Typically, you are born into a family. You thereby inherit, mainly through your genes, certain broad characteristics of that family. Strangely, you might additionally display certain personality traits of not only your parents, but also your grandparents and (to my surprise) certain uncles or aunts. That the inheritance pathways for the latter have not been proven is irrelevant; epigenesis (a pathway known to bypass the genes) may fill the gap.
As the real-life limitations of the scientific method are well-known (but beyond the chosen methodology of professional sceptics), we seekers of understanding are free to register and examine all aspects of human existence, as objectively as we can. We also know that the human mind is severely circumscribed in its capacity to explain, even grasp, such intangible (and untouchable) phenomena as consciousness, extra-sensory perception, the control of matter (eg. one’s own body or even electrical switches) displayed by some (rare) minds, and such like.
Since you are born into a collective, certain factors external to your birth family’s genes influence your behaviour. You are conditioned by your nuclear family’s code of conduct, and the associated attitudes and values. These would reflect the cultural paradigms of the extended family (the clan) in Asian cultures; and possibly in other non-Western cultures. Most certainly, in all societies, the values and practices of the tribe, including its religious perspective and linked cultural traditions, will have sway.
Then, things can happen to some people – and which are not part of the paradigms I have delineated above. For example, a significant number of children from all over the globe have, over many decades, remembered their recent past lives accurately. These memories would surely remain with them throughout their lives – even if deeply overlaid in time. As well, some people have strong intimations, which surface repeatedly, of a past life. The implication of these two examples is that the individuals affected have some capacity within them to remember, vaguely or clearly, temporarily or permanently, one or more experiences from another time and place.
This facility is traditionally attributed, in much older societies, to the human soul. The soul is believed to be an on-going entity, occupying a series of human bodies over an extended period of time. The soul seems to be capable of carrying memories – in the way instincts are believed to have accumulated in humanity. Thus instincts and soul memories would represent accumulated learning. This may also give credence to the concept of a collective memory of the human species.
Would a collective unconscious follow from this? Is this also why Hinduism claims that the human mind is only an instrument of Consciousness – which permeates all existence!
This would place the mind outside the brain. Indeed, as demonstrated by the spirit of the long-dead uncle who manifested himself to offer me certain advice, the soul (or spirit) can retain the mind it had displayed on Earth, together with the memories seemingly embedded in it.
The unavoidable and comforting conclusion arising from all this is that we humans carry a wondrous heritage, traversing both time and space.