Past-Life Origins of Mental Abnormalities
From Many Mansions: The Edgar Cayce Story on Reincarnation
by Gina Cerminara
The name of Freud and the term “unconscious mind” are well known today. Many persons, however, are unaware of the fact that Freud’s discovery of the unconscious mind was due to his investigation in hypnosis. It was because hypnotized subjects could recall incidents from their childhood that were completely forgotten in their conscious state that Freud was forced to postulate an unconscious mind to account for the preservation of the otherwise irretrievable material. Freud later abandoned hypnosis as a clinical technique because it proved unsatisfactory in many cases, and proceeded to develop other methods of exploring the unconscious depths. But hypnosis must nonetheless be regarded as the parent of psychoanalysis.
In the realm of reincarnationist psychology, hypnosis may have a similar role to play. The Cayce clairvoyance would seem to indicate that it is possible for a hypnotized subject to discover the past-life history of other individuals. But perhaps even more important than this, it would seem that it may be possible for an individual using hypnosis, or some similar technique such as the dianetic reverie, to relive his own past lives. Age-regression experiments in hypnosis have established the fact that there is stored in certain strata of the mind a detailed and sequential memory of every event lived through since birth. A hypnotized subject, for example, “regressed” to the age of ten and told to write his name will write it as he did at the age of ten; regressed further to the age of six will write in a still more childish scrawl; regressed to the age of three will be unable to do more than make meaningless lines with his pencil. These age-regression experiments are commonly conducted in university classes and are familiar to students in the field.Less well known, however, is the work of the French scientist De Rochas, who in the latter half of the nineteenth century claimed that he was able, through the same age-regression techniques, to evoke memories of past-life experiences. His book Les Vies Successives (successive lives) has not been accorded scientific recognition; but perhaps he will one day be haled a pioneer in the realm of reincarnationist psychology. More recently, A.R. Martin of Sharon, Pennsylvania, has made similar studies and has published a remarkable book called Researches in Reincarnation and Beyond. Past-life memories experimentally induced in this manner would seem to be contradictory to the intention of nature at this point, or else all of us would recall our past spontaneously. Efforts such as these, however, made in the interests of science, are interesting and valuable; they may, before long, provide the final experimental laboratory evidence for the reality of reincarnation.
In turning to the instances of mental abnormality that were scrutinized by the Cayce hypnotic clairvoyance, one finds that they tend to illuminate the nature of memory and the unconscious mind and that they tend to confirm the belief that the unconscious mind is far deeper than is thought even by present-day psychoanalysts. These cases are not always evidential–that is to say, they do not always provide us with direct or indirect proof that what Cayce said about the past was true. But some of the cases are evidential at least to a degree; and those that are not can only be regarded as further fragments of the whole intricate mosaic which–once its total reasonableness is seen–automatically provides the details with credability.One of the most curious of the abnormalities of mental life is the phenomena known as phobia. A phobia is generally understood by analysts to be an exaggerated fear which had its origin in the complicated series of situations or relationships conductive to antagonism, suppressed aggression, or guilt feelings of an intense nature. These submerged feelings later express themselves as an intense and seemingly irrational fear of closed places, high places, cats, thunderstorms, or some other of an almost endless variety of possible phobia objects, the object chosen having some direct or indirect relation to one of the basic precipitating experiences. The Cayce readings, however, seem to show that in some cases at least these strong and seemingly unreasonable fears can have a very reasonable origin in some directly related experience of a past life.
One interesting example is the case of a woman who even as a young girl was afraid of closed places. In theaters, she insisted on sitting near an exit. If the bus on which she was riding became too crowded, she would get off and wait for another. On excursions to the country, she was fearful of entering caves, grottoes, or any small, enclosed place. Neither she nor the members of her family could understand this peculiar attitude, since no one could remember any unusual childhood experience that might have induced such a fear. According to the Cayce reading, the explanation was that in her past life she had been smothered when the roof of a cave collapsed upon her. The memory of this horrible death still persisted in the unconscious mind.
Another case is that of a woman who has two phobias: one of cutting instruments and the other of all furred animals, especially domestic pets. She is gripped by nervous fear whenever she sees cutting instruments close to her, or sees anyone else using them. The life reading accounted for this phobia in stating that she met death in a Persian incarnation by being run through with a sword.
