I have a different perspective on reincarnation than most people. When I assume reincarnation is true for the purpose of argument and apply the mental tool of Occam's Razor, I derive some interesting and unexpected implications:

How many times does one incarnate? One hundred? One million? Once? An infinite number? Occam's razor excludes anything other than the last two options since some metaphysical mechanism would have to be in place to count the number of times you've been born and stick a fork in you when you're done. Since re-incarnation is the subject at hand, "once" is excluded and we are left with the intuition that one must reincarnate an infinite number of times.

Can you grasp the exquisite intricacies of such a simple idea? To experience an infinite number of incarnations is to experience every possible existence imaginable and unimaginable, i.e. pantheistic Godhood. For the purposes of this discussion, let's just consider the subset of those infinite incarnations which include all human lives. It is immediately obvious that Your incarnations include all people now living, all who have passed, and all who've yet to be born. Once again we note the intrinsic Oneness of all people and the unspoken implication of who You are in this discussion.

Let us now consider the subset of Your infinite incarnations that include all possible human lives. A smaller subset of this is the set of all possible versions of "your" life. That includes all the lives that are exactly like the life you're experiencing now except just a little bit different. Like the one where your friend calls you on the phone right now. Or like the one where she doesn't phone. Like the one where a meteorite hits you in the head tomorrow; and the one where it doesn't. We've just derived the Many Worlds interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. Which leads me to the following illustration of reincarnation (as it's been defined here) in action:

I'm driving in my car and come to a fork in the road. I decide to take the left path. 30 seconds later I die in a car crash. Reincarnation kicks in and I'm born again into a life that's exactly like the last one except just a little bit different. My life proceeds accordingly until I'm back in my car before the fatal event. Once again I find myself at the "crucial" fork in the road. I decide to take the right path. I survive, none-the-wiser, and go about my merry way.

But what is the subjective experience of this? Since my second life is identical to the first up until the fork, they are effectively the same life. In other words, linear time is meaningless at the metaphysical level of reincarnation--so all your infinite lives occur essentially in parallel. So in the story above, subjectively it's as if I chose the right path the first and only time. I will never experience going left (technically, I'll never remember having gone left). By this rationale, I can never actually experience my own death (or the events leading up to my death) because I am instantaneously reincarnated to the moment before it happens. In computer science this is a recursive depth-first search where depth is time and the boundary condition is that you are alive.

So in summary: if reincarnation is true, we are all One eternal being manifesting all the infinite varieties of existence and death is an illusion.

Which recycle bin does my soul go into?

It’s Saturday at the shop and I have nothing to do, so I’m gonna write. I used to do this sort of stuff all the time, but I feared for a while that my job may have bled all the wit and creativity out of me. But after some recent events in my life, I figure my soul needs as much attention as my body, so here we go.

Reincarnation, simply put, is a return visit to the land of the mortals. And somewhere, recently, somebody asked me if I believe in its theory. Well, let me explain. From a purely scientific point of view, reincarnation is solid fact. Since matter and energy are interchangeable, and the laws of conservation of energy state very clearly that energy can not be created nor destroyed, only transferred, I can deduce that when a person dies they merely take on other forms of energy/matter. But I think that the proponents of this reconstitution idea focus on more than just the physical science of the whole process. The main question, I think, is more of a spiritual one than that of a scientific one. Does the human soul recombine to inhabit the body of another person/organism?

