Reincarnation in Different Religions

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Reincarnation keeps making flirty eyes at me of late and I can’t quite figure out why, other than it’s a possible sign from the great unknown that it wants me to look at it. But then again, if all we ever have is just the constant awareness of the now then why would anything need to make itself known to someone for them to investigate it? Indeed, if that is all that we have, and I’ll die on that hill, then we already have the answers, don’t we? Well, no it would seem like we don’t. 

There’s plenty of proof out there for reincarnation. But there’s an even larger amount of proof that it doesn’t exist. As far as I’m aware not a single person in human history has died and come back as themselves. Except that is Jesus Christ but nobody can seem to agree on whether he actually died or not. One theory suggests he and his uncle hung out in the cave for a few days and got high as motherfuckers until the coast was clear and they skedaddled. Although to be totally honest on the Christ crucifixion I’m pretty much onboard with the theory that he survived, went west and taught about non-duality and all that lark and ended up in Kashmir, where he’s buried. You can read more about it here: https://www.indiaheritagewalks.org/blog/tomb-jesus-kashmir-roza-bal-shrine On a fairly recent episode of the podcast we spoke about a BBC documentary about it which you can listen to here: https://youtu.be/tFNyiHl7-CM

The Dalai Lama; sound chap

The documentary goes into some pretty speculative stuff, suggesting Jesus was a Buddhist and this is supposed to account for his so-called ‘missing years’ when he was, the doc suggests, taken off to India and learnt about Buddhist teachings. This, they say, explains the appearance of the Magi at his birth; they knew of his earthly arrival and were sent on a mission to claim him and educate him. Now, that doesn’t sound so crazy when we consider that Tibetan Buddhists carry on this tradition to this day and it’s what happens when every Dalai Lama is born. A child is identified as a born-again Bodhisattva of compassion and they are raised and educated to carry on the line of Lamas. Tenzin Gyatso, the current Dalai Lama, is turning 87 this year and has stated in the past he’ll announce when he’s 90 if he’ll reincarnate. There’s much political heave-hoing over who the 15th Dalia Lama will be, as China currently controls Tibet they say they’ll announce who the next one will be. Nobody outside of China will support that decision though and we may well see a split in the coming years.

So what exactly is meant by reincarnation, well, how long is a piece of string? It’s twice the length from the middle isn’t it? The Eastern religions of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism all preach of reincarnation with slight yet important differences. In Hinduism the belief is that we all have an atman and this soul persists after death and is reborn again and again until it attains self-knowledge. This might help explain why the earth’s population continues to rise; we’re feckin eejits that can’t realise we’re all one soul because we’re too busy watching Reality TV and watching people on YouTube playing video games. We are really dumb in fairness. 

The Buddhists, on the other hand, believe there is no soul and no self so while Buddhists do believe in reincarnation there’s no self or soul that’s reborn as there is no self. But you are reborn. Yea, look, it’s a bit confusing and I’m not sure what’s reincarnated if there’s nothing to be incarnated in the first place. Unless everything is an illusion but plainly that can’t be the case as there’s no such thing as no-thing because for something to exist it either does or does not. And everything that exists exists. Duh.

Nothing is Real…man!

Buddhists will say the soul, or self does not exist and while I can see the self not existing, as in it’s a construct we build so we can live as best we can, I cannot see existence as not existing, because y’know, it plainly does exist. And anyway we, humans that is, can only experience about 0.0035% of reality so, yes, ok, while we don’t experience the fullness of existence and it may seem like our existence is an illusion in terms of the other 99.9965% of actual reality you can’t just say that everything outside of our perception doesn’t exist because, well man, it’s just wrong. Sorry my Buddhist friends, I’m all Hindu on this. 

Jainism then is a bit more like Hinduism but you need to be more restrictive in how you live, a life of asceticism is the name of the day there, along with the shared beliefs of Yama and Niyama (non-killing, non-violence, compassion, charity etc.) of the more well-known Indian traditions.

Buddhist Wheel of Reincarnation

In the three main Western religions then we have reincarnation coming into Jewish thought during the middle ages when Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism began taking root. It’s similar to the Hindu thought of a soul existing that leaves the body on death and floats around upstairs for a while before coming back to perfect its work. Some early Christians believed in reincarnation, many Gnostic sects did too. I mean, they’d kind of have to wouldn’t they since their main dude came back to life. But then things get all muddled up when the idea of the trinity comes along and God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit become one being instead of three even though they are also still three separate beings but also one in the same. Yea. Try making sense of that and try sitting through religion classes in Catholic school with priests telling you that you literally have to believe it if you want to live in the clouds after you depart this mad shop of a planet.

