Category Archives: Reincarnation

The Importance of Religious Pluralism in the Journey of the Soul

Not sure why, but I’m seeing an upsurge in the frequency of people becoming more hostile about their religion being right and everyone else being wrong (and even for the people who aren’t making a big deal out of it, there is a certain ‘my religion is better than your religion’ arrogance in lots of groups, and it just feels like its getting worse).  And I’m not just talking about the psycho-fringe here (or I’m really underestimating the size of said “fringe”).  I always find this a puzzling concept.  Sure there are a few really insane beliefs out there–mostly the ones that dictate ‘my way or else I’ll kill you!’–but for the most part, most religions all have the same core values and differ only in forms, names, and rituals.  And quibbling over these relatively minor issues is pointless. First off most of these people who want to scream for their own religion and no others seem politically motivated (I’ve seen all sides engage in this religious idiocy) given that it only alienates people away from your political causes.  Further, reason doesn’t hold this up?   I mean, do you seriously believe that God, a being of supposed infinite love, compassion, understanding and wisdom, cares about what ritual you use to get closer to him, rather than if you actually get closer to him or not?

And it’s not just implicit in reason, recent scientific research into reincarnation and near-death experience also demonstrate this. Scientific studies have shown that reincarnation is a fact and that you change from religion to religion based on your life—if that’s the case it can’t be that God loves one religion and hates all others.  Similar studies have also shown that during near death experiences everybody goes to heaven, doesn’t matter what their religion is…it’s almost as if God doesn’t give a shit what name you call him by.

potala palace lhasa

The Potala Palace, Lhasa, Tibet…it seemed like a place both remote and spiritual enough to serve as the starting place for the soul.

So does this mean that all religions are worthless?  That there is just God and his children and it doesn’t matter what you believe…not exactly.   Now, with that knowledge of near death experiences and reincarnation studies, it seems to be that the majority of religions are correct, that life is a series of rebirths, a progression of lessons and stages of learning all leading to Enlightenment…but that still doesn’t invalidate the idea that you should follow the religion you feel called to. If the soul is on a journey toward Enlightenment, let’s think of it as a journey.   For the sake of metaphor let’s say all souls start out standing in the Potala Palace in Lhasa.  High in the Himalayas, disconnected from the rest of the world.  And you know you have to get somewhere (Enlightenment) you have had it roughly described to you, but you don’t quite know where you are going or exactly how to get there.

How you get there would be comparable to the mode of transportation you take.  Some ways like Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, New Age belief and modern Paganism might be equivalent to walking, taking a bike, a boat, a car or a plane*, other religions maybe more like trying a unicycle with a flat tire, spinning in a circle believing you will magically teleport, digging through the center of the earth using a rusty spoon or launching yourself into orbit using high explosives and hoping you land in the right place. ** While in the minority there are religions that are all but useless in all cases…however most religions are more dependent on where you are in your journey. In this example if one religion is equivalent to riding in a car and you’ve hit the Pacific Ocean, it may have gotten you to this point but you need a different mode of transportation (a different belief system) to advance on the next stage of your journey.

Devil’s Bridge, Sedona, Arizona

Now for the sake of argument in this travel metaphor let’s say that Enlightenment exists at the Devil’s Bridge in Northern Arizona (chosen for the fact that it is beautiful, and the irony was just too good to pass up).

Now to get from our stating place in Tibet and ending place in Arizona there is no way a single mode of transportation is going to cut it the whole way.  You are at best going to have to walk part of the way, either take a boat or plane part of the way, and probably have to travel in some other forms of transportation for part of the journey.

The Journey of the Soul Metaphor

If only the journey of the soul was this short a distance.

Let’s add to the fact that you’re not always sure where you’re headed.  Granted as long as you’re moving you may be getting closer, or at least have a better chance to learn where the right place is as opposed to the stupidity of staying still, but that still doesn’t always mean you’re moving in the right direction (as some religions that could be used to progress can be misused to put you further away from God…Westboro come to mind).

You could use this metaphor for a lot of things, and show it flawed in numerous other ways.  I just want to show that even on a journey you may use different modes of transportation, as different religions may serve different souls on their journey to Enlightenment.

And my overall point here is that reason tells you God is too perfect a being to care what name you call him by or what rituals you go through to honor him, it’s silly to think that one religion is the right one and all others are false.  Yes there are some blindingly stupid beliefs out there, and there may be beliefs that are wrong for you in your life (take a car when you’re on the ocean) but just because your religious beliefs work for you don’t assume they would work for everyone. The most you can do is ask if you find that your beliefs are leading you to God (if they are, bully for you) and if someone else’s beliefs could never in any way, shape, or form lead a person to God (a religion that calls for stoning people in the 21st century for instance) and oppose those vile beliefs will all your heart and soul.

