Q: When reincarnated do we retain our current memories and interests, or what it is that makes us feel “ourselves”?
All the memories of our past lives remain in the subconscious mind in the forms of impressions in the mind-substance (chitta) which is a field of magnetic energy. They sort of float around, vibrating individually as samskaras, but those of similar magnetism become attracted to one another and become bundles of samskaras called vasanas. Because of their combined force the vasanas are experienced as impulses, attractions and aversions in the mind.
Thus we enter each life with a definite personality that has the potential of unfoldment and expression in response to the experiences we undergo in that life. However, the responsiveness depends on the evolutionary level of the individual and the character of the experiences.
Evolution and the subconscious
The more evolved a person is, the greater is the level of sensitivity and response. In those of lower evolution the subconscious is truly “buried,” whereas in those of higher development the subconscious and conscious minds influence and interact with one another.
Since the conscious mind is centered in the brain, and in each life we have a completely new one, past life impressions in the form of impulses, attractions and aversion can only manifest as the brain is evolved. In those of moderate evolution they are just impulses, but in those of higher evolution they often manifest as actual memories of past lives. Usually they do not arise spontaneously, but are evoked by trigger experiences.
Past life memories and age
The younger the person the more likely these memories will arise. As the years go on, the mind becomes distracted and coarsened, especially through diet since the mind is formed of the energies derived from the food we eat.
Adept yogis become increasingly aware of these subconscious impressions as the barrier between the conscious and subconscious minds becomes lessened and the two minds begin to communicate with one another readily. The yogi begins to remember the roots of his present experiences and reactions. His recalling of the past illumines and explains his present life situations and he consciously shapes his future actions accordingly. It is all quite practical and purposeful.
Q: I can understand that our mind may be “blanked” when we are reborn, but I read of cases where someone is born with genius, such as Mozart, that seems to come through from previous lives and of others where a child takes her family to meet her “previous husband” and in these cases memories seem to have carried directly through.
This all occurs through the evolutionary development of the individual. Genius is a trait of a high level of evolution. Shanti Devi [Read The Thrilling Narrative of Shanti Devi and Her Past Life], whom I assume you are citing, was an accomplished yogi in her previous birth. Even so, living both a past and present life simultaneously produced great confusion in her mind. Fortunately, Sri Maitri Devi, with whom I became acquainted in my first pilgrimage to India, was able to help her resolve the difficulty.
Q: Does our spiritual essence have some sort of “character” that remains “us”?
Our spiritual essence is the only “us” we shall ever have. Our many lives in this world and in higher worlds are only dreams. We the dreamers, are the only reality behind it all. We write, produce, direct and star in each life. Forgetfulness or awareness of that depends on the level of our spiritual consciousness.
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