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A Few Notes on Reincarnation

At the beginning of this month, when I realized that there were going to be five Wednesdays in August rather than the usual four, I asked readers of this blog what topic they wanted me to discuss on the fifth Wednesday’s post. A substantial plurality of those who responded wanted to hear what I had to say about reincarnation.

That was a bit of a surprise, to be frank. I’ve never been sure how many of my readers find my way to this blog because they share my interest in Western esoteric spirituality, as contrasted with how many find their way here because they share my concern about the accelerating decline and impending fall of Western industrial civilization, or simply because they heard me say something outrageous on a podcast and are hanging around waiting to see what I’ll say next. The multiple hats I wear as historian of ideas, social critic, ecologist, novelist, student of occultism, operative mage, and erstwhile head of a contemporary Druid order, just for starters, make for strange conversations at times.

That said, I have no particular objection to discussing reincarnation.  It’s been a noticeable part of the teachings of Western occult spirituality since there was such a thing as Western occult spirituality, and ancient and modern Druids alike are tolerably well known for their belief in that particular form of post- (and pre-)mortem existence. So here we go; we’re going to cover a very large body of lore very quickly, so buckle up and hang on.

Before we get into the ectoplasmic nuts and bolts of the particular set of teachings I tend to rely on concerning this subject, though, it’s probably necessary to talk a bit about the nature of knowledge. We all know more than we can prove. If I ask you to identify your mother’s photo from among a collection of mug shots, for example, odds are you can do so in an instant; if I ask you to prove it, you may have some trouble doing so, and if I demand that you present me with your reasons for knowing that one particular face belongs to your mother, you’re likely to be nonplussed—this despite the fact that you probably can, in fact, identify your mother at a glance.

Most of us, similarly, can’t prove that Antarctica exists, nor can we testify to its existence on the basis of our own experience. We rely on the reports of people who have been there, and the unlikeliness that they’re all in on in a conspiracy to deceive us. A group of people who believe that the earth is flat, the North Pole is its center, and the edge where the earth drops away into nothingness is off beyond the southern oceans—I understand that the Flat Earth Society these days does in fact claim something like this—could insist that such a conspiracy exists, and convincing them otherwise would be surprisingly difficult; even if you loaded them on a plane and flew them to McMurdo Sound, they could claim that you’d actually taken them to Greenland, and shipped in penguins from Patagonia as part of the deception.

We’re in a similar situation when it comes to life after death. There’s actually a substantial mass of data supporting the theory that an individual center of consciousness survives the death of the physical body and is reborn in a new body after an interval. The late Dr. Ian Stevenson spent his entire academic career collecting accounts of young children who appear to recall details of previous lives, and he built on the work of a great many scholars from the days when “psychical research,” as it was then called, had not yet been hounded out of the academy by the yapping curs of a shallow materialism. Research into near-death experiences dovetails neatly with the findings of research into apparent past life memories, to such an extent that in most other fields, so detailed a consensus of evidence on the subject would be enough to justify acceptance of reincarnation as a working hypothesis until and unless some solid disproof emerges.

Of course that’s not what happens, because we have our equivalents of the Flat Earth Society of my metaphor. Materialist atheists insist that there is no such thing as post- (or pre-)mortem existence—why? Because they say so, that’s why. Believers in the more dogmatic end of the Abrahamic religions reject reincarnation out of hand on roughly the same basis. So every scrap of evidence for the existence of Antarctica gets shouted down from both sides, and those of us who find it useful to collect information about penguins, ice sheets, Mount Erebus, and equally forbidden and unhallowed topics have to go looking for data points in strange places.

Of course there’s one significant difference between Antarctica and the subject of the present post. Very few people ever go to Antarctica, while every one of us will someday travel across the southern oceans of my metaphor and set foot on the territory beyond. Knowing a little about penguins, ice sheets, Mount Erebus, et al. before we get there is thus arguably a very good idea.

One further note. The theory of reincarnation varies somewhat in detail from one tradition to another. The version I take most seriously is the one to be found in the teachings of the Druid Revival; it most closely matches my own experience as well as that of the scholarship mentioned above, and it also fits well with what we know of biological evolution, which (as we’ll also see in due time) has its own connection to the subject. Those of my readers who like to believe that human beings have a separate origin and destinty from other living beings will probably not appreciate what follows; those who, as Druids generally have done, recognize that one life flows through all things may find the following more congenial.

With that said, let’s proceed. The first thing to keep in mind when talking about reincarnation is that from the perspective we’re discussing, one of the core assumptions of modern thought—the notion that matter is the ultimate reality, and life and consciousness are products of matter—is utter hogwash. To the occultist, spirit is the ultimate reality, and matter is the last and least stable product of that reality. Matter seems solid to us only because it’s what our senses perceive. Thus the death of the physical body isn’t the end of the real person; it’s the shedding of an outer layer, not much more significant than what happens every night when you take off your clothes.

What we’re calling “spirit” isn’t a simple thing. To rework a turn of phrase from C.S. Lewis, it’s not a sort of vague mist that hovers around matter; it’s a complex, intricate, overwhelmingly powerful reality, and all other things derive from it in a cascading process that descends from level to level. Among many other things, that’s how a human life happens. A spirit moves down the planes, taking on mental, vital, and material bodies; it’s rather as though you put a silken glove on one of your hands, and then a glove of supple leather over the silk, and then an iron gauntlet over the leather. When life ends, in turn, the process unfolds in reverse: the iron gauntlet comes off, then the leather glove, then the silk glove, leaving the hand bare and free.

In the language of one school of occultism, the part of you that endures from life to life is called the Individuality. It’s not your personality, nor is it your thinking mind. You can perceive it very faintly if you look at something, then become aware of the you that’s looking at whatever it is, and try to follow that back to the pure conscious presence in you that’s perceiving what you look at. That’s what you are between lives—a center of awareness, with certain innate capacities of will and representation, and with an ability to remember what it has experienced.

The Personality, in the language of that same school, is a reflection of the Individuality that takes shape in the incarnate individual, starting in early childhood and slowly ripening into maturity. Unless you’ve done a lot of meditation, the Personality is probably what you think of when you say “me.” It’s a collection of habits: habits of action, perception, emotion, thought, and so on. Over the course of your life, those habits shape the Individuality, fostering certain kinds of will and representation at the expense of others. That reshaping of the Individuality then affects the Personality, as well as the vital and physical bodies, that you end up with in future lives.

Where does the Individuality come from? In the Druid teachings, the mineral realm is the material expression of an immense mass of undifferentiated Spirit. The old writings call it the Cauldron of Annwn from which souls are born. (Annwn is pronounced AN-oon.)  Out of the Cauldron, Individualities are always being formed—but we’re not talking human Individualities, not at first. Here’s how an old teaching dialogue phrases it:

“Q. What wert thou before thou didst become human in the circle of Abred?

“A. I was in Annwn the least possible thing that was capable of life, and the nearest possible to absolute death, and I came in every form, and through every form capable of a body and life, to the state of humanity along the circle of Abred, where my condition was severe and grievous during an age of ages, ever since I was parted in Annwn from the dead.”

Abred—this is pronounced AH-bred—is the condition of physical incarnation. Each of us, according to the teaching, started out in incarnation as “the least possible thing that was capable of life”—in modern terms, our first body was the simplest sort of single-celled organism, with rudimentary mental and vital bodies, all surrounding a tiny point of awareness. Each of us went through countless brief lives in such forms, and each such life added a layer of potential to the point of awareness, a set of possible actions and reactions. Life after life after life, passing through countless living forms, we picked up the potentials for will and representation that made us able to take on more complex forms, explore more varied behaviors, take in a richer range of experiences, and proceed further.

The Druid teachings don’t romanticize the conditions under which this process unfolds; “my condition was severe and grievous,” says the dialogue, and with good reason. People who fantasize about being wolves, say, have rarely thought through what that actually means: a life spent sprinting through the wild in a desperate effort to fill the gnawing ache of hunger for a little while by tearing some other living creature to gobbets with your teeth, with death from starvation a constant threat on one side and death from injury, infection, or human gunfire an ever-present possibility on the other. The old Druid Revival writings get this. To pass through Abred, they say, it is necessary for each of us to be all things, to know all things, and to suffer all things.

Entering these lives, with their being, knowing, and suffering, the Individuality takes on the mental body that will eventually become a Personality, and the vital and physical bodies that give the Individuality an anchor in the world of matter. This isn’t a matter of choice, not yet—remember, the Individuality starts out as a tiny flickering point of awareness, unable to do much beyond perceiving the faint trickle of experience that comes through a bacterium’s organelles.

A process akin to reflex drives those countless early lives; this turns into a process akin to instinct as the Individuality matures. Choice doesn’t enter the picture until we reach the uppermost edge of Abred, where it borders on the next realm of being. Over and over again, the Individuality enters into incarnate life, adapts and grows, and then rises back into itself for a time to absorb the results of each life and prepare for the next one. That’s as true of the human level as it is of other levels, by the way; reincarnation isn’t immediate, except sometimes in the case of children who die very young and so have next to no experiences to absorb. Most of us are out of incarnation for at least a few years, and often much longer, between one life and the next; the phenomena reported in near-death studies are a pretty fair sketch of what entering that intermediate state is like.

Remember also that all this is unfolding across deep time. It took more than a billion years before the first Individualities to emerge from Annwn on this planet got past the single-celled organism stage. Things speeded up later, since those pioneering souls laid down patterns that later souls picked up more quickly, but we can gauge the slowness of the whole process we’re discussing by watching how long it took for really complex multicellular organisms to evolve.

We don’t happen to know when the first souls reached the upper boundary of Abred, the point at which human beings exist now. Most occult traditions agree that it was a very long time ago, and that our species is simply the current form, or one of the current forms, in which Individualities that have worked through the potentials of Abred incarnate before going on—or not. It’s not a given that other such forms had, or have, organs such as hands capable of manipulating the world the way we do; a pretty fair range of evidence suggests that whales and dolphins are just as conscious and intelligent as we are, and thus are at the upper edge of Abred as well, even though they lack the kind of organs that would allow them to tinker with stone tools, computer keyboards, and the like.

The upper boundary of Abred is the point at which instinct begins to give way to choice, where the Personality starts to be able to reflect on its own activities and experience itself as something that stands apart from its own habits of action, reaction, and so on. That doesn’t mean, by the way, that it has “free will” in any absolute sense. To begin with, it simply has a little wiggle room, the capacity to feed this set of emotions or that one, that train of thought or this one. It’s still mostly automatic—and each of us, if we reflect on ourselves honestly, will admit that there’s a lot of automatism even in our most conscious moments.

Under those circumstances, when we first reach the human level (or the equivalent in other forms), we pretty consistently make a botch of it. As we slip loose from from the guidance of instinct, we lay down clumsy patterns of perception, emotion, and thought that slam us face first into any number of awkward and ugly consequences. Time and suffering teach us to choose habits that have better results, and over many lives we become more reflective, more aware of our thoughts and feelings, more skilled at using our limited freedom of will, and—in due time—we begin to become aware of that still center of awareness at the core of it all, our Individuality. Our perspective shifts, sometimes slowly, sometimes all at once, and we experience ourselves as we actually are: not bodies, not lives, not personalities, but centers of pure awareness embodied in mental, vital, and material forms…

…and the door swings open to Gwynfydd.

Gwynfydd (that’s pronounced GWUN-vuth) means “the luminous life.’ It’s not heaven, not if by this you mean a static end point where the inmates bliss out for eternity. It’s not the end of a journey, but the beginning of the journey’s second half. In Abred, the Individuality is drowned in instinct, enclosed in mental, vital, and material forms, forgetful of its nature; in Gwynfydd the Individuality is awake and aware of itself, with full access to its memories from its previous lives, and its mental, vital, and material forms are freely chosen. One way of putting it is to say that in Abred, the spirit is wrapped up in matter, while in Gwynfydd, matter is caught up into spirit. Physical incarnation, in the sense of landing in another freshly born body, ends when Gwynfydd begins; material manifestation is still available, but it’s in other-than-human forms.

Having attained Gwynfydd, the Individuality now has an immensity of further development ahead of it. The traditional lore is emphatic that there are beings in Gwynfydd who are as far beyond human beings as human beings are beyond bacteria. Druids who prefer the old polytheist language refer to these higher beings as gods and goddesses; Druids who prefer Christian terms—yes, there are a lot of Christian Druids—refer to them in terms of the nine hierarchies of angels.  Those beings were once where we are now. We have the capacity to get to where they are now—and by the time we get there, they’ll be something even further beyond our imaginations. (Human beings are never going to be top dog in the Druid cosmos. Deal.)

Will everyone make it to Gwynfydd? That’s been the Druid teaching since the dawn of the Revival. That doesn’t mean you can’t screw up and delay your arrival there by vast cycles of time. It’s also a Druid teaching that people routinely fall back to less complex and reflective forms of being—yes, that means animal forms—when they turn their backs on their human capacities, and then they have to haul themselves back up to the boundary of Abred, step by painful step, and try again. They can do that as many times as they wish, and cost themselves just as much misery as they choose. Eventually, over the course of deep time, they’ll get there.

Okay, let’s fill in a few details. First, plants belong to a different current of spiritual evolution than we do, and have their own roughly parallel pattern, with which we interact only at a distance. There are other kinds of beings, too, many of which don’t happen to have the same sort of material bodies we do.  The world of traditional occultism is a crowded place, full of lives and minds on many different levels, and human beings have been remarkably clueless toward most of the other beings out there. Will we be getting a bill for that in due time? You bet.

Second, notice that this way of thinking about things explains why humanity in the mass never seems to progress spiritually or morally. Humanity is a stage through which Individualities pass. Those that attain Gwynfydd aren’t reborn as human beings, while there are always more souls being born as humans for the first time and making all the usual mistakes over again. Think of the way water flowing over a rock in a mountain stream forms a wave, which remains in place even though the water is constantly changing. Humanity is like that—and therefore the human world is never going to turn into Utopia or solve all its problems, because Gwynfydd is something each of us has to attain ourselves, as individuals, in our own time.

Third, this way of thinking also makes it possible to link three phenomena most people don’t connect: the unparalleled burgeoning of human population over the last century or so, the equally drastic declines in the populations of every other species of large intelligent mammal over that same interval, and the astonishing cluelessness with which most of the human population stumbles blindly ahead toward a wretched future. From the perspective of reincarnation, what’s happening is simple: a very large number of Individualities right now are experiencing their first-ever human lives, with no more success than usual. They’ll be fine; over the next few centuries, as the human population shrinks to a few per cent of current levels via the normal processes of demographic contraction, we can also expect the rapid speciation that’s usual in the wake of an extinction crisis to give rise to new animal forms, and the Individualities in question can process their brief experience of humanity, ripen their capacities further, and attempt the leap to Gwynfydd under better conditions later on.

Fourth, from this perspective, one core function of religion on the one hand, and of the mystery schools on the other, is to guide people toward Gwynfydd. Religion does it by bringing people into relationships with one or more of those beings I mentioned earlier, the ones who are as far beyond us as we are beyond bacteria, so that they can help us make the leap. The mystery schools do it by teaching exercises that help us awaken to self-knowledge and get rid of other obstacles to making the leap. There’s no contradiction between those two approaches, which is why many people do both, in and out of the occult community.

There’s a good deal more to the process, but at this point I think I’m going to open things up for discussion—subject to the usual rules, of course.

***************

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408 Comments

  1. This post has turned out to be unexpectedly appropriate, for a melancholy reason. Most readers who have been with my blogs for any length of time will remember Bill Pulliam, who was a commenter on The Archdruid Report from way back and commented here and on The Well of Galabes from their inception. I learned from a mutual friend a little while ago that last Monday, Bill collapsed and was rushed to the hospital, where he was found to have undiagnosed end stage lung cancer. He rapidly slipped into a coma; life support was turned off the next day, and he died quietly a week ago. He was only 56.

    Bill and I met only briefly, but he was a regular presence on my blogs and we also exchanged emails tolerably often. His was always a voice of common sense and thoughtfulness, and I know I’m far from the only one here who will miss him. My wife Sara and I wish to extend our condolences to his loved ones and everyone who knew him, and we would also like to ask all the readers of this blog who practice prayer or any comparable spiritual practice to consider doing something of the sort on behalf of Bill, his family, and his many friends.

  2. My sympathy for Bill and his loved ones, and for you–I mostly read his comments over on Well/Archdruid, but he seemed like a great guy, and I’m sorry to hear about his death and the circumstances around it. Will send energy in his/his folks’ direction.

    The post is great (I’m in the Western-esoteric-spirituality part of your audience, which I expect is fairly obvious) and it makes a lot of sense to me. A question: to the extent to which any given incarnation is chosen/assigned, is there any kind of foreknowledge (on the part of the Individuality or the greater whole) about the specifics of that individual life? That is to say, when someone reaches the upper boundary of Abred, is it a matter of needing to learn XYZ lessons and thus becoming a human who will be materially prosperous or caught in the middle of a war or eaten by a lion, or is it more “well, you’re going to be a human with these potentials, in this place and time, and things will unfold however”?

    (Which gets into the whole fate can of worms, admittedly.)

    Also, enthusiastic agreement with: “People who fantasize about being wolves, say, have rarely thought through what that actually means: a life spent sprinting through the wild in a desperate effort to fill the gnawing ache of hunger for a little while by tearing some other living creature to gobbets with your teeth, with death from starvation a constant threat on one side and death from injury, infection, or human gunfire an ever-present possibility on the other.”

    A minor and amusing hazard of my side job is that the Q&As on blog tours keep asking me what animal I’d like to change into, whereas I quite enjoy being human. I like a roof over my head (and a fire of some sort nearby) when it rains, and prefer my venison cooked, ideally with a cherry-based sauce and potatoes on the side.

  3. Very nice exposition. It’s interesting to see the subject from a different viewpoint, which is both very similar to the one I get from the Michael Teaching, and very different. I’m going to hold my comments for a while to see where the conversation goes.

    My condolences to Bill Pullam’s family, he and his perspective will be missed.

  4. Hi John Michael. The theme of an individuality sounds very much like the concept presented in the Ashtavakra Gita.

    One verse goes like this: I am a resting consciousness throughout time and space. I am that am I.

    Another verse goes like this: I am a lake of shining awareness surrounded by a forest of dark illusion. I am that am I.

    your explanation in more detail gives me more insight into that concept. thank you for that.

    sandy, Minister of Future.

  5. Being Christian, the only thought I have this week on topic is a giggle at the idea of picking my mother (or indeed, anyone at all) out of a mug shot photo line-up. However, given the opening, if any other readers should note they find that rather improbable, do look up prosopagnosia, the relevant website is http://www.faceblind.org. Studies indicate something like one-in-fifty people have this problem, so I ought to reach several folks here! And if you are anything like me, you’ve been told you are lazy and inconsiderate for not recognizing people since you were a small child, and knowing that it’s just a malfunction is an immense relief, and then you can figure out strategies for working around it, instead of ‘trying harder’ at something you simply don’t have a working brain-part for.

  6. My condolences to Mr.Pulliam’s family and loved ones. May they all find peace, and may Mr. Pulliam join the ranks of the denizens of gwynfydd, if that was his wish. He will indeed be missed. He could always be counted upon to fearlessly express his differences of opinion or point out any factual errors in Mr. Greer’s essays.

    Farewell and good luck Mr. Pulliam!

  7. Hi John Michael. I remember Bill Pulliam and his reasoned comments. I believe he is one step closer to Gwynfydd.

    sandy, Minister of Future.

  8. I’m so very sorry to hear about Bill Pulliam. He and I didn’t always agree — I once mused that if I ever had a chance to meet him, I’d introduce myself as a fellow ADR reader who disagreed with him on everything — but I always had the utmost respect for his intellect and character. Of all my fellow readers, he was the one I most wanted to meet; I regret not going to any of the pagan festivals he attended.

    I was looking forward to Bill’s contribution on this post especially. As you know, Bill was a staunch opponent of traditional reincarnation, favoring the view that the individuality disperses into its constituent parts (“soul-stuff” as he called it) and reforms into completely new individuals with each birth, although echoes of old personalities can persist (he reported that he was attended with a man who lived 10,000 years ago). In this scheme, I suppose he’d say that his view was that after death, souls dispersed back into Annwn.

    I remember Bill once discussing his lack of health insurance and being asked what he would do if he got sick. “I guess I’ll die,” he said. And now he has died from a condition that, by the time it was detected, all the health insurance in the world wouldn’t have saved him from. Morbid as the thought is, I can’t help but think he’d say he got to have the last laugh.

    I’ll miss him.

  9. @JMG

    Dear Sir,

    This is a personal question.
    Quoting: “… plants belong to a different current of spiritual evolution than we do, and have their own roughly parallel pattern, with which we interact only at a distance.”
    Other than being mentally deranged, is there a reason for being drawn towards trees? (Meaning feeling something that’s as close as understanding, communion, belonging.)
    Thank you. (And also in memory of Mr. Pulliam, I offer my share of thoughts.)

  10. Great and interesting topic. So going to a logical deep time conclusion for the earth at least, so what happens to individuality when the earth is no longer habitable? Is that the end of the road and if the individual didn’t attain the big G that’s it for them? Are individuals spread across the cosmos or confined to a spatial place of origin? Thanks!

    What are some good mystery religion sources to start on that you alluded to above?

  11. I’m sorry to hear about Bill Pulliam. When reading through the massive amount of comments I skip most of them except yours and a handful of familiar voices due to time constaints, and his were always worth a read. I’ll be saying a few words for him when I have a quiet moment.

    Last week you asked that I hold my DNA-related reincarnation questions over until this week, so I will repost them.

    1) While working through human incarnations, does Druid thought hold that we stay within certain groups (such as the same haplogroup) or do we bounce around in successive incarnations to any and every group we might need?

    2) If it’s the latter, as I suspect, does that mean the system we choose to work this time around need only correspond to the current genetic ancestry? I thought I was Celtic, but learned I am I1 L22+ which is called the Ultra Norse haplogroup, Scandinavians who ultimately settled Britain. Yet CGD seems to work splendidly for me, even though my ancestors likely didn’t touch Britain until around 1100 A.D. at best.

    3) Any thoughts on what DNA might be in terms of metempsychosis? It seems like it certainly fits the bill of a material trace of experience over many generations.

  12. Thank you for this post. I shall light a candle for the soul and spirit of Bill Pulliam and wish it well on its journey onwards. I shall miss him and his contributions, which always made you think.

    A few weeks ago, JMG, you said to another commenter (I paraphrase) “have you considered what it is about the persistence of an individual soul you object to”?

    This stuck with me, as it seems to me that (in a different context) when you discussed the issue of Will and Representation, the view of the human person you expressed was that of an ecosystem, many parts somehow co-ordinating together to create the appearance of what we experience as “our Self”.

    I wonder if you might give greater attention to the issue of the soul (or as you are calling it here, the Individuality) in the context of the self as “ecosystem”.

    Thank you.

  13. So, if I am understanding this correctly, Annwn is the cauldron of spirit in which the mineral realm of the entire universe draws spirit into the Circle of Abred, which in essence would encompass all forms of possible life in the universe that would embody the Circle of Abred. Or, does the the Circle of Abred differentiate between worlds, and although Annwn underlies the physical universe, individuality is locked into a particular world (planet, terrestial body, etc.) before going onto Gwynfydd? If it was the former, that would mean that it could be forms other than human, and other than here on earth, that individuality could manifest into the circle of Abred before stepping through the door of Gwynfydd. I hope that question made sense, this is all fascinating but completely new territory for me.

    I will toast to Bill’s memory, the only way I know how to honor the dead.

    -Dan Mollo

  14. Indeed, I will miss Mr. Pulliam and his insights also, and will keep him and his in my prayers. I expect he’d be best remembered by a rousing discussion of some esoteric occult phenomena . . . I wonder what his Vikings will do?

  15. Once again, quite a few scattered things from throughout the post:

    I’m sure I’m not the only one who can say I’m here for all the reasons you listed!

    It’s occurred to me that the massive growth in materialism may be related to the large number of individualities that you think are here for the first time. If it’s true that souls have to learn how to do things other than by instinct, this would suggest that a worldview in which everything is instinct would make sense to such people.

    Do you think souls ever jump between dolphins and whales and humans, or are these two distinct paths?

    Finally, how many people remember anything from their past lives, and are there ways to gain access to them?

  16. Two questions:

    First, just as the soul first entering into Abred is likely to do the usual mistakes and go back to some animal lifes for a while, is this also true as we enter Gwynfydd? if so, i’ll be very curious as to what the usual mistakes there account for.

    Second, and perhaps not so closely related, but you left a gap in your book “Monster” concerning to demons. The traditional lore always point toward the usual tale about a human wanting something and a demon promising it in exchange for his soul at the end of his life.

    Thus, according to the Druid revival tradition, what are exactly going on? Is this one of the stupid mistakes that you talk about, which can significantly delay you? What is exactly taken away from you?

    Finally, is it dangerous to read about solitary fay encounters and the like?

    Many thanks,

    Guillem.

  17. This understanding of the growth of spirit and transmigration from one kind of life to another has its parallels in Buddhism, as well.

    I have been puzzled, at times, why some pets seem to have more personality and individuality than some humans. I’ve also known of animals that have saved their human’s lives–surely an act of great soulfulness meriting upward expansion in their next lives.

    That also explains why I prefer some animals to some people. Probably because those animals were once people….and the people are recent arrivals from the Animal Kingdom.

    But, yes, I’d second arménio pereira’s question about trees. Some of trees invoke reverence and awe in me, as if they are great souls. Some are just regular folk. But I do get a sense of their sounds and motions as a kind of communication. And I grieve hard when some are lost. –KJE–

  18. Greetings all!

    I’ll certainly spare a thought for him as he travels to the great beyond and hope his family and friends are doing OK during those testing times.

    (1) Forgive the abrupt transition. Any ideas why the 3 Abrahamic religions did not incorporate re-incarnation as central to their teachings? Multiple passes on this earth sounds far more reasonable than a single go at it!

    (2) Am I to take it that when people do harm to others they either fall back to lower levels or have to return to endure another human life? And does it mean that when people do good and help others they progress faster up the hierarchy?

  19. JMG
    That is a shock about Bil.
    I came over to ADR sometime in 2009 and Bill’s comments have always been worth reading. He had a depth of knowledge and thought. I’m glad my last comment to him was to thank him and you for referring to and providing a link for your 2005 paper on catabolic collapse.

    Please add my condolences to family and friends.

    very best
    Phil H

  20. I’m in the process of reading this rather mind-blowing post and every few lines I think of something new I want to ask. I’m going to start recording them here so I don’t forget:

    1. Mineral life as an undifferentiated mass of spirit. Fascinating! What about the experience some people have of specific (that is, differentiated) spirits in particular stones, rocks, or mountains? Also, this view implies that every mineral form in the universe is spirit undifferentiated, which would include all those giant rocks floating around out there in the solar system… I’m thinking of a meteor falling to Earth, and over millions of years its atoms becoming parts of the bodies of living things here… and how on this view, that is a physical representation of a spirit descending from Heaven and incarnating on Earth….

    2. If I understand the process you’re describing, it’s like this: We reincarnate in “higher” forms of life because over time we gain the capacity for more complex experience. Thus when we rephysicalize after a death, we need a more complex system of cognition in order to represent the world to ourselves.

    3. I’ve always personally resolved the various accounts of life after death by assuming it’s all reincarnation in one form or another– some are reborn in this world, some in a Heaven or Hell realm, and some are reborn as ghosts, or perhaps ghosts are stuck between this world and the next. What you’re suggesting, I think, is that reincarnation only refers to rebirth in this world, with “the afterlife” being that intermediate stage. But what about other worlds which aren’t this world? And what about those beings that stay on and interact with people after their deaths, such as saints and their equivalents in other traditions, or ghosts, or evil ghosts (I can’t think of a good word for “opposite of saint”), or ancestor spirits?

    4. What do you make of reports of other types of life accidentally, or deliberately, reborn as humans? I’m thinking of Dion Fortune writing about some people actually being nature spirits reborn in human bodies.

    Thanks again for this one!

  21. Also, I posted that before reading about Bill Pullium. He’s been a regular commentator on your blogs since I started reading them around 2007. I will greatly miss his insights here.

  22. Thank you JMG for posting about Bill’s death. I felt a great affinity for him, and the discovery of our mutual acquaintances added to the attachment. Sadness for all that cared for him up close and at a distance fills me. Bye Bill, I will really miss you.

  23. I had a thought about reincarnation the other day which struck me as being interesting from a speculative point of view. I suppose, in a way, it is also a different explanation for the hugely increased human population, and changing animal populations. It is perhaps a bit of a “dangerous” idea due to its inherent elitism, but then reincarnation itself has a similar problem. Anyways, I was curious as to what others might think.

    The concept is that certain souls (plant, animal, or human), although individualized in their material experience, are part of a larger soul which they rejoin after death (therefore whatever individuality, if there was any, is lost). There are only certain more advanced beings which become, through experience and repeated reincarnations, individualized enough to become a soul in their own right and carry on a more individual memory and experience after death.

    One might imagine certain beings, say a fly, which in fact only have a few souls spread across the entire population of flies. Each individual fly does not have its own individual soul, but the part of that soul in an individual fly could move on to a higher existence and become part of the soul of a higher level of experience. In humans, there would be an amalgam of individualized souls, and a whole host of semi-advanced individuals whose souls are immanent within entire sections of the human population.

    Hope that was a bit clearer than mud 🙂

  24. I do remember Bill Pulliam’s responses to your posts and he always seem very reasonable and well thought. Terribly sorry to hear that he has passed away at such a young age.

    This is an interesting introduction to the Druidism in its current form. I’m from one of those Abrahamic faiths that doesn’t think much of reincarnation but I’m relatively open minded as things go and not that religious to begin with. It is interesting that even in some of the Abrahamic traditions, or at least their mystical branches, you have the idea that you can’t cross over, get to heaven, become one with God, or whatever version of the beyond is at play, as an individual. You can only continue on in complete submission. This usually means accepting that you will be stripped of most the trappings of your sense of self, your personality, desires, and idiosyncrasies but not of your will or moral direction. This sounds a lot like the reincarnation you describe.

    I recently had a very odd experience in that regard that I found unsettling but could also be interpreted as clarifying or even enlightening although “pleasant” doesn’t seem to apply. I woke up in the middle of the night on the second night of a three-day kayak trip into a relatively remote and unpeopled lake. I became aware that it was dark and cool and then realized that I didn’t know where I was or even who I was. I’ve awoken in odd places like hotel rooms and wondered, momentarily, where I was, this is not one of those experiences. This experience lasted a long time and had an effect that lingered for almost 24 hours.

    I can’t really describe the experience except to say that I really had no idea where I was or even who I was and became frightened. I struggled to remember things that might guide me and came up with a whole jumble of experiences including experiences that I’d never had. Finally, I remembered the trip and something about a companion in another tent at which point it still didn’t end; in fact, at that point I had the bizarre sense that I could go with that reality or… well, something else from the jumble of things in memory. Then I panicked in earnest and grabbed, metaphorically, for the safety line of the strongest association (the kayak trip and a nearby tent) and stood up outside my tent. I walked about the dark woods for a very long time in a fog of disassociation with all sorts of odd ideas and memories that didn’t seem at all like my own. I had to reground in my reality for the better part of a day, reassuring myself that a consensus reality existed and it was the one I was in right now.

    I do a lot of solo kayaking and hiking and have had all sorts of delusional experiences with exhaustion and loneliness but this one was different and it was an easy trip with company. I’m glad that there was someone there to assist me, unbeknownst to him, in validating the reality that we share, or apparently share.

  25. BoysMom,

    You know, I think I might have a mild case of propognosia as a component of my Asperger’s. I’ve always had some difficulty recognizing actors in roles very different from their usual, and I have many times been approached by a friend or a relative after having failed to recognize them at the store; often I still don’t recognize them until they tell me their names, so it’s not just inattention (though there is that, given my—professionally-diagnosed—ADHD).

    I’ve even noticed that I primarily use someone’s hair to recognize them. If someone drastically changes their head facial hair, I’m very likely not to recognize them, unless I’m in contact with them on a daily basis.

    It’s never caused enough of a problem for me to get it diagnosed, but it’s good to know I not be just lazy at remembering people. Thank you!

  26. I also recall the long timer Bill Pulliam. There is a beautiful send-off phrase that some of my pagan friends like to say that I always found very touching that goes: Behold, All Hail The Traveller!

    What an evocative image of the human being as one that will never die.

    As far as views of reincarnation, I wonder how one reconciles the myth of progress with myths of evolution, of which reincarnation as a concept seems to play a part. Some of us enjoy also the solar mythos that speaks of various stages of initiation unto the elevation of the Soul, which suggests a kind of non-linear progression or expansion into the cosmic eternal now, where future and past are the same. I guess I have to go back and flesh out my reading of your work on this subject. Thanks for this topic of conversation.

  27. Archdruid,

    Very sad to hear of Bill’s passing, his voice of reason and insight will be greatly missed. I’ll pray that the gods look favorably upon him, and carry him safely to the next life.

    I’m looking forward to using your insights and writings to study the Vedas, I’m still waiting for the untranslated versions of the vedas to arrive, but when they do I’ll be using your books to study them. This version of reincarnation is fairly interesting since it accounts for suffering not as something that is an intrusion on life, but simply a part of it. I’m not overly familiar with what the vedas themselves say on the matter, I only know of the various commentaries that treat suffering as a thing to be avoided, such as Buddha’s teachings. That never sat well with me since it was always during the periods of greatest suffering that I gained the most insight. Still, we’ll see where all this takes me.

    Regards,

    Varun

  28. I would defend the accused when you state that “materialist atheists insist that there is no such thing as post- (or pre-)mortem existence—why? Because they say so, that’s why.” I am sure that some do, but I think most are less dogmatic. They simply can see no evidence of it — but can see more evidence of a purely material world that does not include gods or life after death. They would need to see something like those bunny rabbit bones in the Cambrian strata to get any belief going.

    Personally, I would like to believe in reincarnation. But I have no faith. I cannot make myself hold for long onto a “belief” for which I have no evidence. I cannot simply choose to believe in something because I want to. I would only be pretending. Yet, I know people with Ph.D. degrees who say they believe every word of Catholic doctrine at least as strongly as I believe that trash pickup comes on Wednesday. How do they do that? It’s a mystery to me.

    So, speaking for myself, I don’t put down having faith, assuming it’s not faith in some murderous death cult but rather something benign that makes life less grim. But I was not born with that gene — if that’s the way it works. Or do you have to “fake it till you make it”? That has never worked for me.

  29. I feel this is also an opportune moment to relate two very different, but confirmatory, experiences that I have had of “something” outside of a body. The first, from 1986, relates to a flatmate, one of several people to whom I was close during that period of time. This man already had AIDS when I moved into the flat, and there was a sense of temporariness to the group in the flat, because of this. Anyway, I had booked my approaching end to my tenancy, and my flights back to Ireland, when the word came that this man was very ill and in hospital. It turned out to be his last illness and he lasted only three weeks in hospital. The occasion I am referring to, occurred during that time, when I was alone, driving in my car. I suddenly developed a strong sense that I was being visited, and that the visitor was this man. He stayed with me for about 20 wordless minutes, but I had the sense that I was being said goodbye too. When I returned to the flat (about one week before I was due to move out) I received word that our flatmate had died. I was able to attend the funeral, etc, although I had already said our goodbyes.

    The second occasion was not a goodbye but a hello. It occurred sometime in 1993, a very short time “post coitus” and it was again a strong, almost wordless presence. This one was letting me know “I am coming”. I was able to confirm 2 or 3 weeks later that I was pregnant with my eldest son, although I would have “known” anyway.

    Suffice it to say that, while I do not have strong feelings about what the landscape of reincarnation “looks like”, I have no doubt whatsoever that there is much much more to our story than that which can be contained within one human body, or one human lifetime.

  30. @isabelcooper

    From the MT’s perspective, the process of setting up a lifetime is quite complex. To set a bit of context, what JMG is calling the Individuality is what we call the Divine Spark. The Individuality (Spark) leaves Spirit (the Tao) for a cycle of experience, which we call a Grand Cycle, going from Spirit to the Physical Plane and back.

    When the Individuality is on the Astral, we call it the Essence. Essence creates lifetimes on the Physical Plane; we frequently call the part of Essence which bonds to a body for a lifetime a fragment. The fragment of Essence is the spiritual part of one lifetime, and persists as a semi-independent entity on the Astral after death until it finally realizes that the illusion of being separate from Essence (or Individuality) is, in fact, an illusion, at which point it merges completely.

    Both parts of the Individuality (Divine Spark), that is the fragment and the Essence, participate in setting the goals for the lifetime, draw up a plan and then fill in the blanks with Agreements with the other Individualities that will participate, for example, parents, siblings, mates, etc.

    Lifetimes on the Physical Plane are organized into 35 levels which are organized into 5 tiers of 7 levels each. A lifetime where someone was planning to be lunch for a tiger would probably be on the first tier, one where one was planning to be very wealthy would probably be in the third tier. Participating in a war could be in any of the first three tiers, somewhat less frequently the fourth and less likely in the fifth.

    In all of this, remember the Generalized vonMoltke’s Law: No plan survives contact with reality intact.

    @BoysMom

    Yeah, not being able to recognize people reliably is a serious problem. I’m probably not as far on that end of the spectrum as you are, but I quite reliably can’t recognize people outside of the context where I know them.

    @Leo

    Individuality (the Divine Spark) is not bound to this planet. As JMG points out, the Individuality descends from Spirit (which we call the Tao, and is also called All That Is and other names) until it descends into matter for a lifetime.

    Where we differ is this: when the Spark wants another spin around the wheel it scouts out planets with sentient species (such as ours, the cetaceans and [redacted]) it can bond with. Once it makes its decision, it joins a large, highly structured group of other Sparks that want the experience of the same species, called a Design.

    While Sparks do join a Design after it’s originally been crafted, there are still a finite number of Sparks in a Design, so when all of them have finished the Physical Plane part of the process, it’s over. The sentient species it bonded with may host another Design, or it may die out. The Sparks, of course, rejoin Spirit (the Tao) after a lot of further evolution on the path back.

    Then they hop back on the wheel for another go-around with a different sentient species on a different planet.

  31. The Druid cosmology reminds me of the cosmology of Mahayana Buddhism, where Boddhisattvas—sentient beings who have achieved release from the world of samsara—turn back to help all beings achieve nirvana. While it’s reasonably common for Westerners to either interpret nirvana as annihilation, but it actually strikes me as quite similar to the concept of Gwynfedd.

    I know that the Druid Revival got its start shortly before the texts of Eastern religions made their way to Europe, and that the gods of Hinduism were an early adoption by Druids looking to expand beyond the pantheon of Christianity, so I’m curious to what extent the Druid cosmology and tradition of reincarnation is shaped by the Hinduism or Buddhism, and to what extent it’s a convergent development?

  32. I really like your style, JMG, reading this post (and your other posts) made me feel better today. I’m not big into labeling myself as anything but I’ll offer that I think of myself as something of a “Zen Catholic,” and everything you say about reincarnation (and Antarctica) really resonated with me. It’s not that I think you’re on to something here, I KNOW you’re on to something here (was it Jung who said he didn’t believe there was a God, he knew there was a God? 😉 ). For me, whenever I start to get discouraged with my life and the world around me at any given moment, I imagine myself as being nothing, in an immense surrounding energy of [Love/God/Universe] and feel myself being to be reborn. Dying and being born again is something I have learned I need to do, to be alive. Thanks for sharing.

  33. Whenever I tell anyone that my last life was in the southwest during the Dust Bowl thirties, they think I’m off my rocker. I’ve had dreams like movies where I was there in that place & time, and anything material from that time – buildings, houses, roads, quilts, pictures, feels familiar, like home. I hate all this crass, buzzing modernity, and wish I could go back there.

  34. @JMG: you asked ” I’ve never been sure how many of my readers find my way to this blog because they share my interest in Western esoteric spirituality, as contrasted with how many find their way here because they share my concern about the accelerating decline and impending fall of Western industrial civilization, or simply because they heard me say something outrageous on a podcast and are hanging around waiting to see what I’ll say next. ”

    The answer from here is “All of the above.”

  35. I have in my library two books on reincarnation. _Reincarnation_, Joseph Head and S. L. Cranston, compilers and editors, and _Reincarnation: the Phoenix Fire Mystery_ by the same. I read both probably twenty some years ago. Both are compilations of literature on the topic with summaries of various cultures and religion’s teachings. Both are on my to be reread someday list. Are you (or any readers) familiar with the works?

    Would you say that some of those who have moved beyond human incarnations might be seen as the saints of Christianity, the Mighty Dead of Wicca, the Ascended masters? if so, are they believed to have ability and desire to intervene in human affairs?

  36. Dear Mr Greer,

    I apologise in advance if this question comes across as ignorant or stupid. Is the goal, or “point” of life in Abred then try and move closer to Gwynfydd? What should beings in Abred concern themselves with?

  37. JMG- I think on the old site you suggested that the will probably exists before consciousness (If I’m remembering right). How does the druid tradition see the will as relating to ‘individuality’?

  38. JMG – This post is so timely for me. Thank you so much for putting this into words. I was a frequent reader of TAD and my old handle was Mr. Bystander. I frequently attend the waterfires in Providence and have many friends that live throughout the E.P. area. I hope you’re enjoying your new life there. I am from Massachusetts myself so we’re practically neighbors now. 🙂

    In May of 2016 my daughter went through a traumatic birth. The hospital has only theories about what caused this to happen. She had a heartbeat that lasted until she was outside the womb. She was removed from my wife via vacuum extraction in an emergency effort to get her out. She was revived, lived for 10 days in the NICU, and ultimately passed away from the injuries she sustained from a lack of oxygen for 10-12min.

    I was a practicing Christian at that time but none of that helped me at all to deal with the tragedy. The most “natural” thing to feel and think was that she may be reborn again, hopefully to us. I’ve spent the past 16 months on a spiritual journey. I’ve had some indescribable experiences in life that I would have never thought possible – all related to her death. I’ve learned a lot from studying Buddhism which reintroduced reincarnation to me. I did come across many references to Dr. Ian Stevenson and his work and find it to be amazing. Especially birthmarks that travel from one person to another.

    Curious to get your take from the Cauldron of Awwnn about children dying and possible reincarnation with the same parents.

    All the best.
    Jeff

  39. If we assume that the individuality known as Donald Trump was reincarnated, do we have any clue as to what its previous lives were like?

    As for myself, I have no previous life memories. I have few memories before the age of five, and have forgotten most of my experiences during the half century since. Am I a hermit because of this life’s experiences? Or did this trait develop over the course of previous lives?

    I would like to be able to observe the universe without the limitations of the human body. I’m disinterested in human affairs, such as having a family, pursuing relationships, or accumulating material wealth. I realize that these activities are important for the vast majority of human beings, but they are not important for me. I’m an observer, this is what I enjoy. This is what I wish to do with my time. If I were to reach Gwynfydd, I’d continue observing. I don’t know if that is the path towards “pure awareness”, nor would I care. I’d be busy visiting places throughout space-time.

  40. I can’t believe Bill Pulliam has moved on, and my deepest condolences go out to his people. I always felt that he was my kind of ecologist, and a kindred spirit – I can’t tell you how many times over the years at the ADR that he saved me the trouble of having to make this or that comment, because he voiced my feelings so closely. I had a vague hope of perhaps meeting him some day to ‘compare notes’ in person. I am deeply saddened. Best of luck going forward, Bill!

  41. I am so sorry to hear about Bill. I remember him very well and will miss his presence, insight and quiet intensity. My sincere condolences to family and friends, yourself included.

  42. John Michael,

    I agree with you about the availability of quite a lot of high quality evidence of continued consciousness after the death of the body. It continues to be a puzzle to me the way that people reject it; of course, people choose what they want to believe and justify it later, but still, the motive eludes me.

    I’m mildly surprised to find that after musing about reincarnation for years, most of what you say seems intuitively correct. I’m not quite getting the cauldron of Annwn – it doesn’t quite tell me how minerals become spirit and why spirit, which precedes matter, then comes from minerals. But I do get that it is trying to convey an idea of starting out very, very simple.

    I came to my belief in reincarnation by default. I was an eastern Orthodox Christian and one day after some weeks of pondering a certain issue, and coming to the conclusion that its answer was the Holy Spirit, I ended up having a life changing visit from that Holy Energy which very suddenly and then very slowly reworked how I viewed everything. How unusual is it to say that I was led out of the Church by the Holy Spirit? My former churchmates would say I had a spiritual fall, and in no way could they ever believe that it was from something so utterly good.

    At any rate, I noted that eternal hell was untenable, nor deserved, nor admirable and also kept pondering something my schizophrenic brother once told me which is that the reason the good and bad people have to be separated in the afterlife is that heaven wouldn’t be heaven if people of evil motive were there. This led me to realize that reincarnation is the only thing that makes sense, and to come to view the Christian perspective as selfish. A selfish salvation because it’s cheap and easy but leaves so many behind, forever, without a plan. An eternally unresolved and tragic cosmos.

    So, I have a question for Christians, which I have only recently begun to explore (very carefully!). So this question is for anyone. But I cannot quite get how the Christian soul becomes perfected. I was asking a guy at work last week this question. We went around in circles and I don’t think he saw the problem. How do you go from the forgiveness and the death on the cross, to solving the problem that the soul is sinful? He kept saying “when I die.” But why will death help? It seems to me that the perfection of the soul is a difficult and long process of learning to prefer the good in an internalized way. Of saying yes to God/The Good over and over until you’ve got it. But all Christians say they are sinful and how is death going to change that? And if God will remake their souls after death, how was that free will? And why go through all this charade then? I agree (JMG) that free will is less free than we suppose, but yet it is vital such as it is, if only to have a kind of binary yes or no function.

  43. Thank you for a wonderful post on this topic. In reading it I had speculative curiosity thoughts similar to what Leo brought up. Not so much about what happens when the Earth’s time is up, though that is a good question, but rather does this broader view of existence have to center around the earth? It’s not that I’m really eager to be elsewhere, but when one is outside of a material body do the limitations of the vast distances of space really matter when it comes to determining where to reincarnate? For that matter, does time?

  44. @BoysMom and @John Roth

    “Yeah, not being able to recognize people reliably is a serious problem. I’m probably not as far on that end of the spectrum as you are, but I quite reliably can’t recognize people outside of the context where I know them.”

    I seem to have the opposite (maybe related somehow?) problem – I can be in a new city, or in an airport, or whatever, and it seems like everyone looks familiar to me, almost like I know them all… weird.

  45. Best wishes for Bill Pulliam. He will be sorely missed, but shall we rejoice in the wisdom he shared. A life well spent, may he now integrate it fruitfully into his Individuality.

    He talked several times of his viking ancestry, so this quote from LOTR seems eerily on target:

    He was strong in life. His spirit will find its way to the halls of your fathers. Westu hál. Ferðu, Théodred, Ferðu.

    I know not of a kind of Christian prayer that would be appropriate for a departed of heathen faith. For our kindred, we would ask them to be received by the Lord, but I’m not sure if Bill would be happy to go there, even if he got an invitation. I guess I will light a candle for his soul, and ask the Divine Light to guide him where he needs to be.

  46. I’ve a second question but the prior post was getting long. I think a lot about people being “young souls” and would like to be able to sort it out, but I’m quite afraid of coming to wrong judgements. In my family the members are all of high IQ, but more than half are seriously mentally ill. And most members are very spiritually inclined, not least the mentally ill ones. Being mentally ill, they accomplish more or less zero in their lives. Yet my brother was one of the more alive and spiritually astute people I’ve known. He disappeared 25 years ago and I wonder how this thoughts would have progressed…I might assume being intelligent would be a sign of an older soul…? My niece in particular uses her spirituality as an excuse for why her priorities are so skewed (such as having incredible trouble maintaining hygiene) and in the end her life is one of absolute chaos and little accomplishment in any sphere, and that probably includes the spiritual. I used to give her lectures when she was 12 about how incarnating on this planet in a body means you’ve got to put forth some effort and it didn’t seem she wanted to be here or accepted the terms! Why is schizophrenia so common? What’s all this about in the scheme of a soul’s journey? She thinks she’s spiritually advanced of course, but maybe this is a failed first attempt? And yet her thoughts are not simple, when we talk sometimes she’s got pretty good wisdom.

  47. I should think that a very very small percentage of souls, essences, or what have you, actually make it to Gwynfydd. This post has me thinking about the green orbs I saw in the woods… You entertained the idea Dolphins and Whales etc. are on the same level as human beings. Mind if I point out that there is an implied hierarchical nature in the three levels. Maybe it isn’t so much a hierarchy, one level being superior to the others but a plane where each place is adjacent to every other. Like why can’t a spirit in Gwynfydd decide it wants to go back down the scale and be a chipmunk for one lifetime? Or would that mean it has to go back up the scale again? Or would no sane spirit whose reached a Gwynfydd want to go back? Because if a spirit knew everything wouldn’t existence get boring and a little chaos every now and again make for a good distraction? Could omnipotence in itself be a curse? How would cosmic distance, light years, etc. play into Gwynfydd?

    Bill’s comments were definitely part of the icing of the arch-druid report he will be missed – Maybe he made it to Geynfydd.

  48. Thank you so much for this post, JMG! If I may, I’m curious to extrapolate what you said about people returning to animals: “It’s also a Druid teaching that people routinely fall back to less complex and reflective forms of being—yes, that means animal forms—when they turn their backs on their human capacities.”

    By human capacities do you mean the slow apprehension of “ourselves as we actually are: not bodies, not lives, not personalities, but centers of pure awareness embodied in mental, vital, and material forms…”? or is it more prosiac; working on capacities such as strength, intelligence, dexterity and grace etc? Or Is it more based on virtue – generosity, patience, sense of humor? Or is it all of the above? What would a life that truly turned its back on human capacity look like? would it be that of a serious drug addict? a young suicide? A couch potato?

    Also, it’s interesting to me your mention of the vital body, since this is mentioned in old time herbals, I’m thinking specifically of Culpeper with his Vital, Natural and Animal virtues. The Vital virtue he associated with the sun and wrote that it resided in the heart, the Natural he associated with the four humours and thus the Physical body, and the Animal virtue he associated with mercury and the Mental body. In his system, all herbs act on the humours, relatively few (He names the flowers of Lemon Balm and Red Rose respectively) act markedly on the Vital or Animal virtues. This post helps me organize Culpeper’s system which adds depth to my understanding of some of his herbal indications.

    My condolences go to the Pulliam family and friends. I’ll certainly miss his contributions here.

