PAST LIVES AND REINCARNATION
What is this all about? Do we all have some past life that we are unaware of?
I have found that there are many people; especially those people in the Pagan and Wiccan communities are interested in past lives and reincarnation. While there’s no official standpoint on past lives (as with many other issues), it’s not uncommon to find Pagans and Wiccans who believe they have experienced past lives. Among those who do, there are often some recurring themes.
In many modern Pagan religions, the notion of a past life is an intriguing one. Typically, someone who believes they’ve had a past life (or lives) also believes that they have learned various lessons from each lifetime. Although someone may believe they have led past lives, there is no way to prove this. Because knowledge of past lives is obtained through hypnosis, regression, meditation, or other psychic methods, knowledge of past lives is considered Unverifiable Personal Gnosis. You can be certain beyond a reasonable doubt that you’ve lived before, but that doesn’t mean everyone else is required to believe you.
In some Eastern religions, such as Hinduism and Jainism, reincarnation is specifically referred to transmigration of the soul. With this philosophy, it is believed that the soul continues to learn “life lessons,” and each lifetime lived is another step on the road to enlightenment. Many modern Pagans and Wiccans accept this concept, or some variation on it, as well.
For many people, past lives are a cumulative set of lessons that have been learned. We may have carried over fears or emotions from previous lives that impact our existence today. Some people believe that experiences or feelings they have in this lifetime can be traced to an experience in a past incarnation. For example, some people believe that if they’re afraid of heights, it could be because in a past life, they died after a traumatic fall. Others might think that they reason they’re drawn to working in the medical profession is because they were a healer in a previous lifetime.
Some people believe that if a person or place seems familiar, it may be because you’ve “known” them in a past life. There is a popular theory that souls tend to reunite from one lifetime to another, so someone you loved in a past life may appear in the form of someone you love in this lifetime.
In some Pagan traditions, the concept of Karma comes into play. Although traditional Eastern religions view Karma as an as ongoing cosmic system of cause and effect, many Neo-pagan groups have redefined Karma to be more of a payback system. There is a theory, in some Pagan faiths, that if one has done bad things in a previous life, that Karma is what causes bad things to happen to the individual in this lifetime. Likewise, there’s the concept that if we do good things this time around, we’re somehow building up “Karma points” for our next lifetime. Your interpretation of this will vary depending on the teachings of your particular tradition of Paganism.
If you believe you may have had a past life, or lives, many people recommend actively trying to discover what information you can about those lives. Knowledge obtained from learning about past lives can help open doors to self-discovery in our current existence. There are several different methods you can use to delve into your past lives.
Past Life Regression: Typically done by someone with regression therapy experience, a past life regression is one in which the Seeker is guided through a hypnotic state by another person. The guide, or leader, will gently take the Seeker back through the current lifetime to previous ones. People who experience this often report feeling as though they have left their body and are watching it from another plane. During a past life regression session, it’s not uncommon for the Seeker to feel that they are in another location, or of the opposite sex, or even speak in another language or with an accent.
Meditation: A past life meditation is an exercise you can do on your own, although it may take some practice (and more than a couple of attempts) to get anywhere. In a past life meditation, the Seeker uses meditation techniques to travel back to previous lifetimes. You can achieve this by allowing your mind to wander back through your current lifetime, to earlier memories, and then telling your mind to go back to the lifetime before. Although this doesn’t always work for everyone, you may find yourself experiencing memories from what seems to be another lifetime.
Dream Analysis: Some people believe they can learn about their past lives from dreams. Are there recurring events or places that show up in your dreams? Perhaps you’ve never been to Paris in this lifetime, but you continually dream of running through the city’s streets. Maybe you have a repeating dream in which you’re tilling a field or riding a horse. There are those that keep a dream journal to help recognize patterns in their dreams.
Once you’ve learned about what you suspect may be a past life, it can be enlightening to do some historical research. Although this will not (and cannot) confirm the existence of a past life, what it can do is help rule out things that might be just wishful thinking or the product of your imagination. By confirming timelines and history, you can help narrow the field a bit. Remember, past lives fall into the category of UPGs – Unverifiable Personal Gnosis – so while you may not be able to prove anything, it’s entirely possible that recall of a past incarnation is a tool you can use to help become more enlightened in this lifetime.
Past life-regression work goes hand in hand with theories of reincarnation. This is a concept that has evoked a variety of reactions in the western world, from ridicule to condemnation – essentially fear-based reactions to something unfamiliar and misunderstood. Interestingly enough, although the public perception of reincarnation may still evoke jokes about Shirley MacLaine hanging “Out on a Limb,” millions have read her and other books on this subject. The public image doesn’t accurately reflect what people believe in private — a Gallup poll in the early 2000’s showed that 27% of adult Americans admitted anonymously that they believed in reincarnation.
There really is nothing to fear from the concept of reincarnation. Today over half the world’s population espouses this belief — for good reason. There is a great sense of serenity that comes from knowing that the deepest parts of ourselves will always exist, that we are much more than just our current physical bodies, and that we have many opportunities to master human existence and learn the lessons we are here to learn. For many people, the idea just makes sense.
Typical Westerner interprets karma as “predestination” — everything is set before our birth, we have no real choice in how our lives unfold. In reality, karma is the good old concept of “what goes around comes around.” It refers to the continuity of soul experience, the fact that we will reap the consequences of both prior good works and prior unloving deeds. For example, if a lifetime has been spent with very negative, racist attitudes and actions, then we may have the opportunity to experience this from the other side of the fence in a subsequent life, as the member of a group who is discriminated against or even persecuted. An individual, who commits suicide to escape from perceived difficulties, will undoubtedly have the opportunity to meet similar problems and situations more creatively in another lifetime. Although karma may contribute to the types of situations we may face, we have free will in each and every moment to choose our response – either through love and connection, or through negativity and fear. If we choose the latter, we will have opportunities to learn the lesson again.
Nevertheless, you do not have to believe in reincarnation or karmic justice for past-life therapy to work for you! As long as you can hold an open mind to the experience, your belief system does not prevent you from being a good subject for this technique. We can approach the material that comes up as a wonderfully powerful story or metaphor for whatever issues we’re exploring in your life. It is up to you to decide whether you wish to regard this material as a “real” past-life, or something else. It does not matter as far as the effectiveness of the technique. I have been successful recovering past-life memories with people from widely different spiritual traditions and belief systems.
The idea of an eternal soul has been around from the beginnings of society and life after death is still believed by the majority of the Earth’s inhabitants today. An interesting concept is that the Catholic Church wanted to control the people. They gave them a book and told them to believe it without question – why natural human nature is to ask and question to understand.
The general population was easier to control when living in fear. The threat of Hell was used to encourage strict obedience and faith. On death you are judged by God, welcomed to Heaven or condemned to hell for eternity.
With the concept of Reincarnation, live is an exploration. The ideals are to grow and learn the lessons of life so that your soul matures and moves towards enlightenment.
Spiritual people from varied religions believe in reincarnation. The evolution of the spirit is a common thread among believers that bind them together.