A four-and-a-half year-old boy who had just been reprimanded by his father once responded angrily: “In the past, when I was grown-up, I was your dad and you were still a child.” The father told his son that he could know nothing of such things, because he hadn’t yet been born. To which the boy replied: “Later, when we are grown up, you will be little, and when you are grown-up again, we will be little.”


Reincarnation Defined: Reincarnation has always been a controversial subject. Many people nowadays are giving it serious thought and realize that in one short life it is impossible to learn everything about ourselves and the universe. They also wonder why there is so much misery in the world. They are no longer satisfied with religious explanations about heaven and hell and are searching for more inner truth.


According to ancient teachings that form the basis of later religions, the human ego returns at some point to earth after the change we call ‘death’ and a long period of rest in other realms, where we process our past life. Reincarnation allows us to learn new lessons on earth, where our ties of sympathy and friendship, but also of antipathy and hate, are revived.


While some people live to a ripe old age, others die very young. What is the purpose of all these lives if we are merely temporary phenomena in an immense universe? Are we here simply by chance, because now and then life originates here and there in the cosmos? Death often feels like a big hole that we fall into when we die; if reincarnation is true, however, it is something we have experienced many times. Humans die every day, as do animals, plants, stars, and whole solar systems. Do they all simply dissolve into nothing, for no reason at all?


Thinking about these issues is the only way to discover a certain logic in the idea of reincarnation. Knowledge of it enriches us because it leads to an inner change, an ‘inner alchemy’, and if we change the world changes too.


Some parents have said that when they look at their own newborn children, their eyes look back as if reflecting heaven. Consider the achievements of ‘wonder children’, such as Mozart. Such children must have brought such gifts with them from somewhere. The purity of many children, and their unconditional love for their parents and others, indicate that they are recalling a much purer period of existence.

Reincarnation and Karma: According to the doctrine of reincarnation, everyone is responsible for everything they do and say. Thoughts are elementals, some of which are born within us, while others are drawn from the thought reservoir of the planet. All our actions, words and thoughts have consequences – our karma. In other words, what we sow we will someday have to reap, in this life or in a future life.


Our responsibility for all our actions is something we need to handle consciously. That is probably why reincarnation was removed from the Christian scriptures, though if you read between the lines, the Bible still contains statements pointing in this direction. By abolishing the concept of reincarnation, our individual responsibility for our deeds is transferred to a religious institution. This makes it possible to acquire power of those individuals, and if you add a few dogmas, this creates dependence on a particular faith.


But we humans are not dependent on any ruler. Even ‘God’ would never want to oppress us or act as a dictator in our lives. What’s more, this innermost core of life is in essence ourselves. It is our deepest self and connects us all. We are all ‘god sparks’, ‘sparks of cosmic fire’, ‘droplets in the universal ocean’. Cosmic consciousness is made up of the innermost essence of all beings, whatever their physical form.


Reincarnation is inseparable from karma. In addition to our individual karma, there is our family karma, national karma, group karma, and the karma of our earth, our solar system, and even our universe. It is through karma that we incarnate in a particular family and country with the right parents, though those who do not get on well with their parents might find this difficult to understand. Consciously, or unconsciously, we are all co-workers with the universe and possess a large measure of free-will.


Reincarnation and Suffering: Many people wonder why there is so much suffering in the world. It is sometimes hard to comprehend what people go through in their lives. There are countries where the most terrible things happen. Seeing images of such suffering sometimes causes a strong feeling of powerlessness. It is impossible to help everyone on this earth, so it is important to think carefully about what we do.


Many countries donate money, especially after major disasters such as earthquakes or tsunamis. On a smaller scale, they provide clothing, medical assistance or help with building homes and schools. Seeing all this suffering is already a lesson for people who are materially better off, because our response is a deliberate act that we do for others, a deed of love and respect for our fellow human beings. But people may also need help in our immediate environment, even though it doesn’t get mentioned in newspapers or on television. The important thing is not to close our eyes to the suffering of others, and do whatever we can.


The major and minor lessons in our lives apply to both those who suffer and those who see people suffering and lend a helping hand. In both cases, an inner transformation occurs, a growth in consciousness. By understanding the true purpose of our present life and subsequent lives, we acquire increasing insight into the inner realms of life. Our freedom as human beings entails a high degree of responsibility for all the living things around us, including animals, plants and the earth as a whole.


Every choice we make, individually or collectively, will have consequences. These consequences may affect entire nations, or entire families, and either bring people together or drive them apart. It is therefore very important to think carefully about what we do. That doesn’t mean we can suddenly become perfect. But every effort to improve ourselves is a step in the right direction.


Reincarnation and the After-Life: According to some religions, we only have a single life on earth and afterwards go to a sort of paradise. They also say that there is a God, a sort of personal being of the male sex, who lives in heaven, where he welcomes people who have been good, who can stay with him for the rest of eternity. Meanwhile, bad people go to hell, a place of fire and suffering, to which they are condemned for eternity, without any chance to change themselves.


This scenario raises a number of questions. What are the people in heaven going to do all that time? You might feel blissful surrounded by beauty, love and angels, but in the long run I think it would be excruciatingly boring. As for the people in hell, it would be very sad if they were never to be given a chance to change and learn. I think that belief in heaven and hell creates a real ‘death’, because there is nowhere else to go, and in my view that would be real suffering. In heaven you are sweetly cradled to sleep, while in hell you are consumed forever by those horrible flames.


Heaven and Hell are really states of consciousness created by our own actions. Here on earth our life is determined by our deeds, by the person that we have been and that we now are and that we will become in the future.


Reincarnation and Ethics: Another viewpoint is that when we die, that is the end of it all. People who believe this are known as Atheists. They often live that one life for all it is worth. This sometimes means they are very egocentric and believe that some people are simply lucky while others suffer misfortune. They also believe in Darwin’s theory that humans descended from the apes. They believe in the law of the jungle, that those who are strong, smart and healthy will prevail. This can lead to a very competitive attitude in their personal and social lives.


If reincarnation is a fact, and if we realize that we ourselves cause many things pleasant and unpleasant, that we encounter, we would be able to create a different world together. As the old saying puts it, ‘to improve the world, we must begin with ourselves.’


Perhaps it is a good idea to consult the ‘child in ourselves’, for that pure and receptive being is still present within us. We are in essence one with the universal primordial principle, droplets that together form the great ocean of life, and all of its splendid possibilities are therefore contained within each one of us. – Rita Houthuijzen, Holland – published with permission of the author from Impuls newsletter June 2014.


If you wish to make a comment on this lecture or contact the author, please email: andrewrooke@hotmail.com