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Past lives

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Rising Star
Shamans believe in reincarnation. I used to think it was just a Buddhist concept, but it's not. The soul and reincarnation are core tenets of Shamanism.

So what's the evidence?

I listen to talks given by Buddhist monks (personal fave is Ajahn Brahm), and when confronted with this question their answer is usually along the lines of... "we can't prove this, it just is."

From what I can tell, the only "evidence" we have are peculiar testimonies from children about previous lives. And the *bizarre* discovery of the 14th Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso) who, when tested at the age of 2, correctly identified all of the items owned by the previous Dalai Lama.

I underwent past life hypnosis once, and a sort of "movie" or series of images did in fact play out in my mind. I felt emotional while experiencing this "movie reel" under hypnosis. However, I ultimately resigned myself to the belief that it was just my imagination.

If reincarnation is real I have ZERO recollection of any past life.

What do you think?
Might be a far stretch but bare with me.

Rough estimate 100-200 Billion galaxies, our galaxy the Milky Way inhabiting tens of billions of solar systems, perhaps even as many as 100 billion. Add space and for each new solar system you find (perhaps 1000+ are born) because of the continuum of space – universe just getting bigger and bigger – in all directions - as we speak.

On top of that add dimensions – We can detect 4. Supposedly there are or could be up to 10 dimensions where time is one of them. On top of that imagine a life form that is not carbon based (as we are). Is this possible? We have no evidence for it but sure it might be in the realm of possibilities.

The possible amount of worlds, realms, existences that can be extracted from this is beyond compare. If reincarnation is possible, you are much more likely to be reincarnated somewhere else next time. Another realm, another existence – something totally new altogether.

This is speculative of course, but it’s not really that far off. Matter affect it would be much more plausible.

Let’s dwell into dimensions while we at it.

Dimension 1, 2 and 3 we know them as length (x-axis, height (y-axis) and depth (the z-axis).

Dimension 4 we know as Time which governs the properties of all known matter at any given point.

5. According to Superstring Theory, the fifth and sixth dimensions are where the notion of possible worlds arises. If we could see on through to the fifth dimension, we would see a world slightly different from our own that would give us a means of measuring the similarity and differences between our world and other possible ones.

6. In the sixth, we would see a plane of possible worlds, where we could compare and position all the possible universes that start with the same initial conditions as this one (i.e. the Big Bang).

In theory, if you could master the fifth and sixth dimension, you could travel back in time or go to different futures.

7. In the seventh dimension, you have access to the possible worlds that start with different initial conditions.

8. The eighth dimension again gives us a plane of such possible universe histories, each of which begins with different initial conditions and branches out infinitely.

9. In the ninth dimension, we can compare all the possible universe histories, starting with all the different possible laws of physics and initial conditions.

10. In the tenth and final dimension, we arrive at the point in which everything possible and imaginable is covered. Beyond this, nothing can be imagined by us lowly mortals, which makes it the natural limitation of what we can conceive in terms of dimensions.

Final words
If we remove time from the equation – everything happens at once. Instead of a linear 1, 2, 3 unfolding of events – everything is unfolding simultaneously. Perhaps, just perhaps this so called reincarnation is not possible as you/we are experiencing everything at once. There is no incarnation after this one. That life has already happened.

Crazy but worth contemplating :)
Shamans don't "believe" anything, it's not a dogmatic tradition.

"Shaman" is an umbrella term, which can be useful in some situations, while in others it should not be preferred.

Let's try to define this term:
In his book The Spirit of Shamanism, Roger N. Walsh, M.D., PhD. defines Shamanism as follows: "Shamanism can be defined as a family of traditions whose Practitioners focus on voluntarily entering altered states of consciousness in which they experience themselves or their spirit, traveling to other realms at will, and interacting with other entities in order to serve their community."

