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Abstract  

Background

Claims of past-life memories have been in existence for a long time. However, since the recognition of hypnosis as a scientific tool in medicine some psychiatrists have started conducting past-life therapy using hypnosis. They argue that memories produced in hypnosis provide evidence of the existence of past-lives. The medical hypnosis society claims that these are pseudomemories. Experimental evidence to support this claim is however insufficient.

Method

240 normal male adults between the ages of 21-23 were categorized according to the hypnotic susceptibility (HGSHS:K) score as 'high', 'medium', and 'low'. Their belief in past-lives was recorded as either 'yes' or 'no'. 64 subjects forming 6 subgroups were selected and received hypnotic past-life regression 3 times

Findings

The production rate of past-life memories measured 27.8% in the 'low' HGSHS:K score category, 30.4% in the 'medium' category and 69.6% in the 'high'. Category. There was a statistically significant correlation between the production rate of past-life memories and the HGSHS:K scores which measure one's degree of responses to given suggestions (Pearson Chi-square value=9.751, Asymp. Sig.=.008, p<.01). There was no difference in the production rate of past-life memories according to previous beliefs in past-lives; 42.9%(15/35)'non-believers' and 44.8%(13/29)'believers' (ANOVA, F=.000, Sig=.986, p>.05).

Interpretation

Past-life memories in hypnosis are products of suggestion and their contents are formed from socially constructed suggestions originating from religious doctrine. These memories are not real memories but fantasies and as such do not constitute evidence of the existence of past-lives.

Key Words: hypnosis, past-life, past-lives memories, hypnotic past-life regression and hypnotic susceptibility

Introduction

Claims of past-life memories have been in existence for a long time. Since the development of medical hypnosis, hypnosis has been recognized as a scientific tool in many countries. Recently some psychiatrists have started conducting past-life therapy using hypnosis. They argue that the memories produced in hypnosis are evidence of the existence of past-lives. This has brought about chaos among the general public as well as the medical community. The debate about the existence of past-lives and reincarnation has increased phenomenally. Major hypnosis societies claim that memories of past-lives are pseudomemories (1-2).

The hypnosis field believes, based on experiments, that these are fantasies produced by suggestion(3-4) and confabulations associated with the individual's psychology(5). Experimental evidence to support this claim is however insufficient.

If the existence of past-lives were a scientifically proven fact, (for example that a person has lived as a different individual either on earth or on another planet, not once but many times and will live another life after this death through reincarnation), then our definition of life itself must be fundamentally changed.

Past-life believers argue that a "being" presently living was another "being" in a previous age, not once but many times, and will live another life in a future age. They also argue, for example, that one's present headache could be the result of a head trauma caused by a weapon during battle in one's past-life when one was a Roman soldier. If all these are true our conception about the causes of illness will have to be fundamentally changed.

Past-life therapy has only recently became an issue in many countries as> a result of allegations made by past-life therapist psychiatrists. It has however been practiced by fortunetellers from a long time ago and was originally based on Hinduism. Central to Hinduism is the belief that there are endless cycles in the universe so a soul will live many lives consecutively without death until Karma(the law of cause and effect) is solved. Finally when one's soul has worked out all the lessons of this material world it can then enter Nirvana. Once here there is no need for reincarnation. Past-life therapy is based on this dogma. It is therefore believed that some illnesses in this life are due to negative attachment and that an understanding of this mechanism could lead to a healing of the illness in this life.

Belief in reincarnation in western countries stems from Theosophy, which originated in New York in 1875. Theosophy interprets the Bible according to one of the basic doctrines of Hinduism, e.g. reincarnation. It also provides a theoretical basis for the New Age movement, a new religious movement this millennium(6-8). Supporters of the New Age movement believe that if people don't learn their lessons in this lifetime they will get them again in their next lives. The New Age movement is made up of a number of independent groups. They use the Bible but interpret it differently from mainstream Christianity. They argue that reincarnation is one of the main themes of the Bible.

There is however an essential difference between Hinduism and the New Age movement. Hinduism views reincarnation as undesirable and recommends Meditation and Yoga to attain mukti so as not be pulled back into incarnate in a physical body.On the other hand the New Age movement views reincarnation as desirable as one can fulfill one's wishes in one's future lives.

