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A General Resurrection ? Judge Yourself

This illustration is an attempt to present a more realistic vision of the Last Judgement.   It also presents a naïve simplification of whether we go for one kind of gold or the other but this choice, however subtle, is probably important.   You judge : only you'll have to use your heart or you'll find it's not the real you.

The following is borrowed from the Note on Resurrection on page 2.

Resurrection as Reincarnation ?
Josephus, the 1st century Jewish historian, assures us that what Paul describes is only the first stage of resurrection.    And a ‘bodily resurrection’ is not nonsense but standard, established matter of fact.   Only not in the body lain mouldering in the grave.  The Pharisees’ belief in the resurrection of the dead is actually a belief in reincarnation – for the good only : “They say that all souls are incorruptible but that the souls of good men only are removed into other bodies – but that the souls of bad men are subject to eternal punishment … in Hades.” (Wars Book II Ch 8. 13; also Ant. 18.1.3)

If “all souls are incorruptible,” it is a small step to accept all souls are reincarnated.   After all, there is no need to create a hell in the bowels of the earth when we manage to create one very well all around us.  There is the widest agreement many lives are just hell.

In Acts St Paul  insists on the identity of his views with the Pharisees, clearly echoing their line, only taking a more forgiving, more realistic view : “I worship the God of my ancestors … and I hold the same hope in God that they do, that there will be a resurrection of the upright and the wicked alike.” (Acts 24. 15 )   This adds up to a clear confirmation the earliest Christian belief in resurrection was identical to the Jewish belief in reincarnation, or the transmigration of souls. It would be a bit incredible were it not so.  In the first century it would be no great leap from the early Christians  beginning by proclaiming the Pharisees' resurrection in ‘a’ body, to getting a bit carried away and going on to preaching a resurrection in ‘the’ body.   But in the twenty-first century it may make the difference between sense and nonsense, between faith and disbelief.

We might even wonder whether the present global population explosion doesn’t fulfil the great Christian prophecy of the final bodily Resurrection of the Dead : that every soul who has ever lived on earth is back now, irresistibly reincarnated in a new body, a new life, for this mad jamboree of materialism.

Population projections for historical times are well below our present level of 6 billion souls but we should allow that long holidays are often involved, heaven is somewhere to go. And, while there is little sense in human souls regressing to the animal realm when there is ample scope for inhuman rebirths with words, spiritual progress would suggest the decimation of our wild life could advance a good few candidates for promotion. From Roman times the very name ‘animal’ has defined a creature with a ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’, the ‘anima’.

Isaiah (about 750 -700 BC ), a skilled star-gazer according to rabbinic tradition and probably a pioneer Kabbalist, already proclaims that God ‘has destroyed the veil which used to veil all peoples, he has destroyed death forever ;’ (Ch.25 v.8 ) and looks forward to a time when ‘Your dead will come back to life, your corpses will rise again.’ (26. 19 ) What can this be but dramatising reincarnation ? It is generally supposed to be the influence of Greek thought, when Israel came under Hellenic rule after Alexander the Great’s conquests, that is believed to have brought reincarnation into mainstream Judaism. Plato, who died in 348 BC , just before Alexander’s reign, taught reincarnation and the immortality of the soul and Platonism was, and has remained, hugely influential, though we have lost connection with its spiritual aspects, down the ages. Plato had travelled greatly and probably met Buddhists and Brahmins from India where reincarnation was an established platform of religious thinking. A century before Plato, the great Pythagoras also taught reincarnation in ancient Greece. Pythagoras is supposed to have learnt esoteric wisdom in Egypt.

Paul and the Nazarenes would not just be ignorant of current Judaic and Greek wisdom if they rejected reincarnation.  Reincarnation or the ‘transmigration of the soul’ was taught by virtually all faiths in the ancient world, including even the Celtic Druids.  Apparently lost on the bloodlusty Romans, this belief has now been lost in the western world along with the spiritual knowledge (of a spirit) that went with it.

Even now we have plenty of convincing reincarnation testimonies, from the Dalai Lama and other high lamas of Tibet to numerous verified accounts from every continent, every culture.  Reincarnation was an accepted tenet of belief for the first quarter of the Christian age : until in 554 AD the Holy Roman Emperor in Constantinople forced the Pope to renounce this and other doctrines in ‘the Three Chapters’, having locked him up and finally exiled him to a remote island.

