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The Search for Bridey Murphy (1956)

by Morey Bernstein

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This old book is still around, offering nonsense for the gullible. If there was any evidence -- any whatsoever -- that living people have had past lives and could recall them under hypnosis, wouldn't everyone be doing it? People would line up around the block to be hypnotized. Celebrities would go on reality TV shows to have their past lives recovered in public. The phenomenon would be being intensively investigated by psychologists, anthropologists, biologists and neuroscientists. Innumerable companies would spring up, large and small, to help people uncover their pasts. Web sites would be devoted to people connecting with others they'd known in their previous incarnations. And numerous cases of "recovered" past lives would have been documented in exhaustive detail.

Over 60 years ago, an amateur hypnotist from Colorado named Morey Bernstein, tinkering around with hypnosis, commanded a hypnotized woman to "recall" her "previous lives." Sure enough, she followed the command, and came up with a story that she was once an Irish woman, centuries past. News media and tabloids flocked to the story, and quickly found that most of the claims were false, and that others could not be verified. As we now know, people under hypnosis will cooperate by babbling whatever the hypnotist tells them to -- including future lives, life on other planets, life as animals, and so on.

Even Bernstein himself acknowledged that the great majority of attempts at pre-birth "age regression" have been fraudulent, although he continued to claim that his Bridey Murphy case was real. Amazingly enough there are still people who believe this case. Can they be that unaware of what the biological bases of memories are? Memories are formed through synapses between neurons, and when the neurons die, there are no memories to be recalled. To suppose otherwise, one would have to presume that memories exist after people have forgotten them or lost them, including the memories of people who have suffered concussions, brain cancer, and senile dementia. And even if true, how could "memories" be transmitted between one (dead) person and another? Are they transferred at birth, or only once a new person is mature enough to understand them? One suspects this to be yet another confusion borne over the Cartesian mind/ body myth, coupled with a little dose of eastern reincarnation, and a whole lot of wishful thinking about not wanting to die.

The old Bridey Murphy myth persists because of what people want to believe, not because sufficient empirical evidence exists to support it. Its persistence ought not surprise us; there also are plenty of people who believe in astrology, palm reading, tea leaf reading, psychics, communication with the dead, séances, witchcraft, angels, evil spirits, tarot cards, faith-healing, the power of crystals, mental illnesses caused by demons, UFOs, space aliens, Bigfoot, 9/11 conspiracies, moon-landing conspiracies, and Elvis sightings.

As the majority of reviews at Amazon show, Morey Bernstein still has his vociferous defenders, 60 years after his very silly little book. There's a fool born every minute, as PT Barnum said. And no one ever went broke by over-estimating the gullibility of the public. ( )
1 vote danielx | Apr 21, 2015 |
Great read. Co. Cork Ireland ( )
  BeckiIreland | Aug 23, 2009 |
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Preface: Tonight I will attempt an experiment in hypnosis that I have never before undertaken.
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