Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Life, Death, Reincarnation, and Karma

The actress Mae West was noted for saying among other things “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough”. While this sentiment has served us for some time, the fundamental premise of this saying is in my opinion based on a false assumption; that we only live once. The truth, which is baring itself out empirically, is that we have lived many times before.

One cannot fault statements like this with those who have made them, because such sentiments have been perpetrated and perpetuated on our mass consciousness for centuries. This was primarily motivated by the desire to force the collective consciousness into a feeling that we must comply with certain dogmatic beliefs and constructs in this life … "It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment." (Hebrews 9:27). Ironically, reincarnation used to be an original cornerstone belief in Christianity, but was later taken out after it became apparent that its followers felt they could simply put off finding absolution in this life and do it in the next life.

This initial acceptance and understanding of reincarnation, though controversial even then, was spawned during the 1st through the 6th century A.D. by the writings of a great Christian theologian named Origen of Alexandria[1]. During his time as a spiritual teacher, Origen was highly regarded for his insights and had a strong and devoted following. After his death around 250 A.D., his beliefs continued to generate controversy for reasons mentioned earlier, and over the next few centuries a number of anti-Origen doctrines grew and developed, eventually forcing a shift in the belief of reincarnation as heretical and antithetical to the Christian faith.

Unlike Christianity though, approximately 20% of our world religious population practice either Buddhism or Hinduism, both of whom believe in reincarnation. In a poll conducted by Fox News[2], 25% of Americans believe in reincarnation, with a steady increase in the acceptance of reincarnation taking place in the U.S., Europe and around the world. More and more people are accepting this phenomenon as fact, and more and more people are beginning to awaken to introspective revelations of themselves that have no logical or experiential origins in this life. The veils are being lifted, and this in my opinion is no accident. We are beginning to re-discover our origins, one incarnation at a time.

Evidence to support these assertions are showing up with greater frequency through empirical research and investigative confirmations by many whom have been able to validate past experiences of places they never knew of or have ever visited in their current life. Some of the more impressive scientific insights into this understanding came from the late Dr. Ian Stevenson[3], who was the former head of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He later became the Director of the Division of Perceptual Studies at UVA and spent over 40 years of his life documenting more than 3,000 cases of children from all over the world. These case studies have quieted the most ardent of skeptics. His two books, Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation (published 1974) and Reincarnation and Biology (published 1997) have gained critical acclaim by scholars and skeptics alike for its probing insights and factual conclusions about reincarnation.

According to research conducted by Dr. Stevenson, one of the greatest commonalities associated with past life recollection is when young children, usually between the ages of 2 to 4, begin to talk about memories of places and things that occurred before they were born. These memories begin to fade as the child grows older, usually between 4 and 7 years of age, but sometimes linger beyond this period. For any parents reading this who have small children, it creates an intriguing notion and perhaps you should pay closer attention to what your children say and are stimulated by; they may be recounting past experiences prior to entering the world in this lifetime.

For me personally, I realize now through my own internal epiphanies that I have been here many times before; that I and my family members have shared countless incarnational experiences playing different roles at different times in our collective history; that I may change from one body to another, but that the true essence of who and what I am will forever be. I also know that there is a direct correlation between my incarnational experiences and the universal laws of cause and effect, otherwise known as karma.

Karma can best be described from the scientific premise that for every action, there is an opposite but equal reaction. Also, statements like “What goes around comes around” are very apt descriptions of this phenomenon. This cause and effect relationship does not work on a defined time schedule and will only serve to balance itself when it deems conditions suitable. I only make this observation because most of us in the course of our daily activity fail to sometimes see the cause and effect correlation between our actions and their outcomes, most often due to a perceived lag time between the two events. As a person grows spiritually, however, there tends to become a greater awareness and discernment of this karmic balance as it impacts our lives. Some people wrongly believe that this force is a punitive one, but the truth is that it is simply a law of balance, having no basis in good or bad; good or evil. It is simply the catalyst that we are all bound by to create experience and eventually spiritual growth. It is not the punisher of sin through God’s wrath as some may believe, but merely a divine mechanism by which we are able to identify the cause and effect relationships between our thoughts, actions and deeds. There is no escaping this dynamic (other than keeping one’s attention on God), and the sooner one comes to terms with this reality, the sooner one can begin to live his/her life in balanced alignment with love and Spirit.

Now the correlation between reincarnation and karma is an interesting one. The truth is that karma serves as the grist for the mill of life, death and rebirth; determining what experiences we will need to have in the next life based in large measure on the deeds of the last one. There is a very intriguing series of books by Dr. Michael Newton, a certified hypnotherapist, entitled Journey of Souls and Destiny of Souls that document case studies of people who have undergone past life regression through hypnosis. It is compelling because it describes what occurs during the mid-point between one life and the next; life between lives as it were. It is extremely detailed in its descriptions and sections of the book talk about the period of “judgment” where things are assessed in the last life and decisions are made on how best to balance out the unresolved actions from that life into the next one. What is important to note in these descriptions is the fact that the exercise is not a punitive one, but merely an accounting of what a particular soul learned and what “it” still needs to work on. These areas of improvement are then placed in the potentiality of the next life. These potentialities are simply that, potential outcomes and not certainties, because throughout all of these opportunities for growth we still have free will. But as the old adage goes, “You can pay me now or pay me later.” Eventually, the balancing of past deeds must come to bare and one must have the courage to go through what they need to in order to fulfill this reciprocity, and hopefully learn and grow from the experience. It is neither good nor bad; it is only decision and outcome.

When we combine the two aspects of reincarnation and karma together, we come into a very useful and universal understanding of what life is all about, and what our place is in the hierarchy of All That Is. It is essential to remember in all of this that we are a spark of the divine, and it is through our actions, journeys, milestones, trials and tribulations that we and the divine gain experience and grow. Our microcosmic expansion helps the macrocosm, because as I have said multiple times and will continue to repeat over and over again, we are one. Through this microcosmic experience and growth, the whole benefits, for there is no existence outside of All That Is. How else does it expand except through our expansion? When we grow, everyone grows, for we are all connected, we are all one.


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