azdak: Face of Klimt's Music II (Default)
azdak ([personal profile] azdak) wrote2010-08-30 01:33 pm

Our so-called lives

I was reading an article over at [personal profile] petzipellepingo's lj about reincarnation seminars that help you to remember your previous lives. The article was less sceptical than it should have been (woo-woo is still woo-woo, even when its practitioners have an Ivy League degree), but one thing that caught my eye was the claim by someone who runs these seminars that in a previous life he had been a "good" German who had hidden a Jewish family from the Nazis. That very evening I was reading a book by a German comedian about his pilgrimage to Santiago, and by one of those odd coincidences, the chapter was about the time he had taken part in a reincarnation seminar and had remembered one of his previous lives. Lo and behold, he too had been a "good" German who had hidden a Jewish family from the Nazis. What are the odds that out of all the gazillions of trillions of lives that have preceded ours, two people on a course should coincidentally both have led lives that placed them in the same place at the same time performing the same brave, not to say heroic actions?

It seems to me that there are two plausible explanations for this (more plausible than reincarnation, anyway). One is that the holocaust is so deeply implanted in Western consciousness that given the instruction to "pick a historical period, any historical period", most of our brains will head straight to Nazi Germany (and given the normal human tendency to believe in one's own goodness, naturally we do not "remember" ourselves as running concentration camps or grassing up our neighbours to the Gestapo, even though, statistically speaking, we are far more likely to have done that). The other explanation - and, Derren Brown fan that I am, I think this is much the more likely - is that the seminar instructors are taught to plant suggestions in the participants' minds during the course of the seminar (whether they do this deliberately or just as an unexamined part of the "technique" I leave as an exercise for the reader), and that the "Good German who hid a Jewish family" suggestion has spread, meme-like, through the pool of instructors. Anyone who forks over cold hard cash in order to try to recall a previous life is, after all, part of a self-selecting group of highly suggestible individuals, and Hape Kerkeling's description of the seminar he attended reveals an embarrassment of opportunities for the planting of suggestions (he also said that four out of the five other people on the course remembered having been "victims of the Nazis", which is obviously grist to my theoretical mill).

Does anyone know of anyone/has read about anyone who has attended one of these seminars? If so, did that person also remember being victim/heroic resistor of the Nazis?

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