Saturday, May 23, 2009

BOOK TALK: Life Between Lives - Part I

(I just finished reading the third book written by "life between lives" (LBL) therapist, Michael Newton, Ph.D., titled unsurprisingly: Life Between Lives: Hypnotherapy for Spiritual Regression (Llewellyn Publications 2008). Unlike his first two books--Journey of Souls (Llewellyn 1994) and Destiny of Souls (Llewellyn 2000), both intended for the general public--this work isintended to guide professional hypnotherapists who would like to learn his spiritual regression techniques. Still, the book is interesting to readers in that it describes the step-by-step methods that Dr. Newton has used for many years as he helped clients explore the afterlife, their spiritual guides, soul companiions, and the purpose of their lives. Reading this volume has inspired me to go back and re-read those two previous works once again.

Over many years Dr. Michael Newton "presonally [facilitated] over 7,000 LBL clients into their spiritual life between physical incarnations on Earth." In his retirement he has written this new volume to help the "next generation of LBL therapists." General readers are likely to be impressed, as was I, with the deep insight and care that Dr. Newton demonstrates with his suggested format and questions to use with each client. It is clear that any therapist needs great skill and understanding to utilize this method of therapy.

Given that I was familiar with his two previous books, this book was especially interesting to me. I would recommend, however, that readers unfamiliar with his work should read and Journey of Souls and Destiny of Souls to learn about what happens when we die. For that reason, I'm publishing my two book discussions on "life between lives." The first part is below. Part Two will follow in a day or two.)


One of the chief fears of human beings concerns death. It is the great unknown, and yet it is an inescapable event in each of our lives. Part of the fears surrounding death involves what happens to us after we die. Is there an afterlife, a heaven, a hell? Will we be punished for our misdeeds and mistakes? Would we have fewer fears if we could know what happens after we die?

Like most people, any knowledge I have acquired about any afterlife has derived from spiritual or esoteric works which I could choose to believe or not, largely based on faith. Also I have I gained possible insights from the many reports of near-death experiences in various books, or case histories from psychiatrists like Brian Weiss, M.D., whose clients occasionally report on experiences between lives in the course of their past-life regression therapy.

Then I read an article about Michael Newton, Ph.D., and I immediately ordered his two books: Journey of Souls: Case Studies of LIfe Between Lives (Llewellyn Publications, 1994; 5th Rev. Ed, 1996); and Destiny of Souls: New Case Studies of LIfe Between Lives (Llewellyn Publications, 2000). It is no exaggeration to say that these two volumes have completely changed my thinking about life after death. Fascinating in their content, the two works totally gripped my attention while I explored this rare glimpse into the world beyond.

Both books are easy to read. The dialogue of numerous case studies in each one is intriguing. There is so much thoughtful, even astonishing, information in each book, I will only be able to touch upon a limited number of issues. Nevertheless, this “Book Talk” discussion will be in two parts.

First it is important to have a context for the data and that necessarily begins with the author, Michael Newton, Ph.D. Michael D. Newton holds a doctorate in Counseling Psychology, is a certified Master Hynotherapist, and a member of the American Counseling Association. He has taught in higher educational institutions and has had a private practice in Los Angeles. Trained in traditional therapy, Newton avoided requests for “past-life regressions” from clients in his early days of practice. But like many other therapists, he rather accidentally worked into past-life regressions while trying to help a client find the cause for a lifetime of chronic pain. Discovering the cause in a past life and thereby able to eliminate the pain, Dr. Newton began to experiment with other clients who requested this kind of therapy. He “came to appreciate just how therapeutically important the link is between the bodies and events of our former lives and who we are today.”

But then Dr. Newton made an amazing discovery “of enormous proportions.” He reports, “I found it was possible to see into the spirit world through the mind’s eye of a hypnotized subject who could report back to me of life between lives on Earth.” This discovery became the focus of his practice. He notes that, “There are many books about past lives, but none I could find which told about our life as souls, . . .” He “learned that finding their place in the spirit world was far more meaningful to people than recounting their former lives on Earth.”

Both of his books contain numerous case histories and actual dialogues from client sessions, all of which detail amazing facts and insights about the soul’s life between lives. Cynics would likely question the authenticity of the reports. Are they just examples of client’s imagination and fancies? Dr. Newton makes important points about hypnosis, his techniques, and the consistencies in clients responses. He says, “Once in hypnosis, . . . in response to questions, subjects cannot lie, but they may misinterpret something seen in their unconscious mind, . . . . In hypnosis, people have trouble relating to anything they don’t believe is the truth.”

