The Mystery of Reincarnation
After I bought my first copy of A Course in Miracles back in 1980 and read the first few pages, I realized that this was a revelation of intelligence that was beyond the reach of a regular mortal channel. I immediately became curious as to whether it said anything about reincarnation, as this is a teaching I embraced that seems to separate the spiritual chaff from the wheat as far as recognition of truth goes. Since my copy had no index and I had no digital text to search, I had to plow through quite a bit to find a reference to it. The word was not found in the two main volumes which are the text and the workbook. Finally, I did find a reference to it in the small teacher’s manual under a section entitled, “Is Reincarnation So?”
I was hoping for more enlightenment on this topic, but instead the Course presented it in such a way that it could be accepted by those believed in the principle, but would not offend those who did not. Then, after digesting what it said, I saw that the author accepted reincarnation, but wanted to make sure the reach of the Course was extended to those who did not, as there are many sincere people who have not arrived at this belief. In my younger years I was one of those people.
This is the core of what it says about the subject in the one section that mentions reincarnation:
“In the ultimate sense, reincarnation is impossible. There is no past or future, and the idea of birth into a body has no meaning either once or many times. Reincarnation cannot, then, be true in any real sense. Our only question should be, ‘Is the concept helpful?’”
“It is certain, however, that the way to salvation can be found by those who believe in reincarnation and by those who do not.”
“For our purposes, it would not be helpful to take any definite stand on reincarnation.” M-24.1-3
As it does on many subjects, ACIM approaches reincarnation from an eternal perspective. Concerning the world as a whole it says: “The world you see does not exist, because the place where you perceive it is not real.” T-28.V.7
Logically then if the world does not exist, then reincarnation in the world would not exist either, even if we live a thousand or more lifetimes in time and space.
ACIM only accepts something as having a true existence if it is eternal and unchanging. It tells us that if a thing is not eternal and has a beginning and an end, then it will wind up as being something in the past which does not exist:
“Fear is not of the present, but only of the past and future, which do not exist.” T-15.I.8
It is indeed an interesting observation that once an event is passed, that it only seems real in our memories, and without those memories it is as if the past does not exist, but the present always does.
In each life most of us are born with no memory of previous lives and it is as if we had no past – or the past does not exist.
Since past lives belong to the past and the Course tells us the past does not exist, then reincarnation would be in that same category even though a past life may seem as real to us as memories of our parents when we were children.
The question the curious student may have is not whether events in this world are real in time and space, but what has happened in time and space?
As far as ACIM goes, all happenings in time and space are not real and a part of the dream. Even so, it is interesting to explore our history while we are here in the dream.
Who, for instance would not want to know how the Great Pyramid was made, who made it and its age? Or who killed JFK?. Then too, it would be interesting to uncover the truth about ancient civilizations like Atlantis, Lemuria and many other things.
Millions, or perhaps billions or trillions of years from now when the universe ends and the one united Son returns home, these types of past events will be of no significance; but for now as we explore the illusion in the dream state many past events are of great interest to the majority.
Helen Schucman, the scribe for the Course, put things in perspective:
“I saw my life represented by a golden line stretching infinitely backward and infinitely forward. There was a miniscule dip in the line which I recognized as standing for my present life. It was laughably tiny and barely noticeable.
“I clasped my hands in real delight.
“‘What can it possibly matter what happens in this little eye-blink of time?’ I asked myself, in happy amazement. ‘It seems too long and important while you’re in it, but in less than an instant it’s as if it never happened.’” From Journey Without Distance by Robert Skutch, Chapter Three
Compared to eternity, one life or many lives would be insignificant by comparison.
It is interesting that Helen was reluctant to accept the concept of reincarnation, but her resistance finally wore down after she was given numerous dreams and visions of past lives.
Here is one more from Skutch’s book:
“Especially affecting to her was her experience at Qumran, the site of the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls.
“As they approached the actual area where the scrolls had been found, Helen abruptly stopped, visibly shaken. She stared at the opening of the cave, and suddenly burst into tears. Although Bill and Louis tried desperately to comfort her, she was unable to speak for almost five minutes. When she finally regained her composure, she spoke so quietly that the others had to strain to hear her.
“This is the cave,” she said in a tremulous voice; “this is the cave where I saw the scroll that said ‘GOD IS’.” None of the others said a word; there was nothing to say.
“A short while later, as they were breathing in the historical atmosphere of the Dead Sea surroundings, Helen began musing half to herself. ‘You know,’ she said, ‘something’s wrong with the water level. It’s too low; it used to be much higher.’ Bill, who took none of Helen’s thoughts lightly, opened a guide book he had bought when they had arrived in Israel, and began thumbing through it.
“‘Very interesting, Helen,’ he remarked. ‘It says here that at the time of the Essenes, the water level of the Dead Sea was a good deal higher.’ Everyone was silent, and finally Helen, visibly moved, remarked quietly, ‘This is the holiest place on earth.’”
