A concise and practical manual to understand and handle past-life experiences.
In the early nineteen-eighties, Samuel Sagan, a young medical practitioner, was so impressed with the staggering results obtained through regression that he made it his main modality when working with patients.
Over a period of fifteen years, this led him to develop IST, a full system of regression and past-life therapy, of which the main principles are presented in this book.
The sections which follow are excerpts from the book:
Chapter 1. The mechanisms of samskaras
1.1 The fundamental mechanism
1.2 How could we define a samskara?
1.3 Are samskaras always associated with negative experiences?
1.4 How do emotions instensify samskaras?
1.5 Are all samskaras created by major events or emotions?
1.6 Micro– and samskaras proper
1.7 What is the difference between karma and samskara?
1.8 Do animals also have samskaras?
"Regression is one of the great techniques of the future in the fields of self-discovery and psychotherapy. One of its essential characteristics is that it integrates two dimensions within the same process: a psycho-therapeutic dimension, and a metaphysical one.
To psychotherapists, regression is a transpersonal technique allowing explorations and releases of unprecedented depth, and through which a much needed metaphysical dimension can be incorporated into psychotherapy.
To spiritual seekers, regression is a major tool in the opening of perception, a powerful awakener of the third eye, and above all a path of mental de-conditioning. It achieves a profound and systematic purification of the emotional layer - not unlike the catharsis which Bernard de Clairveaux, patron of the Templars, used to describe with the Latin word defæcatio, considering it an indispensable preliminary to higher spiritual experience.
Regression aims at exploring and releasing emotional blockages and mental complexes, as do many other therapies. The specificity of regression, however, lies in its unsurpassed capacity to reach hidden subconscious and unconscious memories. Even in the first sessions, it is not uncommon to experience flashbacks that cannot be related to any experience in this life, but are accompanied by a deep feeling and an inner certitude that they refer to yourself. Hence the name 'past-life therapy' is often given to regression.
Regarding past lives, however, a few points must be made clear right from the beginning. First, it is in no way necessary to believe in past lives to undergo a regression process. IST, the regression technique which I have developed, uses neither imagination nor creative visualisation. It does not ask you to believe anything, just to follow a process. Actually the fewer beliefs you bring with you, the more chance of success, for beliefs generate expectations that tend to distort the purity of the experiences.
Some of the flashbacks during regression have an extreme clarity and leave the client with little doubt that they are real. Yet what matters with regression experiences is not whether they come from past lives, but what sort of improvement they can bring to your present. To use the words of one of my clients just after completing an intense regression: "I don't know about past lives, but as far as my life is concerned, this certainly makes a lot of sense!" What matters is how the client's present life can be changed, and not so much the origin of the experience. Let people decide for themselves what the real nature of these flashbacks may be. However, readers would be poorly inspired to try to make up their mind before undergoing regressions themselves, for the intensity and sharpness of the flashbacks are far greater than most people imagine when they think of past-life therapy. Moreover, some regressions are accompanied by a 'flavour of the Self' - a sense of your own continuity in time that words are powerless to describe as long as you have not gone through the experience yourself.
A second essential point is that the purpose of the IST method of regression is not to write a novel about your past lives, but to work at clearing the present. Regression is concerned with the client's present emotional and mental blockages, and how to release them. It may lead to reexperiencing episodes of early childhood, or possibly certain episodes that cannot be related to any event of this present life. However, if clients start to be more interested in the details of past-life stories than in how the regression can help them become freer and more awakened, then the process can quickly become meaningless, and moreover invite all kinds of delusions. This warning is essential and will therefore be repeated several times throughout the book. The goals of IST are deconditioning, emotional freedom here and now, and Self-awareness. IST aims at unveiling your real nature, and cares little about who you have been.
