“It is not more surprising to be born twice than once; everything in nature is resurrection.” ~ Voltaire
“‘But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.’ Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.” ~ Jesus (Matthew 17:12, 13)
When I was in junior high, I remember learning about the tenets of Eastern religions.
Firmly planted in the Midwestern hub of all things righteous, wholesome, and Christian, my friends and I rolled our eyes and giggled at the absurdity of the ideas of karma and reincarnation.
Now I’m not so sure.
Some of the world’s most brilliant minds have believed in cyclic life, including Benjamin Franklin, Plato, General George Patton, Socrates, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Ford and Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens). I’ve often wondered: if energy cannot be created or destroyed, and if our souls and the life force of all that is living is made up of energy, where does that force go if it doesn’t stick it out for another go ’round?
I’ve come to believe that religion is an attempt at explaining that which we don’t understand, and we’re all trying to understand the same things. We want to know where we came from, why we’re here, and what we’re supposed to do while we’re here.
I’ve also decided that, put into the right context, one explanation is likely as plausible as the next, and that I’ve got no business deciding my own ideas are right for someone else’s life. Maybe that’s naïve, or maybe that’s enlightenment. The labels don’t really matter because it’s all so deeply personal.
What if, though…
What if we do come back?
What if our souls not only inhabit different bodies, but what if our souls choose, before we are born, who we will be?
What if we step into the energy created by our parents, our surroundings, our physical bodies, or even the time or place we are born, by free will, choosing to learn (or not learn) certain virtues or lessons?
Some of us are born with privilege and advantages and never really face challenges. Others are born into lives that are full of struggle—families that are broken, physical challenges, mental or emotional disadvantages.
What if we are not victims of these things, but instead, we have chosen to have struggles so that we can learn empathy, humility, goodness, love, or other virtues? Or, on the flip side, to experience power, lust, greed, or other human passions, for the sake of understanding those things, too?
It’s an empowering thought, if you think about it. It would mean that we are not suffering, so much as we are honing ourselves to better connect with each other.
We already know that, in life, we have free will: we can either choose to learn the lessons we are given, or we can avoid them and continue to be presented with them again and again until we do learn. Why can’t this cyclic process also be carried out after physical death?
Science fully supports the fact that our entire planet and beyond, from the tiniest microscopic creatures to the stars themselves, are in constant cycles of birth, growth, decline, and death. It does not make sense to me that it would stop there.
What are the boundaries of free will? Maybe we do not need to be asking when it begins and ends, but if it begins or ends at all.
We all have likes, dislikes, fears, affinities, and attachments that make no logical sense when we try to explain them based solely on experiences in this life. We all have people in our lives whose souls we recognized immediately, no matter how long we’ve known them in this life. It is not such a leap to suggest that perhaps experiences and connections remain imprinted in our souls long after our bodies serve their purpose.
Life is breathtaking to consider. We are viewing the universe through a peephole. It is as if we are trying to write poetry in another language with the only three words we know.
I have far more questions than answers, but I am perfectly content being left in wonder and awe of life as it unfolds. I do know that we are all full of endless possibilities, and that nothing is truly definitive.
What if we are infinite souls with free will long before we are born into this world? Is it possible that we choose the simplicity or suffering we step into? And if we did, what will we do with it now?
The rest is your choice, and mine. And that’s the beauty of it all.
Author: Amanda Christmann
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Greg Rakozy/Unsplash