Archives for category: soul’s reincarnation
Credit: networkedblogs.com

Credit: networkedblogs.com

We saw in the previous post that New Age thinkers had introduced a paradigm shift in the concept of the soul. Eastern metaphysical thought now mingled in their minds with the experiences of renowned psychics, mediums, healers, channelers, creative visualizers  and mystics who believed in Ascended  Masters, Angels, Guides, and Teachers mainly in the western world. Frequent reports of rebirths recalled, near death experiences, glimpses of after-life in a coma or through a medium, recollection of past life through regressive hypnotism, Auric phenomena and photography, poltergeist phenomena, telepathy, tele-kinetic feats, out-of-body vision, distance vision, morphic resonance, ESP, and other supernatural and para normal phenomena also worked to develop a new mind-set.

What helped evolve their thinking further were the amazing findings of Quantum Physics and the examination of the para normal by the scientific establishment, though tentatively, as also eminent academic institutions. There was also a growing tribe of courageous and eminent scientists who revealed their thinking about the metaphysical and mystical implications of the new discoveries and findings of science.

They were also influenced by the thought of certain mystical groups in the West which did not find favour with orthodox religion and the church and  had become  esoteric and secretive. Thus the ideology of the Kabbala. the Rosicrucians, Free Masons, the Hermetic order, Theosophists, Church of Scientology etc all came to have influence on New Age thinkers in formulating their concepts on the soul. The Christian and Jewish concepts of the soul equally played an important role in determining the emerging New Age concept of the soul.

In the Judaic and Christian traditions the concept of the soul is quite different from that of the Eastern traditions, though changing in inflection from faith to faith and order to order. While the Hindu tradition imparts divinity to it and goes so far as to assert that it is a fragment of the Divine Essence, even God in miniature within, the Judaic traditions distinguish it from ‘Spirit’. Though occasionally it is called immortal, the sense of immortality is different from the Hindu tradition. In Hinduism the immortality is an attribute of divinity, whereas in the Jewish and Christian traditions it is immortal in the sense that it outlives the demise of the body,  and after the Day of Judgement dwells in Heaven or Hell for all times. Dante’s Divine Comedy shows souls in Heaven, Purgatory and Hell.

Furthermore the soul is not considered eternal in the sense of existing before ‘birth’, as it comes into existence only by God’s will at the time of conception or birth, though remaining in existence thereafter. The soul rules the action of the personality and becomes identified with it and a man’s actions. However as the person does not survive death it is his soul then that becomes him in after-life and is held responsible for the deeds of the person and subject to rewards and punishment. We see therefore that the soul and the person it inhabits are indeed identical. There is here no principle of the eternal purity and divinity of the soul as in Hinduism. Western mystical traditions differed in degrees ( Meister Eckhart) from the orthodox formulation but eventually appear to have gone along with it.

The foregoing Jewish and Christian views of the soul therefore also had their impact, in addition to the other influences discussed, in shaping New Age thinking about the soul.

New Age thinking therefore combined all these elements, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, mystical, scientific, esoteric, psychic, and paranormal in constructing  a new and unique concept of the soul which differed both from that postulated by the Eastern faiths and Christian and Jewish traditions of yore.

As I began my blog with a consideration of the Hindu concept of the soul, I propose to compare and contrast the New Age concept with that and in the process we would also see how the concept differs substantially from the Jewish and Christian concepts.

We saw in the previous post that New Age thought adopted several features of the Hindu concept: (1) The soul is eternal, immortal and ethereal ( as distinct from being created at birth by the will of God) (2) The soul is subject to incarnation on the earthly plane (3) The soul is subject to reincarnation through numerous life-times.

Aside from these features, where there is concurrence with Hinduism, new elements are introduced which are a departure. Though the New Age soul is ethereal, immortal, and eternal, it is not a fragment of God residing within the body. This position substantially changes the concept of the soul from Hinduism because the entire history of Hindu worship, spirituality, mysticism, music, dance, literature i.e. culture hinges on the divinity within. If the soul is not divine then the poetic yearnings of Indian mystics, their songs and prayers are all irrelevant and in vain.

