Everything You Need to Know About Past Lives and Reincarnation

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Could you have lived in another place and time?. Anna Gorin / Getty Images

Many members of the Pagan and Wiccan communities are interested in past lives and reincarnation. While there's no official standpoint on reincarnation, it's not uncommon to find Pagans who believe they have experienced past lives. Among those who do, there are often some recurring themes.

What is a Past Life?

Typically, someone who believes they've had a past life — or lives — also believes they have learned various lessons from each lifetime. Although someone may believe they have led past lives, there is no way to prove this. Because knowledge of past lives is obtained through hypnosis, regression, meditation, or other psychic methods, this experience is considered an Unverifiable Personal Gnosis (UPG). In other words, you may be certain beyond a reasonable doubt that you've lived before, but that doesn't mean everyone else is required to believe you.

In some Eastern religions, such as Hinduism and Jainism, reincarnation is specifically referred to transmigration of the soul. With this philosophy, it is believed that the soul continues to learn "life lessons," and each lifetime lived is another step on the road to enlightenment. Many modern Pagans accept this concept, or some variation on it, as well.

How Do Past Lives Affect Us?

For many people, past lives are a cumulative set of lessons that have been learned. We may have carried over fears or emotions from previous lives that impact our existence today. Some people think that experiences or feelings they have in this lifetime can be traced to an experience in a past incarnation. For example, if you're afraid of heights, it could be because, in a past life, you died after a traumatic fall. Perhaps the reason you're drawn to working in the medical profession is that you were a healer in a previous lifetime.

There's also a theory that if a person or place seems familiar, it may be because you've "known" them in a past life. There is a concept that souls tend to reunite from one lifetime to another, so someone you loved in a past life may appear in the form of someone you love in this lifetime.

In some Pagan traditions, the concept of Karma comes into play. Although traditional Eastern religions view Karma as an as ongoing cosmic system of cause and effect, many Neopagan groups have redefined Karma to be more of a payback system. There is a theory, in some Pagan belief systems, that if one has done bad things in a previous life, that Karma is what causes bad things to happen to the individual in this lifetime. Likewise, if we do good things this time around, we're somehow building up "Karma points" for our next lifetime. Your interpretation of this will vary depending on the teachings of your particular tradition of Paganism.

Discovering Your Past Lives

If you believe you may have lived before, many people recommend actively trying to discover what information you can about those lives. Knowledge obtained from learning about past lives can help open doors to self-discovery in our current existence. There are several different methods you can use to delve into this.

  • Past Life Regression: Typically done by someone with regression therapy experience, a past life regression is one in which the Seeker is guided through a hypnotic state by another person. The guide, or leader, will gently take the Seeker back through the current lifetime to previous ones. People who experience this often report feeling as though they have left their body and are watching it from another plane. During a past life regression session, it's not uncommon for the Seeker to feel that they are in another location, or of the opposite sex, or even speak in another language or with an accent.
  • Meditation: A past life meditation is an exercise you can do on your own, although it may take some practice (and more than a couple of attempts) to get anywhere. In a past life meditation, the Seeker uses meditation techniques to travel back to previous lifetimes. You can achieve this by allowing your mind to wander back through your current lifetime, to earlier memories, and then telling your mind to go back to the lifetime before. Although this doesn't always work for everyone, you may find yourself experiencing memories from what seems to be another lifetime. If you have trouble doing this on your own, you may find it helpful to use a past life regression CD, such as those by Brian Weiss, MD, or Doreen Virtue.
  • Dream Analysis: Some people believe they can learn about their past lives from dreams. Are there recurring events or places that show up in your dreams? Perhaps you've never been to Paris in this lifetime, but you continually dream of running through the city's streets. Maybe you have a repeating dream in which you're tilling a field or riding a horse. Keep a Dream Journal to help you look for and recognize patterns in your dreams.

Once you've learned about what you suspect may be a past life, it can be enlightening to do some historical research. Although this will not (and cannot) confirm the existence of a past life, what it can do is help rule out things that might be just wishful thinking or the product of your imagination. By confirming timelines and history, you can help narrow the field a bit. Remember, past lives fall into the category of UPGs — Unverifiable Personal Gnosis — so while you may not be able to prove anything, it's entirely possible that recall of a past incarnation is a tool you can use to help become more enlightened in this lifetime.

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Wigington, Patti. "Everything You Need to Know About Past Lives and Reincarnation." Learn Religions, Aug. 28, 2020, learnreligions.com/past-lives-and-reincarnation-2561770. Wigington, Patti. (2020, August 28). Everything You Need to Know About Past Lives and Reincarnation. Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/past-lives-and-reincarnation-2561770 Wigington, Patti. "Everything You Need to Know About Past Lives and Reincarnation." Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/past-lives-and-reincarnation-2561770 (accessed January 28, 2021).