Wednesday, September 7, 2011
THE RETURN HOME
Fate, instead of being an anonymous force of blind coincidence that poses a threat to mankind, now gradually reveals to the seeker its innermost law: fate is the authority which ensures that the individual follows his prescribed path. Thus the supposed enemy becomes a partner whose task is to make sure that our own inertia does not prevent our evolution. The more a person refuses to resolve particular problems in a spirit of learning and the more he puts up a resistance against fate, the more he will attract the negative aspect of fate, namely suffering.
Suffering is the friction which arises because of the discrepancy between the individual's true, prescribed path and the direction that he happens to be following at the time. Suffering only becomes superfluous when we make the effort constantly to increase our understanding of our own path and voluntarily to conform to it. Only the person who knows how to subordinate himself to superior law will cease to experience that law in the form of compulsion. Total freedom only comes to the individual who fits into the order of the cosmos and merges with its law. In order to do this, however, it is necessary to overcome the ego's power-drive. The will to power is man's greatest enemy – an enemy that is continually devising more subtle disguises for itself.
The opposite pole to power is humility or love. On all levels of being it is love alone that can overcome the polarity between the I and the not-I. It is only the power of love that can change the lower into the higher and thus bring about a genuine transmutation. Struggle always engenders struggle, hate engenders hate, pressure engenders pressure. Love teaches us that the weak are the truly strong and the humble are the truly powerful.
This is the message conveyed by the eleventh, and central card of the Tarot trumps. It is entitled Strength and depicts a gentle-looking woman, garlanded with roses, who with her bare hands is holding open the mouth of a fierce lion. This card symbolizes the strength and power of love, which cannot be conquered by any other force in the world.
Anyone who has learned to realize the great power of service and humility has already made a great step on his path. Love seeks to overcome polarity and contrast and to lead man back into the unity of consciousness which he once relinquished through the original Fall.
In Paradise man was an androgynous being who still lived in a perfect state of unity. But he followed the temptings of the serpent out of desire for knowledge of good and evil. He separated himself from unity – and hence he now knows what is good and what is evil.
This knowledge became a poison to him, which is why it is also knowledge alone that can be his medicine – for similia similibus curantur, “like cures like”. Man is ailing from the disease of polarity and hopes for a cure. To be ill is to be human. Illness is man's opportunity, for it is only because he is ill that he is capable of being made whole – and made holy. Illness is the Fall in microcosm and is always a disunion with god. Healing is reconciliation with God. All external healing measures can never provide but the mere formal conditions for this event.
Illness and suffering should not therefore be seen as unwelcome disturbances in our lives, to be avoided s far as possible. Rather, they are the preliminary steps to liberation, which must be lived through and endured if we are to find light in the depths. Illness has its impersonal aspect, which we call original sin, and its personal aspect, which we call karma.
Living consciously means trying to redeem and cancel more and more of our karma, without at the same time incurring more karmic debt. The point where the personal and impersonal aspects of guilt meet is where illness turns into healing.
Not until we are prepared to assume full responsibility for everything that we experience and that happens to us do we discover the meaningfulness of life. The sickness of our age is meaninglessness, which has uprooted man from the cosmos. This lack of meaning is the price that humanity has paid for the attempt to give up responsibility. But the signs of the times indicate that this sickness is turning itself into healing, for increasing numbers of people are setting forth on the quest for meaning.
He who is prepared to assume full responsibility for his fate has the experience of being integrated into the universal order and loses all fear, for he has rediscovered his link with the primal source. This link alone is what constitutes true re-ligio. Only by knowing his origin can man recognize his goal. This goal is completeness. Completeness is the expression of unity. Unity is what we call God.
ESOTERICISM AND ESCAPISM
For the person who turns daily life into a ritual there is no danger that esotericism will become a form of escapism. Esotericism should not lead one away from the world but should help one to transfigure and redeem earthly existence. Anyone who despises the realm of the earthly and material as impure, dark and dirty, and who yearns only for the pure and heavenly world above, is taking a highly dangerous course. Such an attitude to esotericism is usually a sign that the person concerned is trying to escape from some area of life with which he or she can no longer cope. Unfortunately esotericism has a great appeal for precisely those people who cannot manage daily life and material problems. This is why, is esoteric circles, the true initiates tend to be greatly outnumbered by the world-shy neurotics.
