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What Part of the Consciousness Is Past Life Memories?
By:Joe McIndoe

The idea of an afterlife is one of humanity's great unsolved mysteries. Some individuals believe that human consciousness is reborn in others after death, a process commonly called reincarnation. Reincarnation is a central tenet in Hinduism and Buddhism, and some Western New Age philosophies also have adopted the idea. While Western science does not provide evidence that past life memories influence our consciousness, many people believe that they do.

Reincarnation Explained
Traditionally, reincarnation is based on the idea of karma, the Buddhist and Hindu law of cause and effect. The karmic chain of action gives rise to an individual's subsequent life following death. In Buddhism, in fact, death is considered the "beginning" of the cycle of life. According to this belief, our past lives, in which we existed as other people or even other species, remain in some part of our consciousness.

Conscious Awareness of Past Lives
Because the study of past lives and consciousness largely exist outside the field of accepted science, the discussion is largely speculative. Some believe that past life memories can reside in our conscious minds and that, in some cases, whether by randomness or by attuning our consciousness, we can access those memories. Some believers in reincarnation claim to invoke the memories and influence of their former selves in their current lives.

Subconscious Awareness of Past Lives
Most believers in past life memories consider them a part of our subconscious, inaccessible to normal conscious thought. Past life memories may influence our conscious actions in undetected ways. Hypnosis, which under the right circumstances permits access to subconscious thought, is one method of tapping into these hidden memories from previous lives.

Incidents of Past Life Regression
Several supposed incidents of past life regression have been documented. While none has been scientifically proven to be a case of reincarnation, these cases raise the question of whether past life memories can influence present consciousness. In the 1950s in India, a young man named Jasbir displayed remarkable knowledge of the personal history and private details of another man who shared his name and who had recently died. The two had never met. In another famous case, actor Glenn Ford was hypnotized and "regressed" to several different past lives. He assumed the character of a 17th century French cavalryman and, while hypnotized, spoke fluent French although in his normal state of consciousness knew only a few words in French.