Thirdly, my intention in this book is not to argue or 'demonstrate' the reality of past lives. Actually I do not believe that one can prove the reality of past lives, just as there is absolutely no way one can prove the reality of dreams. It happens that nearly everybody remembers their dreams, at least from time to time, so that there is little doubt about whether they exist or not. But suppose you were living in a world where no one but you remembered dreams. How could you prove their reality? Each time you told your story, most people would immediately answer "Nonsense!" You could try to produce an EEG showing that your brain wave patterns were altered each time you dreamt. But then the skeptics would argue this only proved that your brain waves change, and that there was no need to invent something as fanciful as dreams in order to explain the phenomenon.
Similarly, only direct experience can bring a real understanding of the subject of past lives. It is better to show techniques which allow this direct experience, and let time do its sublime work. As Einstein used to say, it is rare that people let themselves be convinced by new ideas. What happens is that the people with the old ideas eventually die, and those who follow them find the new ideas very natural and adopt them. Once a sufficient proportion of the population has gone through the type of flashbacks that occur during regression, it seems quite probable that past-life experiences will become as common and accepted as dreams.
Once, I was invited to speak about regression to a society who had contacted me after reading one of my articles in a health magazine. I accepted without further enquiry. I arrived at their place a quarter of an hour early and, after their secretary gave me a polite but distant welcome, I decided to spend the time that was left reading the pamphlets of the organisation. It immediately became clear that I had landed among a group of skeptics who had invited me only to attack my views. A short but intense moment of cogitation followed, during which I had to find a new strategy and change the format of my lecture.
I spoke to them in the following way (and I would ask sceptical readers to view this book in the same manner): "Here are the case studies of a number of my clients. Here are the words they have said when going through these flashbacks. I do not pretend that this demonstrates or proves anything. Still, some kind of new experience must be emerging, because other regressors and I have observed similar patterns in thousands of sessions. It is up to you to draw your own conclusions. To me, what really matters is that after these regressions the clients get better. Not all, of course, but a significant number. They get rid of tranquilisers and sleeping tablets. They find it easier to relate to others, and their general level of neurosis decreases. A number of them even undergo a deep transformation and change of values. Some adopt a much more philosophical attitude towards life and begin to question their purpose on Earth."
By not trying to convince them of anything, I took the skeptics by surprise. As a result, they proved surprisingly receptive. We laughed a lot at the awkward character of some of my case studies, and their president concluded the evening by saying that, after all, their society was in favour of any technique that allowed one to empty the garbage cans of the mind - which is exactly what regression does.
More than a new technique, regression is a new experience, or rather the dissemination of an old experience in proportions unknown until now. Throughout history, from the Indian Rishis to Goethe via Plato and an uninterrupted line of 'seers', there have always been individuals who recalled experiences of former incarnations on Earth. But these experiences were rare. In the last fifteen years, I have witnessed major changes in the way people gain access to past-life flashbacks (or whatever you may decide to call the experiences).
When I was practising regression in the early nineteen eighties, I had to confine my clients to a house for two weeks, implementing the techniques non-stop. The process was drastic and could only be undergone by people who had reached a certain degree of emotional stability through years of working on themselves. Usually, it was only after seven or ten days spent building up the inner pressure that some of the participants would start having regression experiences.
Now, in the mid-nineties, the situation has become quite different. Residential courses are no longer needed. Weekly private sessions of one or two hours are sufficient. Some clients, when lying down in my practice room for the first time, even start regressing before I have finished implementing my techniques! The process has become relatively smooth and gentle, and therefore open to virtually everyone. Moreover, the regressions all these people experience are often deeper and more genuine than those of their predecessors fifteen years ago. Obviously something has changed. More and more frequently one hears of people who go and see their acupuncturist for a sore neck or some other minor problem, and unexpectedly experience a momentous past-life flash as soon as the needles are placed on their body - even though neither they nor their acupuncturist knew anything about regression. Of course, these remain relatively isolated cases, and it would not be correct to expect that you are going to know your past lives with a snap of the fingers; any work of quality takes time and effort. Still, access to the regression state has become infinitely easier than it used to be, which could end up having considerable consequences not only on different fields of therapy, but on some of the very foundations of our society."