  49. It seems to me that the notion of a directional arrow of history (aka the progress myth)maps nicely on to your description of the reincarnation process, i.e., there is a beginning, a steady if uneven progress upward, of development, of complexity, etc. whose end is not in sight, by definition, to those of us at the level on which this discussion occurs.

    In your analysis, the human population explosion has nothing to do with mastery of fossil fuels, but in fact that is a consequence of the development of individualities. That humans do not grow or develop in their consciousness beyond a certain point, because at that point the spirits move to a higher realm, and their place is taken by younger, or slower spirits who must go through the same evolution/development, if taken at face value, would seem to suggest that we not bother to engage in some of the practices you suggest to try to mitigate or preserve knowledge through the dark ages which are beginning.

    The reincarnation theory is as easily the product of the same human mind which has postulated the progress myth of modernity, or many other explanatory versions of our collective long term experience which involved neither a directional arrow of development nor a continuity of souls.

    The difficulty of proof due to limited perception/consciousness plagues all big picture analyses equally. I am reminded of the picture book Flatland which I first saw in 7th grade, or Plato’s cave.

    So I necessarily remain a respectful agnostic. From another direction, however, my, or anyone’s core beliefs (if not the core of our soul/individuality) can be discerned from observing our actions.

  50. I add my voice to those who will greatly miss Bill Pulliam’s contributions here. My thoughts are going out to your loved ones, and may you enjoy the next adventure, Bill.

  51. How would one know this isn’t their first go about as a human being? I can see that being a common question.

  52. I’d like to start by thanking everyone who responded to the news of Bill’s death with memories and sympathy. I’m currently trying to think of some kind of memorial prize — a William Pulliam Award for something or other — by which he might be remembered; any suggestions will be considered.

    Isabel, I didn’t take the time to get into the complex relationship between destiny (the internal momentum of the Individuality toward what it will eventually become), fate (the consequences of past actions in this and other lives), and will (what you choose at each moment based on your character and your level of self-awareness). Every life contains a big helping of all three of those: there are things that you will seek out no matter what because your Individuality is pulling you toward the experiences it needs to ripen into Gwynfydd, there are things that will seek you out to complete patterns of experience you set in motion by your own past actions, and there are things that just happen because of acts of will — yours, and other people’s. What’s more, the proportion varies from person to person and from life to life. There is no simple answer…

    John, I’ll be interested to hear your comments — though I already have some idea of the similarities and the differences!

    Sandy, sounds like the same thing to me.

    BoysMom, that’s why I inserted the word “probably” in there! I don’t happen to have prosopagnosia, but I know people who do.

    Armenio, trees belong to a different current of evolution than we do, but that certainly doesn’t deny the possibility of friendly relationships! Druids generally get along very well with trees. According to the teachings, such interactions are good for both parties; just as trees breathe out oxygen, which we need, and we breathe out carbon dioxide, which they need, there’s a similar pattern of exchange of subtle “energies” that makes it healthy for humans to be around trees, and healthy for trees to be around humans (provided, of course, that the humans don’t do stupid things with axes, chain saws, etc.). More broadly, if more people spent time with other living things, we might be a little less pigheadedly self-centered…

    Leo, remember that in the occult way of looking at things, the material always reflects the spiritual. When the earth no longer supports living things, that’ll be because the last of the Individualities that needed to cycle through Abred will have completed that process, and gone onto Gwynfydd. There’s some disagreement about whether souls in incarnation remain on a single planet, or whether there’s potentially movement from one planet to another within a solar system; each solar system, though, is a distinct unit, which gives rise to its own swarms of Individualities and takes them through the complete cycle of being before sinking back into the Unmanifest. More on this, if there’s interest, in a future post.

    Kyle, some souls stay in a single family or a single society for a while. Others don’t. I don’t know of a case where a soul has remained in a single haplogroup over the long term, though I suppose it’s possible. As for any relationship between spirituality and ancestry, that’s no better than chance — I’ve known many, many people who found no satisfaction in the religion of their ancestors, and found their spiritual home somewhere else instead. DNA belongs to the body; reincarnation belongs to the Individuality, which (again) has to be all things, know all things, and suffer all things — not just “all things related to a specific genetic lineage.”

    Scotlyn, in the ecosystem of the self, the Individuality is the keynote species, the one that defines the ecosystem in which the other aspects of the self exist. The Personality is a composite of habits; the vital body or enaid is a composite of subtle influences; the physical body is a composite of human and bacterial cells, and they all form a community with its own internal conflicts and cooperations for the duration of a single life.

    Dan, each world has its own Cauldron of Annwn and its own Circle of Abred, and within that latter, different currents of evolution go through the Circle of Abred in different forms — thus, for example, the spark of awareness that starts out as a blue-green alga proceeds through the plant kingdom to become a tree and then goes on to its own equivalent of Gwynfydd (I suspect this would be Glasfydd, the Green Life), which is radically different from the one we’ll enter in our own time. Even within that, there are different swarms of Individualities that correspond to specific intelligent species — thus a half billion years from now, when the distant descendants of octopi are the species on the upper border of Abred, the souls that enter into those bodies to make the leap to Gwynfydd will be very different from ours, and go on to a somewhat different destiny. The universe is not a simple place!

    Will, it’s quite possible that the dogmatic materialism of our time is fed by the number of Individualities who are doing their first round in human forms. I don’t know for certain whether or not souls jump between different intelligent species, but I suspect not — the transition would be profoundly wrenching, and on another level, I’ve never met anyone who had memories of a cetacean existence who wasn’t pretty clearly either a poser shoveling smoke or the victim of hypnotically induced false memory syndrome. As for past life memories, it’s a minority — I haven’t seen statistics, but I’d guess fewer than five per cent. Regular practice of meditation seems to be the least problematic way of encouraging them to come to the surface; hypnotic regression is a guarantee of fake memories (there are good reasons why hypnotically extracted evidence can no longer be admitted into US courts — hypnotic trance is a hugely effective way to manufacture bogus memories.)

  53. garyaustintx,

    In light of what I wrote about people choosing what to believe and rejecting evidence, I ask you, how many books, articles, websites, youtube videos have you read or looked at to consider the evidence that people put forth? Faith is another matter.

  54. Thank you, JMG, for letting us know about Bill Pulliam. Somehow in a forum like this we seem to get such a strong sense of a person, and to know of such a profound passage is startling and sobering.
    Also thank you for this post. I never expected such an in-depth answer to my question of a couple of weeks ago! I will have to read this over many times; as another poster said, it is a mind-blower.
    One question springs to mind: does this approach to reincarnation deal at all with relationships or groups? There are a few groups of people I have been involved with in my life, and the relationships formed seemed to have some strong ‘intention’ for lack of a better word for all of us. Do we reincarnate with groups of other beings intentionally, or with other persons, or even animals we might have interacted with in another form? How does individuality fit in? What is your sense of that?
    Secondly, I have a bit of discomfort with the idea of humans being ‘top of the heap’ here. I have certainly known animals who I’ve felt are far more evolved than certain people I’ve known. That idea of human superiority seems a little too close to a hierarchy that perhaps is not serving us well right now…..??

  55. Guillem, the advantage you have when you reach Gwynfydd is that you have the memories of your lives to look back on, and it’s also a lot easier to interact with beings of higher levels of development. Do mistakes get made? Sure, but the lore doesn’t discuss them, since that’s something you can worry about when you get there. The point that matters here and now is getting there. With regard to demons, as far as I can tell, the notion that demons want your soul is purely a creation of Abrahamic theology, which likes to picture the cosmos as a vast contest between God and the Devil to see who can rack up the most souls in his collection. Finally, why on earth would reading about encounters with spirits of any kind be dangerous?

    Karen, my wife and I once had a cat whom I’m convinced had been human in her previous life. She had the personality of a bitter and grumpy old-maid librarian, and understood an impressive number of English words. As for trees, no question, some of them are great souls, just as some human beings are; being a different current of spiritual evolution doesn’t make them a lesser current in any way!

    Karim, I’ve never understood why the Abrahamic religions are fixated on the notion of one and only one life, followed by eternal salvation or damnation. They’ve never been able to explain how to reconcile the notion of a loving divine Father with the claim that if you don’t happen to accept the right ideology, He will fling you into eternal torment and stomp your face with a boot forever. I don’t happen to know whether there’s anything like this in Islam, but there are quite a few esoteric Christian traditions that argue that reincarnation was part of the teachings of the original church, but was chucked along with much else when Christianity was turned into a Roman state cult after Constantine.

    As for harming others and helping others, it’s much more complex and nuanced than that. On the one hand, if you act out of selfishness and cruelty, you’re going to pile up negative consequences that will slam into you over and over again in this and other lives; if you act out of respect and compassion, you’re going to pile up positive consequences that will be much easier to live with — but this in itself won’t get you to Gwynfydd. To reach Gwynfydd requires the ripening and turning inward of awareness that leads you to recognize the core of awareness at the center of you as your real self, and that comes from inner maturity, and can be hastened by spiritual practices.

    Steve, there are many nonhuman kinds of existence. The spiritual presences so many people encounter in mountains and other geographical features are among them. The Druid teachings would have it that those aren’t the consciousness of the rock of which the mountains are made, any more than your consciousness belongs to the atoms of which your material body is made; the mountain is the material body of something else, with which humans can interact under certain circumstances. Your description of the process of reincarnation in more complex forms matches the traditional lore, yes. As for other realms of being, again, remember that there are many beings who are not and will never be human, and many of these don’t have material bodies of the same kind we do; remember also that people can stay out of incarnation for extended periods; that some can get “stuck” outside of incarnation, or deliberately refuse reincarnation in an attempt to preserve their Personalities intact (this isn’t easy, rarely lasts long, and never ends well, but it can be done); and there are also those who have achieved Gwynfydd and choose to interact with human beings and others who are still in Abred. Finally, I’ve encountered a couple of people who I suspect weren’t human Individualities, and Fortune’s description certainly seemed to fit, so I don’t dismiss it out of hand.

    Mark, that I know of, there’s no evidence for that — the data collected by Stevenson et al. show no sign of such a distinction. Thus the useful dictum “don’t believe everything you think” is probably worth applying here.

    MTC, interesting. I’m not sure what to make of your experience, except to note that none of us is as isolated from the rest of the universe as we sometimes like to think…

    Y. Chireau, it’s always seemed important to me to remember that evolution is not progress. Organisms that become more complex over time don’t become “better.” They just become more complex, and more able to adapt to complex and changing circumstances. If the Druid teaching is true, as I believe, that’s also true on the spiritual level.

    Varun, I’ll be very interested to hear what comes of your Vedic studies. I’ve done a little reading in translations of the Rig-Veda, and noticed mostly that it would take me a lot of hard study to really make sense of it.

  56. Found this interesting as usual. I am a Christian and find your comments about spirit etc crossing with some of my own beliefs. Also sorry for Bill Pulliam’s family. Never really know what to say when someone dies as I don’t really believe it is the end. However positive uplifting comments sound rather insensitive at such times. Obviously he will be missed by many people and he was another sane voice in my rather insane world.
    In relation to a belief in reincarnation I can only say I really hope not. I am exhausted and the thought of going through it all again is more than I can bear. If I am making a mess this time and have to revert I don’t think so thank you very much.

  57. Hello,
    Let me start by saying that I know nothing of spirituality (except as it is misrepresented in sci-fi).
    So I first read this blog as a story – and it makes for a great inspirational story.
    But one of the things I learned from reading your articles is to try to get beyond the shallow feel-good meaning and ask questions.
    So… Can you point me to any references to substantiate any of your claims? (You mention in the beginning that there is plenty of proof).

    Reading this I also get the feeling that the whole idea seems to be based on some form of dualism. I am not talking only about the mind/matter dualism but the fact that there are a number of thresholds. For example between non-living and “the least possible thing that was capable of life” and then Abred and so on.

    There is also the problem of teleology – everything strives for a purpose but what is the purpose exactly? And who enforces it? Is it just to avoid pain? In that case we come back down to matter being more important than spirit (I assume spirit does not feel pain).

    Sorry for my ramblings, I hope my questions are not completely meaningless.
    Thank you

  58. Fascinating post – and my thoughts for Bill. He was one of the most interesting commentators on here. He’s definitely not moving backwards into his next life.

    So, a question:

    Much like most people can instantly recognize a face familiar to them, I think that most people have a mental faculty which produces the experience of “remembering something you always knew” when thinking about certain ideas.

    I do believe that reincarnation-like-effects have been sufficiently documented (did you read the Return to Life book?) to give the idea serious credibility.

    But, let me play materialist’s advocate (even though I am not a materialist). Let’s say that religious ideas like the ones you presented in your post speak to something in our subconscious which responds back to our conscious minds with a “Yes, do exactly that, you’re right” sort of message. For instance, in Man and His Symbols, one of the authors writes about how a group of Native Americans in Labrador refer to what Westerners might call our conscience as “The Great Man”, and believe that The Great Man is what survives death, with the lesser human ego disappearing. It was considered to be best to do what your Great Man said, to strengthen the Great Man in preparation for its next life. This belief system seems to be fundamentally congruent with what you wrote about reincarnation.

    Certain ideas seem to crop up over and over again – for instance the Ouroboros seems to crop up reliably enough in primitive cultures that the symbol could be regarded as an emergent property of human brains. For what it’s worth, over 15 years ago in tenth grade art class, despite no conscious knowledge of the Ouroboros and a complete faith in Richard Dawkins tier scientific materialism, I made a sculpture that was recognizably an Ouroboros – the serpent/dragon wasn’t literally eating it’s tail, but its mouth is right next to it. It’s at my parent’s house, so I can’t provide a picture just now. Of course, I might have seen it someplace and unconsciously replicated it.

    I don’t see that much conflict between the Abrahamic afterlife and reincarnation, both tell a similar story about how to live in this life, right now, and perhaps both stories – we really should be homo storyteller not homo sapiens – trigger a response from the same regions of our subconscious that say “Yes, this is a good way to conduct yourself, in the present and across time”.

    I’m not disagreeing with you – I mean, I think consciousness is an emergent property of complex systems which are structured in particular ways – it wouldn’t shock me if, for instance, distinguishable properties of one consciousness glommed onto and became part of a new one under some circumstances – but your ideas are compelling too.

  59. Really sorry to hear about Bill, you’re correct many of us read his comments weekly, thank you for letting us know of his passing.

    I have clear memories of what I would call a previous life, but it was not in human form. In vast aeons past I was an electrician on a multi generational spaceship, and I had a hobby of playing crude video games in my spare time. I also recall being of the opposite gender in my previous incarnation. The multi generational spaceship was launched before I was born and I died before it ever arrived at where it was going. I also recall that one of the principal reasons I had for entering into this spiritual journey in human form on Earth was that they would have video games soon. I’ve got to say Nintendo games are far and beyond the the pong like devises I recall playing in my previous, non-human lifetime.

    Neale Donald Walsh in one of his ‘Conversations with God’ books, in conversation with God, God indicates to him that a soul is near the end of its reincarnational process when it starts remembering its previous incarnations. I think I’m nearly there, a few hundred lifetimes more and I’ll have it beat ?

  60. Garyaustintx, tell me this. Have you actually looked into the evidence for reincarnation? I cited a source — the writings of Ian Stevenson, which are very easy to obtain in libraries or on the used book market; there are many other such sources. There are also many sources of detailed evidence for near-death experience. You may be the exception, but it’s been my repeated experience that when materialists claim that there’s no evidence, it turns out on inquiry that they’ve never looked at the evidence and assume, in advance, on the basis of their materialist dogma, that no evidence supporting postmortem existence can be valid. My challenge to you, which I hope you’ll take up, is to go read some of the evidence. Don’t just read canned denunciations of it on your favorite atheist websites; confront the actual data with an open mind, and then see what you think.

    As for faith, that’s not something that Druids particularly worry about. In our way of seeing the world, the gods are not going to pass judgment on you at all, much less based on whether or not you can pass a multiple choice test on your theological opinions! If spirituality makes no sense to you, that’s fine; this may not be an appropriate time, or an appropriate life, for you to take it up. When you’re ready for it, the door will be waiting to open for you.

    Scotlyn, the single most common form of encounter between living human beings and disembodied beings are appearances of the newly dead to their friends and loved ones. An astonishingly large number of people have experienced that. My father, who insists (and with good reason) that he’s the least psychic person in existence, had a visit from his mother a few minutes after she died. I got a phone call from him a few minutes later; he was one seriously freaked out person. (Fortunately I’m used to talking people down from unexpected spiritual experiences.) So you’re one of many! Hearing from an unborn child is less common, but it’s also a known phenomenon; I’m going to hazard the guess that your eldest had a strong personality from the start and has very clear ideas about what he wants out of life.

    James, it was partly independent and partly influenced by early publications on Hindu and Buddhist beliefs — Iolo Morganwg, who was hugely influential in late 18th and early 19th century Druidry, read the pioneering journal Asiatic Researches. The Pythagoreans and Neoplatonists in ancient times, though, also believed in reincarnation, and Thomas Taylor’s brilliant translations of Pythagorean and Platonist literature helped spread those ideas all through the West in Iolo’s time. And of course there’s also the fact that people who engage in the kind of spiritual practices the Druid Revival took up do tend to have past life memories surface…

    O.G., thank you and you’re welcome!

    Danae, I know the feeling. I didn’t think much of the place I grew up last time around, which is why I ran away from home when I turned 18, but Los Angeles was still a very nice place in the 1940s and 1950s, and there are things relating to it that still make me reliably homesick for a time and a place that, in this life, I’ll never know.

    Patricia, so noted!

    Rita, I’ve read them both, though it was a while ago, and to the extent I recall them, they were both pretty good. As for the equation between the dwellers in Gwynfydd and the saints, mighty dead, etc., yes, exactly — and yes, in some cases. (As with most things, it varies from person to person.)

    Marcu, there is no one goal or point of life. At a certain point, the quest for Gwynfydd takes precedence over other goals, but human beings have many goals and any or all of them can be relevant to a specific person at a specific time. From one perspective, the point of the dance isn’t found in reaching the end of the music, but in dancing…

    Joel, the will is the original form of the Individuality. As the will differentiates itself in response to the universe, it takes on the other attributes of individuality, including consciousness — and it’s when it takes on consciousness that it becomes an Individuality and starts the journey I’ve outlined in the post.

    Jeff, that’s a known phenomenon — some of Stevenson’s case studies deal with it, if I recall correctly — but whether it happens in this case will depend on whether that’s what the Individuality that ensouled your daughter needs in her next incarnation. The best thing to do, if you and your spouse plan on having another child, is to welcome whoever arrives, and be aware that the connection with your daughter will be reestablished one way or another, in this life or another.

    Bumblebee, every Individuality is different, and every Personality is different. It may well be that you need, for one reason or another, to spend this life as a hermit. It may well be that Donald Trump needs, for one reason or another, to spend this life as a blowhard. Again, it’s necessary for us to be all things, know all things, and suffer all things…

    Onething, I’ve met a number of people who believe, on apparently solid grounds, that Christ or the Holy Spirit led them out of one or another Christian church. I’m not sure what’s behind it, but it’s interesting to observe. As for eternal damnation, though, no argument there — to my mind, the claim that a loving and merciful divine Father would deliberately set up the universe so that most of His children will fry in hell forever is quite frankly insane.

  61. JMG, fascinating. Two questions, though: 1) by that account of things, angels aren’t immortal. Is that correct? 2) is there a clue where does it all ends? I mean, what the spirit becomes, in the end?

  62. JMG & comment community,
    Mr. Pulliam’s passing is indeed sad news on this forum, condolences to his loved ones and friends. Godspeed, Bill, to your chosen Golden Shore.
    Regarding the William Pulliam Award – for most incisive contrarian comment, insightful question, or purely lovely turn of phrase!
    We’ll miss you, Bill.
    Robert Beckett aka SourceDweller

  63. David, good question. The traditional lore doesn’t address that; the point seems to be that we can sort that out when we get there.

    Onething, mental illness is one of the corners into which Individualities can back themselves over a series of lives. It’s far from uncommon among people of every level of intelligence from very low to very high, and the fact that it often runs in families makes it relatively easy for an incarnating Individuality to land in the right place…

    Austin, again, the Druid teaching is that every Individuality eventually reaches Gwynfydd. That doesn’t mean abandoning physical existence — if you’ll reread the post, you’ll find that I addressed that; the awakened soul in Gwynfydd can choose material forms in order to relate to the world of matter in whatever way it desires, rather than being dragged into one form after another by something akin to instinct. As for the other questions, here again, the lore doesn’t address those; when we get there, we’ll find out!

    Violet, I did skim over that in a very few words, didn’t I? The basic idea is that each mode of being — and that includes every individual species, btw — has certain capacities that expand on those of less complex modes of being. When you make the transition from earthworm to centipede, let’s say, your earthworm-mind gets stretched and shaped to deal with the more complex life of a centipede, and when you’ve absorbed all those possibilities it’s on to something else. What makes human existence more challenging than those below is that you start getting those first stirrings of free will, and that means that where the brand-new centipede basically doesn’t have any choice in doing centipede things, the brand-new human (or the human who’s been around a few times) can refuse to do human things, can pursue the same goals and modes of existence he or she did as some other kind of mammal — and when you do that, if you do it consistently, your next life will land you in that kind of body again. “Use it or lose it” applies to human capacities as to so many other things!

    Jerry, to say that the surge in human numbers correlates to the decline in numbers of other large intelligent mammals, and that in consequence a great many of today’s humans have souls that until quite recently were incarnate in those other large mammals, doesn’t point an arrow of causation in any direction; it could be argued that humanity’s discovery of fossil fuels and subsequent mass slaughter of other mammals set in motion conditions that resulted in the current situation. Equally, to say that individual souls tend to increase in complexity over time, moving from less complex to more complex embodiments, only amounts to progress if you load that process with value judgments and teleological assumptions, which I haven’t done. As I noted in my post, there are plenty of things that can’t be proved, and this is one of them; if it doesn’t make sense to you, why, that hardly matters — on the one hand, Druidry isn’t into the notion that believing the right thing is all that important; on the other hand, if the Druid theory is correct, you’ll find that out in due time.

    Austin, you don’t know. You won’t have any idea where you are in the sequence until you’re fairly close to Gwynfydd, either.

    Lydia, it’s very common, according to the teaching, for emotional bonds to set up connections that last from life to life. The nature of the relationship generally changes — your mother this time around may be your daughter a couple of lifetimes from now. As for humans being pressed up against the boundary of Gwynfydd right now, yes, I know that this tends to rub a lot of people the wrong way just at the moment, but that’s what the tradition says; it doesn’t place humanity at the top of the heap, though. We’re a bridge, that’s all, and a bridge that’s meant to be crossed and left behind.

    Jill, unfortunately, the universe doesn’t seem to care much about our preferences!

    Omnia, start with the reference I included at the beginning (the scholarly work of Ian Stevenson) and go from there. A little time spent searching online will land you with plenty of reading material. With regard to thresholds, those exist in the material universe, you know — matter has to reach certain densities under certain combinations of temperature and pressure before you start getting chemical reactions, for example; chemical reactions have to reach certain very high levels of complexity before you start getting the possibility of life, and so on, so it’s hardly surprising to find the same thing present in the spiritual realm.

    As for teleology, no, not at all; you’ve misunderstood me completely. There is no teleology in the system I’ve sketched out here. Things move from lesser to greater complexity, but they don’t move toward a final goal — that’s what teleology means, you know; they pass certain thresholds as they complexify and diversify, but there’s no purpose to it. It simply is, like the growth of a tree, or the development of an ecosystem, or the steps of a dance.

    Justin, sure, you can make that argument, just as members of the Flat Earth Society in the metaphor in my post can insist that Antarctica doesn’t exist. No doubt they could claim that the human mind has some kind of an innate need for symmetry and boundedness, and that’s why people so consistently imagine that there’s got to be a south pole to complement the north pole, even to the extent of hallucinating that they’ve been there — and again, since we’re in the realm of things that aren’t readily amenable to proof, they can pursue such ad hoc arguments endlessly. The fact remains that there’s quite a bit of evidence for the recurrence of memories of previous lives in young children; the books by Ian Stevenson I mentioned are a good starting place for reading about them — and your argument doesn’t address that evidence in any way that matters.

    Workdove, hmm. Did you by any chance get that memory via hypnotic regression?

  64. Bruno, death in our sense of the word no longer applies to Gwynfydd, so yes, angels are immortal; they grow and change without having to shed bodies at intervals. As for an end, why must there be an end?

  65. Ok JMG, you got my interest. I have a few memories I have carried with me since my youth. They haven’t dulled with time or been tinged by proximity or overlay of others.

    In the persistent one, I am looking at a dead woman weeping over a man, and she simply looks at me with utmost hatred. After seconds of bearing that gaze, she collapses into more tears and sobbing, and I feel loss. She is wearing deerskin outfit, and has brown hair. The man was dressed similarly, and his bow was next to him, quiver spilled around his body.

    When I access this memory, it is loaded with regret, but not for what I did; rather what I had to do to avoid a more terrible and lingering outcome. There is a complete difference in reality (a ‘feel” if you will) to this memory. When I access it as I did just now to describe it, it is like I am in another country. culture and time. There isn’t anything in the details of this memory to indicate this, but it is like the scenery in a stage play – the backdrop per se, but not the physical one.

    That’s as concise as I can describe this memory. This is the memory that has always made me feel that the Wheel of Life was real, not something dreamed up. This has held me back from becoming enamored of anything with a superior being as Godhead. I always felt/knew this and a few other memories were not just mental fabrications as they seem to have always been within me. I described this one to my mother when I was in first grade, and she told me it was a bad dream and I should never speak of it – and thus I didn’t. Yet it has never faded or even become remote.

    This and the other snippets that never dull are what have always made me sure there was more than what my eyes see. They let me step into others shoes and empathize with ease, as clunky as that sounds. They are the reason I have always been certain of my soul, even if my reason and path remain murky. The ‘scenery’ makes me sure there is more to my life than just what I do. It has always made me face the consequences of my choices, for good or ill. When I face consequences, that woman’s face often pops unbidden, right into my immediate consciousness.

    I don’t know how this squares with what you wrote, but a lot of your words seem to echo what I have come to think of as “the next go round”. It fits in with my innate embrace of ‘cyclicity’ (?) and the trouble I have always had trying to embrace heaven and hell and many other illogical points of the many doctrines out there for sale.

    I will reread this and comments later, as I have a trip. But it would be interesting to know if others have this type of memory that never dulls or recedes. Or similar things they can’t rationally explain.

    So much and yet so little time…

  66. I didn’t know Bill, but read his comments. Perhaps doing so again would be a good thing. I wish his family well, and him the same, on his journey.

  67. @JMG and John Roth: Thanks! That makes a lot of sense–and avoids some of the traps I’ve seen with other ideas of reincarnation, the notion that if you perish horribly at the hands of a serial killer or get ebola or similar, you “deserve it” because of what you did in a past life or you wanted it on some subconscious level. As in so many things, complexity seems to answer a lot more satisfactorily than anything simple.

    @garyaustintx: My mother believes that “faith is a gift”–she doesn’t have it, but considers those who do fortunate. Along similar lines, I myself suspect some people are wired/destined/otherwise predisposed to have certain experiences or interpret evidence certain ways, in either a genetic or metaphysical equivalent of how other senses or desires run on a spectrum (tone-deaf to perfect pitch, for instance).

    My issue is that I read the books like Stevenson’s, and they make sense, and then I look at the objections on Wiki and elsewhere, and *they* make sense, and I’m all the more inclined toward the skeptical because I *want* to believe, and fundamentally think that anything I want is far less likely to be true than the reverse. (Caused some humorous romantic misunderstandings in college, that.) So I end up not knowing what to think, but practice seems to benefit me, and blogs like this help, so…probably I end up in the “fake it ’till you make it” camp.

  68. JMG,
    What books would you recommend to establish a solid background for the lore mentioned in this post?

  69. JMG, I wasn’t trying to disprove reincarnation – and like I said – plenty of evidence points to the possibility of information transmission from the dead to the newly born through means which are not acceptable to popular science. I’m just pointing out an alternative hypothesis which explains the same phenomena. Of course, your reply to me is equally valid.

    Maybe it’s just that this incarnation hasn’t learned its lessons yet (being born in the 1990’s, the population boom is so advanced that I’m surely incarnated from a lemur or some other fairly limited creature) but I see other explanations here – and in my worldview, explanations of complex questions like “what happens when we die and before we are born” should be evaluated on their utility, not their “correctness”.

  70. JMG…

    Would a cetacean existence not be complete anathema for a purely materialistic soul passage? A shock, yet if one was ‘stalled out’ in shucking the material… In my clumsy searchings, I seem to connect shifting forms as experiences that help shift awareness in tandem.

    Not saying I am right, but this struck me when I read what you said.

  71. I am thinking of human figures from mythology that end up as gods down the road. Is it a possible progression to from from hero, to venerated ancestor spirit, to hearth or local god, to god of something for a large swath of people? Or is it more likely that some known god was reverse-engineered into an archaic hero of those people, from whom half of them claim to be descended?

  72. I have a number of questions on this subject, but I know that so do a lot of other people, so I’ll try to spread my questions out over the week and only ask the less obvious questions that aren’t likely to be asked by others.

    One thing I had hoped you’d touch on that you didn’t were traditions where different parts of the soul have different post-mortem fates. For example, it’s fairly common in Asatru and Wicca to believe in both reincarnation and in ancestral spirits. The idea seems to be that some part of you stays behind to guide your descendants while another part is reborn.

    Then there’s an unofficial but traditional conceptions of the soul and reincarnation in Judaism that I’ve been told about: the soul has four or five parts, each of which must be perfected separately. At death, the parts that are perfected go on to wait for the world to come, while the unperfected parts return to be reborn in a new person. Thus it’s possible for two or more people to share one or more parts of their soul. The way it was explained to me, converts to Judaism receive a part of a soul of a Jew in order to make them truly Jewish.

    What these traditions point to is a view of not only the soul but of personal identity as heterogenous*. That “I” could be both my current incarnation and one or more ancestor spirits is a heady notion, but it doesn’t seem too far out of place when I consider that even in this life my personality and ego are more like a soup of complexes than a monolith.

    …I didn’t really ask a question in all this, so, I guess what I want to know is your take on this?

    * I’m told this is the antonym of monolithic.

  73. My latest schedule has made finding the time to comment on your new blog almost impossible, and I’ve mostly been keeping up due to my mother continuing to read these to me aloud when we’re on the phone but the topic here is one that I had to make time to contribute on.

    When reflecting on the concept of the individuality, I often turn to the Taliesin’s poem on the accomplishments of youth:

    “Knowest thou what thou art
    When thou art sleeping?
    Whether a body or a soul,
    Or a pale mysterious thing? […]
    The soul, what is its seat?
    What form its limbs,
    Through what part it pours out,
    What air it respires? […]
    Death above our head,
    Wide is its covering,
    High above the canopy of heaven.
    Man is oldest when he is born.
    And is younger and younger continually.”

    It seems our relationship to and recollection of whatever forms we have embodied in the past is much like our memory of dreams, clear upon awaking but fading as the day moves on. Also, it seems that the same practices that enhance our memory and level of lucidity within dreams do much the same thing for our lucidity within the present life and our ability to recall and learn from our reservoir of experiences, since those techniques affect that inner shining perception, that “pale mysterious thing.”

    One question I have… I notice in your look at the circles of creation, you did not touch on the concept of Ceugant. In my meditation and experience, Ceugant is a useful way to describe the concept of pure, undifferentiated spirit as it exists beyond that point of manifestation at Annwfn. Ceugant is usually presented as the unreachable horizon, towards which souls progressing through Gwynfydd rise indefinitely but never reach. But it seems that can also be presented in a more cyclical manner as a place that can be achieved, but only at the cost of sacrificing the individuality and returning whatever experiences and knowledge it has gained to that sea of undifferentiated spirit that feeds the cauldron of Annwfn. With that model, to use your water analogy, those individualities flowing from the source at Annwfn through the streams and rivulets of Abred and into the great river of Gwynfydd eventually flow out to the sea of Ceugant, allowing those experiences to inform the whole of existence in much the same way the experiences of one life affect the individuality and leave a mark on the experiences of the next life, meaning that every soul that rises out of Annwfn has the collective experience of the ones that have taken that path and given their experience to that undifferentiated pool. Which would fit in with your observation of patterns being laid for souls to follow. In that sense, Ceugant would serve much the same role that Ain Soph Aur serves in the Cabalistic traditions. Thinking on that level of being is something that isn’t normally useful on a day to day basis for us here in Abred, for much the same reasons thinking over much on whatever cosmic unity may exist in a divine sense isn’t, but it does fit with something that people have experiences of from time to time and does fit a concept that exists in Druidry. Something about the way my mind works prefers to think of the journey through the three circles being more akin to a divine water cycle with water moving from source to sea, evaporating, and going on to feed other sources rather than moving onward forever on a destination of eternal progress towards an unreachable horizon.

    Your idea of plants and some inanimate spirits having their own rivers and paths separate from but parallel to our own fascinates me, and makes perfect sense even though I never thought of it that way before. I hope you go more into that topic, but as it is just raising the concept gives me a huge path of themes for reflection.
    ————————-

    I had already written this up for posting when I got on here and saw the news about Bill. I read every comment he made from your earliest postings until the ADR and Well of Galabes were shut down, his comments and yours were among the only ones I would specifically seek out when perusing the comments. I think I’ll be doing some ancestor work this weekend.

  74. JMG, got it, that makes a lot of sense. As for why there must be an end, why, because how can a soul keep accumulating layers and layers of perfection forever? Shouldn’t it end somewhere? Can there actually be an infinite progression?
    Also, now a third question…who set up all those rules (yes, it’s a monotheistic objection)?

  75. Wait a cotton pickin’ minute! Why would a soul waste a series of lives backing themselves into mental illness? And you’re saying they do it on purpose?

  76. “Workdove, hmm. Did you by any chance get that memory via hypnotic regression?” No. I have clear remembrance of the ship, the work I did, the ‘people’ I related to, the living conditions, and what I did with my spare time. I lived a full and complete life, and then it ended. Later I was invited by spirits in the before-life to Earth, and given the opportunity to take on this experience. (Proof of course, is much more difficult as you have suggested)

  77. On propognosia: I have noticed that I have trouble correlating a face to a name, unless I know their *full* name (first AND last). Learning only the first name doesn’t seem to cut it. (This might be due to knowing multiple people with the same name, though: “Kyle” alone, for instance, interpreted by me, could mean any of four different Kyles I happen to be acquainted with.)

    On reincarnation: What you’ve mentioned regarding the correlation between large-animal extinctions and human population growth makes a lot of sense, and actually resolves a conundrum I had been wrestling with in my head.

    I have a hypothesis about pets and am curious to see if you’d agree: You mentioned that the predominantly human concept of religion is to bring people closer to the higher-level orders – I am wondering if pet-hood might be a mechanism by which animals are brought closer to the human-level order (by having humans bond with them). Obviously, during life, animals don’t choose to become pets – but the soul might beforehand.

  78. Not sure how to formulate this question…

    Is there any room for “salvation” in the traditional Christian sense in your system? For instance, can one of the gods (let´s call him Jesus) somehow speed up the process from Abred to Gwynfydd, provided you believe in him, does his will, etc. Can he even resurrect you physically? If not, why not?

    Also, is there are room for “liberation” in the traditional Hindu-Buddhist sense, as in leaving the circle of existence completely, by merging back into the Divine, reaching Nirvana, or the like?

    You mentioned in passing that the gods can help humans through traditional religion. How do they accomplish this? Is is mostly to act as guides, moral helpers, etc?

    Sorry to hear about Bill Pulliam, like many others I wondered why he wasn´t commenting anymore! I found his personal recollections of spiritual experiences fascinating…

  79. “Finally, I’ve encountered a couple of people who I suspect weren’t human Individualities, and Fortune’s description certainly seemed to fit, so I don’t dismiss it out of hand.”

    What exactly do you mean by this? I’ve run into a couple websites that claim there are “soulless” people running around, but its always presented in what seems to be an incredibly self-serving way (the guy writing the website or his readers are never “soulless”) so I’ve never put much stock in it.

    Also, are their any significant Christian groups/theologians that believe in reincarnation? Its always made a certain amount of sense to me, despite my being a Christian, but attempts to find like-minded opinions on Google turned up nothing but fundamentalist articles furiously denouncing the idea (and these guys https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rosicrucian_Fellowship , who I don’t quite know what to make of)

    And, thank you for your response last week! To elaborate on my earlier question, what is a good way to integrate magic and religion? Should you try to combine the two, or try to do them separately? When I was trying to practice magic, I felt like it was replacing daily prayer and my religion in general, which bothered me and prompted me to go talk to that priest.

    On that note, I have felt pulled toward Buddhism recently…last year, I relocated a couple states away from home and it’s frankly been a disaster-I’ve spent much of that year stumbling from one part-time job to another, having to rely on family for money (which makes me feel worthless), and dealing with lonlieness from having Aspergers and being in a completely new place…I know other people have had to endure far worse, but honestly it sucks. Most of the Christian literature on suffering that I’ve looked at amounts to “God gave you this for a reason, so suck it up and figure out why.” or “This is actually a good thing in the scheme of things”. One author in particular had a sentence to the effect of “Times of suffering are when God shouts to you, saying ‘Do you really love me, or did you just think you did when I was giving you nice things.'”, which infuriated me when I read it.

    On the contrary, I’m reading a Buddhist book now (The Heart of Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh) that talks about the subject with what I can only call…Grace. The author talked in the first chapter suffering is no barrier to coming to the Buddha, how you should treasure your suffering and let it help you grow, and how you shouldn’t let suffering stop you from finding the good things in your life and treasuring them…it really feels like it was a blessing to find.

    Is it possible (in the experience of everyone else here) to combine two religions? I still feel an attachment to Christianity, and a lot of Western Buddhism comes off as very superficial to me.

  80. @onething

    I was raised as a catholic, so my world views are still enformed at large by the Gospels. You are probably aware that Matthew 11:14 and 17:12 are regarded by some as references to reincarnation (this link contains both and also a Christian rebuke). What do you think? As I see it, whatever happens will also include Abrahamic religions’ followers, so one can either not worry or worry a lot.

    @all interested
    This is a silly/provocative take on the reincarnation subject – if you dislike silliness, read it as the “Monty Python” comment: I guess it is now accepted (or not seen as impossible) that insects are vanishing in some parts of the world (where I live, until 2-3 years ago it was not possible to open the window with the lights switched on during windless Summer nights without getting some dozens of them around the ceiling; now, there’s none…) Until this Ecosophia post, I was wondering if they were returning to their home planets – now I am also considering that they can be the next human beings. Why? Because they will be best suited for the unwinding of techno-societies. As a bonus, let me throw in the folowing: the now mysteriously extinct Rocky Mountain locust (my emphasis) sneakily linked to The Locust Economy. Enjoy!

  81. @MTC

    I think you fell through the cracks on a parallel merge. Or else Essence was showing you what time, past and future were really like in a relatively safe environment.

    @garyaustintx

    When someone throws out all the evidence and then makes up rationalizations why it didn’t happen or why it’s a delusion or whatever, then I’m going to ignore them.

    @James M. Jensen

    The concept of the Boddhisattva is kind of interesting. In the MT there’s the concept of what I call a “post-graduate” lifetime – that is, a lifetime or lifetimes that occur after the Essence has finished and no longer has to come back. It seems to be the same thing, except that the other Buddhist concepts don’t go along with it. Essence may have more lifetimes in order to help or may have other reasons. Jesus was one such.

    @Rita Rippetoe

    Yes.

    @onething

    Perfecting the soul is what Purgatory was for.

    Intelligence has nothing to do with where one is in the reincarnational sequence. It’s a choice that’s made in support of what Essence wants to accomplish. A lot of people who think they’re “old souls” are deluding themselves. There are some rules of thumb where you can tell what tier someone is manifesting at, although they may actually be farther along.

    Someone who’s overly concerned with achievement is probably at 3.1 to 4.3 (tier and level); people who are farther along don’t usually care about the trappings of money and power. Someone whose life seems to be a relationship soap opera is frequently at tier 4. Not that people at other stages don’t have relationships, but they don’t tend to make world-class dramas out of them.

    @Austin

    Going back to an animal lifetime is as pointless as someone who is in high school deciding to repeat 2nd grade. There may be reasons, but screwing up royally is not usually one of them.

    This is one place where I’m going to disagree strongly with JMG. The number of people on this planet who are on their first lifetime as humans is somewhere in the weeds, almost indistinguishable from zero. The percentage of people at the various reincarnational tiers is: Tier 1: 5%, Tier 2: 20%, Tier 3: 32%, Tier 4: 33%, Tier 5: 10%. People on their first lifetime have trouble surviving from a tendency to do silly things like walking off a cliff thinking they’ll hover in the air because they saw some cartoon character doing it in a show.

    Re: Heaven, Hell and all that stuff

    I believe that the idea of Hell was created in the 2nd century as one weapon in the war between different Christian sects.

    Re: animal personalities

    Animals do have their own reincarnating souls, and will frequently decide on lifetimes with people they’ve liked in previous lifetimes. Many will accept “riders,” that is, human souls that are using them as a focus to be with someone. I suspect that’s the source of the “witch’s familiar” idea.

  82. Re: Bill Pulliam
    Thank you for letting us all know about his passing. It is incredibly sad to learn, as I like many other commentators would always make time to read his comments. I enjoyed his tactful ways of disagreeing with you at times, and other times how he was able to lend a lot common sense and experience to the ideas of this blog. Last week after not seeing any of his comments I really had begun to worry as I knew he was fighting Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. An award to keep his memory alive sounds like a splendid idea, although the details of such an award does seem a little difficult. Perhaps elsewhere some people could discuss ideas of what his legacy is and then the award could be given to those who make achievements in line with that legacy.

    @onething, regarding Christianity and the soul..
    There is mention of differing levels of angels, a hierarchy if you would. Perhaps just joining the ranks of heaven doesn’t mean the end of things to do and attaining perfection. As regards how they merit awarding entry to heaven, it is pretty well summed up by the death of Christ and scriptures such as “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” You simply pay the price by having died and shed your flesh. The Bible does often talk about cutting off body parts in order to reach the reward.

  83. A few thoughts on Bill Pulliam, whose posts I only sort of vaguely remember. What a way to go! He must have known something was amiss but resisted going to get it checked until he actually could go on no further and collapsed. I don’t know if he was an “American,” but since health care in the USA has become so very problematic, I don’t blame him one bit. If only I might do the same. (JMG: If this comment is in poor taste or otherwise objectionable, please feel free to delete it.)

  84. Godspeed to Bill Pulliam. His comments were the epitome of what draws me to the ADR and Ecosphia. I raise a glass to his memory.
    Before today’s post, I would have scoffed at the notion of reincarnation. I can scoff no more. I recently got my first tattoo: a phoenix in flames. I got it to celebrate 20 years volunteering on WaterFire, and that WaterFire has symbolized the rebirth of Providence (See you on the river this Sunday, Jeffrey Mailly!) But maybe, just maybe, it means something more.
    Every time I read a post here, I find another book I should read, and I just began D. C. Somervell’s adbridgement of Toynbee….

  85. JMG,

    Thank you–as usual–for this conceptually dense post.

    I, too, am saddened to hear of Bill’s passing. As a dedicated reader of your work, I have always looked forward to and profited from his distinctive contributions to the forum.

    Questions relating to this week’s topic:

    Is there any transfer of affinities or habitual tendencies from one incarnation to another and is there any link between the cultural and historical milieu encountered in the past and the lifestyle choices made in the current incarnation?

    Regarding death: is the timing of death at all spiritually linked? In other words, is the timing of death related at all to the realization of a spiritually significant task or lesson? Or is death a purely biological process having no correlation with the state of readiness of the indwelling individuality? I have encountered many people who lived much longer than predicted by their habits and medical profile but who remained alive by a sheer act of will. Conversely, I have not infrequently been struck dumb by the unexpected–and inexplicable–loss of someone in seemingly perfect physical health.

  86. My thoughts go out to Bill and his family. I don’t often participate in the discussion, but I love to follow along in the comments, and Bill always had something (read: *a lot*) to say!

    On a related note John, I notice the mirror sites don’t contain any of the comments (wanted to see if I could share some of Bill’s more apropos comments here). I can’t imagine that depth of discourse would be contained in the already voluminous print edition of the Report you’ve offered. I do hope that, even if only they’re for your eyes only, you’ve saved the collected comments of the old Report in some form.

  87. I will miss Bill’s humor, down-home-isms and incisive thinking. May his family be comforted in time by the joy of having known him. Perhaps the Wm. Pulliam award could be an annual prize bestowed on one or more commenters in the form of a review copy of a JMG book. Awarded for multiple instances of sparkle, fire and rational vigor in conducting civil conversation onsite. Or as a gift to a designated Lodge library in his name. Maybe together with a pamphlet of some of his sharper posts.

  88. Thank you for letting us know about Bill Pulliam’s passing. I’m saddened and will miss his wit, incisiveness, experience and learning. I’d harbored a secret thought of, if not outright meeting him on a visit to family in TN sometime, of at least being in his neck of the woods and waving warm-heartedly in his (and the resident viking protectors’) general direction.

    So instead, before I re-read the post (flown from my mind at news of Bill) and then try to follow the comment thread, I shall step outside with a smoldering leaf of white sage from my yard and wave warm-heartedly to Bill Pulliam in gratitude for his contributions here.

  89. Hello!

    By and large the Islamic tradition is not in favour of reincarnation although a number of Quranic verses can be interpreted either way. For instance the Quran says:

    “And you were dead, and He brought you back to life. And He shall cause you to die, and shall bring you back to life, and in the end shall gather you unto Himself.” (2:28).

    However certain sufi masters spoke unquestionably in favour of it.

    For instance: Hazrat Jalal-ud-Deen Rumi who wrote in his Masnawi:

    “I died as mineral and became a plant,
    I died as plant and rose to animal,
    I died as animal and I was man.
    Why should I fear?
    When was I less by dying?
    Yet once more I shall die as man,
    To soar with angels blest;
    But even from angelhood I must pass on” ..

    Another mystic, Mansur al-Hallaj, wrote:

    “Like the herbage
    I have sprung up many a time
    On the banks of flowing rivers.
    For a hundred thousand years
    I have lived and worked
    In every sort of body.”

    Eerily similar to what Druids said. Are you some kind of islamic sufi druid Mr. Greer?

  90. A very interesting post, JMG; thank you. It introduced a good bit of new information to me, but it seems to fit relatively well with how I was already thinking, too, and help with refining said thinking. There was one part that I at first thought might be a significant conflict, but, on further reflection, I think it may actually provide a better explanation to an issue I had than what I was using before. Still not sure just how the new information is going to end up mixing and settling with the old, but I’m glad I read this post.

    I do have some questions, though.
    First, you said that plants belong to a different track or domain than us. Have plant Individualities, along with any others on different paths, always been separate, or is there a point in an Individuality’s development when it can go down one way or another? And if it’s the former now, was it always so, or did something change after the first pioneering Individualities to take plant and animal forms did so?
    Second, how fixedly discrete are Individualities? Are they intrinsically separate and indivisible, can they merge or divide while remaining self-contained outside such processes, or are they more regions defined in a continuous whole, with distinct properties within each region but no hard borders at all?

    “There’s some disagreement about whether souls in incarnation remain on a single planet, or whether there’s potentially movement from one planet to another within a solar system; each solar system, though, is a distinct unit, which gives rise to its own swarms of Individualities and takes them through the complete cycle of being before sinking back into the Unmanifest. More on this, if there’s interest, in a future post.”
    I’d be interested. It seems odd to me that souls could move from planet to planet within a solar system but not from solar system to solar system. Is it related to the problems material bodies face where interstellar travel is concerned?

    Also, I’m sorry about Bill Pulliam, but I don’t know what to say there.

  91. I always considered Bill Pulliam one of the finest and most thoughtful contributors to the Archdruid Report community – I was most surprised and saddened to hear of his very untimely death. I truly appreciated the depth of insight in both science and spirit that he always brought to his comments. And he was not afraid to disagree with JMG or anyone else! I never met him in person but I will miss him. My sincere condolences go out to his friends and family.

  92. Quick followup to Kyle re haplogroups: One thing to keep in mind is that the I1 haplogroup is specific to the Y chromosome, so it only tells about ancestry in the single paternal line. A thousand years back you would have had myriad great-great…-great-grandparents down various lines of ancestry, and plenty of them could well have been Celtic in origin even if your paternal g-g-g grandfather was Scandinavian. I can make no conclusions about reincarnatory implications though!

  93. My heart is heavy with the news of Bill’s death. I miss him already, and I’d never met the man. His contributions to the discussions here, at ADR and Galabes seem to me a gift surpassed only by your own, JMG. Bon voyage, Bill, and much gratitude for all you have given.

    Apropos this post, my father in his later years started to believe in reincarnation. I chalked it up to his advanced age and declining health. I must say, though, that I am finding this discussion fascinating!

  94. Do pieces of past lives sometimes come out in people’s dreams? I occasionally have a dream where I’m the person in the dream, but the person in the dream isn’t really me, if you know what I mean. I’ve always thought of it as a story where I’m seeing it from the main character’s point of view.

    Recently I had a dream that my family and I were moving from a house that in real life we had never lived in to another house we had never lived in. We had just had a fourth child. (IRL, we have three.) In the dream, I never saw my husband and three of the children. I only saw my daughter, who in real life is my oldest. In the dream, she was a toddler, and we left her behind in the old house because we didn’t have room in the car. We went back for her a couple weeks later. She was still there, and I had the impression that one of the neighbors had been feeding her, but had not taken her into her home. She was silent, and her eyes looked a little blank, like she had been traumatized by the abandonment. I picked her up and was about to take her back to the car when the dream ended. The child in the dream had the same coloring as my daughter, but her face, while similar, was shaped differently.

    The dream really disturbed me. I have this fear of accidentally leaving my children somewhere. I have nightmares about it sometimes, in which I have accidentally left one or more of my children, and I am frantically trying to get back to them to make sure they’re okay. Now I’m wondering if this fear is related to abandoning my daughter for a couple weeks in a past life. I also wonder if my daughter now was my daughter then because, even though she looked a little different and must have been the second or third child in the family instead of the oldest, it seemed to me that that was still her.

    I also wonder if this is why I have recently become interested in reincarnation, because maybe some part of me thought there was something more behind this kind of thing. I had never previously been interested in it and had always been taught that it was wrong. This dream was only about a week ago though.

