Friday, April 29, 2005

A question about incarnation

Many mystical traditions believe that before birth, and after death, we are seamlessly connected with the Divine. Our consciousness loses its individuality and merges with the great consciousness. We become one with the One, with All. Each of us is a wave that arises from, and dissolves back into, the ocean. (These are metaphors, of course, trying to describe an experience beyond words.)

Life on earth is marked by separation from the Divine; we are cast out of Eden. Even on earth, however, we can recover ourselves and reconnect with divinity: in ecstasy, in experiences of enlightenment, in visions that allow us to glimpse behind the veil. We feel intimations of something more, and spiritual practice can help us connect to it. When Witches cast a circle, we're consciously creating a space where we can dissolve back into Divinity. Thus we're truly "between the worlds."

Our human lives are inevitably marked by suffering, as the Buddhists teach us - by brokenness. Perhaps this is the best interpretation of the Christian concept of sin: not that we're bad, but that we're separated from god. (Goddess forbid I should be talking about sin; I eschew my Christian heritage with good reason.) Before and after our human lives, Love abides. Love abides with us in life, too, but for some reason, She is harder to discern. We forget her easily. We feel hurt and alone.

Mystical traditions also teach us that we choose to incarnate in this life, to move from the bliss of the heavenly womb to the icy air outside. So here is my question: Why would anyone choose to do this? Why choose to come to earth and to embody a life of suffering?

In the first chapter of his book, After the Ecstacy, the Laundry, Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield tells the story of a Sufi master who sufffered a motorcycle accident in his youth. The young man had a "near death" experience: he saw his body as from a distance after the impact:

I knew that I had the option to return to my body or to let go into this wonderful peaceful darkness. But when I looked at the scene below, what arose was an intense feeling of love for this body and for life. Love and joy made me come back.... I love this reality. I have followed its call.

I'm a pagan and a Witch because I, too, love this body and this life. I love the earth. For all its suffering, this life also permits its own kinds of joy, pleasure, love, and solace. Perhaps that's one reason why we choose human incarnation.

1 comment:

Emily said...

Why choose to come to earth and to embody a life of suffering?

The way I look at it: Living a life of this form amongst all these forms is a particular manifestation, or game, that the Divine has chosen to play. The separateness from Divine that we all experience is akin to being so lost in the play that we forgot we made it up; the separation feels real and therefore there is an experience of suffering.

I am reminded of an ancient saying I heard told once that the gatekeepers at the gate of awakening are Truth and Paradox. So there is this truth of who we really are and oneness and then there is the paradox of forgetting that in order to experience this lila (divine play).

In that sense, there is no suffering or tragedy whatsoever outside of the game. But within the game, there is the play of great suffering and tragedy.