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Your Money or Your Past Life

Edgar Cayce

Regression works wonders--when it works

By Ami Chen Mills

IT WAS IN AN overly air-conditioned, mauve and lime conference room at the Holiday Inn in San Jose that Certified Master Hypnotherapist Lynn Sparrow told those of us who had gathered that we were "glorious, eternal beings of light."

Well, I knew that.

What I'd come to find out--glorious eternal being that I am--was, What had I been?

Sparrow had flown in to lead a group of roughly four dozen beings through a workshop titled "Reincarnation: Remembering Your Odyssey Through Time." According to the brochure, Sparrow would help seekers like me "get in touch" with who we are "at a soul level." The program also offered "a 100 percent money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied with the past-life insights you receive."

Enough to get me into the first row, in front of which which Sparrow paraphrased the teachings of Edgar Cayce (pronounced like Casey), a healer and clairvoyant who died in 1945. According to Sparrow, Cayce believed that although we have past lives, it is what we do with our lives now that is most important. We humans, as eternal beings, will continue to reincarnate, in a state of "rebellion from our source," until we "surrender to the oneness."

For those of us who are frantically waving the white flag of surrender in this lifetime, Sparrow explained that by getting in touch with our past lives, we could learn from our mistakes and come to terms with our mission on the planet. Made sense to me. And apparently to everyone else in the room, many of whom raised their hands when Sparrow asked, "How many of you have had a spontaneous recollection of a past life?"

Sparrow noted that more and more people were having past-life experiences. "We wouldn't have seen this many hands a decade ago," she said. As I calculated, a decade ago placed us in the relatively unimaginative Reagan years--and that made sense to me. (I believe Reagan will die and be reborn in the Bronx as the child of a welfare mother.)

Of those who raised their hands, one woman recounted an episode in which she had gone so deeply into a past life, she spoke another language. Another claimed to have been some sort of environmental scientist from the Lost City of Atlantis who had warned of impending catastrophe. Now, she said, she suffers from "environmental sensitivity." Which made sense to Sparrow.

Belief in reincarnation puts quite a few things in perspective--some of which I asked Sparrow about, raising the hand of my current body.

For example: gays and lesbians. Say you've just lived a life as a male and now you're incarnated as female, but you're still attracted to women. You'd be gay! Made sense to Sparrow: "If you've lived a series of lives as one sex, the transition to another gender is rough. Maybe your memories of that other gender are too strong." See?

Another theory I had was that people like Hitler were reincarnated as mentally handicapped people so they could take a long-overdue break from, like, thinking for a while. Sparrow explained that mentally retarded people were gifts from God, sent here to teach love. I still don't know where Hitler went--maybe into a Tutsi body.

Reincarnation also explains why some of us are born to great parents and others are born to crappy parents. We deserve it! Which is not to say we are destined to suffer. According to Sparrow and others of her ilk, our job on this planet is to figure out why we were born to our parents and correct tendencies from past lives and heal. In other words: Get over it.

It helps, though, if you have some knowledge of your former lives so you can figure out what the hell you're doing here. Through group hypnosis, Sparrow attempted to lead us into former incarnations. I tried, I really tried to get into a past life, but all I could come up with was an Italian daughter of a wealthy landowner who looked about my age and, actually, looked a lot like me. The other incarnation was a pre-Mayan guy with a little family and a little primeval jock strap made of a plant. Both of these people were very content, and I wondered how wise I could be, given that my past selves hadn't experienced anything really challenging. But then I also couldn't figure out if these were my past lives or just my imagination, once again, running away with me.

When our regressions were over, people had a lot of crazy stories. One woman got a headache instead of a past life, and Sparrow thought perhaps her subconscious was trying to protect her. "This is not the place to ask questions about why you feel so sensitive about your neck and why you don't want anyone to touch it," she joked.

Nobody asked for their money back, but maybe we do that when this life is over.

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From the April 24-30, 1997 issue of Metro

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