Birth, Death and Reincarnation
By Ford Johnson[i]
Those brought up in the Christian Church are bathed in notions of heaven or hell awaiting them in the afterlife. These pronouncements grew out of a desire by the church hierarchy to influence the decisions and actions one might take while in this life and ensure faithful participation in the church itself. Not only were these notions of heaven and hell, reward and punishment, wrong, but they also had a crippling, fear-producing effect during their reign over any follower. Religious dogma has had its greatest impact in misleading people about the phenomena of birth and death. Religions have, since their inceptions, used these ideas to keep followers in line. This simplification of life, death, and the afterlife continues to lead people away from truth. Instead, it places them in a constant state of guilt and fear.
These myths of heaven, hell, and sin are shattered the instant the God-seeker comes to recognize that soul is eternal. Its very existence is evidence of a divine creator, because soul is a spark, a part of that divine reality. Just as a drop of water from the ocean contains all of the characteristics of the ocean, so does soul, a part of God, contain all of ITS characteristics. This is the origin of the idea that we are made in God’s image, which has mistakenly come to mean resemblance to our physical form.
Conventional notions of heaven and hell, salvation and damnation, are off the mark. Indeed, no less a personage than Pope John Paul II has gone on record as retreating from the literal interpretations of heaven and hell to a more enlightened, albeit limited, view of these two putative destinations. Of heaven the pope has said:
“In the context of Revelation, we know that the “heaven” or “happiness” in which we will find ourselves is neither an abstraction nor a physical place in the clouds, but a living, personal relationship with the Holy Trinity. “
On the more sensitive subject of hell, he explained:
“The images of hell that Sacred Scripture presents to us must be correctly interpreted. They show the complete frustration and emptiness of life without God…. More than a place, hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God. Hell is not punishment imposed externally by God, but the condition resulting from attitudes and actions which people adopt in this life…. So eternal damnation is not God’s work but is actually our own doing.“
However, much more is known about the journey of soul at the transition commonly known as death. Once the life of the physical vehicle has ended, soul moves out of its shell into one of its other garments that permit it to have experiences in other dimensions of reality. Though we are seldom aware of it, this is precisely what happens each time we have inner experiences during our dreams. We are actually experiencing another dimension of reality using one of the outer garments suited for the matter that predominates on that inner plane. The vehicle used by soul in the second dimension of reality, commonly called the “astral plane,” is the corresponding astral body. Indeed, the existence of parallel universes has been postulated by leading quantum physicists.
At the point of “death,” soul expands its awareness to encompass this dimension of reality. Here, more advanced souls, functioning from a higher level of consciousness, review the events of its physical life. For more spiritually evolved souls, because they are eager to understand the past life’s meaning and proceed to the next lifetime, this encounter occurs soon after death. In this meeting, soul learns how well it used its opportunities for spiritual advancement and what potential experiences lie in the next life. I have studied this phenomenon over the years and will enlarge on its implications later. For now, I think it is fair to say that death is not the dreaded experience most people perceive it to be. It is merely a transition and is nothing to fear. Indeed, so wondrous and sublime are many pre-death encounters that some do not want to return to ordinary physical life.
For less-developed souls, and especially those in religions that do not teach the reality of inner worlds, the death experience is quite different. Upon leaving the body, soul’s journey can take a number of different forms. One of the more common encounters is the movement through what is often described as a tunnel at the end of which the individual may see a glorious flood of light. When soul moves towards the light, friends, relatives, or others with whom it would feel comfortable, meet it. More highly evolved entities serve as support in this dimension, and can manifest in forms recognizable and comforting to the individual. These images can take on the form of Jesus for the Christian, Muhammad for the Moslem, Buddha for the Buddhist, and so on. The death experience is not unlike that described by those who have had “near-death experiences” in the operating room or after terrible accidents. But, and this is crucial, it is also common to those who have developed the skill of consciously shifting awareness into these inner dimensions of reality.
The Law of Cause and Effect (Karma)
Reincarnation cannot be fully understood without considering a complementary law, the Law of Cause and Effect, commonly known as karma. Newton’s laws of motion are a material articulation of a broader esoteric principle: for every thought, word, and action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Everything we do is a cause that has a corresponding effect. This cause-and-effect cycle explains all of existence and is the basis on which spiritual development is founded. In earlier stages of soul’s existence (e.g., in plants and animals), laws of nature govern life, with little if any conscious decision making. As soul progresses into higher states of existence, consciousness expands, as does soul’s responsibility for its actions. In the human state, the Law of Responsibility (a corollary to the Law of Cause and Effect) operates. Regardless of our knowledge or acceptance of universal law, we are responsible for everything we decide, and everything we think, say, and do. Spiritual growth is the product of the lessons learned from making these choices. Consequences can be experienced in this lifetime or in succeeding lifetimes — either way, they will be experienced.