Reincarnation is strongly supported in the Gospels themselves, with speculation whether Jesus is Moses or Joshua returned, while Jesus quite unequivocally endorses reincarnation when he declares of John the Baptist, “he, if you will believe me, is the Elijah who was to return. Anyone who has ears should listen.” (Mt.11. 14-15).  So there ! For good measure it is repeated: “I tell you, Elijah has come already and they did not recognise him but treated him as they pleased… Then the disciples understood that he was speaking of John the Baptist.” (Mt. 17. 11-13)

Another noted Gospel passage, “Who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?" (John 9. 2-3 ) links reincarnation to something very much like the Indian philosophy of karma, divine justice.  This idea recently proved so unfashionable, so heretical, it cost the England football manager his job.

Reincarnation was repressed because it conflicted sharply with the idea of a one-off mass Resurrection at the End of the World which became such a mainstay of Christian promises and threats, as it remains today.  We may yet find it’s rather easier for the modern rational mind to credit the final Resurrection in terms of reincarnation.

St Paul makes it clear the original idea of resurrection among the earliest Christians was not unique to Christ but the general rule : ‘if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen … for if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised.’ (I Cor. 15. 13,16 )  He goes on to give a very clear idea of what he means, which coincides quite closely with the Egyptian portrait of resurrection, the living spirit leaving the dead body.

St. Paul’s view is quite clearly that the resurrection we all may expect is in a “spiritual body.” He seems to be losing patience with an alternative view, quite possibly the idea of bodily resurrection :

“How are dead people raised and what sort of body do they have when they come ? How foolish ! What you sow must die before it is given new life; what you sow is not the body that is to be, but only a bare grain, say of wheat … it is God that gives it the sort of body that he has chosen for it … With the resurrection of the dead, what is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable ….. what is sown is the natural body, what is raised is the spiritual body …… this mortal nature of ours must put on immortality.” (1Cor 35-38, 42,44,53 NJB)

This evocative image of burying the physical body at death to reap the priceless harvest of an immortal spirit and eternal life doubtless inspired the piercing Easter hymn : ‘Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.’

Paul’s practical, common sense explanation fits very well with statements in the Egyptian Pyramid texts and the Book of the Dead : ‘ Soul to heaven, body to earth;’ (Vth dynasty) ‘Thy essence is in heaven, thy body to earth;’ (VIth dynasty) ‘Heaven hath thy soul, earth hath thy body;’ (Ptolemaic period) (E A Budge)

Christian commentators can be quite equivocal about Christ’s Resurrection, as this less-than-clear comment in the standard Oxford Companion to the Bible illustrates :

‘The resurrection, while a real event according to the unanimous testimony of the New Testament, is not historical in the sense that ordinary events are. It occurs at the point where history ends and God’s end-time kingdom begins. And it is not in itself an observable occurrence. …. Nor can it be verified.’ (pg. 648.)

Karma : the Ultimate Judgement

In the Kabbalah 'Judgement' is the seat of Mars on the Tree of Life and his Scorpio spirit can be recognised as the sexual principle of 'Eros,' desire, portrayed by the Romans as Cupid.   For the Hindus this troublesome, much loved spirit is Kama, portrayed in the same way with Mars' irresistible shafts.  But a different aspect of this spirit is portrayed as 'karma,' also translated as 'desire.' 

The Hindu idea of karma is respected widely throughout Asia and was adopted by Buddhism when it swept the vast continent in earlier centuries.  Karma is also translated as 'action' but is perhaps even better translated as 'motivation,' so it can be easily understood to fit with a basic idea of western morality : whatever you do, you will be rewarded accordingly but it is essentially the motivation, the desire behind the action, which counts. 

This idea of karma gives us perhaps the most sensible insight into what the Last Judgement might mean.  If the law of karma is true for the Hindus it is true for everyone and there is plenty to suggest the Gospels were familiar and comfortable with this idea, even linking it with reincarnation, as we saw above in the question over the the man born blind : was it because of his actions, his karma, in a previous life ? 

Karma conceives our lives as preordained but following a natural law in which virtue is rewarded and evil punished.  We always receive our just rewards.  This is also called ‘the law of cause and effect.’   It is the same law of absolute logic we find among western scientists but taken somewhat beyond the logic of Mr Spock. This law factors in the spiritual dimension.

This may take immediate effect, ‘instant karma,’ or it may be postponed to future lifetimes. Karma is inextricably bound to the belief in rebirth, that future lives will be determined by ones past actions.

