In 1956, psychologist Edwin Zolik took one of his students ‘before birth’ and extracted from him the life of riverman, Dick Wonchalk, under hypnosis. He was a lonely, bitter man who died in 1876 all alone.
Finnish psychiatrist Dr Reima Kampman hypnotically regressed a number of children. One remembered being Dorothy, daughter of an English innkeeper. At one point this Finnish girl sang an old song in authentic Middle English.
FRAGMENTS OF MEMORY
Both these cases of apparent reincarnation appear stunning. However, both researchers then did something else. Under hypnosis, they asked their subjects where their information came from.
In the former case Wonchalk was a fantasy created from an old film the subject had watched, the pathetic life of the hero making him identify with his own pitiful lot. In the latter, the subject had simply flicked through a book in a library. Kampman eventually found the song in ‘The Story of Music’ by Benjamin Britten and Imagen Holst.
What, we may ask, is going on here? The mind is a peculiar thing. When you walk down a street or enter a room, your senses pick up every piece of information available to you.
However, if all this information was also perceived by the conscious mind, we would be so overloaded by information that concentration is impossible. Hence, the mind acts like a sieve, filtering information not required for the moment into the unconscious.
And it seems, through a phenomenon known as cryptomnesia, hypnosis can drag up much of this non required information. And in the case of past life regression, it appears that the mind, under prompting by a therapist, can regurgitate such information as past lives.
MORE CASE FILES
One of the earliest known cases of cryptomnesia comes from 1906, when a woman was hypnotised and became Blanche Poynings, friend to the 18th century Countess of Salisbury. Everything in this life corresponded with an 1892 novel, ‘Countess Maude.’
In 1977 a woman called Jan became Joan Waterhouse, a Chelmsford witch who just managed to escape a death sentence in 1566. However, Jan gave 1556 as the date, the error traced to a Victorian pamphlet about the trial.
One of the most convincing cases was that of Jane Evans who, in the 1970s, recounted six past lives to hypnotist Arnall Bloxham. One of those lives was Livonia, a Roman woman living in Eboracum (York) at the time the young Constantine the Great was growing up.
In one recounted incident, Constantine was undergoing weapons training, tutored by Marcus Favonius Facilis. Throughout the account, historical detail was stunningly accurate, the only details that could not be confirmed being the existence of Livonia and Facilis.
This case is still touted by believers as remarkable proof of reincarnation. But what is not popularly known is that in 1947 the writer Louis de Wohl published a historically accurate novel about Roman times called ‘The Living Wood.’ It contains a scene where Constantine is being tutored in weaponry by Marcus Favonius Facilis. Livonia is also in the novel.
THE SCEPTIC’S ERROR
Cryptomnesia has become, over the years, a major weapon in the sceptic’s arsenal. Often used to ‘rubbish’ cases of reincarnation through past life regression, this is, though, an error. For whilst it may show reincarnation to be wrong, it doesn’t answer the mystery.
In particular, no one can so far offer an explanation of the ability of the mind to hold such enormous amounts of information. This is shown by looking at the idea of long and short term memory.
According to the model, short term memory is not retained, whereas long term memory is. If this is accurate, then cryptomnesia cannot occur. The information cannot be in the mind to be brought forward.
FORMING A MEMORY
But the reality is, it IS in the mind. Hence, the present mind model must be incorrect. Indeed, I am convinced that cryptomnesia can answer much of the paranormal and ideas of consciousness and behaviour itself.
Consider, for instance, the phenomenon of ‘false memory’, where a thought – such as being abused as a child – seems to be placed by a therapist who believes such a thing occurred to many children without realizing it.
One problem with proving the idea is that there doesn’t seem to be enough data from cases. This can be seen as incorrect. There is data of the probable process, but it is discounted by science as rubbish. I’m talking about past life regression itself.
A CULTURE THING
Further ideas concerning the ability to hold incredible amounts of information in the unconscious can come from looking at the alien abduction event. Often recalled through a therapist, we have a similar pattern emerging.
Usually coming via a therapist who believes in the phenomenon, the alien abduction is remarkably similar time after time. It suggests that, not only is the idea transferred to the subject as a false memory, but a form of ‘cultural’ input is passed on in this way.
What I am suggesting here is that culture itself could be a process passed on, not by symbolic representations in the ‘real’ world, but by an identification of ‘familiarity’ with a concept unknowingly held in the unconscious.
If vast amounts of information ARE held in the unconscious, and can be unconsciously accessed in order to produce false memories and the transmission of culture, then it is possibly incorrect to say that this unconscious ‘store’ is personal.
Rather, we could be dealing with a ‘communal’ element of mind, produced by the accessing of information the conscious mind did not know it was accessing or held. Indeed, I have said elsewhere that this could constitute a form of ‘reflection’ of the outside world.
I have written about cryptomnesia in many essays on the paranormal. This is because I am convinced it could be a starting point for a radical overhaul of our understanding of the human mind and its capabilities.
In this essay, I have tried to show just a few areas where this could be so. But I suppose the main message of the piece is this: a phenomenon used by skeptics to ‘rubbish’ paranormal claims could well be the main ‘vehicle’ in understanding them.
Your average sceptic would not accept this point. This is because they have understood the ability of cryptomnesia to disprove a specific area of the paranormal without making the required jump to see what it could imply in the wider field.
This is, of course, an inevitability of the scientific method which is specialized as opposed to ‘holistic’. Does this suggest that a fuller understanding of cryptomnesia could have an effect on our knowledge appraisal too?
© Anthony North, September 2007
Source : Beyond the Blog
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