Activities on the Other Side
Updated June 1, 2003
Mike was, for the most part, a nice fellow. As a teenager, he had had a pronounced tendency to drive his small pickup truck a lot faster than the police department liked, he had broken more than one young lady’s heart, and he had gotten into more than a few scrapes. Still, he was not a bad kid. No one had ever urged his arrest, and he had never broken a law—at least one that was serious enough for anyone to get excited about.
Mike had struggled through four and a half years of college, whereupon he ended up with a bachelor’s degree, a C+ average, and a look of complete relief from his now destitute parents. Within a few years he married a college sweetheart, and promptly began working on a small family. Then, after twelve years of marriage, Mike met someone very special, someone he doubted he could live without. Before very long, he had decided not to tempt fate, divorced his first wife, and quickly married his new, very special love.
Mike tried to continue to be a good father to his two children who were still living with his ex-wife, but it was difficult. She was anything but sympathetic, and after a few years of periodic fatherhood, Mike had just about given up. Then his life became suddenly less complicated—Mike died.
The accident had not been his fault, at least from a legal point of view. One could point out had he not had those beers the night before, his alertness at the time of the accident might have been sufficient to avert the disaster. However, his reflexes had been just a trifle slow, and the resulting collision turned out to be his last.
When his sports car crashed into the side of the van, Mike felt in short sequence, panic, pain and then tranquility and peace. From just above the wreckage of his automobile, he viewed with total detachment his bloodied physical body. He wondered briefly why everyone seemed to be so disturbed as they ran to help free his body from the wreckage -- Mike felt just fine.
Then Mike sensed something very strange. Drifting easily above the collision, Mike became aware of a brilliant light. He gazed at its dazzling intensity, without any discomfort at what should have been a blinding light. Then he began to move rapidly toward the light. His movement was only vaguely voluntary, but the goal seemed more than appropriate and he had no hesitation.
As the light grew brighter, Mike became aware of someone else. Just as his mind briefly inquired of the new arrival, he immediately sensed it was his grandfather. As a boy, Mike had dearly loved his grandfather. The older man had died of cancer, just five years before Mike’s own death. A strong sense of loving welcome encircled Mike as he felt his grandfather’s influence.
The light began to envelop both of them in brilliance and warmth. An unearthly bliss combined with a sense of permeating love as Mike began to sense a cosmic awareness of his place in the universe. Awareness of other planes of existence, of evolved entities, and a dynamic universe came easily to him. Questions were answered as quickly as they entered his mind. Mike had always wondered about the ethics of abortion—suddenly he understood completely.
Around him, Mike sensed a beautifully green countryside full of colorful flowers and vibrant if not stately oak trees. It was everything Mike had ever associated with peace and tranquility. Even the sound of a bubbling brook contributed to the idyllic setting. Mike felt he had at last returned home.
Then Mike felt the presence of other beings, beings that fairly radiated love and understanding. One of them, gently and with reassurance and encouragement, asked, “So tell us Mike; what all did you accomplish this time?” Instantly, all the myriad events of his life began to flash through Mike’s mind. The panoramic review brought him a vision of every significant detail of his life, along with the emotions and feelings associated with each step. He briefly felt the worry of his parents about his fast driving. He felt their concerns as they struggled to pay tuition, year after year.
The happiness of his ex-wife as they married, Mike felt in complete detail, as well as her bitterness when she realized the determination in his decision to leave her. The hurt increased as Mike sensed his children’s self-adjudged guilt at what they perceived as their fault in causing their father to leave their mother. Mike was ruthless in his own self-judgment of his faults and failures and his lack of making a few more efforts to help his children understand. Even his ex-wife’s difficulties as a single parent, Mike sensed in intimate detail, and then accused himself of being the cause.