So even if you aren’t decrying that your religion is better than all others, it might also be best to not always believe that (I know some will think I’m only critiquing Christians here, but really this my religion is better than your religion arrogance can be found in almost every religion)…your beliefs may be exactly what you personally need in your journey right now, but don’t believe that your beliefs will work for everyone at every time.

sedona rainbow

you can never have too many random pictures of Sedona

*Try not to match those up, the religions are in more or less chronological order and the modes of transportation are more or less random.

** I may or may not have had Scientology, Atheism, Keynesianism (it denies basic reality so much and requires so much be taken on faith it’s pretty much a cult) come to mind here…oh and I can’t think what religion I had in mind when I mentioned strapping high explosives to yourself…certainly not a religion of peace.  Not everyone following those beliefs is stuck at a stand still, it’s just highly, highly unlikely they’re going to be making a major push forward in that life.  And this is the balance to an acceptance of other beliefs, admitting that there are some really dumb beliefs out there.

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Books for New Agers: Life Before Life—Children’s Memories of Previous Lives

Reincarnation

So I just finished reading Life Before Life—Children’s Memories of Previous Lives by Jim B. Tucker, M.D.  Yes it’s a book about reincarnation.  But unlike a lot of books about reincarnation that will look at one case of past life regression…or another case of someone having spontaneous memories and working through each case this is a summary of a collection of cases. 2,500 cases covering decades worth of research.  All of them involving children under the age of six, you know before you could theoretically prompt a child to say things.   These cases are being reviewed by the University of Virginia, Division of Personality studies.*

Let’s review some of the main points.

All the children are under the age of six.

All children recall having been someone in a previous life.

About two-thirds of the cases have been “solved”, that is they have identified a specific individual that the child has memories of being.

About a fifth of cases the child has a birth mark or structural defect where the person they claim to have been received a major wound (e.g., a child is born with a birth mark where a shunt had been in their previous life or a child who had memories of being a cop who had died when a bullet destroyed his aorta, being born with a bad aorta that had to replaced).  225 of these solved cases that involve birthmarks and other physical markers are covered apparently in great detail in a 2,000+ page, 2 volume study entitled  “Reincarnation and Biology: A Contribution to the Etiology of Birthmarks and Birth Defects”.

There’s a lot of specific evidence I’m not going over because I actually think you should read the book.  But trust me there is evidence.lifeafterlife

Particular cases are reviewed, their flaws and strengths are laid out and the author goes through other possibilities of explanation which are reviewed.  Tucker spends a great deal of time on the only other remotely possible answer for these children knowing what they could not, that being fraud on the part of the parents.  But given that numerous cases for the U.S. where subjects don’t believe in reincarnation, it seems odd that they would try to fake a case of reincarnation.  Further even fraud leaves too many unanswered questions…reincarnation does not.
The book is an excellent summary of the scientific findings of this group at the University of Virginia** and so while much of the scientific and statistical evidence isn’t presented, it does lay out a sound scientific case for reincarnation.  It deals with the challenges skeptics would bring up and addresses them, then tears them down.

I would highly recommend anyone interested in reincarnation, or looking for scientific proof to back up their faith, read this book.

Some of the more interesting highlights from the book include:

Apparently you are more likely to remember a past life if that life ended only a year or two before your rebirth, there are relatively few memories of distant past lives among these children.

Gender Identify Disorder may, at least in many cases, be related to a soul switching from one gender to another between the two lives and the confusion from change.

The after life, at times, may be as chaotic as this life.

Not everyone remembers heaven, but some do, and you are less likely to remember it if your death in your previous life was particularly violent or sudden.

If you meditate you are more likely to remember heaven in your next incarnation.

There are cases of children remembering their last incarnation being a fetus that was aborted or miscarried.

All that said this book raises some questions that I have and if anyone has any information on this I would love to know.  After reading this book it appears that cases where children are remembering their past lives are becoming more common, or at least it appears that way to me.  I’ll admit that it may simply be that this is only being studied recently, whereas in the past it was not.  However there are cases in the past of people remembering their past lives, Gen. George S. Patton for instance, but these seem to be very rare in the past, where the 2,500 cases collected by the University of Virginia (and you know if they can find 2,500 there have to be ten times that many they didn’t find) don’t make it common, but it certainly does not seem to be uncommon. This makes me wonder if the memories are becoming more and more common.  Since, quite frankly, none of the children in this book  come off as enlightened beings (nor any of their previous incarnations) these memories do not seem to be caused by the individual soul’s level of spiritual enlightenment, my question is does this maybe indicate a greater awakening in the collective soul of humanity?  Certainly this is not going to be answered anytime soon, but it’s something to think about.