Dion Fortune in The Mystical Qabalah (Published by Williams and Norgate Ltd., London, 1935.) described this problem very precisely in the following words:
It is required of the mystic that he shall fulfill the requirements of the planes of form before he is free to commence his withdrawal and escape from form. There is a Left-hand Path that leads to Kether, the Kether of the Qliphoth, which is the Kingdom of Chaos. If he embarks upon the Mystic Path prematurely it is thither he goes, and not to the Kingdom of Light. To the man who is naturally of the Mystic Path the discipline of form is uncongenial, and it is the subtlest of temptations to abandon the struggle with the life of form that resists his mastery and retreat back up the planes before the nadir has been rounded and the lessons of form have been learned. Form is the matrix in which the fluidic consciousness is held till it becomes a nucleus of individuality differentiated out of the amorphous sea of pure being. If the matrix be broken too soon, before the fluidic consciousness had become set as an organized system of stresses stereotyped by repetition, consciousness settles back again into formlessness, even as the clay returns to mud if freed from the supporting restraint of the mould before it has set. If there is a mystic whose mysticism produces mundane incapacity or any form of dissociation of consciousness, we know that the mould had been broken too soon for him and he must return to the discipline of form until its lesson has been learned and his consciousness has attained a coherent and cohesive organization that not even Nirvana can disrupt.
A good way to learn this lesson of form is to examine one's own fate in the light of esoteric laws. This exercise is what this book is primarily about, so it is worth surveying again the foundations of this method of thought.
The aim of all our efforts is to wake up the sleeping individual and thereby give him the capacity to see reality. When a person's consciousness awakens from its slumber and he learns to open his eyes, he discovers step by step new dimensions of this reality – dimensions of which he knew nothing while he was asleep. The desire to understand reality ever more fully forces him to keep extending his consciousness and assimilating more and more aspects of that reality.
The great problem encountered on this path is the fact that reality comes to our consciousness divided into polarities. We find ourselves surrounded by nothing but contrasts, yet at the same time we experience a deep longing for unity. If we wish ever to attain this unity we must learn to bring together apparent contrasts, so that they become for us a stepladder in our development. We experience ourselves as a limited consciousness that we call “I”. Standing in contrast to this “I” is the outside world, which we experience as “not-I”.
The wise maintain that man, as microcosm, corresponds to the macrocosm. Thus the “outer” is a mirror image of the “inner”. Consequently self-knowledge must lead to knowledge of the world. At this stage man must learn that he is not, as he has always believed, a victim of outside circumstances, but that he himself creates his own environment by being the way he is.
Thus he learns to apply the law of resonance consciously in order to change himself gradually and thus make himself ripe for the things that he wishes to perceive and experience in the outside world. In this way he reconciles himself with everything, and discovers that all that exists is good.
When this reconciliation takes place is suddenly opens up for him new dimensions and new connections which are closed to the person who puts up a resistance against reality. He no longer sees the world as divided horizontally into planes instead he discovers that these planes are linked by vertical chains of principles. As every manifestation is merely a particular expression of a primal principle, the whole world of appearance becomes all at once a metaphorical reflection of this higher reality – and one begins to understand what Hermes Trismegistos meant by the statement: “That which is above is as that which is below.”
Wherever we look, nothing is still, everything flows, changes, transforms itself. As this ceaseless transformation seems to be directed towards a goal, we call it development or evolution. Development can only come about through a learning process, but any learning process is bound up with the solving of problems. Thus we find that problems are the real driving mechanism of all development, and that every problem presents a challenge to live through it actively, to solve it and resolve it.
THE MEANING OF OCCULT TECHNIQUES
There are countless so-called exercises and techniques, and they vary greatly in effectiveness and dangerousness. Here also, it is advisable to exercise moderation and not attempt to accelerate one's own progress unduly through the simultaneous application of many techniques. The value of most techniques lies more in regular practice than in the actual form of the exercises involved. It does not really matter whether one stands on one's head, holds one's breath or peels potatoes – what is important for success is the degree of consciousness with which one does these things.
Thus even the best and most secret techniques remain completely ineffective if one practices them in isolation from the rest of one's conduct and without an awareness of their symbolic character. Those who practice a technique in this way can never integrate it into their lives. As Goethe put it: “What use is the philosopher's stone if the stone lacks a wise philosopher?” By the same token, any activity, however simple or banal, can be sanctified if one uses it consciously and thus bestows it with meaning.
