Many people have doubts regarding the memories others claim to have of past-life experiences. One of the main reasons for this doubt is due to the fact that many past-life memories from different people will be about having lived as the very same person. How can two different people, both living in the present, have each lived as Napoleon Bonaparte, for instance? This does not make sense from the standpoint of a common belief that a person’s individuality does not cease to exist after death. The belief that we are still unique and separate entities after death contradicts such a possibility.
Or does it? If our individual consciousnesses are all actually splinters of a greater consciousness of which we are all a part and inseparable from, then the memories that two or more people have of the same past life becomes more understandable. In this context, at a deeper level of being we are all the same consciousness. When we die, our consciousness recedes back into this greater consciousness that we share with all other splinters of consciousness. In this deeper state, we are all Napoleon Bonaparte, Michelangelo, Jesus Christ, and everyone else that has, is, or will live in the three-dimensional world we are familiar with. Thus, we can all have memories of having lived the same past lives.
Another question of doubt regarding past-life recall is: why do so many people seem to recall such historically famous personages? In answer to this, it needs to be pointed out that these personages were pivotal to the life experiences of so many others that lived during or after the life of that personage. This means that these personages stand out as pertinent conscious experiences within the greater consciousness – they are more meaningful splinters of that greater consciousness to which we all belong. If we are all essentially cut from this same cloth, we are essentially each other at a deeper level. That these famous personages are frequently remembered is due to their pertinence and the attention given to them as personages. This explains the recognition of the identity of these personages in past-life memories, and the strength of these memories compared to memories of other past-life personages of lesser significance.
Past-life recall takes place when one’s mind is in a state other than wide-awake and fully attentive consciousness. For instance, it often takes place while in a hypnotic state, when a person is regressed back in time to a point before his or her own birth. These hypnotic states take place in the realm of the subconscious mind, which is more primal than the waking consciousness we are more familiar with in our everyday lives. Therefore, the past-life recall arises from the deeper levels of consciousness, which all beings, whether from the past, present, or future, share.
It may seem disappointing to some that this is true, because it suggests that our uniqueness as individual beings does not continue after death. Such disappointment arises from the seeming meaninglessness we feel regarding our current lives, and our desire to be more meaningfully significant in the greater order of things. We therefore like to believe in the continuation of our individual consciousness after death, and in having individual spirits and souls, in order to feel that the whole purpose of life and death has some sort of greater purpose and meaning – that we are somehow moving towards higher (or lower) personal states of being through how we conduct ourselves in our current lives.
Such disappointment is not necessary. Metaphorically speaking, a drop of water taken from the great ocean and separated from it, might desire to claim its own uniqueness when it compares itself to the other drops of water that have also been separated out of the great ocean. It exists as an individual drop, and does not realize where it and all the other drops came from. It feels uniquely important because of its current sense of individuality, and so convinces itself that because it is an individual drop like so many others, it will always be so. But eventually it returns to the great ocean, and merges into it again so that its individuality is seemingly lost. But, compared to the great ocean that it is really a part of, it could never be so great. The great ocean is not something different than the drop. The great ocean is much more than any individual drop. It is all that the individual drop is, and more. But the drop, in its individuality, sees the ocean as a great void, and does not understand that entering it is anything other than the loss of that individuality. Only when it returns to the great ocean and merges with it once more does it realize that the great ocean is much more, and that its individuality as a drop was but one expression emitted by the great ocean – an expression that can emerge again and again, throughout eternity.
Consider your life as it is divided by all the days that you have so far lived, and will yet live. Are you the same person today that you were yesterday, last week, or last year? In many ways, you will say that you are the same, but in other ways, you are completely different. It may be that in the past you were full of anger, but today you are full of cheer. Or it may be that you used to enjoy certain activities, but now find them unsatisfying. Which is the real you? You will undoubtedly admit that they were all instances of you, but that they were different expressions of you. In the same way, we are each different expressions of a greater consciousness.
Such changes in our lives that make us appear to be different from one day or one year to the next are purely subjective in nature. Objective changes, such as what takes place as we age physically, are not noticeable from day to day. Conversely, the difference between oneself and others is recognized first in an objective sense, and subjective differences are not as critical. We would be very surprised to meet someone who looked identical to ourselves, but not quite so surprised to meet someone with the very same character traits or subjective outlook.
Why is this? It is because we are programmed for our physical existence to accept that we are separate and differentiated physical beings. It is part of the design of existing in the physical realm. Subjective traits, on the other hand, are traits of the mind and are thus closer to the primal source from which we all come and which we all share in a more intimate sense. Finding commonality between ourselves and others is the complement of differentiation. We are the same, but we are different.
In considering this in relation to past-life recall, it is interesting to note that physical similarities between the person who has the recall and the personage they recall usually bear no physical resemblance.