"The IST technique of regression is based on three main principles:
The initials of the three terms, Inner Space Interactive Sourcing, happily combine into IST.
It must be stressed that the IST technique does not use any form of hypnotic suggestion or hyperventilation. It operates through an activation of the body of energy, and in particular the third eye. It therefore leads to a completely new perception of your emotions as forms and waves in your consciousness. This structural perspective will provide several opportunities throughout the book to explore certain basic mechanisms related to subtle bodies and their destiny after death."
"Samskara is one of the most important Sanskrit terms in Hindu philosophy. Yoga, the union with the Higher Self, is said to be achieved as soon as the last samskara has been worked out. Therefore the primary objective of all yogas, or paths of self transformation, is to eradicate the samskaras of the mind. This is why it is so important for those who to want to know themselves, or rather their Self, to have a clear vision of all the mechanisms of their samskaras.
You have a car accident at a particular place. Then, for a long while, each time you drive past that place you feel uneasy; a wave of fear arises. You may even feel uncomfortable just by thinking of the episode. The traumatic imprint left in your mind after the accident is called a samskara. The malaise that subsequently appears each time you drive past the place is called a reactional emotion, or more simply an emotion. The tendency of the samskara to generate a wave of fear whenever remembering the accident is called the dynamism of the samskara.
Basically, all samskaras operate in the same way. Simple. Yet, according to the Upanishads, the final chapters of the Vedas, as soon as the last knot of samskaras in the heart has been untied, the highest state of consciousness is cognised, absolute freedom is reached, and martyo 'mrto bhavati, "the mortal becomes immortal". (Katha-Upanishad 6.15 and Brihad-Aranyaka-Upanishad 4.4.7.)"
Samskaras are the tracks left in the mind by previous traumatic experiences. Roughly speaking, samskaras are the 'scars' of the mind. (The association samskara-scar is easy to remember.) In the fourfold model of subtle bodies used in this book, the layer of the mind corresponds to the astral body (This simple model comprising physical body, etheric body, astral body and Higher Ego is outlined in section 4.3.). Samskaras can therefore be regarded as imprints or scars in the astral body, as will be examined in detail throughout this book.
Let us consider a few examples to clarify the concept of samskara. If a woman is raped by her father when she is sixteen years old, it leaves a track in her psychological organisation, and this track is a samskara. Her way of relating to men will never be the same again. In various life situations, this track will deeply influence her emotional behaviour. This means that the samskara is neither neutral nor mute. Rather, it is endowed with a powerful dynamism - an emotional charge. It generates emotions, attractions and repulsions that will significantly modify the inner life of this person. Being associated with such traumatic and painful memories, the samskara cannot remain silent; it has to express itself in a conscious or unconscious way. This applies to all samskaras - not just a few particular cases. Whether you realise it or not, in the depths of yourself your samskaras are perpetually crying out to be healed.
Now suppose that this woman, instead of being raped at the age of sixteen, was assaulted when she was three. Her experience was even more terrifying and traumatic, because as a little girl she had no way of understanding what was happening. To her, the assault was like a murder. But the shock was so unbearable that she forgot everything, completely wiping out the episode from her conscious memory. The samskara has been stored with an even greater emotional charge than in the case of the sixteen-year-old girl; but in this case, the samskara is completely unconscious. Later on as an adult, her entire emotional and sexual life will be undermined by a hidden trauma of which she is completely unaware. She may run away from men, or run after men, or display all sorts of irrational behaviour against her own free will. She may develop a major disease in the pelvic region, or miscarry when she tries to have a child. Without a process that allows her to explore the depths of her unconscious, she will never be able to understand why her life is such a mess. Any attempt to reorganise her existence will be doomed from the start, for she is missing the main piece of her personal puzzle.
Up to this point, all that has been envisaged fits into psychoanalytic models and common psychological modes of understanding quite well. Further, one could ponder on the fact that Sanskrit texts were already discussing these topics a few thousand years before Freud. But a major difference is encountered when practising regression - clients discover a number of samskaras that cannot be related to any experience from their present life.
