Articles/Essays From Pagans
September 11th. 2016 ...
Rethinking Heaven: What Happens When We Die?
How Did I Get Here? (My Pagan Journey)
What is Happening in My Psychic Reading?
Wild Mountain Woman: Landscape Goddess
August 12th. 2016 ...
When Reality Rattles your Idea of the Perfect Witch
Hungarian Belief in Fairies
Designing a Pagan Last Will and Testament
July 13th. 2016 ...
What Every Pagan Should Know About Curses
Magic With A Flick of my Finger
An Open Mind and Heart
Finding and Caring for Your Frame Drum
June 13th. 2016 ...
Pollyanna Propaganda: The Distressing Trend of Victim-Blaming in Spirituality
Living a Magickal Life with Fibromyalgia
My Father, My First God
Life is Awesome... and the Flu
May 15th. 2016 ...
Faery Guided Journey
How to Bond with the Elements through Magick
Magical Household Cleaning
Working with the Elements
April 2nd. 2016 ...
An Alternative Conception of Divine Reciprocity
Becoming Wiccan: What I Never Expected
The Fear of Witchcraft
Rebirth By Fire: A Love Letter to Mama Maui and Lady Pele
Blowing Bubbles with the Goddess
Magic in Sentences
The Evolution of Thought Forms
March 28th. 2016 ...
Revisiting The Spiral
Lateral Transcendence: Toward Greater Compassion
Spring Has Sprung!
January 22nd. 2016 ...
Coming Out of the Broom Closet
Energy and Karma
Community and Perception
December 20th. 2015 ...
Introduction to Tarot For the Novice
Magia y Wicca
October 24th. 2015 ...
Facing Your Demons: The Shadow Self
The Dream Eater--A Practical Use of Summoning Talismans
Native American Spirituality Myopia
A Dream Message
Feeling the Pulse of Autumn
October 16th. 2015 ...
Sacred Lands, Sacred Hearts
September 30th. 2015 ...
September 16th. 2015 ...
Nature Worship: or Seeing the Trees for the Ents
Vegan or Vegetarian? The Ethical Debate
August 6th. 2015 ...
Lost - A Pagan Parent's Tale
July 9th. 2015 ...
Love Spells: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
The Magic of Weather
June 7th. 2015 ...
A Pagan Altar
A Minority of a Minority of a Minority
The Consort: Silent Partner or Hidden in Plain Sight?
Why I Bother With Ritual: Poetry and Eikonic Atheism
May 6th. 2015 ...
Gods, Myth, and Ritual in Naturalistic Paganism
I Claim Cronehood
13 Keys: The Crown of Kether
March 29th. 2015 ...
A Thread in the Tapestry of Witchcraft
March 28th. 2015 ...
On Wiccan Magick, Theurgy, Thaumaturgy and Setting Expectations
March 1st. 2015 ...
Choosing to Write a Shadow Book
Historiolae: The Spell Within the Story
February 1st. 2015 ...
Seeker Advice From a Coven Leader
The Three Centers of Paganism
Magick is No Illusion
The Ancient Use of God/Goddess Surnames
The Gods of My Heart
January 1st. 2015 ...
The Six Most Valuable Lessons I've Learned on My Path as a Witch
Manipulation of the Concept of Witchcraft
Publicly Other: Witchcraft in the Suburbs
Pagans All Around Us
Broomstick to the Emerald City
October 20th. 2014 ...
Thoughts on Conjuring Spirits
A Microcosmic View of Ma'at
October 5th. 2014 ...
The History of the Sacred Circle
Abandoning Expectations and Remembering Your Roots
September 28th. 2014 ...
Seeking Pagan Lands for Pagan Burials
Creating a Healing Temple
September 20th. 2014 ...
GOD AND ME (A Pagan's Personal Reply to the New Atheists)
September 7th. 2014 ...
August 31st. 2014 ...
Coven vs. Solitary
NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
To The Infinite Music: Thoughts On Reincarnation
Article ID: 10251
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 3,980
Times Read: 6,428
RSS Views: 67,362
Author: Alison Leigh Lilly
Posted: November 6th. 2005
Times Viewed: 6,428
“O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?”
- W. B. Yeats, from Among School Children
There was that moment, during Steve Vai’s performance of his song 'For the Love of God, ' when the thought somehow occurred to me that death was an illusion.
