Past Life Regression: Hocus Bogus or Science Fact?

By: Nelson Abreu


Sujith tells his mother that he was a railroad worker and then a seller of bootleg arrack in the village of Gorakana, about eight miles from where they now live in Sri Lanka.  He has a quite a taste for cigarettes and arrack.  Oh, and he is barely two year old.  His mother is not shocked by the past-life account of her son, who tells her he was struck and killed by a passing truck along the highway in front of their house, after getting drunk and quarrelling with his wife Maggie.  As a Buddhist, she accepts the concept of reincarnation – or the idea that the self lives several, successive physical existences and transcends the physical body, therefore surviving its death each time.


A monk selected sixteen items about Sujith’s statements that could be checked for accuracy and visited Gorakana, where he verified virtually all of them.   Six months before Sujith’s birth, a Sammy Fernando that fit the profile indeed lived there.


A professor of psychiatry at the School of Medicine and director of personality studies at the University of Virginia, Ian Stevenson is among the world’s leading reincarnation researchers.  Stevenson was able to find behavior parallels and corroboration for fifty-nine of Sujith’s statements about his earlier life as a Sammy.  These included a taste for spicy food and wearing a type of shirt and sarong not commonly found among young children, inclination to free use of profanity, singing, physical violence, notable generosity, wariness around policemen, and great fear of trucks.  When he brought the Fernandos and the child together, he seemed to instantly recognize several of them, including Maggilin – Sammy’s widow.  He called her several pet names Sammy used, proclaimed his love for her, and blamed her for his death.


Cryptomnenia, or the mind’s creation of ‘memories’ from books, films, and other data sources based on present-life traumas can explain many purported cases of reincarnation, but cases like Sujith’s reveal it does not necessarily rule out reincarnation.  We all know that because some pathological cases exist, it does not logically follow that all cases are such.  Genetic or inherited memory is an unsatisfactory hypothesis since many cases cross family, cultural, geographical and ethnic borders.


Billions of persons believe in past lives, but can we approach this question scientifically?  Wagner Alegretti, an internationally-seasoned consciousness researcher, answers a resolute “yes,” provided we entertain the possibility that the self is non-physical.  Alegretti and his colleges (projectiologists) propose the consciential paradigm which uses scientific reason and method, but ventures beyond the physical body and dimension, taking seriously the possibility of the self as being different and more than energy.


Investigation of persons who claim to have extraordinary experiences is not new.  But encouraging and training individuals and researchers alike to have their own experiences is.  Projectiologists encourage mastery of the perception and control of chi or vital energy, parapsychism, and conscious projections beyond the body so they can be the researchers of their own unique, complex, and multidimensional consciousness.  Scientific conclusions can then be derived through consensus of experiences as well as formal experimentation.  Direct, personal experience as a source of knowledge and self-improvement is irreplaceable.


Though several movies and books report cases of people having such experiences, few explain why the phenomenon happens and how to generate it.  As a notable exception, Alegretti’s Retrocognitions, the English version of the best-selling Brazilian edition, is a sophisticated, mature, comprehensive and integral study of the mechanism of the phenomenon through Alegretti’s own experiences and over 10 years of research. It is an interesting compliment and contrast to previous authors like Miami’s Dr. Brian Weiss.


It discusses factors that predispose or hinder retrocognition; types of past life recall (spontaneous, forced / induced, and generated at will), benefits and precautions regarding retrocognition, and its purpose as an evolutionary tool.  For instance, the out-of-body experience may allow one to temporarily escape the restriction of acuity caused by the brain, giving us more access to our integral memory. 


Although there are interesting applications for historians, judges, geologists and other professionals, but the most profound implications for this study deal with understanding daily life: remembering past experiences can help us avoid repeating mistakes.  Perhaps the most provocative idea is that of recall of the intermissive period between two physical lives, which could allow us to remember a life mission we may have planned to execute in this life.  He suggests we could identify former family members, friends, or even a significant other; hints about our inclinations and traits, phobias, prodigious skills, why we were born into a particular family, and concepts on ethics and karma at a personal, group, and humanity level.


Want to share experiences or suggest a topic for another issue?  Feedback or more info:

Nelson Abreu is an electrical engineering Portuguese-American student at the University of Florida. He has presented at the 6th Toward a Science of Consciousness conference in Tucson, AZ and UNIV-CON 3 at Penn State.  He has served as teaching assistant for UF’s Fall 2004 consciousness studies psychology course.  The Science of Self Club, which he started in April 2003, is an official student organization dedicated to consciousness studies education and personal development through various public events with about 150 members.