What is a Past Life?

To put it simply, a Past Life Experience (PLE) is, or at least seems to be, memories of events, feelings and people that appear to come from before the present lifetime began.  These experiences may be quite vivid, as if one were actually reliving them, or observational, as if one were watching a movie or leafing through a picture album. They often, almost always in fact, give us an insight into issues, problems or concerns of the current life. ~ Robert Dunscomb

Is a PLE Real?

I have to wonder what "real" means in this context.  Did the events of the experience actually happen?  It's usually impossible to verify them historically, at least in the fine details.  And if they did happen, did they happen to you, or to someone else?  One thing is certainly real -- people really do have these experiences, whatever the explanation might be.

Why can I remember PLE?

It was a different brain that knew the details of your previous life - so that life and the preceding ones are not normally remembered in detail. The influences of those lives will of course remain. However at the moment of death we will sometimes see the past life details and as we progress in our individual evolution we come to be able to remember the past lives that had previously been forgotten. ~ Theosphy

FAQTo understand reincarnation, we need to understand the nature of our mind, and how our body and mind are separate entities. If we understand the nature of the mind, we can understand the existence of past and future lives.
~ About Reincarnation


Is there any evidence at all suggesting reincarnation? 
There are so many documented cases of past life memories that it would be impractical to list them all. Below is a selection of cases which are impossible to explain with conventional modern scientific knowledge.

Glenn Ford - mysterious language abilities 

There are now many recorded cases where under hypnosis a subject has not only recounted details from what appears to be a previous life, but also spoken a foreign language of which they claimed to have little or no previous knowledge.A notable case of this is the famous Hollywood actor Glenn Ford. Under hypnosis, he recalled five previous lives - one in particular as a French cavalryman under Louis XIV. The astonishing part was that though Ford said he knew only a few basic phrases in French, under hypnosis he spoke French with ease while describing this life. And when recordings of his regression were sent to UCLA (University of California), they discovered that not only was Ford speaking fluent French, he was in fact speaking the Parisian dialect from the 17th century.

Jane Evans - unexplained knowledge of 12th century Jewish history
Jane Evans, a Welsh housewife, agreed to be filmed for BBC television being regressed back to a past life by Arnell Bloxham, president of the British Society of Hypnotherapists and a respected practitioner. She had originally consulted him about rheumatism and under hypnosis, revealed seven past lives including one life - where the regression was televised - where she identified herself as a Jewish woman living in the city of York in 12th century England.

She described many details of Jewish life at the time and how she and the local Jews were forced to wear badges to identify themselves. She also spoke of a terrible massacre of the Jewish population by the local townspeople. During this event, she recalled taking shelter with her children in the crypt of a local church, but they were discovered by the mob and that is where she died.

Professor Barrie Dobson, an expert on Jewish history at York University, was called in to check the information from her memories. He found that her description of 12th century Jewish life was impressive with its accuracy and in fact he was convinced that some of the details would have only been known to professional historians. However it also seemed that some details appeared to be quite incorrect. Firstly, it was not until the 13th century (1215 to be precise) that the Church authorities in Rome decreed that Jews in Christian countries were to wear special identification. Secondly, from her description, the church had to have been St. Mary's Castlegate, but it did not have a crypt.

However further investigation revealed that the practice of making Jews wear identification was already widespread in England during the 12th century before the church decree. Then astonishingly several months later, during renovation of the church a sealed chamber was discovered below the floor which appeared to have been a crypt - a very rare phenomenon indeed for churches in the area.

So not only did her regression bring forth obscure details which were historically accurate, it also yielded historical information which should most definitely not have been available at that time.

Jenny Cockell - did she find her children from a past life? 
Jenny Cockell had always been haunted by dream-like memories of a previous life she had lived as a young Irish woman named Mary Sutton - who died over two decades before Cockell was born, leaving eight children. After many years researching the clues given in her memories, she finally tracked down Mary Sutton's children and wrote a book about the experience, Across Time and Death: A Mother's Search for Her Past Life Children.
Comment by reincarnation expert

Rabbi Yonassan Gershom: "This is one of the most convincing reincarnation cases I've come across in a long time. Jenny Cockell not only had memories of a past life, she actually found her children -- now all grown up -- from that life. This story was featured on a number of U.S. TV programs when the book first came out, featuring both Jenny and the children from that life. Her still-living children, being devout Roman Catholics, do not believe in reincarnation per se, but went on record as saying that somehow, their mother "speaks through" Jenny, and they verified details of her memories. I met Jenny Cockell at a conference in Oslo, Norway, in 1994 and found her to be totally sincere and quite credible. I highly recommend this book!"

Children's Past Life Memories 
The area of children's past lives is quite remarkable - especially in western countries, where children have seldom been exposed to the concept of reincarnation. Often such memories can fade as some grow up, while others will be able to recall past incarnations all their life.

