In the essay The Totality of Reality, I mention that I am undecided on the subject of reincarnation. If I ever hear a really compelling argument one way or another, I might decide. Until then... I think I tend to lean toward the idea that when all physical signs of life end, all that we think we "are" is cast to the winds... to possibly be recycled as parts, or possibly, dissolved and absorbed into oneness, but... probably not reincarnated, fully intact, as the "Mind" or "Self" or "Essence" our inflated egos have built ourselves up to "be" at the moment of our death.
Over the years, I've heard some interesting scenarios for how reincarnation is supposed to happen. They seem to span the possibilities just mentioned: absorbed, scattered or replanted. If these ideas are the only available options before us... that our body and brain dies and:
1) What we are is terminated
2) What we are is absorbed into oneness
3) What we are is scattered and parts reused
4) What we are is replanted, as is, into a newborn form
... then, I think I tend more toward one of the first three, or combination thereof, and not so much toward the last one. To me, the last one sounds just a bit too egotistical. Being replanted sounds like an idea that has come from someone who does not want to die, and who views a terminal, absorbed or scattered death as a waste. Clearly, someone who wants "what they are" to be replanted into a new form after death is someone who can not let go of their ego. But... let's look further into these options to see if the others have problems of their own that might make the last option look better. In contemplating these possibilities, several analogies come to mind that might help in the visualization of what is supposedly going on after the death of what we think we are.
Option 1: All that we are is terminated... could be compared to a plug being pulled on an electric device - no power, no life... lights out, the end. Another analogy would be to compare the mind to the sound of an instrument that ends when the player of the instrument dies - no body, no breath, no music... no brain, no mind. A modern analogy might be the Random Access Memory in a computer which is completely lost when the computer is shut down. Imagine a computer given to you full of software for you to use, but you can't ever turn it off or all will be lost, with no hard drive or discs to reload. Off means dead. Remember that episode of Sienfeld where George tries to move a computer game that has his high score on it, but he can't unplug it, or the scores will be lost?
Option 2: All that we are is absorbed... could be compared to a drop of rain emerging from a cloud, falling to Earth and being absorbed into the sea. A similar analogy could be a snowflake... representing a crystallized mind, unique in form and duration and then melting away upon death, never to see another one exactly like it ever again. Another analogy might be a piece of jewelry, born from molten gold, crafted into a unique form, admired by all, and then one day tossed back into a crucible to be absorbed again into the oneness of molten gold. And while there is a hint of cycling in these analogies, the idea throughout is that the recognizable parts of the form, be it drop, flake or jewelry are completely lost when absorbed and thus only live on in their contribution to perpetuating the oneness from which they emerged.
Somewhere between Option 2: being absorbed and Option 3: being scattered, we might theorize another option, one that leaves behind parts that are not nearly as recognizable in the new form, but also not completely absorbed into oneness... and whose analogy might be the decomposition of organic matter in a forest, being used as nutrients toward another unique life form.
Option 3: All that we are is scattered... could be compared to musicians banding together to form a group and play their unique brand of music, and then disbanding to reappear elsewhere in different bands, bringing varying musical styles and influences with them to be combined in new and different ways in a new band. Another analogy might be actors on stage for a limited engagement performance, then each actor moving on to reappear in another limited engagement performance on some other stage. Another analogy might be the building blocks of children that are assembled into various forms, then dismantled and thrown back into a box to reappear as parts of a new form the next day. The idea in these analogies is that the recognizable parts of each form, be they musicians, actors or blocks remain intact and are reused.
Option 4: All that we are is replanted... could be compared to a transplanted plant, being moved from one pot to another pot, or one end of a garden to another end, in order to grow bigger. The idea that we learn more in each reincarnation fits well with the analogy of a transplanted plant growing bigger. Some think the mind inhabits or occupies the physical body, so another analogy for a transplanted mind might be a family moving from an old house that is condemned, to a new house just built. We could also compare this "occupation" idea to a person moving from one job to another job that they hope will further educate their mind and expand their horizons. A modern analogy might be to compare the mind to the data that is saved on a hard drive which can be reinstalled into a new computer to run again.
In examining these options, it seems as though the first two of these options might appeal to those who think that we do not reincarnate. Some might not like the idea of any kind of cycle, like those implied in option 2, but the idea that all we are is eradicated by absorption might have some appeal. The last two of these options might appeal to those who do believe we reincarnate. Some might not like the idea presented in option 3 of not being completely replanted intact as we are, but the idea that parts of us survive death in recognizable form might have some appeal.
If these are our options, what of them?
Annihilation or Reincarnation?
In my opinion, all of these options sound equally feasible, given our ultimate inability to ever know for sure. However, in looking for a way to decide one way over another, it is clear to me that there is a difference in the degree of belief required between option 1 and option 4. If the simplest answer is supposed to be viewed as the truest - as philosophy often instructs us - then option 1 is a clear choice - death of body equals death of who we think we are. The end. Really simple. While conversely, the idea presented in option 4, of a "computer-hard-drive-like" mind/spirit/soul/heart being "replanted" into a newborn "dwelling" seems much more complex... indeed, very complicated and in need of the greatest degree of faith to believe (see Imagine a Reason to Believe elsewhere on this site).
In addition to the complexity of option 4, there is another problem. Many of the people who believe in reincarnation also believe in the idea of oneness and an ultimate spiritual goal of leaving our Earthly existence of dualities to reunite with the oneness of "God." The way I see it, this idea of merging with the oneness of "God" fits well with either Option 2: being absorbed or Option 3: being scattered... or maybe even Option 1: being terminated, but not so well with Option 4: being replanted. The idea of multiple entities (i.e. the essence of each individual) remaining intact... as we "are" at death, and also... merging with oneness, where by definition there is only one... and not multiples, seems like an unacceptable contradiction. To blend with oneness, or the nothingness of zero, and then re-emerge as the same essence we were, seems highly unlikely and unnatural. It would seem more natural that we would either dissipate to an end in the oneness of nothingness, or have our parts scattered into the chaos and randomness of nothingness that surrounds and contains every ordered and predictable manifest entity. To be absorbed or scattered into oneness, and then reassembled as the individual entity we were, in order to be replanted into another physical form, seems like a notion born from a mind that wants to have its cake and eat it too. An outcome that is not really all that surprising given the element of denial that tends to creep into discussion of death and dying among the majority of people contemplating such things (see Consider the Source elsewhere on this site).
In the essay The Totality of Reality I propose the idea of varying degrees of reality, where an illusive form of reality projects into the universe as manifest existence for our senses to behold. In this theory, an analogy is given that compares the illusory state of reality to a "Cosmic code," like DNA - except completely intangible to all senses. And while this idea might appeal to advocates of Option 4: being replanted, and the notion of our essence being permanently recorded in "the mind of God," or "the Akashic Records" making them capable of being replanted intact as they were at death... in reality, the analogy of DNA defining our physical form is more like Option 3: being scattered... where a combination of influences, derived from a mixture of ancestral influences previously scattered, dictate the nature of the reincarnated form. Thus, the idea of "God" recording a "Cosmic DNA-like" sequence that is our essence, and transplanting it, intact, into another body (like option 4), continues to appear less natural than the idea of parts being mixed with other parts to create a new, unique essence (like option 3). In a system like the one being presented on this site, where "God" is a concept in absentia, the idea of random reordering by way of natural parenting seems more likely. Nature appears to use this technique to insure diversity. Thus, being replanted, intact, as were were at death, begins to sound more like incestuous inbreeding than merely living on. Leaving us to wonder where, exactly, do all the new lives we encounter come from, if everyone is an intact reincarnation of who they were at death? How does a population fluctuate in numbers, if there is only us, now, today... repeating our existence over and over again? Reincarnation at this level seem very stagnant. But... for those who do not embrace the idea of a hands-off "God" in absentia, the idea of being transplanted intact as were are at death might fit better.