Even as he judged himself, Mike sensed a loving forgiveness from the beings around him. They seemed to understand every aspect of his life and, with gentle probing questions, gave Mike a better understanding of the ramifications of each separate event. Overall, his life had not been unsuccessful. There had been times of charity and love as well as their lack and, briefly he sensed each of them. His faults and good deeds all joined to allow him to see that on balance, it had been a good life.
Mike also remembered it had been the decision of his children, prior to their births, to be born of his seed and then to possibly lose their father first from divorce and then from death. Mike recalled as well his own planning and remembered that one of his challenges in his most recent past life had been to resolve a longstanding problem with his ex-wife -- a challenge which he had not managed to meet. Mike also knew his new love had chosen her possible fate as well.
With the beings as his guides, Mike began to plan for yet another life. He consulted “temples of wisdom”, communicated with his guides as to their suggestions and offered directions, thought of others who might incur vested interests in his next incarnation, and when his ex-wife had likewise joined him in his after-life state, planned with her yet another life where they would both try once again to resolve their earthly differences. Eventually even his children and grandfather joined with him to plan another time when they could live together in new relationships.
The time and place of their next incarnation would be a very different one from the one before, but all of them looked forward to the new challenges. Throughout the planning, each of their souls comprehended their place, their goals, and their future growth. With their combined plans laid in general outline, Mike once again partook of a memory erasing nourishment and entered into the fetus of a woman Mike had known before in many lifetimes. When he was born, his new mother named him Chang.
The general ingredients of this fictional account, particularly those between Mike’s death and his reincarnation as Chang, coincide with ancient and current beliefs concerning the space between lives. Some of these ingredients we have already encountered in birth experiences, while other aspects have been suggested by near-death experiences. Other elements of the story derive their genesis from ancient writings and modern day hypnotic regressions. It is the purpose of this chapter to discuss these latter sources and to describe what might be termed, the activities on the other side.
[But not necessarily those activities on the other side of the tracks—those we already know about!]
An intriguing aspect of research into both birth and near-death experiences is the consistency between these reports and ancient beliefs. The ancient Egyptians, for example, conceived of amenthe, a place where souls lived in pleasure while they awaited their next incarnation. Confident of their beliefs, the Egyptians built lavish tombs, while living in relatively meager houses. For their use in amenthe, they took with them to the grave: clothing, weapons, cooking utensils and other treasures for which they might have retained a craving during their earthly life. The logic of these people is apparent when one considers the length of time on earth and the anticipated time in the hereafter.
The Egyptian Book of the Dead, correctly entitled, is The Coming Forth from Day, and refers to the sacred Egyptian art of proceeding from this life into another life. The book inculcates an Art of Dying and Coming Forth into a New life, in a symbolic and esoterically profound manner.
Predating the ancient Egyptians, the Sumerians, who built the world’s first historical civilization in the Tigris-Euphrates valley, went so far as to kill (usually by poison) and bury the deceased master’s household in the master’s grave. It was intended that servants and family members be available in the event the master needed them in the life after death. In the case, however, of royalty and other high ranking officials, look-alike proxies might go to the grave in lieu of children and wives. Apparently, “Rank has its privileges” had meaning even in that early time.
Australian Aborigines believed souls resided in Anjea between incarnations. Okinawans conceived of gusho, while the ancient Hebrews told of pardish, where they awaited the next life before they returned. According to the Hebrew’s Zohar, these souls returned to earth “sorrowing in exile; to a place where there is no true happiness.” To these ancient people the earth was exile, while pardish was the true home of man.
In the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Bardo Thodol, we have an eighth century description of the space between lives. Bardo literally translated, refers to a space that separates islands. In the Tibetan Book of the Dead, it is thought of as the state of existence between incarnations. Furthermore the Tibetans believe that by reciting the book to the dying and the deceased, there was hope that the soul could find its way in the Bardo and in some cases avoid the necessity of rebirth.