Case study- Twenty-two-year-old woman.
During the beginning of the IST session, a very sore spot was revealed in the stomach area. After twenty or thirty minutes spent implementing the technique, the client became very quiet and serene, and started to reexperience the following episode. (The questions at the beginning of the paragraphs are asked by the connector. The answers are those given by the client.)
What are you feeling? -It just looks stale and grey.
It feels very defeated. A woman with her head hanging between
her shoulders, backward. She is quite young, with long hair, and
a white dress. I can't see her face.
Does she feel happy, or sad? -She is very sad.
Is she crying? -No.
Does it feel warm or cold around her? -Cold.
Is there any noise? -No. It is dead silent. She is really tired. It feels tighter now in the stomach.
What does she want? -She wants something back that she has lost. She knows she can't do anything.
Is she alone? -Yes. She is very young. She is wounded.
Physically wounded? -Yes.
Does she feel any pain? -She has lost a lot of blood. But she doesn't care. She is very cold.
Can you feel her pain? -It starts in the stomach, in the ribcage and it goes to the back, between the shoulder blades. She can feel her heart beat. She has regrets. Her family is gone and they can't come back. She just wants to die.
Her family? -A man. And her child. Her child was three. He had soft curly hair... It was an attack. The man was very strong, so he was taken somewhere.
And the child? -The child was killed. He died in front of her.
How? -It was very difficult, very cruel. She does not remember much of that.
How did he die? -A spear through him. Her lips have turned blue... The woman was assaulted too.
What did they do to her? -About six soldiers.
What did they look like? -Dark coats, short hair, with helmets. Something on top of the helmets. No beard. They were dark-skinned. Shorter than the man.
What did they do to her? -I don't know. She does not remember. It does not matter.
Try to see. -Four men held her. It is hard to say. They held her and raped her just near the child's body.
Was he dead? -Yes.
And then? -When they finished, the last one kicked her in the stomach and in the ribs. That is why she can taste blood in her mouth.
And then? -She crawls back into her house... And she dies a moment later.
As is often the case, this samskara was buried and the young woman had never suspected its presence before. Yet it was not buried that deeply, since it could be brought back to the surface and reexperienced in this regression, which was only the second in the process. Being endowed with such a dramatic emotional charge, the samskara could not possibly remain neutral and inactive. One year before the regressions took place, this young woman had lost a child by miscarrying a few weeks before her delivery. While undergoing the regression, she immediately recognised that the pain she had felt at the time of the miscarriage was exactly the same as the woman's pain when she was raped and her son killed.
The superimposition of the two episodes is indeed puzzling. It is as if a drama of the past had to be replayed because the wounds it had left had not been healed. Without realising that this samskara was buried in her unconscious and influencing her, what chance was there for this young woman to understand what was happening in her present? In cases like this one, it is hard to know whether the miscarriage would still have happened, had the regressions been carried out before the pregnancy. However, as soon as the client discovered this samskara, her life started changing. Her sadness abated, and the emotional wound left by the miscarriage started to heal. She regained a certain centredness and a greater sense of purpose.
The criterion for a major samskara to be imprinted is not pain, but intensity. Strong samskaras are engraved in the astral body when an episode is associated with emotional intensity. We all know from our own experience in this life that we tend to be too unhappy more often than too happy. The same can be expected to have taken place in former lives. This explains why major samskaras surfacing from our past have statistically more chance of being related to painful events than to joyful ones. Yet any intense joy can create a samskara, in much the same way as Chinese medicine considers joy can induce a heart attack.
Case study- Twenty-four-year-old man.
-I am in a very small space, like metal all around me. There is vibration, a metallic vibration... I see all these people. I know I am wounded on my right side but I don't even feel it. I am completely exhausted, annihilated. And at the same time it feels GOOD! As if I had been fighting for three days and three nights non-stop. It feels so... beyond everything. There is nothing left of me, there is just the sky.
-It's a cockpit. I'm in a plane. I can hear the noise; and there is the vibration. The plane is going to land. It's more than being worn out, it's like seeing everything from a distance.