Also, the birthmark and other biological signs described in the book are suggested to be related not to karma but more to the mind’s ability to affect the body (the book references the ability to make a hypnotized person believe they are being burned to the point that their skin blisters or the fact that signs of the stigmata are now believed to be caused by psychological not miraculous factors).  Now if the mind, and specifically it’s attachment to certain memorable events (usually what killed you would have a more powerful impact on you, or at least you would think), and we also take into account the issue of some souls not being able to fully adjust to their new gender in the form of Gender Identity Disorder…I have to ask in lesser cases could a soul attached to their previous gender affect the DNA of their new body, thus being the spiritual cause of the genetic factor in homosexuality?  And I bring this up because I have also seen this suggested in the book The Messengers and the issues of Gender Identity Disorder reminded me of it.

*The book was published in 2005.  And deals primarily with 1,100 cases that had been entered into a computer system for statistical analysis.  I can only assume that both the computer database and the total number of cases has increased since the book was published.

** For my conservative readers, it is funded by private endowment, not by tax-payers (although I assume the same researchers are paid by tax payer funds for any teaching they do at the University) so don’t even begin to question if money should be paid for this.

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How a New Ager Views History

 

How a New Age looks back on history…

So in the last week I’ve been asked by several conservatives why I am still fairly hopeful for the future (the long term, not the short term—short term sucks) in light of the fact that both here in America and basically everywhere overseas we’ve been guaranteed at minimum four years of going to Hell in a hand basket.

 

Now my optimism is an extension of my faith.  I see mankind as moving toward Enlightenment, not just of some, but eventually of everyone.  And while Hinduism and Buddhism have many statements about everyone eventually reaching Enlightenment, I always like to go to prose of A Course in Miracles:

“You are as certain of arriving home as is the pathway of the sun laid down

before it rises, after it has set, and in the half-lit hours in between. Indeed,

your pathway is more certain still. For it can not be possible to change the

course of those whom God has called to Him.”

I have faith that humanity is moving toward complete Enlightenment.  It is not a question of if, it is at most a question of when.* It will happen.  Every soul will reach complete Enlightenment and return to being one with God.

 

Now it’s easy to say this as a statement of faith, but even the faithful need something to justify a belief in…and more importantly need to at least see that in the long run there is nothing to contradict this viewpoint.

 

 

So let’s look at this.  As I pointed out in Republicans and Reincarnation, whether you want to use the system of chakras or a myriad of other versions in other cultures, there seem to be seven stages in the evolution of the soul back to Enlightenment. More or less each stage corresponds to the energy and issues often associated with each Chakra.

 

 

Now we could go over each stage and each chakra, and I know you love when I make these blogs like ten pages long, but the fact of the matter is that, right now, I would say only the smallest portion of humanity are above the issues of the third chakra.

 

The first chakra, the root chakra, is associated with our physical existence.  Do we have enough to survive?  Are we safe in this instant?  Do we live in fear for our existence?  Do I live?

 

The second chakra deals with safety and security.  Not just surviving in the instant as the first chakra looks to, but to long term safety and comfort.  Not just do I have what I need but do I have what I want?  Do I win?

 

The third Chakra deals with self control and self awareness.  Not just having things but doing things?  Not just comfort but achievement.  Do I strive?

 

(The first three chakras are remarkably similar to the first three levels of Maslow’s hierarchy.)

 

 

Now since at some level each soul is connected to each other even if one soul is extremely advanced they are affected by those around them.  This is why stories of ascended masters and saints often describe them having a positive effect on people just by their presence and conversely why it is best to avoid being in proximity of those who are very negative.  And since we are all connected society as a whole acts like much in the way of an average of the collective evolution of all its souls. And as all souls are reincarnated and evolve so does society.* So, the question then becomes, if I’m right, and the world is experiencing a continuous growth in spiritual evolution is there any evidence of it?

The answer is yes.

 

If the average of people were working out problems with level one then society would be about survival, it would be about power, it would be about having more and more, not quality or comfort, but more in a numerical value where the chief worry is famine or invasion.  You would see constant conquest, constant struggle, and constant fear about not having enough.  Sure there might be the occasional enlightened person or at least some not consumed by a desire for protection and safety, but they’re the exception (and groups of them are especially the exception.  To a person or a society at this level, the universe is chaotic, uncaring maybe even vengeful—there is no way to reason with others, with God, with life, there is only power and ability to survive (in practice, it’s a little Hobbesian).   This pretty much describes all history until around 1400 CE.  The rulers always had to have more, the common people never really complained so long as they were promised safety (ignore whether that promise was actually kept).  At your highest moments most people were looking for no more than bread and circuses.

