Claims of Remembering Past Lives
Some reincarnationists say that they can remember past incarnations. I believe two well known advocates of the theory have claimed to be re-embodiments of Hypatia. Since both were living at the same time, at least one of them must be wrong!
Sometimes, at times of day-dreaming or deep thought, we seem to experience a sense of having lived in conditions that don’t exist now, but which are vivid to the mind for a moment. Reincarnationists take such experiences as evidence for their theory.
But Swedenborg shows that they can have a completely different explanation. He tells us that we are in unconscious association with spirits who influence us in an inner way. On the communication of spirits with people on earth, he says in his HEAVEN AND HELL, paragraph 256:
Angels and spirits are not allowed to speak to a person from their own memory, only from the person’s memory. Spirits and angels have a memory just the way people do. If a spirit talked to a person from his own memory, the person would not know anything else but that all he thought then were his own thoughts, when they were actually the spirit’s. It is like remembering things which the person never actually heard or saw. I have been shown by experience that it is like this. It was from this experience that some of the ancients got the belief that after several thousand years they would return to their former life, and to everything they did in it, and also that they had already returned from before. They concluded this because they occasionally had something like a memory of things which they had never seen or heard. This happened because spirits flowed from their own memory into the ideas of their thought.
So according to Swedenborg, the claims of remembering past lives are due to the projection of the memory of a spirit into the mind of a person receptive to it. Each spirit has had his own life on earth, which the person would “remember” quite clearly, believing it to be a buried memory of one of his own past lives.