LIFE IN THE MATERIAL WORLD
Developing Body, Emerging Spirit |
Forgetfulness of the Past
Necessity of Material Life | The Meaning of our Suffering | Moments of Liberation
Forgetfulness of the Past
Along with the "loss" of faculties, experienced by the spirit shortly before birth, is the temporary loss of the memory of its past. This is one of the key factors in the mechanism and justice of the process of reincarnation.
Kardec writes¹, "Our forgetfulness of our past lives, especially the painful ones, offers a striking example of the wisdom and goodness of God. Only on the most advanced worlds, where the memory of our painful lives will be no more than the shadowy memory of a bad dream, will we be able to recover the memory of our past in its entirety. On the contrary, in worlds such as ours, the memory of past miseries would only magnify our present hardships. Such considerations lead us to conclude that whatever has been created by God is for the best."
The total knowledge of our past, including other incarnations and time in the spiritual plane, would present great inconveniences for the re-education of individuals and for the progress of humanity. These inconveniences could come in many forms. For example, in our life of multiple relationships, we often live among adversaries of our past incarnations with the objective of achieving reconciliation. This is often done through the love developed in family bonds, or in other circumstances (not necessarily involving a family relationship) that offer the chance for one of us to help out the other, or even for both to work together on a mutual goal. You can imagine, then, the difficulty of achieving a harmonious relationship if we were able to recognize one another, a situation that would arouse a continued animosity.
If we are able to remember that which we have done wrong, especially our most offensive and hurtful wrong-doings, we may become struck with an excessive guilt that could encumber our ability to focus on the needs and objectives of our present life. In a different case, the knowledge of a past life of prestige and honor could provoke the powerful and dangerous human pride, while knowledge of a past of misery and suffering (or even terrible errors) could cause an unnecessary humiliation and possibly remorse, both cases having the ability to paralyze any positive initiatives in the present. As Kardec writes², "Temporary forgetfulness is a blessing.....If life's suffering seems long, what would it be like if memories of the past were added to it?"
You may wonder how a material existence can help us if we are unable to remember who we were and what we did in our previous existence(s). Well, such memories, though they are always kept with us, guarded in our unconscious, are not necessary for us to complete the planned work that we agreed to before reincarnating, for we do retain the experience. We are able to build on that experience, just like the adult who does not remember his first steps in infancy but conserves the acquired ability to walk.
Our instinctive tendencies, such as the moral virtues that come natural to us or the negative habits that strongly tempt us, as well as the type of experiences and challenges we face (though there is no magic and definitive formula) can often give us some insight into our past. Likewise, the observation of such can help us discover the efforts that we must make for our evolution.
¹ discussion to question
394 of "The Spirits' Book
² In "Christian Spiritism", (see "The Sceptic")