I’ve been wondering about reincarnation again, at least intermittently. I never really settled myself on where I stand with the whole concept. And in case you are wondering how a 63 year old man could not know how he feels about reincarnation, or anything at all for that matter, let me explain. I take what I am taught, and what I absorb from living as in hear and see, at face value initially. And as time goes on I tend to examine that particular thing; probe it, ponder it, and consider it. And depending on the importance of the specific item and the time I have available to me, I may not really come fully to grips with how I feel about it for years.
Reincarnation falls into that category. It is not something I think about often; more now that I am retired perhaps, but even at that – not often. As I made my way through life I was certainly aware of the beliefs of some large and old religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism in reincarnation. But not belonging to either of those religions, that’s all I was – aware – but never had time or cause to delve into it any deeper than what I knew of it at face value. And what I knew of it was that, for seemingly different reasons according to the religion, some souls (or all, again according to the religion) get “recycled” back into a new physical body and are reborn.
Essentially the root concept of reincarnation lies with the lessons of life; that is, in order to fully exit this earth, there are a number of spiritual lessons we are to learn. I guess one analogy would be a system of earning badges much like a boy or girl scout: prove your “mastery” of a broad and diverse collection of life skills by earning enough badges and you “graduate”. Learn empathy, sympathy, compassion, and altruism; master how to eliminate selfishness, envy, and jealousy, how to foster acceptance, patience, and kindness; and develop yourself to be honest, brave, respectful, and to have integrity and you “ern your wings” so to speak.
A variation of this premise incorporates a belief that you collect positive marks for good deeds and actions and negative marks for bad deeds and actions, and when the physical body ceases to exist, the marks are tallied and you either pass on or are forced to come back and try again; to atone your sins and to make things right. It has always been a fascinating concept to me, just far out on the periphery of what I had for bandwidth to examine up until now.
Perhaps this latest interest is also partly due to my proximity to an end of my physical time on earth. As we age and near our individual final chapters, we tend to deepen our thoughts and turn to spirituality and the afterlife. And one of the first things we all want to know is – what happens? What becomes of us when the life light goes out? Enter religion; the entities that try to answer that question for us. Do we go to heaven and sing in the choir with the angels? Do we go to heaven and meet our formerly passed loved ones? Do we enter a different, yet recognizable, plane of existence? Or is there nothing at all? Like a flame snuffed out, merely a wisp of ethereal smoke and darkness? Or are we made to stand in front of our deity and be judged on our lives? In this scenario, many religions have that judgement result in heaven or hell. But others have that judgement determine if you are done or if you have to go back (the prospect of which to some is the same as the heaven or hell scenario).
Of course, no one knows the real truth (assuming there is a singular truth). We only learn that answer once we’re gone. (Or not depending upon the model you embrace!) But the reincarnation belief is intriguing; it suggests a grander purpose to life, a higher reason to be good for humanity – the reward for a virtuous life. Get it right or come back until you learn your lessons and finally do get it right.
Through my years I’ve heard of people being described as “a young soul” or “an old soul”, and the latter is often prefaced with the adjective “tired”. This is meant to point out that someone has lived multiple lives and is still trying to earn their way out of the loop. They’ve lived through loss and heartache and any other combination of the countless daggers that strike at the heart of our soul in this journey. Life is not easy; it is not for the squeamish or faint of heart. It is an arduous journey form which no one emerges unscathed. And after several cycles of that pain and suffering, it is easy to understand how a beaten and battered old soul might show through a fresh young face.
And the “young souls” are those who are bright and innocent and seemingly have no concept of that is coming their way. Old souls look at them and knowingly nod and exclaim: “they have no idea what’s coming but wait – they’ll find out soon enough.” They look upon life with eagerness and anticipation and are always surprised when bad things happen – they just don’t know yet to expect it. They are the “newbies” to life, first-timers.
And there is another belief that coming back has no bearing on what you learned, or not; nor on what deeds or actions you may have committed. Rather, it is a grand design that guarantees complete immersion in all that life has to offer by means of multiple, even endless, cycles of life. Like Groundhog Day or 50 First Dates, you just keep coming back to do it again, over and over – for better or for worse.
The common theme with all philosophies though, is that we are generally unaware of our past times on earth. Rarely, something will trigger a subconscious memory – a feeling of familiarity – that we can’t own or identify and we, for a moment, jump back to another time and place. It creates a feeling of remembrance without any single factual or tangible memory associated with it. Unfamiliar memories that live in the shadows of our mind, that furtively flicker in and out of the mind’s eye are, to many, considered to be evidence of one having lived a past life. Other examples are more startling and supportive of that claim. These often (bit not always) involve young children who have dreams or nightmares of past events that they can’t possibly know of, complete with historically accurate details including names or dates that no child could have learned on their own, usually to the extent that the parents have to partake in extended research to uncover the truth in the child’s dreams.
Is it real? Does it exist? Or is it just another in a long list of concepts created by our elders in an attempt to provide us hope through our lives that something better awaits us and to help keep us on the “straight and narrow” during our walk through life? It’s of life’s greatest conundrums and is the perfect riddle because whichever answer one selects, no one can prove you wrong. Even if reincarnation does exist, no one brings the proof of it back with them. It’s a little like ghosts – if you believe you’ve seen one no one can convince you otherwise yet there is no way you can ever prove what you saw. Even if you are convinced you are in your second or third trip through life, you’ll never be able to prove it. Believers will embrace your words as factual and disbelievers….well, they’ll scoff.
When you consider life with homage to the laws of physics, you have to tilt your head’s axis to the side and look at it all somewhat differently. It would take even the strongest critic of the afterlife to deny that human souls/spirits possess great energy. Our bodies follow the laws of physics and nature and are dissectible tangible proof of living tissue and how each part relates to the other and functions. And there is no physical pieces or parts of a human with which we can study the soul, the spirit. It is vaporous, ethereal, and nothing more than pure energy. There is no organ or gland that powers or controls the soul.
Picture a battery – place it in a device and it provides power to make the device perform some function. But cut the battery open and there is nothing to see from an energy perspective; no fire burning, no glowing furnace, no energy source – just the parts and chemicals that convey the result of their reaction. Cut open a human and you will never see the soul, never see the energy that makes us each sparkle and glow. No sign of laughter or love or fear or honor; those are the miracle of souls – they are just energy, unique to each individual.
The laws of conservation of energy are clear and immutable; energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be changed from one form to another. And such with our souls, the energy that is our souls can’t be created here on earth – that comes from a higher source, a greater source than is found on earth. And once delivered, born, to this earth, that energy can’t be destroyed – only changed, transferred, to something else. Like a new body. I am not done with this particular riddle by a long shot; I can promise more posts on this as I continue to work my way through it all. And if our paths crossed two hundred years ago dear reader, forgive me for not recognizing you!!