According to Eliade (1960) the shaman is a specialist in archaic techniques of ecstasy. He notes, for example, that shamans among Siberia and central Asian societies possess certain psychological features and capacities that render them apt for ecstasy -- for going outside themselves, i.e., going into a trance state. During the trance the shaman's soul leaves her/his body and ascends to the sky or descends to the underworld in order to communicate with a variety of mystical beings (gods, spirits, ghosts of the dead, demons).
In his article, California Indian Shamanism & Folk Curing, Lowell Bean says that shamans were not only the "principal religious functionaries" among Native California groups, but frequently political administrators simultaneously, as well as being "the principal philosophers, poets, artists, musicians, intellectuals, scientists, doctors, and psychotherapists" (Bean 1992:53). They served as mediators between the sacred and profane worlds. And like Siberian shamans, shamans among Native Californian societies went in "magical fight" to gain mystical power (knowledge about the universe). This power was then used by the shaman to aid the souls of the deceased in their journey to the land of the dead, to relay instructions from the mystical world on proper life-styles in the here and now, and to diagnostic and cure illness.

The Carmodys, in their text Ways to the Center: An Introduction to World Religions , offer the following omnibus definition of a shaman:

One who is a specialist in ancient techniques of ecstacy. The shaman normally is a functionary for a nonliterate community, serving as its healer, intermediary with the gods, guide of the souls of the dead to their rest, and custodian of traditional tribal lore. The typical shaman comes to this role through either heredity or having manifested idiosyncratic traits (epilepsy, sexual ambiguity, poetic sensitivity, dramatic dreams). Psychologically, shamans depend on an ability to function in two worlds, the ordinary reality of daily life and the extraordinary reality they encounter through their ecstatic journeys. As well, they serve their tribe as a defense of meaning, by incarnating a contact with the powers thought to hold the tribe's destiny (Carmody & Carmody 1989:33).

From various cultural anthropology textbooks come the following definitions of a shaman:

a part time religious specialist who has unique power acquired through her or his own initiative; such individuals are thought to possess exceptional abilities to deal with supernatural beings and powers.

part time religious specialists who are thought to have supernatural powers by virtue of birth, training, or inspiration. These powers are used for healing, divining, and telling forturnes during times of stress, usually in exchange for gifts or fees.

part-time religious figures who mediate between ordinary people and religious entities. Shaman is a general term encompassing curers ("witch doctors"), mediums, spiritualists, astrologers, palm readers, and other diviners.

In anthropological literature shamanism indicates a cross-culturally comparable religious phenomenon, just as the term shaman indicates a cross-culturally comparable religious functionary.

William Lebra provides a useful working definition of shamans: individuals who wield recognized supernatural powers for socially approved ends and have the capacity to enter culturally acknowledged trance states at will (William P. Lebra n.d., cited in Harvey 1979, 4). Another take on shamans and what they do is offered by Thomas Buckley (Yurok Doctors and the Concept of "Shamanism" ) who defines shamanism as involving "the application of knowledge and power gained through direct contact with spiritual beings toward either benign (e.g., healing) or malign (e.g., sorcery) ends. Usually shamans are professionals, specialists who are paid for their services" (In Bean 1992:117). Buckley also notes that the term 'shaman' "does not correlate with any single explicit, indigenous Yurok category. It may justifiably be applied to quite separate sorts of individuals who controlled considerable power acquired through training" (1992:132). NOTE: This may also be the case for all shamans.

Can you provide some references which lead you to believe that reincarnation is a shamanic belief or that it is incorporated into shamanic practice?

Limbol said:
Might be a far stretch but bare with me.

Rough estimate 100-200 Billion galaxies, our galaxy the Milky Way inhabiting tens of billions of solar systems, perhaps even as many as 100 billion. Add space and for each new solar system you find (perhaps 1000+ are born) because of the continuum of space – universe just getting bigger and bigger – in all directions - as we speak.

On top of that add dimensions – We can detect 4. Supposedly there are or could be up to 10 dimensions where time is one of them. On top of that imagine a life form that is not carbon based (as we are). Is this possible? We have no evidence for it but sure it might be in the realm of possibilities.

The possible amount of worlds, realms, existences that can be extracted from this is beyond compare. If reincarnation is possible, you are much more likely to be reincarnated somewhere else next time. Another realm, another existence – something totally new altogether.

This is speculative of course, but it’s not really that far off. Matter affect it would be much more plausible.

Thank you for articulating this! I have had these exact notions, but never could have put it into words so nicely, again, thank you!