Not in these words, of course. Rather, what I realized was that I could not possibly conceive of an end to consciousness - but not even yet in these words. The exact experience was something like this: I had been so fully engaged by Vai's complex, beautiful and seemingly endless improvisational guitar playing that somewhere in my mind or heart, a quiet voice suddenly whispered in curious awe, "If I died right now, how would I know it?" To which every instinct in me suddenly responded (not in words at all, but with an obvious sense of awareness) that I would not know it. And furthermore, I would not know it because the kind of 'death' implied in the question did not exist. There was no sudden blackout, no end to consciousness - even upon my death; it occurred to me, I could not possibly cease to listen to this music. Even if death in the traditional, physical sense came at that precise time, I simply knew that I would continue listening and experiencing this relationship, the interconnection and mutual vibration of song. Even my body might keep standing there, too engaged to realize it had died. The image of my body suspended ridiculously, swaying to song made me laugh out loud.
The way I know that this was not an intellectual conversion is because it has been months now, and I am only just beginning to understand and to be able to articulate exactly what happened or what changed. And yet the change itself was immediate and palpable.
I have always resisted thinking about things such as death and eternity, convinced (or, at least, trying to convince myself) that my lack of concern and contemplation was really a kind of bravery. I had the courage not to fear death, not even to consider it, I told myself. But of course, this was not really true. Especially recently, I had come to feel utterly inadequate in my limited lifespan, in the violent wake of history's course. What could I possibly accomplish, in this little body with this isolated little mind and weak little heart? I could not admit it to myself, but I was afraid of death. Because it meant that, at some point in the future, my efforts and deeds would end, my work here would be over. I did not fear death because I was afraid of the unknown or the possibility that I would cease to exist. I was afraid for the world's sake. I was afraid that all of its great leaders and loving individuals would fade away, stolen by death, before their work was finished, abandoning those of us here still struggling. And I was afraid that I too would be gone before even my own trivial work was done. This was a very real kind of fear.
But for a moment at this concert, it suddenly seemed utterly silly. As ridiculous as a body suddenly evacuated of a soul still dancing and swaying to the music. The image suggested something I had wondered about for so long but had never articulated: if the body does not disappear into oblivion, why should the soul, the consciousness? And for me, even a “heaven” was a kind of oblivion - a spiritual respite, perhaps, but one in which the Divine overruled our freedom, sweeping us along into a state which was, anyway, some isolated and disconnected escapist fantasy, wholly apart from this beautiful and sacred world. Heaven was no reward for me, to think that I might someday be severed from all life here and, thus, in some way from even the Divine itself as it manifests through and sustains that life. And so I could not hope even for that.
On the other hand, the thought of reincarnation had always troubled me. It seemed to be for most people a simplistic explanation of suffering - and even worse, a glorification of the ego by making it eternal, just some infinite body jumper. I felt that the whole idea of karma had a kind of shallow, self-justifying ring to it. It seemed essentially a way of buying, trading or hoarding good luck. As if a person not only had an excuse to ignore others' suffering (which was karmically deserved) but even to scoff at those who suffered and died, since death (or the self, and thus the death of the self) was an illusion.
Many of my other beliefs, however, seemed to suggest a subtler interpretation: (a) That the soul continues to evolve forever and that this process of growth is actually in itself sacred and a manifestation of the Divine. (b) That we are selfless creatures, essentially, but also infinitely interconnected with all other life through the Divine - not in a way that denies us freedom and meaning, but that gives us ultimate meaning and allows us infinite, creative freedom. (c) That the Divine is not merely transcendent, but also immanent within this very reality, the physical world in which we live; and so, this creative act of ongoing creation and love is also holy. In light of these beliefs, I could not help but feel as if permanent separation from the world, even if it meant going to “heaven, ” was a denial of my free creative will, rather than its edification.
I found many of these thoughts echoed in Robert Thurman’s book, Infinite Life: Seven Virtues for Living Well, in which he discusses in great detail the Buddhist concepts of infinity, reincarnation, interconnection, and karma. Thurman's emphasis on selflessness and the illusion of a separate, isolated ego-self rings so true for me. He writes on how this very interconnection leads one logically to accept the idea of 'reincarnation' as an infinite interweaving of life with life (not some gamble with one's karmic stockpile). Furthermore, he emphasizes that such interconnection, when recognized, manifests as infinite love and compassion for others. If this is the case, then understanding karma as payback is about as shallow an interpretation of Buddhist philosophy as is interpreting the idea of heaven as a reward for lip-service and world-denial.
Instead, the two concepts have a lot in common. Both understand suffering not necessarily as punishment for past wrongs, but as challenges placed before us that we must work to overcome. In this way, we continue to grow in perfect freedom, so that we may come to the Divine of our own volition and, furthermore, manifest the sacredness of the Divine to others through our overcoming. Reincarnation merely extends this process of growth infinitely, suggesting that the challenges placed before us in this life are the result of those which we have not yet faced or overcome in the past. Just as, within one lifetime, we might run into the same patterns of difficulties and conflicts if we fail to learn from them. Such a view does not suggest callousness, indifference or a lack of free will, especially when one emphasizes our interconnection and an interweaving, also, of responsibility for each other's spiritual evolution. Instead, it can lead us to be ever more compassionate to other's suffering.
