There is a little conversation I often have with folk, mainly exoteric Christians open to hearing new ideas, but also a few esoteric folk. It mostly begins like this:
Me: So, you believe that after die, you will go to heaven?
Them: Yes …
Me: And you will exist there for all eternity?
Them: Yes …
Me: Which ‘you’?
Me: The ‘you’ now? The ‘you’ when you die – maybe with dementia, not knowing anyone? The two month old ‘you’, before you could speak? The ‘you’ in the prime of your life?
Responses after this vary, but often, involve ideas and concepts not thought about previously. Sometimes folk are very happy about this. Occasionally folk block and sometimes they are a bit annoyed – because the truth is simple – the idea of an eternally existing personality-based ‘you’ is nonsense. I point out that the personality is formed from brain consciousness and is continually adapting and changing to its environment – that is, WE are. Take LSD or spend 2 years on a desert island and we are no longer ‘we’. Our self at 7 months is not our self at 17 or 70.
If any aspect of ‘the self’ survives death and continues in perpetuity, it has to be an aspect beyond change and beyond temporality. It has to be unborn to the world, which is indeed what all the esoteric and depth traditions teach. So it is a strange thing to find some esoteric folk having not really grasped this concept.
Often these good people are likely, to quote the Indigo Girls, “bring up reincarnation over a couple of beers”. However, that really does not solve the issue, as most often people talk about ‘their’ reincarnation, or ‘their’ previous lives. A few years back there was a ghastly website out there spruiking a supposed ancient lineage of Witchcraft from Italy and gloriously gave potted histories of the tradition’s ‘masters’. One bio described how a female magistra, upon her first bonk at 14, remembered ‘she’ was really an ancient Egyptian priestess.
GONG! WRONG – DO IT AGAIN!
As soon as we identify ANY LIFE, including and especially our own, as the central core around which the others revolve, talking about ‘my previous lives’, or one incarnation really ‘being’ another, we have supplanted the place of mystery, with the ego. If reincarnation is indeed a fact, the ‘being’ that undergoes rebirth is not any particular life or ego at all. It is way beyond, often called the spiritual self or individuality.
Now of course, language here is a trap; how do we talk about reincarnation without the ‘I’ slipping in? However, it is also a wonderful opportunity to see how much the ‘I’, our ego-self, DOES wander into the centre of the frame. So, I often annoy my students by insisting they use language like ‘the previous incarnation of the being that is manifesting through me’ – wieldy and ontologically full of holes, but it does make one think 🙂 Thanks for listening!