 

For a society where the average level of the second level you would find people not so much concerned with just safety but now with comfort (and at its worst decadence).  You won’t see as much a desire for power but for rules and order.  You would see an outlook that saw the universe not as chaotic, but ordered…still often uncaring, but not capriciously so.  And again we see this in history.  Starting just before the turn of the common era you see society from Europe to China more concerned with rules, with what we would match the requirement of any general definition of civilization.  And from this point until around 1400 you see the battle conflict between the predominant themes of level 1 and 2 defining the time, power vs. rules. And from 1400 from the Renaissance/Scientific Revolution in the West, Ottoman control in the Middle East and the Qing Dynasty in the East.  Not that the world is suddenly a bastion of humanity and good will toward each other, but the focus seems to have made a massive switch from a universe defined by brute force to one defined by rules (often very evil rules, but rules nonetheless).

 

And with level three we see people and society move from a concern not just with things but with the individual, with personal accomplishment and personal achievement—of a search within one’s self for what they want.  And while there have been strains here and there of this dating back even to the ancient world, this strain started to appear en mass in the 1700’s. (I know I’m going over this in very general detail and often ignoring those moments where this group or that makes a major step forward or back…and if anyone wants I’ll go into more detail, I will, but for now the very broad swaths seem to make the most sense).

 

And now we are beginning to see the whole world tilt from an average of level two to level 3.  (Yes the unfortunate side effect of level 3 is a me, me, me attitude…but it’s slightly better than resigning yourself to fate.)

 

Now also with this you’ll see that when you switch from one level to another there seems to be a purge of the old ideology through what is unfortunately a very effective way for people to learn, suffering.  (Aeschylus stated in Agamemnon that “Only through suffering do we learn.” This is not the only way people learn, but sadly, so often, many people only learn when they hit rock bottom and have to confront their beliefs without any illusions.) In that transition between level one and two you have the world wide pandemic.  A great karmic blowout that cleared out the majority of the issues from the old way of thinking and ushered into the new.  And if you apply this basic line of thought you see it is true also in smaller societies as you see this growth in smaller more concentrated areas.  And I think we’re in for an economic equivalent of this purge now as we move from an average of level 2 to level 3.  Now, given the fact that there does seem to be some increase in speed between levels one and two, I hope this karmic purge doesn’t take the century it did in the 1300’s, hopefully we’re right in the middle of it with only 4 years or so left.

 

Oh sure you can probably say I’ve engaged in this fallacy or that, superimposing my beliefs and interpretations onto what are otherwise unrelated events or issues.  But like I said, this is primarily about an issue of faith. I am merely showing that my faith isn’t completely without justification and doesn’t contradict what we know to be fact (unlike, say, ignoring all the evidence that shows your creation myth might be a little off from what really happened), you may not believe it, but at least it isn’t completely baseless.
So why I am optimistic?  Because I believe, not entirely without reason, that this is the storm before the calm and what lays on the other side is well worth the inconvenience in between.

 

*Technically time itself is an illusion, so I’m not sure if it’s really a question of when either.

**Yes even I have said that reincarnation does not necessarily go in a straight line through time, but most souls at the level one and two levels are more comfortable still perceiving time as linear and thus their souls reincarnate in this linear fashion.  And yes, since some people have pointed this out, souls reincarnating out of linear order in time does do some fascinating things to the laws of causality…I will defer to a much better writer to describe it: “People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually, from a non-linear non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly timey wimey… stuff.”

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Weekly Meditation: God in the silence

This week we return to holy books for inspiration in meditation.

This week I’m pulling from the Bible.  I usually don’t because unlike a lot of other holy books, which were generally written more or less at one period by one person (or at least one group) and has more or less remained consistent through the ages, the Bible was written by numerous people, rewritten by numerous others, recollected, reordered, mistranslated, rewritten again throughout numerous ages with numerous different values and beliefs…Also while you can find some questionable content in most holy books (just about anything taken out of context of the passage, the time and the culture, can be twisted), the Bible is singular in ability to come up with a passage to justify just about anything (want to hate gays, we have a passage for that; want to love gays, we have a passage for that; want to justify capitalism, we have a passage for that; want to justify socialism we have a passage for that).   But that does not mean there is not Truth in the Bible, there is, a lot of it.  You just have use reason and good judgment and not take everything, pardon the phrase, on faith.

But there passages that, to me at least, are self-evidently true.

John the Baptist…err, I mean the Prophet Elijah (who says there’s no reincarnation in the Bible) hearing those tiny whispering voices.

For instance:

“Then the LORD said, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.” A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD–but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake–but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire–but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.” I Kings 19-11-12

The passage reflects a very accurate view that people look for God in giant powerful things, when it is in a small breeze that he can most easily be found.  Most commentaries on this passage tend to look at that last line as something along the lines of a statement of “and after the fire there was a breeze, and God was in the breeze.” And I’m not claiming to be making an incredibly new interpretation of this line, I’m not.  But I find this a very good passage because I often see so many people of many religions looking for God in miracles, huge events, lottery tickets, signs, portents, and burning bushes…when really they should be taking a minute to quiet their mind and listen to the voice of God that is always there.

