There is an interesting blog post on Patheos where P. Sufenas Virius Lupus shares his ideas about reincarnation and past lives. He contends that some Pagans believe in reincarnation and others don’t. Either way, he says he doesn’t “hear a lot of discussion about reincarnation in Pagan circles these days.” He adds that the reason for this is that “past life experiences are profoundly personal. In general, they often have great relevance for those who are involved with them, but not much for others.” [Emphasis in original.]
Lupus points out that it’s not possible to practice reincarnation, and concludes that it is, therefore, a matter of belief. This is unusual because, he says, “We often characterize Paganism as a religion of practice and of experience rather than of belief.” He writes:
The fact that so-and-so might have once been the Proconsul of Asia when Mithraism began in the waning decades of the Roman Republic might be an important reason why they are now engaged in reviving the Mithraic Mysteries. However, it probably doesn’t mean that they know more about those mysteries than anyone else. Past life experiences may provide motivations, explanations for certain interests, or even proficiency at certain skills or other propensities. Yet, there is no authority, necessary implications about identity, or anything else that automatically flows from these interests or talents.
He concludes with his personal experience and assessment of past lives, first by stating that earlier he had run into people who used them manipulatively, but later dismissed them. Then he writes that he has had some personal experiences that other than “coincidence combined with clairvoyance” don’t seem to have any other explanation.
While Lupus didn’t mention it, it appears that he has done a little study and a lot of thinking about past lives. The challenge of this in any area is that you are often limited by range of study and personal location. Years ago, my very first lessons in Witchcraft (from Raven Grimassi) included teachings and beliefs about past lives, as well as methods to see if his students had ever had a past life together. Later, I had numerous discussions with Pagans about past lives, and my friend Scott Cunningham and I talked about it frequently. I think his fascination with the magic and spirituality of ancient Hawaii may have had something to do with past lives he may have believed he experienced on the islands. I have had the great pleasure of attending Pagan festivals all over the country, and most of them have workshops on reincarnation and past lives. So although Lupus may not experience many discussions on this in Pagan circles he has attended, I have had just the opposite experience.
In fact, I often give workshops on past lives, and as a certified hypnotherapist, I have led over 1,000 people through past life experiences. I have also studied numerous books on the subject and I have been trained and certified in hypnotic past life regression therapy by Dick Sutphen and others.
I also have a few disagreements with Lupus. While it may be true that for some people Paganism is “a religion of practice and of experience rather than of belief,” in my experience, for most religious Pagans it is a faith of practice, experience, and belief.
He gives the example of a person having a famous and important past life and using that to manipulate others. I not only believe that, I have seen it. However, after leading over 1,000 people to experience their past lives, I have found this to be the exception and not the rule. In fact, only three people who I know explored past lives (rather than just wished it) have ever told me they had been famous. Two of them were a few broom twigs short of a besom (they were lovers; one thought she had been Jesus while the other thought she had been Judas) and the third already believed she had a famous past life, used it to manipulate followers, and used my work with her just to repeat her delusion.
By the way, at one time, too, I was in awe of people with famous past lives. I’ve also outgrown that and agree with Dion Fortune who wrote that a famous past life doesn’t add glory to the current life so much as make one wonder what you did to bring you down to the current level. In short, the “everyone was Cleopatra or Napoleon” in past lives is simply not true and is a claim made primarily by debunkers with no experience of working with past lives.
Why Past Lives?
So if there is no way to “practice” past lives, why worry about them at all? The answer is fairly simple. Although we cannot “practice” past lives, we can experience them in any of a variety of ways. I’ve tried many, and for me the most effective way is through hypnosis. The following books include techniques for learning hypnotic recall of past lives as well as instructions that use non-hypnotic methods:
Beyond Reincarnation by Joe H. Slate
How To Uncover Your Past Lives by Ted Andrews
Past Lives for Beginners by Douglas De Long
Practical Guide to Past-Life Memories by Richard Webster
Doors to Past Lives & Future Lives by Joe H. Slate and Carl Llewellyn Weschcke
Life Between Lives by Michael Newton
But why spend time learning about past lives? The answer, as Lupus deduced, is because they are “profoundly personal.” Whether or not past lives are objectively true, there is no doubt that the experience of past lives is a very real phenomena. And hypnotists and mystics agree that the experience has meaning to the person reliving the past life. There is a message there. The past life experience has something for you today.
Whether or not a phobia is caused by an experience in a past life isn’t relevant. What is important is that by resolving the issues brought up in the past life experience you can quickly and permanently resolve the phobia. So working with your past lives through hypnosis, dreams, dowsing, or other means can help you get past blocks, overcome problems, and discover ways to achieve a happier and more successful future.
Past lives aren’t about dwelling in the past,
they’re about having a better life now and better times to come.