( Below consists of my thoughts on the issue, it's not that these are beliefs, or that I'm trying to convince others that "this is the case", these are simply ideas and thoughts generated for the sake of thinking...if that makes sense. )

The fact that there are seemingly infinite locations where consciousness could potentially exist and incarnate provides a rather elegant means for consciousness to permeate not only through this universe, but through other dimensions as well.

The notion that the only conscious experience you will ever have will be limited to a single universe, at a single time, in a single physical body, has always seemed quite unlikely to me. your conscious experience appears to be an ever evolving, ever changing, and constantly moving entity...

Even in Buddhism it is acknowledged that there are many potential realms which one may incarnate in:

the wheel [of the The bhavacakra] is divided into six sections that represent the six realms of samsara, or cyclic existence, the process of cycling through one rebirth after another. These six realms are divided into three higher realms and three lower realms. The wheel can also be represented as having five realms, combining the God realm and the Demi-god realm into a single realm.

The three higher realms are shown in the top half of the circle:

Angel realm (Deva): the gods lead long and enjoyable lives full of pleasure and abundance, but they spend their lives pursuing meaningless distractions and never think to practice the dharma. When death comes to them, they are completely unprepared; without realizing it, they have completely exhausted their good karma (which was the cause for being reborn in the god realm) and they suffer through being reborn in the lower realms.However 7th Heavens Angel equivalent to concept of nirvana in Buddism concept derived from 6 paths of samsara ,may called 7th path "can choose the place to resurrection ,rebirth or even not nescesary to reincarnate again,if they want to",

Revenance realm (Asura): the demi-gods have pleasure and abundance almost as much as the gods, but they spend their time fighting among themselves or making war on the gods. When they make war on the gods, they always lose, since the gods are much more powerful. The demi-gods suffer from constant fighting and jealousy, and from being killed and wounded in their wars with each other and with the gods.

Human realm (Manuṣya): humans suffer from hunger, thirst, heat, cold, separation from friends, being attacked by enemies, not getting what they want, and getting what they don't want. They also suffer from the general sufferings of birth, old age, sickness and death. Yet the human realm is considered to be the most suitable realm for practicing the dharma, because humans are not completely distracted by pleasure (like the gods or demi-gods) or by pain and suffering (like the beings in the lower realms).
The three lower realms are shown in the bottom half of the circle:

Animal realm (Tiryagyoni): wild animals suffer from being attacked and eaten by other animals; they generally lead lives of constant fear. Domestic animals suffer from being exploited by humans; for example, they are slaughtered for food, overworked, and so on.
Hungry ghost realm (Preta): hungry ghosts suffer from extreme hunger and thirst. They wander constantly in search of food and drink, only to be miserably frustrated any time they come close to actually getting what they want. For example, they see a stream of pure, clear water in the distance, but by the time they get there the stream has dried up. Hungry ghosts have huge bellies and long, thin necks. On the rare occasions that they do manage to find something to eat or drink, the food or water burns their neck as it goes down to their belly, causing them intense agony.

Hell realm (Naraka): hell beings endure unimaginable suffering for eons of time. There are actually eighteen different types of hells, each inflicting a different kind of torment. In the hot hells, beings suffer from unbearable heat and continual torments of various kinds. In the cold hells, beings suffer from unbearable cold and other torments.


So how memory would or could transfer between these realms really is a difficult thing to explain. how could you incorporate memory of a past life which was in another dimension as another creature with a different nervous system? ( or perhaps even in a dimension free from physical form ) this dimension may not have the same physics, or time, or spatial dimensions, and so on, so even if you did receive a memory from a past life, could you even recognize it?

I feel most of those that claim to channel past lives from thousands of years ago, or who claim to channel other souls from the past and future are vastly frauds. There was a magician named James randi who in his later life exposed frauds, he exposed a phony Faith healer named Pete popoff, he exposed Uri Geller to be vastly a fraud, and he would expose these "channelers" that were popular in the 1990s New age movement to be frauds...

You must have strong intellectual razors in tact while wading through these murky waters of spiritual practice and fantastic claims. There is true mystery in this universe, but true mystery can withstand you challenging it, while fraudulent matters generally cave under the pressure of intense examination and testing.

