Souls differ in their memories of their journey to Earth once they are born.
The ability to remember our soul’s journey from pre-conception to birth is proportional to our spiritual maturity. The higher the consciousness, the greater the memory. In the East, Gautama Buddha categorized the various degrees of birth memory thousands of years ago — from the most gifted and conscious to the least gifted and unconscious.
Advanced conscious birth – We consciously enter our mother’s womb, maintain conscious awareness while in the womb, and experience a conscious birth.
We have full recall of the entire journey into birth.
Intermediate partially conscious birth – We consciously enter our mother’s womb, maintain conscious awareness while in the womb, however we do not experience a conscious birth. We have partial recall of the journey into birth.
Intermediate less conscious birth – We consciously enter our mother’s womb, we do not retain conscious awareness while in the womb nor do we experience a conscious birth. We have partial recall of the journey into birth.
Least conscious birth – We unconsciously enter our mother’s womb. We are unconscious while in the womb nor do we experience a conscious birth. We have zero recall of the journey into birth.
In the West, the ancient Greek philosopher Plato refers to varying degrees of gifted memory.
He writes: Few souls, once they enter the flesh, are left having sufficient memory. The unfortunate ones forget the holy things which they saw when they journeyed with God. This is because when souls stand at the entrance to the human realm, someone gives them a potion of forgetfulness (Lethe) to drink. Foolish, less mature souls drink heavily of this beverage whereas wiser souls avoid it as much as possible.
The temptation to drink deeply of the water of forgetfulness is strong.
Plato says the journey to the plain of Lethe takes the soul through a dry, torrid region. Wisdom is needed in order to resist the drink of oblivion.
In modern times, a Vietnamese man who refused to drink the spiritual soup of forgetfulness serves as a curious example. He surreptitiously offered it to a companion – his dog who took the journey with him. Consequently, following birth, he recalled his inter-life journey as well as a past life. No one knows what happened to his canine companion.
In certain cases, wiser souls avoid the drink of oblivion by selecting an optional beverage.
Variations of twin potions follow:
Gnosticism – An immature soul drinks the water of forgetfulness and forgets the regions he has visited. Consequently, in earthly life, he will be continually troubled in his heart. In sharp contrast, a spiritually mature soul receives a cup filled with thoughts, wisdom, and soberness. When the wiser soul is cast into a human body, the cup of soberness whips his heart until he seeks the mysteries of the Light and inherits the Light forever.
Greek Orphics – Gold tablets found buried in graveyards instruct departed souls how to reside permanently in Heaven: Do not quench your burning thirst in water from the fountain on the left with a white cypress tree growing near it. Instead, ask the guardians for a drink of cool water from the holy well of the Goddess Mnemosyne (Memory). Then you will become a god and not a mortal.
Zoroastrianism – Inhabitants of paradise drink from a range of purifying draughts: limpid water; rivers of milk – signifying rivers of knowledge; rivers of purified honey; wine which removes terror, fear, and sadness. Inhabitants of hell drink from four rivers as well: river of heat; river of water, blood and matter; river of liquid pitch; river of poison – meaning death, ignorance, simple ignorance, and compound ignorance.
Macrobius– The drink of the gods, the highest and purest nectar, sustains celestial beings; whereas the drink of the souls, the muddy drink from river Lethe, causes souls to stagger, forget their previous state, and experience rebirth. References to individuals who slip through the cracks of forgetfulness appear throughout religion, philosophy, literature, and mythology. Several examples follow:
Pythagoras – The time has come; the law must be obeyed. My heaviness increases, I feel a sensation of dimness. My soul no longer sees its companions of light except through a veil, and this veil, ever denser and denser, gives a presentiment of the coming separation.
I hear their sad farewells; the tears of the blest, the loved ones whom
I am leaving, fall over me like a heavenly dew which will leave in my heart the burning thirst of an unknown happiness.
Then, with solemn oaths, I promise to remember – to remember the light when in the world of darkness, to remember truth when in the world of falsehood, and love when in the world of hatred.
Ulysses (Plato’s Republic – “Myth of Er”) – I remember my former long life of trials and tribulations and am tired of ambition. That is why, in the pre-birth state, I chose the life of a private man of no business.
Mother Meera – Before coming to Earth I knew who I was, knew that I would incarnate and what my work would be. I am an incarnation of the Divine Mother and this is my first experience as a human.
Paramahansa Yogananda – My far-reaching memories are not unique. Many yogis have the ability to retain self-awareness without interruption during the big sleep of death – the gap between the end of one life and the beginning of another.
Empedocles – I am a wanderer exiled from the divine dwelling. I fell down to Earth from my high estate due to the decree of necessity which requires erring souls to wander from their heavenly home. I experienced a series of human lifetimes for 30,000 seasons. In former times, I had been a boy, a girl, a bush, a bird, and a mute fish in the sea. I wept at being born on Earth, the region of raging discord, and expect to rejoin the immortals following this life.
Rabbi Moses ben Nahman – I remember being among God’s hidden treasures from the beginning of time. God called me forth from Nothing. Divine forces then built, nourished, and gave form to my soul. My soul remained preserved in the chambers of the King before descending upon Heaven’s ladder from the primeval pool of Siloam to Earth, the garden of the King.
Old Testament (Job 38:4-21) – I was there when God laid down the Earth’s foundations.
Greek Goddess Mnemosyne – I know all that has been, all that is, all that will be.
Rumi – For a million years I floated in ether, even as the atom floats uncontrolled. If I do not actually remember that state of mine, I often dream of my atomic travels.
Tagore – The Time that my Journey takes is Long and the Way of it Long. I came out on the Chariot of the First Gleam of Light and Pursued my Voyage through the Wilderness of Worlds, leaving my Track on Many a Star and Planet. Gifted memory is a natural part of our cultural heritage. Plato, Sufism, Gnosticism, Mormonism, American Transcendentalism, Hinduism, and Buddhism, to name just a few, teach that memories will arise as we ascend the evolutionary ladder of consciousness:
Plato – The soul is immortal, has been born many times, and has seen all things which exist, whether in this world or the world below, has knowledge of them all. It is no wonder then that the soul should remember all that it ever knew for all inquiry and learning is Recollection.
A. Bronson Alcott – The soul’s destiny is to see through the veil – to dispel the oblivious slumber and recover for the mind recollections of its descent and destiny.
Epes Sargent – The soul is like a bird that is born in a cage, however, nothing can deprive it of its natural longings, or obliterate the mysterious remembrance of its heritage.
Gnosticism – God endowed us with an intelligence and faculty of perceiving so that we can recall that we are strangers down here.
Mormonism – The power of the Spirit allows us to catch a spark from the awakened memories of the immortal soul, which lights up our whole being as with the glory of our former home. For further information, see Gifted Memory, Part V in Cosmic Cradle.