Reincarnation is a phenomenon essential to the development of the soul. Heaven and Hell are merely states of being that are transitory to the soul for the purpose of development and the elevation of consciousness.
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Modern day organized religions such as Catholicism, Islam, Baptist, Church of Christ, Mormons, and many other protestant religions teach as one of the main points of their doctrine the belief in a place of eternal reward called, Heaven, and a place of eternal punishment called, Hell.
Hell is reserved for those outside of the household of faith, which is anyone who has not confessed that Jesus Christ is the son of God, or at least accepted this idea as fact in their heart. This holds true regardless of how virtuous a life they may have led. Hell is also for the believer who has broken any one of the statutes for behavior outlined in the Holy Bible, and is not lucky enough to know that he or she is going to die beforehand. (Foreseeing one’s death gives them a chance to confess their errant ways, ask for forgiveness, and receive the absolution that all who accept Christ are guaranteed) This sadly includes people who are spiritual and pious, however, simply less than perfect.
Heaven of course is the place of eternal reward reserved for those who are pure, perfect and holy, without a spot or wrinkle; without a blemish. Since this describes virtually no one, there is the clause for divine grace given to all sinners when they receive absolution by confessing their belief in Jesus Christ as the son of God, who paid for the sins of all humanity with his crucifixion and death. However this should not be taken as a license to sin because it is possible to backslide and lose one’s salvation, supposedly. Of course there is still the lucky wildcard to heaven; the foreseen death which allows the person to confess and repent of their sins and live piously (even if only for a short period of time.) There is also the religion of Islam, that promises it’s followers an eternal reward consisting of several virgins for martyring themselves and killing others who disagree with their religious choice. I personally found this one to be the least rewarding eternal reward. Unless the virgins have a virginity restoring mechanism, the whole deal is pretty much a rip!
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this whole eternal reward and punishment system is the vast disparity with which all humanity must contend. Everyone is not born into the same level of difficulty and obstacles to be dealt with in a lifetime. For instance, a person born into extreme poverty and abuse has a significantly more difficult road to travel than a person who is born wealthy to loving and devoted parents. It would seem that it is a case where a race is to be run where one person is required to run uphill while their opponent is required to run the race downhill. The person born with the advantages of material stability and a loving and safe home, is far more likely to have the ability to avoid a life of crime or “sin” where the person hailing from the poor and disenfranchised background, who has been surrounded his entire life by people who exist on the fringes of right and wrong, has far more difficulty. Who among us would want to trade places with a person from civil war torn Sudan, or Iraq. How does one maintain their piety after seeing their whole family blown to pieces or their children for whom they had such high hopes, dragged away and forced to become a ruthless rebel soldier forced into slaughtering more of his own people?
All men simply are not created equal. There is so much more for some people to deal with than others, and to expect that the end result of this disparity could be fair is ridiculous if not completely impossible.
All of this notwithstanding, the most compelling argument against the concept of eternal punishment is this: Those of us who are parents know exactly how much our young charges can tap dance on our last nerve, and do things that would make the strongest of us want to absolutely wring their necks at times!
But how many sane parents who care at all for their children would ever get so angry, frustrated or disappointed with our child that we would choose to punish our child with torture! What kind of monster would take their child and douse him with gasoline and set him alight ---and not just allow the poor child to die, but put the fire out just to set the child on fire over and over again…..for all eternity! I dare say, and sincerely hope that no one would. Most of us would want to remove that person from society and see them severely punished, Yet, this is the character that we identify our God with. The epitome of love and forgiveness---- the one who “so loved the world that he gave his only son,”-- and for those who believe that Jesus is God; his very life! --- has decided somewhere along the line that if his beloved children are not perfectly obedient, he will not just destroy them and banish them from existence, but condemn them to eternal punishment! Mind you, not just punishment, but excruciating torment and torture for all eternity! This sounds more like Marquis DeSade than a loving God.
By embracing this belief in eternal torment and punishment, we have relegated the Supreme Being to the level of behavior of our most depraved, insane, and diabolical peers. We actually believe that a loving God who is nothing, if not pure love and forgiveness and creative potential, who has all eternity at his disposal, would choose to subject his errant children to unspeakable and harrowing torment, rather than allow them to learn from their mistakes until they master their lessons and become more the people that their heavenly benefactor desires his children to be. It is completely and utterly contradictory to purport God as all love and compassion--whom we are to emulate-- as someone who is capable of unspeakable cruelty. It is no wonder people feel justified in committing grievous acts of depravity upon one another. Often times in the name of our loving God. Dr Martin Luther King stated the following: “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance, and conscientious stupidity.” This statement is never more apparent than when Christians are questioned about the paradox of an all loving God and eternal damnation. I believe that the official standard response is “God does not put people in hell, they put themselves there with their sin or refusal to believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God”. Dr. James Merritt exemplifies this belief in the following excerpt from his sermon “A Look Behind Death’s Door” (28 of 39) “ No one can pardon like God can, but neither can anyone punish like God can. Now you have a choice. You can reject God’s pardon, and therefore accept God’s punishment, or you may receive God’s pardon and therefore avoid God’s punishment. But after you die you will experience either the pardon of God, or the punishment of God.”
The premise that there is punishment is a reasonable one. However, it is the eternity of it all, that I take issue with, especially considering the amount of creative control over our lives that we would need to have in order to be able to “put ourselves” in hell for all eternity. So many things happen in our lives that are just not our fault and not even in our control or our will; an alcoholic parent; a sexual predator relative, or clergyman, or camp counselor. A good example of this is the recent case of a 42 year old woman who had been kept by her father in his basement as a sex slave since she was eleven years old! How was she supposed to not sin?! And her father, the perpetrator…..he can just say oops, my bad, God,….and just go to heaven with all of the people who have lived piously and never hurt anyone? If this is the work of our intelligent and loving God, it’s no wonder that so many people don’t believe in him and organized religion is a joke.
It is difficult for me to accept this disparately unfair system of reward and punishment when there is a much kinder, gentler, loving and intelligent alternative explanation; dare I say, belief system, that seems to turn the cogwheel and gearwheel of spirituality, philosophy and theology in perfect synchrony! The concept of reincarnation. Although the idea is balked at by many western theologians who claim that there is no concrete evidence for it’s existence, the idea long predates the Christian concept of heaven and hell, and is present in the philosophical and spiritual belief system of nearly all aboriginal people. The fact is, that there are far more compelling cases indicating the existence of reincarnation, than there are for a heaven in the sky and a hell at the core of the earth. Such as the case of Jenny Cockell, a British woman who was plagued since childhood with memories of eight children that she had orphaned when she died in a previous life. She was able to find six of her eight children and reunite them in her old hometown of Malahide, Ireland, despite never having been in Ireland until she came seeking answers to these disturbing memories. (A movie was made about the story, called “Yesterday”s Children. Starring actress Jayne Seymour). Also, the well known case of Virginia Burns Tigue, who under deep hypnosis recalled a past life as an Irish woman named Bridey Murphy. She became the basis of a book called “The Search for Bridey Murphy”, written in 1956 by Morey Bernstein. We refute the beliefs of many of the most astute and spiritual civilizations known to man to hang on to antiquated concepts derived mainly from Greco-Roman mythology (which is quite compelling, but does not seem to embrace reincarnation due to the emperors’ desire to be instantly deified after death and not bother with the tedium of paying for all of the pain and destruction that they may have caused others during their lifetime.)
Reincarnation is a concept that when it is plugged into a philosophical system, makes the whole thing just click into place. When it is paired with the concept of balance and Cause and Effect, it makes even more sense.
Often when I am presenting reincarnation to someone Christian, they will respond that reincarnation seems like a license to sin, that if we don’t go to hell and get eternally punished, then we are getting away with our crime. This is not the case, because reincarnation works in combination with the law of cause and effect. Our free will. Our choices and reactions to the situations that we encounter in our lives, molds us and defines and refines who we are on the inside- our souls. The soul’s ability to learn from it’s mistakes is a tremendous tool for growth and elevation of consciousness. A God who advocates love and forgiveness would not punish for the sake of retribution, but for the purpose of teaching the child the harm or danger of a certain behavior.
My first introduction to the idea that perhaps hell was a state of being or a state of mind, rather than an actual place, was found oddly enough, in the Greco- Roman myth about the kidnapping of Persephone by the god Hades. In the story, Demeter, the harvest goddess’s daughter Persephone is kidnapped by Hades- the unlucky brother of Zeus that was given the rather unpleasant job of ruling the underworld (he is also called Pluto by the Greeks). The story goes that while Persephone was held captive in the underworld, she visited some of the people who were there being tormented, namely Sisyphus and Tantalus. Sisyphus was forced to roll a heavy stone up a hill, but just about the time that he would get it to the top of the hill, the stone would invariably roll back down forcing him to start the process all over again. Poor Tantalus was given a burning thirst, and placed in water up to his chin, yet unable to get a drink. When I read that passage I began to reflect upon life and how the man pushing the stone up a hill was like every human being on earth ….Struggling with the problems of life, and how it seems like just about the time that we think that we’ve got everything all worked out, something blindsides us out of the blue and we are forced to start all over again. Tantalus reminded me of the poor, and even middle classes, given a burning lust for possessions and their perceived affluence, while at the same time being surrounded by wealth, yet not being able to partake of any of it because of poverty. As I pondered these torments I was amazed at the similarity to life’s struggles and their resemblance to the torments of the Greco-Roman underworld. The metaphor was clear to me and I wondered if maybe heaven and hell were both right here on earth.
Later when I started reading about reincarnation and studying about the philosophy of Karma and Cause and Effect, the light came on again. What if Cause and Effect and reincarnation work hand in hand. What if we are reborn over and over to work out a certain problem or group of problems. Why not? After all, God has an eternity at his disposal. Wouldn’t a loving and intelligent creator with an eternity at his disposal exercise an option such as reincarnation rather than subject his beloved children to such cruel unfairness?
Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that we may not truly grasp the concept of eternity !!! It’s not a long time, it’s no time!!! Completely outside of the man-made construct of linear time. Eternity means after you’ve been there a million years, you have no less time to be there than when you arrived. Admittedly, it’s pretty hard to wrap your mind around, but if we are to understand a force such as God, it is imperative that we get a grasp on the concept of eternity.
When I plug in the concept of reincarnation, driven by cause and effect, it seems to solve the conundrum of the disparity of different life situations. It offers a plausible explanation to the reason that one person is born into a life of bliss while another is born into a life of constant struggle
Just for one moment, let’s imagine that we all accept the concept of reincarnation and just apply it in a few situations and see the difference… let us assume that it is true. Consider the many afflictions that people are forced to deal with, such as life altering events, or even situations that people were born into and certainly have no control over. What if we just thought; looked at things from a different viewpoint. Why is a child born to parents who are abusive? When we look at the situation from our current mindset, we think “oh, what a shame”, but what if there was a reason. What if that same child was once itself an abusive person, wouldn’t a life of seeing what it feels like to be abused, perhaps help them to recognize the pain they may have caused another? Perhaps that would encourage them to desire an end to the vicious cycle? Would that not be more effective as a means of improvement than being subjected to unending pain and punishment.?
That’s not to say that all unpleasant experiences are punishment. If we can simply change our bodies after each lifetime, then life becomes more of a virtual reality game for the soul than an all or nothing bid for immortality. A state where personalities and identities are shed like clothing. Perhaps some of us would choose a more challenging experience just as some people choose to watch a horror movie instead of a love story or comedy. Perhaps at a certain level of consciousness, reflected by one’s behavior, we can choose whatever situation we like. Someone may wonder if we can choose our own life, then wouldn’t a person always choose to be rich and have a blissful and uneventful life? (Here again is an instance where we must call on that newfound grasp on the concept of eternity.) Choosing to always be rich and happy would lead to lifetime after lifetime of the same stuff, it would be like mastering the first level of Super Mario brothers, and never choosing to go beyond that first level. Trust me, even all of that bliss would get old! The nature of the human spirit seems to yearn for expansion.
If we knew that no matter what happened to our virtual or physical body, our true self; our spirit; the sacred observer, would be unscathed, then what would stop us from living any sort of life we chose! Some more filled with suspense and adventure than others, depending only upon what the higher-self (part of the soul that never left the God- force) of that individual spirit needed for it’s own elevation back to the level of God-force, or what can also be called, Pure Creative Potential. ( don’t panic, we’re still just supposing!) From this perspective we are able to see that all life experiences are valid and useful, even the horrific ones serve a purpose in this context. The great modern day philosopher, Alan Watts, made the following thought provoking statement in his book “ The Book, On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are”
“ God also likes to play hide and seek, but because there is nothing outside God, he has no one but himself to play with. But he gets over this difficulty by pretending that he is not himself. This is his way of hiding from himself. He pretends that he is you and I, and all the people of the world, all the animals, all the plants, all the rocks, all the stars. In this way he has strange and wonderful adventures, some of which are terrible and frightening. But these are just like bad dreams, for when he wakes up, they disappear.”
Although Mr. Watts takes the subject just a little further than the scope of this particular argument, he makes a wonderful point on which I believe the entire concept of cause and effect, is based. The concept of one seamless whole of energy comprising all life. We all are one force expressing itself in different personalities and individualities, different vibrations. If I cut you, then I too will bleed. Therefore Karma or “one reaps what they sow” is not a threat or punishment, it is a reaction to a disturbance in a flow of energy, much like a pebble thrown into still water; waves of kinetic energy are released through the water. So each and every use of will, whether in thought or actual deed, create ripples upon the still waters of infinite probability. If we are one, and I do something to you, then of course I would feel it as well. Perhaps all of the suffering and joy on the earth are but ripples upon the waters of eternity. While they may cease, they are begun again with the slightest disturbance.
In conclusion, I challenge you to thoroughly examine and contemplate both of these belief systems, the belief in heaven and hell as literal places of reward and punishment, and the belief in reincarnation. Both being without substantial or definitive scientific proof of their existence. Forget about the wrath of an angry and vengeful God, determined to punish you for being so insolent as to question the 20,000 different interpretations of two thousand year old texts! Texts that were written by God knows who, and translated so many times that it is a wonder that any of it’s true essence is left!
Forget all of your fears and simply ask yourself which one makes more sense? A vengeful and angry God seeking heinous punishment and retribution, or a loving and benevolent father with literally, all the time and patience in the universe to work out your perfection? Ask yourselves why is it easier to believe in a God who rewards victors in a twisted competition where some players are faced with insurmountable obstacles and others with primrose paths! Could it be possible that there is another explanation?! Another way of looking at things?
I encourage each and everyone who reads this to just think about it, let your mind wander to a place of what if…. I really don’t believe that the force of Pure Creative Potential would be too intimidated. Those who are profiting bountifully off of your gullibility and fear, may however feel differently.
Those who seek the truth will always do just that…. Seek the truth.
Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) Strength to Love, 1963
Sermons.com June 05, 2008 Dr. James Merritt “A Look Behind Death’s Door.”(28 of 39)
Hamilton, Edith. Mythology. Mentor. 1955 ISBN-0-451-62375-0
The Rape of Persephone pp 51
The Unexplained/Past Lives “The Unexplained/ Past Lives”
Biography Network. BIO. June 29, 2008. WPA film Library. Malahide Historical Society
Watts, Alan. The Book (On The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are).
ISBN:978 0394718538. October 1972
The American Society for Psychical Research. Ebon, Martin. Reincarnation In The Twentieth Century. 1969 Signet Books
Library of Congress Catalog card Number: 71-79065
Chopra, Deepak. The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. Amber Allen Publishing and New World Library. 1994 ISBN: 1-878424-11-4
LIFE Magazine, December 1999. "2000 years of Christianity, The Meaning of the Millenium" pp 50-68.