There is a phenomenon where our memory seems to be playing tricks on us. Sometimes, we think of something that seems both familiar to us and new at the same time. It’s sort of like a déjà vu experience, but rather than it being an experience already experienced, what seems familiar may actually be something that we had some kind of knowledge of before we even came into this world.
We all know that the mind doesn’t really start remembering things we’ve experienced until we’re maybe four or five, right? What could be going on when we remember something we didn’t even know we ever knew? The world’s sacred traditions acknowledge the importance of seeking answers to the mysteries of life.
There is the ancient Jewish legend of the angel and the unborn soul, which has its parallels in many other spiritual traditions, too. The various versions of the legend tell about the unborn soul being visited in the womb by an angel, actually a number of times, and being shown as well as told what its life on earth will be like, in quite a lot of detail, too. But, of course, as soon as the infant is born it comes kicking and screaming into this world and forgets what it had learned as an unborn soul. The punch line to the legend is that the child spends the rest of its life trying to remember what it forgot.
Poets, too, understand the lure of the mysterious. William Wordsworth provides a clear perspective on this fascinating phenomenon of remembering what we didn’t know:
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star, hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar: Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness, but trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home: Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
…Our Souls have sight of that immortal sea
Which brought us hither…
It is through remembrance that we are brought to a spiritual life. Remembrance is a meditation that awakens us to, and focuses us on, the deeper, everlasting reality of the soul. When we suddenly remember something that is totally unfamiliar to us, we may be getting a soul memory, something we may have even known before we were born. When this happens, it provides the key to knowing where we have come from and where we are going.
Could it be that we get glimpses of what our soul knew before we were born? Did this ever happen to you? If so, how did this provide you with a sense of home, of compassion, of belonging, or of contentment? Did you also get a sense of connection to an ‘immortal sea’ that brought you forth? How did this experience give you a clearer sense of where you are going? Reflect on the times of knowing what you didn’t know in your life, and share with us here how this added to your life’s purpose or meaning.