Be persistent, and challenge these things, when it comes to spirituality I promise it's not all nonsense, though I can assure you the majority of it is...but please, don't take my word for it.

It's a fascinating topic but, as many fascinating ones, it's also a broken one.
Until we have some major, concrete insight into the ontology of consciousness we can really make all this kinds of speculations.

It's simply goes like this in my opinion:

1. We don't know what consciousness is
2. We can't say what it can/can't do/be done with
3. So it could have any kind of imaginable properties
x. Reincarnation, remote viewing, other dimensions etc...

I'm not saying these are not possibilities, really, but I want to underline how elusive they are.

Just imagine to live in a world where some kind of religion prohibits to study both living bodies and corpses. We would know jack shit about anatomy. There would be so all sort of theories regarding what's inside of our bodies. Some would speak about some weird alchemical machine converting the air about us into electricity which gives us movement, some would say we have little gnomes inside us pulling ethereal strings and somebody else who knows! But they would all be acceptable possibilities since we would be dealing with the Unknown.
Yet far from truth. Or the truth we have actually defined as such, but that would be yet another topic...
@entheogenic-gnosis, I see your point. Reincarnation is not a "core tenet" of Shamanism like I initially stated.

However it is my observation that many Shamans do believe in past lives. My personal Shaman, a well known Curandera and Altomesayoq paqo, certainly believes in past lives.

Simply do a search for "shamanism past lives" and read all of the opinions out there.

But you are correct, reincarnation is not a Shamanic core tenet the way it is in Tibetan Buddhism.
Past life stuff can help with present day inner turmoil/ psychological issues etc. Regardless of the prove-ability.
Just don't tell the narcissists. We may end up with more Nuevo Jesus's and Atlantians than is necessary.
archaic_revival_ said:
@entheogenic-gnosis, I see your point. Reincarnation is not a "core tenet" of Shamanism like I initially stated.

However it is my observation that many Shamans do believe in past lives. My personal Shaman, a well known Curandera and Altomesayoq paqo, certainly believes in past lives.

Simply do a search for "shamanism past lives" and read all of the opinions out there.

But you are correct, reincarnation is not a Shamanic core tenet the way it is in Tibetan Buddhism.

My idea of shamanism is "observe and interpret", they are closer to explores than anything else, they objectively wonder into these bizzare dimensions, and encounter what they may, They observe what's there, interpret the information, and then do with it what ever they can. If certain shamans experiences have led them to believe in last lives, than that is the personal beliefs of that shaman.

I watched a show called "believer" on CNN, this episode regarded the aghori sadhus, the host of this show goes into these spiritual situations with his head bowed in reverence and his lips puckered to the ass of these spiritual practitioners...

In the aghori episode he wants to meet a feral aghori baba. "Aghori" means "fearless", these guys are trying to try to make you run for your life and shock you, They don't believe in pure and impure and will cover themselves with the ashes of the dead, they eat corpses, they eat rotting animal meat, and will only eat from bowls made from skulls, they wear black, and often will wear pieces of corpses or dead animals.

So this guy finds the hindu version of gg allin and asks him to be his guru, the saddhu rubs ashes of the dead on the host, and begins eating the ashes of dead bodies, he places a crown of corpse jaws on the host, and gets him to eat a piece of a human brain, he is constantly screaming at this guy, and eventually begins eating his own excrement and throwing it at the host, sending him and the camera crew running in fear for their lives...This poor guy thought he was going to be given wisdom from an enlightened holy man, and got excrement thrown in his face, it was pretty funny. Any way, this does relate to past lives, here's how:

In the caste system which all this is going on the lowest outcastes are called "dalit" or "untouchables", as they must not be interacted with or touched by the other castes, they are not allowed in temples, they can't touch community food and water, and are not allowed in schools, and they are looked down on and treated poorly in most cases. they are born into this situation.

if your parents are "doms", which are "ghat workers" who handle the dead, you are going to also be born into doing this work, you are not taught to read, and nobody will touch or talk to you, so this really is all they can do.