Dr. Newton developed a technique rather like cross-examination that he uses with his clients. He treats “each case as if I were hearing the information for the first time.” He says, “I found no evidence of anyone faking their spiritual experiences to please me.” What he discovered over many years and hundreds of subjects was “that once subjects were regressed back to their soul state they all displayed a remarkable consistency in responding to questions about the spirit world.” The only differences in reporting “was due more to the level of soul development than to variances in how each subject basically saw the spirit world.” By the time he wrote his second book, Newton unequivocally says, “It did not matter if a person was an atheist, deeply religious, or believed in any philosophical persuasion in between--once they were in the proper

superconscious state of hypnosis, all were consistent in their reports.” Such consistency is important to me as a reader because it reinforces my trust in the content of these books.

Journey of Souls
has a logical progression in its organization. Using 29 cases out of hundreds in his case files, Dr. Newton presents the story of the experiences of souls from the moment of their death from their physical body to the moment of their next rebirth. In between we learn of the gateway to the spirit world, homecoming to old soul friends, problems for displaced souls, various steps of orientation and transition to life in spirit, our guides, the various levels of soul development and what that entails, and finally the steps in selecting a new life, choosing a new body, and the embarkation into the physical once more.

It’s an astounding trip I can assure you. Reading the pages is as gripping as any adventure novel. Newton includes many excerpts of the case reports with actual client dialogues. This adds great authenticity and reality to the work. Many questions that readers have about “after death” are answered in these pages. Some answers may differ considerably from what most of us have been taught to believe. All the answers, however, should offer enlightenment and comfort to all. Those who expect a “hell” in the afterworld may be exceptionally relieved to discover that “hell” is on Earth and not in the afterworld.

There is no way that I can begin to mention all that I have learned from Journey of Souls. Hence, we’ll limit our discussion to three topics: death and the return to the spirit world, levels of soul development, and choosing a new life. Newton’s case reports on death and the immediate after-life experiences are similar to those reported in many other sources, such as reports of near-deaths, or in other books about past-life regressions. Nevertheless it is clear that we receive extensive help and assistance from those on the other side. Most of Newton’s subjects “report the first person they see in the spirit world is their personal guide.” Also, “after any life we can be met by a soulmate” and other important people in our lives. Moreover, “unseen intelligent energy forces guide each of us” on our passage from the physical world to the spirit world.

How does each individual adjust to being in the spirit world after a life on Earth? There are apparently diverse reactions. Newton says, “The time of soul adjustment depends upon the circumstances of death, attachments of each soul to the memories of the life just ended, and level of advancement.” Nearly all souls seem to require some kinds of healing after time on Earth, and this takes place appropriately. Souls are also “debriefed” of the life just ended and in counseling sessions, “held accountable for their past lives.” Nevertheless, “there is overwhelming forgiveness in the spirit world.”

A good question many of us ask is, “What is the purpose of living on earth and experiencing the pain and violence of this world, especially if the spiritual matrix is one of love and wisdom?” Newton provides answers throughout his books, but most concisely when he says, “If a soul only knew love and peace, it would gain no insight and never truly appreciate the value of these positive feelings. The test of reincarnation for a soul coming to Earth is the conquering of fear in a human body. A soul grows by trying to overcome all negative emotions connected to fear through perseverance in many lifetimes.”

Upon returning to the spirit world each soul moves back to its “group.” It was a surprise for many of Newton’s clients to discover that “everyone has a designated place in the spirit world.” Group placement “is determined by soul level” and “Peer members have a sensitivity to each other which is far beyond our conception on Earth.” It feels comforting to learn from Newton’s subjects that “Members of the same cluster group are closely united for all eternity.” Such clusters “are often composed of like-minded souls with common objectives which they continually work out with each other.” Newton discovered that these peer group members most commonly manifest as siblings and close friends on Earth. Parents, in general, are not from one’s soul group, but from “secondary” or other related groups.

One point in the stories related so consistently by Newton’s case histories is the structure and organization in the afterworld. There is nothing haphazard about it. Gentle, patient guidance is always operative. Everything and everyone has a “place.” For Newton the spirit world resembles “one great schoolhouse with a multitude of classrooms under the direction of teacher-souls who monitor our progress.” Is it not comforting to know that throughout eternity “we are always protected, supported and directed within the system by master souls”?

Whereas some people may be uncomfortable with the idea of different “levels” of souls, “Newton notes that “the whole idea of a hierarchy of souls has been part of both Eastern and Western cultures for many centuries.” Haven’t we all heard the term “old soul” and hoped (or believed) that we are one? Newton warns that the idea is not to be thought of in an elitist way, either socially or intellectually. All souls start as “beginners” and earn their development. What we see on Earth may have little to do with a soul’s “level.” It may be disconcerting to some readers that “souls in a high state of advancement are often found in humble circumstances on Earth. By the same token, people in the upper strata of influence in human society are by no means in a blissful state of soul maturity. Often, just the reverse is true.”