It is in this Bardo where the deceased’s soul is believed to spend a symbolic forty-nine days, enveloped in a brilliant “Clear Light,” and during which the soul experiences an intense review of its past life. It is in this review that the soul sees every effect of its good and evil acts on the soul’s karma. The Bardo Thodol also points out that in the life between incarnations, inasmuch as you no longer have a physical body, any sounds, colors, and other occurring events cannot harm you, i.e. you cannot die -- this then constituting the bardo state.
The text of the Tibetan Book of the Dead contains three parts. The Chikhai Bardo describes the psychic happenings at the moment of death. The Choenyid Bardo deals with the dream-state which supervenes immediately after death, and with what are called “karmic illusions.” The third part is the Sidpa Bardo, that concerns itself with the onset of the birth-instinct and of prenatal events. It is a characteristic of the Bardo Thodol that supreme insight and illumination, and hence the greatest prospect of attaining liberation from a karmic “wheel of life” are vouchsafed during the actual process of dying. Soon afterward, according to the text, the “illusions” begin which eventually lead to reincarnation, the light growing dimmer and more varied, and the visions all the more terrifying.
In Plato’s tenth book of the Republic, the strange story is told of Er the Pamphylian. Er, as he was known to his friends, had been a Greek soldier at a battle where many of his comrades had been killed. When Er had also apparently died in battle, his countrymen had collected Er’s body along with other fallen war dead and laid his body of a funeral pyre to be burned. Before the pyre was lit, Er revived (causing considerable surprise among his fellow soldiers) and began to describe his journey to a realm beyond.
Er told of his soul leaving his body, joining with other spirits, and proceeding through “openings” or “passageways” into the realms of the afterlife. He described the between-life or bardo state in terms of timelessness, brilliant and warming light, reviews of past lives, and the existence of wise judges or advisors who oversaw such reviews. Er was not judged himself, but was told he must return in order to inform the physical world what the other world was like. Er also described each soul selecting the form of its next incarnation, and then drinking from the “River of Forgetfulness” in order to erase all conscious memories before re-entering a physical body.
The various ancient descriptions of the bardo, that life between lives, regardless of their source or culture, tend to repeat over and over again the same themes, the same events and the same expectations. Noteworthy events in one tradition or teaching invariably crop up in other traditions, with differences only in name and terminology. Even more astounding is the fact that “evidence” and information accumulating today, continue to repeat the same patterns. In addition to birth and near-death experiences, reports from past-life regressions provide a massive amount of documentation to support the wisdom of the ancients.
Instead of hypnotically regressing a patient or subject to the early part of his life or childhood (in an effort to discover a hidden trauma manifesting itself in the present), it has become rather commonplace to regress a subject into a past life as well. Such regressions were undertaken initially for the same therapeutic purposes as the more traditional regressions. However, the number of patients who have found the causes of their current problems stemming from what is apparently an event in a past life has led many psychologists and therapists to accept the technique of past-life regression therapy, as a valid means of helping their patients.
This does not necessarily imply that the therapist believes in reincarnation, but that rapid and dramatic healing often results from bringing to the patient’s conscious awareness what are apparently traumatic past-life memories. A multitude of serious mental and/or physical problems have virtually vanished as the patient has begun to understand the cause.
The fact that past-life regression therapy works as therapy is of course the great appeal of the method. As John Langdon-Davies has noted in his work, Man: Known and Unknown, the great advantage of medicine over other branches of knowledge, is that the only criterion of truth is that it works. At the same time, it must be noted the thousands of cases of recoveries from serious disorders resulting from regressions into past lives does not constitute objective proof that the patients have in fact experienced a previous incarnation.
Dr. Edith Fiori is one of several psychologists who has discovered the efficacy of past-life regressions. Over a period of fifteen years, she has performed well over twenty thousand past-life regressions. The patterns she has observed fit hand-in-glove with what others have learned from near-death experiences -- there are just no inconsistencies. By taking thousands of subjects through their death experience in their past lives, Dr. Fiori has consistently found the same events, feelings and wonder that have been reported in near-death experiences.