Those whose lives reflect a string of tragedies are most likely experiencing early stages of spiritual growth. They have not yet drawn the connection between action and reaction. The early tendency is to blame other people and other situations. When soul comes to the realization that it is responsible for its own existence, it is then on the path to true spiritual freedom, taking control of its thoughts, words, and actions. Until then, soul is the puppet of people and circumstances that it believes are responsible for its current state of affairs. While this explanation reduces the burden of accountability imposed by taking responsibility for all outcomes, in the end, it reduces the individual to a condition of powerlessness. While taking responsibility for everything that happens in our lives is often a bitter pill, it is the only remedy that emancipates us from the control of outside forces. Once we acknowledge that we have created our own circumstances, we empower ourselves to change them and make them whatever we choose. When soul actively takes control of its thoughts, words, and actions, it attains true spiritual freedom and control over life.
Another corollary to the Law of Cause and Effect (Karma) is the Law of Equilibrium. It holds that everything in the universe seeks balance, including all human expressions of energy — words, thoughts, and actions. All actions are balanced in conformity with this principle. In the process, our actions and their effects create opportunities for learning. When we take a particular action that produces a unique response, it either engenders pain or pleasure. The physical vehicle responds in a fundamental way. By its programming, it seeks pleasure and avoids pain. When an experience evokes a positive or pleasurable response (positive karma), we tend to pursue it. When an effect is construed as negative or unpleasant (negative karma), we tend to avoid it. It is through this simple mechanism that the Law of Karma and spiritual growth work. This principle has been long recognized in scientific research and has formed the basis of much of behavioral science. However, it also has deep spiritual implications.
Because the universe works in accordance with the Law of Equilibrium, it is not always possible to balance all energy flows in a single lifetime, that is, to receive the positive or negative effects of all of our thoughts, words and actions. Thus, unbalanced energy (karma) is stored and follows us from lifetime to lifetime. This is why life cannot be understood from the perspective of a single lifetime. When we grasp the concept of stored unbalanced energy, we begin to understand the shape of life. A person who has inflicted pain, injury, or death on others, for example, learns under the spiritual law by having to endure a similar fate or by balancing this energy in some other way, in a subsequent lifetime. One who has enslaved learns by being enslaved or perhaps by devoting his life to setting others free. Another who has given much in worldly possessions or other tokens of generosity, returns to receive the bounty of these actions. Thus, in this meeting of Eastern and Western religious thought, one reaps what one sows, either in this lifetime or the next.
The great secret to avoiding the effects of positive or negative karma lies in the attitude of neutrality, that is, in detached actions for the good of the whole. One is absolved of individual responsibility once this attitude is adopted. An example of this is in the behavior of those who use power entrusted to them by society. A policeman, when acting for the good of society (i.e., consistent with the laws agreed to by society), is absolved of individual responsibility for actions that may have resulted in harm to another. However, when found to be acting outside the scope of that authority (i.e., outside of societal parameters), then the protection is removed, and the policeman must receive the consequences for his actions.
Those who genuinely act in the name of a higher good such as God live by this principle. This is the highest state of consciousness one can exhibit while in human form. This is the state of consciousness of those who have unfolded to the highest level, achieving the state of Ascension. This is the level to which the Law of Cause and Effect, through the exacting application of “tough love,” inexorably leads all souls. The number of lifetimes it takes for one to reach this level varies from individual to individual. Death does not serve as an evasion of this path, and thinking that suicide ends it all is the worst of illusions. The essential point, however, is that no one, regardless of his position of power, can escape the consequences of his actions. How long it takes the individual to learn this lesson is a matter of choice.
As the truth-seeker progresses in their journey to higher consciousness, their understanding of these and other concepts of existence continue to expand and deepen. The journey to the heart of truth eventually takes one to a point of understanding why they are here and the plans and mission of this lifetime to which each of us has agreed upon our entry into this world in the present lifetime.
[i] Based on Confessions of a God Seeker: A Journey to Higher Consciousness by Ford Johnson (One Publishing, Inc. Silver Spring, Maryland, 20910)