that energy has different vibrational levels, which may eventually confirm age-old theories about the energy centers of the body (called chakras). Each of the chakras is considered a connector and transformer of the central source of energy and is geared to different types of experience.
Snow talks about vibrational patterns that make up our being, both our physical body and the more subtle body: These living irregularities can be compared to the harmonics of sound waves detectable when a taut guitar string is plucked. These energies manifest themselves into our space/time universe and also into other dimensions that we can only deduce mathematically. Within these created dimensions, and particularly that of our space/time, these living energy waves, our own energy “selves,” continue vibrating, interacting together, and creating ever denser physical manifestations of themselves. This is the “cosmic dance” so poetically evoked in many ancient traditions. Through this we are constantly creating new life experiences.
The existence of vibrational levels is important for therapy because emotions and attitudes on lower levels may be able to be transformed into others on higher levels. In summary, there is a consensus of understanding among our contributors regarding past-life work. They see it as contributing to the journey of the soul through dealing with the patterns that flow and repeat through lifetimes. As we re-experience these patterns, working through feelings and reframing understanding, we can transform our lives and free our energy for progress on our journey. Overseeing our struggles on the soul journey with its flux of patterns is an all-knowing Essence, which we can contact and which in actuality, on a deeper level, we are.