So this week I want you to quiet your mind and listen…not just meditating on nothingness and keeping a blank mind, but focusing on what you hear.  Whether it’s in a corner of your house, on a grassy field, or even on a city bench (if that’s the only place you can find time alone).  No iPod, no radio, no friend talking or TV in the background, just whatever white noise is around you.  Every day for at least 10 minutes focus on the sounds around you, but don’t dwell on them, and see if you can hear that “tiny whispering voice” which is always there saying it loves you without restraint or qualification. 

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Movies for New Agers–Groundhog Day

“This is pitiful. A thousand people freezing their butts off waiting to worship a rat. What a hype. Groundhog Day used to mean something in this town. They used to pull the hog out, and they used to eat it. You’re hypocrites, all of you!”

“What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same and nothing you did mattered?”–Bill Murray, Groundhog Day.

So today of all days, February 2nd, is the only day to discuss one of the greatest films of all time, Groundhog Day. I think by now we all know the film and the concept…although just in case you don’t know let me quickly recap the movie (I have to do this because I found some people just live in caves and don’t know movies at all). Phil Connors (Bill Murray in his last enjoyable role) an unhappy, misanthropic TV weatherman gets sent to Punxsutawney, PA to cover the annual Groundhog festival to see if famed weatherman and groundhog Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow or not. Then a snowstorm hits and he can’t get out of the small town he loathes. But what’s worst of all is that when he wakes up the next morning, it’s still Groundhog day. It’s always Groundhog day. Every day he wakes up and it’s Groundhog day. The universe seems to reset itself every time he falls asleep and only he seems to remember what happened. And after having all the fun you could think of having when there are no lasting consequences, a funny thing happens, the meaningless pleasures become, well meaningless, and he starts to actually improve himself and become a better human.

Ever since it came out this film has been popular with spiritual people of all faiths because it shows progression of self-improvement and placing value on things that actually matter as just about all religions actually call for. For New Agers it works as an allegory for a very abbreviated form of reincarnation and movement toward enlightenment. Bill Murray as Phil Connors works his way both through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (First food, then sex, then money, followed by thrills and the fun stuff we’d always like to try but never have the guts to) soon, he, like all of us, become both fixated on something of value and something which is just out of his reach (in this case Andie MacDowell’s love). As these lower pleasures give no lasting pleasure he tries to find something that lasts for more than a single day. But as he cannot find it by being his shallow petty self he becomes depressed.
In spiritual discussions of a lot of religions there is always a point where a person has progressed far enough to understand that the world isn’t enough to bring Happiness, but, in spite of deeply held faith (and oddly usually because of it) a person will hit a point where both the material world they have left and the spiritual world they have yet to fully enter both become meaningless and bereft of hope. “You want a prediction about the weather, you’re asking the wrong Phil. I’ll give you a winter prediction: It’s gonna be cold, it’s gonna be grey, and it’s gonna last you for the rest of your life.” In Christianity this period is called the dark night of the soul. It’s a necessary spiritual point, but also a dangerous one as the soul hits rock bottom and feels it has nothing to lose. In the case of Groundhog Day this manifests in repeated suicide attempts.

“I have been stabbed, shot, poisoned, frozen, hung, electrocuted, and burned. […] and every morning I wake up without a scratch on me, not a dent in the fender… I am an immortal.”

Luckily, like most people, he arises from the dark night with the help of a higher power believing in him which allows him to again continuing through the levels of Maslow’s hierarchy to work on issues of personal improvement, achievement and self actualization. After passing through the dark night he ceases to be fully fixated on only himself which actually allows him to better himself (which harkens back to my constant point that there is an extreme difference between narcissism and rational self-interest, between materialism and finding joy in the material world). And by becoming a better person he actually becomes a much happier one.

“Whatever happens tomorrow, or for the rest of my life, I’m happy now… because I love you.”

This movie works as a good movie for New Agers because, more or less this is what we believe happens to us through reincarnation. We get sent back life after life after life, confronted with the same problems over and over and over again until, like Phil, we learn how to deal with them. There is no limit to how much time we can take to learn, there is no force other than our own desire for happiness that forces you to learn. But if we wish to escape the particular cycle we are in, we must learn.

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Day of the Dead Extra Movie: The Fountain

“Will you deliver Spain from bondage?”
“I’m trying…I don’t know how”
“You do…you will.”

