Do we dream about past lives?

Babies in the womb display all the physical characteristics of dreaming, which begs the question, what could they possibly be dreaming about? With no experience at all in this life, could they be dreaming about lives they have had before?

I’ve believed in past lives since I was eleven or twelve years old because when I started learning French at school I just knew how to speak it. It felt familiar. I had never been to France, but I was certain I must have been a French person, once upon a time. The belief in past lives has become common in recent decades but back in the early sixties it was something you kept to yourself.

When I visited France for the first time, with an older cousin and her friends, it was not a good experience. I put that down to me being sixteen and them in their twenties. My second visit was also really bad, and my third, but again, there seemed to be logical reasons why I didn’t enjoy them.

It was only in my thirties that I realised this was not to do with individual visits but fundamental to my relationship with France. Every four or five years, driven by our friends’ huge enthusiasm for France, we would take the family across the channel for a few weeks in the summer, and whenever we did that, as the boat pulled out of Plymouth I would start to feel agitated and depressed.

In France, my head said, ‘This is nice. It’s warm and sunny. I like these al fresco cafes, and wonderful patisserie!’ but I felt a great tension inside me, as if I was holding my breath. I felt darkness like a cloud that only lifted when we came in sight of the English coast and I could start to breathe again.

By then, the New Age had arrived in Cornwall, and I saw a palm reader who told me I had lived in France in a previous life. I knew that – but how did she? I asked her for more information and she told me she saw me on the steps of a grand house, in a long blue dress. It was the eighteenth century and I was the lady of the manor.

This felt very disappointing. People always seemed to think that in past lives they had been royalty or had the kind of lives that are the stuff of historical fiction, but I couldn’t personally relate to the scene she described at all.

However, the fact that she had said I’d had a past life in France piqued my curiosity, and I went to see a past life therapist. She took me back to a dusty ditch in the North of France, during the last war. Immediately, I remembered a very vivid dream I had had as a small child, in which I was lying in a dry ditch, with ants crawling all over me.

But I was born less than a decade after the end of the war, and weren’t past lives supposed to be centuries ago? I did some research and discovered a theory that souls rebirthed more quickly after a massive and violent loss of life in war.

That’s as far as I’d taken it. Interesting ideas, thoughts, feelings, about past life possibilities. Then a few weeks ago an astrologer friend, the astro life coach, mentioned she had discovered how to find the date of your most recent past life in your birth chart. We had never spoken about past lives and she certainly didn’t know what I had been thinking about mine, so I was astonished when she told me I had died in 1941.

It’s all just musings and possibilities, but I like the intriguing idea that when we are very young some of our dreams may come from memories of forgotten worlds we lived in once before.

Do you believe in past lives? Have you had vivid dreams about places you’ve never been to in this life but feel you know really well?

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21 thoughts on “Do we dream about past lives?”

  1. I hear and see people talking about this frequently. Nearly always they were kings, princesses or powerful people in previous lives. I haven’t heard of one yet that was a blind pauper begging in the slums of Bombay…

    1. Hi Don – I find that too, and it makes me feel sceptical about past life therapy in general. I’m always interested in other people’s experiences but I guess, like most people, I base my beliefs on my own experiences and I don’t attach any importance to being ‘right.’ I like intriguing possibilities…

    2. How many past life recall sessions are you familiar with? I have read quite a bit on the subject and talked to people on forums who have experienced them and a great deal of them remember very unpleasant and technically inconsequential lives. There is also the likelihood that past life memories work like our present life memories, in which major events, like our wedding, for example, are more vivid than run-of-the mill days; events that are marked by strong emotion and are life-changing stand out. Whether you were a general leading troops into battle or a woman being burned at the stake for supposedly being a witch, powerful memories will stick.

      1. I’ve read a lot about it Maria, but only had one session myself and random conversations with other people who have had past life recall sessions, so I certainly don’t claim to be an expert. The point you make about unpleasant or momentous life events being more memorable makes me notice that a good proportion of the anecdotes people have shared with me about past-life regressions are of final days or dying. Having said that, the strongest feeling of past life that people have told me about in dreams seems to come not so much from major ‘remembered’ events but places which feel familiar although the dreamer is sure they have never been there in this life. Thank-you for commenting 🙂

  2. I have at least two places I often dream of that feel connected to past lives. Of course, they could be future lives. Who’s to say our interpretation of time is the only interpretation. One is a small farm on the edge of a town. If I drove by the fence and driveway I would know it immediately. The other is an out-door market area with bistros, shops and outdoor tables.