A ritual is the conscious, microcosmic reflection of a cosmic reality. Thus, in my view, the most exciting esoteric exercise is to elevate daily life into a ritual. If we wish to overcome polarity we must first get rid of the division between “esoteric exercises” and “normal life” - otherwise we shall degrade esotericism to the status of a spare-time occupation. The aim of this effort is to transform every handshake, every word, every action into something sacramental. Consider the flower in the meadow, radiating the beauty of its blossom and the fragrance of its scent. What is it doing other than constantly praising its creator? Similarly, what are the songs of the birds and the sounds of the sea if not part of a continual hymn to God? It is only we human beings who always imagine we have more important things to do and who make ourselves into the central justification for our actions.
It is man's fundamental destiny to be sent out into danger and risk. Failure harms him less than what he imagines to be safety. God does not want us to look for metaphysical emergency exits but to contribute to the completion of mankind in all its aspects, from the sensual to the transcendental.
- Herbert Fritsche
JUST AS SIMPLICITY must follow multiplicity, so we must now attempt to bring together all our observations in many different areas, in order to obtain an overall view of the path we have been following. At the beginning I pointed out that esotericism is a path and that this path must be followed if we are to reach our goal.
After all our theoretical explorations the question again arises: what must we do if we are not to remain inert observers but are actually to follow the esoteric path? Anyone who expects an easy answer to this question will be deeply disappointed, but the person who is content with certain hints will soon find more material than he can work through. For in fact there is nothing that is not a hint pointing towards the goal.
Just as a small child cannot assimilate written information until it has learned to read, so we must first learn the alphabet of reality before we can understand that everything visible is but a symbol, a sigil representing a higher idea. This way of thinking and perceiving has to be learned just like ordinary reading and writing.
The aim of this book has been to familiarize the reader a little with this way of looking at reality. As it deals only with the early steps, it does not attempt to present all esoteric systems, for to understand the whole range of such disciplines would demand a vast specialized terminology.
Fate has been the sole object of our considerations – fate, the partner of all human beings, a partner with whom they are forced to deal. A person's own fate is the most individual, made-to-measure esoteric system that one could ever find. This is why we begin our path by confronting our own fate. The aim of this confrontation is not to gain riches, happiness and success in the usual sense, but to achieve a deeper understanding of reality, an extension of consciousness, an encounter with the authority that man calls God.
The esoteric path does not promise outward fame, glamour and honour but rather work, loneliness and ceaseless striving for truth. This path is narrow and stony, but unfortunately the only one that leads to the strait gate of liberation. It is a steep path, and the danger of stumbling and falling is great. According to the law of polarity, danger increases in proportion to usefulness. With a knife one can both cut bread and kill someone. If one shapes the knife in such a way that one can no longer use it to kill it will also no longer be suitable for cutting bread. A small battery is harmless but it is also useless for supplying a town with electricity. The higher one climbs up a mountain the further one can see and the further one can fall. It is safer to stay down below on the plain crawling about on all fours – but the view form there is commensurate. The esoteric path leads to the highest peaks and is therefore mortally dangerous. Redemption and failure lie as close to one another as genius and madness.
By biting the apple in Paradise, humanity has chosen the path of knowledge and must follow it to the end if it wishes to find the way home again. It is the path traced out by Christ, which leads even further downwards until “the great work” is completed and the light of redemption shines from the depths.
At this point let me mention one of the stages on the esoteric path of initiation, a stage that is reached by anyone who follows this path, namely loneliness. Loneliness is a necessary phase that has to be passed through; in the Tarot it is symbolized by the ninth card, the Hermit. This loneliness is not connected with one's outward activity; it is an inner experience which goes together with not being understood by the world. A deep gulf of incomprehension and alienation opens up between the individual and the world around him. He becomes a hermit, even if he is surrounded by a hundred people. Just as this phase must be lived through, so, with equal certainty, will it give way to other phases. Loneliness is only a transitional stage which, among other things, is there to teach us how to listen and keep silent.
Before setting out on the path one should cast aside all illusions. All too many people become involved in occult activity out of a wish to acquire abilities that will raise them above others and make them more powerful. But where – overtly or covertly – the desire for power provides the motivation, the way leads undeviatingly to the pole that is called “black magic”. Black magic is simply any action that serves selfish or egotistical purposes. The essence of so-called “white magic” is to illuminate the darkness, to transmute “lead” into “gold”, to participate in the process of redeeming our planet, to serve the light. But as Fritsche puts it: “Only the enlightened can give out light. Only the reborn can awaken others.” True power is power that is possessed but not deployed. The infinite power of Christ revealed itself when he refused to take up the challenge to descend from the cross. As long as we deploy power we remain the slaves of power – and powerless.
