There was a lot of good information on reincarnation in the earlier thread: Did Campbell convert? I’ve copied and pasted the relevant bits to save people switching back and forth between the two.
About the only joke that I know on reincarnation:
Consider the story of the two octogenarians on a park bench.
One asks the other: "Do you believe in reincarnation?"
"Well, Joe," replies Harry, "I've never really thought much about it."
"Maybe we ought to start thinking about it," says Joe. "One of us is going to go first. Let's agree that the one who is left behind will come to this park bench every Wednesday at 11:00 a.m., and the one who has departed will find a way of getting a message to him at that time about reincarnation and all those other things that are beyond our ken."
One month later, Joe dies peacefully in his sleep. Every week for several months, Harry takes up his station at the park bench at 11:00 a.m.
Then one Wednesday, at the appointed hour, he hears a voice, as though from afar.
"Harry, Harry, can you hear me?" the voice says. "It's Joe."
"Joe, for heaven's sake, what is it like?"
"You wouldn't believe it, Harry, about the only thing you do up here is make love. They wake you up at seven in the morning and you make love until noon. After lunch and a nap, you're at it again right through until dinner time."
"Good gosh, Joe, what are you and where are you?"
"I'm a rabbit in Montana!"
Campbell talks about Jung's psychological interpretation of a spiritual text. In fact, Jung was (I think in general, but at least in his later years) convinced, that there is a part of our consciousness that is independent from time and space.
In his autobiographical memories, written down by Aniela Jaffé, he is wondering about the possibility of a personal life after death. Not because he had a desire to live forth, he says, but because he had some experiences which made it believable for him.
What is much more important, and here, I think, he is very near to Campbell, is that he was convinced that there is an eternal consciousness: A part of our consciousness, he says, is beyond time and space. This is the same mystical view, like that which the Hindus call mythologically "Atman".
I think Kant was the philosopher (and in his tradition Schopenhauer) who made this point of view, which is known as "Philosophia Perennis", believable both for Jung and Campbell. (At least Jung had, in addition to that, shamanic visions and mystical experiences which consolidated this metaphysical view.)
Jung used "the self" generally related to personal psychological potentials, not in the sense of "Atman".
(Look at CALL TO ADVENTURE-forum!)
http://www.jcf.org/new/forum/viewtopic. ... forum=28&8
In my opinion, the return of personal consciousness to eternal consciousness is a mythological description of the philosophical insight, that "a part of your consciousness" belongs to eternity. (I don't like the expression "a part of our consciousness", because what is indeed eternal is not a part, but the non-separated TOTALITY of consciousness.) After death "you" (= your eternal self) will still be there, in the same sense like it is there now, while you are wondering about it. (After death you will not have to wonder about it anymore!) Today's "now" would not be eternal, if it would be separated from any "now" after your death or before you were born. "Now" is always the same: The eternal now is beyond time: Time and space are thought to be an expression of consciousness, not the other way round.
In POWER OF MYTH, Campbell interprets the idea of reincarnation as a mythological visualization of "Thou art That", which is the mystical insight, that it is always the same (unseparated) transcendental mystery, which incarnates in the (separated) forms of time and space.
That's why, in my opinion, Campbell's central spiritual belief was the Philosophia Perennis: The mystical insight into identity of all separated forms beyond the separating categories of time and space.
The "Christus Triumphans" is a Chritian symbol for exactly the same mystical insight: That it is always the same godlike mystery, which incarnates in the separated and mortal forms of time and space. I'm sure, that Campbell would have appreciated any other symbol, which represents the same idea, in the same way. Maybe he would have interpreted Tree Hugger's cyclic retreats and returns in the same way: Just another funny symbol for the same mystical insight. To come and go, come and go, ..., but in the essence to be always the same.
I have to admit that this idea of reincarnation is well above my head. I am having trouble understanding what this spirit or monod actually is.
My outer person/personality that everyone knows and loves and hates dies when my physical body/brain dies, is killed or simply "conks out" through over-use and dissipation. On death my spirit or monad or Witness or Christ within is released.