-There is a shock when the plane reaches the ground. And I can see all these people, a crowd waiting for me. There is a feeling of glory... Oh! my God! It is huge. In my heart, an IMMENSE feeling of glory. I don't know what I have done, but they seem to like it very much. It's war...
-My plane has landed and they are all waving their arms. They run towards the plane. Oh! my God! [starting to cry] I think that now I'm cracking up. I have not slept for a long, long, long time... I did not know one could feel glory that big.
There are several reasons why a samskara is imprinted much more deeply in your structure if it is accompanied by an intense emotion. Suppose you are going to be beheaded. The experience will leave a more profound impression in your psyche than if you were going to visit your hairdresser. You can go to an appointment with your hairdresser mindlessly and daydreaming, without being really concerned. You cannot go to your execution without feeling concerned. You may have forgotten many visits paid to your hairdresser but if you escape the dungeon, there is no way you will ever forget it, because in the dungeon you are in the very opposite of a mindless state. All your senses are wide open. You are utterly aware and vigilant. It is not a blurry cloud that is imprinted in your memory, but a sharp and precise package of thoughts, feelings and perceptions. If you get out of it alive, even thirty years later, you will be able to remember every single detail. Every bit of information will be stored: what the place looked and felt like, the colours on the walls, every noise and smell, all your emotions and feelings. And if you end up dying in the dungeon, you will keep this package of memories with you as one of the most vivid of this entire life, and will carry it with you into the lives that follow.
Some major samskaras can be created by quite minor events, for the samskara is not due to the event itself, but to your emotional reaction to it. For instance, a child can be completely terrified by an animal. To the child, even a tame dog can suddenly turn into a terrible and life-threatening monster and cause an irrational panic fear, thereby generating a strong samskara. Conversely, some people remain emotionally stable in the most dramatic circumstances and, therefore, go through intense events without any major samskara being imprinted.
So far we have only considered the samskaras that are endowed with strong emotional charges. Apart from these major imprints, myriads of minor ones are also stored in your mind.
The input you are constantly receiving from your sense organs is kept in subconscious parts of the mind. You know the details are not lost because they can be recalled in your memory at any time, if triggered by the appropriate stimulus. For instance, you arrive at a place where a certain smell is wafting in the air, and suddenly a connection is made with a remote episode of your past. In a fraction of a second you are transported back into a room where you had been thirty years ago. The colours, the sounds, the atmosphere of that room are brought back to your consciousness, because the smell in it was similar to that which you are sensing now. This recollection does not take place because of any dramatic event that happened to you in the room. The situation was quite ordinary, and no particular emotion or pain was experienced. The same mechanism often takes place with an old song or a piece of music that can immediately transport you back to a part of your past, recalling all the corresponding emotions and feelings.
In this pattern, one can recognise the characteristics of samskaras. A package of sensory impressions gets imprinted in your subconscious or conscious mind. It is stored there without your knowing it, but it is still vivid, since it can be retrieved at any time. When the right stimulus is met, such as the smell, or the piece of music, the imprint is triggered and a reaction takes place. You reexperience sensations, emotions and feelings related to this particular part of your past.
The literal meaning of the Sanskrit word karma is action. Karmarefers to all the actions you have performed in your past, both in this life and in former ones. The mechanisms of karma are such that each action you perform is like an impulse you send out into the universe. After a lapse of time that can vary greatly (up to more than a few lives!), the impulse comes back to you like a boomerang and generates corresponding circumstances in your life. Negative deeds tend to create unfavourable circumstances when the corresponding impulse returns, whilst positive actions come to fruition in auspicious conditions. This is the aspect of the theory of karma which is straightforward and which everybody more or less agrees with. However, not everyone agrees on how directly the circumstances of the past reflect into the present. Will those who have killed by the sword have to perish by the sword? As far as this question is concerned, very enlightened people have held quite different views. (See two essential references on the topic of karma: Steiner, Rudolf, Karmic Relationships, Rudolf Steiner Press, London, (8 volumes); Aurobindo, Sri, The Problem of Rebirth, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1952.)