These findings tend to be echoed by other therapists using past-life regressions as a technique. Remarkable cases of mental and physical healings have been reported by past-life therapists such as Dr. Helen Wambach, Dr. Morris Netherton, England’s Joe Keeton and others. All of these professionals have identified a “Higher Self”, transcending lifetimes and exerting influence in our daily thinking and behavior. Furthermore this Higher Self maintains a more intense awareness of reality and the purpose of human existence.
In Dr. Wambach’s book, Reliving Past Lives, for example, we learn of thousands of subjects undergoing regression who have gone through the death experience, reviewed their immediate past life, gone to “temples of wisdom” to study and plan their next incarnation, spent time with their “guides,” and chose the parameters of their next birth. In each case the Higher Self was dependent upon the earth experience for evolution and growth. Some proponents have gone so far as to note that apparently there is a big backlog of souls waiting patiently in line for their next opportunity to come to earth.
Dr. Joel L. Whitton, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto Medical School, has gone one step further and taken his subjects under deep hypnosis directly into the state of existence between lives. Because of the low percentage of subjects who are capable of entering a deep hypnotic trance (four to ten percent of the population, according to Dr. Whitton) he has been able to report on only thirty cases. This constitutes a relatively small number of cases and cast doubts on any possible statistical significance. Nevertheless, his reports have been internally consistent as well as consistent with the reports of other researchers, and have provided us with additional and more complete information.
According to Dr. Whitton (in his book with Joe Fisher, Life Between Life):
“The message from deep trance is that life after death is synonymous with life before birth and that most of us have taken up residence in this other world many, many times as disembodied entities. Subconsciously, we are just as familiar with discarnate existence as we are with the Earth plane—the next world is both the state we have left behind in order to be born and the state to which we return at death. As the wheel of life revolves, birth and death happen repeatedly in the evolution of the individual. Death is no more than the threshold of consciousness that separates one incarnation from the next. Truly there is life between lives.
“Subjects, whose religious backgrounds are as varied as their initial prejudices for or against reincarnation, have testified consistently that rebirth is fundamental to the evolutionary process in which we are enveloped. At death, they say, the soul leaves the body to enter a timeless, space-less state. There, our most recent life on Earth is evaluated and the next incarnation is planned according to our karmic requirements.”
Activities between Incarnations
If we were to attempt an agenda for a soul’s activities in the bardo, both the ancient and modern teachings would probably lead us to the following scenario upon death:
1. The progression to the discarnate existence through specific paths, with the choice of path dependent upon the soul’s personal perception of what death is expected to be. Beliefs in various paths range from the “Ferryman” who will ferry the soul across the River of Death for the price of a gold coin (“please have the correct change ready”), to the more secular version, common in today’s views, of a tunnel-like conveyance leading from the earthly existence to the afterworld. Many of the variations include the deceased being met by friends, relatives, and other familiar souls, who have come to light the way -- “and a host to greet you.”
2. The presence of a nearby or more distant light, one beckoning the soul to approach it, and with the soul approaching the light, the sense of overwhelming envelopment in the brilliant light. Such light is often intense to the point of blinding, but never painful or capable of causing discomfort.
3. The release of pain and concerns for the world left behind. The intense feeling of unearthly bliss, a sense of all-permeating love, and an almost cosmic awareness of one’s place in the universal scheme of things. Enlightenment is also present in many cases and specific realizations or instant perceptions may result from a soul’s lifelong interests. Souls with preconceived ideas about the afterlife are sometimes rewarded in kind.
4. The necessity of the soul in the bardo state to maintain its own sense of individuality. Descartes’ statement, “I think, therefore I am” seems particularly appropriate, for without the soul’s thoughts, there can be no experiencing their existence. In Life Between Life, Whitton and Fisher, reported: “Just how much self-consciousness is exhibited in the bardo appears to vary greatly from person to person. Those who are keen to proceed vigorously with their spiritual development tend to be the most consciously active between incarnations. Those who show little interest in the evolutionary process are inclined to “sleep” for the equivalent of huge tracts of earthbound time.”