In some of the things I have read this inner part is pure and untouched by the way I’ve lived my life. It may have tried to help me through intuition or if I have accidently come into contact with it through for example a “peak experience”. If that view is correct, I don’t understand why it has any sins or blemishes that need to be burned off in purgatory or that must be resolved through another life. The things that have happened in this life are as a result of the way that I have chosen to live my life.
This week is the 50th anniversary of the death of Stalin, who was responsible for the deaths of at least 10 million people. I pity the poor monod who got the short straw and ended up inside him.
I guess that I had always assumed that the spirit within me was in some way linked to me. If you could separate it from my body it would be formless but it is still in some sense "me". When I physically died it is that inner part of me that is then transferred to another form up or down the scale of physical forms from Indra to ant or blade of grass (Prince Charles once told Camilla Parker Bowles, in a telephone conversation, that someone recorded and sent to the newspapers, that he wished that he could be reincarnated as one of her tampons/sanitary towels –and they say the English have no sense of romance!)
What’s interesting for instance is "near death experiences", where people have died on the operating table, have had an “out of body” experience and have entered a tunnel and approached a bright white light. Sometimes they’ve entered a room where hooded men were sitting and have gone through their past lives and then been given the opportunity to return. When they’ve returned they’ve surprised the staff by recalling some of the doctors’ conversation during their out of body experience.
I’m not sure therefore that I would agree with JC that reincarnation is a myth in the sense of being a symbol. What do others think? Thanks for your help.
I believe that models for spirit, whether it be reincarnation, heaven/hell, nirvana, etc., are essentially metaphors which are meant to direct us beyond to that for which language fails and fails utterly. Some people need these images to focus their attention on the Great Mystery, as it were. Very similar to Campbell's Masks of God analogy. Many get stuck on the mask.
maybe you should start a new thread about the idea of reincarnation as fact and as metaphor.
Campbell interprets the term in the mystical tradition. It is related to the mystical experience of the metaphysical unity of all phenomenal appearances. Aldous Huxley called it “perennial philosophy”, and Campbell frequently referred to Huxley. Huxley interpreted his own mystical experiences. (They were evoked by drugs, but millions of people have had the same mystical experiences without external chemical support.) The philosophical concept he calls “perennial philosophy” is based on the concept of “philosophia perennis”, coined by German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz (1646 - 1716). The idea is briefly, that there’s one transcendental mystery, that incarnates in the forms of time and space. We are incarnations of transcendence, and in this sense we are eternal, because the transcendental mystery is eternal. That is meant, when Campbell suggested to identify with the light, not with the bulb. Our bodies are like bulbs; What incarnates is the one transcendental light.
Reincarnation is a specific religious belief, just like heaven and hell and sitting with Jesus represent specific religious beliefs.
To me, it has seemed clear that Joseph Campbell viewed specific religious beliefs to be human efforts to concretize and understand the Great Unknown Mystery. Campbell preferred to consider those specific beliefs as metaphors for that unknown mystery, for the mysterium tremendum.
In my experience, metaphors feel much less comforting to most people than concretized religious beliefs do.
I have had a near death experience from anaphalactic shock. I spoke about it in another thread. Unfortunately, I deleted it -- one of my annoying habits.
I floated up above my body, I heard and saw all that was going on around me, my dead mother greeted me and told me that I had to go back because my family -- the people who love me -- would not make it if I died. It was too early. It wasn't my time to die. Nobody was ready. Go back.
And then an angry voice insulted me in the grossest terms possible and ordered my adrenal glands to immediately produce a large amount of adrenaline or I would die.
That angry voice was my own. Not an angel, not God, not Jesus, not even my dead mother's spirit as some of my more religious friends and family would like to believe.
The insult the voice delivered was the kind that would immediately produce an adrenaline rush if it was said to me in regular life in such an ugly and angry voice. It would produce a fight or flight reaction. In other words, it would produce the bodily hormone that counteracts anaphalcatic shock. I would live.