The New Age thought is close to the Christian and Jewish traditions when it holds that the soul rules the personality unlike the Hindu position that it neither dictates to the ego-personality-body nor participates in its activities, thus in Hinduism the soul does not assume responsibility for the personality’s actions and remains untainted, as God himself remains untainted by the activities of man.

New age thought then postulates that the soul incarnates to heal negatavities that develop within it. The soul is likened to an enormous body of light and energy in ethereal realms corresponding to  Sol in the solar system. On this ethereal sun, sun-spots develop for some reason requiring healing. It then engages in a massive reduction of its enormous energy to create a personality through which it incarnates. The entire soul does not incarnate as it is too powerful and grand. Only the portion of the soul that has corrupted becomes the personality and arrives on the physical plane in birth. This appears to have echoes of ‘original sin’. The personality is therefore that part of the soul which needs to heal. The rest of the glorious radiant soul remains in the ethereal realms. The personality which is the souls negative part now becomes the vehicle for the souls healing and eventual evolution to higher levels of ‘vibration’.

At the end of a life-time the incarnated part returns to the mother ship either improved, healed or become worse and if necessary is then returned through another personality for further improvements to Earth School. This of course is at variance with the Hindu concept where the personality alone acts and accumulates Karmic effects till they are eliminated after many life-times. The only similarity is that in both cases the personality is at full liberty to act and can neither be dictated to nor forced to do the right thing.

The other major difference is that of   ‘choice’. In the Hindu concept there is no question of choice of incarnation as the Law of Karma determines the pros and cons of a lifetime and arranges a new body which would help in resolving negatavities. The soul in that case assumes the new body arranged by the Law of Karma without protest. In the New Age version while there is a law of Karma it has no role in determining the next incarnation which the soul is to inhabit. The massive mother ship soul force uses its own volition to create a personality of its choosing from the parts of itself it wishes to heal, as Gary Zukav calls it –  ‘a unique and perfectly suited instrument’ for the particular incarnation.

However in both the Hindu and New Age versions the soul as Indweller (Hindu) and the Mother Ship (New Age) remain the source of good inspiration and wisdom for the personality which in both cases is free to ignore it.

In addition to the Mother soul the New age thinking also introduces Guides, Teachers, Angels and Masters who assist in aligning the personality with the soul to heal it. These entities are also souls but ones without blemishes and at a higher level of vibration. The splintered Mother soul seeks their help not only to align the personality but also in conceiving a new personality for further healing. The entire purpose of life on the physical plane is to enable souls to heal and evolve.

Whatever the argument or cosmology, both versions emphasize the need for human evolution but each takes a different cultural approach for the identical goal. While the New Age version is attractive as it firmly places the initiative in the hands of the soul as the agent of action rather than leaving it to a Karmic fatalism, it in the final analysis goes against the grain of both Eastern and Christian/Jewish belief systems. For instance how would the long history of belief and emotion tied to the concept of divinity within be able to reconcile to the new paradigm? It cannot afford to lose the anchor of its cultural moorings. On the other hand for Christianity the problem would be the concept of rebirth and a soul not answerable before God on the day of judgement but its own master to deal with its need to heal. The new concepts would only be palatable to those who are not tied to their traditional moorings, but have taken their ship to the high seas for dropping anchor at another shore.

Credit: ISKCON

Credit: ISKCON

” If the soul could have known God without the world, the world would never have been created” – Meister Eckhart, sermons.

This is an amazing quote from the great 13th century controversial Christian mystic and theologian which is so relevant to the subject of my post. Was the world then created so that souls could understand the problems of an earthly existence and thus graduate to a level bringing them closer to God?  The concept of the soul and its purpose in embodiment on the physical plane has been discussed at length in Hindu scriptures also. The soul is said to be a fragment of divinity embedded in the body and obliged to remain entrapped for successive rebirths until the personality-ego-body complex shrouding it evolves to perfection, It is only then that it gets released from captivity to merge back into its divine origins.

Meister Eckhart echoes this Hindu assertion of the presence of God in the individual soul and its divinity, when he says: ” man should consider the great aristocracy which God has set up in the soul, such that by means of  it man may wonderfully attain to God”, He goes on to say :” there is something in the soul that is so akin to God that it is one with Him…. it has nothing in common with anything created.”

