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|The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali - Book 3 - Union achieved and its Results|
|18. Knowledge of previous incarnations becomes
available when the power to see thought-images is acquired.
The significance of this sutra is very great, for it gives the basis for the regaining of a knowledge of past experience. This basis is strictly mental, and only those mentally polarized and with the mind under control can regain this knowledge if they so wish. The power to see thought-images only comes through mind control, and the mind can only be controlled by the real or spiritual man. Therefore only egoically centered people can truly acquire this knowledge. It might be asked here what therefore do those people see who are emotional and not mental, when they claim to know who they are, and to relate the past lives of their friends? They are reading the akashic records and because their mental control and equipment are not adequate, they cannot discriminate nor ascertain accurately what they see.
The akashic record is like an immense photographic  film, registering all the desires and earth experiences of our planet. Those who perceive it will see pictured thereon:
The trained seer has learnt to dissociate that which pertains to his own aura and the aura of the planet (which is in actuality the akashic record). He can distinguish between those records which are:
It should be borne in mind that every human being belongs to a physical family which constitutes his link with the animal kingdom, and also belongs to an astral family. Through that affiliation on the upward arc he is linked with his egoic group and on the downward arc with the vegetable kingdom.
These points are enumerated to show how impossible it is that the majority of the claims regarding past incarnations can be true. They are the result of a vivid imagination and the assumption that the flashes of astral sight which reveal glimpses of the akashic film give that which pertains to the one who sees. This is not the case any more than the people and activities seen out of any window in a big city reveal to the onlooker his own relatives, friends and pursuits.
The knowledge referred to in the sutra comes in three ways:
The thought images he becomes aware of are:
Thus through the process of elimination he gradually works his way through grade after grade of thought images until he arrives at the particular layer of thought impression which deals with the cycle about which he is concerning himself. This is not therefore simply a perception of certain aspects of the records, but a definitely  scientific process, known only to the trained occultist.
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