After a month of movies that wallow in the fear of death I thought it best to close this out with:

“Let us finish it” are the first words of Darren Aronofsky’s “The Fountain” possibly one of the greatest movies I have ever seen. (Although Aronofsky is himself an idiot and rather despicable person.)

Spoilers Ahead. Actually forget about Spoilers. Go watch the movie. You will have no clue what I’m talking about if you don’t see the movie. Some of you might not understand the movie either, but you should have a chance to form your own opinions before reading mine.

In case you didn’t take my advice…For those not familiar with the move there are three intertwining story lines throughout the movie. The first is of a Spanish Conquistador named Tomas on a mission for Queen Isabel to find a mythical Tree of Life in the jungles of the New World around the year 1500. The 2nd story is of Tommy, a doctor desperate to find a cure for the brain cancer killing his wife, Isabel, in the modern world, and nearly succeeds by taking a clipping from an old growth tree found in South America. The final is the story of Thomas, a man travelling in a spaceship with a tree whose bark extends his life, perhaps providing immortality, toward a star that is about to go nova in the hopes that the nova will provide the energy necessary to keep the tree alive. The three stories are intertwined. Thomas is clearly Tommy hundreds of years later, having found the secret of immortality, but not in time to save his wife. The relationship between these two stories and that of the conquistador is a little more murky, this story is either the book that Isabel was writing in 2000 or it is their past lives, living out the same cycle of lessons until they finally get it (I prefer this latter interpretation).

If that sounded convoluted, it gets far, far worse and I would really suggest that you go and rent the movie before continuing. Really, I mean it.

The movie’s central theme is the fear of death and how it is a paralyzing fear tied to the fear of life. Tomas’ fear of death causes him to be killed because he could not see a way out of the attack that kills him. Tommy’s fear of his wife’s death prevents him from enjoying the time he has with her. Queen Isabel’s fear of death leads to her own downfall and the death of Tomas. In a dozen small ways the fear of death is constantly shown to be antithetical to living one’s life.

But the movie also does something that you seldom see. It makes it clear that while one thing isn’t true the opposite isn’t necessarily true either. In this case the fear of death isn’t appropriate but neither is the embrace of death, best shown in the speech of the self-flagellating inquisitor:

“Our bodies are prisons for our souls. Our skin and blood, the iron bars of confinement. But fear not. All flesh decays. Death turns all to ash. And thus, death frees every soul. You the condemned, you have confessed, you admit to protecting a queen who twists the word of God and drowns all Spain in sin. Your Queen seeks immortality on earth–a false paradise. This is heresy. She leads you towards vanity…away from the spirit but this is foolishness. For death exists. The Day of Judgment is irrefutable. All life must be judged. “

Clearly we’re not meant to sympathize with this amor fati as it is spoken by a sociopathic monster. But this is put in to make sure that in not fearing death we don’t assume the opposite, the headlong embrace of death, is true either. They’re both very, very wrong.

So if we’re not to embrace death but not fear it…what is left? Don’t worry I’m not about to quote “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” (although that is one of about a dozen poems I would say every human being should have memorized).

The simple answer out of the false dichotomy is to not worry about death and rather live life. Death is merely a stage, “the road to awe” to neither be rushed toward or feared.

We see this best in Isabel from the 2000 storyline. She is dying of inoperable brain tumor (I know it’s a terribly overused trope, but only because it works). She is not afraid of death which translates to her living her life to its fullest. Stargazing, making love to her husband, writing, going to learn at a museum all within the last day of her life. Every moment seems to be lived in her life and thus she accepts her death without fear or regret when it comes. Paradoxically living allows one to accept death.

This is also shown in a very subtle way to anyone who is really looking (this movie is just chock full of subtle little hints and allusions, more than I could really go into in one blog, but this would be the most important one). One of the characters in the 1500 storyline is a monk, specifically a Franciscan monk. While the character is given a name, he is almost exclusively and repeatedly referred to as simply “Franciscan.” It’s an odd way to refer to a character, even a monk, unless there is a point of doing it. I would say that point is to bring up the poem the “Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.” (Yes, I know St. Francis in all likelihood did not actually write this, however that does not mean the name recognition still isn’t there).

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

One of the other reasons I think that this poem is being referenced is the last line: “and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life” which is a good way to sum up the entire theme of this movie (although the poem is referencing heaven while the movie is focusing more on the idea that a full life leads to not fearing death, the general premise to live one’s life on Earth to the fullest is the same in both). And with this reference in mind, you can begin to see the character of Thomas (in all his incarnations) in the first half of each line of the first stanza and the enlightened Isabel of the 2000 storyline in the second half of the line (reversed in the 2nd stanza). They are almost perfect representations of each set of ideas…thus showing us the obvious superiority of the life suggested by this poem.


(I could spend hours dissecting all the little points of this scene and enjoy doing it…but admittedly I’m a little odd).

