As told to Asmita Bakshi Feb. 24, 2018
As a clinical psychologist, you don’t speak about soul, atma, astral bodies, or outer bodies. But past-life regression therapy takes you to the root of your present problems, back to the lifetime where it all began.
In the year 1999, my father passed away. His last words to me were ominous. “There is too much light in the room,” he said, just before he died.
The next night, when I was lying in bed, I saw him. Not as a physical form, but as a body of light. I could see every illuminated cell of his body. It was like seeing a hologram of the man I had dearly loved. He wore a pearl necklace and a peacock feather on his head. The sight of the peacock feather was surreal, mainly because he was bald. He was spread across the ceiling. Huge, enormous, and lit like the night sky on Diwali. I could hear his voice. “I’m there to guide you from now on,” he said. That’s all. Just once.
As soon as he spoke, he started fading away and the whole room was filled with light. I tried opening my eyes, believing I was in a dream. They were already open. My sleeping husband turned to me and said, “Light off karo.” I had been wide awake for the entire encounter.
I wasn’t hallucinating.
I’ve been an occupational therapist for most of my life. A person of science who spent her time on research and counselling, including psychoanalysis, cognitive behavioural techniques, and Rorschach tests. I started practicing after completing an MA and MPhil in psychology.
This scientific background engendered in me a healthy scepticism of metaphysical branches, of knowledge that was unsupported by empirical evidence. But over the the years, through encounters with patients and my own experiences, I’ve come to accept the idea of our past lives influencing the ones we lead in the present.
One of my earliest encounters with the idea of transmigration of the soul was when I practiced in a psychiatric hospital in the Mumbai suburb of Versova. There was a woman who told me she dreamt obsessively of having sex with God, because of which she was unable to get intimate with her husband. It was a case that baffled me and I resorted to hypnotherapy. Under hypnosis, the girl started shrieking, and talking about being a gypsy woman who was raped by a soldier. She told me she had a knife under her pillow, that she’d taken it out and stabbed him. In the tent, where she was being assaulted, there was a picture of Mecca.
Some people come to me because they want to know why they’re gay. Others want to know why they can’t maintain a relationship
This was completely new for me. The woman started sweating, and I brought her out of the trance. She was completely shaken. I didn’t know what to tell her. She went away, but called me 15 days later to tell me those thoughts had completely disappeared. I hadn’t gone according to any plan.
After the session with this woman and my father’s episode, I began to question my beliefs. Could the idea have a grain of truth? Was I willing to put my faith in something that is considered by most people to be on the periphery of science?
I decided the answer was to know more.
I read the works of Dr Brian Weiss, an American psychiatrist and author, who has appeared on Oprah speaking about past-life regression. Eventually, I even travelled to London to attend a course he was teaching. At the end of this period, I was willing to believe that there was something in the idea of the soul that science still had to catch up with.
As a clinical psychologist, you don’t speak about soul, atma, astral bodies, or outer bodies. You create behavioural change through thoughts. In our lingo, we say “When you relive, you relieve.” The answer to why something is happening to you is locked within your soul, which is so intelligent, it’ll open only that folder where the memory needs to be visited. Past-life regression therapy takes you to the root of your present problems, back to the lifetime where it all began.
It seems preposterous, and perhaps only first-hand experience can condition a rational mind to accept something for which there is no tangible proof. Indeed, experiments were conducted by the professor of psychology and leading sceptic Robert Baker in 1990 that indicate that perhaps past-life regression is merely a cocktail of suggestion, imagination, and confabulation. But how do you cling to studies from the musty past when evidence of the phenomenon is right in front of you?
An early client of mine had a psychiatric condition called Somatisation Symptom Disorder, in which you experience severe aches in your body, but there is nothing wrong with you physically. It’s very debilitating, because the psychiatrist can’t do much. And there is no physical diagnosis.
During her session with me, she saw a lifetime where she was a man, scrawny and tall, with long hair. She looked like Christ, but in reality was just a priest who would go from village to village talking about Christianity (she is a Hindu in her current life). People in the village were against this, so they tied him to a wooden board, strapped his eyes, and threw him into the village well to drown in blindness. After this session, she called me and told me that the pain in her eyes had ceased to afflict her. It never came back.
As a clinical psychologist, you don’t speak about soul, atma, astral bodies, or outer bodies. You create behavioural change through thoughts.
We did one more session. She saw herself as a young girl living in the 19th century in a Rajasthani haveli. She was being raised by her father, since her mother had eloped with another man. As she grew into adulthood, she began to resemble her mother more with every passing day. The jilted father couldn’t tolerate this. He had her stabbed to death. After this session, her stomach pain went away. And oddly, her relationship with her father in her present life improved.
When you see a past life, guilt turns to compassion. The soul contract is between two people. The woman had a contract with her father. The same soul decided to play her father again, because in this lifetime they would resolve their differences.
Another client had had a very difficult childhood with his father. My session with him was very kinesthetic — he was feeling everything in his body. As the session began, he started to feel like his stomach was expanding, like a pregnant woman. He felt like an incision had been made and a baby came out. He started crying; the baby was stillborn. He said, “I’m never going to become a woman in my life ever again.” I said, “Look at the stillborn baby, does he remind you of someone in this lifetime?” He said, “Yes, my partner.” That’s when I realised he was gay.
Once he came out of his trance, he told me nobody knew he was gay except his partner. He had kept it a secret for a long time. Within one year of our session, he came out to his friends and family and migrated to Germany, where he now lives with his partner.
Some people come to me because they want to know why they’re gay. Others want to know why they can’t maintain a relationship. A few want to understand what happens to the soul after death. Whether they’re spiritual or therapeutic, past-life regression sessions are journeys into realms that science is yet to fully explore. Perhaps one day, I’ll see the practice become more widely accepted as a way of helping people overcome problems beyond the reach of traditional medicine.
Or maybe in another life.