As the public does not understand this principle it continually challenges occultists to prove their claims and expects visible demonstration of miracles. True esotericism, however, will never meet these expectations. The man in the street concludes from the refusal to produce miracle that such things do not exist – but this is a reflection of his own shortsightedness and we should not share in his limitation. When Jesus was in the wilderness the devil demanded visible proofs of his power, but Jesus withheld them. (Luke 4, 1-13)
Here again we see the great difference between esotericism and parapsychology. As long as man is motivated by mere curiosity the portal of initiation remains closed to him.
Once we have examined our true motivation and made sure that we are impelled neither by curiosity nor by the desire for power, then we can begin to take the first steps on the new path. We are soon given another warning: avoid haste! Many a traveler, in his enthusiasm over the newly discovered territory of esotericism, tries to pursue its secrets at top speed. But knowledge and development cannot be forced; they have their own rhythm and elude all coercion.
For many years the warning words of Frater Albertus have stayed with me: “when seeking becomes addiction”. Unfortunately it is all too easy to find people who insatiably consume new systems and ideas without digesting or assimilating them. The path turns into a “trip”. Fanaticism and intolerance are the hallmarks of those who try in their zeal to force God into giving favours. Development requires stillness, but not the stillness of inactivity. Stillness grows from the confidence that everything which is to happen will happen at the right time. Just as the farmer must allow his seed to rest in the ground, so must we learn to wait until the time is ripe. The motto “hasten slowly” reminds us of the golden mean between the extremes.
I do not consider it of prime importance to look around for esoteric societies and groups, or to go to India in search of a guru. There is at present a constantly growing number of groups, varying in size, aim and traditional background. If one includes all the small clubs and circles the number becomes astronomical. It is therefore impossible to arrive at a general judgement as to their value or otherwise. Nevertheless it is worth making a few fundamental observations on this subject.
Every group has its justification and can provide the individual seeker, at the appropriate time, with a certain kind of impulse and stimulus. This impulse can be quite independent of the inherent quality of the group itself. Nothing in this world is so bad that it cannot transmit certain valuable information to a person who has learned to see consciously. The value of a system or a group is hard to determine; it depends on the seeker's level of consciousness at the time. If a person feels an affinity for a particular group, this obviously shows that he can profit from its teachings. As long as he can do this the group is valuable to him.
Only in the rarest cases, however can this situation remain; for all groups, when they reach a certain size, acquire a sluggishness that usually makes their own development slower than that of the individual. Thus one day inevitably comes when the group has fulfilled its purpose for the individual. He then feels a new affinity drawing him on, impelling him to take a further step and to progress to a more advanced level of understanding.
The danger inherent in almost any group is the tendency to present its own teaching – which of course can only represent a small section of reality – as the only truth that will bring salvation. Thus a group's energies, instead of being devoted to its own development, are frequently diverted into power struggles, proselytizing and rivalry with groups of other persuasions. A system tends to become an end in itself and to take on an inert quality, instead of bringing freedom from inertia. The group becomes a vehicle for mutual self-affirmation. A coterie develops, consisting of disciples whose esoteric path goes no further than consuming the Master's every utterance. In other words the path becomes a cul-de-sac.
Apart from this general danger which goes with all larger associations, it is possible to divide groups qualitatively into three categories, corresponding to three basic tendencies:
1 Groups whose aims conform to white magic
2 Those with a tendency towards black magic
3 Those of an innocuous character which lead neither in one direction nor the other.
Leaving aside the third category, which is of no interest esoterically, we are left with the question: how is it possible to distinguish between the white and the black path? Note that we use the terms “white magic” and “black magic” here merely to denote a basic polarity, regardless of whether any particular group actually uses the term “magic”.
The same polarity can be expressed by the terms “right-hand” and “left-hand” path. Each path forms a pole to the other, and each has its justification. Thus is is not our intention here to condemn the left-hand path as devilish; this path is necessary as a counterbalance and in order to make the brightness of the right-hand path truly visible. Still, the individual who wishes to set out on a path has to decide which path to choose, the dark or the light. Each person is free to decide one way or the other, but, by the same token, each must bear – and endure – the full consequences of his or her choice. The left-hand path lures with the promise of power. The right-hand one demands sacrifice. To many, the decision seems to come easily.