Thousands of cases have been documented by various researchers from around the world and some children are recorded as having described and their past life residence and recognized family members by name - even when these families live in a different district - and even successfully passed tests set by the identified family. What is remarkable here is that in most cases the children appear to have no incentive, financial or otherwise, to make such claims.

Dr Ian Stevenson, Director of Personality Studies at the University of Virginia, has devoted the last forty years to the scientific documentation of past life memories (without hypnosis) of children from all over the world - and has over 3,000 cases in his files.

The Children's Past Lives web site - cases, stories, research, and discussions describe how young children spontaneously remember their past lives.
How can events or memories from a past life affect people in this life?
There are a number of ways in which people claim that the events from a past life are somehow affecting them in this life.

Often the first hint about a past life people have is an inexplicable interest in a particular country, language, time period, historical event, etc. And often when presented with photographs or movie footage which related to their past life, they might feel an emotional rush and even identify themselves somehow with what they are seeing.

For example, an English TV documentary showed a American who had become so fascinated with the American Civil War that he had turned his house into a Civil War museum. Not surprisingly, under hypnosis he remembered being a soldier in the Civil War. This can be viewed by the skeptic as wishful thinking, but conversely it follows that a Civil War veteran would always have a fascination for that period - probably even into their next incarnation.

And an example of these obsessions with history which often seem irrational to the outsider are the current proliferation of military re-enactment groups all over the world, covering formations as diverse as medieval knights, through to soldiers of the American Civil War, WW1 and WW2.

Recurring dreams or nightmares
Recurring dreams or nightmares are a common way people claim to be able to view their past lives. This can vary between vague dreams of an unpleasant nature with a recurring theme all the way through to vivid dreams where other participants can be clearly recognized. Good examples of such dreams can be found at the Shoah Dream Project.

Seemingly irrational fears or phobias 
Some people have seemingly irrational fears from a young age for such things drowning, aircraft crashing, loud noises, etc. Often when trying to work through this problem under hypnosis, the person will state that the cause of their phobia is an event from a time when they were someone else - and often the event is the cause of their death in that life.

Unexplained or chronic physical afflictions 
Another problem that can occur is when people have a chronic health problem for which there seems to be no evident reason. Here again, when working through this problem under hypnosis, sometimes people will state that the origin of their problem is a traumatic event from a past life. And surprisingly once this discovery is made (under trance, etc), the person's problem are often reported as - almost miraculously - going away of their own accord.
How do people claim to remember past lives? 

People can be presented with what appear to be past life memories in a variety of different ways.

Spontaneous recall 
Especially with small children, memories simple appear to surface from nowhere. Some describe the process as being like a "waking dream". Images and scenes may come to mind and the subject may often find themselves as a participant in the memory, though often they report feeling somehow different in the memory from their current self. Although it might seem like a daydream, the subject is often surprised by the unexpected nature of the experience and it can also be very intense.

Triggered recall
The memory is experienced in the same way "waking dream" fashion as with spontaneous recall, but it is triggered by an event of some kind. This event may be anything which appears to remind the subject of a key part of the memory - for example a particular smell, the sight of an object, a noise, hearing a particular word or phrase, a taste or being in a particular physical setting.

Sometimes people have recurring dreams which do not seem at all to be the usual surreal type of dreams, but which have recurring scenes which seem strangely real. The vividness can vary from a dream which is thought-provoking to one which leaves the subject in a cold sweat or in tears.

Hypnosis has been used for decades as a tool for trying to discover past life memories. Even though it has been studied for at least 150 years, little is understood about the actual process by which humans can be hypnotized. The effect of hypnosis is to put the subject into a trance state where they essentially put themselves under the practitioner's instruction. The main advantage with this method for gleaning distant memories is that the subject's mind can be focused extremely sharply under trance, to the extent that the mind can be made oblivious to sensations of pain in the body.
Hypnosis is used for many different reasons, e.g. by police investigators trying to glean extra pieces of information from witnesses or by people trying to rid themselves of smoking habits or eating disorders. Occasionally it has also been used effectively in the place of surgical anesthesia.

Unfortunately as with many things, the results vary greatly from person to person, with some people being very difficult to put under hypnosis while others can be put into very deep trances indeed. With respect to past life regressions, here too results vary greatly. Some people can have session after session without getting any significant results, while others can unleash a torrent of information the first time they go under.

Naturally one important prerequisite is having an experienced practitioner who can guide the session responsibly and try to ensure the subject answers all questions as honestly as possible.

Profound meditation is said to be able to give some subjects spontaneous memories which appear to be from past lives. Once profound meditative states can be achieved, the effect is similar to being under hypnosis, except that there is no strong external influence over the subject. The difficulty of this approach is that is can take years of intense meditation in order to perfect a particularly deep trance and even then there are no guarantees. Having said this, people who experience past life flashbacks or fleeting memories often appear to have a head start in this area, and can obtain results fairly quickly if they persevere.
It is worth noting that for thousands of years it has been the single most common method used by people of all religions or philosophies in order to gain mystical insights

Continued in FAQ II »

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