Reincarnation: Haven't I Begged this Question Somewhere Before? (updated)
Q: Do you believe in reincarnation? Do we really get another chance to “get it right?” Why?
A: Why? Because let’s face it, Krishna was either liar, lord or lunatic. Krishna said it, I believe it, and that settles it.
Actually, it is interesting that the Eastern, “right hemisphere” of the world regards reincarnation as a banal matter of faith, while it is a stumbling block for the Western, left hemisphere of the worldbrain. Is there a corpus colossum that can join the two hermetispheres and make sense of the concept?
As always, words are problematic and potentially misleading in discussing spiritual matters. In short, words are words, not the reality to which they point or the experience which they memorialize. To back up a bit, there is a fundamental difference between Western and Eastern approaches to philosophy, in that the former generally begins and ends with knowledge by discernment, while the latter rests upon knowledge by identification.
For example, the touchstone of Hindu philosophy is the Upanishads, which were written by ancient rishis, or seers. As such, the Upanishads do not contain ideas that are argued but visions that were seen and experienced. Not only is the truth “seen,” but the seer comes to embody the truth so perceived. In other words, this is transformative truth--in knowing it, you are not the same. Naturally words must be used to convey the experience, but they mustn’t be confused with the thing in itself. This is a very different from Western philosophy, which mostly consists of ideas--however wooly or trite--that can be passed like an object from mind to mind.
The horizontal aspect of language is mostly reducible to a purely Darwinian explanation. But there is a very mysterious vertical aspect to language that cannot be so reduced, unless one wishes to be absurd. Most modern people don't mind being absurd, so long as they can imagine that they understand. Better to be absurd than to deal with the anxiety of not knowing.
It has been remarked that poets are metaphysicians in the raw, mediators between the essence of being and the miracle of knowing. In its sacred or mythological aspect, language is the nexus between the nighttime and daytime realms. It imparts a kind of knowing, but one must not confuse this knowing with profane knowing of the linear and unambiguous variety. Just like everyday language, it reveals and discloses an "object." But it is not a three-dimensional object. Rather, it is a hyperdimensional subject-object.
Or you may think of mundane language as dealing with horizontal recollection, while the type of language I am talking about involves vertical recollection, or anamnesis.
It is said that “that which is Night to all beings, that is Day to the Seer.” The typical soul is blinded by the bright and shiny objects of the waking world, while the seer is able to detect hidden connections in the night womb where events incubate before undergoing the formality of becoming in the external world.
There is a general stream of Life into which the particular stream of your life enters upon birth--your life is a little eddy in the stream of Life, so to speak, and is constituted by that larger Life. Once here, we see through a glass darkly: “on earth the broken arcs, in heaven the perfect round.” We ride atop the mortality-go-round, but the stream below is full of information that links us to the whole. There is a storehouse of collective memory to which we have access, and which can definitely give us the feeling that we have been here before, in particular, because spiritual growth always involves recollection--not horizontal recollection but vertical recollection. We are remembering something that is already inside us, in our deepest, most inward being.
I maintain that reincarnation is a way of talking about the two very different kinds of heredity that clearly operate in us: a horizontal heredity that is encoded in our genes, and a vertical heredity that seems to shape us from "above" rather than "behind." In my view, when we talk about reincarnation, we are simply acknowledging the reality of vertical heredity. It is a way of talking about something real yet mysterious--about that part of ourselves that not only has distinct inclinations and attitudes--even perhaps an earthly mission--but is also able to tap into a sort of knowledge base of which it has had no personal experience.
Are we really the product of two heredities? I don't know about you, but genes or no genes, I have no idea how I dropped into my particular family. I am amazingly incompatible with virtually all of my family members save for one--not necessarily to the point of open conflict (though there is that with one particularly polarized member who despises me), but mostly indifference and mutual incomprehension. I was born with very specific, not to say unusual, inclinations that I can find in none of my relatives, either living or dead. But I certainly see them in non-blood relations with whom I share vertical DNA.
So, we apparently have a terrestrial heredity that extends back through higher primates, lower mammals, fish, plants, single cells, and across the dark abyss to insentient matter.
On the other hand, we have a vertical heredity that extends through various degrees of being--various powers, principalities, rulers, and thrones--all the way up until we reach Brahman, the Absolute, the One, The Father in Heaven, J.R. "Bob" Dobbs and Uncreated Slack.
Our "frontal self" comes into the world the usual way, while another part of us is imaginately conceived, or "word made flesh." Unlike the horizontal word of DNA and natural selection, this is the vertical word of "supernatural" election. (I put supernatural in quotes, for nature herself is supernatural, as anyone who appreciates the transcendental beauty of the mythematical equations governing the big bang can tell you.)
