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Many Lives, Many Masters by Brian L. Weiss.
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In 1981, the course of Dr. Brian Weiss’s career changed dramatically when one of his therapy patients, “Catherine,” suddenly recalled details of her past lives while under hypnosis. Though Weiss, like many scientists, is a natural skeptic, his experience with this patient convinced him that reincarnation is real, human souls are eternal, and there are spiritual “Masters” providing help and guidance from...

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Many Lives, Many Masters Summary Catherine’s Current Life

Weiss’s first encounter with the idea of past lives started when he began treating “Catherine” (a pseudonym Weiss uses to protect his patient’s real identity). Catherine was in her late 20s when she first came to Weiss seeking treatment for her severe, lifelong phobias as well as insomnia, recurring nightmares, anxiety, and depression. At the time, she worked as a laboratory technician in the same hospital where Weiss worked. She had a troubled relationship with her family and was pursuing an ongoing affair with a married man. Finally, Catherine was a practicing Catholic who...

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Many Lives, Many Masters Summary Catherine’s First Past Life Memory

After treating Catherine for 18 months with traditional talk therapy and making very little progress, Weiss began to suspect there might be repressed memories of trauma in Catherine’s past that were causing her current mental health issues. Weiss believed that if they could unearth those buried memories through hypnosis, Catherine would be able to confront her trauma head on and cure her present-day phobias. Catherine, though skeptical about hypnosis, agreed to try it.

(Shortform note: Using hypnosis to recover repressed memories, including repressed trauma, was a popular therapeutic technique in the early 1980s, when Weiss treated Catherine. However, psychologists are now split on whether this is a valid therapeutic practice. Some psychologists condemn the practice because research shows it’s possible for therapists to implant false memories in the minds of hypnotized patients. These false memories often feel so...

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Many Lives, Many Masters Summary Catherine’s Other Past Lives

As Weiss and Catherine continued their past life regression therapy, Catherine revealed that she had experienced 86 lifetimes on Earth; however, during therapy, she only recalled details from about 11 lifetimes. Additionally, her past life memories were not limited to one geographical region or even one gender—she remembered living all over the world at various points in history, having various professions, and being both male and female.

(Shortform note:...

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Many Lives, Many Masters Summary Memories of Death—and Beyond

As Catherine’s therapy progressed and she recalled more past lives, Weiss noticed a common thread: While Catherine had different beliefs about death in each of her past lives, she always recalled her death itself in the same way: She left her body, floated above it for a time, eventually saw a bright light, and then automatically passed into the light.

(Shortform note: This progression matches the steps that Dr. Raymond Moody describes in his 1975 book, Life After Life. Moody interviewed people who came back to life after being pronounced dead and found that almost all of them described floating outside their body...

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Many Lives, Many Masters Summary Messages From the Masters

After making contact with the Masters, Catherine began to channel their words more frequently. In this section, we’ll explore their messages as they relate to four themes: the nature of life, the purpose of life, the nature of death, and the structure of the afterlife.

The Nature of Life

The first message from the Masters is that life is eternal—human spirits are not born, nor do they permanently die. Instead, human souls cycle between being embodied in the physical realm and living as pure spirit in the spirit realm.

(Shortform note: Critics of reincarnation have highlighted a logical problem in this idea: Namely, that human consciousness relies on a living, physical brain. Since the brain dies when the rest of the physical body dies, they argue that there is no way for consciousness (or the “spirit”) to survive physical death, which makes it impossible for the same spirit to reincarnate into a different body.)

Furthermore, the Masters say, we accumulate abilities and talents—and,...

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Many Lives, Many Masters Summary Conclusions

After a few months and many revelations from the Masters, Catherine elected to end her sessions with Weiss because her symptoms were fully cured and she was healthier and happier than she’d ever been.

Weiss was similarly thriving. He found that he was more patient, intuitive, and loving than he had been before working with Catherine. He also helped his family develop their own psychic gifts. After Catherine, Weiss went on to treat an additional 12 patients using past life regression therapy—all of whom saw their psychiatric symptoms reduced.

(Shortform note: We don’t know anything further about Catherine’s life after her therapy with Weiss; she remained anonymous. Weiss, on the...

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Shortform Exercise: Reflect on Many Lives, Many Masters

The concept of reincarnation can be quite controversial. Take a moment to reflect on where you stand after reading this guide.


Before reading this guide, did you believe human souls could be reincarnated into new bodies? Why or why not?

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