These thoughts, which had been forming within me for so long, finally coalesced that night, listening to the inspired music of Vai on stage. If I died right now, how would I know it? Would I be condemned to a nightmarish eternal separation from the Divine, being stuck alive? Or would I be swept away into some cheerful, wing-strewn oblivion where I could forget about the world and its suffering? I laughed. No, my body, my heart, my being answered me. Of course not!
It is amazing, the freedom of infinity. If I am not condemned to abandon the Divine world when I die - if I can continue to participate in the active creativity which is, in essence, that of love - then what have I to fear? If I can love so greatly, engage myself so fully in the Divine and its loving activity, in not only its perfect being but also in its creative becoming, then I can overcome death. Death will not be an unnatural cessation, but a transformation. I have nothing to fear of it. I will continue to evolve and grow as a spiritual being, growing ever closer to the Divine and aligning myself ever more harmoniously with its Sacred Will. I do not have to rush to accomplish it all in this one lifetime or otherwise consider myself a failure. It is enough to keep working, and in this way I am free of the distracting and even sometimes paralyzing fear of failure and disappointment.
These are all words, but I have only recently found them. After the night of the concert, some nonintellectual, non-rational conviction in me had shifted. I wanted to read - to perform - poetry. I was in part merely inspired by Vai's amazing showmanship. But I was also motivated by this new freedom, this new intuitive awareness that no performance needs to change lives or devastate minds. If only I performed wholeheartedly and with love, hope and good-humor. There was a great release, the relaxing of a pressure that had until now always been there, driving me towards improvement but also towards fear and stumbling. What I had known about flowers and rain and birds - that they are blessings not because they try so hard to be blessings, but simply because they are themselves, and so also are they Divine - I now knew secretly about myself. Indeed, I didn't just know it intellectually or rationally, but I felt it deeply.
I have since then on many occasions forgotten this newly realized truth. In fact, more often than not I forget it and become entrenched again in a mist of distractions and pressures all insisting that I have only this one shot to be Something and that I am not yet the Something I should be. And in my rush and burning to be Something according to the world, I still forget so often to orient myself to the Divine, to give up my self-centered worrying and instead allow the Divine to be what it is through me. But I am slowly learning. I have these moments which remind me so strongly of this essential truth, moments which, unlike my intellectual convictions (which seem, so often, founded on shifting sands pounded by wind and waves), do not falter or fade.
Thurman, Robert. Infinite Life: Seven Virtues for Living Well. Riverhead Books: March 2004.
Copyright: Copyright 2005 (a rough-draft, journal-entry version of this essay first appeared on the Pulse Like Water website, June 11, 2005)
Alison Leigh Lilly
Location: Seattle, Washington
Author's Profile: To learn more about Alison Leigh Lilly - Click HERE
Bio: Ali is a Christian Witch who has been studying comparative religions for seven years and has been writing poetry as a spiritual practice for fifteen years. Most of what she knows about Craft has come from her dedication to her art. She currently resides in Pittsburgh where she is studying poetry at a graduate level, working as a waitress in a family restaurant, and making frequent trips to the city park down the block.
Other Articles: Alison Leigh Lilly has posted 8 additional articles- View them?
Other Listings: To view ALL of my listings: Click HERE
Email Alison Leigh Lilly... (No, I have NOT opted to receive Pagan Invites! Please do NOT send me anonymous invites to groups, sales and events.)
Web Site Content (including: text - graphics - html - look & feel)
Copyright 1997-2016 The Witches' Voice Inc. All rights reserved
Note: Authors & Artists retain the copyright for their work(s) on this website.
Unauthorized reproduction without prior permission is a violation of copyright laws.
Website structure, evolution and php coding by Fritz Jung on a Macintosh G5.
Any and all personal political opinions expressed in the public listing sections (including, but not restricted to, personals, events, groups, shops, Wrenâ€™s Nest, etc.) are solely those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinion of The Witchesâ€™ Voice, Inc. TWV is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization.
Sponsorship: Visit the Witches' Voice Sponsor Page for info on how you
can help support this Community Resource. Donations ARE Tax Deductible.
The Witches' Voice carries a 501(c)(3) certificate and a Federal Tax ID.
Mail Us: The Witches' Voice Inc., P.O. Box 341018, Tampa, Florida 33694-1018 U.S.A.
of The World
NOTE: The essay on this page contains the writings and opinions of the listed author(s) and is not necessarily shared or endorsed by the Witches' Voice inc.
The Witches' Voice does not verify or attest to the historical accuracy contained in the content of this essay.
All WitchVox essays contain a valid email address, feel free to send your comments, thoughts or concerns directly to the listed author(s).