Thus far we may not be approaching much clarity of choice. But don't despair... because the design of the system being presented on this site is compatible with either notion - annihilation or reincarnation. In pursuing reincarnation, the Major Trumps of The Numerical Tarot can be viewed in either of two ways - as a linear expression of the transient one-time path of life, or circularly, as a circular path of reincarnation. For those who want to believe that reincarnation is some kind of punishment for not getting enlightenment right, and being sent back, intact, as we were at death, to try again... they can use the "Sphere = Point" aspect of our number line to cycle back around. Likewise, if someone wants to believe that reincarnation is an opportunity to live again, and that the "Cosmic DNA-like" encoding of our essence lives on, then by all means reincarnate! Following these options, the idea given in the book All Things Are Numbers of a point of singularity that paradoxically comes in two parts - one outer and one inner, thus allowing for transcendence via paradoxical looping - makes sense, and reinforces belief in Option 4: being replanted. On the other hand, if someone wants to believe that life is a one way affair ending in death, then don't cycle around, run right off the end of the number line into the nothingness and chaos of zero and be absorbed or scattered... or terminated. In the case of those who choose to run off the end of our number line and die, rather than cycling around, the Quaternary part of The Numerical Tarot deck would then be the path taken by those who do get enlightenment right, and thereby move off the cycle toward the "Godforce" singularity that this study of tarot and life labels The Absentia (see The Absentia and The Four Left Over elsewhere on this site). The system being presented on this site is prepared to go either way - cycle around, or get off the wheel. Based on the aforementioned tendencies toward denial and people wanting what they want, regardless of how improbable, but based mostly on ego survival, I think the notion of living on in some way is a desire characteristic to a certain personality type that is not really me (see Consider the Source elsewhere on this site). Thus, as mentioned, I tend more toward options 1, 2 or 3.
An Instrument of Fear
I'm undecided on which way to go with reincarnation, because I haven't read all that many theories. But of all the theories I have read, I can't recall any that view reincarnation as an opportunity. Every theory of reincarnation I've read seems to view it as a punishment. We are reincarnated because we didn't get the recipe of enlightenment quite right, and are being punished to live another life and try again. Or, we didn't even try to get enlightenment right at all, and are thereby doomed to be reincarnated forever. To some, reincarnation is explicitly defined as a mechanism with which to promote a healthy amount of fear for what will happen to us if we are not good and virtuous people in our manifest lives. Not being good, gets us reincarnated as a lower being. Philosophies that promote a belief with the use of fear might appeal to certain personality types, but not to me (see Consider the Source elsewhere on this site). Fear is a pretty effective motivator in all its forms. Thus, to me, Option 4: being replanted, becomes less and less appealing. I might be more inclined to believe in that type of reincarnation, or reincarnation as a whole, if it wasn't being used as an instrument of fear.
Sadly... in addition, Option 4 continues to be less appealing, even when reincarnation is viewed as an opportunity. In all forms of death, it is acknowledged that a physical body is abandoned. In pursuit of unity with "God" many suggest that we prepare for this experience by abandoning, relinquishing and renouncing our current manifest existence (as much as possible) while still alive. People who follow this path typically view our physical bodies, and our lives in general, as impure, or filthy mistakes of creation in need of purification and purgation (see An Alchemistic Recipe elsewhere on this site). We are told to renounce possessions... renounce duality... renounce all attachments to body and most importantly the ego. But... a mind that remains intact, waiting to be replanted into a newborn form, does not seem to follow this advice. Clearly, the first three of our options are much more in line with a philosophy that stresses the benefits of letting go and relinquishing everything... including the ego. Clearly, an intact essence, ready to be replanted into a newborn form, is closer to an intact ego that has not let go than would a life following options 1, 2, or 3. Thus, Option 4: being replanted, begins to sound just a little egotistical, not to mention hypocritical, by inventing a theory that argues in favor of letting go of everything... except the ego that invented the idea of letting go.
