KRISHNA assures an uncertain Arjuna that he has lived many lives on Earth.
“Both I and thou have passed through many births,” the Master tells his disciple (Bhagavad-Gita, Ch. 4:31):
“Mine are known unto me, but thou knowest not of thine.”
The fact is most people don’t recall their past lives, because in every rebirth the immortal soul must endure a new body and astral body, a new personality and a new physical brain.
Being handed an empty photo album is a challenge to the incoming soul, hindering it finding a conscious connection to prior experiences and knowledge. Thus “the new ‘personality,'” Blavatsky wrote (Key to Theosophy, Ch. 8), “is no better than a fresh suit of clothes.”
Being so, yet “the record or reflection of all the past lives must survive,” H. P. Blavatsky continues, “for when Prince Siddhartha became Buddha the full sequence of His previous births were seen by Him.” In such a state he was able, she says, “to retrospectively trace the lines of all his lives.”
“This proves to you that the undying qualities of the personality — such as love, goodness, charity, etc., attach themselves to the immortal Ego, photographing on it, so to speak, a permanent image of the divine aspect of the man who was.”
The mind doesn’t fully incarnate until age seven, (Key to Theosophy Section 9). Thus, a child doesn’t feel the full weight of life and karma right away. As such, they are like karma-less “little Buddhas.” If not pressured to conform by parents and society, it is possible for them to express memories of their former life (s), i.e. experience “intimations of immortality” for an extended period.
“Spirit got itself entangled with gross matter,” Blavatsky wrote in The Theosophist, “for the same reason that life gets entangled with the foetus matter. It followed a law, and therefore could not help the entanglement occurring.”
It was Plotinus who said that “our body is the true river of Lethe, for ‘souls plunged into it forget all’ — our terrestrial body is like Lethe” (the “river of forgetfulness” in the Hades of Greek mythology.) Using a modern analogy, a new computer cannot be expected to recall the data stored on the discarded one, unless the old data is preserved and reinstalled in the new machine.
But this is what sometimes happens with children who die at an early age from accidents or illness, if they had created no basis for a prolonged after-death dream state. Nature is never wasteful, and the still viable astral pattern body is not disintegrated as with normal death.
The still vital and alive astral matrix is attracted back into the soul’s new body, with all its memories preserved intact.Thus in many cases such children are said to be born with two astral bodies, one new, the other old.