Monday, September 27, 2010

Book Review: Many lives, many Masters by Brian L Weiss M. D

“ We go through many stages when we are here. We shed a baby body, go into a child’s, from child to an adult, an adult into old age. Why shouldn’t we go one step beyond and shed the adult body and go to a spiritual plane? That is what we do. We just don’t stop growing; we continue to grow. When we get to the spiritual plane, we keep growing there, too. We go through different stages of development. When we arrive, we are burnt out. We have to go through a renewal stage, a learning stage, and a stage of decision. We decide when we return, where, and for what reasons. Some chose not to come back. They chose to go on to another stage of development. And they stay in spirit form... some for longer than others before they return. It is all growth and learning...continuous growth. Our body is just a vehicle for us, while we’re here. It is our soul and our spirit that last forever.”- pg 140, Many lives; many Masters

As much as you may not want to connect it with teachings of the eastern parts of the world, you are forced to believe that there is a strong influence. I would like to bring to mind that Brain Weiss’ book was first published in 1988, quite a few years after the heat and dust had settled down, post the hippie movement which dug deep into not only narcotics and LSD, but the eastern religions too, in order to find answers to a society that seemed to have no ‘deeper meaning” of life and thereafter. By the ‘80s the revolution and the change it brought across the globe had kind of settled in and eastern thought married and matched with the church, albeit the latter was deeply hurt and rebellious about it. Also do not forget, around the mid-seventies, out of the soil of India arose her “sons of religious revolution” – Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and a much more outspoken one, the inimitable Acharya Rajneesh. Their voices and meditaions rocked the world and their followings began to influence all thought around religion. It is mainly Christianity that was hit, not only by these infamous two, but already shaken by the hippie movement, it was not difficult for those who were standing swaying in doubt of the entire society, to find a crutch in the words and methods of spiritual practice of both, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Acharya Rajneesh, who spread their thoughts of eastern religion, to an “Amreeka is a big hole” as Mahesh Yogi announced at the music festival, Woodstock.

Given this background, I would hardly want to shy away from the fact that even if one did not convert to the mala and the robe, one could not be really far away from the ideas of eastern religions, sowing their seeds in western minds. In this light therefore, the book makes enormous sense.

Catherine is an extraordinary attractive woman who worked as a laboratory assistant in the hospital where Brian L Weiss is Chief of Psychiatry and she earns some extra money modelling swimwear. She is the middle child of a conservative Catholic family. Her elder brother, three years older than her was athletic while her younger sister was the favourite of both parents.

Please to note: We already have a recipe for what may be called an attention grabber, who because she was sandwiched between an athletic brother and a younger sister who took all the attention in the family, would perhaps try to fulfil her need for attention in other ways in later life.

At the time she sees Weiss, Catherine is having anxiety moments which are so severe that she is burdened with fears – of water for she feels she is going to drown in it; she was afraid of swallowing pills because she feels she will choke; she is afraid of airplanes, darkness and she is terrified of dying. Thus, in the recent past she has often slept on a walk-in closet in her apartment. She suffers insomnia for two to three hours every night and when she sleeps it is fitful. Also the sleep-walking she did in her childhood were returning back to her rapidly, which then added to her depression.

As usual she was given the treatment that went by the book. Her condition changed marginally. It is then that Weiss who had been using hypnosis on some of his patients, if he felt they needed it to go deeper into the reason for the fears, began to use the same on Catherine, with her consent. The miracle begun to happen as Catherine slipped from one life to another she had been passing through in her 86 past lives which she recounted with a fair amount of vivid detail. What is interesting though is not only the content of that lifetime but the manner of death in that lifetime – sometimes drowning in water (read fear of water in this life), her throat being slit and many other forms of death. What is amazing is, as she recounts these deaths, she seems to overcome the fear of death in life this time. As the therapy goes on, both therapist and patient find they are able to see deeper meanings to everything that has and is happening to them in their lives here now.

However, the most interesting thing in the book is the voice of the Masters who speak through Catherine, pearls of knowledge, that are so close to what is part of eastern religions – rebirth, death of the body not being the death of the Self/soul etc etc. The philosophy remembered and retained, helps both, Catherine to be free of her fears. She becomes a positive energy everyone would like to be with. She attracts people to her.

The book is an easy read, but get boring sometimes with too many past life stories. But for Weiss who had just transcribed the recordings of those sessions, it was a novel experience. For most of the world too it was and is. Many lives, many Masters has been translated in 40 languages.

I would like to sum up the book, by saying that the uniqueness lies in the book, if you are not used to eastern religions, thoughts and beliefs. For a philosopher, a Buddhist steeped in Buddhist reincarnation stories and the knowledge that ever the Buddha, just before his enlightenment saw all 86, 000 lifetimes of his, like a show reel before his eyes, I was not tickled pink. But I can understand the book’s importance, in the light that it is a new way to conquer fear especially of death which many times is the root reason behind paranoia.

I would also like to add, that I though that Catherine was having all those symptoms to draw attention to herself and that did happen over a long time. Once, she was able to find a therapist who was not only supportive but also converting, so to say, and the power dynamics was shifting towards her as her therapist also began to believe in what his patient was saying about him, her relation with him from past lives, it became apparent that they became equals in as far as the balance of power dynamics between them. That in, itself can be a cure!

Needless to say, getting attention is vital to life, no matter from which quarter of life it may come from – the Physician, the Psychiatrist, the mother, father, whoever!

While the book may rely heavily on eastern thought of rebirth, it particularly is careful to keep away all forms of life, giving priority only to the human lifetime. Hence, while one who is rooted in eastern rebirth theory might believe that all life forms are lives in transition from one to another, thus, reducing the heavy importance given to human life only, Weiss’ book Many lives, many Masters, lacks that possibility because Catherine it seems can remember only her lives in the past which are human form only.

And that does save shaming Christianity, because, Catherine hails from a conservative Catholic background.

Brian L Weiss would hardly like to have crossed the line of control by stepping over and authenticating that in fact, past life theories are true, even if they are recounting only the lives in which (wo)man was made in the image of God.

Publisher: FIRESIDE, Rockefeller Centre, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
Author:Brian L Weiss, M.D
Pages: 220; Price: $ 6.95 (Rs 340)
About the author: After graduating magna cum laude from Columbia University and receiving his medical degree at the Yale University School of medicine, Brian L. weiss, M.D, served his internship in New York University’s Bellevue medical Centre and went on to become chief resident, Department of Psychiatry, at the Yale University School of Medicine. Currently, Dr Weiss is Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai Medical Centre in Miami Beach, Florida, and clinical Associate professor, department of Psychiatry, at the University of Miami School of Medicine. He specializes in the study and treatment of depression and anxiety states, sleep disorders, substance abuse disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, and brain chemistry.

About the writer of the review: Julia Dutta is an advertising professional and a journalist. You can reach her at