And of course the most important scene in the whole movie, after Tomas/Tommy/Thomas realizes that he is going to die, a realization that gives him the first peace he has ever known, he is able to relive the last full day of his wife’s life and make a different choice and live that day instead of fight death (I could deal with what this suggests about the fluid nature of time, but this blog is getting just a tad long, just accept that to a New Ager effect can precede cause). It doesn’t change the outcome. Whether he decides to embrace life or fear death, his wife dies…but he has a much more fulfilling experience one way over the other.

I’ve ignored a lot in this movie, and will probably come back at some later point, but at this moment it makes the perfect antithesis to this last month’s obsession with the fear of death.

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Republicans and Reincarnation is for sale!!!!

It’s for sale.

Republicans and Reincarnation: The Conscience of A New Age Conservative is finally for sale!!

You should buy a copy. Or three. One for you. One for your best friend whom you want to have one of the best books of the 21st century. And one just because you never know when you’ll need a back up copy.

Buy it at my publisher AuthorHouse

Barnes & Noble

Amazon  (although they apparently are not selling the Kindle version just yet, but they should have it up soon).  

Prices for the book are lower at my publisher, prices for the Nook at B&N is lower than the price at my publisher.  (Royalties are higher from my publisher, so you know where my bias lies).

Feel free to write a review or two…Feel free to mention it to every carbon based life-form you know…feel free to forward information to any member of the media you know.

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Reincarnation 101

In reference to one of my recent posts on my spiritual beliefs a friend asked me what I believed about reincarnation.

Now this wasn’t an easy question because first there are, in my opinion, a lot of misconceptions about reincarnation and second it’s a lot more complicated than people think.

Let me deal with the misconceptions first. I have no belief and have seen no evidence that people are reborn as animals or that whatever spirit is in an animal is reborn as a human. Life is about learning, and I don’t see how you can learn anything in even higher animals (okay maybe dolphins) let alone lower ones. I have read lots of transcriptions of past life regressions, I have seen “past” lives that occurred in the future, even a few on other planets, but I have never seen anyone remember their life as a dog, snail or cow. As far as I can tell souls are never reincarnated into animals.

Next, a lot of people seem to have this conception that the minute everyone dies they are immediately reincarnated. Not how it works. Unless you’re the Dalia Lama you’re usually not getting put right back into a waiting embryo the moment after you die. The afterlife is actually quite complicated. ( I have included a flowchart as it would have taken me 2 pages to explain, if you have questions please forward them to me. However, one of the more interesting points you may notice is that there is no Hell, but there is a purgatory.)

Now let’s say you make it through the many levels of the afterlife and want to be reborn, as it is the most effective way to learn and progress spiritually. But it’s an involved process. You have lots of choices to make. Where to be born. When (since linear time is an illusion you can actually be born prior to your last life) to be born. What lessons are you going to learn? What obstacles are you going to face in life? Will you intentionally have a personality trait that is not common to your soul (usually you will pick a situation that will provide genes and environment suited to your personality, and it makes the whole question of nature vs. nurture infinitely more complex…but sometimes you don’t and you pick some trait that is not natural to your core being). And then the trick of finding parents who meet all of your requirements. (One of the advantages to this belief is that when your teenager screams “I never asked to be born!” you can respond, “actually you did, and you were the one who picked me”.)

You choose all the major events in your life. Including most of the crappy ones. You only have yourself to blame. Primarily because those terrible incidents are often a chance to see how you react and learn from them. (However, this shouldn’t be taken as a chance to blame the victim though. A lot of times people, those with more enlightened souls, will lead a life with greater challenges and suffering often to teach other people compassion and empathy and it’s up to you to learn from it. If you ever look at someone’s suffering and say ‘well, they asked for it’ this is clearly one of those times that was designed to teach you compassion…and good lord did you fail).

Now while you don’t bring in memories from past lives on a conscious level, you do carry all that baggage with you. Small and large personality traits are often formed through lifetimes of experience as much as from this life. Fears that develop early in life are a key example—many phobias may have more to do with how you died last time than what has happened this time. Other traits, deep seated traits are also carried over from past lives. If you spent a dozen lives as a woman and are spending this life as a man then giving up many of the feminine energies that your soul has been drenched in for the last dozen lives (and I mean that in the Taoist sense of masculine and feminine energies, that neither is superior and not exactly equivalent to gender, but are highly correlated) then the odds of you being a homosexual in this life is probably pretty high. Other tendencies are not as variable as gender and sexuality—for instance some people just don’t learn and fight the good fight in every lifetime, which if not done in the latter half of the 20th Century or onward will likely get you killed in unpleasant ways; which in turn would lead to a martyr complex in this lifetime. The goal of reincarnation is to push past our personality traits and bad habits that we’ve acquired over the years and become something more enlightened (in my fictional example, learning to fight the good fight without the holier-than-thou attitude that comes with it).