Newton devotes a chapter each to discussions and examples of beginner, intermediate, and advanced souls. From his experience and research with hundreds of clients, Newton “believes almost three-quarters of all souls who inhabit human bodies on Earth today are still in the early stages of development.” He admits this is “a grossly discouraging statement,” but quite appropriate considering our current “world population beset by so much negative cross-cultural misunderstanding and violence.” On the other hand, his research indicates that “each century brings improvement of awareness in all humans.” So we are making progress, even if it seems to be at a slow pace.

Michael Newton has maintained a statistical count of clients soul levels in his case files. In his first book he acknowledges that his cases could over-represent souls at the lower level of development because those are the ones who most often need assistance in life and seek counseling. Nevertheless, his statistics by soul level of all his cases are: Level I, 42%; Level II, 31%; Level III, 17%; Level IV, 9%; and Level V, 1%. This suggests to Newton that there are “only a few hundred thousand people on Earth at Level V, meaning most advanced.

What I find to be exceptionally interesting in Newton’s Journey of Souls are his descriptions of the various soul level characteristics. For beginner souls typical characteristics include: “a lifetime of getting into disastrous ruts;” a lack of “generosity of spirit toward others;” not taking “much personal responsibility” for one’s actions; an “inability to bond with people;” an inclination to surrender their will to authorities; a “lack of independent thinking;” and a tendency towards self-centeredness and not accepting “others for who they are.” Now it must be emphasized that these are not bad people. Like small children, they are just learning. Newton emphasizes: “No stigma should be attached to these souls, since every soul was once a beginner.” Clearly, a major task for all souls beyond the “beginner level” is to aid, instruct, encourage, and assist beginners, just as parents or other helping adults would do for a small child. Here we may recall the wise statement, “We are our brothers’ keeper.”

Newton says that “intermediate” souls reincarnate less frequently than “beginners,” and they are “ready for more serious responsibilities.” Characteristics apparent in the intermediate souls include: high standards of morality and conduct, modesty about achievements, more composure, “trust rather than suspicion toward the motives of others,” and a “forward-looking attitude of faith and confidence for the future of humanity.” Newton also reports, “The more advanced souls of the world possess remarkable comprehension of a universal life plan.” He says, “Levels III and IV are significant stages” for evolving souls “because now they are given increased responsibilities for younger souls” and “these are trial periods for potential teachers.”

Newton reports that highly advanced souls are “scarce.” They generally don’t turn up in his practice because “a person whose maturity is this high doesn’t seek out a regression therapist to resolve life-plan conflicts. In most cases, Level V’s are here as incarnated guides.” The fulfillment for advanced souls “comes from improving the lives of other people.” Newton describes the characteristics of advanced souls as: “one who has patience with society and shows extraordinary coping skills;” has exceptional insight; “radiates composure, kindness, and understanding toward others.” Dr. Newton’s session with an advanced soul, Case 23 in Journey of Souls, is exceptional in its insights and wisdom.

Finally we must at least touch upon the grand finale of this book which involves the soul setting about to return to Earth again. The soul must decide if it is ready for a new physical life, what specific lessons it wants to address, who it should be, and where in the world would offer the best opportunity to work on its goals. It may console some readers to learn that souls can refuse to be reborn. Nothing is forced in the spirit world. The soul makes some of its decisions based on a kind of “movie preview” that is similar to today’s “virtual reality” in that the souls can actually get “into” the “movie” and try out the various possible “roles” they could assume in a physical body. It all sounds quite like science fiction, but again, Dr. Newton says all his clients “use remarkable similar descriptions” of this process. The resulting life still includes much free will.

Readers can acquire thoughtful insights from Journey of Souls. All of it, for me, was reassuring, comforting, and corroborative of other studies. I have only included small bits of the extensive information and unique insights in this book which also delves into topics including infant death, suicide, physical and emotional pain, relationships, physical and mental handicaps, the Holocaust, racial and gender choices, childhood traumas, intelligence, abortion, birth, and more. Newton emphasizes, “Whatever happens to us in life, it is important we understand that our happiness or pain does not reflect either blessings or betrayal on the part of a God-oversoul, our guides, or life-selection coordinators. We are the masters of our destiny.”

He concludes his first volume with some of the insights he gained from his experiences interviewing his clients. He acknowledges there is “no scientific foundation to prove the statements” of his clients. For those who find the information “too unprecedented to accept,” he hopes, “If you carry away nothing except the idea that you may have a permanent identity worth finding, I will have accomplished a great deal . . . . The awareness that we do belong somewhere is reassuring and offers us peace, . . .”

(To be continued in Part Two)


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