It's believed that if you did terrible things in a past life you will be reincarnated as an outcaste, and as an outecaste you continually accumulate bad karma, so in a sense you will forever be reborn as an outcaste...now, if this is the fate of serial killers, and child molesters and people of this nature souls, than it even fits in with the Christian notion of eternal hell, and the ghats of Varanasi, fires constantly burning, pieces of half cremated corpses floating through the water, being condemned to be working daily in close contact with these bodies, ignored by the rest of society, could surly seem like a hell, and since they are constantly accumulating bad karma, the are doomed to be reincarnated in negative spaces such as this forever. If these are the souls of truly terrible people than it would almost seem fitting, however, in reality these people had done nothing, they were simply born, and they are condemned to live and work in the worst positions imaginable.

...This is a situation where beliefs can actually be harming others lives, and on what grounds? There's no real evidence for believing these things, at least not with any type of certianty.

Despite the criticism for myself over-quoting terence McKenna, the excerpt below is a situation where I truly agree with the concept being articulated .

I just don’t resonate with believers in anything. I get insulting to Buddhists for God’s sake. It’s just something about their smugness and their whole bit, I just want to squash it. So you can imagine how I behave in the presence of scientologists and the rest of it. Belief is again, it’s a form of infantilism. There are no grounds for believing anything. -terence McKenna

I feel if the host of that CNN program would confront these same situations first off objectively, and secondly demanding to be convinced through skepticism and test, he would have much better luck at finding true spirituality, the true mystery can be challenged, you can throw everything you have at it and it won't brake, I would ask these people to at least try to show me something convincing enough for me to take them seriously.

I'm sure consciousness probably cycles through many physical forms, through many times and locations, however, at death you must pass through a barrier which very few things can cross. Apparently your consciousness and your karma are the only things that cross the barrier of death, I'm sure information such as memories could cross, but those memories were stored in a physical brain, and were shed when you left your physical body, that sort of thing stays with the corpse...

you know that "blank slate" stage of a high dose DMT flash? It's consciousness which is not connected to your physical body, or your culture, or your memories, or your language, or your planet, your entire ontology has been erased. Being a new born child must be like this, only new borns still have connection and awareness of a physical form, other than that it's probably pretty close. Any way, it's this pure consciousness along with the karma which it had accumulated which travels through the "between" (the bardo) onto another incarnation, things like your identity, your name, your memories, and things of this nature remain with the corpse.

Honestly, it's impossible for anybody to know these things for sure, what happens after death? Do we reincarnate? spiritually should it not be your personal duty to form the best idea possible regarding these issues?

Ideas are constantly changing, when new evidence is presented or when new experiences occur your ideas should change and evolve. When you decide to believe something you are giving up this freedom of changing and evolving the notion with time and as you yourself personally grow and change, and as more evidence is presented. Something you believe is something you accept as ultimate indisputable fact, some people even feel what they believe is so accurate that they must force others to believe the same, they will fight for these beliefs and they will die for them, but God forbid they ever change them or challenge and question them...

I'm straying off topic, so I Will stop.

I believe I mentioned james "the amazing randi" randi in a post number 4 of this thread, near the bottom of the post. Randi was a magician who later in life would disprove frauds. Any way, while researching something else I came across a section in TIHKAL which mentioned exactly this, and while it's not related to past lives, it fits in with my earlier reference:

There once was (and maybe still is) a group called The Institute of Current World Affairs who gave grants to people to allow them to travel and write on topics of cultural interest. I was on their mailing list, which gave me a fabulous collection of essays and vignettes written by Andy Weil, who later spun some of them together into a book called The Marriage of the Sun and Moon. In trying to organize and understand the pharmacology of bufotenine I was pleasantly reminded of the essays Andy devoted to the magic of Uri Geller.

He was initially completely entranced by the way this young man from Israel could muster the psychic energy of an audience to bring about some remarkable phenomenon. It was not just the bending of keys and spoons, but it was remote viewing and mind-reading as well. It was the stuff of the miraculous.