It is quite possible that she was recalling a life that was contemporary with Jesus. Wapnick’s book tells of a message from Jesus about what appears to be from that time period:
“Your earlier acute problem in writing things down came from a much earlier [i.e., in a past life] misuse of very great scribal abilities. These were turned to secret rather than shared advantage, depriving the ability of its miraculous potential, and diverting it to possession.” Absence of Felicity, Page 239
This explained her reluctance to be a scribe in this life, but even though not perfect, she was the best one for the job.
In addition, Wapnick’s biography says this:
“in many of his personal messages to Helen, Jesus referred to her other lifetimes, in addition to the references to Helen’s past life experiences that came to her during the summer that preceded the beginning of the Course.” Absence of Felicity, Page 436
She also had several visions of past lives shared with Bill Thetford, who assisted her during the transcription process. In one life. that appeared to be ancient Atlantis, she was a Priestess and he was an assistant, similar to that with their work together with ACIM, and in another she was a priestess again in what seemed to be ancient Egypt and was expected to kill Bill, but hesitated and was executed herself.
Wapnick came to this conclusion in the biography:
“We have already seen in her letters to Bill, dating from 1965, that Helen did most certainly believe in past lives and their helpfulness in explaining, at least on one level, certain contemporary problems or conflicts.” Absence of Felicity, Page 435
That said, how about the text of ACIM itself? Outside of the one section that references the word “reincarnation,” does it give any other clues as to its existence in time and space?
The answer is a solid yes, especially when you consider the passages that only make sense when reincarnation is factored in such as this one:
“Just as the separation occurred over millions of years, the Last Judgment will extend over a similarly long period, and perhaps an even longer one.” T-2.VIII.2
The original before editing said the time period was “many millions of years,” so it is obvious that the separation and the return covers a very long time period.
If the separation and the return covers millions or billions of years, does it make sense that we who entered the dream would only spend a few decades immersed in it in a body? What would we be doing all those other millions of years?
Reincarnation is specifically mentioned and verified in the original UR text:
“Cayce’s whole approach put him in a real doublebind, from which he did not recover. When he spoke of a dream in which he saw his own rather immanent reincarnation, he was perfectly accurate.” UR T 3 C 29
The orthodox version also makes it pretty clear there is reincarnation, for it says point blank that “rebirth is man’s inheritance.” M-11.1
“Such is each life; a seeming interval from birth to death and on to life again, a repetition of an instant gone by long ago that cannot be relived. And all of time is but the mad belief that what is over is still here and now.” T-26.V.13
Thus, we keep going through death and rebirth until we have lived in a thousand homes as stated here:
“We speak today for everyone who walks this world, for he is not at home. He goes uncertainly about in endless search, seeking in darkness what he cannot find; not recognizing what it is he seeks. A thousand homes he makes, yet none contents his restless mind.” W-pI.182.3
Indeed, it would take quite a few lifetimes to live in a thousand homes.
Then we have this benefit students receive from the teachers of the Course:
“Their (teachers) function is to save time. Each one begins as a single light, but with the Call at its center it is a light that cannot be limited. And each one saves a thousand years of time as the world judges it.” M-1.2
This idea is repeated here:
“Today we try to bring reality still closer to your mind. Each time you practice, awareness is brought a little nearer at least; sometimes a thousand years or more are saved.” W-pI.97.3
“The miracle substitutes for learning that might have taken thousands of years.” T-1.II.6
Saving us a thousand years in time would certainly include more than one life of less than 100 years, and the Course emphasizes that our progress is made through life, not death:
“Nothing is accomplished through death, because death is nothing. Everything is accomplished through life, and life is of the mind and in the mind.” T-6.V.A.1
The Course makes it clear that we must experience this world through rebirth until we accept the atonement:
“Nothing the world believes is true. It is a place whose purpose is to be a home where those who claim they do not know themselves can come to question what it is they are. And they will come again until the time Atonement is accepted” W-pI.139.6
Then after leaving the body at death, we are again called forth:
“While those as yet unborn will hear the call we heard, and answer it when they have come to make their choice again.” W-pI.98.4
If the Jesus of A Course in Miracles affirms the teaching of reincarnation, then you would think that the Jesus of the Bible would also. Many students and scholars think that the original scriptures had obvious references to reincarnation which were removed when the modern Bible was compiled. A famous church scholar and father, Origen, openly taught the doctrine of reincarnation and the pre-existence of souls. Interestingly, Bill Thetford recounts Helen Schucman identifying him as this third century entity in a past life in his autobiography.
Fortunately though, some of Origen’s writings remain, and censors were unable to scrub all subtle references to reincarnation out of the scriptures.
The most obvious one concerns Jesus’ comments about Elijah and John the Baptist.