It was the same voice that narrates my dreams, although it seldom speaks in such an ugly tone. Sometimes the voice is impatient if my dreams keep sending me an image and I don't get it. The voice tells me to pay attention and gives me pointed clues. I didn't know for a long time that other people did not regularly dream in the same way.
I'm convinced that voice represents my Self, the Christ within, whatever you want to call it. Whatever it is, it's me. Not atman or anything outside the circle of me.
It is the wise part of me that always knows what to do. The unwise part of me, the part called my Ego, makes numerous blunders and mistakes.
My Self, the entire circle of me, knows exactly what to do and when to do it and how to do it. Unfortunately, I don't always have conscious access to the wisdom. Nor do any of us.
When my Self ordered my body to produce adrenaline, it did. Immediately. I went from dead, feeling nothing, to fully conscious and in great pain in a split second.
To my friends and family who believe in concretized religious ideas, my amazing recovery from death represented proof of God's existance. The fact that my dead mother spoke to me and told me to go back left many of them weeping with joy. It proved to them that she was in heaven and well and that when they died they would be with her for eternity.
Well, who am I to be a spoil sport?
I do not believe in concretized religious ideas, in heaven or hell, or in reincarnation. I have no idea what happens to our energy or spirit or soul when we die.
But I do believe that it was my Self doing the talking when I was croaked. My mother -- my personal memories of her and the archetypal mother of the collective unconscious -- resides within the circle that encompasses my Self.
Some of my therapist friends agree with that evaluation. And they think I need therapy to deal with my critical inner child or some such thing. They were appalled that my Self would say such ugly, unsupportive things to me.
Hey, I'm alive. You can't get much more supportive than that.
My experience, especially my meeting with my mother, brought joy to the hearts of my religious friends and relatives. They feel comforted knowing that she waits to greet them in Heaven when they die.
Now, me? I don't have to wait. She's part of my Self. She'll pop up whenever I need her. Metaphorically speaking, of course.
My devoutly religious sister hoped that my near death experience would bring me to the Lord. She hoped that I would convert. She's still hoping. It's good to know she'll never give up on me.
On 2003-03-07 08:40, Clemsy wrote:
“I believe that models for spirit, whether it be reincarnation, heaven/hell, nirvana, etc., are essentially metaphors which are meant to direct us beyond to that for which language fails and fails utterly. Some people need these images to focus their attention on the Great Mystery, as it were.”
Don't forget that the metaphor reaches beyond mere words, death and temporal existence itself can be a metaphor for the our own transcendent existence. I always liked the Light bulb analogy martin mentioned, but to expand on that I thought of a new one.
Imagine instead of a body you had a musical instrument (genetics, socio-economic variables, and developed beliefs allow for what kind and quality of instrument), and the music that is played is the life you lead (peak experiences being the times at which the music is at its most resonant). Of course no man is an island, So, all of existence playing together form a symphony (or million piece hard rock band, depending on your viewpoint). Now comes the question of reincarnation.
If some part of what you identify with as yourself returns after death, what part is it? The instrument? Perhaps you were a beat up old violin in a past life and now you're a Stratavarious, no we are mostly perfect when we are born, quality comes through use. So, we must be the music, playing the same tune over and over till we get it so right that the whole piece, from start to end, is a peak experience, maybe ... I just don't think that leads itself to individuation. More likely it marks the eternal memory of an individual life (this is what the Buddhists would call dharma). Though once everyone is playing in perfect harmony, it might as well all be the same song.
No I think we, our eveternal spirits, are the musicians, unseen, unheard, only capable of speaking through their music, but without whom there would be no music. Indeed many of us rarely, sometimes never, play even one note (though I don't think that includes anyone here). Those are the musicians certainly destined to return until they learn how to play. Of course that only leave explanation of the conductor. But I'll leave that one to you to think up.
Well done, JR. I would say, perhaps, we all go back to/become/are the Conductor. We get another assignment, more sheet music and return to the orchestra.