Her aversion to animals is difficult to understand on the basis of her present life, since she came from a large family, all of whom had pets. Her brother in particular was very fond of animals. Yet the very sight of a cat or dog in the house repels this woman as much as the sight of a snake repels another. Furthermore, she had never been able to wear a fur coat or even a coat trimmed with a fur collar. Psychiatrists might explore her phobia in terms of her relationships to the members of her family–possibly jealousy of the brother who was especially fond of animals, for example–and explain it as an expression of antagonism. The readings, however, traced her curious aversion to an Atlantean incarnation in which she had some sort of experience in relation to repulsive creatures.
Many other phobias were similarly explained by the reading on a past-life basis. A morbid fear of darkness was attributed to a dungeon experience in France, when the entity was a political prisoner at the time of Louis XVI. A fear of sharp knives was traced to an experience in a torture chamber in France, where the entity suffered the rack and other instruments of torture. A fear of impending wholesale destruction was explained by the fact that the entity had had a Peruvian experience at the time of one of the submergences of Atlantis; he had been left alone on a high mound to which he had retired for study, and had seen the water mounting everywhere around him. An overpowering fear of wild animals was attributed to an experience in Rome, when the entity’s husband had been made to fight wild beasts in the arena. Two persons who had a morbid fear of water were told that they had been drowned in the last life; a third person who feared water was told that he had been ship wrecked in a storm, during the time of the expansion of the Roman empire.
Examining these cases critically, from the point of view of ordinary psychology, we might wonder if in all instances there had not been a present-life situation which could adequately explain the phobia. Granted, it is conceivable that some repressed emotional disturbance might be found, but this would still not negate the possibility of anterior memory which was the true basis for the phobia. For example, the woman who had a morbid fear of closed places may have been locked in a dark closet at the age of four, and the incident forgotten. Under free association or hypnosis the incident might be unearthed, and the psychiatrist might work from that information into an understanding of emotional problems which could have caused the nervous disorder.
An important fact is often overlooked in these cases. Although it must be acknowledged that in the emotional realm algebraic equivalents are not to be expected, countless people have emotional experiences similar to those that produce phobias in others and yet do not themselves suffer from phobias. Why, then, is this particular person susceptible? If everyone who had experienced the kinds of emotional upsets to which claustrophobia is frequently attributed got claustrophobia, we would have a population of claustrophobes so great that telephone booths, dormitory rooms, one room apartments, and some of the smarter nightclubs would need to be abolished as menaces to public health and sanity.
The answer to the problem is indicated by the Cayce data in this: that the greater nervous succeptibility of one child over another to an emotional situation may be due to past-life experience. The present-life situation merely acts as the reawakening agent of the tragic buried impression.
By the reincarnationist view, then, we see that the unconscious mind, like a box with a false bottom, is far deeper than is ordinarily supposed. Certain analysts–notably Carl Jung–have already sensed the necessity for the existence of deeper levels in order to explain otherwise unexplainable facts of mental life and have spoken of the “collective unconscious,” “race unconscious,” or “racial memory,” on the assumption that there exists a sort of reservoir of memory of racial experience which all individuals tap. Although it cannot be said with certainty that such a mass memory does not exist, it seems more difficult to accept than the theory that memory is individual and extends back in the unconscious through previous lifetimes. At least the individual memory theory cannot be said to be less plausible than a concept that holds that memories are stacked like corn in a granary and then withdrawn and used by the rest of the community. If such a phenomenon of pooled experience occurs, it would seem to be no longer a memory, in the strict sense of the term, but rather a cognition, or knowing process.
According to the point of view of the Cayce readings, an individual does have unconscious memories surging up from the ancient past, but they arise–not from some hypothetical pool of race memories, or from some long-dead ancestor, but rather from his own previous experience. All his unconscious fears and hates and loves and impulses are his own inheritance, bequeathed by himself to himself, as a man bequeaths his own today unto his own tomorrow. He himself once was a savage many times, hence it is natural for him to have certain unredeemed savage impulses. He himself once was threatened by the terrors of the jungle and the abominations of man’s cruelties, hence it is natural for him still to feel unreasoning fears and unfounded apprehensions. He himself had good reason to hate and love many of the people whom he is now associated with; it is only natural for him now to feel seemingly irrational loves and hates towards these same people in present….