Of course, these two religions, and Islam that I’ll get to later all owe quite a debt to Ancient Greek religion and philosophy and the Greeks had a few different traditions that believed in reincarnation, the earliest being Orphisim which was centred on the death and rebirth of that mad craic Greek god Dionysus, Peter Kingsley’s grá Persephone and her auld one Demeter were important in that tradition too. There’s a mighty book I listened to (The Immortality Key: The Secret History of the Religion with No Name by Brian Muraresku) that posits a great argument that Christianity is the bastard child of the Orphic and Eleusinian Mysteries (which is what the Orphic tradition evolved into) and that the wine they drank was some high-octane ergot-infused wonder punch that got you off your chops and you got to chill with the head honcho of the clouds for a bit and have a chinwag with him. 

Reincarnation in Christianity

According to plenty of research he cites, women played such a crucial role in these traditions because they controlled the crops to ensure there would be some ‘spoiled’ by ergot and they knew how to made the kickass brew and this tradition might, maybe, maybe, just maybe have made its way into early Christianity but then was stamped out by the zealots because those lads are no craic and don’t like anyone having any craic. They still don’t. Reincarnation was stamped out pretty quickly too by the lads who called the shots.

Islam followed suit; we have a soul but we only get one shot at being good otherwise it’s an eternity imprisoned in the fiery brimstone of hell along with Satan and his lubed-up pitchforks. What am I saying, there’s no way there’s lube in Hell. How and ever, some sects of Islam do believe in reincarnation and there’s a group in South Asia who perform a yearly ritual where they ask for forgiveness for sins committed during previous lifetimes.  

Celtic Reincarnation

Let’s do one final one just because I’m Irish. The Celts, sure I couldn’t do an article about reincarnation without mentioning them. The Celts also believed in reincarnation, well, of course they did as Hinduism and the Celts came directly from the Proto-Indo-Europeans, and that the soul lived on after the death of the body and after a certain number of years it would return to the earthly realm and take up a new abode. The belief was so strong that money could be borrowed based on it being paid back by your following incarnation. 

Reincarnation in Thelema

Oh, Thelema is worth a mention too as it’s a little confusing. Aleister Crowley dismissed the idea of reincarnation because “The idea of incarnations ‘perfecting’ a thing originally perfect by definition is imbecile.” But then again, Crowley was sure he was the reincarnation of Edward Kelley Dr. (Dr-not-a-medical-doctor) Dee’s buddy, a Russian farmer called Ivan, a chap called Heinrick van Dorn who was into some baddie magic (evil shenanigans), then Count Alessandro di Cagliostro, an Italian occultists and merchant of the craic and then, finally Eliphas Levi. Not content with having a fairly wild life himself, Crowley also had experienced plenty of other eventful ones too. Well, his higher self anyway. Fair play to him, Aiwass the lover of the craic. 

As mentioned above there’s plenty of both proof and non-proof for reincarnation. But the guy I trust on this is the American professor and child psychiatrist Jim Tucker. He popped up again in a recent episode of TaSTA where we were talking about a documentary you can watch here. I’ve seen him now in a number of documentaries and since watching the doc have been reading up on some articles about his work and listened to/watched a good few interviews with him too and y’know, the argument is really, really, really convincing that some children can remember their past lives.

At this stage I’m pretty much convinced in reincarnation, largely thanks to my belief that the one soul is all that exists and we’re all just teeny-tiny cogs in the varying sizes of larger and smaller cogs of the universe and as such it’s a God that experiences consciousness through our lived experiences. In other words, I’m with the Hindus on this. However, I’m well aware that I also want it to be true because y’know as tough and troubling and strifeful and harsh and shitty and terrible and god-fearingly brutal as life can be, it’s still wonderful to be alive and it’s not always those bad things, everything, every-single-thing we experience is fleeting and to have the awareness to experience it fully is bloody magical. So, yea, I want it to be real because I’d love to come back after I draw my last breath and do it all again. But I won’t get to; Spud won’t get to, but the conscious ever-awareness that I experience will and I’m pretty happy I got to experience it as this version of it.

Maybe I do know why reincarnation keeps making flirty eyes at me. There’s something in me that wants to know about if I had past lives, maybe I was an animal before and this is my first go as a human. It might explain why dogs and cats and horses and birds and snakes and turtles and even capybaras all seem to like me more than a fair deal of humanity does, or that’s just a bias I’m showing, actually, yea, that’s definitely a bias/projection. Regardless, I’m curious as to what the soul in me experienced before it was brought crashing down to earth in a wee rural village in Wexford. I’m bloody petrified of finding out too though. 

There was a TV programme on Irish television a few years ago now. It was about one of Ireland’s best-known news reporters, Charlie Bird, a fantastic reporter and journalist and a proud Irish man. The show was about looking into his ancestry and all that goes with that. Well, the look of sheer horror on his face when it was discovered he had English blood in him and not just English blood from a normal lad from say, Stoke or Birmingham, nay, poor Charlie was a direct descendant from an occupying soldier who had been given land by an English royal because he was so good at the raping and pilaging he’d done on Irish soil. Maybe it’s better I leave sleeping dogs lying in front of the fire but you know me by now, someday, probably not any day soon, but someday I’ll get around to it and get to the bottom of who I was before I became who I think I am. 

