It has been thought, by a few great individuals, that if you can garner twelve perspectives on a particular subject, then you can attain a significant understanding of the subject. This article strives in that direction by presenting the dynamics of reincarnation and karma from twelve different angles.
The thrust of the material presented here serves twofold: to help elucidate the actual nature of reincarnation and karma, and to answer to current voices during this materialistic phase of human development who attempt, in vain, to deny its existence. None of the materialist arguments hold any water, as can be seen by reviewing the following twelve aspects of R and K.
1. The masterpiece scenario
If you wanted to design a system that would be a masterpiece, a means of providing individuals with opportunity to fulfill their potential, to keep growing and learning, and meeting themselves with all their foibles and virtues, qualities and talents, vices and shortfalls to improve on, and to ensure that all participants could access awareness of their effects on others (be it right away or, as seems to be more the case in our current time, in the between-lives arena) - then you would come up with the system that appears to be in play on Earth now - the masterpiece of karma and reincarnation in which we live.
Human imagination has, thus far, been unable to come up with anything remotely approaching this level of creationist expertise. This, plus the conceptual reality of the R and K scenario in our individual psyches (and in our collective psyche), not only suggests that some kind of omniscient being created this masterpiece, but also implies that the scenario has been fully implemented in the fabric of our existence.
Take a moment to imagine the cessation of your “I”.
You can imagine the physical body coming to an end, the dissolution of the body.
But can you do so with the “I”? The moment you try, there is your “I” standing back looking for an imagined end to itself. It can’t be done* - inferring that the Ego lives on after death.
*footnote: The “I” can be dissipated, in a sense, by one’s own efforts, or at least degraded and debilitated, through chronic substance abuse, or through long term practice of a spiritual path that espouses the dissolution of the ego (once an appropriate experience for the soul during the ancient Indian epoch, but now counter to the present leading edge of evolution - the retention and enhancement of the “Ego” or I).
3. Multi-dimensional factors and future life progress.
There are times when an overly simplistic view of reincarnation can be held.
One aspect that helps over-ride this inclination is to understand that thoughts don’t carry on beyond a certain stage of the death process, except as forces, whereas enthusiasms, perceptions and feelingsdo pass into the next life. That the conceptual life associated with an incarnation dissipates means, for example, that a child who spoke the Greek language in his/her past life does not learn the Greek language any greater ease this life.
Another perceptual shortfall resides, for example, in the notion that a great musician must have been a musician in a prior life, and now has simply progressed to an advanced level. A more accurate perspective views the emergence of a talent as a result of progress made in a past life in another (but obliquely associated) arena of development.
Consider these scenarios wherein prior life situations lead to subsequent results:
Earlier life: Ensuing life:
spatial study, as in architecture, musical ability
and related disciplines.
musical development talent in mathematics
aspiring to knowledge faith (in spiritual reality)
focus on knowledge founded dull-wittedness
developing self reliance selfless love
developing a facility for languages unbiased judgment
4. Proportion of brain utilized
Through reincarnation, we are given the opportunity to fulfill our overall quest to become whole, fully evolved beings - a quest that is utterly impossible in a single lifetime.
It is generally agreed that we use only 10-20% of our brain capacity. This suggests that eventually we are going to use the whole organ. Of course, to attain such a goal would only be feasible over many lifetimes.
The other side of the indication is that when we die, we move into our deeper wisdom, we move out of our temporary, life-long confinement, into our full capacity (use of 100% versus only 10-20%). We come to know, from an overview, what our life was really about, and where we need to improve, and can then determine where we are going, and with who, and the particulars pertaining to the next life that we choose.
5. Karmic follow-throughs
An abuser of black people, a slave-trader one life, would ideally become a black person the next life, so he can learn to live the other side of the issue, and can even become active in liberating the oppressed, so as to make up for his past debt to the black race. Likewise, an oppressor of women may become a woman next life, maybe even an activist for women’s liberation.
We want to be careful when assessing the above dynamic of equalization. It does not imply, for example, that all blacks were white racists in their last life - they are only “sprinkled in” with the race, or course. One has to meet everyone on a one-to-one individual basis, only making assessments from what arises in the dynamic of relationship with the other.
We always want to focus on bringing healing and justice directly here on Earth, of course this is our primary goal. But we can also draw comfort from the assurance that there is a “backup” in the form of karma - forces are ever in play to amend all manner of circumstances over time.
We choose our next life - from our greater inner wisdom, from our comprehensive well of knowing.
We incarnate between the sexes, and races, and across cultures, and any other conceivable line of human division. We are all closer to each other than we think, unified by threads of spirit.
There are some bounds to this transmigration. For example, animals and humans don’t inter-carnate (see the article, Human and Animal Kingdoms). So let’s dispense with the cracks about being a slimy toad in a past, or future, life. Unless you’re joking - that’s always allowed! (And no offense intended to the toad species. . . )
6. Suffering in one life - leads to a blossoming of some kind in another.
When Rudolf Steiner examined the repeated earth lives of geniuses, he often found a past life afflicted with Down syndrome. This makes great sense. Like a blind person who develops extra sensitivity in the other senses, we restrict ourselves so that we can hone other faculties.
