The volunteers at the Book Fair have a rough job herding the audience into their seats before each event. As I entered Chapman Auditorium for the Evening with Drs. Brian and Amy Weiss, I asked one of the volunteers where I should sit. He answered, "I don't care where you sit, as long as you don't run nobody over." Looking around, I could see this might be a bit of a concern. The room was packed and the volunteers were very busy, trying to make sure all of the seats filled in an orderly fashion.
The two speakers for the evening, Drs. Brian and Amy Weiss are clinical psychiatrists who practice past-life regression, but judging from the tenor of the crowd, one might believe they were in the presence of a mystic guru with magical properties. People were excited. It felt a little like a tent-revival with all the discussions around me of life altering revelations and epiphanies. The father and daughter pair came to the Book Fair to discuss their latest book, Miracles Happen, a compilation of case studies taken from 32 years of practicing past-life regression therapy.Brian Weiss came into the past life regression business by accident, when he was treating a patient, “Catherine” who had an anxiety condition. He was using regressive hypnosis to find the source of her fears when, woops, she slipped into a past life. After describing details of that past life, Catherine’s symptoms began to improve, and Weiss found the source of anxiety was not rooted in her present incarnation. Weiss, who describes himself as a left-brained academic, and who studied at Columbia and Yale Medical School, was stunned when, after further regression, the patient slipped into a space between lives and began to tell him details from his own present life that she could not possibly know, troubling specific details about his young son who died in a drowning accident. Even stranger, his daughter, Amy, who co-edited Miracles Happen, and was a toddler at the time, came running up to him one afternoon when he came home from work, wrapped her arms around his legs and exclaimed, “Daddy, I’ve loved you for over 40,000 years!” Brian Weiss says the experiences his patients have are, “not magic. It’s therapy.” I am not sure the audience agreed completely. During the Q&A session, the first question came from a woman who wanted to know what Dr. Brian Weiss thought about the conflict between Western religions’ views of death and how it conflicted with the more Eastern notion of reincarnation. The woman then claimed that what the Weisses were teaching was dangerous, because there is a global war coming and we have to be prepared. That the “finite cannot define the infinite.” The woman was getting pretty upset and the fair volunteers had to cut off her microphone after a certain point, so that Dr. Weiss could answer. Brian Weiss’ answer was that this conflict she was speaking of is a misconception, that reincarnation appears in all religions, globally, that it is not limited to Eastern thought, and that he doesn’t so much proselytize a gospel of past-life therapy as observe and facilitate an exploration for his patients. He went on to explain that in the study of quantum physics, scientists are finding that our universe contains an infinite number of parallel universes and dimensions that are connected, that we never really die, because we are never really born. When asked about the idea of hell, Weiss explained that he had only ever run into hell during a regression once, in a patient who was a Catholic lawyer (this was met with laughter from the audience) who went into the space between lives and it was filled with the classical devil and pitchfork imagery, but nothing happened to him. He wasn’t tortured. After waiting there for some time, a figure, who the patient took to be Jesus, walked up to the man and said it was all an illusion, that everything, except love was an illusion. The audience responded with cheers. Dr. Brian Weiss has a website, www.brianweiss.com, where anyone interested can go and try a past life regression for themselves online. He will also be holding a workshop in Fort Lauderdale in February with Hay House. More information about the workshops is available on his website. Jan Becker is a contributor to the Florida Book Review. Becker attended Drs. Brian and Amy Weiss' talk on Wednesday, Nov. 14. You can check out FBR's full live blog of the 2012 book fair here. WLRN is collaborating with the Florida Book Review to cover this year's Miami Book Fair International. Check back all weekend for updates.