Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Illusionary Labyrinth of Prejudice

In my last entry (Life, Death, Reincarnation and Karma), I attempted to provide an initial primer of understanding to help frame ongoing discussions that I would like to have on subjects pertaining to spirituality and social consciousness. In order to do this however, I feel that it is essential that we move our collective consciousness and perspective to a higher level, separate and apart from the current conventional status-quo thinking that has plagued humanity for so long. It is extremely important to me that the level of discourse in our ongoing dialogues and discussions evolve to a place that transcends physical illusion. I use the word illusion purposely because it is my hope, desire, and passion that these dialogues serve to help raise the level of awareness beyond the limits of physical perception and move ongoing discussions related to social norms and challenges to a more highly evolved state, where our perspectives allow us to see the outer illusion around us and embrace the inner reality that is us.

In order to do this, the veils of illusion must be challenged and eventually lifted, and we must collectively begin to see life not from the perspective of physical reality and identity but from the perspective of our true identity; Soul. Within the construct of reincarnation as I had stated in my last installment, one begins to realize that we have been many things at many different times throughout our spiritual journey. The unspoken inference in all of this is that each of us has, within our own collective reincarnational experiences, been a man, woman, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Hindu, Buddhist, killer, priest, grifter, thief, King, Queen, Prince, pauper, gay, straight, etc., etc., etc. The only constant identity that we have consistently maintained throughout this experiential labyrinth is that of Soul; that spark of God awareness that is all of us.

Now this may be a hard pill for some to swallow, but the truth of the matter is, in order to develop into a balanced and evolved state of being, one must go through a myriad of experiences that serve to balance ones overall perspective, understanding and appreciation for life and existence. In the course of this process, we make…decisions (some may call them mistakes but I am placing no value judgments on actions and choices here). These choices have consequences; some perceived good, some perceived bad. But the operative question in both cases is…did you learn? If not, then you simply keep banging your head over and over again, from incarnation to incarnation until you figure it out. There’s no time limit here because time is an illusion also (we’ll save that for a later discussion). We move from one incarnation to the next, often with minimal or no recollection of the time before, but with an innate sense of identity and understanding garnered from past experience. What’s important to understand here is that you ARE the sum total of your experiences. Though we may not remember the details of these experiences we keep the essence of the life lessons. After getting burned enough times, we begin to realize that certain actions create certain consequences that are not necessarily to our liking, hence we no longer do them. Our ongoing lessons and directions for growth are directly tied into two very fundamental and important questions; do you like pain, and what do you fear? Most people tend to avoid pain, and through our journey of enlightenment we begin to gain proficiency on how best to navigate around it. As for fear, whatever it is that you are currently afraid of will ultimately serve as the basis for your next lesson. One thing about this process of growth is that it is never ending; there will always be something more to learn. This is a good thing because as Soul, we live in eternity. We need to have something to do.

As I’m sure we all understand, existence and expansion of awareness is not achieved in a vacuum. Our growth is directly tied into our interactions with one another and our environment. Throughout this collective process we begin to form identities and alliances based on like-minded sentiments, consciousness, ethnic similarity, cultures and beliefs. These comfort zones of identity begin to form groups, families, clans, tribes, religions, kingdoms, nations, and so on. Our external identities are usually based on these groupings, and because the veil of past life experience has been placed over us, we lose sight of the bigger picture of who we are. This is by design. These groupings tend to do something else; they tend to create a false sense of fear and distrust of those who are not like us. It is from this dynamic that prejudice is born.

My goal in this writing and future discourse is to shift this myopic viewpoint from your identity as (_________ fill in the blank) to that of Soul first, and other groupings second. Coming to terms with one’s reincarnational past is very humbling, because we begin to understand that we have been the wretch and scourge of life at one time or another, but eventually have evolved into something much better by virtue of our experiences and growth. Maya Angelou has a beautiful saying to this affect, “We did then what we knew how to do, and now that we know better, we can do better.” This captures the essence of the journey. Once we begin to understand that we have been all things at one time or another, the vice grip of physical identity begins to slip and take on less significance. As for me, I am Soul first, human second, man third, race and ethnicity fourth, and the list goes on from there. These other identities I hold to are for social expedience, but in my heart, mind and spirit I know that I am first and foremost Soul; a child of God. Soul transcends all else. Everyone and everything is a part of me.

When the notion that we have been here many times before and have taken on many varied roles begin to sink in, the potential scenarios become infinite. When one also takes into account the link between reincarnation and karma, all sorts of interesting variables and possibilities come to past. You see, karmic balance is not limited to the individual, but also impacts groups, races, nations, etc. Our roles may change, but the overriding balance of actions and consequences; cause and effect still need to occur both on an individual as well as group level. Ponder these hypotheticals for a moment; perhaps you were a white slave owner in a past life, and treated your slaves with cruelty and disdain. Now in your next incarnation, for the sake of karmic balance you become a black person living in poverty, being constantly oppressed by “the man”; or perhaps you were that slave in a past life, now you are a white person living in luxury but find yourself responsible for the care and well being of others around you; perhaps you were a malevolent King or Queen or military ruler who valued no life but your own, and by your dictates thousands of people were sent to slaughter. Now you are in a position where you are the victim of such slaughter at the hands of another equally as bad. You begin to get the picture. This type of contemplation may tend to stir great emotion, and I’m not trying to offend anyone here because I know the volatility that such hypotheticals can cause. I’m only trying to get you to see beyond the emotional impact of these physical scenarios and look behind the curtain to what else may be going on. I neither condone nor praise, I merely point out that this is how the process tends to unfold – and the hits just keep on coming. From this understanding we begin to see that no one is better than anyone else; the only differences are by virtue of where you are in your growth and state of consciousness. How much you now remember of what you innately already know.

There’s a Hindu saying that goes, “Death is but a turning of the endless wheel of life.” Throughout this life, death and rebirth journey we make mistakes, perpetrate horrible evils, die horrible deaths, but we also live, grow and prosper. You might consider it to some degree an ongoing stage play where we are the actors fulfilling our assigned roles. Between incarnations we are temporarily off the stage because we are living in full awareness of what we are. When we are born again into the physical the veil is again placed over us and our memories become compartmentalized.

In this overall process we begin to learn from our mistakes and eventually gain a level of awareness that allows us to become conscious channels for God’s love. Each one, teach one; pass it forward. This is information we already have but have simply forgotten. None of us are learning anything; we are merely remembering what we already know. Through the cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth, we eventually become conscious co-workers with All That Is. In the course of this journey, we remember that we are more than the sum of our experiences; we are Soul. It’s time to awaken to this fact NOW and begin to interact with one another from the lens of an awakened Soul, from the realization that we are connected, that we are a part of one thing. When we do this, then we start to realize the sheer idiocy of prejudice and the importance of loving one another equally as Soul (we simply happen to be inhabiting a body). Only then will we rise up and become an evolved part of this incredible and majestic intergalactic multiverse. The choice is yours.

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.