    To be honest, I don’t know if I believe in reincarnation. I’m still trying to figure out what I believe when it comes to religion in general. But as I said, I do wonder.

  95. Oilman2, the kind of vision of another place and time that surfaces in childhood, and has potent meanings to the one who remembers it, is one of the common ways that past life memories surface.

    Isabel, I’m not sure why so many people want simple answers. They’ve always seemed so inadequate to me!

    John, Ross Nichols’ The Book of Druidry and my The Druidry Handbook, followed by The Barddas of Iolo Morganwg and Dion Fortune’s The Cosmic Doctrine.

    Justin, it’s possible to come up with an infinite number of ad hoc explanations to explain, or explain away, any given set of phenomena. That’s one of the things my Flat Earth Society metaphor was supposed to point out. It doesn’t matter if you can come up with any number of alternative hypotheses; you could just as well insist that we shouldn’t take Newton seriously because you can explain gravity by the alternative hypotheses of fairies pulling the planets along with invisible ropes! Prove that this doesn’t happen…

    Oilman2, good question. As I said, I simply haven’t met anybody who claimed to recall a cetacean life who wasn’t pretty obviously either a poser or a sentimental fantasist. There could be plenty of them out there that I haven’t met.

    Kyle, if your heroic ancestor achieves Gwynfydd, and proceeds to interact with his or her descendants for many generations to come while continuing to grow and evolve in Gwynfydd, you’d have the standard sort of experience of the hero becoming local god becoming important god, wouldn’t you?

    James, that’s a thing in a lot of reconstructionist traditions these days, which hasn’t exactly attracted me to them! The different vestments of the soul mentioned in the post — the Personality, the vital body, and the material body — each have their own fates, to be sure. The occult traditions, though, tend to focus on the Individuality primarily, and deal with the others only as instruments.

    Eric, I didn’t discuss Ceugant because the post was on reincarnation, not cosmology. As I understand it, Ceugant is what’s forever beyond all created existence: eternity as distinct from time, unity as distinct from plurality, the Unmanifest as distinct from all manifestation.

    Bruno, why shouldn’t entities just continue to become more complex, more diverse, more unique over time? As for “who created it,” it’s not an artifact; it wasn’t made, it was born, and it has habits, not rules.

    Onething, no, I didn’t say or imply that they do it on purpose. What happens is that a soul makes a series of choices over the course of several lives, and mental illness is the unwanted consequence of those choices.

    Workdove, interesting.

    Barrigan, that seems entirely plausible to me, especially when I watch people’s pets become more and more like them over time.

    Tidlosa, good. From the point of view of Christian Druids, the salvation Jesus offers is ascent to Gwynfydd in a world where that’s become very difficult. I’ve read essays that equate Gwynfydd with the liberation proclaimed by Hindu and Buddhist teachings, but I’ll leave that to the Buddhists and Hindus to discuss. As to how a god could offer help to a human being — well, here again, talk to believers in pretty much any religion you care to name, and they’ll tell you at length about the kind of help they get from the deity or deities they worship: everything from guidance and moral help to miraculous healings and preposterous coincidences that bring aid in the most appalling situations.

  96. Not sure how appropriate this is, but since you mentioned other types of sentient beings, I just thought I would toss out my theory about grey-alien “extraterrestrials”. I think these beings probably do exist, but they are not purely physical beings from another world who have come to Earth on a physical spaceship from another planet in this universe. I think they are something roughly approximate to faeries who live on the level of existence that many people call the astral plane and others call the fourth dimension. The quasi-reptilian “spaceman” appearance is how they manifest to us because our popular culture has aliens on the brain right now.

    I admit I get a lot of this impression by taking Whitley Streiber’s purported accounts of interactions with these beings at face value. If the tales he relates in his series of books on the subject have some basis in fact, it sounds like he is describing visitors from a layer of existence one rung above ours on the cosmic ladder and who consequently are able to “hack the code” of our reality.

  97. Second comment here, since my last one was a little long. If individualities in Gwynfydd sometimes help guide people in this life, I wonder if that could explain my long-standing interest in and feeling of connection to St. George. I first was interested in him in childhood, even though my family were fundamentalist Christians who didn’t believe in the saints. Once my husband and I had moved on to a church that did venerate the saints, I chose him as my patron saint. After we left Christianity, I still kept his icons. I couldn’t really figure out why I felt that connection to him when I didn’t believe the religion anymore. More food for thought, I guess.

    You say that some individualities refuse to reincarnate for a period of time. People at the Temple of the Vampire say you can learn to feed on other people’s life force, which supposedly doesn’t hurt them, so that after you die, you will be able to use life force from people still living in order to continue an existence on this earth. Are they teaching people how to leach off others so as to have the capability to fight the natural process?

  98. Tolkienguy, you might want to read what Fortune herself has to say; it’s in her book Applied Magic, and she’s also put a fictionalized discussion into The Secrets of Doctor Taverner. With regard to magic, religion, reincarnation, Christianity, Buddhism, et al., I encourage you to put the next half dozen years or so into reading and studying those themes on your own; you’ll learn much more from that than you will from anybody’s canned explanation.

    Armenio, hmm! In theory, at least, insects should need to pass through several intermediate stages before getting to the human level — though I admit I’ve met some humans who seemed to have about the attention span of a mayfly… 😉

    John Roth (if I may), yes, I know that the Michael Teachings (like most New Age accounts of reincarnation) reject the idea that animal souls become human. That’s why I inserted a certain caveat in the post…

    Dirtyboots, habits and tendencies fairly reliably pass from one life to the next, and depending on circumstances — in particular, if there hasn’t been much time between one life and the next — you can have some pretty detailed stuff transfer. I find that I have an instinctive affinity for, and ability to cook with, certain recipes I’ve never seen before; all of them are the kind of thing that a Los Angeles housewife circa 1950, who grew up on a midwestern corn farm, would have considered really good food…

    The timing of death, like most of the other things in life, is determined by a complex pattern in which spiritual and physical realities both play a part. Remember, though, that the spiritual is the primary reality, and the physical is a pallid reflection.

    Brian, I gave readers ample time to download the whole content of the old blogs, comments and all, and I believe a number of them did download the comments. In the future ahead of us, those who want to preserve something will need to take personal responsibility for seeing it preserved; you might consider this a trial run for that…

    Karim, fascinating. Maybe, on the other hand, the guys you quoted are Muslim Druids… 😉

    Reese, the teachings don’t actually say that much about the other evolutionary currents; again, they focus on what we as human beings need to know to deal with our own needs, so the details of how Individualities (or the equivalent) start out on other paths isn’t something that’s addressed in detail. In the lore I’ve studied, though, each Individuality is exactly that — in-dividual, not subject to division — and not shared between Personalities. As for planets and solar systems, that’s a matter of theories having to do with the nature of individual solar systems as units of cosmic evolution; you’ll find the details in Dion Fortune’s The Cosmic Doctrine if you’re interested.

    Jeremy, just as some people bring through memories from previous lives at birth, some people begin to glimpse the postmortem state in advance of death. Your father may have had such an experience.

    Garden Housewife, dreams are extraordinarily complicated, magically speaking, and I think a lot of people experience themselves as other people in the dreaming state. Your dream may hint at a memory from another life, but it may have some other source, or it may be a combination of many different things. Do you write down your dreams when you wake up in the morning? You might give it a try, and see if the things you dream tend to happen or not.

    As for reincarnation, don’t worry about whether to believe in it or not. It doesn’t depend on people believing in it! If it’s true, you’ll find out. 😉

    Patricia, a welcome omen! Thank you for sharing it.

  99. Mister N., if you haven’t read it yet, see if you can find a copy of Jacques Vallee’s book Passport to Magonia, which discusses the parallels between UFO lore and faery lore in great detail. It’s quite a read!

    Garden Housewife, from a Druid perspective, the saints are the Christian way of talking about the dwellers in Gwynfydd who are still fairly close to the human level. If you feel a connection to St. George, I’d encourage you to maintain it, even to the extent of prayer — the world does not divide up neatly the way theologians like to insist…

    As for vampirism, yes, that’s what I was talking about it. It’s an ugly subject, and it’s unfortunate that the current vampire fetish has led some people to romanticize it.

  100. I raise my glass to Bill. May he currently be astonished in a good way.

    @ Jeffrey Mailly– When I first read this particular theory of reincarnation in Greer’s “The Druid Handbook”, I thought, “well that’s interesting”, and moved on. As a former longtime atheist, I’m quite comfortable with the idea of postmortem oblivion and, even at that point when I was encountering an expansion of possibilities, I considered any claim to knowledge about life after death to be guesswork.

    Then I met Ginger. He was an orange tiger striped kitten born to a feral cat somewhere around here. We feed the feral cats because life life is hard and we can afford to spread that much wealth at least. Even with our help they don’t last long out there. Ginger died very young (a certain raccoon was the prime suspect) but not before he’d made friends with one of our indoor cats.

    Now, this is a process. It doesn’t just happen, it takes time for the feral kitten to feel safe, comfortable, and then curious in order to commune with a strange adult cat on the other side of a screen door. Ginger went through that process with Baby (the indoor cat) before he died.

    Next spring, the same mother cat gave birth to another orange and white tiger striped kitten. The first time that mother brought her new litter to our porch to eat, Baby smelled them and went to the door. The tiger striped kitten immediately came to her and put his paw on the screen as close to her face as he could get. Just like he used to before. I’ll repeat myself here. This doesn’t just happen. I’ve been observing these kinds of relationships for years.

    So yes, from personal experience I can attest that an Individual can be reborn to the same parents. (Well, same mother anyway. You know how cats are.) And I would also echo John Michel’s sentiment; whoever comes to you as your child, whether or not it’s the same one you knew so briefly (and I do so feel for your loss) she or he is yours to love and nourish.

  101. @Karim Jaufeerally
    You said “Any ideas why the 3 Abrahamic religions did not incorporate re-incarnation as central to their teachings? Multiple passes on this earth sounds far more reasonable than a single go at it!“

    Excellent question. My guess is that convincing people that they only have a single life makes it much easier to control them in this life. One life, plus the eternal static heaven or hell outcome, puts a huge amount of fear/anxiety into the person regarding the outcome. Typically the one god/one go at life religions play on this fear of “getting it wrong”. Kind of like an exam with no chance of a re-take.
    I always get a kick out of the descriptions of heaven and hell by the orthodox one god folks. Usually a totally boring experience which is just a supercharged version of life as we know it. Bigger car/house/breasts/flash clothes/eternal youth. Hell is just endless pain with no chance to learn anything from one’s mistakes; really just vindictive punishment taken to the limit.

  102. I just read your post, and was shocked to read about Bill’s passing. I am not a big prayer person but I hope my thoughts reach him somewhere. There is sadness but also the recollection of his intellect, ideas, and passion. I still sometimes spill something for the dead vikings that I think he mentioned in one of his comments (and which I imagine guard my premises).
    Regarding your post what are your thoughts regarding AI and I know you are not a big fan or believer of this form of tech. I recently saw some of the semi autonomous robots being developed at Boston Dynamics. I am particularly haunted by a video of one of their dog like bots. It is outside walking on icy ground when a human kicks it. It stumbles and struggles to regain its footing which it eventually does. What is striking is how much it appears to react the same way an animal would. I actually feel empathy for it since it acts so much like a living dog. My question is if rocks and bacteria have the spirit essence in them to a small degree, where would AI fall on the spectrum especially as engineers develop these bots further and increase their awareness and autonomy?

  103. I have very little to add to the conversation this week, for the same reasons as BoysMom, MTC, and a few others.

    @onething: CCC §1030-1032, read in the context of §410-412, is about as close to an “official” answer to your question as you will get. It absolutely does not answer they “why” of your question, other than implying that it’s simply a mystery. The “felix culpa” argument has always rung pretty flat to me. I think C.S. Lewis was on to something (in the Space Trilogy, IIRC) when he implied that Man’s responsibility for what happens on Earth has not changed, even though our capacity to carry out that responsibility has been badly hobbled by the fall.

    So sad to hear about Bill Pulliam! He authored the “eagle has landed…” quote that I reference week before last. Since I have tendencies towards the more universalist end of my faith, I will pray “requiescat in pace.”

  104. JMG, thank you for replying. I appreciate that you do the blog and take the time to respond to comments. I was a regular reader at The Archdruid Report, although I didn’t comment there. I feel I’ve learned a lot from you and the commenters there.

    No, I had never thought to write down my dreams. I don’t remember a lot of my dreams. Sometimes though I have really vivid dreams that I definitely do remember. Hmm. I think maybe I’ll get a notebook to keep by the bed.

    I plan to take my time figuring out what I believe, and then it won’t be set in stone. I’m a little frustrated right now though because I feel like I have a few previously unsuspected hangups from my fundamentalist upbringing. I’ve been interested in druidry since childhood, although for years I didn’t know that there were modern versions of druidry. Anyway, I’d like to check out the modern varieties to see if there’s something there that works for me, but there’s always this teaching ingrained in childhood, “The gods of the pagans are demons.” I think it’s in the Bible actually, in one of the Psalms. I have read The Druidry Handbook though, which was a big deal for me.

    I do pray to St. George occasionally. My husband can’t understand it. He thinks I’m crazy!

    There were a couple people who wanted me to get into the vampire religion. I looked into it a little, but I thought it was creepy and very, very wrong. What kind of effects would you expect to see in a person if someone is leaching from them like that? Surely it would do something to them.

  105. My perspective is to believe what you are saying as basically my ideology.

    However the scientific skeptic says that for example people in regression hypnosis or dreams or discursive meditation who ‘remember’ the past lives or alien encounters or child abuse are being suggested by the hypnotist.

    I am quite suggestible, malleable, have high imagination, bad memory and low barriers to other beings(low distinct sense of self). Just by being near another person you become more similar to them through energy resonance. Memories could also be transferred. This is all subconscious. In extreme case go live in 3rd world or similar. You will start being different emotively, in dreams, etc. Get a hard labour job. You change. Live in forest with animals, ditto.

    Now I am practising integrating the inner child who I seemed to have forgotten due to childhood trauma. My adult persona got along somehow by repressing this and now through lots of soul/body work over decades I can reconcile this. This was spontaneous without external suggestion so I trust it. I am a great skeptic of psychology, believing in esoteric. Show me is my motto. OK so now I believe and give credence to all varous such illnesses but if through spirituality I can be healed without therapy , medicines, then I believe any such problem could be healed as it is due to energy blockages causing biochemical disruption.

    If I have come so far back in my emotional past then perhaps I can get back to the time previous this life, not just in memory but how I tend to react, by incorporating like an actor the feelings, rections into my everyday life. So sometimes I hang around people then start moving, feeling, acting like them. Now I am acting awkward, shy, like my child self. What if I started acting emotionally, out of the blue, due to a shock, or experience, like one or many of my previous lives. I understand time exists parallel. All my selves exist simultaneously. I could communicate with my previous, future selves just like with my acquaintances, colleagues at work, neighbours. Perhaps I would bridge and direct karma if I were a conscious link due to to more spiritual work in this lifetime. Not all societies, times are so open, allow free time, long healthy life so that yoga, etc. is tolerated so that my other selves depend on me because the future is bleak and the past primitive.

  106. I have only recently started following the comments here so I didn’t have a good chance to get acquainted with Bill Pulliam. Nevertheless, I wish him to journey well and in peace!

    I have two rather broad questions in regards to the reincarnation and individuality.

    1. If we are talking about an evolution of an individuality going through the phase of bacteria and single celled organisms, does each cell of my body have a micro-individuality behind it? What about the individual organs like liver, heart or muscles? There is an anecdotal evidence for people with transplanted organs to adopt some traits of the previous hosts. Is it that the personality traits are related more to the physical body or is there a chance that this is an individuality of an organ that keeps expressing itself through the new body? And if there are individualities behind my cells and organs, how do they relate to the individuality that uses this human body to type these questions as a part of this message right now? What about bones, hair, nails and other, seemingly less-alive, parts of the body?

    2. How about the personalities that can be felt by some people in relation to their possessions – cars, computers, white goods, buildings, etc? More broadly, personalities of made rather than born entities, are they developed by people (or other born entities) who use them or is there a chance that there is another evolutionary path that has individualities moving through the made objects?

  107. The group that was founded by Dr. Ian Stevenson can be found at:
    https://med.virginia.edu/perceptual-studies/

    If you know of a child with past life memories, have psi experiences, and/or had a Near Death Experience, they would like to hear from you.
    See “Participate” under above link. There is also (down at the bottom of Participate) a link for advice to parents – many of whom are concerned their child is crazy. They also do NOT recommend hypnotic regression.

    For the doubters, last I heard, this group has something like 2600 Cases Of the Reincarnation Type (CORT) in their files, several hundred of which have birthmark and/or birth defects associated with the (typically violent) death of the previous personality.
    That’s an awful lot of explaining away.

    One of my fav cases of reincarnation, from Dr. Stevenson’s _Reincarnation_And_Biology_, is that of Metin Köybasi and Mehmet Samioglu.
    (sorry, can’t get the accents right).
    In the previous life Hasim Köybasi and Ali Köybasi (respectively) were killed in connection with a post election riot at Hatun Köy (Turkey) in 1963. Hasim was reborn as Metin 5 months later, with a birthmark where the bullet entered his neck. Ali was reborn about 5 DAYS after his death, with a meningocele in his cranium where a bullet had entered his skull. (A meningocele is where the brain/spinal membranes protrude outside the body). Several related people (ex-wife, mothers-to-be) had “departure” or “arrival” dreams. The medical records and doctor who performed the repair of the meningocele were examined/interviewed by Dr. Stevenson.

    Another favorite case, for the shear volume of recalled facts and the dramatic resolution of a child’s nightmares, is the case of James Huston Jr -> James Leininger. It is very accessible in the family’s book:
    Soul Survivor: The Reincarnation of a World War II Fighter Pilot.

    re: Abrahaminic religions: when one has a mono-theistic religion, one has a whole mind-set of “THE right way”, but there are a great many difficulties with any dogmatic/static belief system (people keep learning/thinking about new things, etc., like e.g. evolution).
    (see JMG’s _A_World_Full_of_Gods_ for more issues with most mono-theisms)
    So much of mono-theism is just crowd control – project the authoritarian dreams of the-warrior-king onto heaven, and return them via the priesthood as “THE WORD OF GOD” to bluster the people into obedience. You don’t want people thinking they have as many lifetimes as they want, so create an artificial scarcity, right out of marketing 101.

  108. Dear JMG,

    What you write corresponds more or less to what I came to believe about souls and reincarnation. Only I always thought human souls dissolved after life and went back to a mass of undifferentiated spirit, so it is not the spirit that drives evolution, but the flesh.

    The population explosion of the past decades was my largest criticism of metempsychosis: the numbers did not add up. But I suppose I did not consider the mass extinction of other species: in some versions of Catholicism, only humans have souls.

    But does reincarnation mean that spirit and matter are two separated things? I find that hard to believe.

    It is more or less proven that twins do not only look alike, but behave in similar ways, whether they grew up together or not. And personality traits are very clearly handed down from one generation to the next, whether the natural parents raised their children, or someone else did.

    What is the body then? Just a container, the layer that covers our Individuality and defines our Personality?

  109. Commenting before reading all the way through the comments and replies:

    @Scotlyn, you are not alone. I too have had that “Here I come!” experience more than once, long before I knew or could have even suspected that I was pregnant. One time, so strongly that it literally rocked my world, almost as if I’d passed from one world into another, similar on the surface but actually very different; I actually staggered as if I’d been slapped. Nothing seemed to have changed, but everything had. In retrospect, perhaps the moment when our youngest daughter, who has an “invisible” variety of autism and a very strong will, chose to join us…

    @Onething: is it perhaps possible that schizophrenia and some other mental health issues are “maladaptive coping mechanisms” that develop when, as small and impressionable children, some souls are forced by our educational, social and economic systems into grooves their differently-wired brains simply cannot fit into? I have some dear friends, all intelligent and highly-creative souls, diagnosed with one condition or another, and always have a sense of someone who has quite literally “crippled” their own self to try to fit into our somewhat-bizarre social arrangements.

    Thank you for passing on the news of Bill Pulliam’s passing. I too will miss the different light he shone on things, and wish peace and grace to his loved ones.

    And thank you for this explanation of one corner of Druid spirituality, which rings so many bells with me that I don’t quite know where to start thinking about them. I was raised in a very strong, but not fundamentalist, Christian tradition, but knew from an early age that I couldn’t accept the Church’s teaching on the impossibility of reincarnation, or the impossibility of animals, or indeed plants, having a soul. It’s also hard to accept that we only get one life when, for example, you stumble across a place you know you’ve never been before, that is familiar in every important way, and remember things that happened there; not great big documented things like battles or tactical marriages, but things like making cheese or spinning yarn!

  110. JM that’s a masterly precis of the idea of constant reincarnation. I love it! You REALLY need to look into Tom Campbell’s Big TOE, you know… 🙂

    Very sad news about Bill. Always rated him as one of the best people in the comment train. I will indeed add a valediction for him and a plea for comfort for his close people into my daily discipline.

    BTW, I think Gwynfydd should sound more like ‘GWUN-veeth, as in ‘hynny’ – ‘that’ – sounding something like ‘honey’. In Cymraeg words with two y’s in different syllables, the usual pronunciation makes the first an ‘uh’ and the second that odd Cymraeg ‘u’ sound somewhere near ‘i’ (now dying out it seems, even in Gwynedd… alas! No longer a language of seven vowel sounds 🙁 I still use it though, for old times sake… 🙂

  111. Thank you for this entry. It was with interest and excitement that I loaded Ecosophia today to find a discussion on this topic.

    Concerning the model presented: I find myself curious about the nature and meaning of extinction and extinct forms. For if humanity, for instance, is a wave or a quasi-constant form through which individuated entities flow in a stream, then so too the wolf or the rabbit must be shaped passages through which those individualities move.

    So too must have been the plesiosaur, which makes me wonder what the disappearing of that shape or modality means in a spiritual sense.

    Do these shaped passages or waves have meanings, in Druidic teaching, beyond their comparative complexities? Does the fact of incarnating into a specific form reflect some sort of entaglement between the individuality and the form? And if so, what does the disappeareance of forms mean, or I suppose the appearance of new ones in th speciation process?

  112. Firstly, I would like to express my condolences reagarding the unexpected death of Bill Pulliam. That said, I find the topic of reincarnation a quite interesting one. This was something which I found plausible since since a long time, abd be it only because I find it difficult to imagine the end of conciousness.

    Regarding the memory of an earlier life by Workdove the first thing that came to my mind was that the impossibility of interstellat travel is not only due to the long time which it would take, but due to the concentrated energy necessary, which must be found somewhere, or else one would have to invest the whole energy which one gets out of the energy source when one assembles said energy source (antimatter, for example). Secondly, on Earth, there has been no sucessful attempt to build an self-contained ecosystem in a closed system, as was tried with Biosphere II. And then there is the cosmic radiation, against which one needed energy-or-material-intensive shields.

    Secondly, the principles of reincarnation that you have laid out reminds me a bit of the rise and fall of civilizations with dark ages between them. It is an interesting analogy, maybe because in both cases it is about complex systems.

    As with many others, there are questions that crop up regarding this topic: What happens when an individual screws up royally in his life, as did people like Pol Pot or Stalin? And what are the consequences of a genocide? These are strange questions, but they came up first.

  113. Excellent post, covering so much complex terrain so lucidly. My own orientation on this is Eastern, and the explanations of Meher Baba are the most comprehensive and concise I’ve found from that side. But this was very illuminating. I was struck some years back when I read that Edgar Cayce said that psychology had come into existence to help the Western World grasp the concept of reincarnation. I can only guess at why he said that–possibly to get at the idea that the roots of motivation go deeper than surface appearances, or might very well pre-date a current situation.
    Again, excellent

  114. Hi JMG,

    I think this is related to the topic, if not I will ask again in the open forum, but was just curious as to your experience of consciousness as it relates to the “Hard Question.”

    Thanks,

    Mac

  115. A magically relaxing, affirming, and stimulating read. I have no idea whether the understanding I formulated while reading are true, but whatever part of me is inching closer to Gwynfydd resonated, and basically turned on its belly for a proper pampering.

  116. @JMG
    Thank you, Sir. It would be easy now to unleash some kind of hell by simply considering the rethorical question “is a century a long enough timespan to make that transition from mayfly to human?” For those now frowning, milennials are not an American-only phenomenon – they’re everywhere.

    @Karim
    Thank you for sharing. As an Iberian-born, my sense is that I have a life-long (culture wise) debt towards Islam, and it is always great to rekindle those roots. And yes, Druid or Sufi, whatever labels the day and age found suitable for the wise, isn’t it just great that they were kind enough to share?

  117. I will add my condolences for Bill. Like many others here I would stop the comment scroll at the sight of his name and image.

    Bill was among a very few who would take the Archdruid on over a point and really get me thinking. In the interests of dissensus, and as suggested above, I think the William Pulliam Award could be for best contrarian argument.

  118. I have nothing like a recollection of any past life. I do have a weird sense of having been born against my will, and having done my best to resist it. (Interestingly, my mother nearly died in childbirth.) I could just be imagining things, though.

  119. My deepest condolences for mr. Pulliam’s family and friends. In my own small way, I too will miss him.

    “(…) each solar system, though, is a distinct unit, which gives rise to its own swarms of Individualities and takes them through the complete cycle of being before sinking back into the Unmanifest. ”

    Dear Archdruid, could you perhaps direct me to books or other Druid sources that treat these matters? Or is this sort of knowledge not written down; I.e. gnostic or oral tradition?

  120. JMG – appreciate the response. I’ve been holding onto the notion of her possible return probably a little too tightly. We are already pregnant and expecting another girl. In fact we didn’t plan it this way but the exact date of my wife’s ovulation, the best day to conceive, happened to be 3 days before our deceased daughters would-be 1st birthday. That is the day my wife became pregnant. And some really extraordinary things happened on that exact day which seem almost impossible – too much to be coincidental. Let me unpack it for you as briefly as I can.

    That day we decided to take an early-season trip to our favorite beach as we usually do that time of year. On the ride there we decided to collect rocks and seashells to paint in honor of our daughter to place at her grave on her first birthday (May 1st). We had our 2 dogs and 3.5yr old daughter Olivia with us. Prior to this trip my wife had asked everyone we know to be creative and spell out our daughter’s name in an artistic way, take a photo, and we’d print them all and make a photo album. Two hours into the beach trip I decided to write her name in the sand as big as possible close to the water as my contribution to the photo album.

    As I’m halfway through spelling out the name, our dogs begin to bark and drag my wife and daughter towards a family of 3. I could see my wife struggling to manage 2 dogs and a preeschooler, so I finished quickly and ran over to help. As I was going to help them a commercial jet rumbled over the beach at an EXTREMELY low altitude (significance to be mentioned shortly). I’ve been going to that beach for years and have never seen anything like that. It was so low and loud it drowned out any other sound.

    Out of all the people walking the beach that day, this family of 3 was only family that bothered our dogs enough to bark and drag us over to them. Plenty of other people around – but only this family. 5min into talking with them we hear the name of their only daughter – Brianna. Which happens to be the name of our deceased daughter. It literally sent shivers through our bodies. And getting back to the jet that flew overhead. During the 10 days we spent in the NICU, I had the most vivid dream I have ever had in my life. It was set 25yrs into the future. My daughter Olivia and Brianna were both grown. I remember distinctly that Brianna was fully dressed as an airline pilot standing next to her older sister Olivia. From that day on every time I see a jet in the sky I am reminded of her. So the jet flying overhead, exactly over the spot where I wrote her name in the sand, was too much to dismiss.

    My wife has had a few dreams since getting pregnant, mostly involving Brianna. The most prominent has been a dream where the hospital called to tell us Brianna was alive and to come pick her up. When we did pick her up my wife said she was the same age she would be now, had she not died.

  121. Bill’s commentary on these blogs will be dearly missed. He added great richness to the discussions he chose to join. His many contributions as a contrarian, especially to Greer, will be particularly missed. Condolences to those closest to him. I am very interested in the notion of there being a William Pulliam Award, it seems fitting. Based on the part of Bill’s contributions that were most significant to me such an award would go to those who disrupt group think with civility.

  122. Greetings Archdruid!

    What’s the policy for collecting money from someone who in a past life never played back a loan?
    Does he owe with compounded interest, or is death like going through bankruptcy?

  123. Dear Archdruid,

    My apologies, I see you have already answered that question earlier.
    Through the AODA I have read the first two books. I still haven’t finished Barddas. So I’ll get on that, and then I’ll go scrounge up a copy of The Cosmic Doctrine. 🙂

  124. So humanity is depressing for the same reason working in intensive care is depressing. Patients either die or they improve slightly and get sent somewhere else. You never see anybody get better.

  125. @Eric S.

    That’s a complex subject. There are a lot of parts that one can experience as “spiritual.” Quite a few of them are “energetic imprints” or something similar – they’re sort of independent beings that exist on the Physical Plane. One text I read talks about a “maternal imprint” that’s passed from mother to child during a vaginal birth, but not during a c-section.

    Since I’m a retired software developer, I think of a lot of these as books of instructions or programs that get “plugged into” the body’s energetic fields. Some of them are helpful, some of them are best gotten rid of. That’s where cleansing rituals and theurgical magic comes in. These are JMG’s area of expertise, not mine.

    A very strong family tradition, for example, could well be “energized” from the Astral by the Essences that had those lifetimes as a way of experiencing what a strong family tradition is like.

    @Bruno Bolzon

    That’s a great question. Michael says they can’t see either a beginning or an end, and since they’re in the mid-Causal plane, I’m not going to presume to say anything else.

    As to who set up the rules: we did. There is no Divine Lawmaker.

    @onething

    Things look different from the Astral and the Physical. Essence (on the Astral) is not hurting. The farther up you go in the Planes, the less the beings care about how awful a lifetime seems to the personality, as long as it’s accomplishing its learning objectives.

    There are apparently Essences that like to experience new and bizarre forms of death. I don’t understand this at all.

    A lot of “mental illness” is caused by opening psychic abilities when the person doesn’t have a good tutor. Teaching a good shielding and cleansing ritual can help in these cases.

    @Workdove

    That’s an interesting experience. I suspect it’s from a previous Grand Cycle. If it’s from this one, it’s from a different parallel that split off quite a long time ago.

    There are ways of avoiding implanting false memories in a hypnotic session. I learned some of them during the years I was studying NLP. It takes specific instruction and a lot of practice.

    @barrigan

    Your point about pets is the way I understand it.

    As far as the population explosion is concerned, Essence is not limited to one lifetime at a time from its perspective, or only one lifetime in a physical plane time-frame. There are a lot of Essences that have multiple lifetimes going concurrently. There are reasons why this is a very interesting time, including the end of the Industrial Revolution and the shift from male-dominated society to either egalitarian or female-dominated society.

    @Tidlosa

    In the MT, the Christian idea of “salvation” in the large sense does not exist. There is nothing at risk, there is nothing to be saved from.

    The primary method of spiritual growth comes from the idea that the incarnational self and Essence are the same being, but the incarnational self has the illusion of being separate. Clearing out the barriers to Essence contact makes the life go smoother and helps meet the challenges and so forth productively.

    Yes, all Essences eventually finish the cycle of incarnation in the Physical Plane and move on to other things.

    @Tolkienguy

    Yes, it’s quite possible for a body to not have bonded with a spirit, that is, the “soulless”. Most of them miscarry quite early. It’s possible for one of them to have a normal birth, but they’ll always die before age 7 or so. They don’t exist as adults.

    It’s also possible for someone from another Design to have a human lifetime. I sometimes think of them as exchange students. They’re rare, and it takes a lot of preparation to do well. Most people who think they’re aliens are simply deluded. Pleadeans seemed to be popular at one time.

    As I understand it, the core of Buddhism is the Four Noble Truths. The key is that you create most of your own suffering, and that it’s possible to reshape the habits of perception and action that maintain suffering. One way is Buddhist style meditation. Another way is the kind of theurgical magic that JMG practices. There are yet other ways.

    @Dirtyboots

    Of course. What’s learned in each incarnation becomes a resource for succeeding incarnations. This is why we have past life memories: part of forming the bond between the incarnation self and the body is incorporating the package of all prior past lives. That’s what psychics read when they see past life information, and that’s what you can access in meditation.

    Life plans have pre-planned exit points. It’s possible for accidents to occur, of course, but in many cases the exit will occur according to plan. Those points are integrated with the rest of the plan, which includes life tasks, karma fulfillment and similar.

    @JMG

    No, the MT does not reject the idea that animal souls become human. It’s just that they need to evolve a bit to get to that point. The basic difference is the Grand Cycle concept; a Spark continually cycles between Spirit (the Tao, etc,) and materiality, gaining in complexity on each cycle. It’s not one pass through materiality that goes from quarks though Sentience to whatever lies beyond Sentience.

  126. Thanks for this interesting post on reincarnation. I honestly didn’t think I was going to enjoy it, but as with many things that you write, after some time reflecting on it some interesting ideas always develop.

    I always felt that at looking up at the stars and our solar system around us that they mirrored atoms, so I’ve wondered what bodies they made up. After reading the post today, now I have an idea that perhaps this is where we go once reaching Gwynfydd, forming the larger bodies of the universe. It’s no wonder then that we have long revered the stars as our ancestors and see images of the gods.

  127. Thanks JMG for such a thought provoking post. Answers alot of my questions ecologically as well. I think I may be swiftly becoming a Christian Druid!

    @ onething-

    Regarding your first question, you actually got the right answer with “It seems to me that the perfection of the soul is a difficult and long process of learning to prefer the good in an internalized way. Of saying yes to God/The Good over and over until you’ve got it.” Yes! That is being Christian. You’re saved by Jesus and washed in his blood and all that, but then comes the difficult part of learning to be like him. Death is just another stepping stone. At least that’s what I believe as a (mostly) practising Christian.

    Can’t help with your second questions other than to say I’ve known old souls in young bodies and young souls in old bodies. Its the quality of the individual not the age that counts.

  128. Interesting as always; and, as always, I am not sure I agree but it sure is a fun topic to think about. A couple of observations/questions:

    1. What of fungi? From a biological perspective, multicellular beings are separated in three kingdoms (Animalia, Plantae, Fungi), with all evidence showing that unicellular ancestors of plants split far before those of animals and fungi (in short, both animal and fungal cells belong to Opisthokonta – one of the two big classes of eukaryotic cells – while plant cells are in the other). Do fungi belong to yet another reincarnational “stream” compared to plants and animals, or is the motile/nonmotile distinction the significant one here? And if so, what about largely nonmotile animals, e.g. corals or some bivalves? Could an oyster reincarnate into a potato plant?

    2. The mention of vampires reminds me of the evolution of parasitism. This is relevant, I think, because it is a classic counterexample of the misconception about evolution going necessarily “upward” towards greater complexity: often, parasites eventually outsource many of their faculties and abilities to their hosts, becoming little more than sacks of teeth, blood, and eggs/sperm (if not even less: the simplest bacteria, for instance, are obligate endoparasites/endosymbionts that “lost” to their host most of their fundamental metabolic functions). I am not sure about what the metaphysical equivalent of that would be, but I’m going to take a wild guess and say that it would probably not be a very good thing…

    As an aside, I recently read your The Weird of Hali: Innsmouth. Quite nice indeed, I look forward to getting the next one as soon as it gets on paperback!

  129. I am very sorry to hear about Bill Pulliam – I had wondered why he wasn’t commenting anymore. On the ADR, next to JMG’s posts, I was always most interested in the contributions by Bill and by Robert Mathiessen, who has been absent for quite some time – I hope he is well.

    @onething: As a Christian, the best descriptions of perfection after death that I know are poetic and certainly not to be taken as literal. One is C.S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce” – have you read it? The other is Dante’s Purgatorio. C.S. Lewis’ “Till We Have Faces” also explores how one soul can help another one to progress (an idea that is more fully explored in Charles Williams’ Arthurian novels and poems, especially “On the Death of Virgil”).

  130. @ JMG
    I do have other questions, if you will indulge me: what happens on the higher planes of existence when we, as humans, change things on the material plane? Specifically I had these examples in mind:

    What is the spiritual effect of nuclear fusion on earth (something you very briefly mentioned before on the Well of Galabes)? Is it a ‘soulless’ sun, or just an additional sun to Earth’s Cauldron of Annwn – or neither?

    Also, what would happen, spiritually, if one were to make alterations to existing species via genetic engineering? (For example, placing human DNA within mice makes their brains larger.)

    What if this is done in adulthood (somatic gene therapy). Does this rob one of a chance for spiritual growth in this lifetime? I am a Druid pursuing a career in medicine, and very interested from a spiritual-ethical perspective.

  131. Vampires – I don’t romanticize them. I think they exist, and have been flocking to the financial sector of the world’s economy in great numbers. But I think everybody knows or has known the person who leaves you drained dry after being around them for any length of time. And there is nothing romantic about most of those at all. Well, leaving out those for whom it’s a deliberate and self-serving ploy, which wears off very quickly once their hooks are into one. Best anti-vampire cure there is “open door, exit, luggage in hand, slam door behind you with a “bad cess to you.”

  132. Great post. I don’t know if you have ever been to India or any other South Asian nation, but it’s a great deal more common there for religious icons to be used out in the open as a source of “good fortune.” For example, every rickshaw driver has religious icons in his taxi (whether those be Hindu, Buddhist, or Christian) and many hotels and homes contain small shrines where incense is burned before statues regularly. I remember asking my wife about one gentlemen’s shrine in particular, whether it was Buddhist or Hindu. She noted that it was both, and that was not seen as a contradiction in that culture. To the unenlightened, materialistic, spiritually and morally bankrupt upper middle class Westerner, such rituals can’t help but appear like a waste of time compared to more practical things like, say, selling your soul out to work for an evil oil company or an evil bank or an evil “defense” contractor or an evil university, but the value of communicating with the “higher beings” you mention in this post will make a comeback in the West too when people realize that the paychecks from the Technicians of Empire have stopped flowing into their pockets and suddenly they need to find a solution outside the suicidal trajectory of Western Industrial Imperialism.

  133. I was a reader of the Archdruid Report for a few years before it ended, and the references you made to reincarnation on that blog and Galabes led me to trying a little self-hypnosis. Fully expecting to remember nothing, I was surprised at how vivid my recollections were, though I suppose I now have another reason to doubt their veracity 😉

    What struck me was how mundane the lives were, most were lived in poverty, with little in the way of accomplishment. The most vivid were, as far as I could tell, the two most recent: in one I was a British gentleman who relocated to India, in the next I was an Indian peasant who was beaten to death at a young age. The shock of that memory was enough to convince me to stop, I was afraid of meddling with something I didn’t understand.

    Even with this, I was and remain skeptical. I remember another comment you made that suggested that incarnations seem to be fairly geographically bound (my next clearest life was in medieval China) and this gives me another reason to doubt.

    It occurs to me that real memories may be mixed in there with the false ones, but I really have no way to tell either way. I suppose discursive meditation might help shed some light on this?

  134. Isabel,

    “…I’m all the more inclined toward the skeptical because I *want* to believe, and fundamentally think that anything I want is far less likely to be true than the reverse. ”

    How very odd! I think the complete opposite. If I or we really want something to be true, it probably is and conversely, if we find something abhorrent, such as hell, it probably can’t be true. Why? Well, coming at it from the idea that there is a God (and I’m coming around to the idea that monotheism is not incompatible with polytheism) then it seems…unlikely…to say the least… that this God would come up with a plan that we could improve upon, that the unfathomable Source of existence and consciousness would have some lousy idea that ordinary people find disappointing.
    I guess I’m a spiritual optimist.

  135. There was some comment-thread conversation about reincarnation back in the June Open Post. At that time, I described some of my own views about it, around the idea that (even a purely materialistic viewpoint suggests) the cognitive self is not the continuous, singular, and isolated entity we tend to perceive it as. Thus, the distinction between my present self and a reincarnated self stripped of all (or most) memories is hardly distinguishable from the distinction between myself and anyone else, and to some extent we’re all made up of bits and pieces of one another and of the worlds, inner and outer, that we share.

    Coincidentally/ironically/eerily, I addressed most of that comment to Bill Pulliam. (For those leaning toward eeriness, one guess as to my own current age.)

    Though it’s a sobering notion, I can’t say whether Bill will be taking any of those thoughts with him into his next life. But I’m certain that I and others will be taking Bill’s, and those of all the further discussion they inspired, with us into our own present ones.

    Regardless, and in any case, I regret Bill’s passing and will miss him.

  136. JMG,

    My brief thoughts on Bill Pullman. Like many I read the comments on your blog. Well skim is actually closer. But when I saw the name “Bill Pullman” I always stopped and read what he had to say. I often didn’t agree but he was always interesting.

    I have two questions. The first relates to your post from your previous blog in which you told the story of the future in powers of 10. One thing that you speculated happening was the extinction of humans and the rise of other species to the level self awareness/intelligence that we currently possess. But in this post you stated that future (my terminology is failing me) “intelligent” species will have their own path through Abred to Gwynfyyd. In others words a human soul today would not be on the same path as an intelligent marsupial of tomorrow. But if a human could have reincarnated from a wolf today I assume they could also have reincarnated from a raccoon. Can I assume therefore that there is a “fork”?

    Second is the issue of “evil” and child abuse trigger warning for those who are reading this and sensitive. I have known a number of people in my life who were severely abused as children. I can’t seem to put any term on that except “evil”. I have seen a number of people in the thread ask questions about “soulless” incarnations or incarnations from outside of the human line. Is this a possible explanation for a phenomena such as gross child abuse?

    Thanks you,

    AV

  137. Can’t say I’ve ever had a memory or a dream that hinted at a past life but I do have a tendency to dwell dispassionately on certain specific historical events that featured a lot of death. This manifests as a strong desire to understand the common person’s experience of these events. Two events that are particularly meaningful to me are the Y. pestis pandemic of mid-14 th century Europe and the Battle of Gettysburg. Every year, without fail, late June/early July, when the cherries are near ripe, regardless of what else I may be focused on, I feel a certain stirring that can only be satisfied by reading–yet again–The Killer Angels. I’ve never been sure whether this is just a simple maudlin romanticism or a hint at something I may have encountered once in the flesh, so to speak.

  138. Tidlosa,

    In my opinion the Christian concept of salvation is a misunderstanding, and frankly, Jesus made quite a point that if you want salvation you’ve got to be born again and equated it with a quickening by the Holy Spirit, not getting granted admission through a legality as is now taught.
    Being born again is a quickening (a coming to life) because the Holy Spirit is the divine, all-pervading energy that can literally, and I do mean even physically in the brain, contact a person’s soul/spirit/brain and uplift it. In my conception and I think Jesus’, salvation is achieving a strong connection to God that uplifts one’s soul to things like universal love for mankind, understanding what it means to love one’s enemies and so forth. That is salvation.
    At any rate, my thought has been that (almost) everyone goes to heaven, but few get to stay. And that’s because they have not achieved a strong enough connection to the divine to get them over the hump to where they’ve got what needs to be learned here.

    David Hawkins is an author who actually partly gave me that idea as he says salvation is achieving a level of 500 on his scale that he drew up of the map of consciousness. 500 is unconditional love, and eastern enlightenment is 700, which is nondual perception.

  139. I am also saddened to hear of Bill’s passing. Waes hael, Bill, may you sit with your ancestors this day! I will remember you at Samhuinn.

    Thanks for this discussion; it’s a helpful expansion of the information from “The Druidry Handbook.” I’ll be saving this essay and using it for discursive meditation in the near future.

    In the past I’ve noticed discussions of reincarnation getting stuck on the idea of a value-based hierarchy of lives, with some people insisting on it and others vehemently rejecting it. For anyone who finds this a stumbling-block, I would like to offer an alternative image, that of an expanding spiral. Instead of visualizing a march up and down a ladder, try thinking of each life as an unfolding of awareness–different potentialities opening up in different existences, none of them exactly the same but all of them valuable and necessary, with the transition to Gwynfydd as the unfolding of another, different set of potentialities. It can help to keep in mind that a bird is not necessarily lesser than a cat, any more than a child is less than an adult, but each possesses a suite of potentialities that the other does not–just as in evolution, certain pathways are closed off so that others may be fully explored.

    I hope that’s helpful, and doesn’t create brand new confusions!

  140. @onething: I like that perspective!

    For me, I think it’s that I’m rather aware of my own tendency toward wishful thinking and daydreaming, and very concerned with correcting for that, perhaps to the point of overcorrection. Basically, there’s a mental flow chart like:
    1) X *seems* likely…
    2) But I know I really want X to be true.
    3) So I’m probably just seeing what I want to see.
    4) So X is very likely not true.

    @Patricia Matthews: Ugh, yes. I’ve even used the terminology a few times, myself–or alluded to it, as in the case of one former roommate, wherein I threatened to start hanging up garlic and crosses if he kept inviting his ex-girlfriend over. 😛 (I myself Do Not Get the vampire fetish, except either as a shorthand for “you live forever and have great abs the whole time,” which I can understand, or “BDSM funtimes but with a mystical excuse,” in which case I feel there are better framing devices. YKIOK and all, granted, but they’re definitely not in my Top Five Paranormal Guy list.)

    @JMG: It’s a good question. I can sort of understand it–complexity is hard, and finicky, and it’s hard to admit that there’s no simple “do X and Y will/will not happen” formula in most cases–but it doesn’t often seem to work. And yet it exists on a lot of levels, from the “if you work hard you never have to worry about financial insecurity” myth to the “eliminate or include this food and you’ll lose five pounds in a week” bits in women’s magazines to the more quasi-profound “only the unenlightened ever feel pain or fear,” idea in a number of religions.

    Simplicity, now that I think about it, seems like a decent candidate for a “core” human temptation, if one exists.

  141. Alan Leo taught that in one’s birth chart, the Sun represents their Individuality, while the Moon represents the Personality. Your discussion of the role those two things play in reincarnation makes me wonder if there are any signs in the birth chart — e.g. the Sun in the late degrees of a sign, or certain aspects between the Sun and the Moon — that indicate that this particular life will be one in which the native’s Individuality is likely to experience significant growth or changes, such that they “move on” to another sign in their next incarnation, or even indicating a high potential for finally crossing into Gwynfedd?

    (I’m assuming that a native will tend to be born with the same Sun sign between lives unless such changes occur. That’s probably not justified.)

    I know that in contemporary astrology there’s a belief that the Nodes of the Moon have some relevance on past lives, with the South Node indicating karmic lessons you’ve recently passed and the North Node indicating the karmic “calling” (the lessons you need to learn) in this life.

    (I realize a discussion of how reincarnation and astrology interact is well beyond the scope of a single comment, but I was curious if there were any relatively simple indications of being ripe for “moving on” in any sense.)

  142. John, your points on personal responsibility are fair enough. Had I the know-how, I’d certainly have saved the old Report’s comments myself. It’s enough to know that they do still exist somewhere.

    I like the new mix between the two old blogs. I remember first finding the Report (around 2009, I want to say) and being very out of my depth. I have that same feeling now with the new blog. Thanks for giving me a chance to broaden my horizons with some topics I otherwise would not have encountered, by chance or by choice.

    One last thing, and I’m sure I’ve seen it in the comments on the old blog, but anyone who hasn’t read the short story The Egg (www.galactanet.com/oneoff/theegg_mod.html I believe is the correct link) may find it to be entertaining and relevant to this week’s discussion.

  143. I’m sorry to hear about Bill Pullman. He was a staple of the ADR comments section and though I must admit I did not often read his comments when I did it was worth the time.

    I enjoyed this discussion of reincarnation and it is interesting that what you have sketched out comes very close to the way I see it. Though I sometimes wonder if we get dispersed the same way our physical remains do which another commenter said was a view Bill subscribed to.

    In regards to vampirism and the christian view on reincarnation, Tomberg (a source I draw perhaps too heavily on, I know) talks about how the church recognized the truth of reincarnation (at least internally or in more esoteric corners) but did not promote it as doctrine (among other reasons) because doing so could lead to practices of vampirism, or what he called electric doubles and what some might call ghosts.

    “the Church was hostile to the doctrine of reincarnation, although the fact of repeated incarnations was known — and could not remain unknown —to a large number of people faithful to the Church with authentic spiritual experience. The deeper reason is the danger of reincarnation by way of the ghost, where one avoids the path of purification (in purgatory), illumination and celestial union. For humanity could succumb to the temptation of preparing for a future terrestrial life, instead of preparing for purgatory and heaven, during earthly life. To prepare for a future terrestrial life, instead of preparing for the confrontation with Eternity, amounts to crystallisation in the sense of the formation of an electric double — the body of the ghost — which could, in its turn, serve as the bridge from one incarnation to another and be the means of evading purgatory and the confrontation with Eternity. One ought during earthly life to prepare for this meeting with a fully awakened consciousness, which is purgatory, and for the experience of the presence of the Eternal, which is heaven, and not to prepare for a future terrestrial life, which would amount to the crystallisation of the ‘body’ of a ghost. It is worth a hundred times more to know nothing of the fact of reincarnation, and to deny the doctrine of reincarnation, than to turn thoughts and desires towards the future terrestrial life and thus to be tempted to resort to the means offered through the promise of immortality made by the serpent. This is why. I repeat, the Church was, from the beginning, hostile to the idea of reincarnation and did all that it could so that this idea would not take root in consciousness —and above all in the human will.” (Meditations on the Tarot p.361)

  144. I adhere to no particular belief system – though, if asked, I describe myself as a ‘Neo-Taoist’ – whatever that may be. Nonetheless, that being the case, I have been aware for most of my life that I have reincarnated in human form a number of times. The foundation of this awareness lies in ‘realizations’ (as contrasted with ‘memories’ – though I have those as well) of experiences that could not have occurred during my present lifetime. Most of these manifest as snippets or short vignettes of prior experience. One or two, however, have presented as having taken place over a longer period of time. I won’t take the time or space to describe any of these here, but just wanted to note that I am fully convinced that reincarnation is an actual process.

  145. JMG, got it. One more related question: is there a change of the gods over time? I mean, if certain individualities rose to greater complexity ages ago, and became gods for the men of that she, they might have already become something else, more distant to us. Conversely, some human beings left Abred during that same period, and I became gods of the subsequent age. Would that be part of the explanation of why gods change over time ?

    @John Roth, as I understand it, the universe according to JMG’s model is an unfolding of the will, and thus maker of its own rules. It’s not a creation of an Almighty God.

  146. JMG, got it. One more related question: is there a change of the gods over time? I mean, if certain individualities rose to greater complexity ages ago, and became gods for the men of that age, they might have already become something else, more distant to us. Conversely, some human beings left Abred during that same period, and I became gods of the subsequent age. Would that be part of the explanation of why gods change over time ?