For some religions in this world, it is a staple of their customs and traditions. General Hinduism holds that a person goes on a sort of 12 step program to eventual celestial bliss, moving up (or down if I’m not mistaken) until they reach the top and get to hang out with Genish and Shiva, eat poptarts, and watch soccer games. And I think for a number of religions that teach reincarnation, this is the general consensus (except for the soccer). But for us, who grew up in America learning from a rich Puritanical heritage, the whole concept of reincarnation seems to be decidedly difficult to grasp. General Christianity has come up with the idea that you get one shot at life and if you can hack it - being nice to everybody; tipping the waitress, and not coveting your neighbor’s stuff (my neighbor has a Trans-Am, so I’m going to Hell already) - then you get to go to heaven. Heaven being, in the loosest sense of the word, a place filled with eternal happiness and joy. Pretty neat deal, right? Well, while you get to the party faster than the Hindus, you also apparently have more at risk. Should you screw up enough then you go to the anti-afterlife, and suffer eternal damnation. With respect to reincarnation, Christianity seems to have shunned and even spoken out against it. But their point of view never seems to have been adequately explained. I think it’s more of an old tradition that has simply been propagated through the years. Back when Christianity was in it’s infancy, they were in desperate need of man power to fight off the Roman’s attempts to squash this new upstart religion (did ya hear about this new cult the "Christians"? They are soooo poor that can only afford one god!). So a philosophy that stated if you didn’t side with the Christians then you were going to eternal flame and torture because you had only one shot, was very good PR at the time. This may provide decent reason enough for the Church’s long standing policy of no reincarnation back to the mortal world.

So now comes the bit where I simply hash out my feelings toward the whole theory of reincarnation. And before I say anything else, I want you to know that I consider it a theory because no matter how much faith I could put into it, I can neither prove nor provide tangible evidence in favor of it. So here it is.

I believe in reincarnation. I figure that existence, as an immortal soul, is a bit like a carnival. You wander the grounds looking for fun, munching on hot dogs, ignoring the Carnies and generally having a swell time. And from time to time you decide to ride the roller coaster of human life. So you step up, hand God your ticket (or whoever, let’s not be picky), and climb aboard. You get flung around and generally get the living crap scared out of you, you stumble off and you wander the fair grounds looking for other amusement. Such is life. You’re born, you have moments of happiness, moments of terror, moments of nausea (hence the roller-coaster analogy) and then you die. Some of the rides are fun, some are scary, and some you never want to ride of again. If you get reincarnated as a butterfly think of it as riding the Tilt-A-Whirl (hey it’s a valid comparison, have you ever really looked at the way a butterfly moves?). But eventually it all comes back to just hanging out and having fun (boy, am I from Southern California or what?). Each ride represents a different existence in tangible form, and each time it’s a new experience. So I feel that reincarnation is probable. After all, what fun would eternity be without times of unhappiness to balance it out? You gotta take the good with the bad. Besides, the bad will invariably make the good seem even better when you get back to roaming the fair grounds. And, yes, I realize that this is a very human statement to make. Hey, I’m human and I make human comparisons, can ya blame me?

As for Hell… well, as much as I’d like to say there’s no such thing, most of me resents the fact that people can get away with evil and die unpunished. But in all truthfulness the business of punishing souls is not a task fit for an entity so weak minded as man, nor is the understanding of the Almighty’s methods and reasons.

Rebirth
One question that is often asked is, "What happens to us after death?"
According to the Buddhists, rebirth takes place at the end of this life. Buddhists regard rebirth as a fact.

Six Realms
According to Buddhism there are six different areas of rebirth; the realms of gods, the demigods, human beings, animals, hungry ghosts and the hells. The six realms of existence include three relatively happy states, and three relatively miserable states. The realms of the gods, the demigods and human beings are considered more happiness and less suffering. The realms of animals, hungry ghosts, and the hells are considered relatively miserable because living beings there suffer more from fear, hunger, thirst, heat, cold, and pain.
One can imagine what it is like in any of the groups. For instance, when one is intensely happy or totally at peace with oneself, one experience a sate similar to that of the gods. Likewise, when one is totally preoccupied with eating, sleeping and sex, one's existence is like that of the animals. Then again, when one is overwhelmed by fear and pain, or is tortured and killed in this life, one experience suffering like that of the hells.