The last point that makes Option 4 less appealing is the idea that, although replanted into a newborn form, we are typically unaware that any reincarnation has taken place. While some claim to have awareness of past lives... most people don't. To me, that seems contradictory to the whole purpose of keeping our essence and ego intact. And while this condition of amnesia might diminish the degree of conflict found in the idea of transplanting an ego, lack of awareness doesn't really eliminate the problems and hypocrisies of Option 4. And it doesn't eliminate the notion that those who recall past lives, must also be recalling past egos that were not completely renounced and so caused their reincarnation. If reincarnation is a reward, then remembering past egos should be embraced. If reincarnation is a punishment, then remembering pas egos should be something to be ashamed of, as it only serves to reveal one's past inability to understand the path of enlightenment. The Akashic Records are thus a remorseful record of all those who did not understand enlightenment and were thereby not able to get off the wheel of reincarnation.
Overall, the reincarnation of Option 4 seems overly complex, contradictory, hypocritical... and by its use of fear, very manipulative. Options 2 or 3 seem much more natural to me. People use the concept of Karma to promote a healthy fear of what will happen if we are not good. Others use Judgment Day to promote fear of what will happen to us if we are not good. Others use reincarnation to promote fear of what will happen to us if we are not good. If it were to be known that indeed all we do is die in the end, none of these instruments of fear would work. Indeed, that seems to be the most potent, and necessary reason for accepting and believing in reincarnation - fear. I would like to believe there is a better way of looking at things.
Leggo the Ego
Typically, people don't like Option 1 because it seems like such a waste to live a long life, and then just die. They like the idea of living on in some way, because of how it preserves all that was learned and accomplished in life. This idea fits well with the 4/6 personality type who is typically focused on wealth and value, and holding on to things of wealth and value (see Consider the Source elsewhere on this site). But, if - as many spiritual philosophies instruct us - stripping away and letting go of our ego is desired and required, then as just mentioned, there is a contradiction here. If letting go is an absolute necessity of enlightenment, then hanging on to the value of wealth - even the wealth of our Ego - should be as much an obstacle to enlightenment as holding on to our possessions and physical body. If letting go of everything is the only way to unite with the oneness of nothingness, then ending life, with NOTHING more to follow, should be the ultimate act of letting go - making Option 1 or 2 a more effective means of reaching enlightenment. Certainly more so than Option 4.
Because all of these options seem equally viable, I am inclined to believe that they are indeed equally possible outcomes of death. In other words, upon death any one of us could go any one of these four ways... depending on how well we have released the grip on our Ego throughout life and at our moment of death. To me, this is one way in which I might possibly accept the idea of reincarnation as a punishment, or at least as an indicator that something has gone wrong along the path of enlightenment. If the ultimate goal is to relinquish and renounce to a point of oneness and nothingness, in order to transcend into the singularity of The Absentia (see The Three Unities and, The Great Regress within the essay Be Gray Every Day, elsewhere on this site), then I could agree that holding on to the ego - by believing that it will remain intact and reappear in some way - would result in a less than satisfactory outcome... leading to the kind of reincarnation described in Option 4. Whereas, on the other hand, a completely successful relinquishment to absolute nothingness would result in the more desirable outcome described in Option 1, of death... followed by... nothing at all. Death, followed by nothing at all, would then be an indication that the Mind/Self/Ego in question had successfully passed directly into The Absentia. I would then see all the in between degrees of letting go as leading to the in between outcomes of Options 2 or 3 where lesser degrees of "ego recycling" occur.
