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Thesis on Reincarnation
The traditional model of reincarnation is grounded in the idea that time is made up of a series of linear experiences. I call bullshit.
Reincarnation is a commonly held belief among people of the world. About one-third of Americans and between 12% and 40% of people worldwide have some belief in reincarnation. Aleister Crowley claimed to have been Eliphas Levi in a prior life, and there are many other similar examples and reports throughout history of persons claiming to have been reincarnated or having memories of a past life.
We habitually interpret our personal experience from a singular perspective, and so it comes as no surprise that reincarnation carries a personal context. The illusion of linear time and the separateness we feel as individuals makes reincarnation seem like a personal journey from one body to the next. Being a farmer in 1890's France, perhaps, or a soldier in WW1, or a housewife in ancient Egypt, a jazz musician in 1920’s New York. If we uncover memories of past lives, we describe them in terms of past experiences that we personally had, as if we were telling about something we did years ago.
The idea that there is some part of us that continues beyond death is comforting. We are born into one life after another. Out of this comes the idea that we are perfecting ourselves through this extended experience, learning life lessons and carrying them with us into the next life, accumulating wisdom. This is the traditional model of reincarnation. And as we can see, it is grounded in the common belief that time is made up of a series of linear experiences.
Now, consider reincarnation as it has been traditionally reported, but remove the time factor. Everything is happening within a single universe of experience that has no beginning or ending, where linear time doesn’t exist. The past as we understand it is still happening now. The future is also happening now. Everything that has happened, or that will ever happen, is happening right now in a single unified phenomenon of continuous existence.
In this milieu, we are not individuals who can remember past lives and personal incarnations. Rather, what we call reincarnation may be an echo or reflection that we become aware of at times as the Universe looks at itself in a mirror and experiences itself in all its infinite forms. For a moment, we as individual points of perception get a glimpse from our limited vantage point into another one of the points of perception that we call lifetimes. We are glimpsing another star in the company of stars, another “Hadit'' point within the body of Nuit. The Being which has 100 billion faces throughout history is incarnating itself at different points across its entire existence all at once. And we are that Being.
Our blunder has been that we choose to interpret these glimpses of other experiences as if they were personal memories from other lives we have had. It is an understandable mistake because memory works this way, and it feels like memory, and we try to fit our experiences into a frame within what we call normal reality. These things which are outside our normal lives are connected to us as part of that universal experience, but we selfishly confuse it as being a personal memory of a past life linked somehow to our current identity.
As an example, you may have a memory of being a WWI soldier who was born in the 1890’s and who died in 1919. But when viewed at a universal level, the actual soldier who lived and died had a life that was not essentially different from the one you are living now. It was a lived experience, in the same way that yours is a lived experience. Both experiences, yours and the soldier’s, are occurring at the same time within the context of a continuous universal existence. That single universal phenomenon is the link that connects them, rather than them being the personal recollection of an individual soul that somehow passed from one to the other.
Both you and the soldier are examples of the universe doing what it does and has been doing forever, creating unique personal experiences, and it does so all at once as a single phenomenon without beginning or end. The fact that you are able to perceive those experiences outside of your own is a fantastic effect of how it all operates, but the connection between them is not necessarily proof of personal reincarnation of a soul throughout time.
In light of these assertions, we can see that every human being exists as an individual extension of a single universal Being. The nature of this Being is that it divides itself into units of self-aware consciousness. Social conditioning that we receive from birth enforces the illusion that these units of consciousness are distinct individuals who are unconnected.
Each of us has a personal history which is the story that we create for ourselves based on the things that happen to us within our perception of a cause-and-effect universe that is divided up into foreground and background, subject and object, you and me, here and there, etc. In Thelema, Hadit is represented as a point in space that always sees itself as the center of the circle, no matter where it is in that circle. In fact, Hadit is every point there is or ever will be. This is the illusion of separate existence.
The point here is a repeat of the tired gem of wisdom that has been handed down by all the saints and gurus throughout the ages. We are all One. When we look at other people, living or dead, we are quite literally looking at ourselves. We have lived their lives; we have felt their pain, their joy, their loves and hates. In fact, without the illusion of time and space to interfere, we are living their lives right now, just as they are living ours.
This is one reason why ‘compassion is the vice of Kings’ and ‘the slaves shall serve’ in Thelemic doctrine because very few have the kind of understanding that allows them to see themselves in others in such a way. This is the hidden meaning behind the expression “there but for the grace of God go I” because, literally, there you are. Buddhist doctrines of the cycle of rebirth and karma and freeing ourselves from the Wheel of Dharma are cast in a new light. That way lies the Light, Life, Love, and Liberty that we seek.
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