This is a post written in collaboration with The Theosophical Society, an Elephant Mindful Partner. We’re honored to work with The Theosophical Society—dedicated to exploring and understanding the wisdom of the ages, and uncovering truth. ~ ed.
“I have some good news and some bad news about reincarnation. The good news is that it happens. The bad news is that it never happens to you.” ~ Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
What do you think happens when we die?
Is death just the end, or is there some kind of afterlife?
Does heaven exist?
And what about reincarnation?
These are questions we all ask, regardless of our religion, background, or beliefs. And we all find different ways to answer them—but is there some common thread, some greater truth underlying all our religions and spiritual traditions?
This is the question The Theosophical Society is dedicated to exploring and uncovering.
Founded in late 1875, the Theosophical Society grew out of one woman’s search for wisdom about the nature of life and the reason for human existence.
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky traveled all over the world in search of this truth, eventually bringing the spiritual wisdom of the East and that of the ancient Western mysteries to the modern West, where they were virtually unknown. Her writings became the first exposition of what is today known as modern Theosophy.
The foundation of Theosophy is that “behind everything seen or unseen there is an eternal, boundless, and immutable absolute Reality, which is beyond the range of human thought.”
Their mission is to encourage open-minded inquiry into world religions, philosophy, science, and the arts in order to understand the wisdom of the ages, respect the unity of all life, and help people explore spiritual self-transformation.
In their quest to help us explore and understand who we are, where we come from, and why we are here, they offer a rich and diverse range of programs to their members and non-members alike: weekly webcast guest lectures—featuring some of the leading thinkers of our time—as well as classes and groups, online webinars, special events, workshops, and retreats.
Two of these weekly guest lectures offer some profound insights, potentially, to these universal questions about life—and death.
Dr. Eben Alexander is an author and speaker, best known for his book, Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife.
After 25 years as a practicing neurosurgeon, Dr. Alexander suffered a sudden onset of severe bacterial meningitis which left him in a coma, and by all accounts should have killed him. Instead, he had a near-death experience that changed everything he thought he knew about consciousness, spirituality, and life after death.
With zero brain activity being recorded by the machines monitoring him, he experienced something his scientific colleagues could not explain with their medical understanding of the brain, how it works, and where consciousness comes from.
A scientifically grounded man, who previously believed death was the end, Dr. Alexander was transformed by his experience, and has since been researching and writing and speaking about consciousness, the meaning of life, and the true nature of death.
Dr. Alexander’s out of body journey led him to a fascinating perspective on reincarnation, or the return of the “soul” to the world after one’s physical death.
In Buddhism, reincarnation is explained as our energy continuing to the physical realm until our karmic actions are cleansed and we can leave the cycle of worldy suffering, or samsara. But, in Dr. Alexander’s understanding, the process is more constructive than reactive: he believes we live many times, in many different ways, in order to learn and grow in love. However, he does mention a “life review” where our souls are guided through a review of what amounts to our karmic actions, by those whom we have affected. In his view, suffering is a gift: an opportunity for the growth which he says is our life’s purpose.
The words that perhaps best summarize his post near-death-experience world-view are “you are loved,” and “all is well.”
In this intimate and powerful re-examination of his best-selling book, Proof of Heaven, hosted by The Theosophical Society, Dr. Alexander looks at the past two and a half years of his life spent in trying to reconcile his rich spiritual experience with contemporary physics and cosmology. He is convinced that his remarkable journey is totally consistent with the leading edges of scientific understanding today.
Watch his powerful talk:
Past life regression.
Another Theosophical Society speaker, well-known past life regressionist, and author of the book, Beyond Past Lives, Mira Kelley adds even more depth to Dr. Alexander’s insights in her lecture.
When Kelley was 13, she read a book which detailed stories of regressions and showed how reliving past lives allows people to release emotional traumas and cure ailments. She says,
“Even though I had no illnesses and no emotional issues, I was greatly intrigued by the opportunity to see the bigger picture of who I am. I regressed myself and I had a very dramatic experience…”
Her experience completed removed her fear of dying and left her with a profound lesson: be good; be loving. That regression had a great impact on her life, but it wasn’t the only one she was to experience. The second was just as profound, though this time she felt the effects in her body, as she was relieved of intense jaw pain through processing an acutely traumatic experience in another past life.
Kelley believes, as a result of the life-changing lessons that she and her clients have learned through past life regression, that we can heal our body, mind, and spirit through an understanding of these principles.
She advises us to turn to past life regression when we need guidance making decisions, want to resolve emotional and health issues, or want to understand our purpose in life and the events that surround us.
This is largely because, she says, we are connected with other lives where we have been working through similar challenges as the issues we are now facing.
We also tend to reincarnate with the same group of souls so that we can work together on lessons, resolve karma, gain understanding, and grow spiritually.
Through revisiting a past life we are able to understand how those challenges were handled in other lives. Simply re-living and re-experiencing creates the kind of understanding that is really transformative.
This empowers us to forgive, to let go, to learn, and ultimately to make different choices in our present life. Such deep spiritual healing often translates into the healing of physical symptoms and illnesses.
In her talk, she shares her insights on the nature of time, karma, destiny, free will, and how each choice we make creates a new reality:
“There is no religion higher than truth.”
These are the watchwords of The Theosophical Society.
Regardless of our personal beliefs or individual understanding of life, death, and whatever greater meaning underlies our existence, truth is something we all seek.
You can find out more about the basic ideas of Theosophy here, although the Theosophical Society does not ask its members to adhere to any of their ideas in particular.
All of their events and courses are open to non-members, so there is no need to join to take advantage of much of what they offer. However, those who wish to become members and benefit from a wider range of resources as well as discounted rates on events are only expected to be in agreement with the Three Objects of the organization which seem not just acceptable, but admirable as basic tenets.
>> To form a nucleus of the universal “brotherhood” of humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste, or color.
>> To encourage the comparative study of religion, philosophy, and science.
>> To investigate unexplained laws of nature and the powers latent in humanity.
Modern Theosophy postulates that the field of existence embraces more than this material and passing reality we perceive through our senses. In fact, the lack of knowledge about the higher aspects of reality makes us see things from a wrong perspective, which is the root cause of suffering.
We can gain knowledge of the Real, both in the universe and in human beings, by means of a holistic spiritual practice that includes study, meditation, and service.
Learn more about Theosophy, share your quest for Truth with like-minded people, or join the Theosophical Society here.
“Sometimes I tease people and ask: What makes you so adamant that there’s no life after death? What proof do you have? What if you found there was a life after this one, having died denying its existence? What would you do then? Aren’t you limiting yourself with your conviction that it doesn’t exist? Doesn’t it make more sense to give the possibility of a life after death the benefit of the doubt, or at least be open to it, even if there is not what you would call ‘concrete evidence’?” ~ Sogyal Rinpoche
Images: Audrey Nicole Photography
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren