Reincarnation: Remembering Past Lives

Posted to Subscribers on 10 June 2014

Dear Subscribers,

I guess I hit some nerves. Only two people wrote to me about my post on rape. I want to continue the story, but with a totally different emphasis, this time on memory. In terms of the psychological and physical connections between past lives, the first case that was pivotal in my professional life concerned a woman with melanoma on her knee. What happened as a result of looking into past lives is that two relatively recent incarnations appeared in rather rapid succession.

In the first, she saw herself on a sort of pilgrimage to an old church in Central America. She crawled for months on her knees and did immense damage to them as a result of her piety or penance, whichever it was. In the second recall, she was hit in the knee by a poisoned arrow and died. The observation she made at the time was that the damage from the earlier lifetime left her with a weakness that drew further trauma to the area. In a sort of spontaneous act of creative imagination, she visualized herself as removing the arrow. The melanoma went into immediate remission with no further complications.

I knew this lovely person for many, many years and can absolutely vouch for the fact that the melanoma never returned. Anyone who has ever dealt with melanoma knows how remarkable this story is.

My first conscious interest in reincarnation (in this life) was in my late teens. I was taking a rather boring class in philosophy. It was so boring that concentration was very difficult. In fact, it was so boring that I don't even remember what the class was called. I remember only one incident. There was a suggestion that one could train the memory by thinking backwards. How did you get to class that morning, what did you eat for breakfast, what time did you wake up, what time did you go to bed last night. I figured at that rate, it would take about 30 years to remember what I did the year before. I looked out the window, in a vague effort to escape the tedium of the class, and immediately saw myself as a monk in Japan, walking along the banks of a river with another monk. I even heard the name of the Buddhist sect to which we belonged and easily heard the conversation we were having.

This vision was rudely interrupted by the professor who caught my wandering gaze and asked me a question. I think it was, "Can you repeat what I just said in today's lecture?" Obviously, I had no idea what he had said, but if he understood the significance of what he said, he might have guessed that my mind was enthralled with something that triggered my imagination; and I had, in fact, remembered that, but not whatever happened in the intervening moments. I was actually clueless as to whether my mind had been absent for a minute or 20 minutes because time had become irrelevant.

One of the many ironies of majoring in Asian Studies was that I was able to learn classical Japanese before modern Japanese, and I totally rebelled against the simplification of the kanji since I felt some cultural history would go missing if the characters were written in a "modern" way. At the time, this was the only validation I had for a past life recollection.

As many of you know, I went on to write a book about memory and reincarnation, still unpublished. What the professor said was actually irrelevant because memory does not work by gradually turning back the clock but through connections with "content". It works by the power of association and astrology is, of course, a masterful way to form associations and organize them. Since every horoscope is different, there would be no simple ways to interpret a chart unless generalizations lead to a way to synthesize the myriads of details that would remain fragments until the overview falls into place. In short, one could learn the basics in a few months or years, but the ability to synthesize comes with intense focus and practice. One needs to see lots of horoscopes before evolving the skills needed to fit the pieces into correct places.

Traditionally, memory was cultivated by forming associations. For example, in ancient Greek theater, the actors would study portions of the script in different places so that the pillar or the tree or the bench triggered recall. In Renaissance Europe, Marsilio Ficino created a memory theater with scenes that were psychologically and spiritually evocative. One reacted to the statues and dramas that were portrayed based on what was in one's own psyche. Today, many people are using music to aid memory. My book is actually about music therapy but it has nothing whatsoever to do with the Mozart effect.

Of course, we can take herbs that strengthen the memory, but these tend to work completely differently from associations. My experience with herbs is that they keep the brain in working order and facilitate learning. I suppose that entheogens unlock hidden potentials of the brain through chemistry, but I do not see the herbs as contributing to the power of association. If you were to make an analogy with computers, you could perhaps argue that keeping your hard drive free of viruses is like taking herbs to prevent brain disease. However, unless you actually use the computer and write new files and store them, the computer is just a machine with potentials that have not been utilized. Memory is very similar and it strikes me that what is happening in today's world is nothing short of stupendous. Computers do work a lot like brains. This is not an argument for artificial intelligence but rather, it seems to me, that humans have reached the point where they can create machines that operate in a manner similar to themselves. This means we can objectify our knowledge, and this, in turn, means we are conscious, not lost in subjectivity, which, of course, can be an incredible space, but it exists outside of time.

