Past Lives and Living Again

Past Lives and Living Again

Colosseum, Roma, Italy
Photo: Mathew Schwartz

The following is excerpted from Coming Back: A Psychiatrist Explores Past-Life Journeys by Dr. Raymond Moody and Paul Perry.

Have we lived before? Do we live again? 

Many people, religious and nonreligious alike, believe that we do. Hindus think that we die and return in a sort of endless cycle of death and renewal. Some Orientals, for instance, believe that if you are laden with sin when you die, you will return again as a human in order to be given the chance to purify yourself. Hindus believe that you shall reap as you sow: a bad person in this life comes back as something unappealing, such as an insect, in the next. 

Some people believe that they can return to those past lives almost at will. They believe that hypnosis can tap an area of the brain that stores all or part of the lives they have lived like a file cabinet stores old tax records. 

This process of hypnotically getting at these past lives is called past-life regression. 

Aguas Calientes, Peru
Photo: Tom Cleary

I think it is safe to say that most people consider regression bogus. They link it with such beliefs as harmonic convergences (where the planets line up to form power zones on the earth), or the healing of diseases through the use of crystals. 

There are significant differences between these things (which I too consider bogus) and past-life regression. The main difference is this: using the vehicle of past-life regression, something happens. Normal, psychologically healthy people actually see themselves in ancient cultures, living lives in long-ago eras. They find themselves wearing the dress of the period and often find themselves surrounded by conversation of the time. 

Hyderabad, Telangana, India
Photo: Prasanth Dasari

Not everyone who regresses finds himself living the life of Christopher Columbus, Henry VIII, or some other famous historical figure. Most aren’t royalty or members of the elite. For the most part, they are slaves or gladiators, soldiers or stable boys. In short, they are ordinary folk living lives as ordinary as the ones they lead now. Few are special people and even fewer experience lives of opulence and grandeur. 

I know this is true because I have seen it in my own psychiatric practice. 

From time to time, while working as a psychotherapist with psychologically healthy human beings, I have been surprised to hear patients describe puzzling episodes during which they seemed to be transported back through time and space to a realm where they experienced a sense of identity with an individual who lived in an earlier historical period. 

Photo: Ivan Bertona

Usually the experience takes the form of a sensory image. Most often it is visual. But sometimes the person being hypnotized describes only sounds and smells and can see nothing. They feel that these images relate to events that happened before they were born. Yet these images seem so real that the individuals are convinced they were actually “back in time.” 

For a long time I assumed that the handful of cases I had treated or heard of were aberrations, just brief vivid daydreams not worthy of serious investigation. 

And that’s where I would have left it, had it not been for the publication of Life After Life, my first book on near-death experiences. After the publication of that book, I received hundreds of letters from readers. Most of them described near-death experiences, vivid spiritual experiences of people who had almost died. 

But among those letters were reports of other types of fascinating psychological and spiritual phenomena, including numerous accounts of past-life recollections similar to the ones I had heard described by patients in psychotherapy. Some of them…were amazing.

Castle, Dubrovnik, Croatia
Photo: Benedikt Jaletzke

My investigation has led me to believe that almost anyone can experience these dramatic past-life journeys. It takes only patience and the willingness to believe that much remains unknown about the human mind, especially in the remarkable ways that it seems to communicate with itself. This is a dimension of the mind that has not been investigated to any great degree. But it is one that creates the personal myths in each of us, forming our self-images and making us who we are. 

As mythologist Joseph Campbell said: “[Reincarnation] suggests that you are more than you think you are. There are dimensions of your being and a potential for realization and consciousness that are not included in your concept of yourself. Your life is much deeper and broader than you conceive it to be here. What you are living is but a fractional inkling of what is really within you, what gives you life, breadth, and depth. But you can live in terms of that depth. And when you can experience it, you suddenly see that all the religions are talking about that.”

Dr Raymond Moody



In the reissued classic, Coming Back’ Dr. Raymond Moody investigates past lives with the new science of regression hypnosis. His goal: To discover if we can indeed recall “past lives” and what such memories tell us about the possibility that death is not the end.

A confirmed skeptic with regard to reincarnation, Dr. Moody first became interested in the phenomenon when he encountered psychologically healthy patients who, under deep hypnosis, suddenly began describing in vivid detail episodes from other historical periods they could not possibly have known. His interest in the meaning of these visions intensified when he decided to undertake his own journey into the baffling and exhilarating realm of “past life” experiences. ‘Coming Back’ is the fascinating result of his findings. Learn more about the book here.

Raymond Moody, M.D., Ph.D. is the bestselling author of eleven books which have sold over 20 million copies. His seminal work, Life After Life, has completely changed the way we view death and dying and has sold over 13 million copies worldwide.

Paul Perry is the co-author of four New York Times bestsellers, including Saved by the Light (which was made into a popular movie) and Evidence of the Afterlife. He has co-authored five books with Dr. Raymond Moody.

To read another except, please see our previous post Exploring Your Own Past Lives

Dr. Moody is available on a limited basis for private phone consultations.

He brings his many decades of research and experience as well as his insight and empathy to answer your questions and aid in understanding life and the afterlife.




  1. Peggy Marcantonio

    I had what I believe to be a past life experience during meditation. Sometimes I struggle with it, I know what I experienced but yet I’m questioning it.
    I wrote the experience down in my journal. I was so intrigued with what I saw and experienced that I started looking up the things I wrote down. How can I be certain that the life I saw was a past life?
    Thank you for all of the work you share with us!

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