Reincarnation, the ‘Interlife’, Universal Consciousness & the Holographic Soul
By IAN LAWTON—
Modern studies repeatedly suggest that a significant proportion of people in the Western world now believe in reincarnation. Although this phenomenon can be traced back to various esoteric movements that flourished from the second half of the 19th century, it gained significant ground with the explosion of popular interest in Eastern spiritual approaches in the 60s. And it was reinforced by a proliferation of therapists offering to regress people into their past lives.
Yet now the tide seems to be turning again. For some years the emphasis has been moving more towards the idea that we are all part of the One, the All, the Source, the Absolute, the Ultimate, the Great Spirit or whatever we choose to call the ‘universal consciousness’. Of course this is not a new idea. But what is changing is that especially more intellectually minded spiritual seekers are tending towards the view that anything outside of the ‘One’ is mere ‘illusion’.
In fact this word illusion is used a great deal in spiritual circles these days, although actually in quite different contexts, and it is perhaps worth considering what these are. Of course readers would all agree that the physical world itself is to some extent an illusion, at least inasmuch as it is underpinned by the nonphysical planes and states of being that science is increasingly pointing towards. But what about the idea that we only reincarnate for as long as we fail to see through the ‘illusion’, and that as soon as we gain ‘enlightenment’ we can ‘break the bonds of karma’ and ‘reunite with the Source’? More radical still, what about the idea that any notion of individuality is completely illusory on all levels, and that as soon as we die there is no sense of continuation of any sort of individual soul consciousness?
Whether or not they make it explicitly clear, these latter two are the ‘illusion models’ supported by a significant proportion of our best-known spiritual commentators of modern times – be they proponents of, for example, the ‘power of now’, or of ‘cosmic ordering’, or of ‘quantum mysticism’. Yet to see the world in this way is entirely at odds with what we might call the ‘experience model’, which holds that we lead many lives in order to see all sides of every emotional coin, and to learn to deal with the manifest challenges that life on this planet provides. In other words, a model in which the emphasis is on an individual soul growing by experience over many lifetimes.
If we are to adopt a rational approach then, rather than relying on ‘revealed wisdom’ ancient or modern, it is surely sensible to consider which of these models is best supported by logical analysis and the available evidence.
We can start with the premise that there must exist some sort of ultimate force or energy that underlies the entire universe, both seen and unseen, which is the Origin or Source of everything in it. However ineffable it may be, this principle of a universal consciousness is almost a logical necessity, and it is certainly supported by scientific research at both the quantum and the macrocosmic level. The idea that ‘we are all one’ is also a common element of transcendental experiences, whether spontaneous, meditative or induced by hallucinogens. So our next step must be to investigate whether, at the same time, there is any real evidence to support the idea of an individual consciousness that exists or survives independent of the physical body.
The most relevant area of research here is near-death experiences. In particular we are interested in cases that involve subjects returning with factual information that is subsequently verified, and yet so obscure that they could not reasonably have acquired it in any ‘normal’ way.
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