What Will Your Next Life Be Like?

What Will Your Next Life Be Like? March 31, 2022

What comes after death? This is one of the Big Questions of Life – people have wondered about it for at least as long as we’ve been human. We have no definitive answers. But we have plenty of speculative answers, and one of them is reincarnation.

Reincarnation is a very old and intuitive idea. In our time it’s mainly associated with Hinduism and Buddhism, but according to one of the few historical records we have, the ancient Druids taught the “transmigration of souls.”

The Dharmic religions have well-developed doctrines of reincarnation. For the most part, modern Pagans don’t. We haven’t developed them yet. And so we’re free to wonder.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the most likely scenario is a time of rest and reflection in the Otherworld, followed by some form of reincarnation in this world. But I’ve given virtually no thought to what my future life might be like.

And that brings us to this tweet by @khthoniaa, who asked “If you believe in reincarnation, what do you think (or hope) your next life will be like?”

Twitter responses were all over the place. A lot of people wanted to be reincarnated as cats. Some wanted an easy life. Others wanted a meaningful life. A few wanted nothing more to do with this world.

I started to respond on Twitter, but then realized I needed a lot more than 280 characters to say what I wanted to say.

I don’t think we get to choose

Occasionally I see well-meaning but thoughtless people tell those who are going through difficult times “remember, you signed up for this – it must have some bigger purpose.” This is cruel and self-serving – it disavows any obligation to help those in need, and it lets people tell themselves they must be good people because they’re not suffering at the moment.

No one chooses to suffer.

Plato implied that the dead have some input into their next lives. I’m not a Platonist or a Neoplatonist, but that makes intuitive sense. My UPG is that we have some choice in the general circumstances of our birth, but not to any great detail or foreknowledge.

So I don’t know how much my desires in this life will impact my next life. But it’s interesting to think about… for a while, anyway.

I want to continue what I’ve built in this life

I used to fantasize about being immortal (in the physical sense – I believe we are immortal in the spiritual sense). The older I get, though, the less attractive that seems. How much of that change is age and how much is the times in which we live is another matter for another time.

But the spiritual and religious work I’m doing now is important. Whether we’re living in the early days of a Pagan restoration remains to be seen, but bringing things like animism, magic, and especially the worship of the many Gods into the mainstream West is a good and necessary thing. It’s the work of many people – it started before I got here and it will continue long after I’ve moved on.

And I would very much like to continue to be a part of this great work whenever I come back.

I think that means coming back quickly

If my past life memories are to be believed (I find them interesting but I don’t obsess over them) this life began only about 20 years after the last one ended. Before that, I have gaps of several centuries. Are either of those intervals common? I have no idea.

If I’m going to continue the big work of this life, I think that means I need to come back fairly quickly. There aren’t enough people doing this work now. I’ll be needed sooner rather than later.

I wonder – will future me find what current me is leaving behind? Will I find my books, and if so, will they seem strangely familiar? The internet is forever (at least until it’s not) – it’s possible future me will find this very blog post… though I think that’s rather unlikely… not to mention unimportant. What matters most is what we do in the life we have, not what we did in the life before.

But I think continuing this work means I have to come back fairly quickly.

I hope for an easier childhood

My childhood was not abusive, certainly not by the standards of the times. Others had it far worse. But it was difficult, and frustrating, and it caused problems that took half my life to get under control. It caused other problems that never went away, and likely never will.

You can argue that’s what made me who I am, and you would be at least partially correct. I couldn’t write so effectively about escaping fundamentalism if I hadn’t suffered under it and then managed to get myself out. But I don’t want to do that again.

This is what scares me most about death and rebirth. I don’t want to have to go through those early years again.

I hope it’s better next time.

I hope I don’t get distracted by the times

My spiritual work is where I’ve found meaning in life. But it took me long enough to find it, and I can see several scenarios where I might have never found it.

What if my first job out of college had been more engaging – and better paying? I can see me being satisfied enough to keep chasing promotions and money that I never bothered with anything in the religious or magical realm. What if next time I have enough money to keep me distracted?

Or, what if I’m born into some future version of World War II and my life is spent fighting literal battles in literal wars?

Or if I’m born into some future America where the theocrats won and being Pagan isn’t just dangerous, it’s unthinkable?

I hope my next life is neither so easy nor so hard I can’t spend it doing what I want to do.

Both of these could be satisfied by an earlier awakening

My mother used to joke that I was “born 35.” I was mature enough that I hated being a child, but not mature enough to realize what I could have done to make things better. I’ve made peace with that – I did the best I could with what I had to work with.

But I’d really like for that to be better next time, if only because I can do more in a whole life than in half a life.

This work – and the Gods behind it – called to me from an early age. It still took me till I was in my 30s to find it, and I was almost 40 by the time I accepted it. I really hope I find it sooner next time.

I hope for what I’ve had in this life: a few good friends

I don’t believe in soulmates. I don’t believe in “crossing oceans of time” to find one special person. Lore tells us that people often reincarnate in the same region or in the same family, but finding “one true love” is mostly fiction in this life. I see no reason to think that continues across multiple lives.

But whether we were put together by choice, by fate, or by chance, I’ve had a very few, very good friends in this life. If we found ourselves together in a future life, that would be very nice. But if we don’t, I hope I find a small handful of people who will walk that life with me, in whole or in part.

I couldn’t have done this life alone, and I won’t be able to do the next life alone either.

To be human is to wonder

The religion I grew up in emphasized preparing for the next life and mostly ignored this life, except for the part about following all the rules so you end up in the good place and not the bad place. That’s one of the reasons it was a bad religion.

Paganism is a religion for this life and this world. Our speculations should never distract us from doing the work of our Gods or from building a better world here and now. The Morrigan holds my death, and I will be here until She decides I’m done. I need and want to spend that time well.

But Paganism is also a religion that celebrates being human, and to be human is to wonder about unanswerable questions.

I’m glad I spent a couple hours wondering about what my next life will be like.

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