To a 1/9 personality - being, as it is, influenced by the abstract idea of diminishing returns, found at the periphery of our theoretical model of existence, the idea of dying, and having nothing more to follow thereafter, is a completely acceptable and believable idea. To a 4/6 personality - being, as it is, influenced by the abstract idea of coagulation, found at the core of our theoretical model of existence, the impulse to cling is so deeply embedded that the idea of dying and having nothing more to follow might forever be viewed as completely unacceptable, no matter how logical or believable it might sound. No matter how logical or believable it might sound a 4/6 personality will predictably conclude that there simply has to be a better answer than death with nothing to follow. And... given how adept the 4/6 personality is at denial and lying to itself, they would probably deny the possibility of Option 1, even if proven to be true (see Consider the Source elsewhere on this site).
It is however not my intent to prove any of these options as true. But, to me anyway, there does seem to be a contradiction between letting go for the sake of the oneness of nothingness, vs. remaining intact as a Mind/Self/Ego waiting to be replanted into a newborn form, and being remembered later as a past life (Option 4). And, likewise, there does not seem to be as much of a contradiction between letting go for the sake of the oneness of nothingness, and ending... with nothing to follow, except oneness (Option 1). If viewed as a spectrum of possibilities, it is clear that people cycling through Option 4 have a lot to learn about enlightenment. Indeed, it would appear that recalling past lives is nothing to brag about or be proud of. By this theory, past lives are a clear indicator of a Mind/Self/Ego that does not get it.
On the other hand... if we view the idea of reincarnation as more of a reward than a punishment, then the spectrum of possibilities described above becomes inverted. Meaning... that those who are able to hang on to their egos the strongest are rewarded by being reincarnated in the most intact ways (Option 4). And those without egos, sadly, die away (Option 1). By combining these opposing perspectives of possible outcomes for death we could now view an Option 1 type of death as sad, because they will no longer know the rewards of life, but happy because they have moved on to The Absentia. And for an Option 4 type of death we would say, it is sad they didn't reach enlightenment, but happy that they get to enjoy the gift of life again.
|For those who want option 4 to be true, here is a diagram from the book All Things Are Numbers that might illustrate the path of a Mind/Self/Ego that is replanted. As a life reaches its end (outer end of the spiral) the "impossible connection" that exists between our two points of Absentia (which lie always, just beyond both inner and outer forms of infinity) brings that Mind/Self/Ego back to a beginning point, to replay the "record groove" of life set out before it. This idea also fits well with the idea of having our life pass before us when we die, as each wrap of this mortal coil would represent that path of of our life just lived as we are moved back to the point of light at the center (or, end of the tunnel). Each wrap represents another year. Moving toward the center goes back in years to review a life lived.
Is life a miserable and wretched existence, and something to be despised and abandoned no matter the cost? Or is life a gift of miracles and natural beauty to experience with our senses? Is reincarnation a punishment or a reward? Is enlightenment a punishment or a reward? I say; enlightenment is a reward, and reincarnation is a reward. So live as long as possible, and as many lives as possible, until our own free will tells us that we've had enough. Then, give it all away - give it ALL away. With nothing to follow. Give it all up - give it ALL up, every last bit... including family, friends and ALL traces of the Ego of the Self... and rest in Absentia. If that's even possible...
Heres what youd see if you could exist in the absentia. You would see yourself leaving as you enter. The further in you get the further out you would be.
The Reincarnation Mandala
Here is a mandala you can use to meditate on the idea of life being a one way adventure without reincarnation. It includes the snowflake analogy mentioned above, and another analogy where life emerges from a bubbling brew as tiny bubbles that rise out of the ooze, live a life, and then pop!
Life is all about breaking symmetry to be different, unique and individual. Like a witche's brew that generates bubbles that float up to the sky and then pop, we are born from symmetry, live our unique lives, and the "pop" we're gone. Some pop early, at the 4/6 stage of existence. Other are able to detach from the brew all the way to the 1/9 stage of existence. Follow the bubbles of this mandala to the 1/9 stage.
Life is also like snowflakes, each one unique, and living out a unique life, and then melting away. Follow the snowflakes down until they melt.