As a pantheist, people often ask me whether or not I believe in reincarnation, which usually refers to the rebirth of a soul in a new body after death. For the most part, the answers is, yes. But it really depends on what is truly meant by ‘reincarnation’ or how one may personally define the soul and/or the body.
I usually prefer to avoid using the term soul, because so many define it so differently. So for the sake of clarity, I will refer to the perceiving mind and the physical body. I believe each of us is like a passenger within a vessel mainly along for the ride or, if you prefer, a driver within a vehicle who has some control. We move from one vessel to another like a snake that sheds its old skin, again and again, or a hermit crab that moves from one shell to the next as it grows.
In terms of physical systems, there are living things and there are non-living things or dead things. All living physical bodies age, change, and sooner or later die, decay and wither away. But that perceiving entity that is you escapes that dying human form and continues onward. As your physical human vessel begins to die, it loses its needed order and balance to sustain itself. This imbalance and disorder finally reaches a critical point where the universe sort of gags on that dying version of you and then reflexively regurgitates or spits out that inner version of you from that dying vessel to go elsewhere.
Some believe it is all a mere physical world and that is all there is. Physical parts randomly interacting and that’s all. To me, that view falls short. There are those who would say it is all ultimately within the mind and that’s all there is. I don’t mind that view as long as that view includes an uncontrollable lawful aspect. It’s always difficult to fully define or explain what one means by ‘the mind’ or that which is ‘physical’. Personally, I view the physical material world as the resistant lawful portion of reality. So when I say physical or material or body, just know I mean that resistant portion of the cosmos, whether that be in the mind or not. So even if one says, it’s all in the mind, then at least know that there are unchangeable rules that your mind has to abide by. If you jump from the roof of your house, for instance, then due to gravity and all other physical laws, you will fall—unless you use other physical laws to alter that fall, such as a parachute or aircraft or some other lawful contraption. If it was all in the mind, in the way many often characterize it, then we would all be completely free to control our world and destiny or to defy the laws of physics. But I believe the mind is always bridled by laws of the All, laws of the cosmos. Even in dreams are we prisoners of this truth that we are not in full control. So even if it is all somehow technically in the mind, then it is as though the physical world (in the traditional sense of the word) still exists.
Some hate the idea of a dualist world-view, of trying to divide the universe or reality into two main separate camps like the mind and the body or the physical and the non-physical, often depicted by the Yin-Yang symbol, and claim that it is ultimately all one thing. I too, in many ways, believe it is all ultimately one symphony, one ocean of waves, so-to-speak, but at the same time, I believe that oneness can be differentiated or divided in the eyes of the perceivers. I am what is known as a dialectic or dualistic monist, one who sees both sides of the same coin. I’m also one who conceptually further divides the universe, that single coin, into higher resolution for further examination. So yes, I do view all of reality to ultimately be a unified whole, but this whole must express itself in dualistic terms to us perceiving beings.
For me, I believe the perceiving mind can never be fully extinguished nor separated from the physical world, for you can never have one without the other, because they go hand-in-hand like the black and white values on a written page. If you try to remove the white of the page the black text is no more or vice versa. Call it your spirit, your soul, your ghost or inner being, but it will always have a body or a physical aspect. In other words, whether your mind separates from your current human vessel by some means of spiritual ethereal mitosis or some type of quantum leap, from one physical vessel to the next, it will always be both of the physical and the non-physical, the mind and the body. It will never be otherwise.
Our levels of consciousness and awareness may come and go, it can wax and wane with sleep and wakefulness but can never be completely turned off like a light switch or a water faucet. However, your mind and identity are always changing, for a variety of reasons, thanks to the physical, material part of the world, and you will lose your memories eventually if not right away after your human death. But there has never been a time when you, the mental passenger, did not exist. I believe you will move from one life to the next, forever and ever. Because you, the perceiving entity, the passenger, are not like a mere physical structure like a house or chair that has only a fixed number of physical parts that can be assembled and then taken apart to be no more. That would unjustly cheapen the universe and what you truly are. Don’t misunderstand. Your human vessel does, indeed, have a fixed number of parts but that inner core version of you does not. You are so much more than that. You, that mental passenger, that perceiving entity is a hub, a core, an apex of the Forever All that is the universe from your unique point-of-view in time and space and you always will be. Your true body is the entire infinite physical universe. You are all that physicality and all that in between along with all its rules. Your mind is part of an unending continuum. It has always required the whole interconnected package we call the universe to make you possible. That will never change. There is no force powerful enough or a device clever enough to separate your inner perceiving light from the infinite cosmic lantern. That flame that is your local perceiving self merely changes its shape and position in the grand scheme of things as one might perceive it.