In the days of Jesus many were looking forward to the fulfillment of the coming Messiah, as well as Elijah, who was supposed to come first to prepare the way.
The disciples of Jesus thought that he showed strong evidence that he was the Messiah, but one thing seemed to be missing. The Old Testament prophesies said that Elijah would come first. From their viewpoint, Elijah seemed to be missing from the equation. They referenced this prophecy:
“Behold, I will send you ELIJAH THE PROPHET before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” Malachi 4:5-6
They then asked Jesus that if he was the Messiah, “Why then do our teachers say that Elijah must come first?” Mat 17:10
He answered thus:
“I tell you that ELIJAH HAS ALREADY COME, and they failed to recognize him, and worked their will upon him; and in the same way the Son of Man is to suffer at their hands. Then the disciples understood that HE MEANT JOHN THE BAPTIST.” Matt. 17:10-13 New English
This is another powerful affirming statement from Jesus: “Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John…A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written, Behold I send my messenger before my face, which shall prepare thy way before thee (This is a quote from Malachi near the prophesy of Elijah) Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven (Christ) is greater than he… For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, THIS IS ELIJAH, which was for to come.” Matt. 11:7,9-11,13-14
Now we can see why Jesus called John the Baptist the greatest prophet. He was aware of his past lives, and he was quite possibly other great prophets besides Elijah.
Jesus certainly attracted a lot of attention when he began his work, and many people were speculating as to who he was. There were many who actually considered that he may have been one of the prophets born again. Jesus asked his disciples: “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, some say that thou art John the Baptist: some Elijah, others Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” Matt 16:13-14
Notice here that Jesus did not refute this belief in reincarnation, but merely accepted Peter’s answer that he was the Christ.
The apostles evidently believed in reincarnation at the time that they were current disciples of Jesus: “And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” John 9:1-2
We see here that the disciples thought that the man who was born blind may have had to suffer so because of a previous sin. In other words, they thought he may have committed sins in a previous lifetime that led to his present condition. Jesus pointed out that the man was a special case. He was not born blind because of sin, but so that the works of God should be manifest. In other words, the man came with a mission to glorify the works of Christ by the great miracle to his eyes. Jesus did not, however, say anything to indicate that the disciples’ belief in wrongful actions before birth was not a possibility.
Jesus gave us an interesting indication as to what was in store for his disciples. He said: “There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, and sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, but HE SHALL RECEIVE AN HUNDREDFOLD IN THIS TIME, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the WORLD TO COME eternal life. And many that are first shall be last and the last first.” Mark 10:29-31
Here Jesus talks about two periods of existence. The first he calls “in this time” or the period of our mortal existence in the dream. The second he calls “the world to come”. In the world to come, or the heaven of ACIM, we receive “eternal life”, but in this age (or period of normal earth life if we accept the gospel) we will receive “an hundred fold” of houses, at least a hundred brothers, a hundred sisters, a hundred mothers, a hundred children, and a hundred different lands or places where we will live. This prophecy cannot be literally fulfilled without reincarnation. On the other hand, Jesus knew that “in this time” or period of human existence we go through more than a hundred lifetimes, but eventually we would reach the eternal world at the end of reincarnation into time and space.
A point often overlooked in considering reincarnation is that all life and creation follow this principle of recycling. Just as rain falls to the earth, evaporates, and later falls as rain again, even so the recycling process of reincarnation is universal in time and space.
The Course tells us that it is a part of a “universal course” of which there are many “other forms, all with the same outcome.” M-1.4
Many of the teachings from the East are in harmony with A Course in Miracles, but just use a different vocabulary and phraseology. They not only teach the reincarnation of individuals, but of the earth, of solar systems and the universe itself. Some teach that the universe has incarnated many times, and the beginning is beyond the reach of memory.
And what does the Course say about the separation where time and space first began?
“Time really, then, goes backward to an instant so ancient that it is beyond all memory, and past even the possibility of remembering. Yet because it is an instant that is relived again and again and still again, it seems to be now.” M-2.4
Remember that an “instant” as described in the Course can refer to many millions of years. Here we are told that this instant of the creation of the manifested universe is “relived” or reincarnated “again and again and still again.”
Perhaps the one Son of God with many parts to the whole has been dealing with the illusion much longer than appears from a casual study of ACIM.
Other traditions teach that the Son aspect creates a material universe on principles of illusion and manifests in it to learn and grow in intelligence. Then they return home to pralaya, or the heaven of ACIM. Then after a cycle of rest, new Sons of God are manifest and the cycle is repeated, giving new creations an opportunity to experience time and space, sunsets, birds singing and the playing of games. Some call this physical universe the “playground of the gods.”
However one wants to look at it, one can be assured that Helen’s favorite, Shakespeare, spoke the truth when he wrote, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
Copyright by J J Dewey
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