One should remember, however, that everything was born from the light and therefore must return to the light. Darkness is absence of light. Therefore the left-hand or dark path leads to no genuine goal of its own. It is merely a wide detour which ultimately leads back to the light. It is not for nothing that since time immemorial truth, understanding, redemption and enlightenment have been associated with light, whereas lying, deceit, falsehood, illness and suffering have been linked with darkness. Each person must decide for himself, but it must be emphasized here that when we talk about the esoteric path we mean the path of light, for the dark path is ultimately not a path at all but merely the shadow of one.
There are many organizations and societies that serve the dark path, yet very few acknowledge this officially. Before joining any group, therefore, one should check certain points. Typical characteristics of the dark, left-hand path are: all striving for power – whether through expansion, proselytizing or whatever; any attempt to tie a person to the organization and make it difficult or impossible for him to leave; any form of drug-taking.
True esotericism, in so far as this exists in organized form, aims solely to help the seeker and remains at his disposal as long as he needs its help and advice. True esotericism points the way to freedom and never leads to dependence. True esotericism is not easy to organize, which is why one should not look for it in large organizations. In the last resort each person must go his or her own way alone. But if, along the path, he or she needs help, then this help will come without the person having to ask. In order to receive help, all that is necessary is to have a genuine need for it.
RELIGION AND REINCARNATION
Our experience shows that one cannot exclude man's religious problems from psychotherapy. It is only from lack of meaning the soul sickens. The person who is ill in his psyche has, in fact, already touched on a reality which is, for the most part, totally unknown to the “average person”. The neurotic sees more than his “normal” fellows, but cannot stand reality – he sickens from the poison of truth. Looking at it in homeopathic terms, he can only become healed through the truth that has made him ill. It can never be the aim of our path to bring the patient back to the normality that he enjoyed before his illness. Rather, after a successful therapy the patient must stand above normality to the same degree as his neurosis formerly pushed him below it.
If one accompanies someone on this path of individuation one necessarily encounters questions about meaning, God, redemption and so on. These themes are not – as many people maintain – suggested by the therapist, but are, in fact, purposely avoided by most threapists.
Therapy is not a medium for religious proselytising. Discussing the pros and cons of this or that belief or denomination is not the same as a true encounter with re-ligio. Unfortunately in most people the religious consciousness has a decidedly infantile character. This childishness in matters of religion is just as pronounced among opponents of the Church as among its supporters. It is alarming how seldom either group grasps the essence of religion. Thus there is a wide gulf between what churches teach and what religions themselves teach – this has always been so and will always remain so. Even ecclesiastical institutions are human creations and just as fallible as all other institutions. The accumulation of power is part of the essence of an institution, but power is the greatest enemy of all religion.
Thus from time to time true initiates appear among humanity and reassert the true, unadulterated, eternally valid teaching – but they are invariably persecuted and crucified by the official “Scribes and Pharisees” of the time. When we speak of religion here we always refer to the pure teaching and not to churches and institutions. If during therapy a patient has learned the true content of religion it is up to him whether he turns to a particular religion or denomination or pursues his own individual way. Furthermore, he who has understood religion will no longer feel angry about the mistakes of human society but will know how to make them part of the ritual background to his own life.
This brings us to the question of reincarnation and Christianity. The official Christian churches reject the doctrine of reincarnation with the exception of the Christian Community which is influenced by the teachings of Rudolf Steiner and is an illustration of how Christianity and the concept of reincarnation are fully compatible. Although it is hard to prove, there is much evidence that at the time of Christ and in the early centuries of the Christian era belief in reincarnation was taken absolutely for granted. Not until the year 533, at the Echumenical Council under the emperor Justinian, was the doctrine of reincarnation anathematised: “He who teaches the fabulous doctrine of the pre-existence of the soul and the monstrous idea of restoration to life, let him be anathema.”
It is said that at the same time the relevant passages were deleted from the scriptures, though confirmation of this could only come from the Vatican library. Nevertheless there remain passages in the Bible which, although not sufficient to make reincarnation a definite part of Christian teaching, do show quite clearly that the notion of reincarnation was taken for granted by the disciples of Christ. In all four Gospels, for example, we find passages dealing with the question of whether John the Baptist was a reincarnation of Elias. In Mark 8, 27 we read:
And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea and Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am? And they answered, John the Baptist: but some say, Elias; and others, One of the prophets.
