Thursday, October 1, 2015

How Reincarnation and an Afterlife could both be True

I'm going to be honest: part of me really hopes I get to be reincarnated someday. Not only does it lessen the anxiety of having only one life to prove myself, but it also means I get to look at the world from a new perspective. Essentially, then, reincarnation would mean that I'm not only me: I'm all sorts of lives from all over time and space. But of course, most think reincarnation would mean that my personality here on earth, as it is now, will eventually vanish to morph into somebody else. If reincarnation is true, tough luck if you want to talk to Abraham Lincoln after you're dead: right now he's just a used car salesman in Seattle with no idea of his former life.

That's what most people think. However, I think I've figured out a way that reincarnation and the idea of an afterlife could both be true at once. And this possibility rests on the answer a simple question: if I reincarnate, what is reincarnating? It's a given that my physical body is going to become dust one day, and there's no getting around it. But I am not that body, since both reincarnation and western religion assume that some spiritual identity survives death. But what if my spiritual identity--that is, my personality as "Christian Swenson," who all my friends and family know and love--has something even "higher" and "realer" living within it? What if that identity is actually more like a mask than a being in itself, meaning that whatever "puts it on" can go on to live other lives?

If this is true, whoever wore that mask wouldn't be "me"--by definition, I am my identity, my sense of being the person I've grown up to be. Rather, that underlying figure would be who is "living me,"the animating presence acting out my life like an actor acts out a role. And who's to say that there aren't multiple such "actors" living out my life? What if I'm complex marionette that needs multiple operators to get it to function right? In that case, my underlying "being" would come from multiple places, multiple centers of activity.

I'm going to take a leap and call these hypothetical actors "archetypes." They would be the living presences acting out my life, and I would be the way they come into actuality. Examples of these archetypes are manifold: the son, the daughter, the mentor, the friend, the jokester, the annoying neighbor, or even the man and the woman. They interlock and interpenetrate, combining and recombining with each other in near-infinite combinations.

So if this is true, the archetypes or combinations of archetypes "living me" could very well come to earth again to "reincarnate." The animating presence behind my life could pick up another body after I die, or even before I die. Heck, this would mean that I could even meet myself! But even if this is true, there's nothing to say that my personality as it is right now wouldn't exist in eternity. My life, my distinct way of living in the world as "me," will always be--its animating presence just goes on to live other lives, all without ever "leaving" me. And who's to say that I can't let in other archetypes into my being in that state? Swedenborg may have alluded to this when he said that angels in heaven often consensually let another angel "step inside" his or her identity, letting the first angel experience "what it's like to be" him or her. And of course it's only temporary--they part as easily as they came together, only enriched by the experience.

Anyway, this was some fun brainstorming. Don't take any of it too literally, though--thoughts like these are best kept loose and malleable. And if you're curious about these, check out Rudolf Steiner's works, where he says something like this. Carl Jung also hints at this possibility in his Memories, Dreams, Reflections.

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