    @John Roth, as I understand it, the universe according to JMG’s model is an unfolding of the will, and thus maker of its own rules. It’s not a creation of an Almighty God.

  147. My sympathy to Bill’s family and friends. He was a wise man indeed.

    @JMG: ” I don’t know for certain whether or not souls jump between different intelligent species, but I suspect not — the transition would be profoundly wrenching…”

    Intelligence isn’t a binary phenomenon (humans, cetaceans and some birds have some type of it, everyone else is purely instinct-driven); far more animals than Westerners have realized have capacities for creativity or deliberate altruism, a sense of justice, and/or a basic theory of mind. (For those who doubt this, I suggest Frans de Waal’s “Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?”.) It’s easy to predict that if you are a semi-intelligent lemur, you’ll move up through the primate ranks to become human; if you are a pigeon you’ll eventually become a corvid or/and then a parrot. But if you were a semi-intelligent animal from a branch of the animal kingdom that didn’t contain any “fully intelligent” animals of a type that might sit around contemplating spiritual matters, then as soon as you had gone as far as you could in that path, wouldn’t you pretty much be forced to transition to something jarringly different? (And no matter what organisms serve as the minor leagues for the porpoises and orcas, surely there’d have to be a giant discontinuity of some type, either genetic or way-of-life, when they move over.)

    FWIW, our cat is certainly not smart enough to consciously contemplate anything profound, but we call her a “bodhicattva” for a reason. She is so calm, tolerant, sensible and loving as to put her head and shoulders above the average human in terms of personality. The standard dogma would say that she is ready to “move up” to be a human in her next life. I suspect that this might be a demotion.

  148. A corollary to my question in the previous comment: We’re disproportionately killing off larger and more intelligent animals, who tend to be rarer and need larger habitats, and in particular, killing off our own closest relatives (first the other human species who were eradicated in the last 50,000 years or so, and now the other great apes, most of which are greatly endangered). Doesn’t that imply that more of the souls that will be needed to inhabit the ever-increasing number of human babies now have to be recruited from Individualities that have been more distant from ourselves (either dumber, or less similar in biology, than previous recruits) and thus less prepared to fit comfortably into a human existence? That sounds like something that might not end well.

  149. JM Greer wrote:
    “As for teleology, no, not at all; you’ve misunderstood me completely. There is no teleology in the system I’ve sketched out here. Things move from lesser to greater complexity, but they don’t move toward a final goal — that’s what teleology means, you know; they pass certain thresholds as they complexify and diversify, but there’s no purpose to it. It simply is, like the growth of a tree, or the development of an ecosystem, or the steps of a dance.”

    I am still trying to digest all this, so my questions are not clear even to me. But aren’t trees teleological? After all they are just a tool for propagating tree genes.
    Ecosystems are a better example. They just constitute a new level of being where the complexity of the interactions of the parts produces another kind of thing. The complexity is driven by evolution and (ultimately) by the energy gradient from the sun.
    What are the equivalent laws that drive first the behavior of souls, and second their growth?

    Thanks again!

  150. @Onething.

    From my perspective as a layman Catholic (though it has to be said, the Church has condemned the belieft in the transmigration of souls as heresy), you must remember that Hell and Heaven are not the only options available for the souls of the departed. First there are the Limbo of the Children and Abraham’s Bossom, which are opposed to the doctrine that all non-Christian people are automatically damned to Hell. They simple go elsewhere after they pass, and in due time they will be united again with the flock of the Lord, when the Plenitude of Times has been reached (in my ignorant mind, potentially billions of years from now… in practical terms, it’s not our business to tell non-believers what to do after they die).

    For believers, very few people go straight to Hell or Heaven after they die. Most of us go to Purgatory instead. But what is Purgatory? It is a place where a soul improves itself, and purifies itself through pain and sorrow. Even if it looks superficially like Hell, it has nothing to do with punishment; rather, it is about letting go of the internal consequences of our sins in life (vices, bad habits, personality defects, etc), and it’s a hard process that can take many centuries. But how then is this any different from what JMG just describen in his article?

    The doctrine teaches that Purgatory is an actual spiritual realm beyond this eartly life, but let’s entertain the notion that that’s not the case. The doctrine also teaches that there are 3 parts of the Church: The Militant Church (meaning the Church in the material reals, whose members are still struggling to save their souls), the Triumphant Church (meaning, those departed that have already reached Heaven, and keep company of God, the Angels and the Saints), and the Purgant Church (the departed in Purgatory, who are already guaranteed to eventually reach Heaven, but who are not quite done yet with the required growning, perfecting and suffering).

    So, in my mind, if reincarnation is a fact, and if Purgatory took place in the material plane… is it not possible that Purgatory is more of a “state of mind” of old souls that have been around several times already, how have grown a strong connection with Christ over several lives, and who are very very unlikely to make a catastrophic mistake that land them in Hell? (Always a possiblilty, please remember Lucifer was a foremost member of the highest angelic hierarchies. I am sure this is not correct, but in my mind Lucifer is Sauron, and Gandalf is St.Michel, who did not have enough self confidence to take a place of honour until every angel above him failed).

    Under this interpretation, the Millitant Church is for the newer souls, who are still young and unexperienced, and likely to make regretable choices. I am not saying this is the case, but it would explain why the actual Church is so fixed on making prohibitions for everything. Once you realize it is meant to keep toddlers unharmed for long enough to give them time to figure out what they actually should and shouldn´t do, their approach starts making sense.

  151. I’m in shock. Bill was brilliant. I was always impressed by the quality of his thinking, whether I agreed with him or not. I’ll miss his presence on this blog.

    This theory of reincarnation makes a lot of sense to me. I was already drifting or groping insensibly in this direction, so for the time being at any rate I’m happy to adopt it or something very like it as my personal working hypothesis.

  152. @Oilman2

    Re: those inexplicable memories: FWIW, I’ve had some interesting dreams involving people from other times/places where I simultaneously perceived the events “as” that person and from another perspective, usually aerial or from just behind and over the person’s left shoulder. Those dreams are always unusually vivid and feel more like memories than my usual dreams. But I keep an open mind because there are probably numerous possible explanations other than past-life memories.

    Something I can’t set aside as easily though, because it had real effects in the waking world, was my experience learning Japanese years ago. I didn’t set out to learn it, I was living with a Japanese-American friend who got lots of recorded Japanese TV shows from her uncles. Now I have a knack with languages, but watching these shows I started picking up Japanese easier than any other language I’ve ever tried (and there have been lots). More than that, I found I was actually *remembering* it.

    In addition, though I am the furthest thing from the stereotypical “Japanophile,” I have often been told by Japanese people that I have an unusually intimate grasp (for a gaijin) of their culture, values, and worldview. As a white Western woman I actually find the experience of being in contemporary Japan to be profoundly alienating and disorienting, but resonate strongly with certain now-archaic aesthetics and practices.

    Anyway, my experiences in Japan and among Japanese people ended up changing the trajectory of my life in very unexpected ways, and it all began with remembering a new language.

  153. Part 2/2 of msg @Onething

    So, let’s tackle the elephant in the room: Hell. Hell does not make any sense: Masturbate one morning and get hit by a bus at noon? You will land in Hell before dinner time. Devote 50 years of your life to murder, torture, rape and arson? Exactly the same punishment. Devote 49.9 of those same years to all the above attrocities, but repent during the last few weeks? You are free and clear to pay your dues in Purgatory instead.

    And why cannot God ever forgive the damned? I have been told that this is because Death fixates the will of the departed; they are so adamant, – so incredibly and self-defeatingly stubborn, – in rejecting his forgiveness that they will rather suffer a punishment of their own making for all Eternity.

    But this explanation does not hold water, does it? If Death would fixate the will, or the character, or whatever trait of the soul that make it unable to change, then Purgatory makes no sense. People would get trapped in an eternal cycle of mild-to-severe suffering because they would be unable to purify themselves and therefore never reach Heaven.

    As an alternate explanation, this is a doctrine that comes from the messages of the Virgin of Fatima. This is a recognized miracle of the Roman Catholic Church, but I am not sure if my interpretation are compatible with cannon, it probably isn’t. But anyways, the message was something along the lines of “too many people go to Hell because there’s no one to pray for them”. But why would people go to Hell because of that? If it was solely about the person’s transgressions, praying for them wouldn’t do any good, same as appealling of simpathy in a criminal trial should be unable to sway the judge’s sentence, once a veredict of culpability has been reached.

    So, what if instead “Hell” is what happens to people that make grave mistakes, whose consequences put them in a damaged state that they cannot pull themselves up from, but that they could theoretically recover if only there were someone with a strong connection to them to bail them out? Under ordinary conditions, it cannot be Christ himself, because the new soul has not yet developed the connection to him, but if the damned had and indirect connection through some other older soul that he’s met in his latest life, maybe he will be not so unreachable after all.

    And of course, there is the would question about demons. We have discussed previously in the Well of Galabes that the spirit realms are ecosystems, and that not all beings are benevolent, or even neutral, towards humans. Some are predators, and the difference between Hell and Purgatory might be that the damned put themselves within reach of one such predator.

    But, I am feeling I digress, and my attention is called IRL. What do you think so far of this argument?

  154. Hi JMG, great post. Two questions:
    1. What are your thoughts on panpsychism, specifically that all matter is essentially conscious in varying degrees based on its configuration (a rock is less conscious than an amoeba, but an amoeba is less conscious than a cat)?
    2. In the cosmology you’ve described here, what is the role of fate, or does it exist? Are some people “fated” to fare better along the journey than others, at least in their present life?

  155. @JMG

    I was raised (by a New Age Christian mom) to believe in reincarnation, and it always made sense to me intuitively. Still, as an adult I had to re-evaluate the concept and not just accept it as received doxa. I still find it to be the most persuasive explanation for the evidence, though my take on it now differs quite a bit in particulars from what I grew up with; much of what you describe here resonates with my own adult gnosis. But I have a couple questions:

    (1) Is your analogy of the hand in silk glove, in leather glove, in gauntlet meant to be a heuristic device or a more literal model of nested ontological planes? If the latter, that sounds rather Neoplatonic to me, which is valid of course, but I’m curious whether that derives from gnosis, or is it a part of received Druid wisdom? Or both? I admit to being a little skeptical of Neoplatonic models, but on the other hand, if that happens to be the finger that points one to the moon, more power to it.

    (2) What’s your take on Rupert Sheldrake’s hypothesis of morphic resonance in evolution? I’ve been meaning to ask you this before as you often allude to similar ideas (or so it seems to me) and it seems potentially relevant to an Ecosophic philosophy. To me morphic resonance seems not inconsistent with the model of reincarnation you present here–not as a sole explanation, but perhaps as a sort of complementary mechanism. For example, it could relate to the pathways of incarnation through various types of organism; or to a tendency to repeatedly incarnate within certain regions or family groups (if that is indeed a thing, I’m not convinced); as well as to the perpetuation of habitual behaviors/tendencies both at the Personality scale and the human species scale. Would love to hear your thoughts on that.

  156. Thank you JMG for this post. There are certain essays of yours that leave me (and I believe many others) feeling like slack-jawed Keanu Reeves memes, or like I’ve just done peyote or LSD (I have not) and this is one of them.

    What you have said here makes perfect sense and explains a great deal, especially the idea of a new soul struggling through a human population explosion making the usual mistakes.

    Knowing something like what you’ve outlined in this post truly does change everything. I will always be grateful I lived through the brief age of the internet because of stuff like this.

  157. Interesting thread.

    If anyone is looking for a clear, well-written exploration of this topic, they might enjoy the book Lifecycles, by professor of religion Christopher Bache.

    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/208023.Lifecycles

    Also, JMG, wondering if you might tell a bit about traditional Hermetic understandings of reincarnation, if, that is, they differ from you’ve already wrote about.

    Thanks,

    Pierre

  158. JMG, I would appreciate your comments on the difference between humans being born vs created, as well as any reading you may be able to recommend.

  159. Thank you for this most interesting post.
    What you describe comes very close to my own homespun beliefs.
    Maybe i had a connection to druidry in a previous incarnation.

    As to the matter of proof.
    The life of the composer Mozart is well documented.
    I am a musician myself. Nowhere near as gifted, but with several decades of experience and some classical and jazz training.
    There is no question to me that a prodigy like mozart must bring more than mere talent or aptitude into this life.
    The music theory required to do what he did at a very young age cannot be deduced from first principles. Music theory does not work that way.
    Contrary to popular belief it is not at all like mathematics.
    It is mainly a huge amount of contingencies that need to be practised to the point where they become second nature.
    This takes an insane amount of effort and time. Talent helps, but is nowhere near enough.
    That’s why there are so few virtuoso musicians. And hardly any below the age of 30.
    What i am trying to say is that to believe that mozart entered this life as a musical clean slate is just about as useful as the belief that neoclassical economics makes valuable contributions to human knowledge.

    Don’t take my word for it. Somebody who’s powers of observation and intelligence are well documented and who was a contemporary of Mozart said this:

    “All the efforts we make to try and explain the very foundation of things became futile the day after Mozart appeared”
    Goethe

    If we do not accept this as proof, we might as well say human knowledge is impossible.

    On a slightly different note:
    One thing i find remarkable is, that usually the most dogmatic materialists have no trouble swallowing any turd that economists serve them.
    Rejecting the highest standards of proof if it goes against their belief system while slavishly following the pseudoscience of economics, which has yet to make a correct prediction of significance.
    The funny bit is they call this hard headedness and accuse everybody else of being romantic and naive.

  160. Dear JMG and all,
    now there is a Bill Pullinam hole in the world. Thank you for letting us know. My condolences and best wishes, to him, his familie, friends and you!

    I once read a comment of his, where he explains that he is/was from the same age-segment and a bit alike background than you which to him made “rousing discussions/disagreements” much easier but also easier to digest for both
    It reminds me a bit of the film “Gran Torino” with Clint Eastwood, where the character of Eastwood can walk in on his head-dresser, totally insult the head-dresser as a greeting and be best pals, since forever. Apart from not being able to picture Bill Pullinam flinging such words in the official sphere, that is

    Maybe indeed a hot discussion as it might ensue between say 1950 radio-interviewers (totally to the point but nice and eloquent as can be) would be an idea 😉
    .

  161. Oh, I thought of one more question–sorry, you must be just a tad overwhelmed by all the questions on this post! My question is about time. If time is an illusion, as all the mystics say, something we humans create in our brains, then does reincarnation always correspond to our linear concept of time? If not, could one leave this life in 2017, and find oneself in a life in 1930, for example? I know that’s simplistic, but the best I can do at the moment. Thanks for all your insightful replies here.

  162. JMG;

    Yes, some Muslims do believe in reincarnation, such as the Ismailites. The Fatimid dynasty that founded Cairo was Ismailite, and so were the Assasins at Mount Alamut. Today, Ismailites are split in different groups, but I think they all believe in reincarnation. Yes, most of them live in India today! Their ideas, originally a secret doctrine, seem to be Gnostic and/or Neo-Platonic, and may be derived from such sources. Ismailism is “Shia” rather than Sunni, but main-line Shia and Sunni consider them heterodox.

  163. Hi JMG,
    This post brought up several questions that have been rattling around in my head for a while.

    1. If I remember correctly, back at the Well of Galabes you made a comment to the effect that demons are essentially the F students of a previous universe. If that’s the case, is demonhood a possible fate for those Individualities who comprehensively fail to learn in this round of Creation?

    2. In one of the final posts of the ADR, a commenter brought up an MIT professor who allegedly stripped himself of self-awareness and ego through the use of Zen techniques. You seemed to find the idea repulsive. What does such a practice mean in the context of Western esotericism? If such a practice is objectionable, is it due to some inherent quality of Zen, or did the MIT professor misinterpret a foreign spiritual practice?

    Also, with regards to life as a wolf: I don’t imagine that it’s any picnic, but they are at least free of such human maladies as Twitter and reality television.

  164. Okay – here’s one: Nietzsche and Dostoevsky (independently?) came to similar sorts of conclusions about the consequences of “The death of God”, and were largely proven correct. If (the contemporaneous Christian) God were an entity in Gwynfydd, could it be that that entity moved on around the late 1800’s and became inaccessible to most humans?

  165. Dear JMG,

    Best wishes to Bill Pulliam and his family and friends. Naming an award after him is a wonderful idea. Given the quality of the content you handle, I cannot think of a higher honor.

    Thanks sincerely for the chance to ask questions.

    I have a physical disability tipically considered serious. Over time I have heard many theories as to why:

    -A punishment for something that a distant relative did in the 19th century;
    -A challenge that I chose before reincarnating in this particular life, as a tool to improve myself;
    -Just an unlucky number in the genetic lottery; and more.

    Since I have adapted well to it, I am not especially interested in a “cure”, yet questions related to it do interest me at an intellectual level:

    * Could my handicap be a tool for learning which might have taken longer otherwise? In other words, is my most optimistic interpretation correct? it does not feel crazy to suppose that.
    * If the above is valid, would using magic to try to cure my disability or that of any other person be wrong?
    * Lastly, you have undoubtedly seen numerous mental issues that bring much more misery than any physical disability, so would using magic to try to reduce someone else’s misery be wrong? After all, if some of the above is correct, that person might have chosen such mental obstacle in order to eventually grow spiritually.

    Thankfully,

    Disabled

  166. Interestingly, most Japanese practice both Shinto (a religion) and Buddhism (more of a mystery school as you describe it). They tell me the two are much more powerful together. Neither actually demands that everyone “believe” in any set narrative of the afterlife, but offer their own visions of it to those looking for that. An important goal of Shinto is to facilitate individual interaction with the divine. Buddhism cultivates individual potential independent of the divine.

    To anybody in the Tokyo area who would like to get together with “Green Wizards” we are still getting together on the first Sunday of each month, including this Sunday. See the Green Wizards site for details. Pot luck picnic starting at 12:00.

    http://teresamcguffey.com/greenwizards.org/?q=node/34926

    We offer Shinto services for anyone wanting them!

  167. Thank you for this post – it ties together many things I have been pondering for a long time. It’s going to take many readings and much contemplation, but so far it fits well with things I’ve been reading and the ideas I have already accepted. And it feels right.

    I feel a sense of sadness coming to such concepts late in life, but it will be interesting where they take me, and I’m quite enjoying the ride.

    Sad to hear about Bill Pulliam – I don’t always have time to read all the comments, but I always read and appreciated Bill’s. I couldn’t think of any higher praise than that, and in the end if I could have people think that of me I guess I’ll have done alright.

  168. I’ll go light the candles for Bill Pulliam and do a “Rokkon Shojo” and “Daigen Sonjin” (which I will also get down and translate soon in anticipation of a special harae/war memorial at the Kompira mountain). So sad he won’t be adding his wisdom to our discussions here!

  169. Very interesting. Maybe my favorites among your writings are your dissections of the Idea of Progress, yet what you outlined here of reincarnation seems quite progress-like too–in the long run, it’s onwards and upwards through a heirarchy of first mineral, then animal, then human forms, and from there to unfathomable godlike wisdom in Glynfydd.

    So is the point something like that materialist/technological Progress is fraudulent, whereas spiritual Progress is the real mccoy? (Or do the wise beings in Glynfydd eventually fall right back to the mineral level where they began, perhaps after an unimaginable time?)

  170. PhysicsDoc, I suppose it’s possible that if AIs become sufficiently complex that a spirit could find them useful vehicles, the spirit could ensoul the AI the way it ensouls an unborn child. That would be a very strange incarnation!

    Garden Housewife, please do take your time deciding what you believe! If more people did that, there would be more thoughtful believers in the world and fewer rabid ideologues. As for vampirism, you know the kind of person who always leaves you feeling tired, even — ahem — drained? That’s what it feels like. (Dion Fortune’s book Psychic Self-Defense has a very useful discussion of vampirism; you might find it worth a read.)

    Gandalfwhite, the difference between discursive meditation and those other modalities is that when you meditate, there’s no therapist to suggest things. You’re alone with your own mind, and when the memories surface — and that usually happens after years of practice — it doesn’t usually happen in meditation at all. (My first past life memory surfaced when I was working at a nursing home, helping a new patient out to the porch for his once a day pipe smoking session, and while I was wheeling him toward the porch I suddenly realized that — despite being a lifelong nonsmoker who loathes tobacco smoke — I knew how to smoke a pipe, how it feels to draw the smoke into the mouth but not into the lungs, etc. — details I later confirmed with pipe-smoking friends. I had been meditating daily for around five years when that happened; later on, other memories from that life emerged.)

    Ganesh, good. Yes, your cells are each ensouled by a recently formed Individuality, which lives out its life in the ecosystem you call “me.” As for material objects, that’s complex; the will of any sufficiently complex being can create a vortex of soul-stuff — “artificial elemental” is the technical term — which can develop some degree of vitality and independent action, depending on how intensively it’s fed with energy by its maker. Operative mages do this all the time for practical ends — it’s one of the ways a talisman is made, for example. Artificial elementals, and the other “creations of the created,” aren’t really an independent current of souls, though very rarely an entity created in that fashion can be helped to achieve independent existence.

    Sunnnv, thank you for this! I didn’t happen to know that Dr. Stevenson’s group still exists; that’s good to know.

    Discwrites, matter is the densest form of manifestation of a continuum of being that has spirit at its upper end. The difference is like that between light and radio waves — same thing, different frequencies, and so very different effects. The body is a container, but it’s a container that shapes, limits, and empowers what’s put into it — thus my metaphor of the steel gauntlet.

  171. JMG, I had expected to post about how much I missed the Wells blog before reading this. Thank you for putting that to rest. Fervent prayers for Bill and family. There were many times that his astute comments made mine redundant. He is missed already. I don’t post much because it seems I loose understanding when trying to distill the information into words. Not so with your writing! Forever grateful for sharing your gifts.

  172. JMG –

    I did not know Bill Pulliam, but my prayers certainly go out to him. May he ride the Light to his next destination.

    I’ve noticed when contemplating the astro charts of members of the same family that there’s often an astro theme present, one they all share to one degree or another. I’m inclined to think this governing theme as indicative of a “group reincarnation” in which certain shared issues need be worked out amongst the family members.

    I’m thinking this must have been true of the great European royal families and bloodlines back when they actually served as spiritual stewards, before – and indeed after – they became corrupted and redundant. Our own “royal family” the Kennedys (Camelot, you know) seems to have a shared Scorpio-Libra theme, for better or worse, and mostly worse, considering the ongoing Kennedy “curse”. I can imagine that the K’s were at one time a functioning royal family, perhaps in Europe, and who in incarnating in America were finally corrupted to the point of extinction by immense wealth and ruthless political ambition.

    That’s speculation of course, but it does seem to me that the Kennedys are an example of group reincarnation.

  173. I have long had a fascination with the idea of reincarnation, combined with a love of history, archaeology, pre history, and palaeontology. So you had me up until you went on to “Gwynfydd”. I have never understood the appeal ideas ideals of some kind of wierd higher existence heaven, nirvana etc have to people.

  174. Ganesh: your question reminds me of “Las Manos De Orlac” starring Peter Lorie, and frequently referred to in Malcolm Lowry’s novel “Under The Volcano.” And with the musical theme, your question also made me think of the great violins. Stradivari was at the peak of his long career exactly 300 years ago, and if there are any objects/possessions that would be imbued with the soul-stuff of the owner, I’d think it woulld be those great violins that were owned and played by great violinists.

  175. What an utterly fascinating discussion! I’ll add my observations before returning to the paid job I’m supposed to be doing.
    Twice now I’ve seen instances in Japan where someone’s deceased parent seemed to come back as a cat, personality intact, possibly because they were worried about their youngest child and this was the quickest way to check on them or try to console them. I sure hope they do not get stuck as cats! Both were quite advanced, in my opinion, loving people.

    Every so often I get a very clear vision of someone or other from my past, and tell that vision I hope he or she is just thinking of me and not recently deceased. The first time it happened, it turned out to be the latter. But I had an old pet bullsnake that I loved dearly, raised from itty-bitty to huge and then released before I left for Japan because I hoped he would find true happiness out in the sunshine, testing the dangerous wind.

    A few years later in autumn, here came his vision, very clear, and I took it to mean he’d gotten that far. I suggested to him becoming a cat, because it would be a step forward for him at a nice increment. But he had his own ideas, attending dragon school or something, and has defended me spiritually a couple of times. Or at least he shows up in sudden clear visions like that from time to time.

  176. On the subject of reincarnation among certain families or groups; it is Wiccan belief that the Goddess promises them reunion with fellow Wiccans in future lives. Not sure how long this is supposed to carry on–indefinitely, until one has gotten all one can from that path, until the entire group is ready to go on? OTH I read one supposed expert on the Craft assert that Gardner taught that “only” Witches reincarnated. So far as I can find in his writings that is not true–such a belief would seem to turn Wicca into a salvationist sect–although I suppose that would be in line with it being a mystery cult as many mystery cults promise a special deal in the afterlife.

    There are some contemporary Orphic Reconstructionists who teach that the Orphic initiate will learn the correct answers in the underworld and thus avoid Lethe and the erasure of that lifetime’s memories. From that point the soul can frolic with Dionysus or choose to incarnate. Interesting.

    Do the Druids have any pre-death training, along the lines of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, to prepare the soul to make the optimum choices?

  177. @Sister Crow

    I think that’s a good way of putting it.

    @James M. Jensen II

    I’ve seen a lot of attempts to link astrology with spirituality, some of them work less poorly than others. In the MT, though, astrology is primarily a timing device, in the same sense that your alarm clock is a timing device telling you when to crawl out of bed. It’s used to provide a framework for when things in your life plan will happen, and to coordinate planned events with the various people that will participate in them. The also applies to collective events, such as the potential results of the eclipse that JMG outlined in the previous article.

    There’s also some material that links the axes of the houses (1st and 7th, 4th and 10th) with some technical details of the personality system – that’s way out of scope for this discussion.

    @Bruno Bolzon

    I believe Mother Mary became prominent in the tenth or eleventh century, for one example. Serving as a god for humans is only one of many things that are on the evolutionary path back to Spirit (the Tao, whatever you want to call it).

    Re your comment to me: I think that’s what I said.

    @Dewey

    As far as I’m aware, JMG is absolutely correct. There are exceptions, but they’re very few and far between, except for a small number of systems where there are multiple sentient species in the same environment – then it’s standard to incarnate with any of them.

    As it happens, the cetaceans are one example. A dolphin is not the same species as a sperm whale, after all, but their Design does have lifetimes in several species of that group. They do not cross-incarnate with us, or vice versa.

    This is where the concept of Grand Cycles comes in. A Design pretty much sticks to the same species (or group of species) for the entire Physical Plane portion of the Grand Cycle, but the individual Sparks (or Individualities) may associate with a radically different species (on a different planet) on their next Grand Cycle, as long at it’s at an appropriate level to promote their evolution.

    @CR Patiño

    In the system I use, Hell does not exist as a permanent destination for a soul. It was an invention of the 2nd century church to threaten the other brands of Christianity that were vying for superiority.

    Since anything enough people imagine for long enough manifests on the Astral Plane, Hell does exist. In fact, a number of Hells exist, and people who are firmly convinced that they’re destined for Hell will go there until they wise up and leave for somewhere else more pleasant and more interesting to continue their afterlife. Same for Heaven.

    @Lydia Grey

    Yes.

    Re: the idea that the soul dissolves on death.

    This was a standard belief in some of the Classical era philosophical schools. You had to practice a series of disciplines to strengthen it so that you would have a life after death. Since the lower classes didn’t have access to those practices, or the time to practice them for that matter, they were condemned to a transient existence.

    There are a lot of moving parts in most occult models. One of those parts does indeed disintegrate within about three days of death, if certain things don’t intervene.

  178. @Rhisiart & @JMG,

    Yes, Thomas Campbell’s Big TOE kept coming to mind for me also while reading this post and quite a few of the comments.

    Campbell’s theory is very much couched in the language/jargon of computer science, and that’s the part of it I strongly resist, even though I am a programmer. He is also very verbose and repetitive.

    When I overlook those issues the parallels keep coming up for me: Consciousness is the ‘stuff’ which underlies everything else, individuated pieces of this universal consciousness are the self aware entities we might say occupy a physical body but which in fact have that body and the experienced physical world as an emergent property rather than the other way around. It matches up in so many ways.

    …and yes, a sufficiently complex A.I. running on a human-built computer can be an individuated consciousness and is no different in kind than an animal consciousness living on earth. It differs only in that its awareness is nested one layer deeper in the system.

    Campbell’s conceptual framework around this is that all is a ‘digital simulation’. I resist that too, but that concept can be thrown out (or replaced with the ‘planes’ of older teachings) and the rest still works. It doesn’t ultimately matter what the nature of the ‘top level’ is because it is unknowable to us anyway.

    The bonus that comes with considering it all to be a digital construct is that the weirdness of quantum mechanics can be explained. (But Schopenhauer’s world view can do this too.)

    In Campbell’s view, the purpose of an individuated consciousness is to increase its ‘quality’ (decrease its entropy) in order to progress beyond this contained system and ultimately contribute to the increase in overall quality of the universal consciousness. That sounds familiar!

    Sorry this got so long. I have often wanted to write about this in your comment threads. I guess I’ve been bottling it up. 🙂

    All this to say; I add my voice to those who have recommended a read of Campbell’s work, though it may be difficult to get through.

  179. I forgot to add (it was too long anyway) 🙂 …

    Describing Thomas Campbell’s Big TOE at length is not to say that I ‘believe’ his version to the exclusion of others. I really enjoy finding these chunks of common ground in the works of so many thinkers who are so much more thoughtful than I. They are all looking at the same multiverse and trying to figure out how it works.

    These thinkers describing what they see and trying to explain, with an open mind, the parts they can’t see feels so much better than the self described “thinkers” who flatly refuse to allow the parts they can’t explain to exist at all. Thomas Campbell is in the former category, which is why I recommend him.

  180. Rhisiart, diolch yn fawr for the corrected pronunciation.

    Bel.is, good. Of course each form of life has qualitative differences that matter, beyond the quantitative measure of increasing complexity. It’s been suggested that each world works out the complete set of possibilities available, given the type of existence that occurs on it — in our case, that would be the complete set of possibilities you can get starting with a carbon-based, DNA-using biological template and this world’s gravity and other parameters — and over the course of the biosphere’s existence, every one of those possibilities will take physical form and go cavorting about the planet. In turn, each form shapes the Individualities that incarnate in it, and as forms change, Individualities vary in their development.

    Booklover, the Druid teachings I’m working with were written before anybody in the western world really thought about genocide. I’m sure there would be massive consequences, but there isn’t the kind of detailed literature that Buddhism and Christianity, among others, have put together to chronicle what kind of afterlife you get in response to what kind of life.

    Mark, interesting! I didn’t know that Meher Baba still had a following these days. As to Cayce’s comment, good question; I haven’t studied his work, so can’t guess what he meant from context.

    Mac, remind me what “Hard Question” you have in mind. It’s been a long incarnation…

    Marco, funny. Thank you.

    Armenio, I didn’t know that. That’s very depressing!

    Escher, don’t worry about it. One way or another, if the Druid teachings are right, you’ll remember in due time.

    Brigyn, the best source I know of is Dion Fortune’s The Cosmic Doctrine. It’s not specifically Druidical in its focus, but a lot of Druid occultists I know have studied it.

    Jeff, that does sound like a typical cascade of synchronicities. I wish you and your wife all the best with the upcoming arrival!

    DaShui, hah. The old Druids may have borrowed money in one life to be repaid in the next, as one of the Roman writers say; we don’t, as the interest income gets taxed by the Department of Eternal Revenue… 😉

    Yorkshire, basically, yes — it’s like an intensive care department where the patients have to take care of each other.

    John, fair enough. Our take is that what’s between lives isn’t a return to the source, it’s simply a period in which the spirit processes, more or less effectively, what it’s experienced in matter, and then goes to the next life. One homely metaphor that appears in the lore compares incarnation to grazing in the field and the period between incarnations as chewing the cud! The cycle from the Infinite to the Infinite, in our way of thinking, takes an entire evolution — the whole sequence of incarnations from Abred to the heights of Gwynfydd — rather than a single incarnation and its aftermath.

    Prizm, an interesting speculation! That’s given a different spin in our teachings, but that heads out in very complex directions that would take a couple of posts to explain.

    Blinky, you’ll be in good company if you do!

  181. It’s certainly astonishing how dogmatic the devoutly anti-religious can be. All the moreso since much of their dogma—(materialist) monism, uniformitarionism, non-essentialism to name several elements—doesn’t contradict religious notions of e.g. reincarnation or an afterlife at all, but rather indicates their likelihood. After all, if all that defines a person is a (constantly changing) configuration of protons and electrons inside the brain, what’s to stop any particular configuration from re-occurring at some other place and time in this inconceivably vast universe of ours?
    Hopefully, however, there IS such a thing as the soul (or Individuality) and the reality of reincarnation isn’t so haphazard a process as materialism would predict.

    A question and topic for JMG and any other takers:
    The combination of the theme of reincarnation with the specific circumstances of William Pulliam’s passing—sincere condolences to all those affected—have got me wondering about a medical (and spiritual) end-of-life issue. To cut to the chase, I basically think patients are often de-plugged too quickly. Or at least, that used to be my default position—particularly, if they’re not conscious/experiencing pain, what’s the rush? But once you consider the state of the person’s immaterial spirit, it gets a lot more complicated. How is the latter affected by being in a coma? Does it remain bound to the body and if so, does this have a negative effect on the person’s ‘spiritual health’?
    (PS: I definitely don’t mean to intrude or be judgmental about this specific case, just want to ask a general question.)

  182. Hello Mr. Greer,

    It seems to me that, despite your denial of this, spiritual progress does enter through the back door in your account. When I analyze sentences like these:

    “this way of thinking about things explains why humanity in the mass never seems to progress spiritually or morally. Humanity is a stage through which Individualities pass.”

    I find in them a distinction between human societies that don’t progress, and (currently) human Individualities that… – (do, would seem the most logical completion of the dichotomy).

    I understand that you don’t mean to talk about progress but about a cumulative process. But the distinction you make between societies and Individualities seems (to me) to be saying other things behind your back

  183. onething,

    Your perspective reminds me of an argument C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity; I assume you’re familiar with the argument, but to put it with as little theological baggage as possible, it goes something like: a truly deep-seated desire is evidence that the fulfillment for that desire exists, because why else would we have it?

    Indeed, I’d argue that a widely-held deep-seated desire is ceteris paribus more likely to exist if we evolved in an environment where it can generally be fulfilled. To pull an example from Lewis, we wouldn’t have sex drives if sex weren’t a thing. Thus from a Bayesian perspective, such a desire counts as evidence just as Lewis argued.

    There may be other reasons to think that conclusion false, of course, and of course it’s possible to have relatively superficial desires for any number of things we can’t have. I’d love to be able to make myself invisible or to travel through time. The fact that I’ll never have those powers is no great bother to me.

    Somewhat deeper is my desire for a cure for my diabetes, but even if that’s never a practical possibility, or I die before it becomes one, that would suck but oh well. (Also, strongly wishing I didn’t have diabetes would arguably provide evidence of that not having it is the normal state for a human being, if we didn’t already know that.)

    Meanwhile, my desire to believe there’s “something more” than material reality is so deep-seated that after much thought I finally came to the conclusion that I would honestly rather believe it and be wrong than not believe it. Given how widespread this desire seems to be, I think the obvious explanation that we evolved to be in contact with the spirit world, just as we evolved to have friends and live in groups, is quite reasonable.

    (That there are a minority who don’t happen to have that desire is irrelevant, for the same reason the existence of a minority of people who are asexual is irrelevant to whether sex drives are evidence for the existence of sex.)

    I know this has gotten long, but for skeptics let me address the counter-example for this that you’re all thinking of: the desire not to die. JMG has already mentioned in last week’s comments that Western culture’s extreme aversion to death is actually unusual. And even among us, the desire to stay alive diminishes as we age. (I had a great uncle who decided he’d lived long enough, and within three days was dead of natural causes.) Add in the current rate of suicide and the picture that emerges for me is that a desire to stay alive isn’t nearly so deep-seated or simple as we tend to think.

  184. Skolymus, I suspect myself that fungi are a current of their own, but that’s just a suspicion. It would take a great deal of spiritual experience on the part of many people over many years to get enough data to establish a consensus. As for vampirism, yeah, the traditional lore has it that the results are far from good. I’m glad you enjoyed Innsmouth!

    Brigyn, those are good questions for which I don’t know of a generally accepted answer. On first principles, nuclear fusion would be like nuclear fission, an opening into what some occultists call the subnatural realm — in this model there’s a supernatural, a natural, and a subnatural realm — and the influences working through that opening would be what, broadly speaking, most people would call “demonic.” As for genetic engineering, I don’t know, but to judge by the way that GM technology has so consistently been sold to people with utopian promises and then exploited in the service of corporate greed and lust for power, it might not be that different…

    Patricia, that’s certainly one approach! There are also gimmicks you can use to mess with their ability to drain others’ energy and vitality, and some of those make life very uncomfortable indeed for the vampire…

    Rahul, I’ve never been to India, or anywhere in Asia; my trips off the North American continent have been entirely confined to Europe, and western Europe at that. The sort of everyday ritual you describe, though, used to be common all over the world, and it seems very sensible to me.

    Llewellyn, the standard advice — with which I concur heartily — is not to worry about it too much. If you’re ready to remember, the memories will gradually unfold further, and they’ll explain things you don’t understand about yourself, in the same way that memories from your childhood so often explain habits and reactions in your adult life. If not, or if what you’ve got is confabulation rather than actual memory, they’ll fade out.

    Anthony, nah, the Individualities going through a raccoon existence today will not still be going through a raccoon existence fifty million years from now! The claim is that souls go through Abred in swarms of more or less the same type — all the souls who are going to become human beings, for example, are part of one swarm, which reached the upper edge of Abred a couple of million years ago and will work their way up into Gwynfydd over however many million years our species lasts; the cyons, to use the term from that story, probably aren’t doing mammal things yet, and so on.

    As for the other thing, human beings are capable of tremendous evil and tremendous good, and also of everything in between. I’ve met people who have done seriously ghastly things, and my take is that they’re not soulless — they’re just really good reminders of how spectacularly we human beings can mess up, and how much pointless pain we can cause.

    Dirtyboots, interesting. It’s hard to say.

    Sister Crow, that’s one way to think of it! Another is to think of it as a process by which each soul unfolds its unexpressed potential, the way an acorn unfolds its potential to become an oak.

    Isabel, yeah, I could see that.

    James, I don’t know of one. I’ve read in late 19th and early 20th century astrological texts that your ascendant in this life was the position of your natal sun in your previous life, for whatever that’s worth.

    Brian, glad to hear it.

    Greg, that’s interesting. I’m aware of methods that have been used to try to manage a controlled reincarnation with as much memory retention as possible, but I haven’t seen any figures on how well it works…

    Martin, interesting. A lot of people seem to have some glimpses of previous lives these days; I’ve wondered more than once if a lot of us are gearing up for the leap to Gwynfydd. That’s probably a good plan, since human bodies are going to become a lot scarcer in the centuries immediately ahead…

  185. Bruno, indeed there is. The old polytheist faiths talked about that — the Greeks remembered that back before the Olympian gods and goddesses, there had been an earlier pantheon of Titans, and then an older generation back before that. Other traditions cover a much vaster sequence of ancient gods and goddesses.

    Dewey, the usual division in such writings as I’ve seen is rather broader than, say, primates — the whole animal kingdom is one broad evolutionary swarm, and if in fact cetaceans are also at the upper end of Abred, then probably it’s plankton to other little swimming things to little fish to big fish to cetaceans, and bacteria to crawly things to arthropods to small tetrapods to big smart tetrapods to humans, or something like that. As for your cat, don’t confuse moral and personal virtues with the cognitive leap to Gwynfydd. There are plenty of very calm, tolerant, sensible, and loving people who don’t have a scrap of spirituality in their heads or their hearts; they’re just really good people. Spirituality is not morality; it’s extension in another dimension.

    Omnia, saying that trees are teleological is like saying that a rock is teleological because its purpose is to lie there on the sidewalk. Says who?

    Jeffrey, panpsychism is an interesting way of talking about the point I tried to make in the post, that spirit is the primary reality and all things depend on it. As for fate, in the Druid teachings fate is the sum of the consequences of previous lives — more or less what the Asian traditions call “karma.” It’s distinct from destiny, which is the drive of the Individuality to unfold its unique potentials. How much of a role fate plays in a life depends partly on how much of a backlog of unresolved consequences you’ve got and partly on how much of a capacity you have to bring will to bear on your life.

    Alexandra, the metaphor of the gloves is a reflection of experienced phenomena, which likely have an ontological dimension. Neoplatonism definitely has something to do with it, but so does direct personal experience — there are practices that highlight the differentiation between, say, the material and the vital bodies. As for morphic resonance, the book by Dion Fortune I’ve cited here already, The Cosmic Doctrine, includes a fairly clear description of morphic resonance that was written before Rupert Sheldrake was born, and it’s far from the first source. That is to say, we were on to this a long time before Sheldrake got to it — which doesn’t make his work unimportant, of course, and it’s probably just as well that he either doesn’t know or doesn’t mention that he’s talking about one of the the core mechanisms of magic.

    Kimberly, you’re welcome and thank you!

    Pierre, that’s a whole other can of worms! You can find the details in Dion Fortune, W.E. Butler, and other occultists of their generations.

    Clark, I’ve already cited the reading. As for human beings, individuals are born but the species, like all species, was created — that is to say, brought into being as a manifestation of certain spiritual energies needing expression. Evolution and natural selection were the means by which that act of creation happened, of course.

    DropBear, hah! You get tonight’s gold star for a fine (and richly deserved) smackdown of neoclassical economics. You’re right about Mozart, too; the standard claim is that people who have any kind of talent developed it by hard work in a previous life.

    Lydia, time is an illusion from the perspective of eternity, but we’re not there yet, and may never be. While we exist as what we are now, it’s a reality, and our lives spool out in sequence, as shown by the way that past lives remembered by young children are always in the past.

    Tidlosa, so noted. Thank you!

    Cliff, yes, that’s certainly one theory. As for the guy who stripped himself of self-awareness and ego, to my way of thinking, that’s a ghastly misuse of the tradition — he turned himself into a machine, an unconscious object that used to be a person, where accomplished Zen practitioners are among the most conscious, self-aware people you’ll ever meet, with egos that have been strictly disciplined and thus made reflective and useful. They aren’t empty shells where a human being used to be.

    Justin, that’s one possibility. I’ve noticed for years that when people say they’re praying to Jesus, any number of very different entities seem to respond — I’m quite convinced, for example, that the “Jesus” of the angry, hypocritical end of the fundamentalist scene is a demonic entity. It may be that the being to which a lot of European Christians prayed went away around Nietzsche’s time…

    Disabled, according to the theory, an Individuality can be born into a body with a physical or mental disability for a variety of reasons, but it usually amounts to some need of the soul that can’t be met any other way. What nobody else but you can know is whether what you need is to overcome the disability, to learn to live with it, or to respond to it in some other way. That’s true of everyone else, of course — which is why it’s a hard and fast rule in most magical traditions that before you perform a healing working for anybody’s benefit, you ask their permission .

    Twilight, better late than never…

    Patricia, thank you! I think he would have appreciated that.

  186. An interesting and stimulating post, JMG, thank you.

    RIP Bill Pulliam, fearless speaker of his own mind: I had missed his charmingly Viking photo in the comments. Or as we say in Basque: Agur eta Ohorre!

    Comparative religion has always interested me: I must say that on reading this post I immediately thought of the lines by the 13th century Sufi teacher Rumi quoted by a previous commenter – ‘You were mineral, vegetable, animal, human, and will be an angel’ ,etc.

    This is certainly an integral part of Sufic thought, which is only marginally ‘Islamic’ (there is a long history of very brutal persecution of Sufis by the ultra-orthodox within Islam – currently they are being murdered by fanatics in Pakistan) and is really part of the great mystical effort of mankind. A situation complicated by the fact that many existing and even ancient Sufi groups are themselves degenerate, having lost the way: Caveat Emptor!

    Those lines by Rumi were often referred to as central to Sufic thought by the Scottish-Afghan Sufi philiosopher Idries Shah. However, due to the persecution by Muslim fanatics, this sort of thing is down-played, for reasons of self-preservation!

    So perhaps the Islamic world had its own Druids indeed!

  187. JMG, if maybe a lot of us are gearing up for a leap to Gwynfydd, then, I suppose, that means there will be a lot of new gods in the future, marking a large resurgence of religion. Nice, huh?

  188. Hi JMG,

    The Neuroscience “Hard Question.” What is the source of consciousness and sentience, the brain or something external and universal. The scientists have still found no mechanism in the brain.

    Thank you,

    mac

  189. Justin and JMG, that idea makes a lot of sense to me. When I would pray to God as a child, it felt like no one was there. In my late teens, I started doing what the church I was in referred to as “intercessory prayer”. I actually did feel like I was reaching someone then. But then I had a very frightening experience in which I felt an ancient, evil presence in my room while I was praying that I thought was a demon. I never did intercessory prayer again.

    After that, it again felt like there was no one there when I prayed to God. I felt a connection to a few of the saints, particularly St. George, but not to the Christian God. I thought the problem was with me. Then I decided that there really was no one there, so I became an atheist for a little while.

    I wonder if other people raised in Christianity have felt the same, and if that could be why it seems a growing number of Christians are leaving the religion and becoming atheists.

  190. I should clarify that “that idea” was that the Christian God may have moved on from Gwynfydd, so he isn’t there anymore. Also, that other beings may be responding to some Christian prayers to God, and that there could be a demon responding to some. Sorry, should have been clearer in my previous comment.

  191. Thriftwizard, I would indeed suggest that the modern world is not very well suited to some human needs, so mental illness is one result of this!
    J. M. Greer, indeed I already thought that genocides and mass slaughter would be disruptive with regard to souls and reincarnation. Regarding not only people like Stalin and Mao, but people in general, I would suggest that the actions of these people have lasting consequences on a bigger or smaller scale. When they die and reincarnate, they would have thus to face the conditions, which the actions of their former selves helped to bring about.
    Then, a furter question cropped up in my mind: Where does dementia fit in regarding the transition from one life to another?

  192. @Matt

    Thomas W. Campbell seems like an interesting person. I’ve heard of the “simulation” model in philosophy a few times, and I’d hate to imagine the size of the computer that would be required to simulate the universe! It seems to be popular in some circles, although I consider the name unfortunate.

    Given some pieces of the Michael Teaching, the metaphor I use is that of an RPG (Role Playing Game), and I don’t worry about the mechanism.

    Michael, by the way, agrees that it’s possible that AIs may reach sentience at some point.

    @JMG

    If I understand what you’re saying, I think I haven’t described a Grand Cycle adequately. It’s not one incarnation. It’s the entire cycle of incarnations in a particular species, and then the process of working up through the Planes, becoming gods, etc. It’s probably closer to what you just described: “The cycle from the Infinite to the Infinite, in our way of thinking, takes an entire evolution — the whole sequence of incarnations from Abred to the heights of Gwynfydd — rather than a single incarnation and its aftermath.”

    @SpiceIsNice

    The way I understand it, if a person is in a terminal vegetative state, the spirt has either already left or is simply marking time until it can complete the process of disconnecting.

    The exception here is when the person suddenly wakes up with a different personality. In some circles, that’s called a walk-in, and it’s described as a different spirit taking over a body. The used body shop, if that metaphor makes any sense. Very controversial topic.

  193. I’ve been a reader of this cluster of blogs for several years now, going back somewhat farther than the creation of the Well of Galabes, but this is my first time commenting – for some reason, news of Bill Pulliam’s death seems to have provoked me to speak up. Perhaps it’s because I always admired his own tendency to speak up and promote his own fiercely individual view of the world. I hope that whatever he finds past the veil of mortality affords him further opportunities to grow and express his unique potential.

    Count me among one of the readers who’s equally fascinated by all the various topics you discuss here, from history and civilization to magic and spirituality. I’ve been interested in occultism for years, although in what I understand is typical Virgo fashion I’ve spent a long time reading and studying various works on the subject before beginning my current tentative attempts at a disciplined spiritual practice. I would certainly be interested in further posts expanding on occult ideas of reincarnation, since it always leads to interesting reflections on the Big Question of occultism: how should humanity relate to the spiritual world?

    One specific question I have: does the traditional lore offer any hint as to why discursive meditation in particular, out of all the various spiritual practices, tends to dredge up past life memories? One possibility I can imagine is that as the habit of bringing the mind back along one’s train of thought to the central theme becomes ingrained, we start to unconsciously apply that same process to the larger stream of consciousness that is our reincarnating awareness. Thus we instinctively start tracing back from our present-day habits and foibles to their roots in other lives – and perhaps eventually to the central “theme” which is the growing awareness of the Individuality itself. Would practice of the Ars Memorativa have a similar effect? I seem to recall that in your essay on the subject from the AODA website, you mention that the practice improves one’s overall capacity for recall.

    Finally, since this is my first comment, I’d just like to express my gratitude for the work you’ve put into creating your various blogs and cultivating a space for open and amicable discussion of important ideas. You’ve given me quite a lot to think about over the years!

  194. Can one’s spiritual development be influenced at all by coming into physical contact with an entity bearing a Great Soul and, if so, does that soul necessarily have to be within a human form? Here I’m wondering about the spiritual effect of being in the presence of a tree that has arrived at an advanced stage along its spiritual path. I have experienced curiously strong emotional shifts while hiking through stands of old growth forest, which I have dismissed as mere etheric phenomena–deep down I suppose I’m hopeful that there exists the potential for something to happen on a higher level.

    Also, immediately after a death, can prayers from the living aid the liberated individuality along its developmental path?

  195. One thing I will say about this week’s post, it really does shine a light upon why when we deal with our fellow human beings, we so often feel as though we are dealing with very stupid, neurotic, or willful toddlers: In a matter of speaking, a lot of these folks really are toddlers. And it really does make graduating to the next level (I prefer the Sanskritic word Devachan for it) seem like something towards which it is worthwhile to start moving.

  196. JMG
    ‘Takes me back’, as the saying goes. Smile.

    I read some Ian Stevenson papers over the years when I took the Journal of Scientific Exploration at the instigation of an old engineer friend. [Thanks by the way to sunnnv for the link where I can read them again without digging out my dusty pile of JSE back numbers. https://med.virginia.edu/perceptual-studies/ ]

    I tend to think of reincarnation as a branch of the Imagination rather than a scientifically testable hypothesis as a means of recounting experience. I don’t go all the way with William Blake who we are told took the form of things unknown as the unseen imaginative reality. From my reading I understand, I think, that for Blake ‘Imagination’ is primary reality. Blake quotes Shakespeare: “Giving to airy nothing a name & a habitation …”i> <‘Milton’ Plate 28; 3. Even so, I admit my take on Mozart rather relies on that ‘airy nothing’ as the likeliest ‘back-story’. [Thanks to whoever this week for the Goethe quote on Mozart, btw.)

    Sometimes – and it is usually startling – apparently from nothing, or from the merest hint, imagination can take off into recognition. Even if we should beware mischief, like the golden pollen in a Dream at Midsummer – sure we have all been there: ain’t hindsight a wonderful thing? – Some spirits still seem dependable. Goodness me Patricia Ormsby in Japan, me not being American I had to look up pet bullsnake. Love takes many dependable forms and I remember in the verisimilitude of a dream a final farewell from a cat I had to leave behind.

    Poets very properly tend to consult Shades. But that is like part of the thin air stuff again. Creation? Existence? All the endless uniqueness of space/time co-ordinates and the so precious past and future, Life’s Arrow: ah, my friends, all the signalling, arm-waving, whatever!

    best
    Phil H

  197. JMG, you said, “I’m aware of methods that have been used to try to manage a controlled reincarnation with as much memory retention as possible, but I haven’t seen any figures on how well it works…”

    To which I’d suggest that the data just isn’t in English and is more frequently found in Tibetan where monastic and lay yogic practices have currents very much focused on the reincarnation of both treasured people (literally, Rinpoche) and teachings (terma). Part of the post rebirth process familiar to many westerners is the testing for retained memories.

    Their methods seem to work well enough for their purposes such that its widely accepted (in their cultural milieu) and part of common knowledge (the possibility if not the practices).

  198. When I was a young child in Israel, I had a recurring dream for about a week. I was flying over rows and rows of bald people in orange robes, all sitting on the ground (in yogic cross- legged position) facing the direction I was flying. We all knew that after the front row, the Big Bad Wolf would be waiting to fight an epic battle with me and the men would be witnessing it. But before I would get to the front row, I would get so scared that I would stop breathing and wake up short of breath.
    It brings up the question of how would I know at that age, with virtually no television, of what I now think were buddhist monks? Reincarnation is one possible answer. Another is that I was picking up, like an antenna, someone else’s experience. The dream has stayed with me and informs much of what I care about now.

  199. Re: the romanticization of vampires

    Is it significant that our culture’s dominant notion of a vampire is not a spiritual entity living off vital force directly but a walking corpse draining it indirectly through blood? According to the Wiki, our notion—and possibly the word—partly evolved from the concept of a witch, a “monster” that has undergone a similar romanticization (and not just because of the rise of Wicca).

    Another thought: in the introduction to the 5th edition D&D version of the old Castle Ravenloft adventure module, Tracy Hickman mentions that the vampire used to be an allegory for men who seduce young women with their charms and wealth and then abuse and kill them, whereas now they’re morality plays about how love can save anyone. It disgusts him, and I have to agree.

    For what it’s worth, I remember when even the most romanticized version of vampires would stress the price they paid for their immortality. Keeping an intact conscience as a vampire was always a losing fight, and even the best vampires were essentially high-functioning psychopaths. In the long run, the best you could hope for as a vampire was to be more lawful than evil.

    These days, even that’s gone out the window.

  200. JMG: Ah, yes, of course, that makes excellent sense. It always comes back to trees for us Druids, doesn’t it? 😀

  201. @James: “And even among us, the desire to stay alive diminishes as we age. (I had a great uncle who decided he’d lived long enough, and within three days was dead of natural causes.)”

    I’ve noticed that, among my older friends and family, being okay with death is more common than not: my mother, in her early seventies, has expressed that when it happens it happens and she’s had a good life, and that she finds the prospect of living to ninety-odd not entirely thrilling.

    *Her* mother was maybe an interesting case of the sort of thing you mention–she lived alone from sixty-eight (when my grandfather died) to seventy-eight, and was rather content most of the time. In her last year of life, a) she started missing my grandfather more than she used to, or talking about it more, and b) she developed dementia to the point where she couldn’t live alone. My mom and her siblings were scheduled to get together on the Monday after Mother’s Day and discuss arrangements until a place opened in the home Grammy had picked out; on Sunday, they all had good calls with her, in which she expressed that “I’m ready when it happens”; on Monday, my uncle went to her house and found that she’d died of a stroke in the middle of the night.

    She was a very devout Catholic, and I doubt she would have consciously willed her own death, much less taken more active measures, but…makes me think, as they say.

  202. @onething

    Christianity is relatively hard to understand, but perhaps looking how what they believe might be right instead of wrong, would be a productive, if lengthy approach. Too many give cursory dismissal when there are complex, 1,000 year-long histories, thinkers, linguistics that take a lot of effort to approach.

    Reincarnation is mentioned in Matt 16: “Some say [you’re] John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Jesus was neither surprised nor worried by this idea. His response does not confirm it, but does confirm it was a common idea.

    A rough outline to the Christian story goes like this: for some reason we won’t get into, human kind became separated, alienated from their spiritual source. This was a spiritual cul-de-sac, and as they were stranded in the lower plane — perhaps in intellect and ego — they couldn’t find a way to re-attach to the higher, universal. This was a problem for a long time and because of it, humans tended to cruelty, power, and material gain shown in our history, and were barely keeping the door to spirit open with continuous animal sacrifices. However, despite these handicaps, a certain person was nevertheless able to progress adequately to re-unite with God, his source. That’s fine for him, but what good would it be for him to die and fade into history, leaving all others stranded again? That’s why in this one case, he did not simply die, or ascend to heaven like Elijah or the Taoist masters did, but had his body die, then re-animated it with his spirit from the other side. So what?

    So Jesus’s blood is all over the streets of Jerusalem and washed down in the Mediterranean, and that blood is also alive and resurrected. Jesus, who is attached to his own blood and body, is himself in the throne room of God. So Humans>Earth>Blood>Jesus>Throneroom>God. He has re-created the bridge between humans in the lower plane, and “God”, the source, in the higher plane.

    There’s a lot of contention and varying views, but that’s basically the Christian story. So we as humans, have a connection in spirit to all humans, and therefore our kinsman redeemer. We can connect through the door he held open and re-connect to higher plane, and being fully human. You don’t have to know the name or the story once it’s done as the light breaks through anyway, but thinking on this point — belief — will focus your mind, your consciousness toward the door to heaven, and therefore to love and higher things. That’s why it’s important to Christians, or in their mind, to all men. Interesting, often misunderstood, and perhaps important as a skeleton to tie ideas to.

  203. @John Roth

    I’ve always spent a lot of time in the wilderness mainly alone and some people have asked me whether it ever gets spooky and the answer, up to now, has always been “not at all”. One of the things I like about the wilderness is how real it is with not an inch or room for persuasion or opinion. A mountain or a cloud of mosquitoes just is what it is and you deal or you don’t and that has always been refreshing. I’ve had all sorts of odd hallucinations easily explained by exhaustion, loneliness and optical & auditory illusions. This will be my first truly odd experience in the wilderness. I’ve had odd experiences at home and in all sorts environments with other people around me. In fact I’ve always sort of assumed there is a social element to these experiences which I mainly chalk up to dream states or hallucinations of some sort, although I do kkeep an open mind. There’s no way to really know.

  204. A propos C S Lewis and Druidism, Lewis did have a working knowledge of esotericism. See Gareth Knight´s book “The Magical World of the Inklings” for details. Knight has connections to Dion Fortune´s order and claims that Lewis knew of a secret Arthurian ritual from one of the British esoteric lodges! The ritual is included in “That Hideous Strenght”.

  205. Thank you for addressing reincarnation, JMG. This, and the comments, are a gift. Much to ponder.

    The short version of my reincarnation story is that it unfolded over decades in bits and pieces since early childhood. In my most recent life, I was a hard-partying, fiddle playing, New Orleans lawyer, definitely on the chubby side and with a bad nail biting habit. Drank too much. Loved life. Died in a car crash. Alcohol likely had something to do with that.

    My current life got its start in Fort Worth, TX. Would’ve been born there, but my parents moved to New Mexico a few weeks before I arrived. IIRC, you mentioned recently that we are reborn in the same region in which we died. That absolutely gave me chills! Makes perfect sense. And it’s what happened to me.

    One question: A couple years ago, I was reading some comment about Russia, in a workaday context, nothing esoteric. A distant but remarkably distinct voice in my head said quite clinically: That’s your next stop.

    I’m not Russian; never had any interest in going to Russia. And, it’s far outside of the region in which I live now.

    Any idea what’s up with that?

  206. Dewey,

    To add to JMG’s reply to your comment about your cat, my mother had a cat who various reasons I could easily believe was about ready to move up to a higher form of life — and he was a bossy, surly, mischievous little devil. In a sense, he was more cat-like than most cats.

    (He did care deeply about us, though, and saved my life on more than one occasion.)

  207. Booklover: “Where does dementia fit in regarding the transition from one life to another?”

    I wonder about that and suicide: my father died of Alzheimer’s, and if I start heading that direction (and, moreover, towards being left without family in a Medicaid nursing home) I’ll definitely shoot myself if I am not able to elect VCED without fear of interference. Christian churches traditionally say “if you kill yourself you’ll stew in hell for eternity”, the obvious reason being that the herd you want to keep milking knows you can’t punish them after they’re dead. But I have also heard supposedly highly evolved and special New-Age types who claim special knowledge pontificate ominously that people who commit suicide “don’t have a happy afterlife….” My preference for Stoic philosophy makes me believe that those guys too are, conciously or unconsciously, just making up whatever might terrorize me into living by their value system. But I’m not sure.

    (Now, if JMG says he believes the same, I’ll still have to say: tough, I don’t care. Maybe my next life would suck as punishment, but at least I wouldn’t spend it tied to a bed and tube-fed in a nursing home, ’cause no culture before could ever afford to do that to its gomers, and no culture after us will be able to afford to either.)

  208. @Fred Naumann

    Quoting: “I would certainly be interested in further posts expanding on occult ideas of reincarnation, since it always leads to interesting reflections on the Big Question of occultism: how should humanity relate to the spiritual world?”

    I hope you don’t mind this tentative approach:

    “I am no chief, but, I am a warrior in education, and a warrior’s role is greater than merely protecting and providing for the well being of the nation. It involves looking after the welfare of the people seven generations from now. It means we need to recognize threats to future generations and act accordingly. We need not only to understand but to live by the saying, we do not inherit the land from our ancestors, we rent it from our children.” Dr. Cornel Pewewardy, 1992 (As read on the 1994 reissue of Cornel Pewewardy’s Spirit Journey CD. My emphasis.)

    Kind regards.

  209. I just read the post from Booklover asking “how does dementia fit into the transition from one lifetime to another”, and that caused me to think about my mother. My mother was always a rationalist. She was highly intelligent, but seemed actually afraid of anything approaching the non-rational. (Although she did enjoy the arts, which I think are often non-rational!). She discouraged my sister and I from reading fairy tales, or any books with a hint of fantasy. (I grew up rather liking a moderate amount of fantasy, time-travel etc. in my reading, but always kept that secret from her). She was Episcopalian, but as she grew older, her comments seemed to indicate that she had lost belief in her religion. She also began to talk about how she was sure there was no life after death, and that books that talked about it were wrong, and that it was just some physical effect in the brain that account for those experiences. She developed Alzheimer’s disease, and had it for a very long time before dying in her nineties. What’s fascinating is that in the year or so before her death she began exhibiting define psychic abilities. I won’t go into detail, but she definitely knew the particulars of things that had recently happened to my sister and to me that we had kept from her due to not wanting to upset her. And there was no one else who could have let her know. They were both incidents that were highly emotional for us. She had amazing dreams that she would tell me about in detail and in sequence–this from a person whose mind was otherwise barely able to talk about anything else in sequence. And a few days before death she began talking to me about the people she knew who were with her (people from her past who were long deceased), and helping her prepare for something she was clearly excited about. I still think of this time in her life with awe, and wished I had asked her more questions as it unfolded! But instead I just let her share what was going on, even though some of it made my spine actually tingle. Once, when I asked her if she saw a bird passing, she said no, she couldn’t see well anyone. Then she paused and said, “but it doesn’t matter, I can see other things”. And obviously she could.

  210. Thanks for an interesting post, and many interesting comments and answers! Regarding Gwynfydd, I have a question about an idea that is very new for me: The “demiurge” and its “archons” which seem to be at the level of Gwynfydd, and also are said to manipulate human beings in a similar way as in the film matrix (at least this is what some “gnostics” says).

    My question is related to how beings such as the demiurge and its archons can be interpreted? In one way they seem to fit with the observations (i.e. that there is a higher level of consciousness that forces people into sleepwalkers, that many gods seem to have been evil, and so on). But at the same time, I guess that there might be skeptical notions about the idea of a demiurge with archons? Or at least skeptical notions regarding their true powers?

  211. Armenio,

    I want to look into this question more. There is little indication in scripture of a belief in reincarnation, but the historians have certainly done their best to hide it. Nearly all peoples the world over (if I am correct) do believe in this just as they believe in an unseen realm and souls. I think those scriptures are interesting but not definitive, and so the refutation of them is reasonable – but not definitive. But what worry were you talking about? My own opinion on the incredible fear mongering put forth by the Christian churches is that it is demonic in origin, that the only one you should fear is your own self because of the bad choices (and their consequences) you might make, but that no one should ever fear God more than they fear to take their next breath.

    John Roth
    When I said the mentally ill of my family achieved nothing, I was not referring to success and power. I’m talking about sitting in the back of a van on the streets of LA for 35 years, or being unable to make up one’s mind to do anything whatsoever, like taking care of one’s teeth, and being unable to muster the will to do it. I took the time to read about the soul levels in the Michael Teachings, and I think most of my family members are mature souls, and mental illness does seem like a morass that a struggling mature soul might fall into. My brother, though (the van) is probably an infant or child soul. I’ve taken him in.

    Prizm,

    I’m not sure you addressed my question. Christianity has so focused on the meanie God who lets or does not let people in. I’m saying where is the explanation (that preserves free will) of how the soul becomes worthy of heaven?

    Anthony DuClare,
    It took a while for me to figure out your references were to the Cathecism. Ditto to what I said to Prizm above, I don’t think the relevant passages relate to my question very much, except in that purgatory might actually improve the nature of the soul. I don’t suppose there is much detail on purgatory and how it works…at least the RCC has noted the problem that the faithful are nonetheless not worthy of heaven.

    Thriftwizard,

    I don’t think the vicissitudes of life are sufficient to explain the mental illness, even though in my case we had some rough times with our own mother being off her rocker and scaring us.

  212. Greetings, JMG. While reading your excellent post I heard the proverbial bell ringing several times, as in ‘that rings a bell’. Your discussion of the individual as the essential piece of the sentient being that is reincarnated reminded me very much of a similar discussion in a book by Reginald Ray (Secret of the Vajra World, or maybe Indestructible Truth) that I read a few years ago. His take on it, which I’m guessing is a fairly typical Nyngma view given his lineage, aligns pretty much with yours. Also, Peter Kingsley’s books on Pythagoras, Parmenides, and the Tibetan/Mongolian Buddhist and pre-Buddhist connections to those worthies make it clear that there’s a broad sweep across Eurasian history and geography that takes Reincarnation very seriously. I’ve read somewhere that there’s a First Nations group in northern British Columbia that quietly maintains an ancestral belief in Reincarnation…

    Stripping the individual down to the essentials makes sense. I can easily imagine a karmic stream with its associated memories flowing from life to life, doffing and donning lives like changes of clothes.

    I read Stevenson’s Children who Remember Previous Lives a couple years ago, and found it to be convincing and readable. Are his other books similarly accessible to lowbrow laypersons like myself, or are they a bit more rigorous?

    Of course, some people will remain unconvinced, no matter how much scientific rigor you lay on them…

    Apologies if I’ve commented on things already covered.

    Casey

  213. Dear GMG, I have the same question as Y. Chireau, may I continue. The path of Individualities does look like having a certain direction – upwards, towards higher planes, up in complexity. One can not help not to think of myth of unstoppable progress, only applied on spiritual level. But things tend to raise in complexity when conditions are suitable and to decay, when conditions go a ay. Like in termodynamics – a condition in this case is a flow of energy. Why one would expect a different thing regarding Individuality? What makes the movement towards higher planes certain?

    Sorry to know about Bill, enjoyed his posts very much.

  214. When you speak of the souls of the recently-departed having to take time to absorb their experiences, does that involve fulfilling/exhausting outstanding desires?

    In messages said to be channelled from Frederic Myers, former president of the SPR, he describes a very similar cosmology as the one you’ve outlined, with souls beginning as the lowest forms of life and then eventually graduating beyond physical incarnation (he said most people take only three or four lives to do this, though some stay longer to do some good; then again, channelled material is a bit dicey even at the best of times).

    On of the interesting things was that he said the realm immediately after this one was what he called the “Lotus Flower Paradise,” a world where souls rest between lives or before moving on. (It’s basically the Summerland.) One of the features was that during their stay, souls get a chance to experience fulfillment of outstanding desires. For example, if you love to drink, or have sex, you get to have your fill. This helps you exhaust the desire so you can move on more easily.

    Chris Carter, in his book Science and the Afterlife Experience (or maybe I’m thinking Michael Prescott, on his blog) noted that this helped explain why, in communications with the recently-deceased, the afterlife was often described as quite similar to this life, complete with work, booze, and sex. These descriptions were so at odds with traditional ideas of heaven/hell that they were used by skeptics to cast doubt on the whole phenomenon of mediumship.

  215. About the talking to trees thing, I do that a lot but haven’t really mentioned it to anyone before. Lately it’s felt like though some of them are individuals, some seem more like individual components who have an awareness of being part of the whole forest/ whole of nature that makes them less concerned about if they survive as an individual component or not. Is that a thing or is my imagination just ridiculously overactive?
    PS in terms of making friends with trees I find it helps to start by taking care of the forest, which I do by taking litter out every so often.

  216. @ Alexandra…

    It is difficult to grasp another culture, and yet Japanese culture, for all its strictures, is also a subtle one – weaving among the rules to make sure you are heard correctly was the way my Dad told me it worked. He was stationed there after WWII. My limited experience with the culture is strictly via media. I have only been 3 times, and each trip was carefully scripted for the gaijin, of course. It seems to me there are two Japans today, as if the country has a schism through it.

    I don’t remember anything more than I ever did when I was young. Yet the dreams were powerfully realistic on the emotional side, and my mind seems to gather details over the years when it is replayed. I am not sure if those are part of the original dream or my mind lending it more touches of its own.

    When you say you find it jarring, do you mean as a general effect? Or when your western sensibilities run into a bamboo screen tht doesn’t exist in the west?

  217. Karim,

    T for those wonderful passages from the Sufis. I am particularly fond of Hafiz and there are times when he is all I can read. I consider him the greatest spiritual poet ever. But poetry is funny in how peoples taste differs! I do not think reincarnation was in the cards for Islam because the prophet cared too much to be in sync with the other two religions, which don’t teach it.

    Garden Housewife,
    I’m curious what took you out of the Christian religion and how you and your husband manage to stay together on these decisions.

    Booklover,
    I personally think that people who “screw up royally” go to some kind of purgatory. I suspect I have been there!

    Jeffrey Mailly,

    As a member of the sad club of those who have lost a child, my deepest sympathies. I think it is very likely she is returning to you. By the way, May 1st is my anniversary and my mother’s birthday.

  218. Hello JMG,

    Thank you for informing us about Bill; I was very saddened to hear it. I will send a prayer and thoughts.

    The Stairway to Gwynfydd. This is quite a breathtaking picture you are drawing of existence and it’s multiple paths and meanings, which I’m sure will reward a lot of contemplation. I for one would be interested in further posts in this theme.

    A few thoughts: I am currently trying to absorb the basics of Schopenhauer and so those references stood out for me. Am I understanding that you see Will and Representation as being growing capacities of the enduring animal to human-level Individuality when both incarnate and discarnate (this being comparable to the Subject of Kantian/Schopenhaurian philosophy, which in this view can then be a disembodied representing Subject also)?

    In his Fourfold Root Schopenhauer talks about Representation as obviously being a faculty of animals alone, not plants, whereas Will as I understand it (not yet having read all of WWR) is the basic thing manifesting at all levels from minerals upwards. In comparison with your distinction of animal/plant spiritual currents, does this mean that the plant kingdom is a different development of the Will, entirely without the sort of Representations that make up the conscious reality of animals and humans (but perhaps with other capacities we can’t know)? Am I applying Schop’s concepts too liberally where they don’t belong?

    You mentioned before that you find his philosophy highly convincing. Is one of the reasons that it seems to fit well with Druid Revival metaphysics?

    Thanks for an awesome post,

    Morfran.

  219. @Brian

    Regarding comments on the Archdruid Report, I would need to go to my old computer and double check, but I believe I successfully downloaded all the Archdruid comment pages. I’ve been too busy to set up a mirror site (actually not sure if I should, commentator-copywrite wise? Can our host advise?); but that aside I’d be happy to send you them if there is a simple way to do that. I can give you my email if you like.

  220. JMG, this is one of the clearest and most eloquent, and most interesting, of your posts. I was about to write something about materialism and faith, but garyaustinx expressed it more clearly than I can. I appreciate your very thoughtful, and non-judgmental, reply.

    If I understand you correctly, Nietzsche was right, and man is indeed something to be overcome. That, and his concept of eternal recurrence, map quite closely onto your explanation. As to the point about it taking a long time to become human — many lives — the Arrow Keeper of the Southern Cheyenne once remarked to me that there are more human bodies than there are human souls, and that that’s why so many people don’t seem to be true human beings. A better explanation would be that these are all human souls, but many of them are very, very young.

    I suspect I’m going to re-read this post a couple of times. You have given me much to consider.

  221. The idea of reincarnation is humbling because it means that my life is just one brief experience for an Individuality whose vast breadth of experience past and future I can’t begin to comprehend right now but also liberating because it means that this life isn’t my only chance at life. Lots to meditate on here, thank you!

  222. @Garden Housewife, I can relate to your experience. When I was a practicing, but not formal, LDS as a teenager, I too felt nothing during prayer. I think the problem for me and perhaps many others is the top-down dictatorial approach of many churches to describing what it is they recommend you to visualize on the other side of the veil. It was the moment I renounced the faith I’d been spoonfed that God came to me, saying “You have me all wrong!” He was not the thundering meany who made the wind blow threateningly if I had a bad stray thought; he presented himself to me as a “little brother.” Somebody who believes in you and keeps cheering for you. You can disappoint him, but it’s hard. He told me that if all I ever did with my life was to wade along streams studying gartersnakes, that by golly that was good enough. He’s been a friend since. This is why I try to facilitate others’ experience with that world. It is entirely individual.

    Some undoubtedly do better with the strong father image, but perhaps for many modern people, it just alienates them.

  223. Hi, JMG. I’m so glad that you got around to doing a post on reincarnation from a Druid perspective. I loved your analogies. As a long time practicing Hindu, and growing up in a family which fully believed in reincarnation, your post certainly didn’t ruffle my feathers!

    I’d just like to chime in re: some details of Hindu concepts of reincarnation – many of which have a close affinity to the Druid concept you have described. One which nicely echoes the Druid concept is that before being born as a human, the soul must first have experienced life in all other life forms on Earth (declared in the scriptures to be 8.2 million species). Of course, karma is what determines one’s next life. Many Hindu philosophies emphasize the role of vaasanas (tendencies of thoughts and desires) as the driver of karma: one’s thoughts at the moment of death are those which one has cultivated the most during one’s life and are the primary determinant of the next life. As long as one is affected by the dualities of desire and aversion to things of “this world”, one is bound to be born again. Many human lifetimes (perhaps even hundreds) are required before one can escape the wheel of karma by having only one desire – the desire to merge in one’s chosen form of god. Chapter 8 of the Bhagavad Gita describes the “lunar path” of those who are born again and the “solar path” of those who are not.

    I have come across Hindu teachers who, like you, link the recent human population explosion with the mass killings/exterminations of other species and consequently the “coarsening” of humans’ collective psyche as so many humans are “first-timers”. Makes eminent sense! There is also an acceptance that humans who commit evil deeds will be reborn as an animal for a lifetime (or two).

    Hinduism has its own concept of Heaven and Hell (sort of). In some schools of thought, the soul must experience some of the consequences of their most recent life karmas before being born again. One example is provided near the end of the Mahabharata, where the virtuous king/demigod Yudhishtira, upon dying, goes to Heaven only to find that his enemies, the evil Kaurava clan, are living it up there and is told that his brothers (the Pandavas) are in Hell (of course he immediately requests a transfer to Hell, which is granted). Understandably confused by this bizarre twist of fate, Yudhishtira is informed that this experience is temporary and that the foul Kauravas, despite their evil actions, did a little good for which they are being rewarded; while his brothers are suffering for the small bit of bad that they did in their lives. But the Hindu versions of Heaven (Swarg) and Hell (Naraka) are only temporary stops on the soul’s journey.

    To my knowledge, Hindu scripture and teachings are not precise in terms of the spatial and temporal aspects of reincarnation. Evidence from researchers on the subject in India has found that the cases of small children with clear memories of the previous life are reincarnated nearby and within the span of a few years. I am not aware of any consensus on the topic of what stage of development the foetus is ensouled, but one guru has declared that it is at the time that the mother notices movement; another source states that the soul actually enters the food that the father eats and then “hitches a ride” into the mother (so to speak) and is therefore present at the time of conception.

    I’ll end with one curious observation. Everyone in my family has always remarked how much I resemble my maternal grandfather – in terms of bodily movements, habits, talents, hobbies, occult interests, philosophy of life, etc. I never saw him because he dropped dead while my mother was five months pregnant with me. She firmly believes that I am her father reborn. Maybe I am; maybe I am not; so far no past-life memories either confirm or deny it.

    Sorry to hear about Bill. His views were always stimulating. I’m grateful that you informed the group so that we can wish him well on his continuing journey.

  224. @Oilman2, please tell me about the schism you’ve seen among the Japanese! I’m intrigued. I’ve been living here for 33 years, but have been forced into an entirely rural existence by my condition and am unable to see what is going on in the cities.

    Years ago, a sort of generation gap appeared, with the younger people adopting American culture and attitudes superficially. The older generation took it in stride, though, so I think the younger generations maintained crucial aspects of Japanese culture that are hard for outsiders to see. We constantly blunder, stepping all over their lines. Recently, I have been seeing a tendency among the young when I meet with them to reevaluate Japan’s traditional culture and start practicing it again, adding their own ideas (@JMG, it seems to relate to my New Year’s dream of young people starting to lead toward a “future with ruinmen”). OTOH, I am unable to see the whole picture, just people who approach me and my friends, so would love to hear what you have seen.

    BTW, I’ve got so many relatives down your way that what you’ve described happening there seems to be blurring with 50 other similar accounts right now. Take care!

  225. CR Patino,

    I find your idea quite intriguing. I’ve often thought we’re in a kind of hell now, and that the Christian hell is an absurd caricature. I also think that religions, some more than others, are for younger souls who don’t get nuance and who don’t have a strong internalized conscience and ethic. The carrot and the stick. I think that Gnostic Christianity had the ability to be a religion suitable for far more mature souls, but they got marginalized out of existence.
    Ah, and now I see your second post. In the end, what I really think is, why are you still in this church which cannot hold you? The contradictions are too great. And those who are so attached to the hell doctrine come up with contortions like that we are outside time and cannot ever change once we die so cannot repent. Wow, what a boring eternity. And your point about changing in purgatory is excellent. Not being an RC, I never thought of that.

    Spiceisnice,
    I wonder why you think people are deplugged too quickly. I never had that impression. If someone isn’t going to turn around medically and is in a coma and on life support, why prolong it? But as to the soul, I imagine it is tiresome if it is a long time, such as old people in nursing homes with no mind left and being tube fed. I think that’s wrong.
    James Jensen,

    It’s been many years since I read some Lewis, so don’t assume I remember anything, but yes, my thoughts are quite similar. In fact, I think the overwhelming universality and persistence of the belief in and desire for a soul and God/gods actually indicates they must be true because I doubt that, in a purely material universe, such a preposterous new category of idea would be possible. No, I really don’t think there could be that much imagination. And the irony of such an idea that is completely nonexistent, an entire absurd category that people want so much that they would be utterly despondent if it could be proved untrue, well now that is truly cosmic!

  226. OS, nah, you’re mapping your own notions of progress onto the pattern I’m sketching out. An acorn doesn’t “progress” into an oak tree, nor does a patch of bare ground “progress” into an old growth forest. Each one follows a set of transformations from a relatively simple state into a relatively complex state, subject to a range of limits that are partly inherent in the initial conditions and partly a matter of current conditions. Reincarnation is the same.

    Scott, you’re welcome and thank you. I’m noticing that the rate of comments for this post is way past what I’ve fielded for previous posts here on Ecosophia.net; I gather there’s a good deal more interest in esoteric spirituality at this point than there was when I did the other blogs, and will have that in mind as I consider topics for future posts.

    Will, there are at least two things involved here. First, groups of Individualities who are tied together by emotional bonds do reincarnate together, especially when there’s fate between them to be worked out. Second, there’s a tradition that back in the day — and we’re talking ten thousand years back, in civilizations not currently part of the historical record — royal families engaged in systematic breeding programs to develop certain specific capacities, including some kinds of psychism, and these also involved careful timing of conception in order to combine specific astrological features with specific hereditary ones. The Celtic nations, according to these same traditions, still include a great many bloodlines that descend from these ancient kingships, thus traditions of the Second Sight et al., and it’s entirely possible that the Kennedys come out of some such bloodlines. That’s not necessarily a recommendation, by the way; those ancient kingships ended very badly, and the Kennedys aren’t exactly a recommendation for monarchy, all things considered…

    Randal, you’re speaking as though my preferences, or yours, have anything to do with what happens to the human soul after death. I’m not talking about what I want to be true; I’m talking about what generations of occultists, backed up by psychical research and a great many ordinary people who’ve had contact in one way or another with their own past life memories or with individuals no longer in physical bodies, have found to be true.

    Patricia, fascinating! Those stories remind me very strongly of some of the tales in Carmen Blacker’s The Catalpa Bow, easily my favorite book on Japanese folklore.

    Rita, there may be some Druid groups out there that offer pre-death training, but by and large Druids tend to trust natural processes to do the right thing, and approach death the same way we approach any other normal, natural, and healthy change.

    Matt, I glanced at Campbell’s stuff a while back, didn’t find it particularly interesting, and went on to other things. One of the reasons that I don’t reconsider that is that some of his followers have a very evangelical tone. I’ve always found that the more stridently people push a given ideology, technology, or diet on me, the more unsatisfactory the item in question turns out to be when I try it, and so at this point evangelizing makes me put something instantly in the “don’t bother” pile.

    Rick, Lewis was an extraordinarily interesting man. He was among other things one of the last of the red-hot Christian Neoplatonists, with a profound respect for Classical Platonism; he understood the medieval worldview better, I think, than anybody else in his era — his book The Discarded Image is a must-read for anyone who wants to grasp medieval thought — and his relationship with Christian orthodoxy was a good deal more nuanced than his more devout readers these days seem to realize. All through his writings, especially the interplanetary trilogy and some of the more interesting nonfiction, you can see him catching himself and saying, “No, no, what was I thinking,” and sticking in some more or less arbitrary act of submission to the theological mainstream. I tend to think that he believed that he should believe in Christianity, rather than simply believing in it pure and simple — and I suspect one of the reasons he’s so popular these days is that a lot of Christians are in the same situation.

  227. Onething,

    I wasn’t really trying to answer your question, I was just trying to add to the conversation. Religious beliefs are a complex thing, taking ideas and rearranging and adding to them year after year, decade after decade, century after century. A lot of people enjoy bashing on the dominant religions but they exist for a reason: that they’ve worked for many people for a long time. There’s undoubtedly some useful grains of truth in the Bible. I’ve a friend who sends me daily devotionals from a book called “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young. I don’t always read them, but sometimes when I do I’m amazed at how you can pick out ideas such as reincarnation, or things related to philosophy such as we’ve discussed by Jung and Nietzsche. It all depends on what you’re looking for. So ultimately, yes it may be hard to reconcile how the soul achieves heavenly status with the current mode of thinking, I would not be surprised with some time and effort that a person could find how it is done.

  228. Dirtyboots asked

    “Also, immediately after a death, can prayers from the living aid the liberated individuality along its developmental path? “

    When my son was violently killed, there was a time for about a week when we did not know what had happened to him, although we knew he had disappeared and had been robbed. I and his many friends in North Carolina met and had a kind of general prayer and talking session and played some musical bowls. Meanwhile, more or less at the same time, his left coast friends met on a beach in Los Angeles and did a drum circle and some meditation. He had met a woman just a few weeks prior who went to this. She had quite a lot of psychic ability, and after his death he came through to her. One of the things he said was, “The prayers really helped me. I was like shattered glass, but the prayers helped.” She said to him, “You mean the meditation?” He said, “No, the prayers.” She was puzzled. A few days later she got people to help her find me so she could comfort me with some of her communications from him, and I simply mentioned the prayer meeting we had, and she said, “Oh! So that’s what he meant!”

  229. @Dirtyboots

    The Hindus certainly seem to think so; the saying I’ve encountered is “the company of the Saints is always beneficial.” Someone who’s passed from duality to non-duality can have very positive and specific effects on people in their vicinity.

    Your second question: what you’re asking for is for your Essence to lend a hand, and that can be helpful if the person is having trouble adjusting to the Astral plane.

    @Mr. Nobody

    Exactly.

    @Dewey
    Re: Suicide

    As far as I’m aware, if you’re still here, Essence thinks there’s more you can do productively. It has noting to do with how happy or unhappy your afterlife will be.

    The exception is “natural” end-of-life. Prolonging a life that’s essentially over is just cruel, IMO.

    @Swimmer

    The idea of the “demiurge” originates with Plato if not earlier. In Plato it’s the being that built the universe. It’s not perfect, so it made mistakes. Otherwise it’s morally neutral.

    How that got from Plato to Gnosticism, as well as the transformation from a neutral to an evil figure, is rather murky.

    @James M. Jensen II

    My understanding is that the Astral plane is where what you want manifests immediately. It takes some discipline to not manifest stuff. Quite a few of the departed spend a lot of time in a manifested environment similar to the one they came from or in one that they would like to be in – or one that they imagine they’ll be in (e.g. Heaven or Hell). Eventually they get bored and move on.

    Channeled material is, indeed, a bit dicey, to use your terms. One of my favorite Michael quotes is “On a good day, my best channels are about 80% accurate.” And IMO, Michael channels are about the best of the line. Caveat Emptor.

    As far as number of lives, since it takes at least one lifetime to navigate each of the 35 levels, the minimum number of lifetimes is 35. A more average number is going to be closer to three lifetimes per level. Then there are the perennial slow learners.

    It’s relatively easy to access lifetimes that are contributing something significant to the current lifetime. Accessing lifetimes that are “done with and filed away,” so to speak, is harder and takes a lot of work and training.

  230. SpiceisNice, I’d tend to think that being plugged into life support machinery would be an intrusion into the normal and natural process of dying. Under more ordinary conditions, the physical body would shut down at its own pace, allowing the vital body to detach from it — the process of dying is a fairly complex thing, since each of the bodies have to be shed, but we don’t have to get into that now. Keeping the physical body in a semblance of life by mechanical means might impose delays in the process, in at least some cases.

    In others, it’s just a waste of resources. Back in 1991, after a long series of increasingly severe health problems, my mother in law had her final heart attack. The paramedics got her to the hospital where, in violation of her signed end-of-life orders and my father-in-law’s wishes, they put her on life support. My wife and I, along with other family members, got there the next day, and it was very clear that nobody was home in the body on the bed; it was simply a lump of meat being kept from decay by a battery of machines. We managed to bully the physician into following her instructions; they turned off the machines the next day, and her body died within minutes. She herself had died before we got there.

    Omer, that is to say, you’re finding a way to read progress into what I’m saying. A lot of people do that — unsurprisingly, since faith in progress is a devoutly held religion in our time — but it’s still a distortion. Again, an acorn doesn’t progress into an oak tree, and a human fetus doesn’t progress into being an adult human being!

    Xabier, occultists tend to say that anybody who engages in intensive spiritual practice will figure out what’s actually going on — the problem with dogmatic religions is that their theology is constructed by intellectuals and made official by politicians, rather than being created and taught by practicing mystics, so it’s no wonder it’s all such a jumble of half-truths and outright malarkey.

    Bruno, a lot of very minor gods — it’ll be a long time and a lot of hard work before any of us manage to get above the bottom end of the pantheon! Hmm — I find myself wondering if this is why dark age societies tend to direct their worship to a crowd of minor deities, saints, etc., and only as the dark age ends start focusing more and more on a smaller number of much more powerful beings…

    Mac, gotcha. To occultists it’s not a hard question at all; it’s as though neuroscientists were trying to find the thing that powers a bicycle by looking only at the gears, pedals, chain, etc., while insisting that it’s superstitious to suggest that bicycles have riders. The brain is simply the meatware, if I may so express it, that allows impulses from the mental and vital bodies to affect the physical body.

    Garden Housewife, that’s most interesting — and yes, I know (and know of) other people who were raised Christians and left that religion because their prayers encountered only emptiness and silence, or who joined some fundamentalist sect and found that something very creepy was on the other side of the conversation!

    Booklover, dementia is a brain condition, so it gets in the way of the ability of the soul to make use of the nervous system. A lot depends on whether the soul has developed its less material functions or not; if you’re used to doing everything within the brain, having the brain fade out on you would be a real challenge, while those who have developed their less material faculties would be much less inconvenienced by it.

    John, I may simply have misunderstood the Michael Teachings, which again I’ve never studied. So the Grand Cycle from the source back to the source, in the MT, takes place entirely within a single species, and is proceeded and followed by other Grand Cycles in other species? Hmm. Yes, that’s certainly different from the Druid teachings, which has the equivalent of the Grand Cycle passing through all the different modes of being from single-celled organism to dweller in the heights of Gwynfydd in the course of an evolution, without a return to a source in the interval. (There are times spent between lives in various more or less spiritual states, of course, but that’s quite another matter.)

    Fred, thank you! Many other kinds of meditation also seem to stir up past life memories — I think it’s because meditation in general redirects attention away from outward objects and refocuses it on the core of awareness that is as much as we can perceive of our Individualities, and so we begin very slowly to recall that we’re Individualities inhabiting these other bodies and not the bodies; to return to my metaphor, the hand recalls that it’s a hand in all those gloves, not the gloves alone. I tend to talk about discursive meditation because, first, that’s the kind I have experience with, and second, some other kinds — some of the current watered-down forms of mindfulness meditation, for example — don’t seem to do the trick. The Ars Memorativa might do it, but I don’t know of any evidence on that one way or the other.

  231. @JMG Re: Lewis(again) and, I hope, not off topic:
    From several of Lewis’ books I recall his playing with the idea of a literary Muse and how that would not necessarily disagree with Christian theology, but he indeed always adds that he might not be correct. The foreword to “The Great Divorce”, which I suggested to onething above, also has a disclaimer saying that this is his personal imagination, not dogma. I don’t recall other instances of his ‘saying, ‘No, no, what was I thinking,'”, and right now I don’t seem to remember any instance of his ‘sticking in some more or less arbitrary act of submission to the theological mainstream’. Can you recall any examples off the cuff?

  232. Dear Bill Pulliam-
    Thankyou for your very thoughtful and insightful comments over the years on JMG’s sites. I always looked forward to them. I wish you very well on your new great adventure!
    JMG- I have felt very uncertain over the past few years about the life after this one. Your post has provided a shift and I feel, for the first time in a long while, a very real sense of excitement and gratitude. Thankyou. Not only for this post but for the wonderful perspective that you consistently and patiently provide for me.

  233. I will certainly miss Bill Pulliam’s comments here very much. I considered him to be one of the wisest of commenters on JMG’s blogs. Wind under his wings as he goes forth on his next adventure!

    @Matthias Gralle: Thank you for your concern, and for your compliment. It is good-hearted of you, and appreciated. My wife and I were on vacation for much of August, and before that I was simply getting used to this new blog and the community of commenters that is forming around it. I’ve never been one to start talking quickly when I enter a new room. I think I was reading The Archdruid Report for a few years before I made my first comment there.

    Also, I should mention that I’m 75 now, and I’m beginning to slow down, and to tire somewhat more easily, as I age. I have a number of things I need to write during the years I have left, and, alas! I am a very slow writer. I don’t naturally think in words (instead, I think in patterns and diagrams and pathways and maps), so actually turning my thoughts into connected sentences and paragraphs that others can read is not an easy task for me.

    As for reincarnation, I should mention that my family (on my mother’s side, in the line of descent that had esoteric interests) was tempermentally opposed to any one-size-fits-all theory of anything, whether in esotericism or in religion and spirituality, or in ethics and morality or in the practical conduct of life in a society, or in politics. We supposed, in our usual contrary fashion, that some people reincarnate, some move on to another sort or stream of disincarate existence beyond our imagination, and some utterly cease to exist. We also thought that some of us might be able to choose among these (and perhaps other) possibilities, and also that a person need not make the same choice each time around. And it was very clear that persons who had chosen extinction still continued to exist as fragments within the bodies of their descendants (if any), in the memories of those who had known them in life, in stories (if any) told about them, and — indirectly — through chains of influence they had which slowly descend and attenuate down through successive generations.

    I have no clear past-life knowledge myself, though many of my ancestors have been living presences to me since I was quite young. (We cherished stories and relics of these ancestors, which is primarily how I came to know them.)

    I did, however, have recurrent and horrific nightmares, when I was two or three years old, of myself as a small child being slowly and terrifyingly sliced up in a slicing machine while still alive, so that my fresh meat could be eaten by other people away from the slicing room. These dreams were far, far more vivid than any other dreams I have ever had since then, and I still remember them with great clarity, seventy-odd years later. Also, I have always had an unreasoning horror of every sort of fungal life. It is quite possible that these things reflect some past life, or rather, some past death. Of course, they may have had some other reason for their prevalence in my child years. However you parse them, those dreams were some of the most formative experiences of my childhood.

  234. @JMG, regarding your view of Tom Campbell’s ‘followers’ as ‘evangelical’. Hmmm… I briefly explored the online community linked to his work, and I found it uncomfortable. I couldn’t say why exactly, but maybe you just explained it. 🙂

    Thank you again for all your work, and your unrelenting clarity.

  235. JMG:

    I think we’re on the same page now about one of the differences between traditional occultism and the MT. (There are others.) I don’t recommend studying the MT unless you’ve got a lot of time to spare: I’ve been studying it since the early 80s, and a lot of the material is in old session tapes and transcripts. The basics are readily available in several books and sites. My experience is that it either grabs someone in a “where have you been all my life” fashion or it’s more “eh…”.

    I’m gratified that a lot of the material in both the MT and classical occultism matches up as well as it does. It’s the terminology differences that get you. Michael is not all that concerned with what happens outside of Sentience, and in particular the human condition. They’re focused on that quite strongly. Material on the pre-sentient condition isn’t what they intend to teach; what I know from their discussions comes from people who want to know about their cats, and, to a lesser extent, dogs.

    I think this has been a really fruitful discussion; part of the interest is that the afterlife and reincarnation are topics that grab a great many people – a lot of the other material is, frankly, a slog if you’re not all that enthusiastic.

  236. JMG, I realized I actually have too many questions for you concerning this subject that would be adequate to ask in this forum. I don’t want to be impolite. So, instead, I will ask for your guidance towards literature on the subject.
    Care to name a few? Thanks!

  237. Long-time reader (and often long-late reader), but hearing of the passing of Mr. Pulliam prods me to be a first-time commenter. I tend to be something of an always-on-full-blast firehose, so I’ll try to separate ideas into different posts, and only offer a few of them.

    For Mr. Pulliam, one prayer that can be offered in my specific Abrahamic Faith is roughly: “O God, my God, a new broken-winged bird has now taken flight toward Thee. Please continue to guide and illumine that soul in this World, and in every World to come.”

  238. There are interesting congruences between your offering here and some of the guidance offered by my Faith (and by the Jewish Faith) as regards burial practice.

    If, as you say, the physical form is interwoven with the spiritual reality, one should not expect the link to be immediately severed at brain death, but rather to be a process of gradual unwinding. For Orthodox Jews, there is a strict pressure to formally put the remains to rest as swiftly as possible. For Baha’is, there is the one-and-only Congregational Prayer in the entire religion, aimed at aiding the soul in transition. And for both, there is an abhorrence of quick cremation, with the conviction that a quick cremation does actual harm to the not-yet-fully-disentangled soul.

  239. @onething

    Quoting myself: “As I see it, whatever happens [after death] will also include Abrahamic religions’ followers, so one can either not worry or worry a lot.”

    Answering your question, the worries that lead people from very different cultural/religious backgrounds to engage in opinion exchange like the present one, namely the bleak, nagging ignorance about what will happen after the collapse of the physical body, and the pervasive suspicion that one can find her/himself, ego (and body?!) intact, stuck in a long, possibly eternal, round of almost unbearable pain.
    And why is that?
    First, most of us humans are reared using the demand/reward/punishment method; then, after a full lifetime of self-deceiving and tenacious denying, most human beings become quite aware that, as a matter of fact, they have behaved quite bellow par, and therefore some retribution is surely awaiting.
    In face of this concrete feeling, and while still breathing, one can always coach her/himself towards not worrying (quite like Bobby McFerrin showed us.)
    Kind regards.

  240. JMG

    On contemplating your comment, I think there’s another misunderstanding here. Each Grand Cycle goes through what I think you mean by “the higher reaches of Gwynfydd.” It’s just that it doesn’t start with quarks or bacteria.

    The entire Design also goes through it in groups. An example may help clarify. Michael is a composite being on the mid-Causal plane. They consist of 1050 Individualities (Sparks) with all their associated Physical Plane lifetimes. They describe themselves as “partially Integrated.” (Complete integration would happen on the upper Causal before transitioning to the Mental plane.) Someone once asked them how they would rank as an angel, and they answered with something in the middle tier – I think it was a Principality, but it’s been a while and I can’t find either the channeling or the list that used to be on Wikipedia. It was the rank that’s primarily concerned with teaching – You’d probably know the name.

    Seven of these aggregate on the Mental plane, 12 of those aggregate on the Messianic plane and what happens on the Buddhaic plane is a complete mystery. Then the entire Design rejoins Source (The Tao) and the different Individualities (Sparks) begin another Grand Cycle.

  241. Question: when you pick up memories, thoughts, or impressions that were never yours, are they actually past lives? Your own memories and you don’t know it? Your own memories expressed symbolically or in an exaggerated form? Or are you actually picking up another person right here and now? Some recurring dreams are very obviously comments on my current situations at the time; some recurring themes are nasty enough I hope nobody here and now is actually living through them, but if they’re mine, they are certainly badly exaggerated.

    Pat

  242. @Karim Jaufeerally
    You wrote: “Any ideas why the 3 Abrahamic religions did not incorporate re-incarnation as central to their teachings? Multiple passes on this earth sounds far more reasonable than a single go at it!“

    Two big reasons come to mind.

    1) By and large, the Abrahamic religions agree with the Buddhist critique of Hinduism: round-and-round the mulberry bush of Karmic reincarnation, sometimes ascending and sometimes descending, most often in lives defined by privation and suffering and waywardness, sometimes in otherworldly hells and gray underworlds, is just not an attractive prospect if there is Actually Some Path to Get Off The Merry-Go-Round Faster. The Abrahamic religions contrasted themselves in relation to the polytheistic religions around them (Egyptian, Assyrian, Persian, Arab, Phoenician, and Greco-Roman), while Buddhism defined itself in relation to the various Hinduisms around it, but the core principle is the same: somehow not being on the cycle is vastly preferrable to indefinitely lingering in a pattern where one is as likely (or more likely) to Fall than to Rise.

    2) All of the Abrahamic religions are Quite Adamant that there are several ways for humans (and angels) to Catastrophically Fudge It Up so badly that one descends all the way to oblivion. Do Not Pass Go. Do Not Collect $200. Do Not Reincarnate.

    One of the bedrocks of the Abrahamic religions is that there is a fair and inescapable Judgment for everything, as natural as breathing. Tons of those Judgments on self-aware souls will fairly be Judgments to Descend. And humans (and angels) have entirely new options for Catastrophic Spiritual Failure that animals just don’t have. If it’s entirely possible for a human (or angel) to karmically throw themself off a spiritual cliff into a lake of fiery obliviation, there is suddenly huge pressure to Take This Karmic Judgment Stuff More Seriously. An endless number of “do overs” is not a reassuring prospect if there is a 3% chance of spiritual suicide on each pass as a human (or angel).

    Thus, even if there are lots of Do Overs for the vast supermajority of people, the best advice for those religions is nonetheless that one should still “live each day as though it may be your last day ever, anywhere in Creation” and “bring Thyself to account each day, ere Thou art summoned to a Reckoning.”

  243. Very interesting topic, it will take some time for me to digest! The only thing from my lived experience that feels relevant is an inexplicable nostalgia for early 20th century industrial brick work.

    Slightly further from home I can mention some of the ideas on reincarnation I have heard from my friends in the homeless community; in the circles I knew it was considered that a substantial number of souls born in the last few generations originate from other star systems, and are incarnating on Earth like its a bonanza, or a gold rush like vibe. Certain especially idealistic and odd-duck traits were thus explained. I remember that there were three or more ‘star systems’ which were the main contributors of souls, depending on who you talked to. To me this idea seemed freshly born out of the dream space, and not yet well subjected to reality testing, likely tweaked by popular media, but I thought that it was a significant idea. I may be well disposed to the belief because a teller of these stories told me that compared to the very other-worldly souls of the community I had an old Earthly soul, which I was very pleased to hear, taking it as a compliment.

    Finally, I have been long wondering about a remark you made on one of the old blogs about the possibility that traditional Platonism, and the general assumption that abstractions are more real than the experiences they are abducted from, is a long standing mistake. Does this influence how you interpret the received lore on reincarnation? More generally are there strong points of departure from the general lore on reincarnation in your own interpretation of the experiences you put stock in?

  244. John
    Fantastic article. I will probably re-read it multiple times (slowly). One of your reader mentioned the Vedas. That brought up a question of mine.

    Your mention of individual being centers of awareness instead of material bodies sounds like the advanced philosophy of the advanced Vedas called Advaita (Non-Duality). That growingly popular philosophy teaches that we are all one reality (not myself and the world – dualism) but that all existence and all experience is just consciousness and that consciousness produces the world we experience. The corollary to that is that if there is nothing but consciousness then even if our bodies die we do not – we simply appear later in another consciousness generated body.
    My question is – have you ever delved into Non-duality?

  245. @JMG

    As a member of a small Abrahamic Faith, who frequently reads a lot of bad Brimstone-pseudo-theology from fundamentalists, anti-theists, and non-Abrahamics, the best way I can convey a non-fundamentalist understanding of the Eternal Lake of Fire is this:

    The arid and lifeless “Empty Quarter” of the Arabian Desert is a thing that exists. And no matter how good you or I or anyone here thinks they are at basic desert survival, if one of us tries to casually hike across it, that person is going to die in searing agony, after which the sand will scour the flesh from their bones and grind the bones down into yet more sand.

    That isn’t a threat. It’s a simple statement of Fact about physical geography and (lack of) ecology: if someone tries to casually hike from Yemen to Dubai, then their remains will soon burn forever in the Blazing Sea of Sand. (*They* will quickly be dead and gone to oblivion, sure, but the burning sands will endure, as will the contributions of body mass to those sands.)

    Think of Hell the same way. It’s not a threat. It’s a simple statement of Fact about spiritual geology and (lack of) ecology: if one tries to independently cross certain dark spiritual thresholds (in a way that most animals simply can’t bring themselves to try), and if one turns directly away from God/Truth/Reality to do so, then one is diving headlong into an Eternal Lake of Fire that will swallow them forever. *That person* will be consumed utterly soon enough, but in so doing they will add themselves to the Lake forever, and the Lake will endure long beyond them, now even more massive for having added them to itself. (The “eternal” describes the spiritual geography itself, not the resilience of those souls diving into it.)

    Yes, hyper-fundamentalist control freaks can try to make that all about fearmongering and tyranny in the here-and-now, but the actual Scripture is a spiritual map of an unpleasant locale that one reasonably wants to steer well-clear of. If one finds oneself marching into such a region, “turn around, now!” is vastly more merciful advice than “sure, go ahead and keep trying to bull through to the other side”.

    Here’s a concrete example of such a karmic Hell in action: David Brin’s “we shall be star-striding gods!” anthropolatry.

    It’s simply not going to work the way Brin thinks it will. Actively attempting to make it work that way is a doomed act of inevitable self-immiseration. Claiming that it is both imperative and easy to trek across that searing wasteland is utter hubris. The souls crying out “turn back! repent! it’s not too late!” are all trying to help. Smugly sneering at those people as would-be-tyrants and neo-Confederates is willfully missing the point of their good-faith warnings, and marching out into that wasteland with that same smug sneer Will Not End Well.

    If Brin and his ideological descendants continue to try to “bull their way through” that burning eternity in front of them, willfully turning their backs on the Truth as they stride forth … well, they will be swallowed whole by the Eternal Lake soon enough. And they’ll deserve it.

    It’s not a threat. It’s geography.

  246. Dirtyboots, yes and yes.

    Mister N., agreed on both counts.

    Phil, we could have a very long conversation on the nature and functions of imagination!

    Temporaryreality, of course. I don’t happen to read Tibetan; the languages I can read are English, French, and Latin, and in those languages, as I noted, I haven’t seen data about the efficacy of the method. No doubt there’s a fair amount in several other languages I don’t read, too.

    Iuval, most interesting.

    James, our culture reduces everything to its material equivalent, so it’s not surprising that vampires got the same treatment. One way or another, to me, they’re about as romantic as bloodsucking leeches, though at least they’re not quite as boring as zombies…

    Sister Crow, yep!

    Tidlosa, I’ve long suspected that Lewis may have dabbled in occultism during his friendship with Charles Williams, who was a serious occultist — you don’t become Hierophant of a temple of the Golden Dawn, which Williams was twice, without doing quite a bit of magical work.

    Ottergirl, some people are reborn in the same general area where they die, but not all by any means. You go where there’s a body that will meet your needs. As for Russia, I’ve been told more than once that my next incarnation will be in the German-speaking part of central Europe, for whatever that’s worth.

    Dewey, no, I don’t believe that suicide is necessarily a bad choice; there are times when death is the best available option. Here as in so many other situations, though, it depends on why you do it. If it’s a matter of coolly assessing the situation and deciding that it’s time to check out, that’s one thing, and unlikely to be any kind of problem — but a lot of people use suicide either to run away from the lives they’ve made for themselves, on the one hand, or to punish other people, on the other. Do it for either of those reasons and you’ll very likely set patterns in motion that will bring very unwelcome consequences in your subsequent lives.

    Lydia, fascinating. So in her case, the dementia was a doorway.

    Swimmer, I don’t believe in the existence of the Demiurge and his archons. That entire way of looking at the cosmos seems profoundly flawed to me, in much the same way that any other kind of paranoia is flawed.

    Casey, I don’t know Tibetan Buddhist literature at all well, so thank you for the pointer to the material on Nyingma traditions! Stevenson has some very dense and scholarly books, as I recall, but most of his work is very accessible.

    Danil, as I’ve noted above, it’s a mistake to see this as progress, any more than the growth of an oak from an acorn is progress. Because I was writing a blog post and not a book, I didn’t go into the wider context of the process of reincarnation, which has to do with cosmology and the beginning and end of an evolution; it’s in that context that the circular nature of the cosmos is clearly visible.

    James, it’s a common teaching that one feature of the after-death state — unless you’re awake enough to avoid it, and pass into Gwynfydd — is a condition of illusion in which your unresolved desires, cravings, fears, and other passionate reactions work themselves out. That happens after the stage in which you remember your entire life (when people in serious danger “see their lives flash before their eyes,” that’s a foreshadowing of this first stage) and before the stage of unconsciousness as the Individuality sinks back toward rebirth. William Butler Yeats, who wrote at length about all this, liked to quote a bit of ancient Greek in translation: “The doors of Hades cannot be unlocked; within is a people of dreams.” To the extent that the notions of hell and heaven have anything behind them, it’s the fact that how you live your life and what states of mind you seek out shape this part of the after-death state, so that those who have lived well and fostered such states of mind as compassion and humor tend to have a relatively pleasant time of it, while those who have lived badly and fostered such states of mind as hatred and selfishness tend to have a much more miserable time of it.

    Alex, that’s a real thing. Plants are more connected to the whole system of the planet than we are — their circulatory systems, for example, are open (water comes in through the roots, rises to the leaves, and flows out through evapotranspiration) where ours are closed (blood goes out from the heart to the periphery and then cycles back from the periphery to the heart). You’re also right that basic acts of kindness such as clearing litter are always a good first step in any relationship with Nature!

  247. John Roth,

    I was actually going to refer to you in my comment, but I couldn’t remember the exact percentage.

    JMG,

    So in the afterlife, you really do create your own reality? 😉

    I’ve seen serious speculation that the enthusiasm for virtual reality is caused by a homesickness for the Summerland:

    http://michaelprescott.typepad.com/michael_prescotts_blog/2016/04/homesick.html

    Imagine a fully immersive VR experience that is shared with thousands of other people via an online platform. Players interact with each other via avatars in a completely convincing 3D world. The environment has been meticulously designed to offer otherworldly beauty, dazzling variety, and total realism. The disagreeable features of real life are omitted, while the enjoyable aspects are abundantly available with no downside. In this world you can explore, study, party, fall in love, or just sit quietly on the bank of a babbling brook.

    It sounds a lot like Summerland — the “heaven” that we may indistinctly remember. Maybe we are exerting our efforts as a society toward recreating that lost paradise so we can escape the travails of physical life and return to the place we came from.

    I suspect that’s reading far too much into a fascination with a nifty toy (case in point: no one would accuse fidget spinners of having any deep connection to the spirit world, but they’re all the rage right now).

    As for material vampires unliving in a material world (sorry), I see your point. Certainly that explains why magic is so persistently portrayed as flashy special-effects. The only respite you get from that is horror movies featuring ze vitches from ze old country, who still mainly traffic in hexes, potions, and good-luck charms.

  248. Morfran, yes and yes. Will is the fundamental reality; the ability to make representations is one expression or, as Schopenhauer liked to say, grade of the will, and it’s not present in everything. It’s specifically among animals that representations as we experience them are the objects of consciousness. Plants likely experience things in a different, nonrepresentational way, which we can’t understand at all; other modes of being have their own ways of knowing, which are just as opaque to us — and ours is just as opaque to them.

    Scott, thank you. Nietzsche was right but incomplete; humanity is a bridge, and a bridge that’s to be crossed and left behind, but what’s on the other side of the bridge is something rather different than he, as an atheist and materialist, had in mind!

    Lauren, you’re welcome. Yes, it’s humbling, which is one of its virtues.

    Ron, many thanks for this, and especially for the story from the Mahabharata! When I was growing up, one of my favorite books was a retelling of the story of the Mahabharata titled The Five Sons of King Pandu by Elizabeth Seeger; the local public library had a copy, which I must have read dozens of times. So thank you for a blast from the past, as well as for the useful data points on the Hindu traditions of reincarnation, which I don’t know all that much about.

    Matthias, I’d have to do digging. It’s been a while since I’ve read anything of his but his adult novels.

    Robyn, you’re most welcome.

    Robert, and I thought I had bad dreams as a child…

    Matt, you’re welcome. It’s simply a useful rule of thumb: the more frantically people are trying to push something on you, as a rule, the less satisfying it is to them, and the more likely that they’re trying to justify their commitment to an unsatisfactory thing by pressing it on others.

    John, fair enough. Yeah, for me, it’s pretty much an “eh…” reaction — but then I know perfectly well that a lot of people have the same reaction to the traditions I find trenchant and enticing. Do what keepeth thou from wilting shall be the loophole in the law, as Aleister Crowley probably should have said… 😉

    Bruno, you asked fewer questions than some! I’d say Dion Fortune’s The Cosmic Doctrine, Iolo Morganwg’s Barddas, and William Butler Yeats’ A Vision, along with the scholarly works I’ve already mentioned, should give you someplace to start.

    Darth, it’s a standard teaching in many occult schools that a body should be allowed at least three days before burial or cremation, to allow the vital body to separate completely. A great many of these things are found cross-culturally wherever there’s some attention being paid to the spiritual realities.

    John, hmm. I’m far from sure I have any idea what you’re talking about, but then there’s clearly no shortage of specialized terminology in either of our traditions!

    Pat, it depends, They can come from many different sources.

    Ray, no, you’re getting a pretty good summary of traditional Druid Revival ideas about reincarnation as I learned them.

    Engineer, I’ve read a few works on Vedanta, notably Shankara’s Crest-Jewel of Discrimination in English translation, but it’s been a long time.

    Darth, if your small Abrahamic faith accepts the general consensus, God created the cosmos and everything in it, and being omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, created it in the best possible way. In that case, why did He rig things so that human souls could damn themselves eternally, even in the way you’ve sketched out? If the basic claims of Abrahamic monotheism are true, after all, He didn’t have to do anything of the kind; He could have made the universe work any way He chose, and could as well have set things up so that the finite sins of finite beings would have a finite punishment. Why didn’t He?
    This is the kind of reflection that leads people outside the Abrahamic faiths to look at the doctrine of eternal damnation as a flat contradiction to the claim that the God of Abraham et al. is a loving and merciful Father.

    As for Brin, to my mind he’s simply clinging to a grand but false dream of the human future and as human beings often do, responding to the failure of that dream by doubling down on it. Lots of people do that all the time, and I fail to see how that merits a divine boot in the face forever — or, for that matter, your concept of agony followed by extinction.

  249. James, not in a conscious sense! You don’t get to choose your own reality — you get whatever your unresolved cravings, dreams, terrors, guilts, et al. happen to bring you, until you either waken to self-awareness or exhaust them and sink back down into incarnation. (In that sense it’s not that different from incarnate life!)

    As for virtual reality, I’ve been arguing for years now that it should be called vicial reality, having much more to do with vices than with virtues. It’s a source of wry amusement to me that people assume they’ll get whatever they want from virtual reality, when you can bet your bottom dollar that what they’ll get from it is whatever some big corporation wants to sell to them, and nothing more!

  250. Kind Sir,

    what a pleasant way to start a day.
    Checking the comments on ecosophia and finding out that i have been awarded my second gold star in quick succession.
    Something to brag to future grandcubs about.

    Your essays always get me thinking and many times change my way of looking at the world and this one did so too.
    There is one big question it raised in my mind.
    Are there indicators that tell me if i might hope to move up in the great chain of being or if i will have to spend at least ten incarnations as a cockroach before i can even apply for a backbone again?
    In short, is there a way to tell if one is succeeding in learning this life’s lessons?

  251. Please, Mr. Greer, I’m not trying to attack or offend, nor to catch you in slips or mistakes. I’ve been reading almost everything you write for four years now, and while not always agreeing I keep coming back, learning an incredible lot, and being influenced very much. No other scholar has this place in my current life.

    Neither am I a devotee of Progress, as far as I’m aware (of course I might have beliefs I’m not aware of, who knows?).

    The thing is, I’m noticing here what sounds to me like a disharmonious chord, and am trying to locate the source of apparent disharmony (in the music? in my hearing?) for the sake of my own learning and for the collective one.

    I think I understand the difference between progress and evolution. And yet, when you equate human society to a wave that stays in place while the water it is made of (=Individualities) pass on, I’m reminded that human societies also evolve (I read a wonderful account of that in The Ecotechnic Future). So: Why should there be a difference between the two types of evolution? And where exactly does this difference lie?

    (message archive below the line, for convenience)
    ———————————
    I said:

    “Hello Mr. Greer,

    It seems to me that, despite your denial of this, spiritual progress does enter through the back door in your account. When I analyze sentences like these:

    “this way of thinking about things explains why humanity in the mass never seems to progress spiritually or morally. Humanity is a stage through which Individualities pass.”

    I find in them a distinction between human societies that don’t progress, and (currently) human Individualities that… – (do, would seem the most logical completion of the dichotomy).

    I understand that you don’t mean to talk about progress but about a cumulative process. But the distinction you make between societies and Individualities seems (to me) to be saying other things behind your back”

    ****
    JMG said:

    “Omer, that is to say, you’re finding a way to read progress into what I’m saying. A lot of people do that — unsurprisingly, since faith in progress is a devoutly held religion in our time — but it’s still a distortion. Again, an acorn doesn’t progress into an oak tree, and a human fetus doesn’t progress into being an adult human being!”

  252. Quite JMG. The great established faiths -and even the minor ones- after the processes of historical change, editing, distortion and manipulation for political and institutional ends to which you so rightly refer, seem to me to be little more than dung or refuse heaps, in which, however, one can sometimes discern the gleam of a genuine jewel.

    Just picking up a Holy Bible, or Koran, for instance, and reading a random passage confirms this. Or consideration of the way in which believers lead their lives.

    Hence their attraction -because there truly is something spiritual that calls to us in them – and their danger – because they have become so incoherent and distorted that they can inculcate damaging codes of behaviour on whatever plane of existence you care to name.

    It is perhaps helpful to view a mass religion as a vehicle to travel to a certain point, along a long-established road, in all kinds of company, fairly randomly gathered: but if you wish to climb the mountain, you will need a map, proper boots and not sneakers, appropriate clothing for an exposed situation,and probably more carefully selected companions and guides…..

    Still, given the awfulness of many human beings, it is useful to have basic authoritative texts saying things like ‘You shall not abuse widows and orphans, and you will pay the good labourer his hire!’ Both to pull people up in their behaviour, and have an ethical basis for punishing them.

    In Spain now, as an example, many business owners and institutions are getting away with abusing their workers, because the latter are so afraid of permanent unemployment if they ask for their wages in full and on time. They could do with a fulminating priest on their back!

  253. It seems from the contributors to this blog that there are a number of different views on what exactly happens after death or between lives, so my question is about evidence.

    Clearly there is plenty of evidence that many people have memories of previous existences. There is also plenty of evidence, in the form of ‘near death experiences’, that consciousness continues after clinical death (and continuation after death is obviously implied by the fact that we have previous lives). But what evidence is there of the various scenarios that are depicted as taking place between lives, or of the ‘big picture’ of the general increase in complexity within which these scenarios take place?

    The only possible sources I can think of offhand are
    1) the testimony of channeled entities, which one contributor described as ‘flaky’ and which I understand you yourself consider unreliable,
    2) information resulting from actual encounters with non-physical beings and provided by those beings, which I would have thought would have the same handicap,
    3) dreams, which I would have thought were equally untrustworthy,
    4) apparent memories of between-life experiences.

    This last possibility seems to me to be the best source of information, because there is the possibility of corroboration, but is that actually the source of these beliefs? For instance, are there credible accounts of people remembering lives as non-human animals (to justify the belief in increasing complexity)? Are there people who credibly claim to have experienced any of the between-life scenarios described? (This might, for example, involve different people with no prior contact with each other appearing to remember the same scenario.)

    It seems to me that without evidence we have simply the fact of human reincarnation, and the rest is either speculation or personal opinion based on personal experience. Or am I missing something?

  254. To JMG and all, I don’t often comment because most of my questions and opinions are already expressed in the course of the discussion, usually more elegantly than I could express them, but I always appreciate our host’s breadth and scope of ideas and the depth of good conversation here.

    I have to be honest – I had never given more than two minutes’ thought to the idea of reincarnation before I read this post, but as usual, I found your proposition compelling, JMG.

    It would explain a number of things I have always found problematic, such as why some people appear to be born with advanced capacities in one area or another. Why do some five year old children exhibit such amazing emotional connection and why are some others born leaders? I have looked into a number of different personality-type systems and all of them I find really useful for classification purposes, but none of them explain where any of those traits come from in the first place. The hard spiritual work of many lifetimes might go some way to explain that.

    I do have some ethical reservations though, about how a widespread acceptance of reincarnation could lead to a kind of eugenics, with the poor, uneducated underclass being classed as less ‘evolved’ and therefore maybe expendable? Because they will come back higher up in the hierarchy of souls if they have done the spiritual work? I realise that this is not the ‘truth’ as you have explained it, but I imagine that is how it would turn into a religion (I am slapping myself up the side of the head here, as I realised I have just described the Hindu caste system). Mind you, I don’t think there are any spiritual insights that haven’t been bastardized the minute they start being used as an instrument of a political system..

    My actual question is this: supposing I accept that reincarnation is a reasonable model for how Life is arranged, what practical difference will it make in my daily life?

    I have come up with a couple of thoughts. I think it would be easier to be stoical in the face of catastrophe, disaster and bad luck, as this is not the be all and end all of existence. It might be easier to take risks and seek adventure for the same reason. On the other hand it might also breed apathy – after all if you accept that Fate (or your own Individuality) has washed you up on a certain shore then you might just decide to stay there and suffer rather than striking out to find adventure, or to challenge the life you appear to have chosen.

    It seems to open up Hamlet’s dilemma, “Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them?”

    It certainly seems to open up opportunities for growth either way. Maybe that is the point. Humans are always erring on one side of the divide or the other. Maybe we have to travel both paths. Maybe we get to travel all the paths. It still doesn’t help me decide which path to travel today or tomorrow, though..

  255. Hi John Michael,

    Vale, Bill Pulliam. Bill was a bright spark of light and common sense, and I hope that he did not suffer greatly during his time of illness. His family has my sympathy and condolences. The seasons turn for all of us and that bloke with the sharp scythe swings it in all of our directions sooner or later.

    With sympathy,

    Chris

  256. Thank you, JMG, for another thought-provoking post. I don’t have a huge amount to add to the conversation, although it definitely put into a new perspective some experiences I have had with disembodied entities. They have been quite difficult to talk about, for a few reasons, and one of them is that when these entities have ‘spoken’ with me, it hasn’t quite been in English (why would it be!) and yet, I found I was able to understand what they were getting at. Almost like the ‘density’ of the knowledge they were trying to pass on was not able to fit into the limiting vocabulary of English. They also seemed to have access to knowledge that was outside the range of my ordinary everyday experience.

    I also talked to my husband about reincarnation, as I knew it was part of the worldview of his tribe, which is the Esan of Nigeria. What he said sounded quite similar to what Dr. Stevenson learned through his research into children who remember past lives, although with some differences compared to the processes you described in the post. He said when someone dies, it is common practice to ‘mark’ the dead person’s body with a square, cross, triangle or other easily-recognizable shape. Then when a new baby is born in the family or the area, they keep an eye out for the mark, and it tends to show up fairly reliably. He feels the elders of his tribe have pretty much ‘proven’ that reincarnation is real through this practice. When someone is born with particular talents in a field, they definitely feel it is because they got good at it in a past life. He said it is normally hard for people to remember their previous life, although sometimes if a child is born quite quickly after someone else dies, they are more likely to remember. I asked him if he thought people eventually leave this world and move on to another (alluding to Gwynfydd) but he said not really, their spirit just waits until a new body is given to them and comes back to Earth, in a continuous life process which sounded more like recycling. He didn’t mention any real purpose or sense of karma attached to it all, just that it was the nature of this world.

    I would put myself into the camp of the ‘believers’ although as you have mentioned a few times, if something is the truth, it doesn’t really much matter whether people believe in it or not. It just is.

    And I would also like to express my condolences to the family and friends of Bill.

  257. JMG, maybe, but too basic and simple questions are kinda boring. For example, what are material, vital and mental bodies, exactly?
    Oh, and thank you very much for the literature!

    As for your discussion with @Darth, I’d point out that your druidic teachings do have room for consequences of bad actions, as acting in a certain way can hinder one’s arrival to the next circle, or even make her go one step back. So there are consequences, though not a judgment per se.
    That said, the kind of morality druidic teachings seems to imply, for better or worse, is very different from Abrahamic kind of morality. For better because it certainly is less judgmental; for worse because it probably is less concerned with charity – there is a reason, I think, polytheistic societies tend to have a lot less charity institutions and charity as a social habit than Abrahamic ones. After all, why care that much for your neighbor if his suffering is necessary for his Individuality’s learning process?

  258. Interesting material. I have to disclose my diverse professional background in order for others to grasp the perspective I come from. For over 20 years I chose to work with dying people as a hospice nurse. The last 5 years was with pediatric behavior and psychiatry, having retired just a month ago. The presence of the spirit in never so obvious as when the body is in the process of giving birth to it. It is a remarkably intimate process that I feel blessed to have witnessed many times. It was an especial privilege to become acquainted with that spirit prior to the labor. Suffice to say, it is a firsthand study of a sacred transition. Equally remarkable is the study of the young human psyche. There are two powerful forces at play here…genetics and environmental influences, the latter most often designed by the entities that brought the young humans into their worlds. Suffice to say, some of the behaviors I have observed leave me literally speechless, though I must say there are times I wish we could “unknow” things. It is sadly unfortunate that we seem to be predisposed to mental and spiritual health, (not to mention the physical), that appear to cyclic in some groups of individuals. This brings me to the question, do you believe we choose our own genetics?

  259. I have a rather odd thought: are all “our” gods human in origin, or might some individualities that were dolphin also become gods we worship? Because that would explain why dolphins play prominent roles in mythology, often with some unexpected gods ….

  260. @JMG thanks that’s really helpful. This might be a really stupid question, but is it safe to talk to trees? Or can they turn malicious and trick you into all kinds of trouble? I realise that’s probably stuff from my fundamentalist christian upbringing coming back after all these years but it’s still something I worry about!

  261. JMG – re your comments on the dream-like after-death state: I think it’s possible that notions of an “eternal” Hell and Heaven might have come from the very nature of dream states – we do experience a different sense of time in dream states, in which a mere few seconds can seem “eternal” indeed. I’m thinking that our recollections of our previous after-death states, however dim and buried in our unconscious minds, might lead some of us to believe that Heaven and Hell states are eternal, as in “extending infinitely in time”.

    Moreover, our vivid dreams – and I take it that our after-death dreaming is *very* vivid – tend to be either very blissful or particularly nightmarish with no middle ground. I think this too, would give rise to belief in a definitive Heaven and definitive Hell. In his 1977 series of lectures in Buenos Aries (“Seven Nights”), Jorge Luis Borges discoursed on, among other things, the nature of nightmares, and he touched on some things that I don’t believe I’ve ever come across in mainstream psychological literature – that is, the fact that nightmares conjure up a certain sensation, feeling, state of perception, that we simply can’t experience in waking life, unless of course, one is flying on a psychotropic drug or is having a horrendous kundalini experience.

    Borges concludes that the nightmare might very well be a glimpse into Hell. If we define Hell as an after-death temporary state in which we face the worst of ourselves, then I think Borges is probably right on the jingle.

  262. Hi JMG,

    Fascinating….and in the context of the hierarchy of occult planes you mention, are the apparatus of Representation for incarnate life (the senses and the Understanding, in Schopenhauer’s terms) thus reflections of a more fundamental capacity of sense and understanding in the realm of spirit? I don’t really know anything of these planes and their distinctions, so I’m not sure if it makes sense to speak of vital body senses, spiritual body senses etc.

    Thanks again,
    Morfran.

  263. In reply to Swimmer, Darth and Garden Houswife, JMG said:

    “Swimmer, I don’t believe in the existence of the Demiurge and his archons. That entire way of looking at the cosmos seems profoundly flawed to me, in much the same way that any other kind of paranoia is flawed.”

    “Darth, if your small Abrahamic faith accepts the general consensus, God created the cosmos and everything in it, and being omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, created it in the best possible way. In that case, why did He rig things so that human souls could damn themselves eternally, even in the way you’ve sketched out? If the basic claims of Abrahamic monotheism are true, after all, He didn’t have to do anything of the kind; He could have made the universe work any way He chose, and could as well have set things up so that the finite sins of finite beings would have a finite punishment. Why didn’t He?
    This is the kind of reflection that leads people outside the Abrahamic faiths to look at the doctrine of eternal damnation as a flat contradiction to the claim that the God of Abraham et al. is a loving and merciful Father.”

    “Garden Housewife, that’s most interesting — and yes, I know (and know of) other people who were raised Christians and left that religion because their prayers encountered only emptiness and silence, or who joined some fundamentalist sect and found that something very creepy was on the other side of the conversation!”

    Maybe I’ve got the wrong end of the stick but didn’t some of the Gnostics think that the Abrahamic monotheism was a false demiurge?

    If there are various levels of beings and not all of them are friendly, isn’t what you said here: “doctrine of eternal damnation as a flat contradiction to the claim that the God of Abraham et al. is a loving and merciful Father.”
    …a pretty good reason to ask who or what one is worshiping?

    i.e. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean nobody is after you. 😉

  264. @ patriciaormsby…

    As you saw, a decade or so back the young were rejecting things, such as bowing in respect, thanks or acquiescence. I think this was, as you say, western influence. What I seem to see now is more embracing of the older ways, which is kind of interesting.

    My kids watch anime a lot, because it normally has more character content and moral lessons within it than western options. It used to be ‘cool’ to watch anime, but now it is normal in the west for the younger set. The production values are usually quite good compared to western options, and this also attracts many to watch. Now my grandkids are watching more anime than western cartoons, because of their characterization and emotional content, from watching them as they watch Anime was always an outlet for a vibrant culture under social restraints, from my POV.

    What I saw last trip (Niigata) was the young seemed to be bowing more and simply being more respectful than my previous trips. It wasn’t anything overt, but it did hit me when I was waiting on my plane at Narita. Working in engineering, I go to places where gaijin are less common. I used to get waves and nods from young Japanese who saw me, and lots of eye contact. This last trip, that was more rare as well.

    The schism I see is within the younger bunch, and it is division between respecting the old ways and wanting them gone – that simple. The older are firmly entrenched in the traditional ways. I had as much from my translator (American) when we were alone and I asked. There is also a palpable division between those who worship technology and those who view it as sort of a curse – but that isn’t necessarily unique to Japan. Yet I got that feeling when we were talking with the plant workmen – some loved the new robotics and machinery, while others said not a word, and strictly avoided eye contact when the subject was being discussed. However, some of that may just be my gaijin status, as it always is.

    What made me think of it was that when I was sitting in the airport, it hit me that there even was a divide that my dull, western sense caught.

  265. JMG, Oops I hope I didn’t come across as smug about sources potentially existing in other languages… It was more of a bolstering comment aiming to suggest that those who claim “lack of evidence” for reincarnation in general are missing a large body of work on the very topic and pointing out that there have indeed been some groups who’ve approached the topic systematically and with reproducible results. While I don’t read Tibetan, I have just-slightly-removed connections with some of those lineages and if there were some inquiry you were interested in making, I could put out feelers.

  266. Hello Mr Archdruid,

    Interesting that you don’t hold out much hope for moral progress in this “plane” of ours. The older I get, the more shocking I find it that the food chain is at the heart of existence here. It guarantees suffering, which we humans don’t think about much, being at the top of the food chain (usually!), and it was almost inevitable that somebody like Hitler would come along and say, “Nature red in tooth and claw? OK, let’s do it to the hilt – it’s the only way to survive!”

    Though I’m not a Christian, I well remember somebody repeating Christ’s saying that, “My father’s house has many rooms” and claiming that he was talking about the multiverse! What do you make of the saying, if anything?

  267. Armenio, @3:11 am

    In my opinion, the antidote to this poison is a doctrine of the Good.
    Is this universe run by two wicked brothers, one arguably more wicked (if perhaps more honest) than the other? A sickening thought, but I believe it is not possible.
    The question is whether God is good. Is the foundation of existence good? When we look at the nature of evil it is predatory and less conscious than the good. It has lower awareness. In order to be predatory, there must be a store of something, a good, to predate against. Evil is therefore not fundamental.
    Also, the rock bottom core of all theology is the mystery of existence itself. This source of existence is what I call God. To exist – this is obviously an overwhelming good.
    Religions have lots of verbiage, but within them are certain tools which in the right hand one can chisel away steadily at the mass and make a fine sculpture. Here is one of my all time favorites that I hope can be of use to you. It is 1John 1-5. 1-4 is preamble to the great announcement, given that their JOY MAY BE FULL: “God is good and in Him is no darkness at all.”
    Ponder it well.
    It appears that at first Christianity considered itself a message of great joy. Whence did it become the most dismal teaching the world has ever known? (I’m pulling no punches with that one!) If you were a satanic being, what would your goal be? Certainly to sow fear and doubt and dissension between the hearts of the people and their God. Love and fear are opposites and we cannot have both for God. It really is that simple; it is spiritual physics. (1John4:18)
    Realize that a core issue in this world is the confusion of good and evil, in every sphere. (Isaiah 5:20)
    Therefore what is needed is not more of the same but a pure and unassailable unity of good, a shining torch uplifted for humanity to gaze upon. That torch is 1 John 5.
    Now, all we have to do is begin to understand the difference between good and evil, so that we may know whether a being with no darkness at all would send those he created out of his own self to an eternity of pain for acts committed while they were impaired and very young children. Who could admire a cosmic plan that leaves an unresolved wound forever? How smart is that? It’s incomplete!

    I’ll tell you a secret that the Holy Spirit revealed to me. In every person, deeper inside than the soul with its imperfections, is a pure spirit that is always perfect and incorruptible. That is why we are salvageable, and always will be salvageable. Those who preach “utter depravity” of the human being are blasphemers.
    Those who teach such wickedness of God are blasphemers, too. I defend God sometimes, a kind of calling I have. It grieves me to see God’s character so maligned, and it grieves me to see that people who want to have a love relationship with God having a fear relationship instead.
    Drop the nonsense and breathe free. Love God and laugh at the demons, who really say such silly things.
    Learn to see it.

  268. I too am surprised and saddened to hear of Bill Pulliam’s death, and will certainly hold him and his family and friends in my prayers. When I saw one of his comments in the list, I always anticipated something surprising and thought-provoking. Connecting to last week’s comments, I propose the William Pulliam Distinguished Curmudgeon award for thoughtful contrarianism.

  269. Regarding this week’s topic, this is exactly the sort of thing I have been hoping for in this blog about spiritual ecology. The post and the comments so far have given me at least a month’s worth of meditation topics. Please, more in this vein! I would also appreciate direct discussion of specifics relating these topics to the question, “So then, how shall we live?” I am working on making these concrete connections myself, but would certainly benefit from hearing the thoughts and perspectives of everybody here who is saying, “How does this then relate to what I’m going to do today, and next week, and next year?”

  270. Your extremely helpful response to my question pupped another question, JMG: If a voice tells us where our next life’s destination is, in my case Russia, whose voice might it be, and why a heads up on one’s next life?

    Oh, and if you open a Mystery School in German-speaking Central Europe when I’m of age in Russia, please consider my application respectfully submitted in this life. 😉

  271. JMG-

    Your comment on dementia to Booklover was spot on. My technical background had me put it this way – the brain might be an analogous to a complicated radio for the soul/spirit. If it is in perfect working order, the signal comes through perfectly; if it is damaged, or part of it is removed, the resulting output will be distorted accordingly.

    As far as references on reincarnation go, Carl B. Becker’s _Paranormal Experience and Survival of Death_ is one that is quite readable (my commentary on it is at https://peakfuture.wordpress.com/2016/01/04/changing-worldviews/), if you are so inclined. Others have referred to _Reincarnation: the Phoenix Fire Mystery_, which is on my shelf as well. Both are great reads.

    With regard to @Sandy Fontwit (Nuku)’s comment on suppression, the _Phoenix Fire Mystery_ has a reference from its section on Sir Edwin Arnold’s _The Light of Asia_:

    “The British census of 1881 gives the record of {criminal} convictions:
    Europeans 1 in 274
    Eurasians 1 in 509
    Native Christians 1 in 799
    Mahommedans 1 in 856
    Hindus 1 in 1361
    Buddhists 1 in 3787

    These statistics were reprinted in the leading Catholic organ in Britain, The Tablet, with the
    comments:

    “The last item is a magnificent tribute to the exalted purity
    of Buddhism…It appears from these figures that while we effect
    a very marked moral deterioration in the natives by converting
    them to our creed, their natural standard of morality is so
    high that however much we Christianize them, we cannot succeed
    in making them altogether as bad as ourselves.”‘ These Indian converts, of course,
    had given up their conviction in reincarnation and karma in exchange for the church doctrine of
    forgiveness of sins.

  272. Re. children and reincarnation:
    I have no memory of any past lives myself, but I do recall an experience at about eight years of age when I was suddenly struck by an awareness of my own Individuality, of being an observer and learner for whom my current life was just one stop, the idea of being a tiny strong spark inside my body and mind, and by a powerful feeling of how amazing it was to be alive- a living being- at all. The sudden insight made me giddy, but no one I tried to explain it to “got it”. I remember my disappointment. Reading JMG’s description of the Individuality, “It’s not your personality, nor is it your thinking mind. You can perceive it very faintly if you look at something, then become aware of the you that’s looking at whatever it is, and try to follow that back to the pure conscious presence in you that’s perceiving what you look at,” gave me the same physical shock of recognition- butterflies in the stomach- that I felt when I was eight.

    So I take my nine-year-old son seriously when he explains his theories of everything. (His sister, at thirteen, is a different, less reflective, kid.) He told me a while back that he thought families reincarnated together, that whoever died first would wait for the others, and then they would be born again together. I held my tongue but mentally thought the concept unlikely, for logistical reasons. So parents pass, and wait for their children- but what about those children’s children? When does the group decide to go on, and where are the boundaries? Now I read JMG’s account that something like this may indeed be the case, and I’m glad I decided to just listen as my son worked out his own ideas.

    This leads me to a dilemma I come back to repeatedly as I raise my kids. How do I share things I have come to believe or have found helpful or thought-provoking, without risking indoctrinating my kids and precluding their own spiritual journey? I know many parents who are raising their children in a religious tradition, and believe that doing so is part of their parental and spiritual duties. Personally, I found my own Christian upbringing to be something I had to untangle and distance myself from before I could begin figuring out what I thought for myself. I know that JMG has previously stated that children should not be exposed to magic, and that Druids emphatically do not proselytize. I struggle sometimes with knowing what is magic, what is religion, what is spirituality, what is sharing your values with your children and what is pre-empting their own discoveries…? For example, I am sure that my son would find the ideas in this post fascinating. And my daughter is about to enter high school next year- I sure could have benefitted from practicing the Sphere of Protection before venturing into the halls of high school! And meditation seems to be something everyone should learn as a life skill! But when, and from whom? Does their tender and impressionable age, and the fact that I am their Parent, mean that I should avoid these issues or take only a listening stance and a “Comparative Religions” approach to their spiritual education?

    Apologies if this has strayed too far off topic. If so, I’ll approach it again during a future Open Post.

  273. I think it would be remiss of me not to mention Kim Stanley Robinson’s “The Years of Rice and Salt” novel in the context of this post. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2723.The_Years_of_Rice_and_Salt

    This novel sketches an “alternative” history of the past few centuries, but it uses a reincarnation theme to keep placing the same three characters into different timelines, cultures and interactions, as the novel unfolds. I won’t say more, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it a few years ago.

    I cannot say how faithfully the novel’s reincarnation ideas resemble the kind of teaching given here, but I found its ideas very intriguing on many scores.

  274. @JMG

    Thank you for the kind reply, and the questions of me in return. I’m far from a theological doctorate, but I’ll do my best to answer your queries as well as I can, with what I understand the Truth to be.

    First, you wrote: “Darth, if your small Abrahamic faith accepts the general consensus, God created the cosmos and everything in it, and being omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, created it in the best possible way.”

    My small Faith has specific guidance regarding that consensus. Too long to belabor here (seriously, it would be several pages, beginning from first principles), but the gist is that we agree with your assertions of the God/Truth/Being of the Philosophers in the abstract while disagreeing with a lot of the unspoken assumptions that most societies tend to smuggle-in when discussing the God/Truth/Being of the philosophers. A few specifics include:

    1) God/Truth/Love created far more than merely this Cosmos, but forever and always, the only Truly Perfect Thing/System is God/Truth/Love. Not any given shell sent outward from the Center of Unity, nor any being resident in those shells, but only the inaccessible Center of Unity itself, at the Center of every shell, is actually Perfect. Creation always offers a way back toward the Perfection at the Center of Unity … but created beings of sufficient Will can always choose to walk the paths in the opposite direction.

    2) Every world and shell and soul Created/Emanated outside of Spirit/Truth/Perfection is, by definition, incapable of being as Perfect as the Spirit/Truth/Perfection while remaining outside of Spirit/Truth/Perfection. It can still be Good if it retains its connection to the Center of Unity, and anyone in those shells can be Better if they migrate into a shell closer to the Center, but *Creation* *Isn’t* *Perfect* (only the Creator is).

    3) The material world we inhabit is thus quite far from Omnibenevolent. The shells further removed from God are even less Omnibenevolent. But even the worlds a thousand tiers closer to God are still quite clearly not yet Omnibenevolent. The only thing actually Omnibenevolent is the pervading Light and Truth from the Center of Unity, beckoning the Created closer.

    4) God/Power/Dominion has quite obviously put almost all of the Omnipotence far away and/or deep within. Nothing compels souls possessed of independent will to Rise or Fall, because that Omnipotence is not being imposed.

    5) In an imperfect shell, well removed from God, wherein Omnipotence is not being exercised on souls without enthusiastic consent, it is possible for souls to Ascend into bodies and worlds and shells closer to the Center/Creator/Ceugant … and it is also possible for those souls to Descend into bodies and worlds and shells further from the Center/Creator/Ceugant.

    If one thinks of the Love/Light/God as a sun, then the same Light shines on Titan and Pluto as much as it shines on Earth … but vastly less so, and it would be an extremely poor idea to migrate out that far if one actually wishes to experience more of the Light.

    So, yes, the entire totality of all the myriad worlds/realms/planes that comprise Creation are believed to be a system Created in the best possible way … but that doesn’t make any given world/universe a great place to stay in forever.

    Just as you described Humanity as an intensive care ward run by the patients … so is this entire universe, and every universe above and below. All are shells at a remove from the Omni-Omnic Center, and one of the curses/blessings of the human (and angelic) state is the capacity to willfully double-down on spiritually self-destructive behavior unto and beyond even Death, willfully flying ever further away from the Light of Truth.

    You also wrote: “In that case, why did He rig things so that human souls could damn themselves eternally, even in the way you’ve sketched out?”

    Because God isn’t a Tyrant, and does not compel any independent soul to Love Him. The freedom to turn away from the Light includes the freedom to run away from it, and the freedom to hide in eclipse-shadow from it, and the freedom to move so many hundred light-years away that the Sun is no longer visible to the naked eye.

    Willful Oblivion is a choice permitted to souls at the human scale. It’s an extreme one, and a rare one, but the option exists.

    Every soul has the freedom to keep doubling-down on self-destructive behavior forever, and then reap the natural consequences thereof, up to and including willful immiseration and obliviation back into the formless roil of new soul-stuff. That’s all that Damnation is: a poor choice, repeated endlessly, with ever-worsening consequences on each iteration.

    (Which is also why Pride is the chief of the Deadly Sins.)

  275. Apologies if this is slightly off-topic, but I can’t resist a brief anecdote about Japanese politeness.

    When in 2006 my bindery was suddenly without business and I nearly went bankrupt, I took a job in a famous London shop selling rare and expensive papers for artists and bookbinders in order to pay the bills and buy some breathing space.

    One day I advised a group of young Japanese ladies as to the appropriate glue to use for their project, it didn’t take long.

    I had just finished serving some other customers, when I became aware that they were standing patiently in front of the main desk in a line, waiting for me to be free.

    One stepped forward, bowed and said ‘Thank you for teaching us useful knowledge.’

    It was very charming, and very unexpected in the context of a shop. They had made sure to say this before leaving.

    In contrast, I recall a Brit with whom I had spent a lot of time, and actually given a kind of condensed lesson to, not really saying thank you, and going off with ‘Now, what I got from that….’ to his wife.

    About much more than manners, isn’t it?

  276. DropBear, that’s a real challenge, as human beings are very good at fooling themselves! I’ve met people in the shallow end of the New Age pool who were perfectly certain they were on their way to some exalted level of being any day now, whose lives were complete basket cases full of self-inflicted disasters, and who caused impressive amounts of misery to everyone around them. I tend to think the best advice is to try to do your best, maintain some kind of spiritual practice, and trust that the spiritual powers that guide you will keep you pointed in the right direction.

    Omer, I didn’t read what you said as an attack; I was simply correcting a common mistake. Change is not necessarily progress. If you want a metaphor for the relation of human societies to human souls, just remember that the flow of water over a rock gradually abrades and reshapes the rock! More generally, all things evolve — and evolution isn’t progress, it’s simply adaptation to circumstances — and some things, such as acorns and souls, start from relatively simple starting points and develop into conditions of greater complexity over time. There’s no goal to the process, nor any inherent value judgment embodied in the difference between simplicity and complexity.

    Xabier, oh, granted. No religion will ever be better than the human beings who follow it, and even the most thoroughly compromised religion will offer inspiration and useful guidance to some people now and again.

    Doug, good. We have memories of previous lives, and the testimony of those whose near-death experiences take them much of the way through the process. We have information from disembodied entities, whether channeled or otherwise, which is on a lower level of credibility for the same reason hearsay evidence is always questionable, and we have information from dreams and the like, ditto. We also have the testimony of people whose mystical experiences involved looking back across the entire course of their prior incarnations — that’s not common, because it takes a fairly high level of mystical attainment, but it does happen from time to time. Those are the scraps of data from which the various esoteric traditions assemble their understandings of reincarnation. As I noted in my post, proof isn’t an option, but there’s a lot of consensus between different traditions, and until we attain Gwynfydd that seems to be the best we’re going to be able to do.

    Jo, if you assume that reincarnation is how the cosmos works, the first difference it’ll make is that you’ll have an incentive to work at developing talents even if you know they won’t go far in this life. For example, I love music, and have pretty much no trace of musical talent; I play a couple of instruments anyway, for my own enjoyment, and because I know that doing that means that I’ll have more musical talent to work with the next time around. Another difference is that you’ll spend less time fuming about how unfair the world is to you — a very popular habit, but not a particularly useful one! You may also be slower to pass judgment on other people; you’ll remember that the guy who can’t stay away from the bottle, say, is dealing with the consequences of several lifetimes of bad choices, and the momentum built up by those bad choices has to be worked out. There are plenty of other implications, but I’d encourage you to spend some time meditating (or just thinking) about them, as they’ll mean more to you if you come up with them yourself.

    Stefania, fascinating. I’d read that many West African societies also accept reincarnation as a fact; thank you for a data point confirming that. With regard to Gwynfydd or the equivalent, I wonder if that’s a private teaching in the mystery schools in those societies — that kind of division of teaching between the public and the private is very common in traditional cultures.

    Bruno, so noted! Of course the Druidical view of things includes the idea that actions have consequences, for good or ill, but the consequences are proportional to the action; you don’t find the claim that somebody’s going to be stomped into a bloody pulp for all eternity because he masturbated once at the age of twelve, or what have you.

    Leslie, it depends entirely on what you mean by “we.” As I noted in my post, there’s not a lot of conscious choice in the process of rebirth; it’s driven by something much closer to instinct. The Individuality seeks out a body that will allow it to work out its fate and pursue its destiny, to the extent that such a body is available, and genetics can certainly be part of that, but there are also plenty of details that probably aren’t of concern to the Individuality; for example, I doubt I had any particular karmic need for the blue eyes, long gangly legs, and slowly receding hairline I got from my family genetics. Since everybody dies of something, even genetically linked diseases can be a matter of indifference to the Individuality; it’s only when the genetics have some specific role to play in working out fate or pursuing destiny that you’re likely to see the Individuality seeking out a new body with those specific genetics.

    Will, hmm! I suppose it’s a possibility.

    Alex, the basic rule for all conversations with other entities, human or otherwise, is that it’s fine to talk to them but a bad idea to assume that everything they say is true. Courtesy, caution, and common sense are just as important in dealing with nonhuman beings as they are when dealing with your human neighbors! Keep that in mind and you should be fine.

    Will, I’m going to balk about your characterization of vivid dreams. I remember my dreams tolerably often; I have some that are profoundly vivid — the one I woke up from this morning was an example of the kind — and it’s very rare for me to have a dream that’s either blissful or nightmarish. Most of them are just quirky. It seems entirely possible to me that the state of illusion in the afterlife will be similar — not blissful, not hideous, just quirky, as various desires and fears tumble around each other and work themselves out. That said, it’s not impossible that near-death experiences and past life memories that include the state of illusion are in fact part of the raw material from which heaven and hell were invented, but there’s also a lot of cheap manipulative propaganda involved.

    Morfran, yep. The vital body has senses, and so does the mental body. The Individuality, when it starts out, doesn’t have senses so much as a potentiality to have senses — that’s part of why it descends into matter, to turn that potentiality into actuality, to develop the capacities that will enable it to have a rich sensorium on all three planes (matter, vitality, mind) when it passes into Gwynfydd.

    Earthworm, fair enough. The reason I say I don’t believe in the demiurge and his archons is that the old Gnostics, who used those terms, insisted that a demonic power created and rules the material world, and I find that notion incompatible with pretty much everything else I know about the cosmos. I also don’t believe in Satan, for similar reasons. Disembodied (or differently-embodied) beings who have nasty ulterior motives for relating to human beings, who tell lies, manipulate people, and parasitize on them in various ways? That’s quite another matter; just as there are abusers, liars, and ordinary jerks among human beings, there are the equivalent among other forms of being — and yes, given the stunning lack of spiritual discernment in today’s society, it’s entirely likely that some of these may be calling themselves “Jesus” and feeding various denominations teachings that Jesus himself would have condemned in no uncertain terms.

    Temporaryreality, thanks for the clarification, and also for the offer! As it happens, I have a good friend who’s received Dzogchen initiation and has various connections among Tibetan religious circles, but I’ll keep you in mind also if something comes up.

    Heather, so noted!

    OtterGirl, heck of a good question. Do you tend to hear voices more generally? If so, it could simply have been your own intuition.

    Peakfuture, hah! I like that.

    Heather, since I never had the chance to raise a child of my own, I’m probably not the best person to ask, but a lot of people seem to be able to raise children in a religious setting without browbeating them or demanding strict obedience to some dogma or other. I don’t recommend systematic magical training for children; teaching them how to make simple protective and blessing amulets, on the other hand, seems to be harmless, and religious ritual seems to be good for them. I’d encourage you to talk to people who have children and have raised them in various relationships to their parents’ faith, and draw your own conclusions.

    Scotlyn, a very good point! I’ve quibbled publicly over some aspects of Robinson’s alternate history, but it’s a gripping read.

  277. Darth, fair enough. I don’t find that particularly plausible, but it’s less self-contradictory than most Abrahamic theologies tend to be on that specific point.

    Xabier, oh, it’s about manners, all right — but manners, properly understood, embrace a much vaster territory than most people think. It’s not accidental that the original roots of the English words “ethics” and “morality,” in Greek and Latin respectively, can be translated “manners.”

  278. So we don’t own, we rent. Too often we try to use our “minds”, when it’s our center, our gut, that holds the key.

  279. JMG – thanks for the reply. The potential source of information about the between-life situation I had not thought of was the “people whose mystical experiences involved looking back across the entire course of their prior incarnations”. Can you recommend any books by or about such a person or persons?

  280. Thanks for the reply, JMG! Glad to know that I am not the only “Mahabharat fan” in the group! I, too, have read my treasured version multiple times – not the full version (100,000 verses) but a beautifully condensed version written in English by C. Rajagopalachari, freedom fighter who became the first Chief Minister of Madras State once India became independent. I especially treasure the book because I bought it in Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram in India nearly 30 years ago…

  281. JMG, re vivid dreams – I meant to refer to those dreams of which I’ve only had a mere handful, dreams that are particularly, strikingly hyper-vivid, and that seem portentous in a way that makes them, the blissful ones anyway, seem like initiations.

    I do have a lot of vivid dreams in the ordinary sense – they tend to swarm with phantasmagoria and are rather cartoon-like. Not so much in the hyper-vivid dreams, however; in these dreams, the phantasm-swarm fades away and the focus on one one thing or another becomes intense.

    I have had several dreams – and I’m not even sure if I’d term them dreams per se – in which I seem to wake up from from an ordinary dream into a full self-awareness …. yet I know that I’m still asleep. In these dreams, there is no phantasmagoria whatsoever, just a kind of profound simplicity and calmness. My surrounding is nothing more than, for lack of better expression, a glowing darkness. But there has been someone present in the dreams, someone who I know personally and who I’m addressing very plainly, forcefully.

    Within a week of having these dreams, the people who I had addressed in the dreams told me that they had had a particularly intense dream of me addressing them in some forceful manner.

    In any event, it’s these kind of dreams I meant to describe when I used the word “vivid” – I should have been a bit more exact.

  282. What exactly do you mean when you say that we’ll “get a bill” for being clueless with regards to these other beings you speak of? Also, what beings are you referring to?

  283. I have a new argument for reincarnation: the award winning books “refuting” it are so bad that the only explanation is they’re out of good arguments. I’m only half joking here: these somehow award winning books I arguing against reincarnation are among the worst I have ever had the misfortune to read.

    I haven’t even gotten around to looking at the books arguing for it, but I don’t think it’ll matter: at this point if they have less than one logical fallacy a chapter I think I’ll be convinced….

  284. Ah – I recall past lifetimes. It’s not imaginary. It’s not just one. They are not the entire lifetime. My Tibetan Buddhist guru confirmed my memories as a monk AFTER I recalled them, because I was his student too. I am not the only one I know who can recall past experiences prior to this lifetime. My memories inform my entire existence.

    One of my gurus recalled events to me that occurred more than 3 thousand years ago. His Holiness the Dalai Lama documented his recalling past lives during those past lives.

    Even more interesting is occasionally I can also recall the future. I find this interesting. It calls into question what is time?

    But it is not the goal. Love and enlightenment are the goal – everything else, as Hillel said, is commentary. Best wishes.

  285. Hi John Michael,

    I don’t really have anything to add about this subject, other than the world is a much stranger place than we can ever truly know, but from time to time you get glimpses and that is a good thing. Of course other folks have brittle worldviews and that sort of thing can cause them consternation.

    Speaking of strange, the whole: “God is Love, but if you don’t love God, you’re going to spend some serious quantity of time in eternal damnation” doesn’t float my boat because it makes no sense whatsoever. Of course that is why a lot of those schools of thought fixate so much on abstractions – and to be honest, such mindsets are driving us and the ecosystem into rack and ruin.

    It doesn’t work, they’ve given it a good go for quite a long time and now they would probably do best if they took their bats and balls and went home and sulked their socks off in the corner. But they won’t do that, because they see the world through abstract eyes and thus fail to see where that mindset is taking us all. I feel sorry for them.

    It reminds me of a story I heard from a friend long ago who said that their dad – who is not a nice bloke – used to point out sheep and then demand that the kid call them camels. If the kid didn’t call them camels, that kid used to get a belting. Hearing that story, I’m grateful not to have known my father.

    But it essentially is the same thing as the whole God is love abstraction. It seems to be a rather brittle and insecure philosophy to me.

    Cheers

    Chris

  286. Heather, yeah, I remember when I was about that age, I was on a swingset of all things, around sunset on a summer night when I suddenly started to think about the question of free will, the idea that perhaps I was actually having a near death experience and was just remembering my present life (e.g. “my life was flashing before my eyes”). I never told anyone, I was a shy kid, even when it came to my (very nice) parents. Of course I have memories before that, but it is my first memory of myself as a person with the same sort of thoughts as I have now, twenty years later.

  287. Dennis, oh, the mind has one key, the gut has another, the heart has another, and so on. The thing we tend to forget is that there’s more than one door, and more than one lock…

    Doug, your best bet there is to look into the Hindu and Buddhist literature, as they’ve published a lot of material of that kind. Western occultists tend to be quieter about their mystical experiences, as so many people in the West are looking for authority figures to live their lives for them.

    Ron, I’ll have to look up that version. A condensed version for adults would get a place on one of my bookshelves.

    Will M, fair enough. I don’t think I’ve ever had a dream of that kind, and my occasional nightmares are no more vivid than my ordinarily vivid dreams.

    Ezra, it’s a metaphor, of course, and implies that there’s going to be payback of some kind. As for the beings in question, the universe as understood by occultists contains vast numbers of different kinds of beings that don’t have the same kind of bodies we do — elementals, nature spirits, intelligences, angels, and so on.

    Will J, somehow I managed to miss the fact that there are books claiming to disprove reincarnation, much less books of that kind that have won awards. I’m not surprised that they’re poorly reasoned, though — I’d expect such books to come either from rationalists or from Christian fundamentalists, and among the many things those two groups have in common is a tendency to use really faulty logic whenever they want to denounce something.

    Lancelot, er, did your guru ever caution you about preening your ego in public?

    Chris, no argument there!

  288. Thanks for your reply JMG. I have spent much of the last day pondering the question of how a knowledge of reincarnation would affect my day to day life. Here is what I have come up with:

    First, a sense of noblesse oblige towards all of life – we are literally all family, all One.

    A sense of responsibility toward myself in further lives – those issues I work through now won’t hinder me in the future. This is literally a Pay It Forward situation. Conversely a sense that there is no great hurry. What I work on faithfully may not yield dividends now or in my current lifetime, but not to worry, sometime, somewhere that work will bear fruit.

    I think somehow it reduces the fear of getting things wrong. Whatever I fail at now will resolve itself at length.

    I think it may also reduce the burden of responsibility for another soul. I am speaking here as a mother particularly. It is hard not to feel very responsible for the happiness of our children. This is, of course, an unattainable outcome anyway, but seeing them as being as on their own long journey through the cosmos might help me to let go a little more. And it also relieves me of the burden of having to be the perfect mother. After all, in this paradigm, my children chose me as their mother, not because I am perfect (luckily), but because my flawed self is exactly who they need to contend with to continue on their journey.

    So interestingly, what I have discovered is the paradox that accepting reincarnation appears to both increase and diminish responsibility for myself and others on a daily and lifelong basis. Fascinating.

  289. I thought I had nothing to add to this week’s topic, since I have never felt the need or the urge to consider reincarnation, but now I remember that a pastor I highly respect once told me had taken the time to think this hypothesis through within the Christian faith, prodded by Psalm 90:3 (You turn man back into dust And say, “Return, O children of men.”). He had come to the conclusion there was no inherent contradiction, but I can’t say any more since at the time I was not ready to hear more.

  290. So, this will be my only question today, as I’ve spent the entire day asleep, and possibly fighting an oncoming cold (hopefully it’s just really bad allergies; it’s about time to start back on my daily dose of ceterizine):

    Is the Individuality truly atomic (as the name suggests), or does it absorb more “Individuality-stuff” as it goes along, and that’s why it becomes increasingly complex?

    For whatever reason, I’ve been imagining the latter, imagining that the Individuality is a kind of snowball (actually a katamari, but as you don’t play video games, I don’t expect you to get that reference) that, rolled around, picks up more and more stuff to integrate as part of itself.

  291. With regards to developing skills and talents in this lifetime in order to be better at them in the next lifetime.. is it likely linguistic skills fall into this category as well? I’m terrible at picking up new languages, not to mention I haven’t a lot of interest in learning new languages. I do realize those two are connected. But in my family, my wife has always felt a strong connection with China, as if she had been Chinese in the past. She’s been studying Chinese here in China for more than 7 years and has become more fluent in the language than many Chinese. My wife’s native language is Russian, and she is pretty in English as well. She just seems to have a knack for languages. Our son on the other hand, he’s been growing up in China the majority of his nine year life and he’s learned Chinese really well, but he has struggled with English and Russian. Finally, our daughter, who is youngest at three and a half years of age, seems to have no problems with all three languages. She also exhibits a lot of deep animal knowledge!

  292. Excellent post, as always.

    I’ve found the language used in Tolle’s “The Power of Now” as a good framework for discussing the Individuality and the Personality in non-metaphysical terms, as the real “you” and the “pain body” – his term for the the more negative aspects of the Personality and how it blindly drives us through habit.

    Pema Chödrön’s writings on shenpa have been very helpful for me to relax into the Individuality and loosen the grip of the Personality. The exercises in mindfulness that path promotes are a good foundation, particularly as a tool set within a number of mystery traditions or esoteric religious frameworks.

    Serena Roney Dougal, in her book, “Where Science and Magic Meet”, postulates that what connects a “soul” –Individuality in the language we are using –to a body is the density of quantum level events that occur in such a complex system as a living brain, with more complex organisms attracting or creating more complex “observers”. While a very new-age interpretation of QM that secular science will reject as heresy, it again provides a framework for discussing spiritual topics in a new language. The idea that a sufficient density of unobserved quantum events will manifest an Individuality allows for beings very different to organic life; there’s more quantum events in the heart of our sun than in all the living cells on earth, making the “Solar Logos” a being far beyond our comprehension; the complex vibrations of our own planet could support an Individuality somewhere between the two. Many spiritual paths see both celestial bodies as “heavenly”.

    I enjoy studying a topic in multiple paradigms to try and discern the meta-structure behind the paradigms, or if we’re in an ancestor-simulation reality, how we arise from the material expression of an immense mass of undifferentiated memory chips.

    I shudder to think how one end of the political spectrum could pervert the idea of Individualities experiencing their first incarnation as humans into a theological argument for race-based discrimination. They may not be animals, but if there were more than one step up from them, they would have reincarnated into a more “complex” society to learn within – by which they mean one with an abundance of smartphones and a disconnect from the processes of nature that sustain them.

    You also provide a compelling argument of why the Furry community has become so prevalent in the 21st century. Now, whenever I see adults frolicking around dressed as six-foot squirrels with smiles Pennywise would be proud of, I’ll be reminded of you…

  293. @JMG

    You wrote: “Darth, fair enough. I don’t find that particularly plausible, but it’s less self-contradictory than most Abrahamic theologies tend to be on that specific point.”

    That reads a smidge like Condemnation With Faint Praise, but I’ll take it. Thank you, sir : )

    Since “less” self-contradictory still asserts a notable amount of self-contradiction, I welcome any specific argument as to how that offering contradicts itself, if such holds any interest. As for plausibility, fair enough; plausibility is in the eye of the beholder, and none of us is given to see with perfect clarity.

    To give due credit to the rest of the Abrahamic traditions, that thread of philosophical/theological thought is nowhere close to unique to my Abrahamic Faith, though it tends to flower only in the more mystical branches of the Big Three (Kabbalism within Judaism, Sufism and some Ismailism within Islam, and various mystical orders among the shards of Christianity (often among monastics)). Dante’s Purgatorio and Paradiso are nested onions of spiritual layers on the ascent toward Godhead (and the Inferno describes an onion of darker layers more and more distant from God); Sufi hierarchies of life/spirit have been mentioned; while the Kabbalah explores more-broken spiritual shells (Qlippoth) at a further remove from the Creator and more-symbolic spiritual unities (Sephiroth) closer to the Eternal Infinite.

    (It’s also present in Hindu and Buddhist conceptions of spiritual geography, with Mount Meru the center of unity, and with the hierarchies of emanating divinities: Brahman the unknowable monotheistic over-Being either “at the top” or “at the center” of the divine hierarchy, some huge divine gods/emanations/facets of cosmic scale one tier out, scads of “approachable” mid-scale gods/devas/etc further out, swarms of immediately-adjacent-to-us minor gods/spirits, the riot of sapient life in this material world, and then countless hordes of minor spirit motes in this world and worlds below.)

    The actual richness, thoughtfulness, coherence, beauty, and complexity of those mystical theologies is significantly greater than the rants of a Chick Tract. Just as your work is more rich, thoughtful, coherent, beautiful, and complex than the ravings of many a freshly-minted tumblr-metalhead-pagankid.

  294. JMG, you said earlier that when someone dies, it is best to wait several days before burying or otherwise disposing of the body to allow for the soul/individuality to completely disentangle from the body. What happens when that is not possible and the body is quickly destroyed, as when the body is consumed in a house fire, or pulverized in a terrible disaster such as on 9-11, where (with the power of jets smashing into the towers, fuel burning, and buildings crashing down) some were never found? Is there a negative effect on the individuality, or just a delay in working through the previous life and moving on?

    Joy

  295. Onething, my husband and I have tended to talk a lot about religious matters before changing our direction. We were always on the same page until relatively recently. He’s still an atheist and thinks I’m being irrational and “going backwards” because I think there is something beyond just the material world. I just can’t agree with the atheistic, materialistic worldview anymore. I think atheism was a necessary stage though, for me anyway.

    I don’t regret any of the churches we went to or any of the religious beliefs and experiences we had. It was all part of the journey to here, where I am now. I may not have everything figured out, and probably won’t ever, but I’m happy, and I feel like I’m growing and learning more and more as my life goes on.

    Probably the biggest thing fundamentalism did for me was to provide structure and strict rules to my parents’ lives. They needed it.

    Patricia, I knew I couldn’t be the only one. 🙂 I haven’t had any kind of experience like that with the Christian God though.

  296. JMG, I downloaded your Monsters book on Kindle and read it. In it, you said that modern burial practices tend to prevent vampires. A lot of the people who are basically training to be vampires are signing up for cryonics. Does that make it more likely that they can achieve their goal? Cryonics definitely does preserve the physical body very well, but I don’t know what the big vats they keep the bodies in are made of.

    You also said that house fays are extinct, but I wondered if maybe it’s more because we tend to have so much metal in our houses nowadays. From where I am sitting right now, I can see 22 items with at least some metal, and this is in only 1 room of my house.

    I also ordered the Dion Fortune book you mentioned, but in paperback, so it hasn’t arrived yet. Thanks for recommending. It sounds very interesting.

  297. To clarify, I meant that the disappearance of house fays could be due to lots of metal in our houses and that maybe they’ve just gone somewhere else instead of being extinct.

  298. JMG wrote: “For example, I love music, and have pretty much no trace of musical talent; I play a couple of instruments anyway, for my own enjoyment, and because I know that doing that means that I’ll have more musical talent to work with the next time around.”

    Oooh! Thank you for this! 🙂

    I too love music. I have a good ear for it and would probably be a quite competent musician had I not left it until my late thirties to start learning guitar, and my early forties (this year) to get a piano. Your words may give me pause each time I start beating myself up for leaving it ‘too late’. I’d best simply get on with the work!

  299. What a fascinating discussion this has been. I’d like to offer a final observation of dreams if I may, as the subject has featured with such prominence.

    I have a Gypsy cousin, by marriage. Naturally she has quite a body of old lore at her fingertips.

    She maintains that one must distinguish carefully between ordinary dreams and ‘strong’ dreams. Before telling any dream, but especially a ‘strong’ dream, it is most important to eat and drink, or the consequences might be unfortunate, one can attract some kind of bad luck. Has anyone heard of this?

    When she told me this distinction, it immediately made sense relating to some dreaming experiences of mine.

    Curiously, when staying with her once I had a ‘strong’ dream if there was ever one, relating to a close friend – the news it contained about their state was not welcome, and was very unpleasant.

    When I returned home, the dream had proved to be a very accurate representation of my friend’s physical and psychic state. A sort of dream diagnosis. My shock was double: their state, and the accuracy of the dream revelation.

  300. @Ray

    No problem – I will look them out. Do you have a gmail address so I could send it to google drive or similar? Mine is “brazenraddish at gmail dot com”.

    Thanks for the archive link; now I know where to go for quick reference!

  301. @Oilman2, Thank you for your reply! That is really valuable information for me. It sounds like the turn toward traditional values I’ve started to see among younger Japanese is more widespread than I thought.

  302. I was thinking again about the cycles of civilization, and the periodic “great resets” that happen. I think I’ve speculated previously that perhaps these are a feature, and not a bug? How in today’s world will souls find a “time of the unicorn” as you’ve phrased it before? If such an experience is something that souls on their journey require, then maybe there is a pressure to create those conditions?

    Right now we’ve got a huge human population, and while there are uncountable different circumstances that can be experienced, it seems as though human societies are pushing towards an ever more homogeneous pattern. Maybe the pattern must be broken for souls to move on.

  303. “Earthworm, fair enough. The reason I say I don’t believe in the demiurge and his archons is that the old Gnostics, who used those terms, insisted that a demonic power created and rules the material world, and I find that notion incompatible with pretty much everything else I know about the cosmos.”

    And on considering what you said upstream:
    “Alex, the basic rule for all conversations with other entities, human or otherwise, is that it’s fine to talk to them but a bad idea to assume that everything they say is true.”

    If it is correct that the old Gnostics came to perceive something through their practices, there seem numerous possibilities. Just for example:

    1. The information was given to them but is not true.

    2. The information was given to them and is true/partially true.

    3. They perceived something but did not understand what they perceived and came to an incorrect interpretation.

    4. Too much Gnostic psilocybin that then got embellished in writings.

    etc etc

    If we step aside from that conundrum and look at:

    “Disembodied (or differently-embodied) beings who have nasty ulterior motives for relating to human beings, who tell lies, manipulate people, and parasitize on them in various ways? That’s quite another matter…”

    …and, for arguments sake assume that the Gnostics were wrong in their basic premise but correct that the so-called archons are one of these disembodied beings you’re better off not doing business with, then, one of the things I’ve been wondering about is this:

    Is there any relationship between the story of the archons and the story of Wetiko?

    From Paul levy (Dispelling Wetiko) referring to Jack Forbes (Columbus and the Cannibals):

    “…professor Forbes who was one of the founders of the Native American movement during the early 60’s says, ‘Tragically, the history of the world for the last 2000 years is, in great part, the story of the epidemiology of the wetiko disease.'”

    If wetiko exists as a psychic disorder/interference of the soul/spirit that manifests itself in influencing human behaviour and generating particular emotional energy states and actions, then, if we accept that reincarnation is real and that the mind/energy state at death is important re the path reincarnation might take – certain disembodied or other-bodied entities might be tempted to take advantage of that if given the opportunity.

    Sorry if I’m rambling!

  304. JMG, thanks for your answer! Can I get away with one more question? You say to Darth Thulhu: “Darth, it’s a standard teaching in many occult schools that a body should be allowed at least three days before burial or cremation, to allow the vital body to separate completely.” Most of my family are cremated and my husband and I definitely want the same, if possible; I’ll likely go last, and can leave instructions that I be stored in the freezer for a few days, but won’t have any close family left to insist on it. If you get cooked (or embalmed) in a rush, how bad is that really? Just temporary disruption, I might hope?

    And it makes me think about PETS, who, unlike animals who die in the wild, usually get buried or cremated. Almost never do people wait three days to bury or cremate an animal; usually if you have needed to elect euthanasia you hand the body over to the vet on the spot. I would not want to mess up the afterlife or reincarnation of our aforementioned exceptionally wonderful cat! At the same time, even though my husband is the more spiritual one, I don’t know if I’ll be able to convince him to live with her dead body for three days.

  305. Hi JMG,

    Thanks much for this post. When I encountered this idea in your Druidry books, plenty of it went right over my head repeatedly. This expansion is full of themes for reflection and meditation, and the discussion has been deep and enlightening.

    For example, the rapid expansion of human incarnations coming at the expense of other animal populations combined with the coming decline in human incarnations as fossil fuels deplete and the idea that “people routinely fall back to less complex and reflective forms of being—yes, that means animal forms—when they turn their backs on their human capacities”, help explain to me the widespread adoption of prosthetic technologies. If most Individualities are incarnating as humans for the first time, and most of us are not going to be able to make too many more upcoming rounds as humans due to a rebalancing of population between humans and other large animals, then most of us are destined to turn our backs on human capacities and return to incarnations a bit farther from the border with Gwynfydd.

    Also, a question arose for me about fossil fuels. Are they, as minerals, part of Annwn? If so, does the extraction and burning of them provide some energetic push in the plane of spirit toward the upper boundary of Abred that is reflected in the energetic push they’ve given to human numbers and capabilities in the physical plane, or is that confounding the planes?

    Anyhow, this post has given me much to contemplate, and I thank you for that. Today is my wife’s due date, and the imminent arrival of our daughter is now colored with the question, “So where has she been before, and who?”

  306. I am coming late to the party, but I am glad it is still going on!
    Bill Pulliam, you will be missed. I thank you for your eloquence, pithiness, and groundedness. I will draw on the strength of your spirit when I have something to say but feel too shy to express it. I have lit a candle for you in thanks.

    JMG, the image you gave of a hand, putting on a silken glove, and then a leather one and then a chain mail gauntlet really clicked for me. It opened up a much better way of thinking of the relationships of the levels of being.

    A question: Do different ways of dealing with human remains have an effect on the process of leaving this life and then perhaps coming back into it? I feel horrified at the idea of being enbalmed and put in a box. I would much rather be left somewhere to decompose naturally. It seems to me that preventing the natural course of nature could somehow make it hard to “remove the hand” from the layers of gloves–so to speak. The idea of an autopsy, cutting out organs, etc also really disturbs me. What is the druid understanding of the proper way to finish the physical remains of a life?

  307. Hi everybody

    (1) Thanks to all who did find the Sufi poems worthy of note. I was quite surprised by the interest!

    (2) JMG wrote: “He could have made the universe work any way He chose, and could as well have set things up so that the finite sins of finite beings would have a finite punishment. Why didn’t He?”

    I must admit the argument is very compelling and I still cannot reconcile why a limited number of years on Earth doing good works should result in eternal bliss whilst the opposite would result in eternal damnation.

    Whilst reincarnation seems to resolve many of those unanswered questions.

  308. As I juxtapose the new (to me) portions of this revelation with my own operative model of reality, one question to help me get oriented: Would you say there’s any resemblance or connection, literal or metaphorical, between the nature of the contents of the Cauldron of Annwn, and the behavior exhibited by Wolfram’s “rule 30” and similar systems?

  309. I’ll miss Bill Pulliam’s comments as well! There was some joking on the Green Wizards forum about frequent commentators becoming “Green Wizard Saints,” so I suppose we have a new one.

    JMG,

    Does (spiritually inclined) magical practice tend to be something engaged in during later human incarnations, or is it just one human possibility that can be experienced at any point?

    Also, what’s your take on the current renewed interest in old Gods in this context? There’s some suggestion in the comments that shifts in pantheons can be explained by the inhabitants of Gwynfydd moving further away from human existence as they continue their own development and being replaced by newcomers. If that’s the reason why some gods lose their following though, then wouldn’t it be a little strange to see (for example) some of the old Irish and Welsh gods forming relationships with humans again?

  310. Harry,

    “I shudder to think how one end of the political spectrum could pervert the idea of Individualities experiencing their first incarnation as humans into a theological argument for race-based discrimination”

    Why would it be race based? The only thing that seems obvious to me is that today’s young campus liberal social justice warrior ultra feminist snowflakes are surely very young souls. They see in black and white, lack nuance, compassion and tolerance.

  311. Jo, good. Dion Fortune wrote somewhere — I can’t find the quote just at the moment — that a knowledge of reincarnation is a valuable source of calmness in facing the stress of life, or something to that effect, and certainly I’ve found it to be such.

    Matthias, I’ve heard similar things from some other Christians. Since I’m not particularly well versed in the Christian scriptures, I don’t have an opinion to offer on the subject.

    James, that’s a surprisingly difficult question, since it’s by no means certain that the Individuality is made of “substance.” I’d say, just at first glance, that you can use either metaphor, depending on which makes sense to you. (Best wishes for a prompt recovery, btw!)

    Prizm, talent of any kind is what you get from doing things in previous lives, and learning languages certainly qualifies.

    Harry, there’s literally no spiritual teaching of any kind that can’t be abused by people who want to turn it into a tool for oppression. Look at what’s been done to the teachings of Jesus, for heaven’s sake!

    Darth, the plausibility issue is common to the whole range of Abrahamic monotheisms, and I’ve discussed that in my book A World Full of Gods, which explores polytheism as an explanation for human religious experience. As for the contradiction, though, however you argue it, you’re still stuck insisting that God set things up so that some souls can damn themselves eternally. Saying that it’s due to the inherent imperfection of the cosmos as it recedes from God provides a mechanism, not a justification; if God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, why did He set up the cosmos so it would get imperfect as it recedes from him? If He didn’t have a choice in the matter, He’s not omnipotent; if He didn’t realize that this would result in some of His children being damned for all eternity, He’s not omniscient; and if He knew perfectly well that the way He chose to set up the universe would result in some of His children being damned for all eternity, then he’s not omnibenevolent.

    So here again, you’re caught in the usual contradiction. It’s considerably less extreme than the version of the same trap found in the teachings of my Scots Calvinist ancestors, who affirmed that a loving and merciful Father had deliberately predestined most of humanity to fry in Hell for all eternity for His own greater glory, but the contradiction remains. Maybe there’s some way to simultaneously affirm a good, loving, and merciful God who’s also omnipotent and omniscient, on the one hand, and eternal damnation of any kind on the other, but I have yet to see any argument for this that isn’t riddled with logical flaws.

    Joy, it’s not even a delay, it just makes things more unpleasant for a dead person to have the physical body destroyed before they’ve had time to fully detach from it. Think of it as a courtesy — one that makes for a less traumatic after-death experience.

    Garden Housewife, I didn’t know about vampires getting into cryonics. I don’t know that anybody yet knows whether preserving a physical body by freezing will do the same thing as, say, mummification — my guess is that it won’t, since freezing creates ice crystals that destroy the cells. I wonder if the would-be vampires have thought through the fact that all it’ll take is one power outage to take care of them…

    As far as metal and house elves, hmm! You may well be right.

    Matt, you’re most welcome. One of the benefits of knowing about reincarnation is that the words “too late” stop meaning much.

    Xabier, fascinating.

    Alex, you’re very welcome.

    Twilight, hmm! That seems entirely possible.

    Earthworm, I’ll have to read up on Jack Forbes and wetiko disease in order to be able to make any kind of informed response.

    Dewey, as I noted to Joy earlier, it’s more a courtesy than anything more; it makes things less traumatic to wait until the vital body detaches before destroying the physical body. Lots of people die in ways that don’t permit that, and it’s traumatic but you get over it.

    Steve, very best wishes on the upcoming arrival! I don’t know that anybody really knows the spiritual implications of fossil fuel extraction. The results have been destructive and dehumanizing enough that I suspect they’re pretty unpleasant. Still, that’s something for the sages and wizards of the future to contemplate.

    Goats, as usual with Druids, there isn’t a consensus. A lot of Druids are very uncomfortable with embalming; the guy who got cremation made legal in Britain back in the 19th century was a Welsh Druid, the inimitable Dr.William Price, and as far as I know cremation is the most common way for Druids to arrange for the disposal of their material bodies. (I plan to be cremated and have the ashes put under a newly planted tree as fertilizer.) All things considered, though, once the rest of you has left it, your physical body is meat — and I’d be perfectly willing to have mine fed to hungry animals, for that matter, if that would do them some good.

    Karim, no argument there at all. 😉

    Grant, many thanks for this.

    Patricia, in earlier times, people in Scotland swapped cooking gear with the house fays. We’re talking a far more robustly physical kind of being than the household spirits people interact with nowadays.

    Walt, excellent! Yes, and the generation of Individualities out of the raw soul-stuff of Annwn might well take place by means of a process similar to the ones Wolfram explored.

    Yucca, people can take up practical magic at any point once they’ve gotten enough experience of being human to “get” symbolism, but spiritual magic — yeah, that usually comes with the beginning of movement toward Gwynfydd. As for the old gods — there’s a curious thing you find in some polytheist traditions, in which each god is a title that’s filled by different Individualities in turn. My guess is that it’s the same title and office and function, if you will, but a new Individuality taking on those things and manifesting his or her power through them.

  312. Yucca glauca (autocorrect thinks your name is Gucci alpaca), I was wondering the same thing about the ancient gods. They also seem to have gone away, but now they seem to have returned. Are they different beings using the same names?

    I had mentioned before my longtime feeling of connection to St. George. When I read The Druidry Handbook, I felt a similar feeling with Lugh when I read about him. It wasn’t a momentary feeling brought on by whatever I’d had for dinner either because it’s still there. I had never heard of him before, and I find this very confusing. If he is there now, where was he in all the many centuries he wasn’t there? Is this someone else? I haven’t prayed to him or anything like that because I just don’t know what’s going on.

    Interestingly, I read about Lugh for the first time just a little before Lughnasa.

  313. @Doug Manners

    If you want memories of between-life experiences, check out Michael Newton’s books. They’ve got the disadvantage that they’re hypnotic regression, but even so there’s a great deal of consistency with other channeled teachings. There are also distortions, of course.

    As far as the rest of it is concerned, there are ways of taking masses of unreliable data and filtering it so the result is more reliable – as long as the distortions aren’t correlated. I know one student of the MT who wants three separate views on the same situation before he regards it as credible.

    @Jo

    Having a reasonably accurate notion of how the system works avoids some of the silliness, like notions of Heaven and Hell.

    @Earthworm

    As I understand it, the Gnostic theology was an attempt to rationalize the disconnect between the amount of senseless suffering we encounter here and the idea of a loving and benevolent God. Like the Platonic concept of the Demiurge being imperfect, it fails on the idea that a perfect Source could create an imperfect creature like the Demiurge.

    The basic problem here is the notion of Perfection. Perfection implies that there is nothing better, and it’s essentially static – it can’t change or it would no longer be Perfect. Any theology that starts out with the idea that the Source is unchanging has a built-in contradiction from the very start.

    @Barry

    When you’re studying the Bible (or any scripture, for that matter, it’s best to look at the context of the entire passage. In this case it’s the entirety of John 14. Most commentators agree that the verse simply says that there is room for everyone.

    @earthworm

    I studied the Gnostics for a while. Remember JMG’s comment that religion is founded on direct experience (Gnosis), formalized into intellectual theology and instituted by politicians.

    What we know of the old Gnostics comes from written material: the actual practitioners aren’t around to talk to, and I’m well aware of the ability of the very intelligent to build systems that look like an inverted pyramid: a whole lot of theorizing on a very small amount of data.

    Their theology is a rip-off of Plato. They have a head honcho (Plato: the Good, Gnostics: the invisible (virgin) spirit), and a bunch of emanations. The place where they differ is that the 12th emanation is a male-female pair named ? and Sophia (wisdom). Sophia decided to create something, and, in an act of hubris, decided not to ask the Invisible Virgin Spirit for its go-ahead and not to work with her consort on the project.

    The result was a misshapen being named Iadabolth (sp:?), who was under the delusion that he was the godhead, and who created the universe. This being was not so much evil as crazy.

    The rest is an attempt to work the idea of Salvation into the scheme by somehow reaching out of the universe created by Iadabloth to the realm of the Invisible Virgin Spirit.

    Sound familiar?

    @Yucca glauca

    Some of the interest in old gods is surely that “our ancestors did it better.” It’s a lot easier to go to the library these days and do some research than it is to understand the current mess (for whatever version of current and mess you’re living in), devise a synthesis that will resolve most of the worst pieces, and get people to agree on it.

    Your speculation is, I think, right on, except that the gods actually show no preference for being one way or another – if you think they rule the four directions, for example, they’ll happily do that as long as it gets you to connect with them. JMG’s point, just previous, is an example of this. If you want to worship the gods with robes and formal arrangements, that’s fine. If you want to worship them sitting on a fallen tree in a quiet glade, that’s fine. If, as one of the Gospels says, you want to worship them by walking into your closet, shut the door and pray by yourself, that’s fine too.

    @onething

    Each incarnation starts out at the beginning, with survival needs, and gradually matures to the place in the reincarnation sequence where the previous one left off, assuming that it doesn’t get stuck earlier for one reason or another.

    College kids are in their late teens and (very) early 20s. If any of them have matured past what I’ve been calling Tier 3, it’s a very small minority. Tier 3 is characterized by a desire for Achievement, and frequently not a whole lot of concern about how one gets it.

    The ones causing trouble are expressing what I think of as Tier 4 sensibilities with Tier 2 or 3 tactics. They’ll grow out of it.

    Tier 4, which is where you begin to find real compassion, can be found in the mid 20s, but usually not until the early 30s. Tier 5, which is where you find universalist sentiments, usually doesn’t manifest until the very late 40s and 50s. This, of course, varies with a great number of factors, but that’s the trend.

  314. I understood the metaphor, but what consequences do you specifically have in mind? Are we going to see more of said consequences in the future as compared to now?

  315. @Garden Housewife, I too am really grateful for the couple of years I spent with fundamental Christianity. They gave me greater self-discipline and all sorts of tools for getting along in western society, pointing out otherwise invisible assumptions, proper ways of handling situations and why certain things were so upsetting to others. I’d been brought up in Buddhism, a religion I still love and practice, but being so outside of society can be very hard on a teenager.

  316. Jim Tucker, the successor of Ian Stevenson, describes a case in his book “Life before Life” of a child who remembered being a snake in a previous life. He recognized the man who had killed the snake and accurately recalled details of the incident that he couldn’t have known otherwise. If that’s true then at least in some cases souls can jump from animals that are quite different from us.

  317. James, thanks for finding this!

    Ezra, good question. I don’t know what consequences to expect — just that it’s probably wise to expect some.

    Kashtan, of course. It would be interesting to know — though of course there’s no way for human beings to do so — whether the child had been human before, and spent time as a snake in order to correct some serious imbalance.

  318. @Earthworm Wetiko disease sounds like a simple description of a certain transmissible psychic pathology. Effectively composed or shadow projection, fear of vulnerability, and resentment blended into a state of maliciousness which harms others in the particular ways which cause them to enter into the same pathology. It is as though the potentials of human psychology are a habitat for a such a pattern, a soul barely past the ‘wolfram stage’.

    I guess it should be view with similar horror as those biological pathogens which from time to time mame or kill millions. Nietzsche observed that the higher the life form the more parasites it must be able to support.

    @ JMG & all

    I sure am fond of these reincarnation teachings, they appeal to me much more than teaching which are other worldly. Even Gwynfydd is this worldly, although aspects of this world beyond my keening.

    What would a soul be needing to learn, such that it would chose the hardships and rewards that have thus far characterized my life to do so?

    Based on my talent for math and other fancy academic skills, some where back there I was even more of a nerd than this incarnation, really educated. I have not done much to develop those talents through training, but working these days as a math tutor I see clearly how much I took for granted the ability to see obvious pathways to a math solution. Circumstances in my life have given my an abundance of opportunities to round out general hands on skills, which I am getting better at taking up; it seems that the Greater Me could use a couple few lifetimes catching up on such. It also seems that this incarnation is rich in opportunities to learn more skillfulness in emotional independence. There are in this life interesting tests of pride, arrogance, humility and generally balancing them out, it seems that a lot of work is in reach there for this life time.

    Another Druid Teacher I studies once said “The Soul Descends to the Material Plane to harvest the fruit of wisdom from the bramble of suffering, before it turns to bitterness.”

  319. @Kashtan, Snakes seem to defy a lot of our expectations based on intelligence. They are pig-ignorant, stupid as sin, and yet I wonder if there is some other faculty they possess that we cannot relate to at all because our brain-intelligence overshadows everything else. Stephen Harrod Buhner talked about a different form of perception using the heart. I recall my bullsnake having a big, slowly beating heart, and a friend and I speculated that they may be really quite sensitive in that regard. Animistic religions seem to hold snakes in high regard as messengers from the gods, or as in the case of the Hopi, messengers from us to the gods. Interesting that a snake would come back as a person. Mine, it would appear, has elected to stay in Gwynfydd. He was presented to me by my biology teacher, who’d mistaken him for a rare nightsnake, and this was right after I’d left the LDS, opening a very big spiritual door for me and a mind seeking deeper knowledge of the divine. I wonder if my snake benefited from the synergy of involvement with a being adept at a completely different form of perception.

  320. JMG, my husband says the cryonics companies use liquid nitrogen in some kind of process to minimize the formation of ice crystals in the cells. They’re constantly trying to come up with ways to eliminate that problem entirely.

    I see that you answered Yucca’s question already. That’s very interesting.

  321. Re the disposition of bodies after death: I’d always thought that I would be an organ donor if possible, letting others gain any practical use out of my remains that they could before composting the scraps. I would love to be compassionate to others even at that stage, and I abhor waste of all kinds. But I wonder, after reading some accounts of (parts of?) spirits apparently remaining with transplanted organs, if my plan is spiritually wise after all? Could I end up disrupting my own transition by passing out my slightly used body parts like party favors at the wake?

  322. Interesting about Dion Fortune. My main reaction to the idea that our purpose here is to ‘know all things and suffer all things’ was a sense of relief. I’ve been driven by a need to have a purpose for most of my life; the idea that my purpose of being here is to fully experience being human is … comforting.

    Reading some of Dion Fortune’s works, as well as Rudolf Steiner’s, what struck me about both of them is that they were both a lot less open-minded than a lot of the current New Age scene. Steiner wrote about how a fear of death was a terrible reason to believe in the afterlife, and Fortune wrote about how the ridiculous behaviour of some occultists made her ashamed to be associated with the science. So much for ‘radical acceptance’!

  323. @John Roth

    It sounds plausible that at least some people that get to experience hell or heaven in the afterlife are really trapped in ilusions or allucinatioins of their own making. I think I have seen this happen in our current life, so it’s quite reasonable that the same may happen in the afterlife. There are certain circles that are known to me through close relatives, and the people there get to experience all sorts of “demonic” possesion and or influence in a more or less routine basis. I must say that I have no doubt that demons are real, but something seems really off with the claims of these people. But on the other hand, a sort of psyquiatric epidemic does not seem like enough explanation, either.

    Instead, my working hypothesis is that these people are mostly afflicted by lesser evils that are either unwitingly created by the focused ideas of the group, or have independent existence but get attracted by the emotions and expectations of the group. I make a point of not getting directly involved with that group, and to expose myself to as little indirect contact as I can manage without cutting ties to my extended family, so I cannot really tell how off the mark am I here.

    But on the other hand, I would not dismiss the possibility of the actual existence of Hell (or Heaven). It is my experience that, while many of our problems come from our own internal contradictions, emotions and unacknoledged desires, sometimes bad things just happen because they are built in into the environment. Bad things happen to good people every day, and while we get some degree of reshaping of our own reality, the Real Reality can come back and bite you in the tender parts with no obligation of forewarning.

    Above all, I would not count on the possibility of “always being able to just realize I was being silly” and walk out of Hell as if nothing. As I outlined before, I think the defining characteristic of Hell is the inability of a lone soul to climb out of it by it’s own forces. People have limits in this life, so it seems natural for them to have limits in the afterlife; but sometimes a limit to a lone person is not the same as the limit for a group of people working together towards the same goal.

    Of course, this is all especulation, since we won’t know for certain until we die, and I find unlikely that we could come back and convince the living of what we experienced, specially of some of those would have subconscious reasons to believe otherwise.

  324. @Onething,

    Why do I remain with the Roman Catholic church? The short answer is that I believe it is good and proper to do so, even if I not always agree with what the leadership says or does. I am aware that there are some unexamined beliefs lounging in my mind’s crawling spaces, but I do grant myself the right to think for myself instead of automatically accepting anything and everything the high clergy happens to be pushing this particular century.

    At the end of day, I derive benefits from my connection to the Church, and this goes beyond peace of mind (though I admit being lazy and reluctanct to alienate myself from my Catholic relatives, and therefore I do not push as hard as I could if I were in some sort of mystic quest or something). I am willing to share that it’s been a couple of years since I came back to my childhood faith for real after a long-ish period of non-practicing. I can tell the difference in my life, and I consider it good, so why should I leave that in the name of some ideological consistency?

    I will remember you that St. Augustine said that “the Church is both saint and sinner”. Fewer people know that his actual words were closer to “the Church is both a saint and a whore”. That the leadership is in some degree of disarray is not a tragedy, its BAU. Part of the faith is to recognize that God often produces good outcomes from botched or incomplete inputs.

  325. I am rereading my comment to John Roth… and I am sorry about darkening the mood.

    I did not intend to talk about an spiritual cul-de-sac where people is basically pushed into Hell Embassy on Earth. Rather, it is the more ordinary experience of fundamentalist types that want to explain away every problem as the result of “evil spirits”, regardless of how much or how little subtle influences are involved. It is still an unhealthy environment to hang around, but not quite the same thing, you know.

  326. “As a person acts, so he becomes in life. Those who
    do good become good; those who do harm become
    bad. Good deeds make one pure; bad deeds make one
    impure.

    You are what your deep, driving desire is. As
    your desire is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your
    deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny.

    “We live in accordance with our deep, driving desire.
    It is this desire at the time of death that determines
    what our next life will be. We will come back to earth
    to work out the satisfaction of that desire.

    But not those who are free from desire; they are free
    because all their desires have found fulfillment in
    the Self. They do not die like the others; but realizing
    Brahman, they merge in Brahman.

    So it is said:
    When all the desires that surge in the heart
    Are renounced, the mortal becomes immortal.
    When all the knots that strangle the heart
    Are loosened, the mortal becomes immortal,
    Here in this very life.

    As the skin of a snake is sloughed onto an anthill, so
    does the mortal body fall; but the Self, freed from the
    body, merges in Brahman, infinite life, eternal light.”

    Yajnavalkya to King Kanaka – Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

    My first post here, thanks for your blogs over the years, quick question: Do you have much to do with Upanishads?

    Dave

  327. Lydia, Isabel, JMG (and Booklover – tangentially) re: dementia

    The name for the phenomena Lydia and Isabel describe is “terminal lucidity”, wherein a person with dementia or other brain condition becomes suddenly lucid as they approach death. It is often coupled with visions of those who have already passed on and other psi phenomena. Sounds like Lydia’s mom had an interesting and atypically long-lived case of this.
    Isabel – mind over matter (especially one’s own body) is powerful stuff.

    http://www.michaelnahm.com/terminal-lucidity
    There are some papers in the “Publications and Downloads” link

    A nice review:
    http://www.deanradin.com/evidence/Nahm2011.pdf

    A search for “terminal lucidity” will find plenty of hits.

    It’s certainly part of the hard problem of consciousness, wherein the brain seems necessary for ordinary thinking and memory, yet there is all this “rogue phenomena” of people having consciousness (and even purposeful bodily movement) with non-functioning or poorly functioning brains, in situations like deathbed experiences, near death experiences and past life memories, etc.

    JMG (and others on the East Coast) – just saw this on the DOPS site, a reincarnation themed event real soon “near” (couple hours by train?) your new neighborhood:

    “September 10, 2017, 2:00 – 4:30 pm, Salem, MA, Across Lifetimes, Children’s Past Lives, presented by the organization At One, Peabody Essex Museum, 161 Essex Street, Salem, MA, 01970.
    Dr. Jim Tucker will be giving a presentation with Bruce Leininger, the father who verified the memories that his son James was having of being a World War II pilot. This is a ticketed event. Please purchase and reserve your seats through Event Brite.”

    The sponsoring organization is: https://www.atonenow.com/home/

    Jim’s paper on the Leininger case:
    https://med.virginia.edu/perceptual-studies/wp-content/uploads/sites/360/2017/04/REI42-Tucker-James-LeiningerPIIS1550830716000331.pdf

  328. Thank you for all that you do.

    Do you think that someone who is better at/more comfortable with communication with non-human animals than humans is in their first human incarnation?

  329. Question:

    In the case of a mass extinction, like, say, the Great Dying, do the more advanced souls automatically revert to the most advanced states still available (i.e. is it compulsory regression, regardless of their own situation) or do they have to wait until life has recovered, until a sufficiently advanced body becomes available?

    In other words, if a super-volcano or asteroid wiped out humans and higher lifeforms, would we have to stop advancing, or would we regress?

  330. @sunnv: That is fascinating–thank you!

    I did some brief hospice volunteering a year or two back (before the facility near me stopped taking volunteers) and one of the things they told me in training was that, as people approached death, they’d often talk about seeing loved ones and so forth. Sounds a lot like you describe!

    @patriciaormsby: As a fellow snake-enthusiast, I really like that idea! I read an article lately about how snakes are more social than anyone had previously thought: http://www.animalcognition.org/2016/01/12/interview-with-snake-behavior-researcher-melissa-amarello/

  331. “Yes, and the generation of Individualities out of the raw soul-stuff of Annwn might well take place by means of a process similar to the ones Wolfram explored.”

    Okay. Thrilled! And relieved. (I don’t have to start over…)

    Please feel free to not put this comment through, though, if I’ve crossed the line into screed.

    Until now I haven’t made a point of proclaiming (though I also haven’t kept secret) the thought process I’ve been engaging in. Which includes taking the concepts you (and others) explain in terms of spiritual entities (spirits, gods, centers of consciousness, etc.) and retell them in terms of patterns, processes, computations, narratives, etc. I don’t really have a name for this line of thought. It’s based on materialism, but not, I hope, the “shallow materialism” you rightly scorn. The difference is actually accepting the strange implications and conclusions that a material model leads to. I’d call it deep materialism, if that didn’t sound so presumptuous. Or spiritual materialism, if that didn’t sound like an oxymoron (most likely because it is, at least technically).

    The point is, there’s a consistent pattern: My accounts of how this and that phenomenon comes to pass work out precisely opposite to yours in terms of cause and effect, yet the implications as applied to our experiences of the world come out the same. That strongly suggests a hidden equivalence between alternative models of the same thing. For instance, “emergent behavior” welling up from the chaos of a rule 30 machine (or interacting particles, or fluctuations in the quantum vacuum) and eventually self-organizing and evolving into more complex forms is the opposite, in causal terms, of spirits cascading down the planes from higher to lower to where they can pull fragments of individuality out of Annwn. Yet the results look the same.

    (It appears to me that you’re quite aware of this pattern, and perhaps also that I’ve been chasing it. You’ve thrown out hints, such as once telling me that inventing memes is the same thing as invoking spirits.)

    Annwn and simple automata are at one extreme, though. For the pattern to hold for phenomena at ordinary scales of experience, the key equivalence required seems to be between consciousness and narrative. I note the under-appreciated fact that the best artificial model of conscious experience we have is not some biochemical process or advanced machine or mathematical formula, but stories told with words and sentences. It’s such a good model that we can easily “lose ourselves” in a good book. And yet we (materialists, at least) then turn around and say consciousness is a complete mystery (except we “know” it’s all in the brain), or something unfathomably complex.

    Consciousness and narrative being closely associated also makes eminent sense from an evolutionary viewpoint. While the survival value of subjective conscious experience seems difficult to assess (due to subjective experience being invisible to any purely functional assessment), the survival value of a narrative understanding of the world, sorting the complexity of sensory input and a large store of memory into a stream of narrative (of characters, things and beings, acting with will and intention) is obvious. So one very likely possibility is that the two are actually the same thing. That is, a narrative understanding in terms of entities (especially including oneself) acting in the world is also what conscious awareness is. (Ask yourself how a being that maintains such an ongoing narrative understanding could possibly not be self-aware.) Whatever causes either one of them, whether it’s a neural process welling up or a higher consciousness radiating down, causes the other too.

    I’m starting from the basic materialist view that the cause of consciousness is the former, the neural processes of the brain. But it appears that the superlatives we apply to the physical brain and its operation—how complex, how powerful, how intricate—can become something of a deep pitfall for shallow materialism. Because the survival after death that the materialist view offers is the survival of ones narrative. If you think of your true self as a tremendously complex powerful etc. organ unfortunately made of highly perishable meat, then living on as narrative (or “worse,” scattered fragments and/or a small core thereof) seems like no consolation at all, indistinguishable from complete annihilation (which, to their credit, I’ve seen many materialists, shallow or otherwise, face quite bravely). But if you accept that a form of narrative is already what your true experiencing self is now, and what it’s always been, then the same passage looks quite acceptable and, more to the point, very similar, or equivalent, to your accounts of what survives (and what doesn’t) in reincarnation. (Thus getting back, at long last, to the topic at hand.)

    That (and a lot more detail I’m omitting) appears to sustain the “equivalence” through Abred. Can it go farther? I don’t know yet. Imagining higher forms of narrative or the processes that might generate them is no easier than imagining higher forms of consciousness or the natures of the higher spirit forms that might possess or engender it. Models are not so readily close at hand. (The scenarios of transhumanism provide no answers or insight, in my judgment. They amount to different ways of locking in existing forms in perpetuity, halting any higher progression rather than advancing it.) But, intuitively, I don’t feel as though this path I’ve been on is about to end abruptly. So I’m hoping I have a lot more to learn, and (as recent sad developments underscore) enough time to learn it in. At least I can be confident (for certain values of “I”) of the latter.

  332. @CR Patiño

    Your comment on the group you’re related to sounds entirely plausible. Such beings exist: I once ran into a demon and had to do an emergency binding – and at the time I didn’t believe in demons, and had no training or experience with bindings. I have my suspicion about where the demon came from, where the help with the binding came from is otherwise.

    As I mentioned before, when millions of people imagine something over centuries of time, that thing will manifest on the Astral plane, so Heaven and Hell exist. They just don’t exist as either a final destination or a necessary experience.

    One of the Great Lessons is that you are part of a greater whole. Separation is an illusion, although it’s a necessary illusion for the lessons of the Physical Plane. There is always help, and since you are part of something else, it will always help.

    @strda221

    We’d find another species on another planet. We’ve already done it once, which accounts for the reason a lot of people don’t feel an instinctive connection to the biosphere. All the initial attunement to the environment we’d chosen to inhabit happened on another planet.

    Either that, or simply go back to the Source (Tao, whatever) with an incomplete. I did that on an earlier grand cycle – we blew up the planet.

  333. @Heather

    You may want to note that the thing that JMG calls “Individuality”, and other people are relating to the more familiar concept “Soul”, is not the same self reflecting thing that psicoanalystis call “Ego”. Many religious and philosophic doctrines agree that the thing that you normally think as “me” is not the real You, but a convenient handle that let’s you operate the composite of material/etheric/mental bodies.

    My own Traditional Chinese Medicine teachings, – which probably can be traced back to Daoist doctrine, – state that each major organ has a distinct spirit, and what we see as the individual’s personality is an emergent phenomenon caused by the interaction between all these para-souls. Each organ has an “area of expertise” of sorts, and does manage distinct and specific personality traits, but they end up influencing one another too. You can start here if you are interested in the details: http://maciociaonline.blogspot.mx/2012/11/shen-and-hun-psyche-in-chinese-medicine.html

    The thing is, most of this para-souls cannot stand incorporeal existence and wither away within hours of the death of the physical body. Liver’s Hun, called “ethereal soul” is said to survive the physical death; and I find it noteworthy that Liver is where the Will resides in the physical body, and also a pretty deep organ, almost on par with Kidneys, where pre-natal Chi resides. This is the closest I can think of to the concept of “soul” were are familiar with in the West.

    So, I based on said doctrine, I do not think you could inadvertidly create an horrocrux of yourself by signing up for organ donation (though liver donation in particular sounds kind of concerning). Still, this does not mean that you cannot “infect” the recipient, for eiher good or ill, with your own habits, emotions, predispositions or even memories. Memories in particular, the intelect resides on the Spleen, whose element is Earth, so they are as close as the physical plane as you could get without manifesting actual particles, or maybe some neurologist will one day learn to decode our thoughts in the form of electric fields and claim to have solved the mind problem… but that will be barely scratching the surface,

    Yet, there are religious doctrines that oppose even blood transfussions, so you may want to study the subject in full detail before commiting to a decision, one way or the other.

  334. Dear JMG,

    Thank you for all you write and today, especially for the annotated translation of Lévi’s book: “The Doctrine And Ritual Of High Magic”. Your writing in general, and notes for this book, are like having a friend right next to me offering guidance.

    I wanted to ask if you have an opinion on the work of Allan Kardec, who was big on reincarnation and is still quite popular today in some places.

    Best wishes,

    Student

  335. I am very sad to hear the news about Bill Pulliam. I always looked forward to reading his comments and will miss his fiercely insightful point of view and his humor. I also enjoyed reading his descriptions of life and goings-on in Tennessee, especially since my family has roots there. Blessings upon Bill and his family and friends

    Also, thanks for this post. Looking forward to reading more like it.

  336. John Roth,

    It sounds like you are saying that people naturally progress through the tiers in the course of their lifetimes, in addition to being born at a certain tier of development of their souls. So, a young person has little real compassion or wisdom, but gains some. I suppose that the younger soul would gain only a little, and an older soul would manifest it at a younger age.

  337. CR Patino,

    “It sounds plausible that at least some people that get to experience hell or heaven in the afterlife are really trapped in ilusions or hallucinatioins of their own making. ”

    I’m sure this can be the case, esp as regards hell. As I have read quite a bit of near-death experience literature, there have been some cases that went straight to a hellish place, but all of them got out pretty quick! And all were either Christian or raised that way. I think it was fear. Not so sure about heaven.

    “As I outlined before, I think the defining characteristic of Hell is the inability of a lone soul to climb out of it by it’s own forces. ”

    Very likely and it is akin to mental illness that way. There is a good movie called “What Dreams May Come” about a wife trapped in hell due to suicide and her husband’s rescue of her.

    “but I do grant myself the right to tristian hink for myself instead of automatically accepting anything and everything the high clergy happens to be pushing this particular century.”

    That got me a chuckle!

    “I will remember you that St. Augustine said that “the Church is both saint and sinner”. ”

    Interesting. I doubt there is any such statement within the Orthodox Church, although in my opinion it was a sinner back in the 4th century or so, but has recovered morally.

    I do understand that your return makes you feel a positive life change. Likewise, I am starting to feel uncomfortable that my grandsons are not exposed to anything with a spiritual aroma. My daughter does not want to expose them to the sexism of the church, in which females are not allowed in the alter. I understand that, but I’m thinking perhaps even that should be overridden. I have a theory that it is a form of child neglect not to expose their forming brains to a spiritual aroma (and I do mean that literally, as the Orthodox services are always filled with frankincense). If we had some better alternative, perhaps that would suffice, but we don’t. I see the Orthodox church fracturing and I wonder if it will ever recover, or if it even should, or if the whole Christian faith is on the way out.

  338. Ray, it’s important not to think of the learning done in a given incarnation in too narrow a sense. You needed certain experiences in order to lay down patterns of action and response, knowing and feeling, that would take your Individuality a step closer to Gwynfydd, and the life you’re currently in is the closest match to that your Individuality could find, among the lives available to it at the time. If you’re seeing opportunities to grow, by the way, that’s a good sign — it’s when you’re moving steadily in the direction of Gwynfydd that you stop responding to life by way of a cascade of automatisms and start responding it as a sequence of learning experiences.

    Garden Housewife, no doubt! Until they do eliminate it, though, you’ve basically got a mass of frozen slush instead of a body — which in the case of would-be vampires is definitely a good thing.

    Heather, I’m signed up as an organ donor, for what it’s worth. The thing is, we’re never as separate from other beings as we think; you’re always taking in vital energies from the plants and animals you eat, and these carry the traces of the Individualities that once ensouled those plants and animals — another good reason to eat things that were raised in natural and humane conditions — and you’re also always being influenced by the thoughts and feelings of the beings that surround you, whether or not they have bodies like ours. I wouldn’t worry about it.

    Kfish, radical acceptance is not necessarily a good thing. As a teacher of mine used to say, openmindedness isn’t useful if you open your mind so far that your brains fall out. The current notion that judgment is always a bad thing makes life very easy for scoundrels, con men, and abusers of various kinds, and the New Age scene these days is accordingly full of such fauna. One of the things I appreciate about Dion Fortune et al. is precisely that they’re willing to point out that some ideas are absurd or exploitive, and some people have made fools of themselves!

    Dave, many years ago I read the translation of ten of the Upanishads that William Butler Yeats was involved in — iirc, Sri Purohit Swami was the principal translator. That’s about the only exposure I’ve had to them, though.

    Sunnnv, terminal lucidity is indeed one of those things that a purely brain-based understanding of consciousness simply doesn’t get. Thanks also for the links!

    Just Me, probably not, unless they only find it easy to communicate with a single species or genus of animal. The kind of broad subtle awareness that makes communication with many species possible is something that has to develop over many lives.

  339. Strda221, one of the things you have to keep in mind is that things don’t just happen at random on the material planes. Spirit is the primary reality, matter is merely its outermost reflection. What that means in this case is that an event that caused the extinction of all life on earth doesn’t just happen by accident; it has a spiritual cause, and so is part of the broader pattern by which souls move through incarnation.

    The great catastrophes are discussed in occult literature. They happen when one swarm of Individualities is ready to move on to a different mode of being, and it’s appropriate to clear the decks in preparation for another swarm to arrive. Thus all the Individualities of a given type (say, the ones that aspired to Gwynfydd through whatever intelligent form of life lived in the late Mesozoic) who didn’t screw up too completely to get to Gwynfydd in less than geological time finished their pilgrimage through matter, and then the asteroid hit. I’ve read that most dinosaur lineages had already become extinct in the late Cretaceous, before the K-T extinction, which is what you’d expect in such a situation — the vast majority of the Individualities on Earth in that age had already moved on, and the extinction crisis just cleared away a mode of existence that wasn’t needed any more so that another, suited to different Individualities, could rise in its place.

    Walt, perhaps you’ll help me here. Repeat the word “narrative” to yourself, and pay attention to your own perception of that word as you repeat it. Do you not notice something that perceives it — a formless awareness “in back of” sensations, feelings, thoughts, et al — something that isn’t a narrative, but is the thing that experiences narratives? That’s what I’m talking about when I talk about consciousness, awareness, etc. I perceive it directly, as clearly as you perceive your hand in front of you, and the same is true of many other people. Do you not perceive something of the kind?

    This is why I end up scratching my head in complete confusion when materialists try to conflate awareness with one of the things that awareness experiences. It seems to me, at least, to involve a very obvious confusion between object and subject. A narrative doesn’t perceive itself, you know. What is perceiving the narrative you’re talking about?

    Student, I haven’t studied Kardec’s work in any detail, but authors whose judgment I tend to trust had a high opinion of him.

  340. Hi John Michael,

    Apologies as I had not originally read your essay with the usual level of concentration that I usually apply to your written work. Anyway, I amended that error and re-read the essay on the train last evening. One section of the essay positively crackled off the screen (like sparks and stuff):

    “The upper boundary of Abred is the point at which instinct begins to give way to choice, where the Personality starts to be able to reflect on its own activities and experience itself as something that stands apart from its own habits of action, reaction, and so on.”

    But of course, and this is where magic comes in to play, does it not? ;-)!

    Have you ever wondered why people understand that, and then fall into the trap of grasping for power over others? I see a lot of that, and it is a bit sad for those individuals.

    I also note that you clearly stated in the essay what the much larger project is that flows from that understanding. Nice work and very clearly written for such a complex and dense subject. Thanks for taking the time to write this essay.

    PS: It’s snowing just outside the window! How much snow can a Koala Bear? ;-)!

    Cheers

    Chris

  341. @onething

    That’s basically it. If you’re attuned to what the tiers look like, you can see the Soul’s understanding peaking out from behind the learning the child and young adult is going through – or not as the case may be.

  342. @Heather and CR Patino,
    I read somewhere of a case of a person who had received a heart transplant, recognizing the donor’s spouse and using a private nickname no one else would have known. The experience was not perceived as negative; on the contrary, quite touching.

    @Isabel Kunkle, thank you! What fascinating new information! Similarly, sharks have been found to be more sociable than anyone imagined.

  343. JMG,
    I am interested in your comment that fission and fusion and related processes are considered as subnatural (as opposed to natural or supernatural). Also that the subnatural realm can be considered demonic in some instances. As a physicist I have never been drawn to studying nuclear physics (even though I took a course or two during my studies). I always thought that was due to the association with nuclear weapons and contamination, but maybe I sensed other undesirable characteristics. Do you have any references to the classification of nuclear processes as “subnatural” and what that means in the occult world?

  344. Hello JMG,

    I’ve been exploring Druidry for a few years, which has led me to your writings. Thank you for addressing this topic; it has puzzled me. My biggest stumbling block regarding reincarnation is the question of the survival of identity. You posit an Individuality beyond all the material and psychological characteristics that seem to define my identity in this life. But then, what makes that Individuality ME? Can you elaborate on what it is that is gives continuity to successive incarnations and makes them all one?

    Saying it is the same soul or same spirit or same Individuality doesn’t answer the question. If there is nothing of that Individuality or those past incarnations that I can experience in a conscious, first-person way during my current incarnation, and nothing of my current incarnation will be accessible in a future incarnation, I don’t see why I should identify with that Individuality or those other incarnations (in the way that I identify with the boy I was or the old man I soon will be in this incarnation — we’re all the same person, the same protagonist in the same story, their actions were or will be my actions).

    These problems become even more acute if we bring in issues of karma, justice, and the consequences of my actions in this incarnation or “my” actions in other incarnations or between incarnations.

    It seems to me that Gwion was Gwion through all the shapes he shifted into, but Taliesin was someone else (?)

    I haven’t read all 350+ responses to this thread, so I apologize if this kind of question has come up and been answered already.

  345. @CR Patiño- Thanks for the response and the link. My mom found TCM to be helpful with some difficult physical problems some time ago, so it was interesting to me to read a little of the theory behind it. I had to laugh at your reference to horcruxes; I must admit the thought had flitted through my mind as I was trying to put my concern into words.

  346. @JMG-
    Thanks for the reassurance. In the process of seriously considering for the first time what it means to have such things as an ethereal body and vital energies and an enduring Individuality- “soul stuff”- in addition to my material body, it can be a little tricky to work out the boundaries. Sounds like maybe the point is that those boundaries are in fact indistinct. Just a little extra incentive for me to get all my bodies in good condition, since I’d like to pass them on in a healthy and useful state.

  347. @patriciaormsby- Those were the kinds of stories I had heard too. They didn’t sound negative, although I admit that I squirm a little bit at the thought of such inadvertent intimacy. (But our good host reminds me that I probably should get more comfortable with the idea of fuzzy boundaries between myself and others.) I guess I’m just trying to get clearer on the relationship between what happens to the body after death and what happens to the more enduring parts of “me”.

  348. JMG has emphasised the legalism of many formal religions, above all the Abrahamic faiths.

    There is a perfect illustration of where this can end in a film made by William Dalrymple about the music and mysticism of Muslim (Sufi) India. He has lived for decades in Delhi.

    After a fascinating review of the music and singing to be found at the often-multi-faith shrines (some of it pretty awful to my Western ear!) he interviews a very orthodox cleric, surrounded by his young students of the law.

    To everything that Dalrymple mentions -the music, singing, mystical poetry of the Sufis – the cleric returns the grim answer: ‘it is forbidden!’

    Just one long recital of utterly humourless prohibitions. Bringing to mind the Persian proverb, that if you can’t laugh often and sincerely, you truly have no soul.

    And who wants Soul-less religion?

    PS I love the idea of would-be vampires ending up as defrosting slush! Perhaps a philanthropist could fund them to freeze themselves, as a service to better humans? It would be euthanisia for vampires. 🙂

  349. JMG, I understand what you’re getting at in your reply to Walt, but I suspect Walt will have difficulty in doing so, as will anybody else who has not done some form of meditation.

    You ask Walt to repeat the word “narrative” and ask “Do you not notice something that perceives it — a formless awareness “in back of” sensations, feelings, thoughts, et al?” But this is repeating Walt’s error. When you notice something, awareness is what is doing the noticing. It cannot itself be noticed – as you yourself imply in your next paragraph. What you may eventually notice is *the fact* that awareness *has been* perceiving things such as narratives etc., and you can retain this awareness of the fact while continuing to perceive. Eventually you may reach a point where you can retain awareness of the fact that awareness *is currently* perceiving narratives etc. while continuing to perceive, but awareness of a fact is not the same as awareness of a thing, and you can never be aware of awareness itself.

    Perhaps you did not want to lay out the situation fully because you felt that a more accurate description would be still more confusing. Nevertheless, the fact that you yourself make the same error of description as Walt will I think confuse more people than it convinces. I suspect that the only people who actually understand what is going on are those who have done some form of meditation, and this is the reason why again and again “materialists try to conflate awareness with one of the things that awareness experiences”.

  350. onething: Dismissing your political opponents as less spiritually evolved is a pretty cheap rhetorical trick, and also a pretty tired one. It should ring familiar to liberal who’s been told that their convictions are a phase they’ll grow out of once they’re wise enough to see the obvious truth of conservatism, or any conservative who’s been told they’re simply too “backward” to intellectually grasp the obvious truth of liberalism. It seems pretty clear that in the reincarnatory framework JMG describes even old souls can fall into error, be convinced of bad ideas, or ignore the guidance of their higher faculties. I think we’d all be better off assuming that those we disagree with are just as cognitively and spiritually competent as we are, and arguing with them as equals.

    By the way, I myself used to be pretty thoroughly convinced of the dogmas of modern campus/internet liberalism, and while I think I’m still farther to the left than many of the commenters here I’ve reconsidered many of my beliefs and come around to recognizing that the critics of PC-ism have a point. I credit this shift largely to JMG’s cogent and even-handed presentation of his arguments and his willingness to engage opposing ideas on their own merit.

  351. Chris, excellent. Yes, exactly.

    PhysicsDoc, I’d have to do some digging — as I recall, it was Rudolf Steiner who talked about the subnatural as distinct from the supernatural, but I no longer recall exactly where. (It was some time ago.) Perhaps one of the anthroposophists who comment here can help!

    Mike, it’s quite simple, actually. As long as you identify yourself with your Personality, the Individuality isn’t “you” — at most you can experience it as a “higher self” or something of the kind. One of the core things that happens in the course of spiritual practice, though, is that you come to realize that your Personality isn’t you — it’s a mask or shell over the Individuality, which is who you really are. As you realize that, you begin to recall previous lives, because it’s the memory of the Individuality that retains all that.

    Heather, you’re most welcome! I know it’s a lot to absorb.

    Xabier, apparently a significant number of people want that kind of religion, as it’s perversely popular…

    Doug, au contraire. What we’re calling “awareness” is one facet of the Individuality, which is a complex structure that can perceive many aspects of its own functioning. The trick of getting someone to perceive their own acts of perception is one I’ve used many times to help people who don’t meditate understand the difference between awareness and its usual objects. I originally picked it up from a book on ninjutsu by Stephen K. Hayes, who apparently had just as much success with it.

  352. @JMG – if the Scottish Faery Folk were swapping kitchen gear with the locals, I’d be inclined to think they were magical people, as the Etruscans were to the Romans the Celts to the Victorian English, and Aborigines to Australians. I realize this is the “Little Dark People” trope found throughout British fantasy of a few decades ago, but it makes sense to me.

    Likewise, Dion Fortune’s nature spirits born into human bodies struck me in the case of here non-fiction account, as fetal alcohol cases. It really read like an outtake from The Broken Cord by someone who didn’t know what she was seeing! She herself confirmed it by throwing up her hands at the end and saying “For what it’s worth, they were conceived when their mothers were drunk.” [Which of course does not cause FAS, but does indicate a likelihood of Mom drinking while pregnant as well.]

    She makes a better case in the Doctor Taverner story, but when the girl’s savant talent for drawing came out under the good low-pressure care and treatment she was getting, I found the couple also, today, would be diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum somewhere. Since at least two members of my circle (whose priest, a born Mind Healer, is a pre-school teacher, deeply into the Faery realm and adds hard Midwestern common sense to it) are so diagnosed officially, and since I’ve read up on the subject on my own behalf, I would tend to agree. Which may, of course, just push the Nature Spirit issue back one step further. [Except that as a nature spirit,I’d make a good City Mouse.]

  353. P.S. Dion Fortune also said that the Green Ray was well-suited to two sorts of people: those whose innate nature it was (like Jay, my Circle’s priest); and those who were too well socialized in youth and in strong need of a corrective. I took that as a green light, went ahead, and have never regretted it, difficult as I find contacting nature for any prolonged period of time.

  354. JMG. Yes, it is strangely popular: they seem to get their kicks out of having no kicks.

    Or rather, by sticking their humourless, beaky, noses into the business of others, with ‘divine’ sanction.

    The funniest example of this, the most surreal I have yet encountered, is the State Inspector in Teheran, a cleric who has the job of visiting beauty parlours and making sure – by ocular inspection – that the ladies there are not indulging in ‘un-Islamic’ hair styling in regions we shall not mention in so seemly a blog.

    Well, someone has to keep things pure and holy…..

  355. @John Roth

    Wow, that must have been a frigtening experience. Glad you came out ahead, and also glad that you were able to open yourself to the help that was available.

    @Onething,

    I did not remember you were an Ortodox Christian! I have fond memories of a certain greek magazine I found in the Internets of yore, which helped me a lot back when I began questioning my faith in my early twenties. I’d probably have converted back then if I had been aware of an Ortodox church and community in my hometown. Best wishes to you and yours.

    @Heather,

    Very welcome. Glad you found that interesting.

    @JMG

    It is pretty late in the week, but if you could indulge with the subnatural subject. Dmitry Orlov was discussing something roughly similar before going behind the paywall. He called that the Technosphere, and it was sort of like Gaia, but manifested in Industry and Technology instead of Nature. He saw that entity as ultimately inimical to life itself. What are your thoughts on that? Do you see it as a different manifestation of the same thing, or not related at all?

  356. Wow. That was chewy. Got stuck in my craw repeatedly! I read every comment (almost – I’m also starting to figure out who I can skip over ’round here! Hehehe.) In nearly 6 years of reading your weekly offerings I’ve never read every comment before, so needless to say, I’m fascinated. I even followed most of the links! And I’m not a fast reader – I need cud time – so it was a real commitment. But a fascinating one. I’ve been dealing with a debilitating back muscle pull for the last few days, so that has contributed to having enough down time to pull this off. Coincidence? Eh, I might have thought so at one point…

    Like several other commenters I’ve never given reincarnation a second thought really. Although I suppose that makes sense when you spend the first 20 years of life immersed in the Southern Baptist church, and the second 20 years as an angry atheist…(seems to be some cause and effect there, eh?)

    These days? Well, let’s just say I’m trying to sort things out with as little influence from the 2 prior worldviews as possible.

    So just a few comments – and apologies in advance for running on a bit, but I can only comment at the library – and I’m out.

    1) First, I’d like to congratulate Iolo Morganwg on his super-duper Welshy druid hero name. I love it.

    2) Secondly, good heavens, I’d like to extend my condolences to Bill Pulliam’s family and (closer) friends. Bill and I bumped heads early on – remember my former worldviews – but by the end I was certainly fascinated with the man. He didn’t live too far from me and I secretly hoped we would meet one day. Now I am left to hope all this reincarnation business is the real deal so maybe I can make good on that one some day.

    In memorium, I’ve been adding trees for magical workings to my garden more than normal lately. (Don’t know quite what to do with them yet, but preparing all the same.) Bill Mollison got a hawthorn last year, and Bill Pulliam is getting a rowan tree. May it entwine our Individual threads for a long time to come.

    3) Third, a thought on the development of soul direction for prokaryotes: Many (most?) microbes are associated with plants, fungi, and animals. There was some discussion earlier about (forgive me for not remembering names) animals maybe sidling up to humans to reach the human level sooner. Perhaps the microbes that unfold along, say, a plant lineage, instead of the animal equivalent, did their formative years as ecto- or endofauna on an oak or gum tree? Perhaps that early association just tends to stick with us? It’s fascinating to think that the microbes in my gut might be torn between pursuing a career in animal or fungal studies! Or perhaps considering some post-secondary debt-accruing education in waste stream management! Don’t do it!! It’s a trap! Did you ever consider being a polymeriphage??

    4) I have no memories of past lives, but I’ve never tried to find any either. When I talk to people about peak oil and energy descent issues the most common reaction is dismissal of the subject, out of hand. “I haven’t seen any evidence that there’s any problem to concern myself with.” No, perhaps not, but have you bothered to look? There was a great quote here recently to the effect of the subject’s being prepared for the conversation at hand where his debating partner was not. Isaac Newton maybe? I will research before I judge! Starting with Stevenson and Fortune.

    5) Lastly, I’d like to add my name to the list of people who spent ample time praying to the Christian god growing up and feeling like nobody was home…thanks for voicing that observation.

    And finally, wow, JMG, what a piece! Thanks for sparing us all the time.

  357. John Roth,

    I’d like a link to the bit about us coming from another planet. It’s not a new idea to me, but I’d like the MT take on it.

    Walt,

    I tried hard to understand what you’re saying, if only to refute it, but I couldn’t get a handle on what you think so I couldn’t.

    Fred,

    I’m sorry I spoke offensively. I do not dismiss people with different opinions as less spiritually evolved and I always argue with people as equals. The fact that I am willing to argue with them at all is, I think, a pretty big step up. That is, what I object to is behaviors, not broad categories like liberal or conservative. Behaviors like shutting people down so as not to hear them and engaging in group think and crowd behaviors.

  358. Condolences to friends and family of Bill Pulliam. His feedback displayed wisdom well beyond his years. Perhaps a fitting memorial would be a writing contest/event, where we could expand on some of his thoughts, or provide fiction and non-fiction stories in his memory. With a few Vikings most likely in my family tree, I can already think of a couple ideas.

    Fantastic and useful post on reincarnation. Twenty-five years ago I would have dismissed it as a lot of hooey, but as I’ve grown older I’ve progressed from the close-minded “I know everything that’s important” stage to the narrow-minded “Maybe I don’t know everything, but almost all that’s important” level. I’m intrigued that Stevenson’s work involved children – certainly a more pure data source, before age and experience can pollute our minds.

    The thought most strongly that came out was the idea of so many “first-time humans” living today. This would explain to me why the concept of reincarnation is more popular in the East, where the oldest populations dwell – and why Eastern religions embrace the idea, while the narrow-minded, mechanical religions of the West focus on a single stage transition from birth to heaven. Of course since one of the main goals of Western religions is control, rather than actually helping a person spiritually, it results in conflict versus the nature-based view of things. Reincarnation would also explain why life is considered more “sacred” in the West, as it’s viewed as a single metamorphosis.

  359. JMG, I think we are probably in agreement about what happens, but it seems to me that you are misdescribing it. When you say you get people to “perceive their own acts of perception” they are not actually perceiving awareness itself, since awareness itself has no characteristics that can be perceived. In fact, insofar as you can talk of an act of perception, you are referring to various activities surrounding awareness, not awareness itself. Perception is an act. Awareness is not.

    (I am dividing this post into two halves because the system won’t allow me to post it all together.)

  360. (continued)
    Such activities surrounding awareness may lead you to perceive one thing rather than another, or one characteristic rather than another, or may lead to the object of your awareness being more or less clear or distorted. These are what I referred to as *facts* about awareness, and in this sense you can be aware of the act of perceiving. In this sense, for example, you can describe your own awareness as being ‘dim’ or ‘sharp’. From the fact that what you perceive has these characteristics, you conclude that your awareness itself is ‘dim’ or ‘sharp’. However, these are *facts* about your awareness. You know them by inference, since the things you are aware of are themselves ‘dim’ or ‘sharp’. The actual awareness cannot itself be perceived.

  361. @ John Roth

    Could you please elaborate on what you mean by tiers?

    Like most people on this site, I am not familiar with the Michael Teachings. I tried looking up the subject on Google and most of what came up was some references to “soul ages” and “the seven roles”, so I am confused. How do tiers relate to the MT concept of soul ages and roles? I do have some familiarity with Spiral Dynamics and the writings of Ken Wilber. How would the MT concept of tiers relate to models of development posited in SD and Wilber’s writings?

    What sources would you recommend as an intro to the Michael Teachings?

  362. @ Ray Wharton

    What is the “wolfram stage”? Is this part of a model of human development? If so, which model and how does it work?

  363. Also, I know its a bit late in the comment cycle, but I would like to give my condolances to Bill Pulliam as well. He was quite interesting and I will miss his comments (I even wondered what he was going to say about this thread before I saw JMG’s post). I wish him peace.

  364. I too would like to express my condolences at the passing of Bill Pulliam. We didn’t always see eye to eye, but he was one of the wisest, most insightful and most interesting commenters on this site, the Archdruid Report and the Well of Galabes. He will be missed by a great many people.

  365. Recently started reading the Secrets of Dr. Tavener. I just finished reading the fourth story, “The Soul That Would Not Be Born”. I am also looking to study her other works.

    The ones I have read so far are fascinating stories, including the first one about a vampire who haunts a World War I veteran after he returns from the front. Dion Fortune insisted in the intro that while the stories were published as fiction, they were based on things that actually happened and the story about the vampire, “Blood-Lust” was literally true.

  366. I have a memory of choosing my parents. The most visual part was seeing Edvard and Lily in their basement apartment in New York. They were Norwegian immigrants. I told my spirit guide that I wouldn’t be very happy with them because of their religiosity. I saw tough times ahead. The guide said the tough times are there to be overcome. I told the guide that I’d remember all this, and he said to go ahead, it wouldn’t change anything.

    An early memory in this life (about a year old) was sitting in a high chair and my mother was feeding me. Other people were in the room and they were making noises at me. I knew they were trying to communicate but I didn’t know their language. I asked myself, who are these people and what am I doing here?

  367. To all,

    I really don’t think the purpose of JMG divulging this information on theories of reincarnation were to encourage people to play the victim-aggressor-judge game. It’s all too easy to play that game, and if this framework is used to play that game, then I’m afraid the person is entirely missing the point. Even if someone were not as “experienced” in the sense of their journey towards Gwynfydd as another, using that point against their ideas and experiences is very likely one of the reasons you’ve been reincarnated again and given this opportunity to value every soul incarnate, because, ultimately, it is a process. Just like with children who in their infancy and early years especially fill us with lots of amusement because they see the world through a different lens, they also can be admire for the simplicity with which they are able to see things which we all too often have fit into a label and tossed aside.

  368. @ Erik the Red

    That was actually a reference to @ Walt’s reference to Wolfram’s rule 30. Put simply Wolfram discovered a set of extremely complex patterns that could emerge from amazingly simple rule sets. The implication for this conversation, as I presently understand it, is that simple freshly minted souls might, just might, be self propagating patterns existing like a kind of feed-back loop, and that if this is the case the subsequent maturation of that soul is the acting out of that simple beginning as it accumulates complexity from interaction with the larger world.

    What I was trying to say is that the pathology @ Earthworm was bringing up could actually be an extraordinarily simple soul, which exists parasitically on the vulnerabilities of more complex souls. Consider in biological evolution how parasites commonly evolve to be much simpler creatures than their closest non-parasitic relatives. As many of their own functions are out sourced to the host, upon which they totally depend.

    I am still feeling around in the dark for ways to think and communicate in this topic.

  369. JMG,

    I too am sorry to hear about Bill Pulliam’s death for all the reasons better said by others here.

    As for what survives death, I take it you understand it to be that bundle of consciousness that are one`s predispositions, intentions, and their trajectories or momentum that can be thought of as one’s core identity.

    Some of these seem to be associated with transplanted body parts, hearts in particular. And the life of such continues with the part that lives on. This phenomena does not negate the possibility of the core self of the deceased continuing on elsewhere as well but it does give a reason to pause and think..

    Such thoughts have led me to wonder about collective consciousness and the boundaries of what can be thought of as a “self”. Say that of a hive or other collective awareness like slime mold or other fungi. Or a stand of trees sharing the same root system. Or even the “mind” of a Lake of other ecosystems if this isn’t pushing it too far. The constituent parts come and go but an identifiable thing endures, Perhaps the defining characteristic of such a “self” is a persistent intention or will?

    If so, can one push the concept even further to meaningfully talk about the collective awareness of human societies (i.e. a nation’s angel) or even the entire planet along the lines of the concept of a conscious being, or god, one could call “Gaia”? Their parts come and go, even those rarified bits we might call souls, but the collective `Soul` continues?

    Now the world is full of spirits, sprites, souls, and gods?

    Any thoughts? Complete rubbish?

  370. Before hearing of Bill’s death I too was eager to read his response to this post, but, so it goes. With that door closed I am going to quote the past comment of his which most engendered this desire for consideration, and some thoughts on it.

    Bill Pulliam: June 30, 2017
    “Chiming in with my thoughts on reincarnation and the idea that it is the most sensible, natural etc. thing to conceive…

    I think belief in strict one on one reincarnation reflects a giant bias towards thinking of the individual as something discrete and atomic. In nature we see that when a body dies, it is far from atomic. It disintegrates and becomes part of billions other life forms, beginning instantly after death (even before, in the case of a prolonged health decline). No part of the physical body passes through death intact without massive chemical interventions. Even the things that may seem to persist, like teeth, are in fact just shells deprived of the parts of them that were “alive.”

    Nothing in nature except for an atomic nucleus passes through death and back into new life intact, at even a microscopic level. I personally believe that the only reason one-for-one reincarnation seems “reasonable” is because the Ego refuses to imagine or accept its dissolution.

    What about past life memories? Well simply because you have access to first-person experiences of people who lived in the past does not mean that you are that very person reincarnated. Mystical practitioners are able to have all sorts of first-person experiences that are separate from their present-day bodies. In the physical world, I can see a photo of a breaching humpback whale. And I certainly can imagine one vividly. It doesn’t mean I ever was anywhere near that whale in physical space-time.

    I think if we look to nature as our analogy, we should expect the dis-integration of our individual consciousness and Ego, a returning to “consciousness soup” from which drops will be taken to form the individual consciousnesses of new living beings. The Ego rebels at this idea. But the Ego rebels at a lot of things. That is one of the things it does best.

    Nature-based spirituality…”

    When I read this I thought it was very plausible, and I also thought that Greer’s response to Bill made a good counter point:

    John Michael Greer: July 1, 2017
    “Bill, by the same logic, I could insist that you’re not actually Bill Pulliam — you just think you are, because you’ve been supplied with all his memories. Of course it’s possible to argue against the validity of apparent past life memories, and you’re free to do so; I find it more useful to treat them as a source of self-knowledge.”

    As I try to find my footing on this topic this exchange has been a backdrop. When I first began taking seriously the concept of spiritual beings I had a line of thinking very much in line with Greer’s point. Certainly there are various ways to explain away spiritual beings as epiphenomena of materialism, some of which can be very useful and fruitful lines to explore, but the arguments which I can think of strong enough to assert that a spiritual being isn’t really real can also be used to assert that a person isn’t really real. That is to say sure there are powerful enough solvents to do the trick, but powerful solvents can be dangerous and can clearly dissolve the reality of things which we have good cause to not dissolve, and that we might be better off accepting at face value. For me it became more useful to consider persons and spirits as having a similarity in their ontology, in that there are useful positions which deny their ontological reality, and there are other, very very important, positions which absolutely rely on accepting their ontological reality.

    In the spiritual teachings I have managed to make sense of there is the notion of distinct planes, such that ways of thinking which work quite well on one plane fall on their face in others. I think that insight is an important tool to move forward from this ambivalent position. On one had Bill had a great point, that the ego and, if I am applying the term from this post correctly, the personality are composite beings; which according to the Buddhist teachings I put some stock in are impermanent. They behave in important ways like ‘stuff’, such that they come together and dissipate with impermanence. It also seems to be the case that Bill’s perspective makes sense of a wide swath of the phenomena in question. Consider, for instance, that there are many things which come together to make my life what it is, and that there is little reason to think that the ‘gauntlet and gloves’ stay together over time. The silk, leather, and steel may be recycled into various vastly different forms over deep time, perhaps mixed and recast with other substances and spread in to various manifestations. The iron, material body, that I am is the iron of others having been eaten, the leather also might not be too discrete in final analysis, and the silken glove is woven from many yarns I have picked on over time too. Rust and decomposition into their original planes.

    I might not know much about how to think about the plane where the individuality has its reality, or about how to think of such things, but I can consider the following line. What if it is decidedly not stuffish in nature? Bill’s point works well on stuffish aspects of the phenomena, but what if it, the individuality is described by rules more akin to the plane of mathematical or logical reality? Well, real things on that plane don’t seem to exist with the same kind of causality as the material of common experience. If, for instance, the individuality is at all like those things which Wolfram was studying using his rules, then a individuality has its entire destiny in its nature right of the bat, much like how pi has it’s value regardless of its not having been computed beyond a finite estimation. Going a step further down this trail, the individuality taking incarnation might be akin to pi being computed, making use of what ever material is available to represent it. In that can the material is a representational approximation of it. This leads me to suspect that I am still a plane or more away from thinking about the realm of the individual proper, but also that this logical plane is perhaps a closer approximation than a stuffish plane.

    Incorporating into this line of thought the notion that our abstractions about such things are less real than the raw experience they attempt the do justice to with the comments in this thread associating the Individuality with awareness opens up a door to go a step better than the logical plane. I have so far tended to think of that awareness as being very nearly the will itself, and lacking representational distinction very nearly undifferentiated, that is to say originally non individual.

    I also am clearly aware of my own, individual, awareness. Fun fact, the first time I was drunk the most positive aspect of it was my awareness, sober as a judge, watching drunk Raymond’s absurd attempts to navigate this new way of being, specifically how to use a door in a narrow hall way. In a strange way me being drunk made the sobriety of that aspect of my nature stick out like a beacon, bugger all the awareness could do to help the poor drunk beast it was watching get out of that hall way with out acting a fool. I guess if the Awareness can stay true to it’s nature even while the brain that it associates with was so well pickled it wouldn’t be that much more of a stretch for it to maintain if the whole body went to feeding the worms.

    Sitting here at the keyboard, chewing over that most vivid recollection in the light the the above considerations, it seems like the individual is in an intermediate position between the undifferentiated will and an awareness unfurling itself from a simple representing blip into a more whole awareness.

    Since I lack the words to really explain or justify the image of the Individual thus formed, I will close by mentioning some things that look to be the case based on the image I now have. These could be all wrong, but they should give a sense of what I am getting at more that continued fumbling with explanation. First, by the time the first cell formed, as we know them, there were already Spirits of extraordinary cleverness, clever enough to guide matter into such an exquisite instrument for manifestation. Second, ecosystems which are self regulating, even in the most basic ways, already evidence some Spirits approaching Gwynfydd. Third, if humans in our absurdity, can get with in spitting distance of Gwynfydd then it seems that even beings on the far side of the line likely still have a plethora of interesting follies to explore. Fourth, I recall the image of Abred being a circle nested with in Gwynfydd, I take a literal aspect of that to be that two points on Gwynfydd can be much further from each other than the furthest two points with in Abred. Fifth, many disembodied entities are NOT in Gwynfydd, even extraordinarily powerful ones could be simple souls writ large. Sixth, many things with spirits that seem simple could be manifestations of beings well into Gwynfydd, for instance certain types of cells might collectively be a manifestation of something in Gwynfydd, as opposed to spirits comparatively fresh into Abred. Seventh, a great part of what the Spirits are doing in their time of manifestation is collectively tending the material world to be a suitable vessel for incarnation. This is all not even speculative, just trying to describe an image of it, cartoonish though it may be. I still find the persistence of an individuality baffling, and though it is taught that all spirits eventually reach Gwynfydd, I don’t yet see evidence of that, on that point my habit of thinking about natural selection biases me toward supposing that there are many dead end paths. The acorn becomes the mighty oak, or a squirrel’s breakfast.

  371. Hi John Michael,

    Thanks very much! :-)! So, dwelling further upon this subject this morning, I had another thought that I wanted to check out with you, if you’d be so kind as to consider my ramblings?

    So, the larger project seems to my mind to be a sort of quest really where there is an objective, but there is no road map. And the objective that your mind can grasp, is just one point along an even larger road with other objectives along the way. And given that there is no road map, I reckon the whole path fits nicely into the concept of dissensus which also means that the results relate specifically to what the individual chooses to undertake (I mean that in the doing sense of that word and not the knowing sense). Interesting indeed.

    Cheers

    Chris

  372. Hi John Michael

    Coming out of the shadows to wish Bill Pulliam a speedy journey, he also was generous with his knowledge.

    I found you a few years ago through the ADR and you just made such sense it felt like I had found my tribe. Currently I am working my way through the WOG, a few of your books, and I am also following the book club.

    Thank you for all you do.

  373. Hello, JMG, if I managed to get this in under the wire–

    Somebody a couple of weeks ago asked you how one reconciles reincarnation with “traditional” afterlives like heavens and hells, and with ancestor worship. With this post, you’ve laid out a clear answer to the first (any heaven or hell is finite) but I’m not sure about the second. How does the model you’ve presented fit in with people who feel they are in contact with ancestors who have been dead for quite a while? Is it that the only ancestors who talk back to them are either ascended to Gwynfydd or not yet reincarnated; and anyone else is an imposter?

  374. By the way, you commented above that you were intrigued by the interest in spiritual matters this post has generated. May I suggest that it also might be (protestations of various secular parties aside) that part of the response this week is due to the fact that you’ve put forth a model of reality here which tells people something that they like hearing. Telling people that (unless they make a world class wreck of it) they get as many tries as they need to get it right, and by the way, nobody will ever *really* have to die, is very pleasing to most ears, I should think. Quite the opposite from saying people can’t have what they want for as long as they want (star travel, internet, oil), you’re saying everyone gets everything they most deeply want and need, forever and ever.

    Not that I’m complaining, mind you. 🙂

    By the way, I seem to recall a comment you made recently that it’s estimated by some (druids?) to take about 30 human lifetimes to reach a higher level. Not that there’s a rush, or that rushing is even possible, but that brought to mind quite a contrast with a vivid Buddhist teaching tale I read in a collection of Lafcadio Hearn stories recently. The Buddha and a disciple spend days and nights strenuously slogging up an unforgiving mountain path. Underfoot the path is laden with dry brittle stones that the disciple comes to realize is human skulls. As they reach the top, the Buddha reveals that this mountain is made entirely of the skulls of the disciple’s own previous lives– billions of them. At which point comes the old standard “wouldn’t you like to escape from this endless cycle of death” and so on.

    Obviously, it’s easy to suggest that a majority of the skulls were non-human incarnations. And I’m not sure that it matters too much either way– though I think I’d probably prefer the thought of thirty human lifetimes over the thought of billions. If only so I could better envision the progress on a human-sized scale! (Not to mention that it’s highly unlikely that human beings have existed and will continue to do so for billions of generations…)

  375. One last thought, hidden here at the end of the week where few are likely to ever read…

    Back in my atheistic days, I reasoned that there was only one kind of reincarnation that would make sense to me, and that would be to reincarnate as *everything* one time, looping through time to relive the universe as many times as necessary. Every life of any person (or non-person) who ever lived would then essentially be one’s own future and past lives. Taking “be all things, know all things, suffer all things” to another level, if you will. Who knows, it’s not actually ruled out by your model– you’d just reincarnate one eternal spirit at a time rather than one life at a time. Maybe they’re both true!

    @patriciaormsby

    Always nice to see you here, I’m planning to be at Kotohiraguu in October– I’ll catch up with you soon, I hope!

  376. JMG,
    In my late teens and early twenties my spiritual teacher taught me that we evolve from mineral kingdom through plant then animal and human then to spiritual and beyond after that.
    Since then I’ve noticed the details of reincarnation change with the different belief systems, but they all seem to install the drive to spiritual growth.

    I’ve often felt the details of how never mattered but installing spiritual growth was the important part.
    Recently I’ve heard the idea that so much BS in spirituality is because it teaches how to think not what to think.
    I’ve thought on that a bit and I think there’s something to it.

    I feel this is a good example of this, what does it matter how we got here, what matters is what we do now we’re here.

    Cheers,
    KNS

  377. JMG,
    Also, my own personal evidence of reincarnation. When I spent time in India (decades ago) hanging around ashrams, I bumped into one of the Karmapa Lama’s, this guy was about 21 year old and the energy around him was phenomenal, I could feel his presence in the hallway about 10 metres away. I’ve never been in the presence of someone anywhere so spiritually strong.
    As an aside I figured the other Karmapa Lama would have to be a fake, but someone who’s met him said the same thing, so no idea how it works, but maybe a single soul can reincarnate into multiple bodies at the same time.
    For a 21yo (or anyone) to have that kind of presence, could only be from prior development, not possible just in a short span of 1 life.

    Lastly, my daughter, when at about 3 started talking about the land she lived in before she was in mama’s belly.
    Sounds like she was in an African village, I probably should have recorded the details down, but I do feel (as I was originally taught) this stuff whilst interesting is more of a distraction to genuine spiritual growth.

    Cheers,
    -KNS

  378. Hi JMG, and thanks for the reply.

    Yes, I perceive that formless experiencing awareness quite clearly. I just find it less likely that that part of me individually continues after death. (If the purpose of incarnation throughout Abred is to be, know, and suffer, maybe that’s because experiencing requires the apparatus of an incarnated condition.)

    I agree that a narrative doesn’t perceive itself. My hypothesis, though, is that a process that creates a narrative from sensation and memory can, or must, experience the narrative it creates, and thereby experience itself as the (usually) main character of that narrative. I could be wrong. And I don’t expect to persuade; as I said, our models are diametrically opposite in key respects. As it’s very late in the weekly cycle, I’ll leave it at that.

  379. @Onething

    There are two references:

    The first mentions it almost in passing:

    http://www.michaelteachings.com/previous_cycles.html

    For the second, go to our.truthloveenergy.com , pull down “Activity Feed”, select “search” and enter “Sirius”. This material has not been consolidated, so diving into it is somewhat like diving into the Pacific Ocean after practicing in the wading pool.

    There’s a great deal of material under Fringe and Human Timeline Project (almost all the way down) which is embargoed – it’s only available to members, and is not to be posted elsewhere. This includes the most coherent explanation I’ve seen of the origin on “Sirius” and what had to be done to transplant the species here.

    PLEASE NOTE: Michael and JMG have very different goals for what they’re teaching; that affects the material. I’ve stuck as closely as possible to the topic for this week, which means I’ve barely touched the surface of the MT. In the same sense, Michael is not particularly interested in ceremonial magic or religion of any kind; they doh’t talk about gods etc although it’s not hard to see them behind the scene if you know what you’re looking at.

    A lot of what Michael teaches, and their attitude in general, has to do with a vastly expanded set of possibilities. To give a flavor: Michael does not regard the possibility that we may render the planet uninhabitable for higher life forms as catastrophic. We can move elsewhere. This would be highly traumatic, have numerous unintended consequences and generally be a Very Bad Thing, but it’s not The End. Consequently, it’s wise to get the ass in gear and deal with the current set of challenges here and now.

    @Eric the Red

    I’m using the term “tier” rather than “soul age” because it gets the point across about it being a natural progression without the accusations of “ageism” that comes from some people the first time they encounter the concept of “soul age.” There were several teachers who changed the labels early on for the same reason – the original labels for each tier or soul age were off-putting. Nobody likes to be labeled a “Baby Soul.”

    Ken Wilber is using a variation of Claire Graves’ system, which may have deeper roots. It has to do with the outward manifestation, while Soul Age (tiers) has to do with the actual inner level. Also, lots of people operate in society at a younger Tier (Soul Age) than they would if there was a social organization that properly supported them.

  380. @onething: Thank you for trying, and for letting me know! I’ve only begun attempting to put into words some ideas I’ve been contemplating for a long time, based on my own experiences (such as being the twin of an intellectually disabled brother). It’s useful to learn when those words aren’t doing the job.

  381. Onething: I certainly agree with your objection to stifling dissent! And I think you’re right that immaturity plays a role in some of the problems of modern campus culture, although I tend to think it’s the kind of immaturity you find in young people at any stage of their journey to Gwynfydd. I’m just wary of the notion that we can easily identify those who are less evolved, doubly so when that identification is directed at people who we oppose politically – we’ve seen the results of that idea applied to biological evolution, and I bet it could produce equally ugly results if framed in terms of spiritual growth instead! I think that’s what Harry was trying to get at in the post to which you were responding.

    That said, I don’t doubt that you personally are open to honest engagement and reasoned argumentation. The posts I’ve seen from you in my years of following JMG’s blogs have been interesting and thought-provoking, and I look forward to many lively discussions with you now that I’ve joined the ranks of the commenters!

    Drhooves: I would argue that all religions, western or eastern, tend to evolve social control mechanisms as they grow large enough to become political entities in their own right. Jo mentioned the Hindu caste system in an earlier comment as one example of reincarnation used to justify social inequality. Even Tibetan Buddhism, viewed by many in the West as the quintessential example of a religion focused on personal spiritual development, developed into a powerful theocracy in which the vast majority of the country’s wealth was held by the priestly class and the sufferings of the poor were often shrugged off as karma. I think any religion that grows beyond the level of a mystery school inevitably develops an “outer layer” concerned with the regulation of temporal life, and this outer layer becomes a veil hiding the mystical inner core of the tradition from those who have not learned to see past it.

  382. My contributions: i was at a Catholic workshop where someone quoted the King James Version of the Bible: and the Lord sayeth I knew you before the womb. Reincarnation was a topic discussed by the psychic Edgar Cayce.

  383. Hi JMG,

    I have read the hypothesis according to which most – if not all – the recollections of past lives that people appear to experience are, in fact, merely accidental readings of akashic records. As if people in particular circumstances accidentally managed to tune in to the recorded lives of the deceased.

    Is it possible to exclude this hypothesis? And, if not, how do we distinguish genuine memories of past lives from those of someone else?

  384. Reading finally through the comments today and your kind and very personalized answer to mine on your past life memory I became aware of my native American self strongly. Another dream I recalled just before my start into deeper yoga initiation was in India so probably I was also Hindu. This sort of post can trigger things coming together to the conscious mind. We talk a lot about theory but such realizations like yours about pipe smoking are concrete and simple. My feelings had to wait until I was strong enough to deal with them in this life. On the idea of vampirism I joke sometimes I am one as I feel energy but I feel that living beings are like transmitters. If I hear a radio am I hurting it? Vampirism is draining people. I read of this in astrology how some people seem to be like that naturally.

    I have trouble doing meditation as it gets me too energized which can change me in ways undesired in too short a time(strong subconscious changes or energy shocks). I meditated some a couple weeks ago before recent changes regarding memory blockages, etc. This was pretty hard.

  385. I find quite interesting your discussion of the denial of the existence of Antartica by the Flat Earth Society as analogous to our situation with belief or experience in re-incarnation. And so I can critique this analogy by further embellishing it:

    1. Multiple concepts of Reincarnation is basically synonymous to Multiple approaches to Flat Earth theory (i.e. Flat Earth Society is a small group in comparison to the modern Flat Earth movement which has a wide variety of approaches to the topic).

    2. Traveling to Antarctica to verify its existence depends greatly on if you will be permitted to do so. Travel by the ordinary plebeian requires an extensive application process, and if permitted to go, you see only three small parts of it, fully guided. No free roaming or travel is allowed. The Antarctic Treaty of clearly outlines how there is no free travel by air or sea allowed. It’s odd how all these countries–some of them not so friendly with each other–have all agreed and abided upon this treaty for over fifty years.

    This is similar to a person’s religious beliefs being mediated by a religious specialist (priest, etc.) denying, limiting or sometimes enhancing a belief in reincarnation. They are told there is no free access or exploration of religious ideas outside the one the religious specialists tells them is the Truth.

  386. I’m flabbergasted.
    Entered into this subject more or less three years ago, and now I find it discussed at large here, the very last place I would have guessed 😀

    Here a brief summary of what I’ve understood on the subject
    1) True, we are center of individuality. We incarnate, and the reason is to have experiences. These add up together. Every memory is linked to an emotion, which is the true foundation of memory.

    2) time does not really exist outside the material dimension. So we experience ALL our incarnations at the same “time”. What really moves from one incarnation to another, is our focused awareness. So we should not apply our human concept of “evolution through stages” here.

    3) there are a LOT of different dimensions bejond the material plane. It seems that the different dimensions are characterized by a different “vibrational frequency” of energy (wathever it means).

    4) life is widespread in the universe. Earth life is not ,really not by a large deal, alone in the universe. Reincarnation can happen in a huge lot of different places in the universe. So, yes, alien life and alien civilizations DO exist, and in large numbers. The answer to Fermi’s question is simply: we are hearing to signals made by means we understand, but signals used by alien civilizations are using very different means.

    5) The high number of people now living on earth is explained by the fact that these “times” are indeed very rich of experience. A lot of spirits have desired to incarnate in this particular time.

    6) Humanity DO evolve with time. The process of evolution from ancient times is set by our free will (a permanent condition of our souls, not a conquest that can be reached or lost) as a collective.

    7) we have set our main plan when incarnating: conditions, goals, checkpoints, and left to us (after the memory retreat after incarnation) how to fill the pat or join the dots. We have freedom to follow in whatever manner, our freeely choosen path. Both free will and pre-destination so apply there.

    8) currently, as humans, and on Earth, we are expriencing what is called The Shift. It will take more or less another 20-40 years to complete, and it will be strongly recognizable only after it has passed. But people with some sensibility can understand and feel even now its unrolling: just see how an unparalleled number of crisis are shaping our world (peak oil, economical crisis, climate change, and so on).

    My remark: it is very funny to discover that after having answered all the Big Questions of existentialism (Who are we, Where we come from, Where we go,Why) , a flurry of new questions take their place… 😀 😀

Courteous, concise comments relevant to the topic of the current post are welcome, whether or not they agree with the views expressed here, and I try to respond to each comment as time permits. Long screeds proclaiming the infallibility of some ideology or other, however, will be deleted; so will repeated attempts to hammer on a point already addressed; so will comments containing profanity, abusive language, flamebaiting and the like -- I filled up my supply of Troll Bingo cards years ago and have no interest in adding any more to my collection; and so will sales spam and offers of "guest posts" pitching products. I'm quite aware that the concept of polite discourse is hopelessly dowdy and out of date, but then some people would say the same thing about the traditions this blog is meant to discuss . Thank you for reading Ecosophia! -- JMG

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