Putting aside our human death that will eventually come—sorry—in a very real sense, each of us are constantly being reincarnated from one moment to the next. We are all being reincarnated right now as I speak. Isn’t it amazing how the universe can allow our mind to have trains of thought, durations of existence, even though in a physical sense, as we often view it, we are a collection of tiny particles that don’t even physically touch one another? Observe the amazing physical processes that happen during the birth of any and all life and even observe the amazing processes that occur during death. Consider all the amazing mechanisms at play. Chemicals dance around, electrons change energy states and at times are emitted. Things bubble and flare up, they twist, contort, and move about, fluids flow, they squirt, spray, and flush themselves out as organic life tends to do whether it’s being born or dying. The universe is a remarkable machine with some remarkable mechanisms. Don’t so easily dismiss its ability to use similar awesome mechanisms to keep your perceiving mind going like an eternal flame that can never be completely blown out. Your wick and your wax will never run out. They are unending. They are eternal.
Some have suggested this view to be wishful thinking. That I and others are comforted by the thought and belief in reincarnation. Well, they’re partly correct. I would be lying if I said I had absolutely no hopes or desires to continue on after this present human life or that the idea of rebirth is not comforting, because to some extent, it is comforting. But as we all well know, life is not always comforting or pleasurable. It’s a mixed bag. In fact, it is too often quite the opposite. It can be rather painful, very cruel, very frightening, and extremely exhausting. I’ll admit, there’s a part of me that sometimes wishes it would not continue or that the whole thing would just stop. I don’t believe we get to live happily ever after in a blissful state of joy. Far from it. I will likely lose much of what I believe I know about the universe and have to relearn it all over again. In the next life, I will likely be very vulnerable like a child walking into a new classroom for the first time. So never forget, life is not all that great, but fortunately, it’s also not all that bad, either. It’s a mixed bag, always has been and always will be. So not mainly due to wishful thinking.
However, I always try to remove my emotions from the equation, so it doesn’t cloud my judgement, and I try to always base all my philosophical views on what I believe to be the truth and reality of the world, based on all that the universe has taught me so far, whether it’s actually right or wrong and whether I like it or not, and not on what I would like that reality or truth to be or need it to be or wish it to be. I know all too well that I would only be cheating myself to do otherwise, and I’m rarely ever able to fool myself into believing anything mainly out of comfort. I’m one of those who is always compelled to see behind the curtain, so-to-speak, to use any available evidence, logic, and/or valid reasoning before I believe in anything. Also, once anyone becomes familiar enough with my personal philosophical views, they will quickly learn that I believe in things that are very uncomforting and at times quite frightening or depressing. But I continue to believe in them, regardless, due to logic and lines of reasoning that are subject to error and could change the very next day.
Even in the absence of logic and going on instinct, I just never could believe that once my human body dies that my perceiving mind permanently and fully dies along with it never to reemerge, not ever. Think about that for a moment, what that would be like. Try to imagine simply not existing ever again. A hundred years roll by here on Earth, where you once lived as a human, then thousands, then billions, long after planet Earth, then trillions and still no you—not ever again. Not ever. As my grandpa Jack used to often say, “If it can happen once, it can happen again. It is now more difficult for me to believe we don’t continue than to believe we do.
Based on all the evidence I have gathered over the course of my life, thus far, I’m afraid you and I are here to stay, eternally trapped here within this infinite cosmic soup like prisoners, who will at times be treated well for good behavior and at times treated very badly and unjustly, back and forth, forever and ever, for better or worse. So we will have times of suffering as well as times of pleasure, times of sadness as well as times of great joy, moments of wakefulness as well as moments of sleepful rest. It will be perceived by each being to be both good and bad, both beautiful and ugly. Our minds will forever undulate between consciousness and unconsciousness to experience all the beautiful pleasurable highs and all the ugly painful lows and all the moments in between, over and over, in an endless cosmic cycle.
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