New Age thinkers have also examined the concept of the soul and sought to give their own interpretations. Their inspiration comes from the emerging mysteries of Quantum Physics which has transplanted the Newtonian world of mechanical certainties on which science heretofore relied. They have also been influenced by the investigation of paranormal phenomena outside the framework of orthodox religion by the scientific establishment and reputed institutions of learning in the West. Their views formulated on the soul are pretty close to that of Hinduism though with some unique and far-reaching modifications in the concepts. The Hindu view and the New Age view agree that the experience of material existence is important for the soul and for achieving its purpose and it is for this reason that it gets embodied.

An ethereal eternal entity of light and energy, the soul is too boundless to have limitations. Experiencing the limitations, confinement and mortality even through the proxy of the personality-ego-body complex becomes essential to understand the ethical secrets that the physical plane holds. Restricted mobility, imperfections, disabilities, disease, consumption, renewal, reproduction and competition can only be fully understood from within. This then is Earth School where souls get educated on need and want, competition, confrontation, or conflict invoved in survival, all manner of inter-relationships and the complex ethical issues thrown up. The soul also acts as a compass on the ship of life providing guidance and direction to the personality-ego-body it is attached to, helping it to evolve. In some unexplained manner this experience in the Earth School  also serves to help in the evolution of the soul. This is not clearly mentioned anywhere but it appears as Meister Eckhart explains, that the experience is a ticket so to speak for being ushered into the divine fold or presence, which the soul yearns for. This needs further research for confirmation whether the soul is there to help only or to get help as well?

The concept of the soul however gets modified by New Age thinkers and answers  the second part of the question. It is no longer as distinct from the personality as conceived in Hindu scriptures. While the Hindu view is that the soul is a fragment of divinity, perfect, eternal and unblemished, the New Age view is that while the soul is eternal and ethereal it is capable of developing negativity and blemish. It is like a radiant sun that can develop sun spots and in order to heal it chooses to incarnate into a personality of its choosing to undergo a physical experience which would heal it. This descent to the physical plane through a massive reduction of its unlimited power and force into the incarnated personality is for the purpose of healing itself.

The term Earth School where the healing through experience takes place has been coined and used extensively by Gary Zukav in his book ‘Seat of the Soul’, which I consider the New Age bible on the soul. Thus we see that New Age thinkers have made a fundamental modification in the concept of the soul and its purpose in incarnation. The other major modification which follows is that of choice in reincarnation as opposed to the premise that the Law of Karma leaves no choice and the soul willy-nilly has to inhabit the next incarnation determined by the Law of Karma based on the actions of the personality in the just completed life. This modification with far-reaching implications I shall seek to examine in the next post.

The foregoing may appear esoteric and academic but is important for researching the theme of my blog. Furthermore, concepts as they evolve, in my view, begin to have a fundamental effect on human behaviour and thinking.

 

cREDIT: ISKCON

cREDIT: ISKCON

Let us now embark on our journey to explore the meaning of the soul. There are many paths one can take. I can only begin by choosing one that appears familiar to me. Going along it I arrive at the august portals of Hindu thought and beliefs concerning the soul. For millenia the soul has been the subject of intensive introspection in India, a land immersed in mysticism and the spiritual quest, which produced great thinkers, sages, philosophers and prophets like the Buddha and Mahavir ( the last Jain prophet or ‘Tirthankar’ a contemporary of the Buddha).

India’s quintessential scripture the Gita or Song Celestial, begins its discourse with a definition of the soul. It calls it the ‘Indweller’ (Antaryami), the one that dwells within. It also calls it the embodied one – one that has acquired a physical body. While the physical shell is destructable, its indweller, it asserts, is indestructable, eternal, not manifest, inconceivable and unchanging. It is neither born nor does it die. It describes it as stable, constant, invulnerable and ancient.

The question arises, where does this soul which gets embodied and becomes the ‘indweller’ come from. What is its source? This takes us back to the very fundamentals of Hindu metaphysics and cosmology. We cannot answer the question of the origin of the soul without first understanding the source or backdrop from which it emerges. That source is obviously the Universal Essence, Universal consciousness, the Supersoul, Cosmic Being or God. (more in next post)

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