Memories, Dreams, Reflections

“The question of karma is obscure to me, as is also the problem of personal rebirth or of the transmigration of souls. “With a free and open mind” I listen attentively to the Indian doctrine of rebirth, and look around in the world of my own experience to see whether somewhere and somehow there is some authentic sign pointing toward reincarnation.

Naturally, I do not count the relatively numerous testimonies, here in the West, to the belief in reincarnation. A belief proves to me only the phenomenon of belief, not the content of the belief. This I must see revealed empirically in order to accept it. Until a few years ago I could not discover anything convincing in this respect, although I kept a sharp lookout for any such signs.

Recently, however, I observed in myself a series of dreams which would seem to describe the process of reincarnation in a deceased person of my acquaintance. But I have never come across any such dreams in other persons, and therefore have no basis for comparison.

Since this observation is subjective and unique, I prefer only to mention its existence and not to go into it any further. I must confess, however, that after this experience I view the problem of reincarnation with somewhat different eyes, though without being in a position to assert a definite opinion.

If we assume that life continues “there,” we cannot conceive of any other form of existence except a psychic one; for the life of the psyche requires no space and no time. Psychic existence, and above all the inner images with which we are here concerned, supply the material for all mythic speculations about a life in the hereafter, and I imagine that life as a continuance in the world of images. Thus the psyche might be that existence in which the hereafter or the land of the dead is located.

From the psychological point of view, life in the hereafter would seem to be a logical continuation of the psychic life of old age. With increasing age, contemplation, and reflection, the inner images naturally play an ever greater part in man’s life. “Your old men shall dream dreams.”

That, to be sure, presupposes that the psyches of the old men have not become wooden, or entirely petrified. In old age, one begins to let memories unroll before the mind’s eye and, musing, to recognize oneself in the inner and outer images of the past. This is like a preparation for an existence in the hereafter, just as, in Plato’s view, philosophy is a preparation for death.” — Carl Gustav Jung, On Life After Death