Thursday 24 August 2017

An alternative explanatory model to explain reincarnation-type experiences.

Thoreau and Walden Pond, depicted by NC Wyeth
My understanding is that we began (pre-mortal) life as spirits, each of whom can trace their origin eternally; at some point we became sons and daughters of God (that is, of Heavenly Parents); and at some later point we were incarnated when these spirits took-on bodies.

Thus, (with a few exceptions, probably) I believe that this is our one-and-only incarnate mortal life. 

(To complete the sketch: when we die the spirit is severed from the body; and then we are resurrected with immortal bodies.)

I explain the typical experiences and memories that are usually taken as pointing towards reincarnation with previous earthly lives; as being actual occurrences of our pre-mortal spiritual existence - when we were a type of 'angel', each of us engaged in some distinctive way with work in God's creation.

So, when we have a sense that we really were present at some time and place in earth's history (for example) it is possible that we really were there, as pre-mortal spirits. We were not a specific historical person, but may have been present and intimately-involved with the divine destiny related to some people, some era, some location...

This may well explain my own very solid and long-term fascination and empathy for a few very specific places, times and persons; for which I seem to have memories of a spiritual, aspirational 'atmospheric' nature - but no solid, specific physical details.

Three examples are the English Lake District (specifically around Keswick) at the time of the Lake Poets such as Coleridge, Southey and Wordsworth; Concord, Massachusetts at the time of Emerson, Thoreau, Alcott; and Oxford at the time of The Inklings (especially Tolkien and the Lewis brothers).

Just to clarify, I do not feel any special identification with any of these individuals; but I do feel a strong identification with their core spiritual-intellectual aspirations and efforts.

Taken together, all of these make an obvious theme of romanticism, of escaping 'modern' alienation and breaking from materialism into a (mythic) spiritual awareness.

Despite the fact that this theme goes back to my middle teenage years, long before I was a Christian, and long before I could articulate this theme (which has, indeed, happened only with the past few years) - this is, and always has been, my most deeply-cherished theme and hope. And becoming aware of it - explicitly, and in a coherent fashion - is extremely encouraging, energising and orientating.

Of course, it is possible to write-off this notion as a wish-fulfilment fantasy, because it is based upon subjective conviction. About this I have nothing to say: I merely state my own understanding. The value is personal - my understanding of my situation is not necessarily or any interest or relevance to other people, especially strangers.

But you may yourself have a different set of fascinations, which may yield a different impression of pre-mortal concerns; and this may lead-onto a clarity about your business here-and-now, in this mortal life - the essence of what you, personally, are 'here-for'.


Lucinda said...

This is a great articulation. I've been feeling similarly. Once I started to really make strides in escaping the modern randomness and materialist assumptions, I felt so grateful and energised (still working on the courage and orientation bits.)

When I was working under the modern assumptions, there was a looming futility in my life and it just felt like I was going nowhere, no matter how things changed over time. But I'm finally feeling like I'm making real progress. Before, my thinking was always escaping me, insights led to no difference. Now I'm feeling my thoughts stay in my life, changing it for the better, changing me and what I do. Before, I was urgent to capture my thoughts in journal writing because I was afraid of losing them, but now they stay without compulsion. Before, I felt at the mercy of my thoughts, but now my thoughts respond to my command.

It's very refreshing, but still a lot of work. I look forward to it getting more natural for me.

Bruce Charlton said...

@lucinda - That is also my experience (but of course with significant lapses and dry periods when 'nothing works'). It has made a huge, decisive difference to my life.

Epimetheus said...

This is so fascinating. I hope others publish their spiritual reactions here - if there are any number of people reading this sort of thing and having a genuine response, there is a great potential for more blossoming and pollination.

I have had a lifelong fascination with flight - winging over the earth, whooshing past forests and ridges, watching life glitter and move past below. Early this morning I flew a drone over the lakes and marshes of some wetlands - the water like black glass under rolls and blankets of cotton mist, clinging to the earth, but reaching a little skyward where ever it can - the far-off white orb of the sun pushing up into a brightening blue sky - infinite green-blue mantle of forests and lakes rolling across, from horizon to horizon.

Unfortunately I can only see this via camera, alas... I will need a flying machine for the real thing. And then you will have the racket of an engine and air traffic and instruments. But there is something alive and embryonic about flying in the morning. Every morning is a newborn. Every morning is a resurrection.

Maybe this fascination has a pre-mortal root, as you say.

Jane Wrigg said...

I have a memory that I left a place of all-knowing and journeyed, then a blank, and then awareness as a small child. I've told this to very few people. Mostly, they say it was only a dream, not a memory. But I feel deeply that it was otherwise. There it is.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Epi - I can recall aged up to about 7-9 years wanting to fly so much it hurt (fly like the children do in the Disney Peter Pan cartoon - with no wings or effort). It wasn't just an aspiration; I felt as if I knew exactly what it was like - and that I might somehow recover the knack... It makes sense if this is an inexplicit memory of spirit life.

@JW - These things can always be rejected by other people, what matters is if we ourselves are convinced by our own deepest and clearest and most sustained convictions.

(The same, after all, applies to miracles - any report of a miracle - no matter how many, how credible witnesses - can be dismisses as delusion, fraud, manipulation etc - but what matters is the effect of a miracle on the faith of the witness/es.)

Lucinda said...

My fascination is with thought-sharing. I've been contemplating on the thought-alienation that exists between people, even loved ones. I find language cumbersome, which is why (I hate to admit especially here) I've never been an appreciator of poetry. I just don't understand it very well.

God thought-shares between Himself and humans, but also allows thought-sharing between humans from time to time. I feel like I have inaccessible memories locked up in that 'language', and it often makes me feel very dumb indeed.

But I also can't get over the amazing craftiness of a plan that allows humans to all be having their own personal and private experience, simultaneously with everyone else. Alone but not alone on this Earth, trying to piece together understanding, being subject to potential deception and having the choice about who to believe. It is awe-inspiring.

Sorry, this is getting so long, but I had an enlightening conversation once with a young woman, I think she was about 14. At the time, I had 6 children 8 years old and younger. She asked me if it felt "weird" being married. As I tried to figure out how to answer the question, which seemed to be more about whether it was weird to be with a man, I remembered that she, like me, was a child from a large family. It came to me, and I replied, that what felt weird to me was when I was single and alone, outside of a family community, that getting married and having children was like a return to something I'd enjoyed before, in a different role but with the same basic comfortable feeling and association. It was a revelation to me, and it feels to me to be the same situation with thought-sharing. It is, for now, uncommon, but this feels to me like the exception rather than the rule.

Lost Pilgrim said...

I am guessing that our isolation helps us learn to empathize with others. If we could read thoughts and share feelings it would be effortless and underappreciated. And we'd never need learn the process and patience.

As for flying every night I would dream of flight but being forced under a ceiling below power lines. Everywhere I turned powerlines kept me down.

drizzz said...

The painting of Thoreau by Wyeth is outstanding! Very unlike the book illustrations Wyeth is best known for, including his work on "Men of Concord".

Bruce Charlton said...

@drizzz - I agree! Looks like a labour of love - inspired.