Compare this with Matthew 16, 13-16 and with Matthew 17, 10, where we find:
And his disciples asked him saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, that Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of men suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.
Compare also Mark 9, 11 and Matthew 11, 13 where we read:
For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
This question about Elias, which appears in all the Gospels, can only be understood in the context of reincarnation. This applies particularly to the passage in St. John's Gospel 9, 1:
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? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
The question of whether the cause of the blindness lay in his own sin or in that of his parents presupposes the acceptance of earlier incarnations. This is not affected by Jesus' answer, which does not cast doubt on the validity of the question but merely reveals a third aspect that was not taken into account by the questioner.
Many more statements about reincarnation are to be found in the writings of the Church Fathers whose pronouncements on the subject are often unequivocal. K. O. Schmidt in his book Wir leben nicht nur einmal (“We don't live only once”), has collected many relevant quotations, some of which are worth repeating here. The great Origen writes:
If one wants to know why the human soul at one moment follows good and at another evil, we must look for the reason in another life which precedes this one. - Each one of us hastens towards completeness through a succession of lifetimes. - We are bound always to lead new and better lives, be it on earth or in other worlds. Our surrender to God which cleanses us of all evil, signifies the end of our reincarnations.
Other Church Fathers who clearly supported the doctrine of reincarnation were St Jerome, Clement of Alexandria, Gregor of Nyssa, Rufinus, St Justin, St Hilary, Tertian, Philo, Nemesius and others.
The Archbishop Louis Pasavali wrote:
In my opinion we would make a considerable step ahead if we could publicly support the concept of reincarnation, that is reincarnation on earth as in other worlds, for thereby many riddles would be solved which at present cast a troubling mist of uncertainty over the mind of man.
None of these names or quotations should give the impression that it is possible to prove reincarnation to be a component of Christian doctrine. One could find sufficient passages and authorities to support virtually any standpoint. I do not believe that the debate about reincarnation should be carried out on the basis of Bible quotations. In my view it makes more sense to examine seriously whether or not the theory of reincarnation contradicts the Christian philosophy and the true teaching of Christ. An impartial investigation of this question will reveal no such contradiction. The individual is therefore not faced with having to decide between remaining a Christian and believing in reincarnation. A true Christian attitude has always required the courage to go the way of one's conscience regardless of accepted views – in this respect nothing has changed up to the present day. Even in Christ's time the scribes were not to be counted among the disciples.
STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT
OF THE SOUL
The length of a soul's sojourn in the beyond varies with the individual. It is certainly not true, however, that several hundred or several thousand years lie between the incarnations, as is widely maintained. It is significant that in the distant past intervening phases of a few hundred years occurred. But at present the intervals between incarnations are usually less than ten years. The shortening or lengthening of the
interval is the mechanism which controls population levels. The shorter the interval the greater the number of people living on earth.
In this context one should not forget that humanity is not a closed realm with a constant number of souls but something like a transit station. If we compare incarnations to forms in a school we can think of humanity as a secondary school. Just as before and after the secondary school there are other places of learning, so the soul passes through different realms until it is mature enough for humanity; and when it has become a perfected human being there awaits endless hierarchies with further tasks lying outside the human kingdom.
One also finds in the human soul memories reaching back into the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms, but one should not equate these with incarnations in the narrower sense. Only with humanity does the development of the individual soul begin, for in the animal kingdom the group soul still reigns. Occasionally, however, a human soul can be demoted to an animal kingdom. Such demotions probably apply to the beginnings of humanity and are by no means the rule.
A common question in whether or not one's sex changes over the series of incarnations. Although we know from experience that sex does change we still cannot throw much light on this question since we are not yet clear about the law which governs this change. Having tested many hypotheses I am at present of the opinion that a soul possesses a definite sex but that it also has a double of the opposite sex. In most incarnations the individual has the sex that the soul possessed in the beginning. Incarnations in the opposite sex only occasionally intervene so that particular experiences can be undergone and karma cleared. The soul frequently but not invariably meets its double since the two are dependent on one another in their development.
The repeated encounter with the same person over long chains of incarnations is certainly an astonishing phenomenon. Love and hate, attraction and repulsion are merely vestiges from the past. The clearing of karmic debt always involves the same person on whom one inflicted the wrong that originally brought about the guilt. One of the most deeply striking experiences in reincarnation therapy is to realize how similar are the problems that occur throughout an individual's incarnations and how many millenia go by without any change in his or her basic pattern of behaviour.