Essentially good deeds will be rewarded by good results, directly or eventually, and by an increased capacity for further good actions while evil deeds will produce the opposite. We can readily see this natural justice in life and there are many wise aphorisms advising us we will ‘reap what we sow.’ Equally we often recognise that good or evil rewards may be postponed but ‘they will get what’s coming to them one day.’   Karma takes this truth to its logical conclusion, recognising the power of the spirit to record every thought and ensure every seed sown bears its true fruit.  Justice never fails and we always learn the lesson we need to make progress, to find our true selves, to find God.

Of course this sense of justice is very much what we ourselves instinctively feel and try to enforce in our criminal justice system. But when we take on God’s job we often commit greater crimes than any criminal, with the apparent impunity of righteous justice.  Forgiveness forgotten, mercy turned to malice.  And so we reap as we sow.  As it could easily be predicted.  As it is written, no doubt, against our names in the Book of Life.

Being Chosen
Like the promise of immortality, the accolade of being ‘chosen,’ ‘the elect,’ has a characteristically exclusive edge : only for the good, the faithful. This partisan favour is easily understandable in the context of ancient times and the centuries that followed. Faith needed to be dramatised in black and white, heaven and hell. Now, in a new age, we are beginning to appreciate life is not quite so simple and is often a question of difficult-to-distinguish shading.

Paul insisted the Christian understanding of the resurrection / reincarnation of the dead extended to “ the upright and the wicked alike.” (Acts 24. 15 ) and so we can all enjoy the assurance of immortality, eternal life. Equally we can recognise the fact of predestination applies to us all.

This is not a matter of some being damned for all eternity, others born to the assurance of eternal salvation. Realistically we can recognise we all share in both these fates to some degree. It is just a question of shading. We all have our faults which will attach to us until we learn to overcome them and we all have our virtues, our saving graces. All in different measures, perhaps, but who can judge ? God alone. Or the Spirit within. And if one pupil is chosen for special attention, special detention, who can say it is not because he or she has some special hidden potential ?

What we might recognise is we have all been chosen for the human adventure, to benefit full measure from the benign vigilance of the universal Spirit, our own immortal, omniscient spirit. We’re all on the same trail, heading for the same gold and we will all make it sooner or later. Perhaps those who expect to arrive sooner may be delayed, some who expect less may find themselves surprised. The usual spiritual paradoxes.

The Last Judgement : Judge for Yourself
If we learn the law of Judgement, the law of karma among the spiritual revelations for the beginning of the new age, we will learn the merciless fate of the Last Judgement : we make our own future, heaven or hell, by the natural justice of what we are fit for, what we desire, what we can cope with.  It also suggests a profound foregiveness and beneficence in all the judgements in heaven.   However, the bloody pictures painted for the End in the prophecy of Revelation suggests heaven, karma, may have to be cruel to be kind, to save us from ourselves and give us some hope there will be a habitable planet left for us to come back to, to turn into the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.

This story, of a Near Death Experience (NDE), borrowed from the death scene on Page 4 suggests we always judge ourselves with the unerring insight of our hearts but it is only in moments of special clarity, deep dreams perhaps, or the final reality of death, when this truth shines through.

The most famous feature of NDEs is experience of one’s whole life flashing before one’s eyes, gently confirming nothing is too insignificant in life, everything matters and everything is recorded – within one’s own heart.

One such account recalls the experience of great regret at the ‘failures of love and humanity’ which were highlighted in this ‘fast forward’ flashback and yet the consoling assurance ‘this is how it had to be,’ ‘it couldn’t be helped.’  This fits insight and understanding to the theology and logic of fate and the story goes on to tell of an impression of profound forgiveness, essentially based on this understanding and finally the strong message ‘everything is as it should be, as it must be and it is all part of a great Plan, it will all be alright.’

I repeat this singular account, including details which are not widely recalled, because they do chime precisely with the theory, the theology and they make sense.  If everything is ruled by fate yet we have free will to do as we wish, it is only natural we should accept our sins are forgiven in the end, regrettable as they are. Equally, if everything is all arranged by Fate, it makes sense it should be arranged for the best.

This too is only the conventional theology embraced by all faiths and endorsed by the ancient science of astrology which recognises an overriding goodness among the beneficent qualities of the supreme spirit of the Sun.   Just as every heart strives for good only we tend to have different perceptions of what this involves : we do not always share the clarity, foresight or equanimity of God.




This note will be developed.

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