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Past Life FAQ
PAST LIFE   FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

About past lives


What is a past life?
What is a soul?
Why does the soul enter physical life?
Could I have a past life as a giraffe?
Why does the Christian church reject re-incarnation?
Why can't I remember my past lives?
So if I can't remember them, why are they important?
But all the past life information must be somewhere?
So if accessing past lives is so difficult, how do I deal with them?
So how come some people can remember one or more past lives?
How do past lives come to a person?
How many past lives does a person have?
How much time is there between incarnations?
What happens between lives while the soul is on "the other side"?
While on the other side, does the soul plan its next Earth life?
How does a soul get back and forth from the other side?






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What is a past life?

It is a previous lifetime during which your soul experienced material world life in a different physical body at an earlier period of time than the present. The physical body and the personality change from one lifetime to the next, but the soul remains constant, learning new lessons with each incarnation (lifetime).

People change physical bodies from one life to the next for much the same reason that people change their underwear every day.

Reincarnational theory states that the soul enters into a series of physical forms (a specific life, such as the one you are living now) over a long period of time until it frees itself of the necessity of being in physical form. At that point the soul leaves the physical plane for the last time in order to enjoy eternal bliss (various theorists give it various names, such as Nirvana or One with Brahma--the name is not so important). It does not to return to the material plane.

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What is a soul?

Many profound volumes of metaphysical thinking from various traditions have been written on this one, and few agree. I use a fairly loose definition for this website, as it is my opinion that defining "soul" in words is probably as silly an exercise as the medieval debate over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Some reincarnational thinkers, such as the Buddhists, don't even use the word soul, but prefer the concept of point of consciousness to describe that metaphysical essence which survives from one life to the next.

Others, such as the Vedic thinkers, use soul to mean a rarefied metaphysical extension of The Undefinable All which is at one with The All while simultaneously maintaining an illusion of separation from The All (In metaphysical terms, such a contradiction is apparent but not real--this stuff gets pretty cosmic in a big hurry).

At any rate, both the Buddhist and Vedic writings to me speak of the same concept in different words (I know card-carrying Buddhists and Hindus will seriously disagree with me on that one--kindly send your flames to your local priest/monk).

In any event, no serious reincarnational thinkers use the Judaic/Christian concept of the soul being a preservation of the ego personality on the metaphysical plane.

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Why does the soul enter physical life?

The long answer would fill several libraries, and over the eons no lack of learned and enlightened individuals have made it their life's work to write such treatises. No doubt it wasn't intended this way, but it turns out that most of these volumes are fine cures for insomnia.

Nonetheless, the short answer is that the soul, which once existed exclusively on the metaphysical plane, has desired the experience of the material plane. That wish having been granted, the soul now finds itself enmeshed in the material plane.

In dealing with that enmeshment the soul either seeks further experience on the material plane, or the soul has tired of the experience and seeks to remove itself from the necessity of further experience on the material plane. Either way the process involves many lifetimes.

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Could I have a past life as a giraffe?

Two great reincarnational traditions, Buddhism and Vedanta, do not agree on this one, and a third Eastern tradition, Sankya (out of which yoga emerged) is silent on the topic, even though all three traditions have studied the subject of reincarnation for thousands of years.

The Buddhists say, yes, we have incarnations as humans, animals, plants, and even toadstools, and that a human incarnation is something very special because it is so unusual. On the other hand, the Vedantic thinkers in the Hindu tradition quite firmly disagree, saying that once a human cycle of incarnations begins, the soul continues on with human incarnations until the cycle of incarnation is complete.

These two traditions have wasted much energy over the centuries debating this point. It would represent great spiritual progress on this planet if they recognize that they both speak to a larger truth. If there is peace, joy, and harmony, it makes little difference which path a soul chooses to enlightenment. All paths lead to the same Place.

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Why does the Christian church reject re-incarnation?

It has nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus.

In fact, if you read the New Testament, (which few of the most strident Christians have bothered to do, BTW), it is completely silent about reincarnation. If the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are accurate, and the born-again Bible-thumpers take great pains to assure us this is the case, Jesus never spoke of reincarnation and past lives.

In short, past lives are mentioned nowhere. This is most unusual considering how well-known the concept of reincarnation was in the Middle East two thousand years ago. It leaves begging the question of why so popular a spiritual concept be not mentioned or even referred to.

In any event, while the Bible is silent on the subject, the early Christian leaders up to the fall of Rome were lively in their debate on reincarnation, both for and against. In fact, that point of theology was quite rancorous as it led to many divisions within the early Christian church which were not easy to mend.

Many of these early arguments have not stood the test of time. For instance, St. Jerome, personal secretary to the pope 1600 years ago, argued against reincarnation because it would mean that men would have to come back into life as women and that was unacceptable. Yes, in the ancient world, such silly arguments were taken seriously.