Andy was a total convert, but then there was an abrupt erosion of certainty that began with Andy's meeting with a skeptic called the Amazing Randi, who could duplicate most of the illusions with his sleight of hand mastery. Andy went from total belief to total disbelief in a very short period of time. It seemed that his earlier conviction was wrong and that all was indeed misrepresentation. This change in position of course managed to offend both camps. Then he came finally to a middle ground. The status of Uri Geller may be essentially unanswerable. Psychic phenomena are believed if that is needed. Are these things factual? Who is judging it all, and from what point of view?


I'll make this brief but in my own experiences, the thought of past lives seems to be better defined as the same life but past realms etc. When you get down to it you are you, a magnet for observation in a sense. So even through, for lack of a better term, altered states or different perspectives of a given time, "you" are always "your" eyeball.

Where things get tricky is when you take those different "realms" into consideration. Crazy or not, I believe I have re-experienced the place I was before my earth/flesh birth. I suspect it is universal for all of us, I just can't think of a way to show it in order to gain confirmation.

Memory and foresight seem to have a sort of limitation in that the "light" I guess you could say gets subject to more "gravity" giving it only so much clarity in relation to the spot you are at this moment. Like your window of view is a bubble.

Whether past, present or future the core you that is you is you. You will always refer to yourself as "I". So in my experience the only thing that changes is the view. And that view can change in many ways. 8)

.....in theory.
According to some eastern traditions, your ego, your memories, your identity as your physical self, none of this can cross the barrier of death, only the core of your consciousness and the karma you have imprinted on it throughout your various journeys will cross over into your next incarnation.

If people are in bad positions in life, it could be a result of their karma, keep in mind I said "could", I don't feel it is appropriate to mistreat these "dalit" as they are called in India just because they were born into a poor situation in life or as an out-caste. I think while it's important to be mindful of your own karma, it is not your place to judge others for theirs.

...though it does seem fitting, if murders and child-molesters and war-criminals were reincarnated into these terrible positions and were reincarnated as an outcaste where they will continue to accumulate bad karma being continually reincarnated in such a situation.

Seems like a cop out to me. The time is now.

With the exception of a few, at the time of birth most are usually at a sort of baseline. The only thing that seems to "carry over" is that young minds subject to abuse tend to deliver abuse as time goes on. So there can be a cycle.

I don't however believe I was some pharoah that became some whatever and then jumped over to me being me now. That doesn't make sense. There is no reason to come back. To say you have experienced past lives is different than saying you keep cycling back into the world over and over again.

You came, and you will leave. You know? Nobody reads page 23 of a book over and over again forever.
It's quite easy to see the topic of karma and past lives in the basic made-for-TV version of bad things happening to bad people, or how every hippy chick who does ayahuasca realises, weirdly, that she was the high priestess of the Moon at Macchu Picchu, or King Tut, or whoever, in a previous life.

Obviously in reality nobody knows whether reincarnation exists or not. They believe or theorise. I'm personally quite taken with the idea of the human brain being a sort of receiver for consciousness, and consciousness being some kind of ineffable bundle of streams which dip in and out of manifestation as a human mind.

On a more profane level, however, there is so much to be learnt about the nature of genetic inheritance and how it is catalysed (or otherwise) by environmental factors, and how these environmental factors are catalysed by our genetic predispositions toward certain behaviours, and how we are very much playing on a field set out by our ancestors, recent and distant.

And while we do not think of their lives as being our "past lives", in a way they absolutely are, and we are left with the real and scientifically verifiable mystery of why our DNA drives us to reproduce ourselves, or rather reproduce our DNA which uses our "selves" to further its mind-bogglingly abstruse agenda.

Furthermore, it's always amazing to think how close we are, physically, to the past lives of our current genetic expressions- You, for instance, were in some way extant as an egg in your mother's ovaries while she was in her mother's womb, developing in turn from an egg that was formed in her grandmother's womb.
As basic as it may sound, that close proximity is affected by more than just genetics- I read an article about how certain environmental factors affect generations removed from those directly affected specifically because of the affect on the eggs. The article in question was about famine, though I don't remember the details very well.

Anyway, so I think of it more as "past life" rather than past lives.
I like Alan Watt's concise remark when asked if he believes in reincarnation: "I believe that we reincarnate from one moment into the next."
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