Psychiatrist and best-selling author Brian Weiss is a leading authority on past-life regression therapy. In this interview, he discusses his transition from being a traditional therapist to working with “the space between lives,” his views on reincarnation, and how we can hear messages from loved ones (even pets) who have passed on.
Omega: The story you've told is that in 1980 you were using traditional hypnotherapy to take a patient back to the roots of her phobias. Instead of going back to her childhood, she went back 4,000 years to a different lifetime. How skeptical were you at that moment, and what helped you open up to the idea of past lives?
Brian: At that point in time, I was skeptical about anything that sounded "New Age." I was traditionally trained—in chemistry at Columbia University and psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine—and they didn't teach anything about this at those institutions.
I was skeptical, but her descriptions were extremely vivid and emotional, so I continued doing these regression explorations with her. In time, all of her symptoms disappeared without any medication. It was an eye-opener to me. She started sending in friends and colleagues to see me because she had such amazing results. Patients would describe people, places, and events with incredible, accurate detail.
Omega: Was that fist session your most memorable one?
Brian: That first session was an important one for me. There were others with that patient, Catherine, that were incredibly memorable, too. In one, she was in the “space between lives” and told me two people were there to see me—my father and my son. Both of them had died years before, and she described details about them that she couldn’t have possibly known, especially in the days before you could look things up online. Since those first sessions with Catherine, I’ve been in thousands of sessions with patients in my office and in workshops. They are all incredible, and I see people get rid of their symptoms without traditional medicine.
Omega: A 2009 Pew study found 24% of Americans now believe in reincarnation. Do you think we are near a tipping point where past-life therapy becomes mainstream?
Brian: That percentage has held steady since the 1980s, but I don’t know how accurate that figure really is. The New Age movement has certainly expanded our exposure to the idea, via television, articles, books, and movies. But how many people will answer, "Yes, I believe!" in a survey? I’m not sure. I will say that the crowds attending my workshops are larger than ever. I think people are more open-minded about it. Far more nonWesterners believe in it—Hindus, Buddhists, half the population of South America, nearly everyone in India—and as globalization has opened up cross-cultural communication, it seems more Americans are becoming open to the idea.
Omega: How does recalling a past life treat ailments in this lifetime?
Brian: We're not exactly sure how it works. It’s very much like traditional psychotherapy in the way that people often resolve their issues from remembering childhood traumas. Somehow, recalling the trauma leads to symptom relief. The body is carrying that imprint or energy, and then it releases. But no one knows the exact mechanism, just like we don't know how it works with traditional psychotherapy.
Omega: Is it possible to connect with loved ones who have passed? How can we hear their messages?
Brian: Our loved ones do exist on the other side. We can connect with them by going into deeper space through regression, meditation, and dream interpretation. The pathways of hypnosis and meditation are quite similar. They are both deeper states of concentration, where we shut off outside stimuli. In this quiet, introspective space, you may receive messages.
Omega: Can we also receive messages from our pets?
Brian: Yes, there’s a chapter in my book, Miracles Happen, about that. All beings, animals and humans, have a consciousness and a soul. Messages from animals often come in dreams and are more telepathic. Animals communicate symbolically, but you will know how to interpret their messages.
Omega: How can we tell the difference between a past life and a dream?
Brian: Past-life dreams feel different than everyday, processing kind of dreams. Past-life dreams are more vivid, and you don’t forget them as quickly. They stand out. Sometimes you get past-life fragments, little memory bits, and they give you clues. We are all here for healing and growth, and these clues will push us in that direction. If we have wandered away from our path, they will nudge us back in the direction of our life’s purpose.
Omega: What is your definition of a soul? Where do we come from, and where are we going?
Brian: The soul is that part of us that is eternal and immortal. It existed before the physical body. It’s hard to put into words, but it existed before time and will exist after. We come from the other side, and we go back to the other side when we are finished with time.
Omega: Do you believe we have one soul mate or many?
Brian: We all have many. Some people are more familiar to us, and those people are our soul mates. Like a tree in an orchard, we have branches (soul mates) that are intimately connected to us. They will feel closer to us than the tree on the other side of the orchard, even though we're also connected to it through the roots of all the trees.
We seem separate from other souls, even though we are really not. That’s the grand illusion. Everything is emanating from one source. We are like ice cubes. They look separate, but if you heat the ice cubes, they melt into an indistinguishable puddle. Keep heating them and they become steam and disappear, but they're all still hydrogen and oxygen molecules. Like those molecules, we are all connected, even though we appear different.