Monday, June 4, 2012


"The withering hope in eternity is simply the reverse side of a withering faith."   J. Ratzinger

For as far back as recorded history exists
, there rarely has been prevalent the idea that everything ends with death. Some form of the notion of judgement, and forms of salvation may be found the world over. In places with a strong tradition of faith within non-theistic religious expression, the imagining of  "other" life, life "beyond the veil," is sometimes vague and imprecise. While not quite an existence in nothingness, this unknowingness, or obscure relation, is perceived in a remarkable way, connecting itself with the everyday, living world.

Firstly, there are connections in many
of those traditions, with the spirits of this shadowy realm who need the help of the living to continue to survive; first they need offerings and continual attention: food, prayer, money, housing, and other comforts. This makes for their immortality; they are not forgotten. And secondly, they, as spirits, are powerful; members of a universal realm, they may pose either as a help or as a threat to living persons.

People as often admire the departed spirit as they fear, even dread them.Over the ages a variety of rituals have been engaged to address the spirits and to sometimes protect themselves from them. Simultaneously the spirits of one's ancestors, primarily those who are seen in a protective role for the clan, are most often worshiped to ensure their favor. This practice of ancestor cults is one of the most ancient forms in human society.

Ancestor worship gives evidence that the bonds of love, family and community are unbroken, even by death. The belief of incarnation in these instances may be understood as a remedy for the justice or injustices of the world. One may, for example incarnate as a simple life form such as an animal or an insect, or they may attain perfection and complete their spiritual journeys, in the view of believers. The teachings of incarnation lend a sense of an inflexible justice, expiation for wrongdoings in life and a correction for that karmic condition. However when the bulk of life experience in this world is experienced as suffering, trans-migration of souls may not be enough. The goal may then be described as the intention to escape the bounds of individuality, to escape the confusion of the world, cycling of existence, so as to surrender to the origins of the true, universal self. This is sometimes described as the Dharmakaya, the great intelligence-mind.

Reincarnation encompasses a sense
of everything and nothing; it is all times, all places and all spirit.  Full of hope and innocence, the belief in incarnation, cause and effect and the transmigration of souls is part of a vast, turning wheel in this world. For many today, however and for many in the West it loses its ancient sense of faith in moral justice; it is not universally perceived as the means by which a hidden power of justice is meted out in the here after.
Instead many now wish to interpret the ancient belief as a type of "energy conservation" wherein the soul's energy is not merely dispersed nor deleted at death; it instead in this view, there requires some form of embodiment. This newer view is at odds with the classic faith of the transmigration of souls.

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