I received a few questions as to whether or not I believe in past lives after the post I did about my first experience in ‘Past Life Regression’. I was under the impression that my tone was evident and that I made it clear I do not believe in past lives*. I place the asterisk as I hold no certainty that they do not exist. I entertain the notion, though I would imagine if it were true then there would be a lot of documented evidence and examples to point to – plus new examples should readily be discovered.
It seems most have a want for there to be past lives, and it’s easy to see why. The fear of death is slayed when one holds the belief that they have lived before and will live again. Occultists will cling to Aleister Crowley’s remarks about being a reincarnation of Éliphas Lévi, Edward Kelly, and others. Crowley doesn’t write of reincarnation with certainty, more he indicates that they were influences on his occult life, and that their Great Work resonated with him, or they shared qualities in common. We see this continued with many great minds believing they are continuing Crowley’s work, or are a reincarnation of Crowley – from the brilliant and innovative jazz musician Graham Bond, to Dr. Timothy Leary. (If you’ve ever visited a magic forum you’ve likely come across a number of crazed individuals asserting that they are the one and only true reincarnation of Crowley).
This evidently being an ego trap. Most diving into occultism will repeatedly come across the maxim ‘know thyself’. Aristotle famously stated that “knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom”, and he had also said “there is no great genius without a mixture of madness.” When it comes to suprarational or transcendental concepts how does one retain the grounding of logic? Well, we add a little madness. In The Liar’s Tale: A History of Falsehood Jeremy Campbell examined logic and its connection to truth, writing: “One could say that logic is promiscuous, not wedded inexorably to the truth; it needs to investigate the consequences of statements that are false, not just the ones that are true.”
What one holds as beliefs will determine their selection of actions. As I highlighted in my Qabalah Conundrum post the brain is an association machine; memory is essentially association. We see invocations, prayers, spells and rituals designed by those looking to overcome their fears of say, a party, or an interview, or any form of interaction which they’ve not previously encountered with confidence or a sense of purpose and direction.
“An individual who has built a reputation for being antisocial cannot simply “have a good time at a party” without providing a plausible account of how this event was different from similar events that the person previously attended. The viability of a culture is based on assuring a certain reliability of interaction by keeping people in set roles. Anyone who steps out of character too far or too often threatens to bring down the entire social house of cards. Cultures (and the individuals they comprise) have a stake in maintaining moment-to-moment interactional consistency.” – Efran, Lukens & Lukens, Language Structure and Change: Frameworks of Meaning in Psychotherapy (1990)
There’s a chapter titled ‘The Magical Memory’ in Magick in Theory and Practice, where Aleister Crowley wrote: “No scientific hypothesis can adduce stronger evidence of its validity than the confirmation of its predictions by experimental evidence. The objective can always be expressed in subjective symbols if necessary. The controversy is ultimately unmeaning. However we interpret the evidence, its relative truth depends in its internal coherence. We may therefore say that any magical recollection is genuine if it gives the explanation of our external or internal conditions. Anything which throws light upon the Universe, anything which reveals us to ourselves, should be welcome in this world of riddles.”
When I shared my first Past Life Regression, I entered looking to resolve an issue where I felt at odds with society or out of place with my (then) company. Of course, having gone through my school years as an outsider and often holding a rebellious nature, as an adult these feelings could push themselves to prominence even if unwanted or unwarranted. The Past Life Regression provided a ‘felt’ and ‘lived’ experience and ‘memory’ of a life outside of mine which dissolved my disposition and replaced it with one I could not argue away. I was left to decide if I would stubbornly cling to an old concept of self, or accept the impressions which provided opportunity for growth, advancement, and a healthy mindset. As Crowley put in the Book of Lies: “In love the individuality is slain; who loves not love?”, and of course we know that in Thelema we hold to Crowley’s concept that “The Universe is Change: every Change is the effect of an Act of Love; all Acts of Love contain Pure Joy.”
If you’re reading this and thinking ‘so it’s all in the imagination?’ – I would highlight that in Qabalah the sphere above Malkuth (the Kingdom) is Yesod, the Moon sphere which is known as ‘The Foundation’ and is given the key assignment of the astral plane. After all, what in our world isn’t of the imagination?
“Nay, farther, even with relation to that succession, we cou’d only admit of those perceptions, which are immediately present to our consciousness, nor cou’d those lively images, with which the memory presents us, be ever receiv’d as true pictures of past perceptions. The memory, senses, and understanding are, therefore, all of them founded on the imagination, or the vivacity of our ideas.” – David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature (1740)