Thursday, 5 September 2013
Free Will, Reincarnation, and Karma
By Robert Searle
The following essay is concerned with free will, and reincarnation. The idea of the former has been a thorn in the side of Western Philosophy for centuries. What we propose here is that free will probably does not exist. Yet, their may be a very limited form of it. With potential future advances in the emerging paradigm of Multi-Dimensional Science it may become possible to find out to what extent free will does, or does not exist. The same goes for reincarnation.
In Eastern Philosophies notably, the individual Mind has sometimes been regarded as being a problem in the way of inner spiritual progress. It is seen often, or not as being like a machine, or a computer. Unfortunately, the Soul, or a lower manifestation of Its energies have been "entangled" with It. Thus, it can be seen that the Mind is essentially in control of the Soul. To gain an idea of how powerful it is, meditation, or attempting to meditate can often be impossible to begin with. The Mind behaves like a monkey continually active with any number of "unnecessary" inner thoughts. A set of phrases are usually required to help still the mental activity. But even then the task can be difficult, if not impossible for some.
Four Key Reasons Against The Existence Of "Free Will"
They are as follows:-
i) Most scientists, and philosophers tend to think that our Minds are largely, if not wholly deterministic in complex ways.
ii) Quite a number of Mystics such as Kabir, and Guru Nanak believed that free will is an "illusion."
iii) The Subconscious, and the Unconscious Mind in Western Psychology clearly suggests that we probably have no "real" free will.
iv) A claim made in neuroscience appears to indicate that our decision-making has its initial origins first in the Subconcious, and Unconcious Mind before it becomes a concious desire leading possibly to an action.
The Spiritual Will = Free Will?
It could be argued that the Spiritual Will is genuine free will because it is said to be unconditioned by anything.It is pure instantaneous Knowledge. It can be intuitive in which It can present knowledge inwardly without recourse to reasoning. On the other hand, the Mind can be conditioned positively, and negatively by the outer world, and by other factors.
The concept that we have lived many, many lives before is very ancient. Reincarnation, along with the Law of Karma (implying Action ) is arguably the only explanation for the injustices of the world. Such "injustices" are due in the main to bad actions of a past life, or lives of an individual. Generally speaking, we have no memories of our previous birth, or births in the physical world. This is said to be a good thing as it might overwhelm us.
There is evidence to suggest that Christianity originally had reincarnation as a part of it teachings. But this was regarded as anathema by people in power who probably had little, or no real spiritual vision.
The mystical dimension of Islam is known as Sufism. Some of its sects also indicate that reincarnation exists.
Similiarly, Judaism may have had some belief in the doctrine of rebirth. This is indicated at times in the interpretation of the Kabbalah, or the Tree of Life.
Ofcourse, reincarnation plays a prominent part in Hinduism, and Buddhism. However, ideas may vary as to how reincarnation, and karma "work".
There is some serious scientific evidence suggestive of reincarnation. Here, we point to the often quoted work of Professor Ian Stevenson. This involved a huge number of cases of notably children who claimed to remember a past life, and often, or not, their obscure details of their previous family, and friends were proven correct. Furthermore, birthmarks appeared on certain persons which were "due" to certain types of death (eg. gunshot wounds) in a "previous life."
The Law of Karmic Justice
There are many examples of the possible "workings" of Karma. Here, are some such instances, but it must stressed that the brief examples here may be offensive.
i) A man is born blind, or develops blindness in early life. In a previous life he had blinded someone deliberately (ie Role-Reversal).
ii) A man is defrauded of the monies of his business by an accountant. In a previous life, he is the perpetrator of a like crime, and now becomes the victim in the present incarnation.
iii) Some children during a War in the Middle East are murdered by irresponsible soldiers. In a previous birth, or births, the children possibly in separate incidents did the same thing as adults.Incidently, Spiritualists claim that children may grow up in the "Spirit World," and hence, complete their cycle of life.
iv) A child is abducted, and murdered by a perpetrator. In a previous life, the child is an adult, and committed the same offence as the perpetrator.
v) A woman in life A aborts a child she does not want. In life B she gives birth (or re-birth) to a child she wants but shortly dies afterwards. Again, Spiritualists have claimed that sometimes a young soul "decides" after birth not to continue in the tiny physical form, and hence, leaves it for another.
Many other examples could be conjured up. Unlike the above, there could be "non-specific," or "blanket" causes(notably natural disasters) in which accumulated types of past karmas are paid off via varying degrees of suffering. However, some degree of remission may occur. This, too, may be dependent on "good" past karmas.
It is said a Guru, or some other non-Indian Teacher has the power to give remission, but the pralabdh, or fate karma has to be generally gone through. An example of this is the shortening of the duration period of a fated illness. To what extent this can occur, probably depends on the spiritual status of the Teacher.
Diseases, and disabilities of one sort, or another may also reflect the paying of certain kinds of actions of a past birth, or birth. The aim of all this (including the above) is not purely retributive, but meant to help achieve positive psychological changes within a person, and act as a goad towards greater spiritual evolution. Indeed, it has been claimed that people in the post mortem state may actually "choose" certain ailments, and/disabilities irrespective of whether they karmically deserve it, or not in the interest of spiritual "evolution".
So-called hypnotic regressions can throw some light on how karmas works. The psychic readings of Edgar Cayce is possibly a good instance of this, and the authoress Gina Cerminara wrote a number of eye opening books in connection with him, and his work. The Seth Material is also another interesting example of greater light on the matter.
As can be seen the subject of reincarnation, and karma is a huge, and indeed, complex subject. As such it is well beyond the scope of this essay.
Many mystical traditions indicate that the purpose of our life is to re-discover who, and what we really are....the Higher Self, or the God Within which is meant to be our real Spiritual Being. The seemingly "endless" rounds of reincarnation aim to achieve this via the accumulation of more, and more good actions which takes us towards that Power. In other words, the increased positive conditioning of the individual Mind, and individual Will. In turn, this makes It more responsive, and agreeable to the Higher Power notably via some form of meditation.
At the "start" of creation since God, or the Higher Power could not separate Itself from Itself, parts of It could not help wanting to experience ItSelves in the lower worlds for the first time.Unfortunately, with further, and further reincarnations (into various living forms) It became more, and more under the sway of the Mind. As a result, It came to know more, and more of what suffering is, and what degrees of happiness are for the first time.
From the highest planes everything that has happened, or will happen in the lower planes already exists in a "timeless" Eternal Now. There may be a kind of progressive Spiritual Relativity. For example, if we enter plane A we may, or may not experience at some point the "past," and "future" of that plane. Then, we may enter plane B which is more subtle, more real, and more fantastic than plane A. Again, we may be able to see the "past", and "future" of this plane in a state of superconciousness. In other words, there could be an advanced non-physical form of what might be called "space-time" or Spiritual Relativity as mentioned.
The aim of many forms of meditation is to connect in some way with the "Higher Self". The ultimate aim ideally is to achieve liberation from reincarnation, and attain the highest planes/levels of superconcious bliss where the desires for anything of this, and the next world are totally extinguished. This liberation is the ultimate purpose of human life. Through endless rebirths the Soul is largely imprisoned by the individual conditioned Mind, and through various objects, and people of this physical world It has been trying to find Real Happiness. Yet, to no avail as everything is temporary. Deep down It actually wants to return to the "highest" Regions to true, and lasting Bliss. Via the accumulation of good actions, or karmas, and Grace (unearned spiritual help) one may get help from the Higher Power via a living Guru, or by some other means (eg. an inner "Master").
In the following we list some basic aspects of the meditational experience. It does not pretend to be totally comprehensive, but it may be of some interest.
a) The Emergence of the "Higher Self."
With the correct practice of meditation one may experience a gradual emergence of a Higher Conciousness which can become part of ones Lower Self, and the individual Mind. Yet, It should have a growing control over ones thoughts, and can still them in an inner "sea" of internal Bliss.
b) Effort, inspires Subtle Inner Grace, Subtle Grace inspires Greater Effort
The likely reality is that we cannot by a sheer effort of our conditioned Mind, and our individually conditioned Will be able to transform ourselves into a better human being (unless there has been some positive conditioning in a former lives). This requires the gradual subtle emergence of a Higher Power. It acts as Grace to inspire greater effort in meditation.
The idea of "I" doing spiritual practice is probably illusionary as it is only this Inner Power which inspires the Mind to carry on. Thus, if a guru says he, or she has been meditating for many years this in a sense is a huge lie, and deception. It is the Higher Power, or the "Higher Self" attempting to control the individual Mind, more, and more. Most, if not all the credit should go to this Power.
c) The Flow of Devotional Energy
Ideally, the disciple, especially if he, or she has an outer living Master should carry out his, or her actions selflessly as if He, or indeed, She were physically present. This is very powerful, but one needs to be fully committed for any success to occur. One may experience at times the flow of intense ecstasy, and become aware of impurities being "washed away" naturally, and spontaneously.
Some Serious "Ethical" Problems
If the individual conditioned Mind appears to largely control the Soul then this is an unnatural situation. Meditation can help bring about the reverse situation as already indicated. However, the success on this may depend on what ones spiritual connection is, be it a living outer Teacher, or even an inner One. Moreover, the progress "upward" into higher planes represent higher energies of the Spirit. The highest realms represent the more purer, and more subtler ones, and if one is connected with a Teacher (or indeed, the Higher Self probably) from that level, the degree of purification, and control of the Mind would be far better. Unfortunately, there is no "objective" way of ascertaining this situation.
The idea of the Mind as being largely conditioned raises powerful ethical considerations.
i) How can one be made liable to the punishments (or indeed rewards) of certain actions in this life? Evidence suggests that the "Soul" judges the Mind Itself via the life review in near death experience, and ofcourse after death itself. This is an absurdity in one sense, and arguably a form psychic entrappment as the Mind of the Soul feels guilt, and feels the need to make amends. In other words, the former has been "tricked" in the interests of "spiritual evolution".
ii) How can it be right if a person "can be made" to do wrong actions so that the victim receives his, or her "just desserts" from another life? In effect, it implies that the perpetrator is in a sense acting out a Play in which he, or she has to act "unwittingly" as an agent for the Law of Karma metering out "punishment(s)"? And if what someone did was right to ensure "punishment" for the victim it implies that the whole world of karmic credits, and debit is a highly "exact." If this were not so there would be no "real justice?" In other words, a set-up.
Yet, it may be perfectly possible that there are "injusticies" which are not karmically caused by a previous life, or lives. Yet, they may have somekind of affect which helps to "cleanse" the individual psychically, and "spiritually".
iii) All this indicates something very important. Maybe we are meant to realize via experience that karma is a form of "sham" justice? In one sense, it appears right, but there is also another way of looking at it.
iv) If the Soul has been tricked by the conditioned Mind to suffer more,and more...why should It partake in reincarnation? After all the former is meant to be a part of God, or some Higher Power?
v) If it is largely, or wholly the Higher Power which can only take us to the higher worlds, and not really our individual efforts then the whole thing can be seen as an elaborate "farce".
vi) Morever, if God, or the Higher Power is qualitively the same as the Soul then potentially It is the manifestation of the Supreme. But since the "beginning" of creation parts of ItSelf have trapped ItSelf in Its own creation in the process of experience. Again, if God ultimately equals Soul then at a simple whim It should be able to return to the highest planes were reincarnation does not exist irrespective of any bad actions, or karmas.
Yet, it is claimed that if one tried to do this in the post mortem state it would take alot longer as life is far easier. Thus, reincarnation into the physical world is "necessary" as life is a lot more difficult, and spiritual progress is much quicker.
A Form of Spiritual Compensation?
What we are suggesting now may seem fantastic. The creation of the visible, and invisible creation may be a "mistake" in part. At the "start" of creation,the Soul(s)(or "God") experienced the "need" to experience the degrees of difference between good, and evil in order to achieve an understanding of Itself, and Its Real relationship with Its own Creation. The seemingly only way to do this is to let the project part of the Soul to be more, and more enslaved by the individual Mind (Lower energy). This could also be seen as an "educative deception," or a grave injustice (or "mistake" mentioned earlier). As ongoing "compensation" for this the Soul before, and after Its "death" may get greater Grace. If the Soul were totally responsible for Its karmas, or actions in the physical world this would not be the case, and It would suffer alot more.
Furthermore, the seeming "fact" that we,(our Selves, or Souls) have to go through "countless" rebirths probably suggests that our spiritual evolution is largely the outcome of "trial, and error." It may also indicate that we have little, or no free will, or else we could have arguably achieved spiritual liberation from reincarnation, and the lower worlds a longtime ago....simply by force of reason.
There are many aspects of this metaphysical subject which are beyond the scope of this essay. Anyway, it should be food for thought
VI. A Certain Ethical Problem in Esotericism
The following essay(2006)comes the Kheper website, and is similiar to the last metaphysical "discourse," .
This short "thought-piece" challenges the esoteric orthodoxy of many traditions. It centres on the concept, and likely reality of reincarnation, and the so-called law of karma, or "perfect justice". It is accepted without question especially in the Buddhist, and Hindu traditions.
Reincarnation is also the "only" real explanation for the so-called injustices of life itself. Yet, it is believed rightly, or wrongly that there is a fundamental "flaw" in it which undermines the need for the "continous necessity" of re-birth, and indeed, the law of karma itself. This can no longer be ignored, and needs to be openly discussed as never before. Here, we will just touch upon the key areas.....
1. Free Will, or Conditioned Free Will?
It is not our intention here to review the notion of free will in Western Philosophy. Most people though would agree that our thoughts, words,and actions are largely conditioned by our past. Pure unconditioned free will is largely, if not wholly "non-existent". As such the rewards, and punishments we receive in this life due to the present, or past actions of another former birth are in the main due to our mental conditioning.
2. Virtual Non-Awareness of Subconcious, and Unconcious Forces Moulding the Concious Mind.
The central ethical problem is this. Since we are largely unaware of what makes us decide the way we do then it becomes clear that "we" are not totally responsible for our actions. In various esoteric traditions it can be said that our (mechanical) mind is in control of the soul (both can be seen as independent "entities" which interact with one another). The injustice of this is that we are really unaware of this predicament, and how it so greatly influences us to do right, or wrong. How many times have we heard people say that "I did not mean to do it", or "I cannot help the way I am"?
Western, and eastern psychologies recognize this in their own ways. If we were fully aware of how, and why we do certain things, and were in true concious control then the law of karma would be rightly applicable. The opposite situation appears to be true, and makes a mockery of the resulting "justice". The question is why? There are esoteric answers but they do not seem to fully justify this situation as we shall shortly see.
Furthermore, with the possible future emergence of Multi-Dimensional Science we may well be able to find how much of our minds are conditioned from actions in this, and previous lifetimes. This could be undertaken via controlled experiments.
3. Four Basic Pro, and Con Arguments, and the Possible Interactions of the Higher Self.
Many psychic communications from the "lower planes" usually claim that "free will" exists. Man is seen as the concious architect of his destiny. However, when we come to great mystics such as the Sufi, and Christian ones (eg. Rumi, and Boehme) it would appear that "free will" is nothing but an illusion as perceived from the "higher planes" of Being. Everything is seen in this world, and the next as the outworkings of the Divine.
Anyway, let us see the key arguments for, and against what has so far been discussed.
1a) In order to achieve spiritual evolution (ie. learning via experience to try, and hopefully bring about higher virtues, and greater purification in ourselves from one life to another) people have no choice but to have a mind through which the soul has to somehow function. Reincarnation notably into the limited physical universe is the only way to do this.
2a) The above claim assumes wrongly that an almighty, and super intelligent God, or the Universal Power cannot come up with something far better, and much fairer to achieve spiritual unfoldment, and ultimately union with the Divine after seemingly endless incarnations. In other words, we do not have full justification for the present "universal" predicament.
1b) The amount of suffering via life after life is nothing compared with the infinite bliss, and final union with the Divine.Thus, whether the process is"unfair" in any way is largely immaterial.
2b) Again, this does not address the central ethical problem of human beings making, and paying off good, and bad actions which are largely the outcome of conditioned free will. This is naturally confounded by the seeming fact that we are unaware of the subconcious, and unconcious influences of our minds!
3a) It has been claimed that what we are discussing here is simply beyond the mind, and the reasons for it can only be understood intuitively.
3b) Many people would regard this "argument" as a cop out when perhaps we have not really thought, and/or researched hard enough. Yet, to be fair it would also be right to say that we cannot explain everything in esotericism by the mind as there are always worlds, and forms of knowledge which are totally ineffable.
4a) In certain hypnotic regressions into past lives, and especially what happens between lives it has been claimed that souls are usually given a plan for the next incarnation. Indeed, they may well agree to receive specific negative experiences (meant to be remedial rather than retributive) that may help them to "grow" more spiritually. These are usually the result of "their" past actions. More incredibly, certain "advanced" souls may "volunteer" to experience bad things for the ultimate aim of speeding up their progress towards total perfection (the ultimate goal of spiritual evolution via experience after "endless" rounds of rebirth. and probable union with the "Divine").
4b) From the general mystical perspective, lives on earth,and other planets are meant to be a means of learning via experience for the pressing need to develop greater, and greater spiritual qualities. This ofcourse can be an uneven path, and may result in a certain amount of spiritual "devolution".
An added dimension to this is the Higher Self which is our Pure Being working to a certain extent via the lower subtle bodies including the mind (ie. the mental body). It is the "God Within", and at the same time is part of the Infinite Power. It is who, or what we really are. Reincarnation is the way in which we re-discover our Selves. Since It can manifest ItSelf as our Chosen Ideal (eg. Christ, Krishna et al), and act as an inner guide before, or after death. It emanates from realms well beyond our limited understanding of time, and space.
In the light of what has been said the Higher Self may during the intermediate stage between births, and deaths may make the lower self, and lower mind accept certain future negative experiences to encourage spiritual growth. This whole process is laid bare in a state of superconciousness when one can see ones previous lives instantaneously, and objectively. It is then that we understand "everything". But is this really a full moral justification? Is it right that when one is incarnate that one is largely unaware of this arrangement if we had agreed to it conciously in the intermediate stage? Again, let us repeat ourselves is there not a better way of doing things? The answer we think is yea!
If what we have been discussing are part justifications rather than full ones it could perhaps even be argued that to a large degree reincarnation, and the so-called law of karma are "null,and void." In the physical world we could perhaps get legal recompense for such an "injustice!" In the spiritual one we have a different ball game. The person, or rather Being to be blamed ofcourse would be our own Higher Self which ofcourse to the limited vision, and understanding of our human mind is absurd! All the same, if our initial claim is indeed correct it should be possible to change things on the "other side" (or via controlled OOBEs, or meditation) with the help possibly of like-minded beings. It could be powerful bargaining counter for the lower mind, and self to achieve liberation from the wheel of births, and death (plus possible other matters) since the very ethical basis of this whole process of "evolution" is seriously in doubt.
4.Beyond the Mind, Beyond All Reason?
In a most bizarre fashion all that has been said for, and against this major ethical issue in esoterism is all correct. If we assume that the infinite psycho-spiritual universe consists of non-absolute truths then this would be possible, and "acceptable!" In other words, Esoteric Relativism.
On the other hand, the endless unseen realities would have absolute truths. Such Esoteric Universalism seems to be more "rational", and acceptable. Yet, it could be said that if the unseen (and indeed, the visible) universe is infinite then everything, and anything is, and can be possible. In effect, it goes beyond all reason which would be seen as the "ultimate(!)" limited illusion.
There are certain arguments which could be used in support for Esoteric Relativism,and they could include the following;-
i) Who created God? This is the classic question notably found in Western Philosophy. One answer is ofcourse is that He created Himself..... and we as the Higher Self are a part of It,and potentially It! This whole notion ofcourse defies reason...
ii) The universe in its "totality(!)" is probably infinite. This too defies reason because how can anything be limitless, and beyond our ability to imagine, and completely quantify in any "scientific" manner?
iii) In the "scientific" many worlds theory it is perfectly possible that parallel universes exist with an infinite number of alternate histories. Ofcourse, if correct this has some rather interesting implications for mysticism, and especially our claimed "unfairness" of the reincarnation process in connection with the mind, and conditoned free will.
No doubt we could present some more "evidence" that Esoteric Relativism could be the Absolute Reality so to speak. Whether it is, or not is largely unprovable by normal means, and will probably remain an Eternal Mystery. Yet, the claimed "unfairness" of reincarnation just mentioned would be fully, or partly justified in an infinite number of ways, and indeed, in an infinite number of worlds. This point was already expressed differently right at the start of this section of the present essay.
Indeed,there would probably be realities where reincarnation as a means of spiritual evolution would not exist. Again, such realities would inhabit countless numbers of different universes, and have their own kinds of "justifications." In the end the Truth cannot really be limited by finite reality but is boundless, and creative in any infinite number of ways both conceivable, and inconceivable to our limited mind, and vision.
What we have been reading here is very important. It can also be expanded by further debate, and research in the future. It is something which is well worth exploring.