And anyway, they’re not supposed to be blood relatives. Mostly. Christ, I just know there was  some god-awful redcoat in the 1600s called Brigadier Montgomery Ramsbottom III who rounded up 50 Murphys, men, women, children, auld lads and biddies into a shed and set it ablaze somewhere in Wexford. FFS.

persephone and aphrodite

We Find Meaning Where We Want To, Don’t We?

Blog, The Great Work

ParmenidesPeter Kingsley’s name comes up a good bit around these parts and on the TaSTA podcast too. I’m just finishing up his book Reality, it’s the first edition, I only mention that because there’s a fairly recent second edition and I’m curious as to what’s been added or amended. I had another dream about Peter again last weekend, a more previous one involved him and Rupert Spira renting pedal boots at a lake and then Peter trying to sell me drugs. I was awful disappointed. Anyway, I had another over the weekend but we’ll get to it. In this article I want to jump into where we get meaning from.

Reality is our first port of call. Please turn to pages 288/9 of Kingsley’s book, where we’re told the following…it’s pretty grim, well, it is but it also isn’t. Because it’s Parmenides and he’s always pulling a fast one. Big mêtis head on him, the cullián:

Really to understand that we are trapped, held fast in bonds, that there is nowhere else to go, no possibility of transcen­dence, is devastating. It knocks the bottom out of everything we once thought we knew.

All of a sudden we are faced, inescapably, with the horrifying reality of what before might have seemed such an attractive ideal— the terrors of complete­ness. For in the experience of completeness there is nothing to become. There is nothing else to look forward to. The endless searching is over.

The greatest single trick of existence is to make us forget we are trapped, because then we are hopelessly trapped. When we keep believing we are free, that’s bondage. And paradoxi­cally the greatest freedom of all lies in knowing without the smallest room for doubt that one is trapped, because then the struggling and pretending stops.

ParmenidesThis is all sounding pretty grim isn’t it. If I’d read that as a suicidal teenager I might have been tempted to end it all there and then. What’s the point of going on? There’s literally nothing else and it doesn’t get any better, well, it does but only when you see through the ‘illusion’ that there is an alternative and that when do you see that you just have to accept it. You can, of course, choose to opt out if you so wish. I’d recommend though that you don’t. You’re a long time dead and it sounds pretty boring from anyone that’s come back. Anyway, back to uncle Pete…

And yet all we need to do is to turn our awareness back, at every moment, to its source.

It only takes the slightest shift in consciousness, the sub­tlest movement of awareness, and instead of being bound and helpless we are binding the binder. We have completed the circle, inside and outside ourselves. Then the bonds and boundaries of existence are not in some far-off place any more, at the illusory edges of the cosmos.

They are wherever we happen to be. And we are absolutely free — not because we are free from something but because we contain everything, every perception and thought, inside our­selves.
This is the experience of utter stillness: more exquisite, more full, than anything under the sun.
And so Parmenides leaves us just where we found him, right in the middle of our very ordinary life. Or so it seems. For if you have understood anything at all in what he says, you will have realized that there is no leaving.
There are no comings, or goings; no goodbyes. And there most definitely is no death.

Oh well, thank God for that. What Parmy is really trying to tell us about is samadhi, awakening, enlightenment etc. Being-ness and Is-ness is all there is and I’ve written about that before and probably will again too. Thankfully though Parmy has shown us the truth though, it looked like he was telling us to find the nearest high bridge and get it all over and done with. Noel Gallagher

Sorry that the quote is so long but I just want to show here that we tend to find meaning and attach meaning to the things that we already kind of identify with. You see, Kingsley is going to go with the depressing stuff first, he always does but it’s in that depression that he finds hope. And I really like that about him. Oasis’ Noel Gallagher used to do the same thing in his Oasis songs, kick off with something depressing and sad but find the kernel of hope. Peter Kingsley then is Noel Gallagher. Oasis were the guitar band for people who didn’t normally like guitar music; Kingsley is the philosopher for people who don’t normally read philosophy. 

persephone and aphroditeNo, come on now, I’m being facetious, mean and not very nice. Well, yes, I am but there’s also truth to it. Look, there’s no getting around that Kingsley’s knowledge is pretty fantastic regarding Parmy, although, equating Persephone with Aphrodite in a kind of erotic Yin-Yang, death-vs-sex, all-girl, all-goddess-duality is a bit of a stretch, seeing as Aphrodite was her aunt/great aunt, depending on certain myths and/or also, a rival in love for Adonis. Indeed it was Aphrodite who made Hades fall in love with Persephone in the first place and it all went sour for the poor girl after that. Didn’t Zeus bone her too? He took the guise of a serpent and did, they had a child; Zagreus and then Hera, Zeus’ main squeeze killed the poor kid. Greek myths are seriously messed up.