This recent form of past-life therapy using hypnosis has not originated from Hinduism but from the New Age movement. Because hypnosis has been accepted by traditional medical science it is claimed that past-life memories produced in hypnosis therefore believed to be scientific facts(9-13).

Hypnosis was and still is believed to be an effective tool in recovering past memories and that parts of memories produced in hypnosis were real(14). As a result of this, the general public, and even some medical professionals, believe that it is possible
to remember past-life experiences in hypnosis(15). But research indicates that these are in fact only pseudomemories(16-17) and pseudomemories are a frequent phenomena in hypnosis(18-21).

Memory, which is the retrieval of actual events in the past, should not be affected by the hypnotic susceptibility scale which measures the rate of responses to given suggestion. If alleged memories are formed by suggestion they can and should not be asserted as memories.

Conclusion

The results of this experiment shows that memories of past-lives in hypnosis are not memories but fantasies because past-life memories in hypnotic past-life regressions are in reality only responses to suggestion. Analysis of the contents of past-life memories in hypnotic past-life regressions showed a tendency to produce familiar materials suggested either through religion or social interaction to subjects. In conclusion, past-life memories in hypnotic past-life regressions are products of suggestion and thus cannot be used as examples of evidence of the existence of past-lives.

Acknowledgments

I would like to express my deep appreciation to David Spiegel, M. D., Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, Stanford University School of Medicine, U. S. A., who was consulted on this research's design.
I also would like to express my appreciation to Yoon-ju Kim, M. A. for his statistical assistance and Jae-won Kho, M. A. for his executive assistance.

Table 1:Productions of past-life memories in hypnotic past-life regressions among past-lives 'believers' according to the scores of the Korean Version of the Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility(HGSHS:K).

Subject HGSHS:K Production
NO. score overall 1st 2nd 3rdHPR
-----------------------------------------------------------
1 11 + - - T
2 10 + T V T
4 10 + - - T
5 9 + T T T
6 9 + T T -
7 9 + - V -
8 9 + - - T
9 8 + v v v
10 8 + T - -
11 8 - - - -
12 8 - - - -
------------------------------------------------------------
13 7 + - - V
14 7 - - - -
15 7 - - - -
16 7 - - - -
17 7 - - - -
18 6 + V V -
19 6 - - - -
20 6 - - - -
21 6 - - - -
22 6 - - - -
23 6 - - - -
24 6 - - - -
-------------------------------------------------------------
25 5 + - T T
26 5 + - - T
27 5 - - - -
28 5 - - - -
29 5 - - - -
30 4 + - - -
31 4 - - T -
32 4 - - - -
33 4 - - - -
34 4 - - - -
35 1 - - - -
Legend
1.Production of past-life memories.
2.HPR = Hypnotic Past-life Regression.
3.T : Thought as a form of past-life memories.
4.V : Visual imagery as a form of past-life memories.
5.Lines in the table divide the 'high','medium' and 'low'categories according to the HGSHS:K score.

Table 2:Productions of past-life memories in hypnotic past-life regressions among past-lives 'non-believers' according to the scores of the Korean Version of the Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility(HGSHS:K).

Subject HGSHS:K Production
NO. score overall 1st 2nd 3rdHPR
-------------------------------------------------------------
36 11 + - V V
37 11 - - - -
38 10 + - V V
39 10 - - - -
40 9 - - - -
41 9 - - - -
42 9 + - V -
43 8 + - V -
44 8 + - V -
45 8 + - - V
46 8 - - - -
-------------------------------------------------------------
47 7 + T T -
48 7 + - T T
49 7 + - T T
50 7 - - - -
51 7 - - - -
52 7 - - - -
53 6 + - T -
54 6 + - - T
55 6 - - - -
56 6 - - - -
57 6 - - - -
--------------------------------------------------------------
58 5 + - V -
59 5 - - - -
60 5 - - - -
61 4 + - T -
62 4 - - - -
63 3 - - - -
64 2 - - - -
Legend
1.+: Production of past-life memories.
2.HPR = Hypnotic Past-life Regression
3.T : Thought as a form of past-life memories.
4.V : Visual imagery as a form of past-life memories.
5.Lines in the table divide the 'high','medium' and 'low' categories according to the HGSHS:K score.

 

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