5. The appearance of the afterlife much in accord with the soul’s expectations. In effect, the contents of the soul’s mind produces its own surroundings.
6. A detailed and very, very complete reliving of one’s immediate past life. This “instant replay” appears to be more intense than a simple remembering of past events and is often accompanied with a greater understanding of how the events affect all other aspects of the previous life. Included with the review is an acute sense of self-judgment, as the soul critically evaluates the entirety of its past life.
7. The presence of others (wise men, advisors, judges, etc.) who either challenge or gently prod the recently arrived soul with questions of karma, good and evil acts done in life, and expectations of further lives to come. Many cultures and traditions think in terms of stern and uncompromising judges “weighing the soul” and possibly finding it wanting. Modern views tend to support the idea of judges acting in a less authoritarian manner, and more in terms of offering reassurance and encouragement. In fact, the judges tend to be more healers than anything else, fairly radiating understanding and a sense of caring.
8. The existence, in many cases, of temples of wisdom or learning, where further assessments of past lives and planning for future incarnations can be accomplished. There is a sense of choosing what the soul needs, rather than what it wants. Or in one woman’s view: Life has obstacles purely in order to overcome those obstacles -- to become stronger, more aware, more evolved, and more responsible. Other reports note planning for the next incarnation is often done with other souls, with whom significant relationships have been established over many prior lifetimes.
9. The soul’s ability to perceive its purpose in its many incarnations, gain detailed knowledge of its past lives, and determine the needs for further growth. Whitton and Fisher have gone on to say: “The price of advancement is always challenge and difficulty -- the very reason why incarnations become progressively more arduous as the soul evolves.”
10. The specific decision by the soul (with perhaps the encouragement of guides and others) to reincarnate in a particular life, for karmic and other purposes. Such planning might involve a specific soulmate, a detailed blueprint of the coming life, a more general outline, or the life might be just left to improvisation depending upon the maturity of the evolved soul. Furthermore the planning can include more than one future life.
11. The partaking of some nourishment, resulting in the loss of all conscious memory of the bardo and the past lives of the soul. Many believe this amnesia is essential to prevent pining for the bardo left behind and to remove possible confusion between past lives and the present one.
12. The opportunity for the soul to evade the tempting offer of the memory erasing nourishment. In this case, however, incarnated souls may in a current lifetime, impose an amnesia upon themselves in order to avoid impairing the planned karmic events and purposes of the life.
13. And to some degree the presence of a knowledge of the bardo and the soul’s past lives continuing to reside in the subconscious memories of our incarnations. Furthermore, belief that “guides” from the bardo are available to help the souls in their present incarnation, is also prevalent in many traditions and reported opinions.
Guides and Free Will
The idea of a soul receiving help and comfort from “guides” is found in a wide variety of traditions. For example, the very concept of guardian angels, patron saints, the intercession of saints (a concept built into the canon of the Catholic mass), all relate to this same belief. It is important to keep in mind, however, that just because your guides have taken an extended vacation at a heavenly spa for the terminally discouraged; this does not mean they do not exist!
Incorporated with the belief in the existence of guides being available to each and every soul is also the concept such help will not arrive unbidden. The sense consists of help being available, but only upon request. If such requests (be they prayers, meditations or demands) are made sincerely and often, results will follow. In effect you get what you ask for -- even if your requests may not be in your best interests. This latter point is important in that it very strongly implies free will, including the free choice of messing things up rather thoroughly.
Free will also surfaces in the fact that wishes and desires not specifically requested of a soul’s guides will not arrive by virtue of anything the guides do. In other words, if the soul effectively maintains, “I’d rather do it myself!,” the guides will definitely not interfere. For the guides to “inflict” help on some soul who does not request it would be to diminish that soul’s free will to make its own choices for good or bad.