Metaphorically speaking, of course.
you're right, near death experiences can not supply evidence for afterlife. They provide a rich SYMBOLIC world. But symbolic for what? And out of which psychic abyss do these image arise? Here lies the mystery! It's much more mysterious than scepticists like Sagan believe, but the personages you are meeting while you are experiencing "near death" are symbolical representations, no question about it.
the music/instrument metaphor is a very nice metaphor and is capable of illustrating a real Campbellian view, because it can be related both to life as dance and cosmos as symphony - two of Professor Joe's favourite metaphors. In my opinion we (= our bodies) are the instruments, but at the same time we (= our "true selves") are the music, or at least the harmonies. I don't believe in a composer, not even in a conductor. But I believe in the music, and that it's our job to transform the sounds and harmonies into rhythms and melodies. To play our instrument is our job, not that of anyone else.
Martin, if you've never read Tolkien's creation story you really should try it. It's the first story in the Silmarillion, can't remember the name at the moment and my kid has the book upstairs.
In it the universe was created by Illuvatar as music, from beginning to end, then revealed in the field of time and space. It's really quite a beautiful story. I far prefer it to Genesis, with which it has many parallels.
“…but the personages you are meeting while you are experiencing "near death" are symbolical representations, no question about it.”
Ooooh.. careful with that 'no question about it'! Who knows? Many are confident in the reverse. Who am I to say otherwise? As you say, being the music is more important anyway. Later on is a dream, and after death the most nebulous one.
On 2003-03-07 20:26, Clemsy wrote:
”... being the music is more important anyway. Later on is a dream, and after death the most nebulous one.”
Yes, it's nebulous, Clemsy, and I have had only a few flashes of clear light in the realms of mist so far. And it's no good to conduct in the mist.
Do you know the chapter "The symbol without meaning" in FLIGHT OF THE WILD GANDER? I'm neither a religious believer, nor I'm a scepticist. When I say "ONLY symbolical", I MEAN "only symbolical". When I say "mystery" I MEAN a Mystery. But the images are projected, no other way to deal with the last things. Eternity is an empty bottle, believe me. Nothing but mist in it. What is mysterious, is the projector, just you and me. Every image we are able to create, is borrowed from everyday's experience. It's only an allusion to eternity, like the apparition of Mom.
The way I see it, death is as a nebulous dream to life in the same way that waking life is as a nebulous to the dreamer. The appropriate cliche is "Perhaps our perception of life is the dream and all else is reality." Maybe there's more truth to that than cliche. I think if you took a straw pole of the accociates, you'd find most of us have had experiences that have tested our boundaries, perhaps even enough to begin questioning where reality stops and something else begins. Of course in order to do that you have to first define reality. Some of us skip the experience all together (more likely ignore it) and jump right into the defining.
This is essentially where Campbell began, being exposed to the scientific discoveries of the 20th century lead him to an irreconcilable rift between what he saw as logical scientific fact, and a religious doctrine that stated otherwise. Since the religions of the world weren't about to change their beliefs for him, I don't see how he could ever have reconstructed his faith in the face of his own knowledge. To me this also explains his aversion to remaining in the East and attaining enlightenment. How could he do so without throwing away totally his understanding of modern science. He was, in the end, bound to the temporal. Yet, not in the way most people are bound, that is in Samsara. I think it was his belief that science would somehow find a way of reconciling that rift between itself and religious doctrine, it just hadn't done so yet.
Maybe he did have some unexplanable experiences that spurred him on, I like to think so. I myself have had several, and it is my understanding of science today that leads me to believe that there may yet be an explaination just 'round the corner that goes beyond the psychological to the physical. Or maybe the cliche is right and the answers will be found when we treat the psycic as a wavelength of the physic.
Oh ... I've just remembered another joke:
The only person in my family who believed in reincarnation was my Uncle Norman. Uncle Norman would tell us this story.
"I remember one lifetime where I was a frog. A beautiful, beautiful, woman came by, she kissed me and I turned into a handsome prince. I tell you, women, they always want to change you."
Greetings from over the Silver Sea
<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: ivor orr on 2003-03-10 07:15 ]</font>
<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: ivor orr on 2003-03-10 07:16 ]</font>