Jesus said, When you see your likeness, you rejoice. But when you see your images which came into being before you, and which neither die nor become manifest, how much you will have to bear! (84)
Patterson and Maeyer: When you see your likeness, you are happy. But when you see your images that came into being before you and that neither die nor become visible, how much you will have to bear!
Nancy Johnson: When you see your likeness, you are happy, but when you see your images rising before you without subsiding or approaching, how long can you stand that?
Brill: When you see your likeness, you rejoice; but when you see your images which came into being before you–they neither die nor are made manifest–how much will you bear?
I doubt if anybody absolutely knows what this verse means, but I do know a possible interpretation so I will share it with you.
We have all had millions of incarnations, beginning with an atom of hydrogen and ending with our last human life. In each of these we have had a form, a body, in which we lived. And when death expelled us from those bodies we entered the astral world and took on a form there, as well.
Sometimes in meditation we see those previous forms in differing degrees of clarity. At other times we feel their vibration or intuit them more than we actually see a form. But whichever it might be, for me it is a very peculiar experience and one that I do not much care for. At such times I do not try to banish the experience, but just sit and keep on meditating as usual. After a bit the impression fades away and that is that, though on occasion another form takes its place.
Why does this happen? Mostly because our inner mind is doing a kind of psychic housecleaning and is discarding deep subconscious impressions that no longer have relevance. At such times it is a sign of karma being dissolved on a subliminal level. On other occasions it is an indication of some deeply buried impulse or karma that is being manifested momentarily. (We can reap or dissolve our karma both in dreams and during meditation just as we do in our ordinary waking life.)
In a sense those forms are “ghosts” of our former lives that are wandering in our subconscious mind. If it was not beneficial to perceive them it would not happen in meditation, so we should calmly observe them. There is no denying that it is something at least mildly unsettling, so this verse speaks of “bearing” or “standing” it. That is certainly my experience. But the only correct response is to keep centered on meditation and remain indifferent to everything else. After all, meditation called the ghosts up and will exorcise them, too. That is why Jesus said: “In your patience possess ye your souls” (Luke 21:19). The word translated “souls” is psyche–our own mind. Such experiencing of the forms of previous lives is a means for us to become masters of our entire psychic nature. We do not have to enjoy it, but we should value and appreciate it.
Read the next article in the Gospel of Thomas for Yogis: Our Forefather Adam