There is perhaps a great deal for all of us to learn from this wisdom of the guides. Praying for another, for example, to receive justice, might turn out to be counter-productive to say the least. While proponents of these ideas of guides, free will, and no help without request, feel it is proper to send unconditional love (unbidden) to another, they strongly believe “gifts” of any other help infringe upon and often damage the integrity of those for whom prayers are being offered.
Planes of Existence
So what happens after you have evolved to a certain degree of perfection? Based on the correlation of the results from an impressive variety of sources, including past-life regressions, there are plenty of other existences to contemplate. The main difficulty seems to be in what to call them. The table below gives four versions.
The theory is that mineral and vegetable life is confined to the physical (or earth) plane of existence. This is also the only level where physical sense perceptions can operate. On the other hand, an animal may actually reach the astral plane (or lowest astral or emotional plane). A human personality is capable of reaching to the third level, without an accompanying loss of its sense of individuality. The spiritual being or soul, however, can reach to the fifth level, which is, in essence, heaven. Beyond that lie still higher planes. Meek, for example describes the higher planes as:
“8- COSMIC OR UNIVERSAL SPHERE OF AT-ONE-MENT, THE GODHEAD AND OTHER LEVELS OF REALITY
9- END OF MANIFEST CREATION (VIBRATORY)
10- THE VOID, OR PURE CONSCIOUSNESS (NON-VIBRATORY)
11- NIRVANA AND OTHER STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS”
How can we comprehend the higher levels? Actually we can’t. But as a soul rises in these planes of existence, it can loose the ties that bind it to the physical plane, and thereafter exist in higher planes. Supposedly at this point the advanced soul can travel even further upward in the planes of existence until it can begin to understand, or at least describe, the essence of the still higher planes.
The truly advanced soul may even, at some high level, begin to understand where lost socks go. Unfortunately, for such seekers of lost socks, that same advanced soul cannot come back and interact with those still on the earth (or physical) plane, but must interact only in an intermediate plane. Communications from the higher planes is, therefore, sort of a “bucket brigade”, where word is passed from plane to plane, with its subsequent loss in intelligible communication (which may explain why the mystery of lost socks is still with us).
Finally many believe that after a while the advanced soul reaches the point where it is so close to a god-like energy level (with the same degree of perfection), it can no longer reach even the intermediate planes (and accordingly where it no longer even cares about socks). What it does then, is anybody’s guess.
As the Greek philosopher, Plotinus, wrote: “The infinite can only be apprehended by a faculty superior to reason, by entering into a state from which the finite self must withdraw.” Thus any knowledge of these planes of existence beyond our own, must come from ever more esoteric sources, and with such sources our ability to judge the quality and usefulness of information being “passed down” will be severely tested.
The evidence for our understanding of the activities on the other side comes from birth experiences, near-death experiences, and hypnotic regressions directly into the bardo state. Both the birth experiences and hypnotic regressions provide evidence only insofar as we are willing to accept information from subjects who are describing events while under hypnosis. Evidence from near-death experiences, of course, come from descriptions after the fact.
Both forms of obtaining factual data have their serious and potentially fatal limitations. However, the consistency between these three forms of data gathering with literally thousands of subjects provides considerable credibility for the information so gathered. In addition, the reports and descriptions coincide with ancient and religious teachings with astounding accuracy. It becomes increasingly difficult to simply dismiss the reports. Accordingly, the general ingredients of the activities on the other side appear to have, at the very least, plausibility.
Our description of the activities on the other side supports reincarnation as a theory, and provides considerable detail as to the precise chronologies and characteristics of the time between lives. (Ostensibly we already have a fair idea of what is happening to us during the current lifetime.) Nothing in the reports contradicts the basic idea of reincarnation, and instead, the reports consistently demonstrate the inherent plausibility of reincarnation. It is noteworthy that the reports essentially deny the possibility of a soul living only a single life. If all of the reports are to be believed, many lives is clearly the norm and a single incarnation for an individual soul would be an extraordinary exception.