It could be that a person afflicted with Down Syndrome is going for genius next life, or else it could be a result of a shortfall in some area in a past life. Either way, the individual ends up advancing by way of their affliction.
7. Science unable to disprove
Thus far, despite all its advances and enhanced methodology, science has been unable to come up with a shred of evidence to discount reincarnation and karma.
Further, when we actively engage all 12 of our senses, the existence of reincarnation and karma becomes more openly apparent. (See, for example, Encountering Nature Through the Twelve Senses, by the Earth Vision project.)
8. Oh so many benefits!
That the reincarnation and karma dynamic operates as a brilliant, unsurpassable conception, is evident in the many benefits:
- Truth shall set one free. You can sense the freedom that lives in knowing that one lives on again, and that we “meet ourselves” in the mirroring power of incarnation.
- There is relief from the compulsion to jam as much as possible into one’s life, a compulsion that would come from believing that one has only one life.
- There is relief from fear of death.
- Awareness of karma would lead to a virtual end to violence and transgression against fellow humans and the environment. (Note how the issue here is awareness on the part of the human community - not something we can blame on the overall scheme of R and K.)
- There is assurance that one’s suffering has purpose, and a payoff later, that it is not all in vain.
- There is increased confidence in life, oneself, and others.
- A sense of awe glows within in the presence of the extraordinary masterpiece, and in knowing one is a part of it.
- A sense of community with the whole range of ethnic, gender, and cultural diversity of humanity on the planet develops when we realize we incarnate across all boundaries.
9. The fear factor.
As the Course of Miracles teaches, and as Gerald Jampowlski elucidates so well in Love is Letting Go of Fear, there are two emotions - fear, which is illusion, and love, which is real. Thus, fear is a block to where we ultimately want to go. And fear of death has no basis in reality.
If there is nothing to fear in death, it indicates that there is something for us on the other side, and that there is some kind of love-based reality there.
As an exercise, try, in a meditative frame, letting go as best you can of any feeling of fear of death. See what arises in its place, in the emptied space that results.
10. Passions and antipathies.
What we feel strongly about is a likely connection to a past life situation. For example, a soldier learns about the degradation of war. In his/her next life he/she embraces non-violence, a strongly felt anti-war stance.
We can also, however, get stuck in a past modality, seduced by the existential comfort of feeling at home, or “used to” the particular modality we knew so well in the past, when it is more optimal to just touch base, re-connect with some qualities and strengths within ourselves, then move on. For example, one can be tempted to revert to an older path, like a traditional Eastern spiritual practice that hasn’t been “Westernized,” or modernized, when destiny calls for moving into something new.
From age 30 to 40 we experience the unfolding of the “mind-soul” and “spiritual soul.” Around age 30 we are connecting with the world in a concerted way, and in a more soulful way than before that age. We meet key people, who were also significant in our past lives, people we feel we already know, have an innate connection with.
In a sense, there is a dynamic of “leapfrogging” that takes place. Family members in one life usually become those we meet up with around the pivotal age 30. And those we meet up with around age 30 often become family members in a subsequent life. This makes sense, as we grow to feel “saturated” by family members from spending so much time with them, and can benefit from taking a break. There is a dynamic of in-breathing and out-breathing in the long-term life of relationships.
11. Existential tone.
Beneath appearances, one can detect the gnawing away of an existential tone. Something discomforting lives within, for most people, something difficult to pin down, to ascertain, living there like a vague shadowy presence at the core of one’s being. A feeling of inadequacy can be found there. We can feel “imprisoned” in this incarnation - not because it is a prison, but because we fail to live up to the grandness of it all.
This experience fits well with our longing to live up to our great potential, actually a godly potential - to truly meet this multi-facetted opportunity presented by a lifetime here. How could we possibly even dream of fulfillment in the face of this, without repeated earth lives?
In a future way of being, humanity will be operating on a level of self-less love. Today, as we know, we can sense how far off this lies - that we have a long way to go to attain this. This matter, this accomplishment of significant proportions, obviates the need for many lives.
At this time, there is a forward progression taking place in the human community, in terms of the development of spiritual qualities. The Earth and humanity are poised to accelerate through much social, environmental and spiritual transformation in the face of events to come. As an individual makes progress in the area of selfless love, he/she opens self to encountering equally progressive nuances in others. (of course, not at every turn, we also meet challenges that match our level, a kind of testing of the virtue, to strengthen and exercise it.)
Beyond the dynamics of karma, grace is waiting. As we strive to attend, and meet, and overcome our karma, we increasingly encounter grace, which is freedom from karma. We move into a realm where we get to operate outside of reaction and consequence. In a sense, we clear a space for grace to enter. And in doing so, we allow the real part of our being to take center stage.
In the early times of human evolution, when we lived in a spiritual form, we did not know death. We had no need for reincarnation. In times to come, we will again transcend the need for death.
In the meantime, we shall continue to reincarnate, and to meet ourselves upon this, our most illustrious staging ground, the Earth.
For further exploration of reincarnation and karma, go to the second Insight21 article on the subject - Reincarnation and Karma in the Face of Modernity.