Samskaras are of a completely different nature. Instead of being external waves sent to you by the universe, they are internal factors. More precisely, they are emotional imprints left inside your unconscious mind, and which in turn tend to influence your present emotional responses.
Another major difference lies in the fact that some
insignificant karmas (actions) can be associated with huge samskaras
(emotional scars), for example when a little boy is gripped with
panic when meeting the neighbours' well-meaning German shepherd,
or when a baby is terrified by a storm. Although in these instances
there is virtually no action, that is, no significant karma, there
may be enough samskara for the child to display neurotic symptoms
for the rest of his life. Conversely, the most heinous crimes
- representing big bad karma - can be committed coldly
and mindlessly, without any deep samskaras being imprinted. (Those who have practised vipassana, the Buddhist technique of meditation, have probably heard a lot about the sammkaras, which are the exact equivalent of samskaras. The difference in spelling comes from the fact that vipassana belongs to Hinayana Buddhism, whose texts were written in Pali, a language which is derived from Sanskrit. Many Sanskrit words have been reshaped in Pali so that when two consonants follow one another, the latter is transformed into the former. Thus 'ms' is turned into 'mm', and samskara in Sanskrit becomes sammkara in Pali. Similarly 'sy' becomes 'ss', and the Sanskrit word vipashyana, discerning or penetrating vision, becomes vipassana in Pali.)
Since animals can become neurotic, we can assume they also have samskaras. The reflexes observed by Pavlov in his work with dogs present clear analogies with the conditioning of the samskaras.
Another important Sanskrit word related to samskaras is manas. Manas refers to the layer in which we think and experience emotions. More precisely, manas has to do with the thoughts and emotions which are reactions directly related to samskaras. The concept of 'reacting mind' (manas) will be developed at length later in the book.
Manas is usually translated into English as 'mind'. The English word 'mind', however, is used by different people with quite different meanings. In the context of the Clairvision work, I use the word mind with the meaning of 'reacting mind', which is the same as that of the Sanskrit word manas, the layer in which reactional thoughts and emotions take place. There are several reasons for this choice, as will become apparent later.
When defined in this way, the mind corresponds quite precisely to what Rudolf Steiner calls the astral body. (Defined in this way, 'mind' corresponds quite exactly to the Greek dianoia, as opposed to nous. Mind can also be equated with the Latin ratio.) In the present context, the reader can equate all the following terms:
At times, however, distinctions will be established between the astral body, which is a vehicle of consciousness, and the reacting mind, which is the mental consciousness taking place within this vehicle.
From the point of view of the Hindu tradition, animals do have a manas/mind just as, according to Rudolf Steiner, they do have an astral body. Animals can associate facts mentally and draw conclusions, as when a mouse finds its way out of a maze. Animals also experience emotions such as anger and jealousy. Since the astral body, in which the samskaras are imprinted, is not a specifically human attribute but also pertains to animals, samskaras could even be described as a part of ourselves that we have in common with animals! This may sound paradoxical because human beings tend to cherish their emotions and regard them as something specifically human, something which endows them with human qualities. In reality most of these emotions are of the same nature as those experienced by animals. They may be more complicated and sophisticated, but their essence is not fundamentally different from those of animals.
One of the essential tasks of the regression work is to unmask certain emotions which are not the product of samskaras and are beyond the range of animals. To distinguish these from the samskara-related emotions, the word 'feeling' will be used.
A crucial result of the regression process is to make us realise that, from morning to night, we tend to react to the world with stereotyped conditioning, just like Pavlov's dogs, instead of tapping from our human potential of 'creative being'. In terms of our fourfold model of subtle bodies, the essential difference between a human being and an animal is that the human being has gained a Higher Self. How much of your Higher Self is involved in your emotional responses? This is a key point, in which lies the answer to the question: which of our emotions are human and which are animal?
© Copyright Samuel Sagan 1990, 2004