Humans are the best
Of all the six realms, the realm of human beings is considered the best. In the realm of human beings, the conditions for attaining Nirvana are better overall. In general, in the unhappy realms(the animals, hungry ghosts and the hells), the suffering of living beings is so intense and their ignorance so great that they are unable to recognize the Truth and follow the path to attain freedom. Alternatively, living beings in the realms of the gods and demigods experience so much happiness and have so many distractions that they do no think of rebirth until is too late. Then they may be reborn in one of the lower realms of suffering. In the realm of human beings, however, people experience both happiness and suffering, and are intelligent enough to recognize the Truth and follow the path to attain freedom from the cycle of birth and death. Therefore, one is indeed fortunate to be born as a human being, and should remember that the principal cause of birth in this realm is Good Conduct.

Note that according to Buddhism that no reincarnation is permanent. Rebirth will eventually occur and a new life in a different realm will begin.

The woman was the very Platonic Ideal of the Southern California New Ager. Her long, crinkly, sun-bleached hair spilled over her tanned shoulders, big gold earrings made in Ecuador or someplace like Ecuador flashed from her earlobes, and her body was wrapped in a loose, flowing dress of soothing (and no doubt aura-nourishing) autumnal hues. You could almost hear chimes tinkling around her as she moved.

She was talking to me about reincarnation of course, that being the subject of the books she was buying, and I was listening with polite interest and nodding as I totaled them up on the register. Then she asked me: "Are you aware of any of your past lives?"

I considered the question for a moment. "Actually," I said, "I've had this feeling lately that in a past life I was Lee Harvey Oswald."

Now, at this point you should know that I was being fairly sincere. For a while I'd felt a peculiar affinity for the skinny, awkward misfit who put so much lead into one of our Presidents back in the 1960s. Not so much that I was considering following suit, and it wasn't an obsession or anything, but whenever I saw pictures of Oswald or read about him I felt a certain empathy there. With no other explanation why, reincarnation seemed as valid a theory as any to me at the time.

The woman seemed confused, though. "Lee Harvey Oswald?"

I nodded. "The man who shot Kennedy," I offered helpfully, thinking maybe she'd misheard me. I explained how I had lately come to identify with Oswald on some deep emotional level, but -- looking a bit unsettled now -- she shook her head.

"No. You can't be him," she said.

"I don't see why not. He died several years before I was born." I wondered for a moment if she was going to tell me that she knew Oswald's current incarnation personally, and I for sure wasn't him.

"Because you only get reborn every five hundred years. And," she said, "you are reborn as a member of the opposite sex, and of the race you hated the most. Think about that."

I said that I was not aware of that very interesting law of the universe, and we parted smiling. I did indeed think about it later as she suggested and there are times when the question crosses my mind even today. What ofay-hating woman was I in the year 1467?

The Hindu concept of reincarnation probably developed like this:

Intellectual A: "There are so many things to see, so much to do--it doesn't make sense that our lives would be finite."

Intellectual B: "But our lives are finite. We become corpses."

Intellectual A: "You're right. But the essence of the person must cross over death somehow. I've never experienced non-existence, never experienced non-experience. How could I possibly vanish? The whole world is my life!"

Intellectual B: "So what is this essence? Where does it go when I become a corpse?"

Intellectual A: "The only place it could possibly go is into another body."

.... flash forward a few years...

Priest (formerly Intellectual) A: "Damn! Ever since I started preaching Reincarnation, people have been killing themselves in droves."

Priest B: "Naturally! Crippled, poor? Kill yourself, start over again. Throw the dice again. Wife dies? Kill yourself. In a bad mood? Kill yourself. I would do the same, but I've been happy ever since we got rich a few years ago."

Priest A: "This is horrible. It makes no sense, we can't keep preaching this."

Priest B: "Why not? Don't you believe in Reincarnation anymore? Besides, I already have the answer. Just start teaching that you'll be punished in your next life for bad things you do in this one, and rewarded in your next life for good things you do in this one. Easy!"

Priest A: "Hmmm... that makes sense. It must actually be that way, then."

Priest B: "There you go!"
This is just something I have decided to share with you Everythingians. It is all true. Well, its as true as I can vouch for without going to get hypnotic regression. So please, if you want to read it, dont call me a liar or anything like that. Also, please remember that all of this is second hand information. Most of it, I didnt know until a few months ago.