Anyway, look, what I’m getting at here is that I’m not quite convinced that we don’t add our own meanings onto what we interact with. OK, let’s apply mêtis, dispel the ‘illusion’ and see through reality to ‘really’ see what’s there but you’re still going to hear/read/see, or understand, a song/poem/film as how you interpret them. You simply cannot be objective, and indeed, according to Kingsley’s understanding of Parmy, knowing that you cannot be is the best outcome. Engage your senses, all of them and see reality for what it is. And while you can bask in the is-ness of existence you’re still going to pass a judgement on whether an ice-cream tastes good or not. Knowingly engaging with existence is the key to applying mêtis.

Just to add, with music, when you add music video into the equation a song meaning is forever changed from what you might have thought it was. Last weekend, that great 1993 song Runaway Train from Soul Asylum came on a televisionSoul Asylum station we were watching. I have very little time for music videos, I listen to music, I don’t watch it thank you very much. That’s not the idea of music but anyway, I’d never seen it before. I had always thought the song was about ‘running away’ from a bad girlfriend. Simple enough. Turns out the song, according to the video anyway, is all about abused children that have ran away from home because of the terrible situations they lived under and now the song is ruined. And it really was, turns out thanks to the milk cartons featuring the missing kids in the video some, not all, were found. It’s properly tragic. Now, I’ve ruined it for you. But you’ve probably seen it. Probably.

As teased in the intro I had yet another Peter Kingsley dream over the weekend. He had a wheel type of thing and inside the wheel was a smaller wheel that was geared to the larger one. The smaller one was powering the bigger one. He enlisted me for moral support and we hit up the Oxford and Cambridge Universities. He was going around from university department to university department trying, in vain, to convince professors he had reinvented the wheel and this was going to revolutionize the world. All the professors just told him to do one saying things like, ‘look, we already have that/that was invented yonks ago/what are ya at, ya plank, we’ve had wheels and gears for years, this doesn’t help anything’ Poor Peter was distraught, it’s one thing to be rejected over an email or in text, it’s another to get it to your face. So we went to the pub, had a few local ciders, are ciders local to Cambridge or Oxford? Are they even close to each other? Nobody knows. Well, they do know. English people do. I don’t. I’ll look it up. Oh, they’re like 140km apart. Which is ages away. Anyway, a few pints and I consoled Peter and that was that.

BeksinskiWe don’t need to go into what the dream means, it’s not exactly like trying to decipher a Beksiński painting but ask yourself; is the meaning you’re giving it based on my attitude to Peter Kingsley, is it based on your attitude to my attitude towards Peter Kingsley, is it based on your attitude towards Peter Kingsley, is it based on your attitude towards me?

Surely then we can agree that we give everything our own meaning? Sometimes though, we are given something. Kingsley argues in Reality and in In the Dark Places of Wisdom that Parmenides was given his teaching by Persephone and who am I to argue that he wasn’t? He says that Parmenides didn’t put any of his own spin on it and just delivered it as he received it. Even though Persephone does play a few tricks along the way. I’m convinced that Kingsley has the meaning of the poem spot on for what it is but let’s remember that what remains are something like 160-ish lines of a 600+ line poem and the 160 lines that did survive were recorded by someone else much later.

A week or so after I had my K&C with herself, the synchronicities were still popping but slowing down. One morning I heard a voice whisper ‘Amon Tobin’. If you don’t know Amon Tobin, he’s a Brazilian music producer living somewhere in England. Think Fourtet, RJD2, Moderrat…I call it shoegaze dance music. I’ve seen him live at least once, maybe more, I’ve been to an awful amount of festivals and can’t remember everyone I’ve seen but for sure I’ve seem him at least once, so I knew the name when I heard it. I spent most of that day researching him, trying to find out what the HGA was telling me. As I worked I listened to everything he had on Spotify, reading up on him as much as I could and was getting nothing. Just frustration. Which is slightly more than nothing yes but all I could think was, what am I missing here?

As night came I threw in the towel and gave up, which is the same thing but with added effect. Or so I thought I had. I was on YouTube looking at a few things and decided I’d check out his YT channel, below was the first video that came up. Something weird about it was the fact that it was uploaded on what is one of the most significant days of the year for me. It was too much of a synch to dismiss. On watching the video, the meaning was clear. Oh, it’s a NSFW video too, there’s a big, floppy dong in it.

The meaning of the video is quite obvious; take the leap of faith. But dear reader, my questions to you then are; was I given this or is that just the meaning I’ve put on it? And, for you, how many things have you been given to understand?