I have been asked about the connection between Ervin Laszlo’s Akashic Field Theory and past-life memory retrieval. Laszlo’s theory is very similar to the Akashic Records of Theosophy but it is couched in more scientific or scientific-sounding terms and is essentially an updated version of that idea, an effort to unite quantum physics and the perennial philosophy of Eastern religions. You can read about it in his book Science and the Akashic Field: An Integral Theory of Everything.
Many psychic past-life readers refer to the Akashic Records as the source of the past-life information they produce. Edgar Cayce said that he got some of his information from reading the minds of his clients, but the rest of it (most of it) from the Akashic Records. The Akashic Records have even been identified as the source of information retrieved in regressions under hypnosis. Many parapsychologists like Laszlo’s theory and assume that it can account for past-life information without having to allow for reincarnation. For that, see the book, The Akashic Experience: Science and the Cosmic Memory Field.
Laszlo himself believes that his idea accounts for the reincarnation cases. He says “phenomena suggestive of reincarnation consist of impressions and ideas recounted by people about sites, persons, and events they have not and could not have encountered in their present lifetime” (Science and the Akashic Field, p. 123). On the next page he acknowledges that birthmarks appear in some cases, but then concludes that rather than reincarnation, we retrieve past-life memories when “our brain becomes tuned to the holographic record of another person in the vacuum.” “Past-life experiences,” he says, “signify the retrieval of information from the A-field [Akashic Field], rather than the incarnation of a spirit of a deceased person.”
In other words, past-life memory is not actually memory at all, but rather is an accessing of information in the Akashic Field or Akashic Records through clairvoyance or some similar psychic process. Laszlo is not the only person to find this idea attractive, as I have noted. But how realistic is it? Does it really account for the past-life memory we see in the reincarnation cases we have studied?
I think it might if all that were involved in past-life memory were the retrieval of information about a deceased person, if it were only “impressions and ideas” about “sites, persons, and events,” as it is for some psychics. But that is not all there is to it, by far, for many of those who experience the memories, and when we try make this idea account for the whole range of phenomena we see in reincarnation cases it quickly becomes clear that it just doesn’t work.
For one thing, people with past-life memories aren’t simply recounting information, they often feel directly connected with the earlier life. Their experience is of a continuity of consciousness and they may refer to the person they were before in the first person, as “I,” not “he” or “she.” Along with this may come a variety of different emotional connections, so that they not only have feelings appropriate to a situation, they have feelings toward people similar to the feelings shown by the people whose lives they recall. In the child reincarnation cases that are solved (the previous persons identified), when the children are taken to meet the former family, they behave toward members of that family as the previous person did.
Solving a case allows us to compare the rememberer with the deceased person whose life he recalls, and we can see all sorts of other connections too, such as similarities of interests and of thought patterns, temperaments, etc. There may also be a variety of similar behaviors, sometimes expressed in play and sometimes in unlearned skills, including language skills.
It is very hard to see how the psychological connections, emotional affinities and apparent behavioral carryovers could be explained in terms of acquisition of information alone. People in favor of the Akashic Records theory of past-life memory just ignore these things and they may not even be aware that they must take them into account. From the way Laszlo describes past-life memory, he certainly doesn’t seem to be aware of them!
There are often physical things in reincarnation cases that must be explained as well. Laszlo mentions birthmarks, but it is not at all clear how his information-retrieval idea would account for them. Probably he assumes that they are coincidences only, or perhaps the things that prompted a child to search the Akashic Records for information on a deceased person that corresponded to them. This is the position taken by some parapsychologists. But this too fails when you realize all the different ways that physical signs can be represented in reincarnation cases. It is not just birthmarks and birth defects, but resemblances in facial characteristics and overall physical structure, even sometimes internal diseases. In solved reincarnation cases, those with identified previous persons, these go way beyond any plausible coincidence, but are consistent with the idea of reincarnation.
However, in order to provide a proper response to the Akashic Field theory of past-life memory retrieval one must not only show where it fails, but offer an alternative theory in its place. I have been working on such a theory, parts of which I have written about in other posts. I develop that theory at greater length in my Signs of Reincarnation course and book.
My theory begins with the observation that past-life memory resembles this-life memory very closely. It has many if not all of the characteristics of this-life memory and may be talked about in the same terms. This leads me to think that past-life memory really is no different than this-life memory in principle. Materialist researchers assume that memory is stored in the brain somehow, but there are many problems with this idea, and they have never been able to show where it is stored. It seems much more likely that the brain gets involved with the how memories are recorded and retrieved, but doesn’t actually store them.
So where besides the brain could memories be stored, if they are not retrieved from the Akashic Records? I believe they are registered and stored in our subconscious minds. From there, they make their way from time to time to our conscious awareness. I believe this is true of all memories, and that helps to account for why people with past-life memories report that they have exactly the same feel as memories of their present lives, and why past-life memory retrieval is like present-life memory retrieval in many ways (for instance, in that it is often associational). Psychics also say that there is a difference in feel between things they remember and things they learn about clairvoyantly.
If our memories are stored in our minds, and if our minds are not generated by our brains, then our minds could survive the death of our bodies, carry on after death and become associated with (reincarnate into) other bodies later on. When that happens, if I am right, the memories of our past lives would still be in our subconscious, and would only require the right conditions to present themselves to conscious awareness.
The continuity of the mind or consciousness from one body to another would also explain why past-life identities are experienced as continuous with the present life and would account for similarities in psychological traits, temperaments, etc. I believe it could also account for repetitive behavior patterns like skills and even for the transmission of physical traits, if the mind itself is responsible for conveying these to the new body. There is nothing very extraordinary about this last proposal. We know the during our present lives our minds can affect our bodies in these ways, and all I am proposing is that we allow for a reincarnating mind to do the same. So I believe I have a theory which handles the full range of the reincarnation case data much more successfully than the Akashic Field or Akashic Records idea does.
This post was written originally for my Signs of Reincarnation group on Facebook. See https://www.facebook.com/groups/965923533422836/permalink/1086849804663541/