In this post I want to make some comments about dreams with apparent past-life content. Dreams are important, because they sometimes express past-life traumas for children. They are also the way many adults who have not experienced waking memories as children first become aware of what they believe are their previous lives. But dream memories can be especially problematical evidentially, as I will try to show with some examples. We must be very careful about taking dreams at face value when we have no corroborating evidence for the lives they suggest we lived.
Some past-life memories arising in dreams have led to the lives they show being verified and the cases solved. Jenny Cockell had dreams from childhood of a life she was later able to verify, based on her waking memories. Angela Grubbs wrote about her successful efforts to verify her dreams in her book, Chosen to Believe. But cases like this are rare. Antonia Mills investigated three cases of children who had dreams and nightmares with apparent past-life content but was unable to solve any of them. The nightmares suggest that something traumatic happened in an earlier life, but we do not know exactly what that life was and so are unable to pinpoint what about the things remembered in the dreams was right and what was wrong.
We know that there can be distortions in dreams with past-life content, even in solved cases. Ian Stevenson studied the case of Som Pit Honcharoen, who recalled the life of man who was stabbed to death at a festival by a woman to whom he had made unwelcome sexual advances. As a young child he described what happened accurately in his waking state but between the ages of 10 and 28 he had a recurrent dream in which he came close to being stabbed at a festival by a man. Another example occurs with Martalynn Orozco, a case I am studying. Martalynn had a striking birthmark which looked like a knife injury. It turned out that a great-uncle had been ambushed and struck in back by a machete in the highlands of Guatamala, where she was from, but before she learned this the had a dream in which she was murdered by being struck by a machete in a bar.
These transformations should not be terribly surprising. Mainstream memory researchers recognize that memory is a constructive activity and that errors and transformations occur as a matter of course. There is also the possibility of what psychologists call paramnesia, which is the mixing of memories and imaginative elements. I’ve heard of one case that may involve paramnesia. A woman had a realistic dream that seemed to be set during the Civil War. She saw herself dressed as a young woman in a long light blue dress appropriate to that era. She had the sense that her family was on the Confederate side, but she was alone with several Union soldiers in a barn. Some of the soldiers were in the loft, where they accidently knocked over plywood boards which fell on her head, killing her. The dream was so realistic, she told me, she would have thought it was a genuine past-life memory were it not for the plywood, which is a modern invention, not available during the Civil War. The dream, she concluded, was probably symbolic, although she was not sure of what.
Another type of distortion I have heard about in dreams with apparent past-life content is a “fuzziness” in certain strategic places, typically faces. Georgianna Walters of our group described an instance of this and we had some discussion about it in her post of March 20. Michael Conway, a memory researcher, has written that distortions of memory are “attempts to avoid change to the self, and ultimately to goals.” In other words, the distortions are produced by our minds as a way to protect us from the truth. If that is so, then perhaps we should expect to find errors and distortions in past-life memories, especially those arising in dreams, more often than not—and that carries the implication that we would be unwise to take these dreams literally as glimpses into what happened to us in the past unless they provide something which we can verify.
There is a second step reincarnation researchers go through after we verify content, and that is to show that the accurate information is not something the dreamer (or indeed waking remember) was able to obtain normally (or, some would add, through ESP), but that is the topic for another post.
This post is slightly modified from one I wrote originally for my Signs of Reincarnation Facebook group on April 2, 1015. See https://www.facebook.com/groups/965923533422836/permalink/1081701878511667/