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Observations placeholder

Whitton, Dr Joel - Paula flies in the sky waiting to be born



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Life between life – Dr Joel Whitton and Joe Fisher

At forty-two, Paula was stable in temperament, deeply hypnotizable and – being unexceptional in lifestyle, tastes, behaviour and expectations - the epitome of the North American housewife.

She was married to a truck driver, had two teenage sons and worked as a bookkeeper for a Toronto heating company. Her very ordinariness made her the perfect subject for such an extraordinary study. Paula neither believed nor disbelieved in reincarnation and was agreeable to the post-hypnotic suggestion - to be given for her own protection - which would obliterate from conscious memory any past-life experience she might encounter.

Because this was a research study rather than a therapeutic exercise, Dr Whitton was careful to instruct Paula to remember nothing of her former lives on returning to normal consciousness. He feared that the awakening of past-life memory - which, because of the sheer volume of reincarnational experience, is bound to harbour frightful episodes of suffering and brutality - might precipitate discomfort.

Starting early in October 1973, Paula made her way across town after work every Tuesday evening to an imposing last-century mansion that served as the headquarters of the Toronto Society for Psychical Research. There in the 'yellow room'- a guest room overlooking the garden- she would take off her shoes and lie down on the couch in readiness for Dr Whitton's hypnotic instructions. Over the next year she spent more than one hundred hours in deep trance giving coherent descriptions of a long succession of incarnations, most of them female. They included:

  • Martha Paine born on a farm in Maryland in 1822. She died from a fall on the farmhouse stairs while still a young girl.
  • Margaret Campbell, a housekeeper who lived near Quebec City. She was seventeen years of age in 1707 and later married a fur trapper named Arsenault.
  • Sister Augusta Cecilia - age thirty-four in 1241-who spent most of her life working in a Portuguese orphanage near the Spanish border.
  • Telma, the young sister of a tribal leader in Mongolia under Genghis Khan, whom she knew as 'Temujin'. She described her age as sixteen 'summers' at the time she was killed in battle.

Paula's inventory of lives had been traced back to an existence as a slave girl in ancient Egypt when, unpredictably, her hypnotic travelling suddenly changed course.

One Tuesday evening in April 1974, as she was talking in a deep trance about Martha Paine's life on the farm, Dr Whitton remembered there were further details he wished to learn about the last days of Margaret Campbell. First he interrupted his garrulous subject. Then he told her:

'Go to the life before you were Martha . . .' Expecting Martha's childlike voice to be exchanged for that of the elderly Canadian housekeeper, Dr Whitton waited several minutes for the familiar French- accented enunciation. But no sound, save the occasional sigh, came from Paula's mouth. Her lips moved only with a constantly shifting facial expression which indicated she was watching events unfold. But what events were these? Not knowing where she was in time, Dr Whitton was wondering where he had erred when Paula interrupted his bewilderment with a rapid flickering of her eyelids. Her lips, too, puckered repeatedly as if she were searching for words and not finding them. Then, slowly and with great difficulty, she announced in a dreamy monotone:

'I'm in the sky . . . I can see a farmhouse and a barn ... It's early... early morning. The sun... is low and making, making . . . making long shadows across the burnt fields . . . stubbly fields.'

Dr Whitton could barely believe what he was hearing. Paula wasn't supposed to be 'in the sky'. So he must have made a technical error . . . but which one? Hypnotic subjects have much in common with computer programs in that their wondrous responses rest upon the most literal commands. They must be told exactly what to do. Make one mistake and the show won't go on- at least, not the show anticipated by the hypnotist. Dr Whitton had told Paula . . . 'Go to the life before you were Martha.' Normally, he would have commanded, 'Go to the incarnation before you were Martha.' Clearly there was a difference between the two.

'What are you doing up in the air?' asked the puzzled hypnotist.

.'I'm . . . waiting . . . to . . . be . . . born I'm watching. . . watching what my mother does.'

'Where is your mother?'

'She's . . . out at the pump and she's having great difficulty . . . difficulty filling the bucket . . .'

'Why is she having difficulty?'

'Because my body is weighing her down . . . I want . . . I want to tell her to take care. For her sake and for mine . . .'

'What is your name?'


Thoroughly confounded, Dr Whitton muttered the usual directive to ensure posthypnotic amnesia and brought his subject back to the yellow room and the twentieth century. But his mind was elsewhere. By committing the mistake of verbal imprecision, he had accidentally intruded upon an uncharted realm of human experience - the gap between incarnations. His record showed that some fifty-five years separated the death of Margaret Campbell from the birth of Martha Paine. Could it be that Paula's unconscious mind was somehow tapping into the fabled bardo of the ancient Tibetans?

The source of the experience

Whitton, Dr Joel

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps