A reader commented on my last article, Witchery as an Orientation and Sacred Mission, posing a question about one of the stickier points of reincarnation. I wrote, “I think we all came to this middle world with Work to do…Divine Mom and Dad sent us here with a chore list…homework to finish…and if we laze-about and ignore that work, we get slapped back until we get the job done. If we don’t attend to our sacred mission in this lifetime, we’ll be sent back as often as it takes until we do. It’s not to say that my free-will or sovereignty are taken away; personal destiny, or wyrd, isn’t a stone cage within which I have no freedom, but it flows in the direction of my evolution…”
“I want to go off on a tangent with you here – and ask ‘sent back by whom?’ The reason is that I have spent a lot of time meditating on exactly how we reincarnate, and have decided that our choices here must be limited as well. After all, who would really want to be born into poverty, or born a crack baby, or any one of hundreds of other under-privileged situations? Why not just stay in Summerlands? Any thoughts?”
My work as a clairvoyant offering past-life retrievals gives me an opportunity to explore his very important question. I’ve sought these answers from the perspective of my panentheist (1) paradigm. A big part of this question goes back to the concept of personal sovereignty in Witchcraft.
“Sent back” my whom?
Us. We. The Greatness of Spirit of Which We Are All A Part?
First questions I think of: Who am I? What is “I?” Separateness is merely an illusion provided by the incarnated middle world, yes? Once in Spirit we are the culmination of all that we’ve been, all that we are, and the potential of that into which we are evolving. I do think that there is a thread of continuity that is the individual bright spirits within, but each is like a drop of water in a vast ocean that has a cycle, just like the flow of water does here on earth.
Working an Ocean Metaphor until it Screams in Pain
When we incarnate, it’s a bit like the vapor rising from the ocean, to once more form an individual drop again. We rejoin other drops in the clouds, that continue to shift and change. Sometimes those clouds are stormy and raging, sometimes puffy and shaped like fanciful things. Our drop goes on such a flight of adventure that we call life. We rise, fall, flow, and find our way across the middle world. Sometimes we nourish growth, or drown everything in our path. Sometimes we chisel away the rocks, get frozen in place, or become stagnant and putrid, but we are always flowing inevitably back toward the ocean. We might call that flow “Wyrd,” meaning the direction of our personal destiny, but only if we were inclined to choose an Anglo-Saxon word for it.
In this metaphor, physical death would be the moment we are welcomed back by the transcendent ocean of Great Spirit once more – in the Charge of the Goddess, she calls that “enfolded in the rapture of infinite joy.”
I am always in mind of this metaphor when we sing the ubiquitous pagan chant by Z. Budapest:
“We all come from the Goddess,
and to Her we shall return,
like a drop of rain
flowing to the ocean.”
Why would we *choose* difficult incarnations?
I think we can blame insatiable curiosity for any difficult incarnations. In Witchery, we often refer to the “spark of life” or the “fires of Divine Will.” I’ve found this spark to be the impetus to evolve that is observed throughout the cosmos. I’m a panentheist, so I get to anthropomorphize this a bit further. I would suggest that Great Spirit Manifested as Cosmos, *craves* diverse experiences; it/they *desire* to become ALL THE THINGS, and there is no judgement of “good” or “bad” things, just the potential to evolve.
Comfort and suffering are shifting backdrops to the same opportunities to learn the great mysteries of life. The entry point does set a stage and can make it interesting, to be sure, but we prove all the time that the human spirit can overcome just about any adversity, and squander just about any resource.
Have you noticed how many privileged, rich, white dudes with every convenience and opportunity at their fingertips, get famous for CHOOSING to tackle crazy, depriving, death-wish challenges, like hike Mount Everest? That shit is excruciating and perilous, and kills more fools, than not. Aleister Crowley, is one example – he didn’t make it to the top, but he had Typhoid fever at the time, and people in his party almost died. Yet, despite his privileged beginning, he still succumbed to heroin addiction and insanity.
Another example was Christopher McCandless, a suburban kid from Virginia who graduates from Emory University, only to forsake the society tilted in the favor of guys like him. He CHOSE to give away every possession, and trek Into the Wild of Alaska with only a shotgun, camera and zero survivalist training. He died alone from wild potato seed starvation. His famous story is all about how he learned some major life lessons thanks to his tragic, pointless, slow, suffering death.
Seeking The Middle Path between Suffering and Comfort
Or, How about the story of The Buddha?
Siddhartha Gautama was born a Prince in Nepal. “His father was king who ruled the tribe… His mother died seven days after giving birth to him, but a holy man prophesized great things for the young Siddhartha… To keep his son from witnessing the miseries and suffering of the world, Siddhartha’s father raised him in opulence in a palace built just for the boy and sheltered him from knowledge of religion and human hardship….”
And yet, for enlightenment he gave up every comfort of the palace. “…at age 29, he left his kingdom, wife and son to lead an ascetic life, and determine a way to relieve the universal suffering that he now understood to be one of the defining traits of humanity. For the next six years, Siddhartha lived an ascetic life…enduring pain, fasting nearly to starvation, and refusing water… (later) he suddenly realized that corporeal austerity was not the means to achieve inner liberation, and that living under harsh physical constraints was not helping him achieve spiritual release… Siddhartha encouraged people to follow a path of balance instead of one characterized by extremism. He called this path the Middle Way.” source
Lessons from a Past-Life Retrievalist
As a clairvoyant, I offer past-live retrievals for clients. This has been a life-changing experience for me, communicating with dozens of Spirits who’ve had every kind of life. The under-privileged lives that started out with the most challenges — and the ones that began with comforts and suffered great tragedies — have equal opportunity to teach beautiful things. Their messages are that amazing benefits can come from hardships. Suffering happens in EVERY life, on some level, in some way.
The Caged Noblewoman
I once retrieved the life of beautiful, rich, pampered, white, noblewomen of the Old World. She hated everything about her life. She was tortured by societal helplessness as a female. She resented having to bear children. No matter how the nannies dolled them up in laces, she looked on them as her jailers. Her corset was a straight jacket. Her husband was a cold authoritarian who demanded she be a beautiful caged bird to adorn his arm, and she was. But the oppression of her free-will, her voice, her very capable mind, drove her insane. Ultimately, she never found the courage or chance to break free, so she broke down into a raving lunatic. She attempted suicide to get out of the silken cage. It was an ugly, raging end.
The Liberated Slave
I’ve also met a West African tribal leader, proudly introducing me to his wife and children. They lived off the land with almost nothing by way of convenience or monetary wealth. Yet, he was the happiest, most fulfilled and admirable man I’ve ever met. He was powerful in his native land, until he was captured by European slave traders and hauled tortuously across the ocean. He lost his family, tribe and country to be sold like livestock. He lived out his days in hard labor on a Virginia plantation, but his noble spirit showed taught me that a leader protects and cares for his people, no matter where they end up.
Don’t misunderstand me, he suffered…but he didn’t let this fate define him. He showed me how no matter how hard things got, he still celebrated life. He made make-shift instruments from things around the farm, and led music with his new “family.” He preserved his culture’s traditions clandestinely in the slave quarters. His beautiful spirit never broke, and he was never truly bound.
Sometimes folks just don’t get it while they are alive – they get lost and miss the point entirely. In some lives, you flame out…go down the unfortunate road and refuse to learn. You fail the test, as it were. Even if in one life you seem to have knuckled under to despair, or gone to “the dark side” by playing the role of “villain,” those actions still assisted other spirits in learning *their* hardship lessons, and hopefully next time you’ll take your turn as the one who “overcomes.”
While I’m retrieving, I follow the Spirit back to the between place, back to “the ocean” and the suffering is recalled with a dispassionate acceptance – like a curiosity reflected upon at a great distance. The life lessons these spirits want to share through me are mostly the beautiful and edifying realizations they took home with them after their personal tragedies.
Why not just stay in the Summerlands?
Honestly, I think “the summerlands,” or whatever you want to call that layover place between lives where we find peace, rest and reflection, gets boring after a while. Spirits WANT a body, it seems. Bodies are messy and complicated, but they come with such pleasures of the senses, too. As a big ocean, we don’t have the same ability to challenge and engage each other uniquely. The Veil of Separation provided by incarnation has it’s benefits…like making love.
We appreciate satiety, by experiencing deprivation.
We appreciate ecstasy, by experiencing pain.
We appreciate liberty, by experiencing bondage.
We appreciate intimacy, by experiencing isolation.
One without the other becomes neutral; where everythingness and nothingness cease to have any meaning at all. This is how I might think of any “Summerlands” after a while. This is the Hermetic Principle of Polarity at its finest.
I choose to name this “ocean” of Spirit The Two Who Move as One, and to visualize that as God/dess. Sometimes, like in the previous article, I personify them in a Mom/Dad metaphor, which pleases me well enough most of the time, and works in the context of the Wiccan Mythos and our ceremonies.
I try not to forget that all of these attempts to comprehend the workings of Spirit are just arrows that point in the direction of truth…not the ineffable truth itself. In this life I’ve had one consistently thing I’m sure about: reincarnation is a thing that happened to me. I’ve since explored that process pretty thoroughly, but one is never free of their biases. Maybe I’m just seeing what I want to see. Maybe I just need for there to be a bigger cosmic point to existence so I can rationalize my suffering, and so I “saw” what I wanted to see. Either way, we’ll all find out for ourselves soon enough, when Mama Ocean enfolds us in her rapture of infinite joy once more. I’m looking forward to it without any fear, so at least I have that going for me.
Thanks for a great writing prompt, WoodsWizard!
PS. For an inside view of how I meet these fascinating Spirits, check out this article: Down the Rabbit Hole of a Past-Life Retrievalist