I have been thinking deep thoughts recently, about life and death and the nature of karma and whether I can make sense of the way people say it is.
I have a dilemma, and it is a dilemma I have faced before, where the collective wisdom of the establishment is pitted against my spiritual beliefs. Is it ok, and healthier, to demand your rights, do your thing, and ignore the effect upon others, because they are adults too? Is it ok to care about yourself first and put everything else second, or is it better to care about everyone else first and put yourself last?
I believe in reincarnation as a possibility, and I know that at this point many people would wash their hands of me as being too stupid or ethereally hypnotized to be worth reading (or talking to). But I have had a spontaneous memory of a past life, and so I believe it may be a possibility. In any case, if one believes in an eternal soul,it seems to me to be no great step to believe in reincarnation. If the soul outlives the body it doesn't seem that hard to imagine the soul might find another.
I have always had an interest in the spiritual side of life, have always been aware that there is more to it than the three dimensional world we can observe and touch with our hands and feelings. I have never restricted myself to conventional religion, having quite an aversion to rules and rituals, which is probably why I found myself a Quaker at 37.
I believe in experiential faith, and it was quite a relief once I found that Quakers do not have a dogma or anything that they expect others to believe, feeling it is right for people to believe what they believe, whatever that is. Strangely a lot of the Quakers I have met have been very similar in belief, very open to new things, open to other people, open to new light, wherever they may find it.
But over the past ten or twenty years, I have realised that the proportion of people I have known who are involved in non-mainstream beliefs - the wiccans, the pagans, the druids, the people of no particular spiritual home, the new agers, the hippy trailers, the people who follow their hearts to ashrams and eastern practices...the proporion of people I have known has grown and grown, till they are the largest group and far outnumber the Catholics, the Church of England-goers and the Quakers, Jews, Muslims and Sikhs.
And something has been changing over that time, which coincides with the gradual growth of the internet, and the online thing... some conventions and rules have sprung up and been adopted by the community so that people talk about them as though they were somehow written in stone, a constitution for the floopy majority who talk about people having chosen their current lot in life, having incarnated with a soul group, having come into the world at this time, with these parents, in order to learn something significant to their spiritual life, their soul's imprint and future.
It fascinates me because I like to wonder "how would that work, in practice?" If it is true that we incarnate many times, with the same group of people, working out our differences, how would that work, actually?
The convention that people may have birth marks which relate to the way they died in the past life has become widely known and part of what I think of as reincarnation mythology, for even though I believe in reincarnation, I still don't know that it works this way. Do we always look like our previous incarnation? For that also has become the norm, to the point where someone will claim that one person is the reincarnation of another, even if one was born before the other died. There's faith for you.
The problem I see in looking at things this way, in thinking about reincarnation, is that the person I am now, the person typing this out, thinking these thoughts, this person is me and I can define who I am because I love the people I love, the things I love, have experiences and memories which go with those things and those people, and I care about them in an absolute and non-judgemental way. If I drift out of this body, and happily leaving them behind, I won't be the same person any more, even if I live on.
If that's the truth, what can I learn here as a soul, which still makes any sense once you have stripped my identity away from me? And if my aim is eventually to live as part of God, always happy, loving, helpful with no darkness allowed at all... how is a lesson learned down here among the fallible, grumpy, impatient, dishonest, faulty humans going to help with that?