It’s a feeling most of us have experienced: I know this place. But how is that possible, when I’ve never been here before?
Some people call it deja vu, a trick of the senses. Others accept it as an echo of a past life.
The belief in reincarnation is common all over the world. It’s the foundation of Hinduism, Jainism, and other religions that have hundreds of millions of followers. But for many people it has nothing to do with religion. They’ve come to believe in reincarnation because they sense the shadows of past lives walking beside them through the present.
The CBS morning show did a report last Sunday on a massive gathering in New York City of people eager to discover more about their past lives. The report quoted a startling statistic: one in 10 Americans believes in reincarnation.
Steven Pressfield, author of a number of novels about warfare both ancient and modern, has a recurring character in his books who has been a warrior in many lives. When I interviewed Pressfield recently about his new book, The Profession, for the June issue of the International Thriller Writers newsletter, he confirmed that he believes in reincarnation and thinks he lived in ancient Greece in a previous life. I doubt Pressfield would strike anyone as a crackpot.
Personally, I find one life more than enough to deal with and don’t want to root around in the past for proof of others. However... I have to admit that when I visited Scotland for the first time, I had that I've been here before feeling. I have Scottish blood (born a Grant), so I could have been experiencing a kind of genetic memory passed down through generations. This type of memory exists in other species. We usually call it instinct and shrug it off. But think about this: the monarch butterflies returning to the US this spring aren’t the same insects that migrated south in autumn. They’re several generations removed from the monarchs we saw in our gardens last year. Yet they know exactly where their forebears came from, and they know how to get here. Why shouldn’t humans – much more complex organisms than insects – also pass on memories through the generations? Isn’t that a logical explanation for the common deja vu experience?
But if you feel a powerful affinity for, say, ancient Rome, if you’re sure you’ve been there, yet to your certain knowledge you don’t have a drop of Italian blood, you can’t attribute that sense of familiarity to genetically imprinted memories. Could you be “remembering” a past life?
It’s an intriguing idea, one that a lot of sane people have fully embraced. And it raises questions about the very definition of life and the nature of the human soul and psyche.
How do you feel about it? Do you think it’s crazy, or does reincarnation make perfect sense? Have you ever suspected that you have lived before?