From my birth to about 22 months, I was a normal, happy infant. Then, my parents decided to take my family on a road trip to Maine, like they have done every other year since this particular trip. We were in Michigan, I think, when we had to stop behind a truck at one of the border crossing points where they ask 'Is this your child?' and 'What is your purpose for going to Canada?' when I just started screaming 'WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!' repeatedly. Mind you, I barely spoke at that point in my life, and very rarely in complete sentences.

From that moment on, I obsessed over my 'other life' as I called it. I would talk about everything, like the many pets I had, how death wasnt as bad as it sounded and how I died.

That last part might interest a few of you. My mom asked me about it the first time I started screaming, but I was still very shaky with words so I couldn't really answer her... But she asked me again. And by using other kids' ages as estimates, she found out that I was about ten years old. And I died in a car accident (or complications from it). From her interrogation of me, she found out that the only people that were in the car were me and a man. And the guy wasn't my dad. Thats all that she's told me about the death thing.

When my great aunt died, my sister couldnt stop crying. Until I talked to her for a little while. I made her realize that death could be better, that it was good. She stopped crying when I told her that death was like a transition to a better world. Of course, I was not even four then, so I didnt use big words like transition and stuff. But thats essentially what I said.

You might be asking yourself why my parents never took me to a psychologist. Well, my aunt came to visit us at sometime during this 'phase'. She was so irked by my babbling that she talked to one. My mom refused to take me because other than the fact that I talked incessantly about a life that could never have occurred according to Christian thought, I was a very happy child. Basically, what the psych told her was that it wasn't all too uncommon, but still rare, for children to rant and rave about a 'past life' and it would stop around age four. Which it did. What I really want to do now, though, is go to a hypnotist that is good at regression. And see if I can learn more about my 'other self'.

Mine is not inherently a reincarnation-heavy belief system, but I have some ideas (if not actual beliefs) about reincarnation which I find are not to the dismay of my general theological model, with the idea that we are bits of the energy temporarily dispersed from the greater holistic energy of our Creator. It is my strong suspicion that it might indeed be possible that whatever energy goes into what could be called the human soul may be recycled into other souls. But, you see, not necessarily all at once.

Picture this: you have three cups of Gatorade, one lemon-lime (being a light green), one fruit punch (red, naturally or artificially), and one riptide rush (which is basically grape and therefore a hazy purple). These are the souls of some existing persons who die. Now, pour those three cups into a bowl and they will run together (and the color will probably be some unappetizing dark greenish-brown, but unimportant in this analogy). And now, pour out the contents of that bowl into three new cups, and you have created three unique new mixes, although you might with a CSI team backing you be able to figure out how much of each original flavor went into each of the new blends. Or, if you're that good, perhaps you'll know by taste alone.

But instead of a bowl to which three cups are added, what we have is an ocean of cosmic proportion, and billions of billions of cups, and they are constantly going out and coming in. And there, then, you would have the human race.

Naturally, with the population constantly expanding you have "new" material (i.e. additional energy never before contained within a soul) being added to the mix all the time, mixed in with that of the oldest souls, which are getting stretched thin). And so, ultimately, every one of us has some drop of most every person who has lived before-- there's a little bit of Jesus in all of us, a little bit of the Buddha, some of Moses and Muhammed and Confucious and a random Aztec warrior and the first aborigine to set foot in Australia, and the ancestors of the Vikings and the Zulu and the Ainu and the Sioux.

Perhaps bits and pieces of the previous memories and personalities survive, which would explain a lot of things, deja vu, strange dreams, some internal conflict and turmoil, even mental illnesses!! But, I also think that some personality aspects would randomly and fortuitously blend to make a particularly strong mix. And the point of such a process would be to improve the quality of these bits and pieces through mixing, cooking in the oven of life experience, then remixing and cooking some more. And so, like the folding and refolding of steel to cauterize impurities, perhaps the stuff that souls are made of is similarly purified, rarefied, led to the point where it is worthy of rejoining our Creator when the Universe meets its end!!

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