I suppose in the world, today, there are really three approaches to the idea of reincarnation. A two-fold one in the West, where the idea itself is almost non-existent, either a belief in the transmigration of souls - that you could be a human being in one life and an animal in the next, and therefore that there is great danger in swiping flies and treading on ants because it could be your grandmother -- or simply an interest in past lives. That is almost the sole interest in the concept of rebirth in the West.
In the East, broadly speaking, people do believe in reincarnation and, correctly, in relation to the Law of Karma. Unfortunately, even in the East, the Law of Karma is seen from an erroneous point of view. Of course, here and there, both in East and West, there is a correct interpretation and approach to the idea of rebirth, and its close connection with the Law of Action and Reaction, Cause and Effect.
In the Orient, most people believing in the Law of Karma accept that they are who and where they are because of their actions in a previous life, which is true; but, unfortunately, they think they can do nothing about changing their particular situation, which is not true. In the West, we tend to think that we are totally in control of our destiny, which we are to some extent, but that there is no greater law governing our destiny, which is not true.
The Westerner tends to reject the idea of a future life. It is an idea which is only just beginning to engage people's minds. If he thinks about it at all, he really thinks about it in terms of: If I have a future life, I must have had a past life; and if I had a past life it is interesting to know who I was. The popular literature in the West about reincarnation is almost exclusively about previous existences.
There are now many techniques, authentic or otherwise, advertised and used to take people back into an experience of their past lives: hypnosis, rebirthing, and so on. Of course, there is also much serious research on the subject going on in several countries. The work of Professor Ian Stevenson and others is adding much evidence pointing to the likelihood of the fact of reincarnation.
The Danger of Knowing our Past Lives
Is it of value to know our past lives? After a certain point: yes. Before that point, not only is it not of major value, it can actually be dangerous. There is a little-known law that when we become truly aware of our past life we enter into the karma of that time. Most of us have a heavy enough load of karma to deal with in this life without an unnecessary load from some previous one, which happily we are not yet called upon to resolve.
And it is irresponsible for so-called clairvoyants to tell people about their past lives; even if they are correct. Particularly if they are correct! If they are wrong, people will still create thought forms around that incorrect image of themselves. That makes for glamour, illusion. If they are right, the people involved become subject to the karma for which they may not yet be prepared. There are occasions, in certain illnesses of a mental nature, which cannot be handled in any other way, in which it may be useful to go back to a previous life. These are relatively few, and the way is through hypnosis.
The whole subject is fraught with danger and complexity. When our past lives enter spontaneously into our consciousness, they will do so under law. The more important thing is to know that every moment we are making karma; we are creating our next life right now.
Needless to say, you will always find clairvoyants, channels and sensitives who are only too happy, for a price, to look into your past and to tell you about your previous lives. But how do you know if they are right or wrong? In what possible way can you verify what they may tell you? It is better for you to keep your money. If you are told that in a previous life you were important and powerful (it is usually some king, queen, priestess), a priestess in Egypt, say, how can you prove this? And are you, today, at least the equivalent in importance, influence and power in the world, contributing something original and creative to life?