Many Lives, Many Masters Summary

Brian Weiss

Many Lives, Many Masters

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Many Lives, Many Masters Summary

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Psychotherapist Dr. Brian Weiss wrote Many Lives, Many Masters: The True Story of a Prominent Psychiatrist, His Young Patient, and the Past-Life Therapy That Changed Both Their Lives in 1988. The book documents the doctor’s journey from disbelief to belief in regards to messages from the supernatural world and reincarnation. Widely read, the book launched Weiss’s career as a sought-after speaker and a leading author on past-life therapy.

Themes include spiritual conversion, connection with the dead, and the importance of universal religious teachings such as charity, faith, and love.

The first person narrative introduces Weiss as a classically trained, scientific doctor. Trained at Columbia University and Yale Medical School and having graduated with several honors, he admits to being the last person open to channeling, reincarnation, and parapsychology. He is married with two children, and has taught conservative psychotherapeutic techniques at the University of Pittsburgh.

Weiss was Chief of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Florida, when he encountered Catherine. Catherine was a twenty-seven-year-old woman with major anxiety issues. She also suffered from depression and a wide array of phobias. Mutual friends encouraged her to make an appointment with Weiss. He describes her as a very attractive blonde; she worked as a lab technician at the same hospital that Weiss practiced at.

Weiss treated her with conventional therapy. He suggested anti-anxiety medication but Catherine refused, afraid of what chemical intervention could do to her body.

While at an art museum with Stuart, a man she’s having an affair with, Catherine has a surreal experience. As the guide lectures on Egyptian history, she corrects some of his inaccuracies. It is shown that all of her statements are correct. Catherine wonders if her statements in the art museum were caused by memories from a past life.

Because of this experience, Catherine consents to hypnosis. Weiss hopes that whatever they uncover can ameliorate her panic attacks. Though they find several past childhood traumas, including an alcoholic father who sexually abused her, the revelation does not cure Catherine’s attacks. In fact, her panic attacks increase.

In their next session, Weiss tries again to hypnotize her. He asks her to go back to when she was two years old. Instead, Catherine starts talking about walking around a marketplace in 1863 BCE. She says that she is eighteen, her name is Aronda, and that her village is near no rivers and relies on melting snow from the mountains for drinkable water.

When the session ends, Weiss is flabbergasted. He can think of no clinical diagnosis for her revelations. Weiss also knows that she does not do any drugs, is unlikely to be acting, and her religious beliefs — Catholicism — do not predispose her to believe in reincarnation.

The rest of the book follows Catherine’s various lives. In total, there are eight-six lives she recounts. Weiss transcribes them rapidly and records each one, amazed to hear the rich geographical and cultural detail of each of her lives. Catherine is never a famous person. Her gender and age varies, but she is always an ordinary person. She also meets other people in her current life who were reincarnated in other forms. Her nationality is constantly changing.

The poverty, general hardship, and violent deaths in some of her lives can explain her current anxieties. She recounts drowning. She recounts life as a soldier whose throat is slit open.

Weiss is especially interested in the intermediary period where Catherine’s past life “dies.” In this space, Catherine relays a series of philosophical dictums. These anonymous speakers Weiss dubbs the “Master Spirits.”

The Master Spirits sound nothing like Catherine. They speak in succinct, forceful sentences reminiscent of religious texts. While hearing these Master Spirits, Weiss tries to retain his objective, clinical analysis, though their message — that he can heal people by reducing fear — appeals to him.

Weiss is astounded when Catherine recalls details of his personal life. Weiss says that there was no way for Catherine to know that his son, Adam, died twenty-three days after his birth from a rare heart condition. She also, somehow, knew his father’s Hebrew name, among other personal history that Weiss did not write down anywhere. He is surprised to hear her recount of him as a teacher in one of her past lives.

As Catherine recalls more past lives and Master Spirits, her symptoms improve. Eventually, all of her psychic troubles are resolved and she no longer has to see Weiss.

Weiss offers to replay the tapes for Catherine, but the Master Spirits say the revelations were for him only, and he says that she fears hearing the tapes will undo the therapeutic benefit.

Weiss is disappointed by Catherine’s withdrawal. Because of her, he now feels himself to be an enlightened convert. He says that his experience hypnotizing her was transformative and the main reason why he wrote this book.

He continues past-life therapy on twelve other patients and claims that each case was successful. He does not consider past-life therapy a solution to everyone’s problems. Instead, he advocates for greater adherence to the credos of the Master Spirits, which reflect the teachings of major world religions. He hopes that the book will help people not fear death and seek greater harmony with their fellow human beings. For the benefit of their patients, he implores the scientific community to keep an open mind to the influence of past lives.