The Soul’s Journey and Past Life Memory 

A fundamental question is “Why would a soul want to reincarnate and inhabit a physical body with all its limitations and difficulties? Wouldn’t it remain perfectly happy in the spirit realm?”

The answer is precisely because the human body form has its restrictions that the soul would want to inhabit and experience in the physical realm. It will experience the reality of what it feels like to be separated from other souls and not being in a state of perfect, unconditional love all the time.

Every soul reincarnates for a specific reason. In the physical body, it is being given an opportunity to accelerate its learning process so that it continues to work towards attaining a higher consciousness level.

The physical body is better understood, using the theosophical model, as the interface between the self and his "subtle bodies" or environments, namely the etheric, astral, mental environments. Through it's etheric environment the soul absorbs vital energy and distributes it to the whole body. Through the astral environment, it makes feelings, desires and emotions possible for its physical existence. The mental environment, on the other hand, has two subdivisions - the lower mental and the higher mental (or causal). Through its lower mental environment the body obtains its powers of memory and imagination, and in ordinary waking consciousness it is able to deal with logic, ideas and concrete thoughts. Through the higher mental (causal) plane, the body acquires its knowledge and wisdom and with which it is able to deal with principles, ideals and abstract thoughts.

The soul comprises of the astral, lower mental and causal (higher mental) “bodies” in subtle form. The causal body plays a central role in reincarnation. It is conceived as interfacing with its environment in three ways: (i) With the physical interface, the soul relates to things that present themselves to our physical senses from the external world. (ii) With the astral interface, it converts the world into something significant for us through our inner world of sensations, desires and feelings. (iii) With the mental interface the soul helps us to think about our sensations and actions and create a rational coherence and establish a goal that we strive for. At the same time it makes the moral goodness in us come alive.

As the soul makes its continuing journey from one incarnation to another, it repeatedly passes through the three worlds of the physical, emotional and mental planes. When the soul finishes its stay in the physical body in one life time, he leaves the body and begins his new life-period. During this time, the causal body sheds its astral and mental energies acquired from the life it has just lived. Next it becomes clothed with a new set of mental and astral vesture that expresses the faculties inherited from his previous lives. Then he selects a series of goals and life lesson for his next life on earth. This is in the form of a sacred contract that he makes with the Divine and determines what kind of a life he is going to live next. The soul creates his Life Plan prior to his next incarnation. This includes the life purpose that he will take. Although he chooses his experiences before coming to earth again, he does not plan his entire life. He will only devise the major intersections and overall themes that form his personal lessons. Finally he is drawn by forces to the womb that provides him with a suitable body for the next cycle of rebirth.

Hence the soul is on a never-ending journey of learning and evolution through the process of reincarnation. The earth may be considered a schoolhouse for the soul who has chosen to come down to the physical plane to learn his chosen lesson in order to grow spiritually. One way to understand the concept of reincarnation as an evolutionary process is to compare our entire lifespan in our current lifetime with a single day in the life of our soul in this evolutionary journey.

In regression therapy, the therapist helps the patient to become aware of the lessons he has learned or failed to learn in previous lifetimes. This enables the patient himself to understand how his past life experiences can lead to unexplained emotional problems in his current life.

A commonly asked question is, “If I had experienced past lives before, why don’t I remember them?”

Psychologically speaking, it doesn’t take much to convince ourselves and accept the fact that the human brain would normally run into difficulty in accommodating memories of past details, even those of the current life, let alone hundreds of past lives. It would lose track of where its memories are being archived. In the context of past lives and with the theosophical framework, the physical brain of the new body has no record of a past incarnation that it did not participate in. It therefore has no memory trace of past lives. Likewise, the astral and mental bodies are all new for each reincarnation. The causal body is the only subtle-body component of the soul that persists from one lifetime to another. Given the imperfect state of communication between the soul and the lower human personality (physical, astral and mental bodies), recall of past life experiences through the causal body is difficult if not impossible for most people. Having said all these, we do come across children who can recall details of past lives as Dr. Ian Stevenson’s research has clearly and convincingly demonstrated.

Suggested Reading

1. Mack P, Lee N., “The Soul in Reincarnation.” In: Mirrors of the Mind – Metaphoric Narratives in Healing, From the Heart Press, 2015, pp 197-202

2. Arthur E Powell. The Causal Body and the Ego. A publication of the Canadian Theosophical Association.