Part of the therapy may owe its success to this very realization. By surveying spans of time which to our consciousness seem enormous, we are able to see the overall structure of the problem and the nature of the chain of errors with great clarity. Reincarnation therapy works like a microscope, sharpening our perception of the personality structure in all its details.
Through confrontation with guilt we are forced to shoulder the responsibility for our own fate and in doing so, to change ourselves. At first the patient expects only a change in his symptoms, overlooking the fact that this can only take place in connection with a change in himself. In reincarnation therapy we learn the meaningfulness and justice of fate. We learn that with each action we harvest what we once sowed and sow what we shall one day harvest. This recognition forces us to live in the here and now. We perceive that we are cradled in a cosmos guided by meaning and purpose and that our sole task is to serve it. This reconnection with the primal purpose is re-ligio, the final goal of our therapy, for healing is a matter of religion.
We now touch on the subject of souls that are “earth-bound” - a subject which the public is still ill-equipped to understand but which, because of its importance, we cannot entirely ignore. By “earth-bound” I mean souls which, after leaving the body, remain for one reason or another so concerned with earthly events that they neglect to follow their required path through the world beyond. As in their lifetime, all their interest is focused on worldly happenings. They therefore try to share in the activity of a living human body in order to regain their own capacity for action.
The reason for this kind of earth-bound state is usually – however strange this may sound – that the person concerned has not consciously perceived his or her own death. “Overlooking” death in this way is frequently a consequence of believing firmly that after death everything is finished. When someone of this conviction suddenly dies, he finds that subjectively so little has changed for him that it simply does not occur to him that he is dead. The only perceptible difference lies in his own inability to act, and this he quickly remedies by attaching himself to another body and thus regaining the feeling of having the normal influence on earthly events.
There are other possible reasons for a soul being earth-bound. A person might, for example, have committed serious mistakes and wish to correct them himself after death. Or there might be grieving relatives who seek to keep the soul of the deceased chained to them. Sometimes a living person can be possessed by several earth-bound souls, a condition that one should not confuse with demonic or devilish possession.
The earth-bound souls are not intent on anything evil but are themselves in a regrettable plight and are waiting for help. Beings in the beyond, however, cannot give such help until these souls turn away from earthly happenings and ask for help. Thus it is the task of the living to provide the necessary help. All the old-established religions, therefore, include rituals and pleas for the dead. An impressive example of this is the Tibetan Book of the Dead, whose rituals have the purpose of guiding the souls of the deceased.
Possession of a living person by deceased souls can take many forms, ranging from minor symptoms to mental illness. It is significant that the majority of cases classified as schizophrenic are characterized by the presence of earth-bound souls. In such cases it is the intruding soul, and not the patient, that should be treated in order to bring about the release of the soul and the freeing of the patient.
In the early part of the century the American psychiatrist, Dr Wickland, worked successfully for over thirty years with this method of treating shizophrenics. Success in this difficult work was made possible by the talents of his wife who was an outstanding medium. During the sessions she placed her body at the disposal of the earth-bound souls, so that through her they could speak and communicate.
The treatment of a soul consists in explaining the circumstances in which the person now finds himself and retrospectively making him conscious of his death. He must learn to grasp that he no longer possesses a body of his own and that earthly matters now have no importance for him. He must literally turn himself around to face his new path and recognize the help that lies in the world beyond.
In the past few years we have begun to collect our own experiences in this area. These confirm Wickland's findings but also show how many problems and dangers attend such procedures. Laymen should therefore be warned against any wild experimentation in this field. Recently we have found possible ways, within our therapy, of contacting and treating the earth-bound souls even without a medium. This form of therapy I call “release-therapy”, because the soul is freed from its bondage and guided on to its own true path.
A central role in release-therapy is played by the prayer which the soul desperately desires to utter. Thus the greatest opportunity for the layman to help such souls lies in praying and having masses read for the deceased – one could hardly recommend a better service. It also follows that surviving relatives and friends should avoid any attempt to tie or call back the deceased. Spiritualists and those who go in for recording voices on tape are involved mainly with earth-bound souls. They should be clear in their minds that these souls need help but are in now way the transmitters of heavenly wisdom.
We are still at the beginning of this research but what we have discovered so far shows that by taking into account this type of problem we can open up completely new possibilities for therapy and assistance.