Brian Leslie Weiss is a psychiatrist, hypnotherapist and author, and probably the most prominent promoter of New age psychotherapies alive today, in particular past life regression therapy. Now, Weiss does have real credentials, and was at one point Head of Psychiatry (mental health professions suffer from a well-recognized reluctance to ditch even the flakiest, pseudoscientific practices), Mount Sinai Medical Center, something that does lend an air of credibility to his forays into the silliest branches of pseudoscience imaginable, including reincarnation, past life regression and “future life progression”. Indeed, the popularity of past life regression, despite it being obviously incoherent nonsense, is due precisely to practitioners with real credentials, like Weiss, at least claiming to take it seriously. Apparently, Weiss likes to convey the impression that he is doing “research” on these issues, though what he is, in fact, doing, bears little resemblance to actual research – he states, very often, that it is important to be “objective” and “scientific”, and seems to assume that by stating it he has done his scientific duties. He does, however, arrange workshops and seminars across the US to talk about and “teach” self-regression mediation techniques, such as the Hay House I Can Do It one-day workshops and workshops at the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies in NY. His numerous books include
- Many Lives, Many Masters: The True Story of a Prominent Psychiatrist, His Young Patient, and the Past-Life Therapy That Changed Both Their Lives (1988)
- Through Time into Healing: Discovering the Power of Regression Therapy to Erase Trauma and Transform Mind, Body and Relationships (1993).
- Only Love Is Real: A Story of Soulmates Reunited (1997).
- Messages From the Masters: Tapping into the Power of Love (2001).
- Mirrors of Time: Using Regression for Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Healing (2002).
- Same Soul, Many Bodies: Discover the Healing Power of Future Lives through Progression Therapy (2005).
- Miracles Happen: The Transformational Healing Power of Past Life Memories (2012) (with his daughter, Amy E. Weiss)
As the book titles suggest, there is a grift. And as the titles also suggest, there is no research there, nor much by way of actual content beneath pink fluff and rosy, vague optimism and joy. There are things that superficially look like anecdotes, of course, which only really count even as anecdotes if you assume that the past lives his subjects “remember” are actual past lives.
His book Many Lives, Many Masters is brilliantly reviewed here. Quick summary: “Dr Weiss has conducted his research without scientific protocols or peer review, yet as a ‘scientist’, Dr Weiss should have the skills and resources necessary to have conducted his ‘investigation’ properly and scientifically. The fact that he chose not to has, I believe, discredited his book as a work of fairy tale-like fiction.”
The core idea of Weiss’s practice as a therapist is hypnotic regression. Weiss claims, without any scientific support, that many phobias and ailments are rooted in past-life experiences whose acknowledgement by the patient can have a curative effect (also without evidential support). Much of his writing is, however, concerned with messages received from so-called “Masters”, or “super-evolved, nonphysical souls”, that Weiss claims to have communicated with through his subjects, and who reveal to him such deep insights as “Everything must be balanced. Nature is balanced. The beasts live in harmony. Humans have not learned to do that. They continue to destroy themselves.” If you find claims like that profound, then Weiss’s book might just be for you.
Diagnosis: Needless to say, if you actually need help and support, Brian Weiss is not a guy to turn to. He might in fact be a true believer, but given the deliberate lack of effort to subject his own claims to any semblance of scrutiny, it is very, very hard not to suspect otherwise.