KRISHNA assures an uncertain Arjuna that he has in fact lived many lives on Earth.
“Both I and thou have passed through many births,” the Master tells his disciple (The Bhagavad-Gita, Ch. 4:31). Adding: “mine are known unto me, but thou knowest not of thine.”
“It’s hard to believe,” writes the Blavatsky Theosophy Group UK, in an article titled “A Right Understanding of Reincarnation,” that until 130 years ago hardly anyone in the Western world had heard of reincarnation or knew anything about it.”
One reason for the ignorance around this teaching is that most people can’t remember every having a past life. This is because, in simple pragmatic terms, the immortal soul enters and uses a new body, new astral body, new personality, and a new physical brain. In the case of a new brain obviously it’s difficult to ‘remember’ a previous life never being there to witness it.
Handed an empty photo album is a challenge to the incoming soul, hindering it finding a conscious connection to prior experiences and knowledge. “The new ‘personality,'” Blavatsky wrote (Key to Theosophy, Ch. 8), “is no better than a fresh suit of clothes.”
Even so, by a mysterious process, “the record or reflection of all the past lives must survive,” H. P. Blavatsky wrote: “for when Prince Siddhartha became Buddha the full sequence of His previous births were seen by Him.” In such a state he was able, she says, “to retrospectively trace the lines of all his lives.”
“This proves to you that the undying qualities of the personality — such as love, goodness, charity, etc., attach themselves to the immortal Ego, photographing on it, so to speak, a permanent image of the divine aspect of the man who was.”
The mind doesn’t fully incarnate until age seven, (Key to Theosophy Section 9). Thus, a child doesn’t feel the full weight of life and karma right away. As such, they are like karma-less “little Buddhas.” If not pressured to conform by parents and society, it is possible for them to express memories of their former life (s), i.e. experience “intimations of immortality” for an extended period.
“Spirit got itself entangled with gross matter,” Blavatsky wrote in The Theosophist, “for the same reason that life gets entangled with the foetus matter. It followed a law, and therefore could not help the entanglement occurring.”
It was Plotinus who said that “our body is the true river of Lethe, for ‘souls plunged into it forget all’ — our terrestrial body is like Lethe” (the “river of forgetfulness” in the Hades of Greek mythology.) Using a modern analogy, a new computer cannot be expected to recall the data stored on the discarded one, unless the old data is preserved and reinstalled in the new machine.
But this is what sometimes happens with children who die at an early age from accidents or illness, if they had created no basis for a prolonged after-death dream state. Nature is never wasteful, and the still viable astral pattern body is not disintegrated as with normal death.
The still vital and alive astral matrix is attracted back into the soul’s new body, with all its memories preserved intact.Thus in many cases such children are said to be born with two astral bodies, one new, the other old.
The Pollock Twins
The Play’s the Thing
Why do most children not remember? One reason is the huge volume of information generated in past livess is mostly like the disappearing RAM memory of a computer. The bulk of the lifetime’s data is, Blavatsky says,”as evanescent as a flash of lightning, and cannot impress the new brain of the new personality.” Yet, she says:
“…their failing to do so in no way impairs the identity of the re-incarnating Ego.”
Children are naturally obsessive and tirelessly focused on their play (‘the play’s the thing’ said Shakespeare.) This ability makes them possibly the best meditators on the planet. Even after a long day, and despite frozen fingers and icy noses, children must be repeatedly called in to supper, sometimes well after others have eaten.
Downhill sledding, snowball fights, icy ponds and coal-eyed snowmen are so compelling, the chilly red cheeked dervishes just can’t call it quits.With such intense experiences focused on ‘now’ we don’t expect kids to think about meal times, or to remember school, or doctor’s appointments. Parent’s do it for them.
Yet even with such natural limitations a body of research shows some children do remember past lives, even saddled with materialistic modern parenting and other hindrances, including our modern educational methods.
Such children reportedly have vivid recollections of their previous parents, of specific places and events, and can recall highlights of a variety of associated events and emotions they once experienced.
The poet Wordsworth applied memories of his own early childhood to his adult philosophy of life and art. Citing his famous”Intimations of Immortality,” a writer on Wikipedia believes the poet
“…was inspired in part
by Platonic philosophy.”
