Knowing You've Lived Before

The soul is the perceiver and revealer of truth . . .

We know truth from opinion,

As we know when we are awake that we are awake.


                                                                                             Ralph Waldo Emerson






One of the truths perceived when we awaken spiritually is that we have lived before.  It may not dawn on us instantly.  In fact, the realization may occur only after we experience a string of incidents, each of which appears relatively insignificant.  We visit a place ostensibly for the first time, but know we’ve been there before.  We find ourselves inexplicably fascinated by a particular culture, historical period, or figure.  We meet someone for the first time and know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that this is not our first encounter.


Until recently, a typical Westerner might have said of such occurences, “It’s just coincidence,” or “It’s a case of déjà vu.”  But déjà vu literally means “already seen.”  And for those who have a true déjà-vu experience, there is an inner certainty of already having seen certain people and places before—a certainty that grows as such experiences accumulate and intensify.  To the awakening soul, the fact that other lifetimes have preceded this one, and that we are not born as blank slates, becomes increasingly undeniable.


In recent years, the notion of having lived before has been percolating into mainstream culture in varied forms.  There is, for example, a new facet of past life research that features “matches” found between historical personalities and their contemporary incarnations.1  Photographic comparisons between past and present lives often show uncanny physical resemblances; other documentation reveals a striking similarity of talents, abilities, and personality patterns that are passed forward.  So convincing are the likenesses that one researcher has concluded that the soul—despite outer differences in physical conditions and circumstances—continuously repeats physical, emotional, and mental patterns. 


At the same time a relatively new specialty in psychology, designed to help people break patterns carried over from the past, has been burgeoning.  In the field of past-life therapy, clients are helped to identify the origins of intractable problems by re-visiting, under hypnosis, past-life conditions.  Pioneering psychotherapists with conventional degrees are increasingly finding merit in this approach to relieving deep-seated phobias and dysfunctional behaviors.


The search to discover the cause of personal problems in patterns established prior to this lifetime is complimentary to what the Ageless Wisdom tells us about the laws of rebirth and karma.  According to esoteric teachings, we live many lifetimes on this earth.  The soul reincarnates in a long succession of human personalities for the purpose of learning and growing.  Life on earth is, in essence, a schoolhouse.  All souls are enrolled in the curriculum, though not consciously so until reaching the higher grades.  Progress in this school is measured in ever-increasing expansions of consciousness.  Graduation occurs upon finding enlightenment.


While progressing through the grades of this school, we are born male and female, in every race and religion, in every economic condition.  We encounter the full gamut of human experience on our journey through life:  power and powerlessness, wealth and poverty, sickliness and health, suffering and joy.  Near the journey’s end, when the soul awakens, the realization dawns on us that we are not our bodies and possessions but are inherently spiritual beings, and we have lived before.


Then why, we may well wonder, if this is so, do most of us have little or no recall of the details of previous lifetimes?  The answer, according to the wisest of beings, has to do with  the soul’s readiness to remember.  Despite the glamour surrounding the subject of past lives, and the multitudes who believe that they were Joan of Arc or Alexander the Great, a modicum of wisdom is required to handle the truth about reincarnation.


Remembering the past is inevitably sobering, despite the thrill of first recollections, since none of us now in human form is perfect.2  To understand the workings of the law of rebirth, we also have to accept the law of karma, according to which we inevitably reap what we have sown in previous existences.  Accepting this fundamental reality, not as an adage but as a fact of life, means confronting the most difficult truth of all:  that each of us is ultimately responsible for our own life experience.


When the soul first awakens to its spiritual nature, and glimmerings of past lives begin to appear, there is often a fascination with finding clues to the past.  There is a hope that tracing our footsteps back in time will help to explain particular talents, or proclivities, or simply reaffirm our deepest sense of selfhood.  But genuine awakening leads eventually to the path of spiritual transformation, and transformation pivots on the realization that we ourselves have created our own reality.  We are not victims.


Acceptance of this truth marks a crucial turning-point in the soul’s long evolutionary journey and leads to a new way of perceiving.  Individuals once seen as oppressors or persecutors become teachers who appear in our lives to reflect back something about ourselves. Whatever it is, however deeply lodged in the past, accepting what life is showing us opens the way to healing.  By embracing an experience as “self-created,” we are able to forgive, and even thank those who provided the challenge our soul needed to advance on the path.


To know that we’ve lived before is to know that we will live again, and again, and again until we finally reach enlightenment and attain perfection.  Perfection is the goal of the spiritual path, but the wisdom teachings define it differently from the idealistic perfection of the visionary mystic.  It is a state of spiritual being in which the soul, or higher Self, is fully awakened, in control of its personality, responsible for creating its own reality, and also for co-creating the collective reality experienced by all incarnate souls on Earth.  Imagine what our world will become as more and more of us come to know, as fact, that we have lived before.

Nancy Seifer and Martin Vieweg
November 2008





:  On December 2, 2008 ABC-TV's "Nightline" reported that
           25% of Americans now believe in reincarnation.

[1]   See, for example, the website of Return of the Revolutionaries:

[2]   With the exception of Bodhisattvas—those who have already achieved perfection but have returned to Earth to enlighten others.

See also:

The Path of Transformation

The Middle Way

Philosopher's Stone

Eye of the Soul

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