    1. Hi Nicole – I think it’s the intimate and ordinary nature of these familiar dream places that makes them feel like authentic ‘memories’ and I agree, they could be glimpses into future or even concurrent lives.

  3. I had an extremely vivid memory once after spending a week away on a healing course. It came to me in a dream but I was sure I was ‘re-member-ing’ .. in this case the members of my family. I had the same mother and we lived in the desert and I had a much younger brother who was taken from us by another tribe. It came to me I had been reborn to my mother to help salve her wound. I felt her incredible grief in the dream and strangely she was frequently told in this life that she had a son whenever she consulted a psychic or an ‘intuitive’ as they’re more likely to be known now. As a very young child I had a frequent nightmare where I was being buried by sand and I could feel the incredible weight on me. I never had any scary experiences with sand and I feel it’s more likely that this ties in with my past life – and not this one.

    1. Hi Melanie – this is so interesting. The quality of some dreams, which feel more like memories, and recurring childhood dreams which don’t relate to any experiences in this life can make the idea of past lives feel, as someone put it to me in an email today, simply ‘logical and true.’ Did you talk to your mother about your feeling of having been born to her again to help salve her wound. That’s such a profound sense of connection. It’s the kind of thing that makes me feel psychological theories about human identity are woefully lacking.

      1. Thank you Jenny! I did share my dream/memory with my mother who had no memories to add to mine but she did relate that she felt the timing of my birth had salved a wound in this life – for herself and her parents. We could rationalise that I knew this subconsciously but why would I dream of the desert .. and why the nightmares involving sand?

  4. One more thought to add is that I have since wondered if we have memories that might also come from a soul group .. I inherited a ‘memory’ that manifested briefly as a phobia whenever I had a hot bath. I felt that I would drown. But many years later when I got to meet my father and spend some time with him he recounted falling under the water while he was left unsupervised in a bath while suffering from malaria. As far as I know I had never heard of his experience before. I reasoned my fear away and took cooler baths for a while but I believe it’s sometimes referred to ‘epigenetics’. That’s a scientific viewpoint but I also wonder if we’re born to certain family members more than once – and we share the same soul group.

  5. I feel that we do travel through lives in soul groups and I absolutely believe in a kind of ancestral or inherited memory. We have access through dreaming to what Jung called the collective unconscious and I see that like ripples on a pond – the closest in being our own family/tribe, then our nation and so on. I think some things I’ve struggled with in my life are not strictly mine, in the sense that the roots aren’t in my own personal life story but in family mythology long lost to conscious memory.

  6. Back in the 80s I had a powerful dream which I believed to be a past life memory, mainly because it bore no relationship to my current life at all. Many parts of it were almost opposite – I had 2 daughters (in this life I have 2 sons), my marriage relationship was so different from my current life experience and my body was different as I was small and dark-haired. The dream was set in Victorian times, in a largish comfortable (and gloomy) house and I had taken to my bed full of grief because our younger daughter had died. My husband was by the bed looking anxious and worried. We were good friends and had a supportive relationship that was calm and respectful. Behind him was our elder daughter, staring at me coldly (she, understandably, felt abandoned by me). My grief had taken me over and I’d lost the will to live. Suddenly at the foot of the bed I saw our dead daughter in ghost form. She looked happy and well. I was so pleased and tried to share it with my husband, after all he was grieving too and would be delighted to see her looking happy and safe. But he refused to look, he just grew more anxious about me, convinced I was rambling and losing my mind. I kept insisting he look but his concern for me just intensified. I felt so frustrated that he wouldn’t listen to me. I so wanted to help him with his grief and felt at a loss to know how I could make him believe me. My loud sobbing woke me from the dream, my body wracked with emotional pain.
    Instinctively I have never felt attracted to any aspect of the Victorian era and a dark depressing feeling rises in me when it is mentioned. Using astrology I recently worked out when my last life ended and the result was 1891. Certainly this could easily tie in with my dream.
    Thanks for this post Jen, it has been fascinating to hear your story and to read the replies.