On preexistence and rebirth, Plato described how the soul dwelt in an ideal alternate state prior to its present occupation of the body, and how the same soul will return to that ideal state again after death. Immortality for Wordsworth the article goes on, refers to the immortality of the soul, which the poet maintained “is felt or intimated during early childhood.”
Angels in the Snow
“When the twilight hour is sparkling
and the city’s all aglow,
come with me my darling
to the place we love to go.
When the frost’s upon the window,
there’s a tingle in your toes,
to the fields of virgin white
for Angels in the snow.
Lying on the frozen ground,
arms go up and legs go down.
How it looks so perfect I don’t know.”
Wordsworth’s lines inspired Gerald Finzi’s delightful Intimations of Immortality, Grande Fantasia & Toccata:
Intimations of Immortality
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy, […]
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day. […]
We come “not in entire forgetfulness,” Theosophy also says. Sadly, influenced by a materialistic media, science and religion, children are quickly cut off from what memories they might otherwise have of past lives.
Life after Death
Recollections and reminiscences are quickly smothered by ambitious parents too eager to conform to society’s expectations, and to institutionalized education, religious and science.
Sadly, any intimations of immortality we might have are chased out of us in early childhood by the unbelieving worldviews of parents, teachers and society.
Cameron Macauley is a young boy in Glasgow who lives with his single mother and his older brother. But Cameron inexplicably remembers another life before his current one. That life was on a remote Scottish island called Barra.
Childhood Memory, Part 1
Cameron believes he is the reincarnation of a Scottish child. That former life was on a remote Scottish island called Barra. He remembers his Barra mother and dad, his Barra brothers and sisters, and his black-and-white Barra sheepdog. He remembers living near the beach in a white house close to where planes would land.
The Immortal Pilgrim
The Second of the Three Fundamental Propositions of Theosophy, provides the foundation teaching underlying cyclic reincarnations of the same individuality:
“‘The Eternity of the Pilgrim’ is like a wink of the Eye of Self-Existence — ‘Pilgrim’ is the appellation given to our Monad (the two in one) during its cycle of incarnations.
“It is the only immortal and eternal principle in us, being an indivisible part of the integral whole — the Universal Spirit, from which it emanates, and into which it is absorbed at the end of the cycle.”
That immortal Pilgrim, Blavatsky continues:
“…can neither die nor lose its compound self-consciousness in Eternity, nor the recollection of its previous incarnations in which the two — i.e., the spiritual and the human soul — had been closely linked together.
Childhood Memory, Part 2
The Pilgrim Soul
The spiritual and human soul are not closely bound together, Blavatsky writes, in the case of a materialist person:
“…whose human soul not only receives nothing from the divine soul, but even refuses to recognise its existence.”
The cyclic movements of our Pilgrim Soul is described further by H. P. Blavatsky in Section 9 of her Key to Theosophy that “the spiritual Ego of man moves in eternity like a pendulum between the hours of birth and death.
“But if these hours, marking the periods of life terrestrial and life spiritual, are limited in their duration […] the spiritual pilgrim is eternal.”
Theosophy On Education
“A proper and sane system of education,” Blavatsky argues, “should produce the most vigorous and liberal mind, strictly trained in logical and accurate thought, and not in blind faith.
“How can you ever expect good results, while you pervert the reasoning faculty of your children,” she writes
“…by bidding them believe in the miracles of the Bible on Sunday, while for the six other days of the week you teach them that such things are scientifically impossible?”
Mme. Blavatsky continues her analysis of the ideal child education should be, in the Key to Theosophy:
“We would reduce the purely mechanical work of the memory to an absolute minimum,” she writes, “and devote the time to the development and training of the inner senses, faculties and latent capacities.”
“Children should above all be taught self-reliance, love for all men, altruism, mutual charity, and more than anything else, to think and reason for themselves.”
Free and Balanced
“We would endeavour to deal with each child as a unit, and to educate it so as to produce the most harmonious and equal unfoldment of its powers, in order that its special aptitudes should find their full natural development.
“We should aim at creating free men and women, free intellectually, free morally, unprejudiced in all respects, and above all things, unselfish.
“And we believe that much if not all of this could be obtained by proper and truly theosophical education.”