There was a time, not too long ago, when human beings were not aware of their vertical descent from above, any more than animals are. Again, if you think of our humanness as situated at the innersection of the horizontal and vertical, it took some time for Homo sapiens to realize their place in the vertical.
One cannot even know of the horizontal until consciousness has lifted above it. Otherwise we are simply immersed in our perceptions and engulfed by the senses. But as consciousness ascends, one begins to realize that the vertical is also a world in its own right.
After all, Homo sapiens was genetically complete by as long ago as 200,000 (or as recently as 100,000) years. And yet, either way, we don't see much evidence in the archeological record of "vertical liftoff" until about 35-40,000 years ago, with the sudden appearance of beautifully realized cave paintings, body decoration, musical instruments, statuary, widespread burial of the dead, etc.
Clearly, vertical liftoff had begun, into a nonsensuous dimension of transcendental Love, Truth and Beauty that was anterior to our arrival there. For what would motivate an erstwhile ape not just to paint, but to do so with such refined delicacy of line, shade, and contour? Why bother?
But vertical progress for humans is frequently stalled--both collectively and individually. Human beings have reached many historical impasses, or crossroads (frankly, we are in a somewhat nasty one right now). In reality, these are not horizontal impasses. Rather, they are vertical impasses. Overcoming these world-historical obstacles is not a matter of additional horizontal evolution. That process is basically over, although recent research seems to demonstrate that some additional evolution has been going on at the margins.
But even if certain brains have been getting a little bigger or smarter, it is not our hardizontalware, but our vertical software--or aloftware--that counts. You can have a gifted IQ but still languish below on the vertical launch pad, a point that is obvious if you consider the sorry state of contemporary academia. Plenty of big-brained primates there, all messed up with no place to grow (up, that is).
As such, past historical impasses have been broken through in one of two ways: either a vertical ascent by some great hero from this side of manifestation, or a descent of the divine energy into time or into a particular person (technically known as a "avatar," this happens much more often than you might realize).
The vehicle of both ascent and descent is said to be a "resurrection body," the perfected self, unencumbered by the accidents and distortions of horizontality. It is actually already there calling you--wherever there is--just waiting for you to catch up.
Have you ever been acquainted with your resurrection body? I'll bet you have. Again, this is one of the main purposes of religious language--to provide a means for talking about an otherwise immaterial and nonsensuous dimension. Light, transparent, bright, freely coursing energy... these are all gladjectives that apply.
In the gospels, it says that Jesus gave a few disciples the privilege of seeing his vertical body of light. What must that have been like? First, of course, the disciples had to "ascend" vertically, "high upon a mountain." There, within the orbit of their highest aspiration, Jesus' face "shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light." Then Jesus held a summit conference with two other luminous bodies, Moses and his shadowy double, Elijah. Wo! What was that all about?
Our physical body is on loan from nature, whom we must repay at the end of our days. "Thou owest nature a death." But looked at vertically, the body is descended from the spirit, not vice versa. Death, or disincarnation, involves separation of the vertical from the horizontal. Reincarnation is simply a way to talk about their mysterious union down here in 4D.
Let me conclude by saying that this is one of those topics which I am happy to throw open to debate. My responses are meant to provoke thought, not to be the last word.
That was sort of a lame post. When SGA asked about reincarnation, I should have just said “Hell, I don’t know,” and left it at that. Believe it or not, I hate to speculate. For one thing, it makes religious metaphysics look subjective and conjectural, like theories of global warming. My whole point is that religions not only reveal objective truths, but a core of truths that cannot not be.
True, there is a penumbra around any religion (or any science, for that matter), a dark area encircling the light, into which we can project anything we choose. This is where occultists and mere theologians rush into the breach and spookulate about what they do not know. Properly speaking, this is not theology but theodoxy, or “opinions about God” rather than “knowledge of God.” Such vain chatter is nothing more than an agitation in the cosmic void--as Whitehead called it, “the fallacy of vacuous actuality.” Religion is then reduced to philosophy, little more than idle deidreaming, the codification and fetishization of the lower mind’s ability to doubt anything.
Interestingly, the one thing that I wasn’t speculating about probably seemed the most speculative, and that was my crack about the “astral body,” or “body of light.” All traditions speak in their own way of some such similar experience--again, don’t get hung up on the words--and I think I have some idea of what these traditions are talking about. Many people who undertake a spiritual practice--apparently some more than others--are subject to all sorts of sometimes bewildering (and not always pleasant) physical sensations and experiences. This is something I haven’t specifically posted on in the past, in part because I am still in the thick of it and haven’t figured it out myself. It would be nice if it were a stable phenomenon, but it is anything but, so there is no stable conclusion I can draw at the moment--religious or otherwise.