I was recently asked a question about reincarnation and felt that I didn't explain myself very well at the time, partly because it is something I've taken for granted for so many years that I've not thought about it properly for a while.
So I welcome the chance to go into the subject a bit more here. I will start by saying that I see it as a tool of spiritual development, the means whereby an individual consciousness develops. So I don't believe that a human can regress to an animal body or, for that matter, that an animal spirit can be born in a human body. But who knows? It may be that in certain exceptional circumstances such things can happen. Even if very unlikely I would not rule it out completely. I remember once seeing a black panther in a zoo in Delhi and, when I looked into its eyes, I had the very strong impression that a human spirit was there, quite a malevolent one that had been involved in black magic and was now paying some kind of price. One part of me thought this was just superstitious nonsense but another could not shake off the feeling that there really was a human soul locked inside this animal.
As far as I see the matter, someone who believes there is a spiritual reality to human beings can choose between three options. Either each person is a newly created soul or we have a pre-incarnate existence or reincarnation. The first is the standard Christian belief but it doesn't make much sense to me. Certainly I never had any doubt that I personally had existed before my birth in this world. As a child I had dim memories of higher worlds (Wordsworth's clouds of glories) and, though they inevitably faded, they left an indelible mark on my consciousness. But then as I grew older certain historical periods and cultures seemed very familiar to me. That proves nothing, I know, but was personally convincing. And then when I encountered the Masters they confirmed that I had asked to come back to this world and also stated that Michael Lord (their medium) and I had been together before and (interestingly since it implies at least some knowledge of the future) would be again. All anecdotal evidence, to be sure, but ultimately each person must respond to this doctrine on an intuitive level.
Reincarnation does have the virtue of logic. The theory behind it states that each human soul, through experiencing life in the physical world, develops from a not much more advanced than animal state to a fully spiritually conscious being. It seems that certain lessons can only be learnt here, in a body, with a mind not overwhelmed by spiritual light and in a state of separation from God. In short, in a dualistic environment where we, as the subject, and the world, as object, are experienced as completely different, just as they are now. A full difference has not always been the case, even in this physical world, but now it has surely come to that point. The human being and the world are further apart than they have ever been. It is more or less complete separation which strongly implies that now is the time for the prodigal son to start his journey back home.
That's the theory. We gradually experience a full separation through many lives in order to eventually go back to union, but this time in full consciousness and with the sense of individuality fully developed. That's the path humanity as a whole seems to be on and what is true for the group would surely be true for the units within that group as well. But what is it that goes through this process and reincarnates from one life to another? I don't think that I, as William Wildblood, keep coming and going. After all, much that is WW comes from the genetic inheritance from his parents this time around. But the soul behind him, that is a different matter. It is this soul that is the true self and according to my understanding, gleaned from the Masters, not all of it does descend to the world. Possibly only as much as is necessary for the carrying out of its mission. The greater self remains on its own plane. So what we are here and what we are conscious of now is probably just the tip of an iceberg, experienced through the form given it by its genetic and cultural background, and there may even be some astrological influence thrown in, all of which combine to give us the framework that is most apt for what we have to learn and what we can contribute.
So my understanding of reincarnation is that is the method whereby an Adam becomes a Christ. That is why we encounter people at various stages of this process, though not many, it has to be said, near the end of it. The question is, does it apply to everybody in this world? At one stage I would have thought it did, but I have come to accept that there are people whose spiritual perception I respect and from whom I have learnt, Bruce Charlton for one, who do not feel drawn to this belief. And, of course, it is absent in Christianity even if some people claim hints of it are present there. It could be said that reincarnation was not intended for Christianity because to focus on it can lead to a kind of spiritual stagnation. If you think you have only one life in which to save your soul you are more likely to want to get on with it. Matters become more pressing. However most Christians do not believe in the pre-existence of the soul either, thinking it comes into being with each new life, and I consider that to be a basic metaphysical misunderstanding so perhaps the absence of reincarnation in Christianity is not such a telling point. Perhaps Judaism and the religions that derived from it were intended to emphasise certain aspects of spiritual truth which required them to be completely differentiated from other religions, most of which do believe in reincarnation.
It could be that God has more than one way of educating his children. I believe that reincarnation is his main method. Others don't and think that, if it takes place at all, it is restricted to certain individuals who may come back because of unfinished business or a particular task they have been given. What it boils down to is how much spiritual progress can take place only in this world with its peculiar environment. Are there properties of this world which are essential for the development of mind, character and indeed body, and, if there are, is one life sufficient to make use of them? I don't think it is but if we can accept that learning takes place before we come here and after we leave then I think it is only relatively insignificant detail that separates those who believe in reincarnation from those who don't. After all, reincarnation has nothing to do with spirituality per se. That remains a matter of loving God and seeking to walk the path of goodness and truth as best exemplified by the life of Christ.