Finally we come to the issue of karma—which is something grossly misunderstood. Karma is not a law set in place by God. He doesn’t punish. Why? Because to him, this world is just our bad dream. If you killed someone in a dream would you need to go to jail and/or seek forgiveness? No. So God doesn’t need to forgive us for what we’ve done in this dream, because from his perspective it never happened. And he certainly doesn’t see a need to punish you. So where does karma, and the punishments it brings (not to mention the benefits), come from? Us. We see ourselves as less than worthy, as guilty, as wrong, as sinners…and so we put ourselves in positions to be punished for our failings. Now you may try to object and point out psychopath, mass murderers, the Obamas, and the people who green light half of the shit we see in the theaters as sick cruel monsters who are devoid of conscience and morals. They may be in this life (and half the time dealing with a brain that is defective—in which case it’s like driving a car with a brake line that was cut, you’re not exactly responsible if you hit some one) but their soul (and their ego) do know right from wrong…and their ego will punish them for it in their next lifetime. In this case the trick is to realize that you are not your worst inclinations (which come from your ego) and that this is all not real, thus you don’t need to seek forgiveness. But in the meantime seeking forgiveness, and more importantly forgiving yourself, in a non-masochistic way would be called for.

That’s reincarnation 101…any questions?

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New Age Movies: What Dreams May Come

“You’re losing your fear.”

“Fear?”

“That you disappeared. You didn’t. You only died.”

I know I promised the New Age meanings work of Shymalan, but that’s a lot of movies to analyze (that and the foul taste of “The Last Airbender” is still in my mind…not to mention I still can’t stand watching Mel Gibson in anything, even if Signs is a great movie) so I’ll be holding off on that collection of movies for just a while longer.

So instead I will cover “What Dreams May Come.” It is a very underrated movie (although the book is a little more accurate in describing the afterlife, but a little more dull)…and as the movie was made in ’98 I don’t feel I will be spoiling it for anyone.

This movie is a great way to see New Age principles for two reasons. The first is that the first half of the movie is exceptionally accurate in describing the process of dying (with only a few things glossed over by Hollywood). The second is of course demonstrating the all powerful force of forgiveness and love. Both ideas deeply tied to New Age philosophy.

The first half of the movie deals with the main character, Chris Nielsen (played by Robin Williams) as he dies. And it accurately describes what most of use will go through when we die. We’ll have the “I see my body from above” stage. Followed by the moments of denial where we don’t quite admit that we’re dead. If we’re very lucky, and have prepared ourselves mentally, this stage will not last too long.

Then of course you have the famous tunnel of light…

…And then we have a temporary version of Heaven. I say temporary because the real heaven, the one you reach when you get to Enlightenment, is not the one you go to after death. This temporary heaven is a place of rest and learning. And as shown in the movie, we get reincarnated and go back to learn more.

Now where the movie gets it wrong is when Chris’s wife, Annie, kills herself. Yes suicides go to hell. But the real hell that people go to when they die is not quite the Dante-esque and visually stunning place shown in the movie. Real hell is quite boring. It’s a foggy, dense, cold place where your soul, unable to fully realize it’s dead but still existing can’t really form a body and more less just oozes through the mists. But where the movie really gets it wrong is that hell is not eternal. The way out of hell is to forgive yourself, even just a little. Suicides actually have one of the easiest times getting out, because they get out when they would have naturally died (and they can get out sooner if they realize what they’ve done and forgive themselves) while others can last for centuries bogged down by their own self-absorption and self-hatred. Now that still is not to say that hell is a nice place, it’s not, but no one is doomed to hell for all eternity…so really it’s more like Purgatory.

To sum up if you want to know what heaven is like, go see this movie; if you want to know what hell is like, don’t see this movie.

The other important point that the movie brings up is that forgiveness and love (they kind of are tied together when you think about it) are an all powerful force. In the movie it is the force that pulls Annie out of hell…but in a larger sense, at least for a New Ager, it is the force that will pull us all out of this hell we have created called existence. I could go on with this, but really it kind of is self-explanatory and I don’t mean to insult your intelligence. It’s not that we don’t get this rather obvious truth, it’s that we keep forgetting to put it at the forefront of our mind and let it guide us.

A final note. The movie also shows one other rarely discussed point: Soulmates make terrible parents. Soulmates, true two halves to one soul, are so bound to each other that sometimes there isn’t room for anything else. They love their children, but it can never fully replace the love they have for each other, which is a little screwed up. This leads to some shaky relationships between parent and child, as shown through Chris’s relationships with his children. So if you think you have found your soulmate…keep this movie in mind before you have children.

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