Why is Life about Remembering What We Have Forgotten?

In more than one mystical tradition, we are told that we know everything there is to know prior to being born into a physical body. We even know it while in utero. Then, once our little bodies make their way down through the birth canal and into the world, we forget all that knowledge and wisdom. Thus, the rest of our lives are spent remembering what we once knew. Our true education comes not from learning anything new but from relearning – remembering – knowledge we once possessed.

Even Judaism tells us the same story. The Talmud relates that children learn all Torah knowledge – indeed, all knowledge – in the womb, but as soon as they emerge into the air an angel comes and strikes the child on his mouth right below his nose causing the child to forget all that he or she has learned. We are told that this is why we each have a small notch, called a philtrum, on our upper lip -the place the knowledge used to reside.

None of this answers the question of why we must come into this life, this world, sans knowledge. I suspect we are meant to learn through our experiences. We are meant to draw on life itself as a lesson. After all, the Torah – the five Books of Moses – primarily offers the stories of the lives and experiences of our ancestors. We read and study these texts to learn and understand not only the laws of our traditions but how to live and how to understand each other and God. They also used their lives to understand and achieve wisdom.

Prophesy, says the Talmud, comes from our ability to reclaim the knowledge we once knew. That means that we can somehow find it within us or draw it forth from somewhere. We have the ability to find it again by going inward, getting silent, connecting to the Divine.

Maybe we forget so we will remember we are spiritual beings in physical bodies and not physical bodies. After all, we also forget that we are connected to to God and believe, instead, that we are separate from our Creator. If we spend our time on Earth honing our connection with the Divine – with the spark of Divinity within us, realizing that we are souls more than we are physical beings, maybe – likely – we can tap into the source of our knowledge. We can become everyday, modern prophets and reclaim the knowledge we had prior to coming into this world at the same time that we remember – and experience – our connection to God. Or maybe we can simply bring our knowledge forth again. After all, if we have simply forgotten what we knew, we need only remember it. We have not lost our knowledge; it lies within us. We need only look within to discover it.

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