Interestingly, the above descriptions of the activities on the other side and their relation to the concept of karma is less clear. For example, in the life review it is emphasized in some reports that as the individual relives the events of their past life they feel every sensation and emotion, every pain and joy, and in general, relive all of the moments with all of the intensities of the participants. Essentially, a soul during the life review, feels all of the pain and anguish it caused, as well as all of the joys.
Consequently, if the life review is sufficiently intense, why do we need karma? Could not the life review constitute the soul’s punishment for bad deeds as well as his rehabilitation? Why do we need to return to earth to balance karma, if in the life review we are directly experiencing the anguish and the joy we caused? If someone murdered a dozen people while on earth, and in the life review experienced the pains and anguish of his victims as well as their friends and relatives, is this not enough? Such a life review sounds pretty hellish and could conceivably be enough to satisfy karmic justice. In that case, do we need karma?
One can argue that the re-experiencing of all the relevant emotions for each event in the life review is insufficient for karmic justice. Alternatively, one could suggest that it is necessary to demonstrate one has learned their lesson. An analogy is that not only does one have to serve her/his time, but in being released from prison, s/he also has to live a subsequent life which shows s/he is, in fact, rehabilitated. The critical question that has not been answered in the descriptions of the activities on the other side is the extent of the joy and pain in re-experiencing the events in the life review. Let's face it: if you know it's just a rerun of an old movie, you might not feel the intensity of emotions in quite the same manner.
There is also the possibility of the evolution of the various characteristics of karma itself. As souls progress in their own evolution, perhaps karma is also changing. The “eye for an eye” interpretation may become less important as the potential for karmic justice in the life reviews becomes more significant. We may have fewer or less intense karmic obligations in succeeding lives, as our intervening life reviews take on greater significance. Perhaps Paatah is closing down the experiment!
Alternatively, karma may be a physical world phenomenon. In discussing his principles of yoga, Sachindra Majumdar specifies that karma belongs to the world of Mava, that is, what we call our practical world. Robert Monroe, in his book Far Journeys, states that karma exists only on the earthly plane. The implication is karma exists only in our own egos, and all guilt is shed as we re-enter heaven. The life review and attendant self-judgment is not of great consequence -- except to our mental state. Furthermore any karmic guilt would depart the ego at higher levels.
If this view is correct, then the subject of the last three chapters cannot provide a great deal of confirming or conflicting evidence for karma, other than the possibility that planning for the next life involves karmic issues. While the reports of Dr. Joel Whitton’s subjects (the hypnotic regressions) tend to mention such karmic planning as a matter of course, the reports of Dr. Wambach’s subjects (the birth experiences) and the reports of near-death experiences almost never mention karmic considerations. This either implies something of a contradiction between methods, or that the karmic planning is done within the “depths” of the bardo, not normally viewed from either the side of death or the opposite side of birth.
Note that the above discussions relate only to the effects of reincarnation and karma of the described activities on the other side; they do not consider the descriptions of the “planes of existence.” Information on the planes of existence derive from totally different sources and very few reports from the birth experiences, near-death experiences, and regressions touch on this significantly more esoteric subject. When such reports do broach the subject, they are invariably limited to the lower planes (i.e. nothing above the astral planes), and even then only indirect information is obtained.
More complete descriptions of celestial, causal and astral planes derive primarily from “channeled” information (see Chapter XIV). The adequacy of this means of gathering data will be discussed then. However, it is noteworthy at this point to note the accuracy or inaccuracy of the information on the “Planes of Existence” have little or no effect on the questions of karma, reincarnation, and the related aspects of birth, death, and the bardo state.
It may be comforting to know that a belief in reincarnation does not carry with it the implication you have to know anything about the Mahaparanirvanic plane, nor for that matter even how to pronounce it.
Chapter Seven: Beyond Death
Chapter Nine: Out of Body Experiences
2003© Copyright Dan Sewell Ward, All Rights Reserved [Feedback]