OK, I have to confess that, like Sam Harris, I have a somewhat open mind on the subject of reincarnation. I accept absolutely that there is little, if any, evidence for it and I also accept that there are excellent alternative scientific and neurological explanations for what many people have described as 'near death' or 'past life' experiences. I guess, on these subjects I am more agnostic than atheist.

That said, I just watched a show on Oprah in which a supposedly 'eminent' psychologist, Dr Brian Weiss, was explaining why he had gone from skeptic to believer because of his experience with past life regressions.

To cut a long story short, they showed film of Dr Weiss regressing a man. I was horrified! Unfortunately, I can't locate an actual transcription of the episode, so you will have to bear with a transcript from my memory - it will give you the gist of the session, if not the actual words.

Dr Weiss: Now let's go back into your past lives. What do you see?
Patient: I see a plane.
Dr W: What kind of a plane?
P: An old plane.
Dr W: A fighter plane?
P: Yes.
Dr W: And who else is with you in this plane.
P: Just me and him.
Dr W: And what are you doing? Are you the gunner?
P: Yes. But I don't want to shoot?
Dr W: You don't want to shoot?
P: No. Sometimes I shoot, but sometimes I don't want to, so I don't.
Dr W: And are there other planes around you?
P: Yes.
Dr W: And is that why your plane got shot down, because you didn't shoot?
P: Yes.
Dr W: And you were killed, weren't you?
P: Yes.

Talk about leading the bloody patient!!!!!

As I said, I'm prepared to keep somewhat of an open mind on this subject but this was absolutely scandalous! I still have steam coming out of my ears!

Tags: Brian Weiss, Oprah, near death experiences, past lives, regression

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One of the things I find intriguing about this (as a cynical non-believer) is the parallels with cold reading.

Where it gets confusing is who is manipulating who and why, if at all (consciously).

I actually have more sympathy for people who engage with this stuff than in other forms spiritualism. I can imagine how a participant (regressor or regressee) can retain a clean conscience in that it's possible nobody actually lied - just spouted plausible nonsense while in a suggestible state.

The fact that both parties beliefs are co-dependent upon each other and the facts are (typically) unfalsifiable is separate issue.

Told you I was a cynical non-believer :-)
Just for fun, let's replace Dr Weiss with our own Dr Hypno but keep the answers the same:

Dr Hypno: Now let's go right back to your first life. What do you see?
Patient: I see a plain.
Dr H: What kind of a plain? desert? snowy? grassy?
P: An old plain.
Dr H: Are you a plant or a seedling?
P: Yes.
Dr H: Are there other seedlings with you?
P: Just me and him.
Dr H. Have you germinated?
P: Yes. But I don't want to shoot?
Dr H: Is there enough water?
P: No. Sometimes I shoot, but sometimes I don't want to, so I don't.
Dr H: And would you shoot if it rained?
P: Yes.
Dr H: Are you a flowering plant?
P: Yes.
Dr H: So you're pollinated by insects?
P: Yes.
That was funny!!! Thanks for the laugh Paul. A copy of this is going on the frig.
Looks like it's time to google up someone's credentials ...
This is what I've got so far, and I don't know where he stands amongst his peers:
http://www.eomega.org/omega/faculty/viewProfile/a5da77252cc7db5f4ec...
They do say that mental health professionals always have issues of their own, you know.
There are many people in the field that often get strong amount of skepticism because of questionable issues like multiple personality disorders and patients that supposedly in multi generational cults that the patient is supposed to be not aware of. What ends up being the case is that the therapist often has planted that idea into the client. This I suspect is what is happening in the case of Dr. Weiss. One of the problems with this is that it is often very hard to prove that the therapist is doing this, so it is hard to nail the therapist for ethics violations.
I remember some documentary I saw about the subject about an old man who remembered that he used to drive and build trains at a train station in England during the steam era. I can't remember if a similar thing happened there... but he told a lot about the details and I found it quite believeble back then.
When I was in high school, the vice principal would give demonstrations of hypnosis, and I became fascinated with the phenomenon. The vice principal quit teaching to do hypnosis therapy professionally, and I joined the army. Years later, I got some books out of the library on hypnosis and age regression, and practised on a few friends. While getting my friends to cluck like a chicken, or some other stupid thing, was interesting, the age regression was even more so. With age regression to past lives, I got stories that were quite fascinating stories, but I never thought that they were real. There was one guy though, who lived in the same rooming house I lived in, who was very hyper, and would constantly rock back and forth. We had known that he had grown up in foster homes, and under hypnosis, remembering when he was about 2 years old, he described being left in a crib for long stretches of time. During one of those times, he described leaning forward and hearing a creak. Thinking it was some one coming, he froze. Leaned back - creak - froze. Forward then back - creak, creak creak. And had been rocking ever since. I can't remember all I said to him about this, but, as I always did, told him to remember everything that had happened while hypnotized. For a month after, he didn't rock, and was a much calmer person.
While I don't claim to understand exactly how hypnosis works, the reality of it's effect is an interesting look into how the brain works. The suggestions spoken by a hypnotist are are both timed and spoked in a tone to encourage calmness in the subject. The words used are chosen to encourage the thoughts that the hypnotist wants, in a calming manor that is linked to the breathing patterns of the subject. With age regression, the hypnotist encourages the subject to remember things in the past, but can not differentiate between what the subject has actually experienced, or just a compilation of read, were told, saw on TV/film or imagined. So, just because a subject can give a very detailed account of some past life, there can be no don't think that it comes from that person's brain, and not from real experiences.
Past lives? Reincarnation? Zero evidence, but interesting stories and certainly good for a giggle!
All of which makes me believe there is more to humans can what we can see with the naked eye.
I agree - the pancreas for example.
I'm sure you could see my pancreas if I opened my mouth wide enough, Paul. Care to take a peek? ;-)
I'll pass.

But if that is true you should avoid any sudden braking.
;) I don't know what it is in Swedish, reading on Wikipedia didn't make me feel less confused.

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