    1. ‘That dark depressing feeling’ – yes, that sounds like exactly what I experience when I go to France yet, like you, I can find nothing in my current life which would explain it. So much of dreamwork, and explorations into things like past lives, is about the emotional quality of the experience, which is hard to describe to other people but absolutely real to the individual. I think that’s why we tend not to share these experiences, but it’s wonderful how, when we do, we find out that other people have experienced something very similar. Thank-you for sharing your story, Pat 🙂

  7. When my son was 3 he told my mother and I of how he owned a little store. From his description it was in the 1800’s. He told us of all kinds of goods that were sold there. My mom just thought he had an active imagination. But the detail was such it made me curious to ask him questions. He told me that his wife had left him and their many children. It seemed to upset him and he would ask me why did his wife leave them. He would talk about this till he was 4. Not to long ago the topic came up of past lives and I was telling someone of what he had shared when he was 3. He was saying how he didn’t remember but as soon as I said maybe it was in the wild west he quickly corrected me and said no it was in England. I said, I thought you didn’t remember. He responded I don’t know why or how but I know it was England. My son is 23 now.

    1. Hi Loretta – thank-you for sharing your story. It makes me wonder what your son feels about England now in this life – whether he dreams about it, or is drawn to it, or like me, prefers to avoid a place that holds such difficult ‘memories.’

  8. Wow! It’s so cool to read everyone’s past-life memories here! I believe in them, although I don’t know that I’ve had any myself. What I do have sometimes are strong emotional reactions to certain things that don’t seem explainable given my current life. Unlike your feelings about France, though, Jenny, these are usually positive feelings. For instance, from a young age, I have always wanted a farm. None of my family were farmers or grew up on farms, but that desire was very strong in me. I have been working toward it my whole life–right now I have a big garden and a bunch of chickens. And when I think about having even more animals and maybe a barn, I get tears in my eyes. Even writing this, I feel myself tearing up. It feels like there’s a history here that I’m only dimly aware of. I get the feeling I’m trying, in a way, to get back “home.”

    1. I know! I’ve had a number of private messages about this post and loved hearing everyone’s stories here in the comments – and thank-you for adding yours. I do also feel positive emotional reactions to place – particularly the far North – where I spend most summers almost in a state of bliss, with such a strong sense of homecoming. It’s as if past geography is already programmed into us. Weird… and wonderful 🙂

      1. Weird! I feel a similar affinity for the north (with mountains and mountains of snow), even though I’ve never been farther north than Montreal and never lived through a really hard American winter (being from the mid-Atlantic). Again, it’s something that’s been with me since childhood. This may or may not be connected to my desire for a farm, but my earliest visions of the farm I wanted involved me trekking out through the snow to gather eggs for breakfast.

        Thanks for giving all of us a chance to “reminisce”!

  9. I love the way this entry piques my own curiosities and it also reminds me of a similar experience. When I traveled to Egypt the first time in 2009 this reality around past lives was on my mind as I knew that I would be with a group and that many folks feel called to travel there due to memories. I hadn’t had any clear, remembered past life memories or dreams of Egypt at that point.

    My first night, staying in a Hotel near the Great Pyramids, I got up out of bed while asleep and dreaming that I was participating in a sacred temple ritual inside the holy of holies… I woke with my fingers in a very exact position under the hips of my room-mate! We were both taken aback, as you might imagine. I have never been a sleepwalker, so this incident has bemused me and also raised many questions of the validity of past life realities in my own life, heart and mind. There’s more to the story, yet your wonderful sharing here brings forth this quite suggestive experience of my own, related to “all of the above” and how, at least in my experience, I’m convinced that we do dream of ancestral and past lives on a regular basis. I have many examples recorded in my sleep dreams over the years.

    Great Post Jenny – Many Thanks, All the Best, Travis W

    1. What a wondrous experience, Travis – it would be interesting to do some research into the kind of ritual you dreamt about – well, I imagine you already have. Is there a pattern in your ancestral and past life dreams? Mine seem to return me to France, but not really anywhere else that I’m aware of.

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