While Rome ruled the ancient world, the Christian debate on reincarnation ebbed and flowed with no resolution, and it was not until a hundred years after the fall of Rome that the matter was put to rest by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, who in 553 CE ordered the Fifth Ecumenical Council in Constantinople to outlaw reincarnation.

His reasons had little to do with theology. He had decided to try to revive the Mediterranean Empire but had discovered that quarrelling religious factions stood in his way. So his move against reincarnation (to bring the dissident factions to conform to his personal beliefs) was part of a larger attempt to bring order to the crumbling political and military situation of the Mediterranean in the years following Rome's collapse.

In the end, reviving the empire didn't work. But his religious edict, based on political and military expediency some 1400 or so years ago, rules Christian thinking to this day, and few Christians have been told why it is they are not allowed to look at reincarnation. It has nothing to do with Jesus, and everything to do with a dead Byzantine emperor's quest for military power following the fall of Rome.

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Why can't I remember my past lives?

Good question. Here's a short pop quiz which may help to explain. Quickly now, what were you doing on the third Tuesday in July of last year? No checking your appointment book or diary. Can't remember? Of course not. Now, if you can't remember the third Tuesday in July of last year, just how do you expect to remember a past life?

There are limits to conscious human memory. In general, this is a blessing for it would make our current life ever so much more complex than it already is by cluttering it up with the complexities of who knows how many past lives.

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So if I can't remember them, why are they important?

Depends on what you mean by important. Ultimately, the events of a past life, per se, amount to very little if anything. What is important are the learned and unlearned lessons associated with those events. It is the lessons, learned and unlearned, which are carried forward that count and not a specific event. Those lessons form a script or a filter through which you experience your current life until the unlearned lessons are learned.

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But all the past life information must be somewhere?

Yes, but it is usually buried so deeply in the unconscious realm of the mind and soul that it is difficult, if not impossible, for most people to access it. For the most part that is just as well.

A computer analogy is crude but helpful. Think of conscious human memory like the 8GB of RAM in an average computer. That's not a lot of space in a busy computer, and it's constantly needed for whatever task the computer is working on right now. RAM can't be cluttered up with old data. So the old data is sent into storage on the hard drive which is much larger, often 1TB+ these days.

That's fine, but data on the hard drive require sophisticated software and a knowledgeable user to access and use properly. Your conscious memory is like the RAM. It is needed for your day-to-day life tasks and simply cannot be cluttered up with conscious access to every little event of your past without bogging you down into inaction. So those events are sent into your unconscious (some say subconscious) to be filed away.

Access to the unconscious requires great skill on the individual's part to handle safely and constructively. In the same way it is possible to call up a computer program improperly which will crash your computer, be respectful of trying to call up past life memories.

Even a skilled past-life therapist will caution you that such activity must be handled with great care.  (No, I don't know any. Use one of the search engines on my links page if you're looking for this service.)

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So if accessing past lives is so difficult, how do I deal with them?

You don't. You deal with the outstanding issues you carry with you from those past lives. Where you once were, and what you might once have done (or not done) simply is not the point. The point is the life you are living right now.

The issues are staring you in the eye right now, right here. Stay in the now. Is there something in your life which is not joy, peace and harmony? There's your issue. Deal with it in the now. It's source might be a past life or it might be cultural programming from your childhood in your current life, and to be blunt, it makes little difference. Deal with it. Right here, right now. Once it's dealt with, it goes away.

Does this take time? Of course. Does it take effort and work? Naturally. Is it worth it? You tell me: would you rather be stuck in the same old rut with the same old misery day after day, or would you rather greet the dawn of a new and glorious day?

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So how come some people can remember one or more past lives?

For the average Westerner, most commonly that awareness comes to individuals when they are busy looking for something else.

The rule of thumb for this question is that when you launch upon a spiritual path in life, those past lives which you need to know about are brought to your attention at exactly the moment you need to know about them and not a second sooner.

If you haven't reached that point yet, fine. Stick with the life you know about, your current life. It is, of course, the most important life you have. However, if you have gleaned a glimpse of your past, treat it for the sacred message it is and learn from what you have been shown.

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How do past lives come to a person?

Usually spontaneously. Oh yes, one clarification. Past lives rarely, if ever, come to you in a fashion you are expecting. That's part of the lesson.

Be prepared for the unexpected. You weren't then who and what you are today. We all have been both genders, male and female. And we all have lived in an amazingly diverse sets of circumstances in various lives, and usually over epochs of time.

There is a Zen quality, often enough, in connecting with a past life, wherein a seemingly innocuous everyday event triggers the memory to the surface. Often it's a brief flash, but sometimes there is a more extended awareness.

But one thing is for sure, the ego personality you have in your current life is not what you had then. You were a very different person then compared with today. In most cases, that's a great blessing.

Some individuals, who have had many years of disciplined meditative training, can access past lives using their training. Several of the Eastern meditative techniques, including yoga, have this as a by-product of advanced practice. All of them, however, caution quite correctly that there is a great danger of being side-tracked by past lives and forgetting the importance of living your current life.

Westerners, whose cultural programming of instant gratification often clouds their better spiritual judgement, will sometimes seek out past life regression therapy. Recreational regressions are generally silly and offer little constructive content, and can be downright dangerous if the client is suddenly thrown into a traumatic past life by a practitioner who doesn't know what s/he is doing.

If a legitimate therapist with extensive training and experience in the field suggests it to you, they will discuss your situation with you at length outlining the valid therapeutic reasons for this approach. Other than that, save your money and work on your present life. You will achieve far more spiritually.

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How many past lives does a person have?

There is no set number. You can have as many or as few as you wish. Your free choice. If you're this far into this website, you've likely had dozens if not more. While there is not a set number of lives, hundreds if not more lives are common in a full cycle of incarnations.

Remember that everything which you have ever wanted to be you will be at some point in some life. Everything which you have ever wanted to do you will have the opportunity to do some point in some life. And everything which you have ever wanted to have you will have at some point in some life.

It's not until you have seen it all, done it all, and had it all, and been everything that you could be, that your cycle of incarnations winds down. How much do you desire in the material plane? That's how many lifetimes you will have.

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How much time is there between incarnations?

There is no set period of time between lives. While the soul is on the metaphysical plane doing its work between earthly lives, the soul is in a dimension where time and space do not exist. My experience with clients is that the time on planet Earth between incarnations can vary from a few days, to a few weeks, to a few months, to a few years, to a few decades, and sometimes even to a few centuries.

It makes no difference to the soul what the time frame is on Earth because the soul has no experience of time on the metaphysical plane while the soul is between incarnations. Time only exists on the material plane. All the soul experiences is a simple continuum of existence into and out of time from one incarnation to the next.

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What happens between lives while the soul is on "the other side"?

Volumes have been written on this in the Sanskrit literature, and at the risk of offending the pundits, I will greatly over-simplify. Free choice exists on the other side while a soul is between incarnations. The soul has two major choices, loosely speaking.

Firstly, it could party, party, party in heaven until it uses up its good works and then must return to Earth pretty much in the same sort of place as it was in during its most recent life.

The second option may be very loosely called the educational option where the soul may choose to learn lots of good spiritual lessons in a blissed-out metaphysical environment and then return to planet Earth several rungs up on the ladder.

The soul, remember, is in a state of existence where time does not exist while all this is going on. One rule of thumb is that whatever the soul expects the "other side" to be is what that "reality" is. Many traditions speak extensively on the soul's projection of metaphysical reality as the basis for between-life experience. I've written a short parable about this.

So be careful about what you either consciously or unconsciously expect the hereafter to be, because that's what you'll get.

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While on the other side, does the soul plan its next Earth life?

Again, the free choice the soul exercises on the other side plays a big role in this, and again I will sketch this out in crude but understandable terms. The souls which take the educational option get a lot more say in their next life than the party animals. The party animals get another incarnation where they can again have a life where they play the spiritual equivalent of "pin the tail on the donkey" in the material world (sound like any of your relatives?).

The educational option souls spend a great amount of energy focusing on lessons learned and lessons to be learned. The general pattern here is for the soul to set up a new incarnation where a more sophisticated amount of free choice can be exercised than the previous incarnation. This includes choice of parents, ego personality, gender, physical locality, and life options.

That last one, life options, can be a bit tricky to understand, for it covers a wide range of possibilities. It could entail a specific dharmic path (a specific career and/or relationship of some sort, for instance) or it could entail an open-ended path where the taking of the journey is more important than the destination at the end of the journey. Regardless, it is free choice whose consequences are carried into material world incarnation.

One common option I see often in my clients is a soul which has chosen on the other side prior to incarnation to have a life which involves the exercise of free choice at strategic times in the lifetime. The lesson for such individuals is that free choice has consequences, regardless of whether the free choice is exercised in the metaphysical plane or the material plane, and the consequences can follow the soul across the bridge from one plane to the next.

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How does a soul get back and forth from the other side?

The usual word which is used to describe that process is death, but that's a serious misnomer as actually nothing and no one has really died.

What is usually called death is actually a change in focus by the soul from animating a physical vehicle to existing solely on the metaphysical plane. It is simply a change in consciousness. Done properly, it is a peaceful and blissful experience.

Re-entry of the soul into the material plane in a new physical vehicle is called birth.

Since all things on the material plane are transient by nature (ie, nothing lasts forever), souls find themselves entering and leaving vehicles several times to complete their adventure on the material plane.

A useful analogy to understand this process is buying a pair of shoes. We walk and run in them for a few years until they wear out. Then we scrap the old shoes and get a new pair.

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Nihil est. In vita priore ego imperator Romanus fui, ergo fac ut vivas.










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