A Thought Experiment


Let's imagine for a moment that reincarnation is true (and, no, all of those concerned for my orthodoxy, please don't send me the scripture references proving that it's not. This is a thought experiment. A fantasy, OK?) Now assume something else: that when your soul departs for the great waiting room in the sky where you hang about until you get your next posting, you are beyond space and time. That is, the waiting room doesn't follow our linear timescale and it is quite possible for your next life to be historically before the one you have just exited from. Or, it might be that you are reincarnated contemporaneously with your current existence.

With me so far? Now let's say, purely as a fantasy that the second scenario holds: that you come back again, in a different body and live a different life, but you live it at the same time as your current life. You could run into yourself in the street, and of course you would never know it.

Now lets take an even greater and more absurd leap of fantasy. What say every human being currently living, all six billion of them, are actually simultaneous reincarnations of yourself. Underneath their differences in gender, ethnicity, culture,clothing, lifestyle and history, all the people you encounter and the ones you only hear about and even the ones you are never going to hear about are actually you in disguise: your spouse and your offspring; Nelson Mandela and Robert Mugabe; your best friend and the guy you don't like very much; the pleasant person who drives your bus, the tired woman who bags up your groceries, the baby you see on TV with the flies on his face and the swollen belly, the annoying kid from next door with the loud motorbike; all of them, every last one, is really you. The transactions you now have with every single person you encounter are ones which you will one day be viewing from the other side. Whatever you give, absolutely you will one day receive. Whatever it is that is pitiable, enviable, ignorable, annoying, pleasing or desirable about the other will one day be yours to handle. If this were all true, what difference might it make to the way you think of yourself? What difference would it make to the way you think of others and treat them?

Oddly, although this is just a fantasy and although the mechanics are a bit different, Jesus suggests something very like this scenario in Matthew 22:39
We are enjoined to treat everyone as though they were ourselves: to understand and cut them the slack. To realise that they are no better and no worse than us. To know that given their circumstances we would probably be acting precisely as they are now, no matter how idiotic it might look to us right at the moment.

And even more oddly, Meister Eckhart, and in fact all the great mystics suggest that this idea of simultaneous reincarnation is not too far from the way the universe actually works. He is not suggesting that I am reincarnated in everyone, but rather that my consciousness participates in something that is shared by every sentient being. At my deepest level, says the Meister, is my ground. Built on top of the ground is a structure of all that makes me seem separate: -character, history, experience and so forth - but this structure is temporary and in the final analysis, illusory. The ground and the ground only is what is real. And my ground and your ground are the same. And my ground and God's ground are the same. Not just similar, not just made of the same stuff, but identical. We are one, all of us. And all of us derive that part of us that is ultimately real by sharing in the reality of God.

It's interesting how some descriptions of quantum physics seem to be saying much the same thing. It's hard to get your head around, and hard to believe. So if you can't believe it, or can't understand it I guess the best advice is not to try - you'll only give yourself a headache. Instead, follow Jesus' advice: you don't need to understand it and believe it, just act on it.

Comments

Janice said…
Kelvin, I decided long ago that reincarnation was the only reasonable answer to why some people live such short and miserable lives, and others are allowed to exist in luxury and freedom. It makes sense to me that we should be allowed to experience everything there is - for how else are we to learn all that there is to know. Just as we send our children to school, where they progress, or not, according to what they have learned, so would our Lord lead us to higher knowledge through experience. What you said about simultaneous existance makes sense too, in many ways, and as a universal belief, I think it would prevent much of the strife we see today. There is so much that we don't, and can't know in our earthly existance, unless, of course, one interprets Matthew 17.9-13 as being a reference to reincarnation straight from the mouth of Jesus. At any rate, I'm glad you raised the question, it bears thinking about! You are now my official guru!!
Katherine said…
Lovely thought, super way of looking at things. Thanks for it.
Funny, I had a similar thought the other day, sparked by a movie I was watching. It went something like this: Old judge decides that, if he had been in their position, (upbringing, health, social context etc etc) he would have done *Exactly* as they had done, ie stolen the bread, graffitied the wall, beaten the wife, committed the murder... and so he resigned, disillusioned and cynical.

But I was wondering if that realsation should not make US more understanding, tolerant, loving... and helping.
Of course in his position as judge, he was unable to judge right and wrong any more.
Judges are required to punish the PERSON for the wrongness of their BEHAVIOUR...

Um, this is getting complicated and I'm in danger of losing my train of thought here! :-)
You take over!
Katherine said…
PS. Sending healing thoughts down to you.
Tillerman said…
Thank you for the ‘Thought Experiment’ story, I think it is exquisite. Also thanks for the ‘Journey by Starlight’ Blog link. I have had a great time cross examining Albert Einstein who answers with all the deft, enigmatic, non committed slight of hand and sometimes precise knowledge of a humanly devised computer program. Great Stuff!
Anonymous said…
... I am sure what Jesus said is absolutely right though it seems completely improbable. I have been acting on what I could not understand but mysteriously believed since I was a child. Acting on my deepest knowing that everything was connected and that I had to be very good to manage this living thing right!...
Jesus never asked us to be rocket scientists, just wanted us to get on with living from the love at the core of our being.
Just recently,after reading Targ have begun to actually understand what Ive been acting on for years . Thank you for helping me to dare to get real about my existence. To come out of the closet where I have been reading and to act.
To live with awareness of my Awareness!
Simon said…
A wonderful post. I realize that you're only theorizing here, but your theories happen to coincide with my own beliefs. I came to accept the idea of reincarnation for much the same reasons as Janice, for instance. And *simultaneous* reincarnation also makes perfect sense to me. Why should it *not* be the case? Only our own perspective, entrenched in a linear timeline, gets in the way.

But the idea that we are all essentially one, that is what is *really* powerful. I first came across the concept in Neale Donald Walsch's 'Conversations with God Book 3' and immediately 'knew' it to be true. Most of the time, I lose that 'knowing', but whenever I manage to connect with it again, it feels wonderful. If we could all live in that belief, the world would be a very different place. It is my hope that it one day will be.

And as you point out, it doesn't really matter whether we believe in this or not. All we have to do is to live our lives *as though* it were true: to act upon the words of Jesus you quote.
VenDr said…
I have been thinking about the idea of "simultaneous" reincarnation for a long time now; I guess it's a way of getting a handle on the oneness of being - a concept, which as Simon describes it, comes and goes. I see it so clearly in some encounters with people and animals - a depth of communication which isn't telepathy because nothing is "transmitted" or "received" - there is rather a oneness of thought that evaporates as soon as you try to identify it or describe it. Most of the time, the way we are used to thinking of ourselves - as disparate islands of consciousness - takes over.
I'm not sure what I think about reincarnation, Janice. I have read some intriguing accounts, and had an interesting encounter with a newborn baby once which gave me pause for thought. Traditionally, Christians are fairly opposed to the idea, although I'm not sure why. You could read Jesus' words about John the Baptist as Jesus' asserting that John was a reincarnation of Elijah. Perhaps the import of the Christian antagonism is valid enough - that we should concentrate our energies on living this life and not worry unduly what happens next.