This is important because it is the key to all. What became evident to me is that death does not erase anything. It is therefore not an escape. Yes, it can be balancing if we are desperately out of balance. For instance, if life has become nothing but a treadmill in which we struggle for survival, return to spirit is a part of our need for balance. If we can remain in balance without leaving either Heaven or Earth, there is no need to die or to reincarnate. That implies we could be either side of the veil and have choices that are consistent with our own needs.

So, when I spoke out strongly against rape, it was because I understand that the traumas will basically last forever and ever unless new experiences overwrite the unhappy ones. I have always told my students and colleagues that given what we see in today's world, we will not be able to take down our shingles for many lifetimes. Realizing this, I am also looking at the motivations people have for studying with me and even though there is an age span of more than sixty years between the youngest and oldest applicants, I am seeing that some people are preparing for careers in this lifetime and some for careers in the next. It is all okay with me.

What is not okay is adding to the need for therapy in the future so having ambiguous attitudes towards events that are despicable is part of the problem, not the solution. Healers, as we know, are dedicated to solutions. The truth is, parents and partners ought also to take on more responsibility, but when I see suffering due to crimes, I go ballistic. This includes the crimes that are intentional as well as those that are subintentional. For instance, with Lyme disease, we do not know if the epidemic was deliberately caused or whether an accident occurred. We do however know that the experiments were demonic and dangerous.

Anyone who has had Lyme disease or parented a child with Lyme disease knows how devastating the disease is, but how many people realize how sensitive we are to sexual assault and abuse? Many know but apparently there are those, often in high positions, who do not understand the problem.

In a horoscope, one can always see the first sexual experience. Even rather inexperienced astrologers can tell both the time and nature of that experience. For instance, we can see that the experience was motivated by curiosity or that it was totally destructive of one's sense of self. We can see whether it was dreamy and divine or lustful or debasing. If skilled, we can also see if conception occurred. I have sometimes told men that they had children who had not met their father yet. Once I told that to a gay man and his partner thought I was crazy, but there had been an instance when he was younger, and he had no idea what happened afterwards. It took him months to find his child.

The purpose of telling this is neither to intimidate nor boast. The purpose is to take a stand for the seriousness of actions, not necessarily the act of fertilization, but the act of interacting with another human being along an endlessly challenging path that weaves through countless incarnations. If we appreciated what we are doing, we would take each encounter more seriously, and we would cultivate respect since, in the long run, there is no escaping the consequences.

If I left this post here, I would risk adding to turmoil and despair. I do not want to be guilty of contributing to imbalance. Memory can only be altered by new experiences that overwrite the older ones. Keeping to the sexual analogy, not only can we see what has happened but what would be pleasing. If the individual can become clear enough to discriminate about what is healing and what is reinfecting, at least some of the trauma would be reduced. This means carefully choosing only those experiences that are congenial and avoiding what does not feel good. The greatest power of the feminine is discrimination that triggers the will to say "yes" or "no". The masculine lives in great fear of rejection and within each of us, there is a feminine energy as well as a masculine one.

For those who are visual, I will give an account from one of the important teachers in my life. He had a dream in which the great poet-saint of Tibet Milarepa showed him statues of me in past lives. Each statue was a different size and he said the height related to the percent of a curse remaining from an unpleasant incident in a very ancient lifetime. I had actually relived part of that lifetime, very complicated story, but what my teacher said was that Milarepa showed him how to reduce the residual. This is, as I said a very complex story. For those who have not wrestled with reincarnation, I might suggest a very simple introductory book called Wheel of Rebirth by H. K. Challoner.

Many blessings,



Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2014








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