In Intimations of Immortality the poet William Wordsworth (1770-1850) tells us “Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting … But trailing clouds of glory do we come From God, who is our home: Heaven lies about us in our infancy!” Does he suggest we come from a better place? Is our object to be restored and return there?
In articles 52 definition of God and 54 anti-Christ I reject the theory of fallen man. Indeed, human individuality has premortal origin, but birth is a progression, not a descent, from a prior state. This article teaches that death is also a progression, not a descent.
Following birth there is a long, slow process of realizing existence of self and of a new place. Awareness is achieved gradually with effort. There is more to comprehend after birth than before.
Showing that birth is not a fall, articles 51 duality in dreams, 52 definition of God, and 62 eternal life describe a progression through a sequence of ever higher orders. In this sequence, there is another progression at physical death. Resurrection calls it an elevation. Reincarnation calls it experiencing an additional perspective or incarnation.
There are stories of near-death experiences that may be related to Lazarus syndrome. The subject survives a nearly fatal medical condition and returns to consciousness with vivid descriptions of other-worldly experience. The descriptions typically include familiar personages and conform to the subject’s concept of heaven. They contribute heavily to expectations surrounding resurrection.
This article proposes a different progression.
The stages we are discussing are frequently compared to school grades or academic degrees. In severely simplistic language one can roughly compare reincarnation to sequentially beginning same-level degrees, while comparing resurrection to starting a higher degree.
Law school provides an example of potentially confusing terminology. My friends all agreed that I was in graduate school while I earned by law degree. However, the profession itself tells us that law reviews are written by the undergraduates in the field. The JD (Juris Doctor) degree which I hold is a kind of honorific that allows the holder to be addressed as “Doctor.” Its other name is LLB, Bachelor of Law. The next higher degree is sometimes called LLM, or Master of Law. Following that is the degree that corresponds to a PhD, namely LLD, Doctor of Law, sometimes designated SJD, Doctor of Juridical Science.
I cite the legal language to represent complexity. That is a necessary part of my spiritual discussion, because the terminology surrounding life stages is far from uniform. I excuse myself from arguing language and meaning. Here my cosmology involves creating only enough clarity to indicate that I am moving forward doing something eternal.
During our mortal period we may say that we start careers from zero beginnings—that we are starting as freshmen several times in our lives, in different pursuits. Alternatively, we may say that we are adding experience and acumen so that the trainings are cumulative. Finally, the degrees themselves might be named so that they state clearly higher orders.
My favorite story of clearing the pompous bloat is President Harry S. Truman’s declaration that he was about to accept promotion to the office of private citizen. After all, the controlling voice belongs to the voters. His modesty and penetrating wit fit perfectly in my attempt at simple terminology. Whatever words we use, our quest is for personal sense of moving forward.
It is time to examine why we start and restart. There must be a reason for this behavior, and it will serve my thesis to elaborate a bit.
Some students flee a sense of inadequacy in one field. Some can be shuffled into an unwanted track by promises of riches. Some are in a course because it was the only one open at a given time. Some are enamored with public esteem. Some are obeying domineering parents. Any of these goals may eventually feel empty, giving a student hunger for career change.
Training might serve to overcome hardship and imperfection. There are people who learn to excel where over time they felt personal need for improvement. They might become valuable teachers showing others how to succeed through difficulty.
Each start can lead to the thrill of fulfillment or completion. Starting often might reveal a desire for frequent graduations, even though each start is a loss of seniority. Even Michael Jordan tried being a rookie baseball player. That did not fulfill; he returned to his position of seniority.
These examples of fresh starts demonstrate a complex fabric of elements underlying any change. We examine the thoughts and the circumstances involved. Taking the long view contributes to understanding. Some changes appear happy and others appear sad. When outcomes are known, we trace progress. That includes accounting for learning from failures that serve to teach us how to improve.
In support of my eternal life theory, I am establishing a repetitive pattern. That does not refer to repeating the same process many times. It refers to being a freshman again and again, but in different circumstances every time. We are always beginning something. Progress depends on appreciating something we do not know and learning it. Without the freshman experiences we lack the graduations.
Earlier I wrote to my children that I appreciated having a full life and looked forward to being a freshman again. They quickly inquired whether there was something about my health they should know. No, I am still in perfect health, albeit a bit older and weaker. I referred to the spiritual capacity for new beginnings.
This long article is my alternative view of reported near death experiences. I am looking forward to something much different—not familiar messengers, but a wholly new experience. It will be like being born into this world, not in complete forgetfulness, but taking a long time to realize where and what I am. I am willing to go where my present skills are inadequate, where I will start by discovering and learning the most ridiculously simple tasks that are new to me. After a long time, I will realize a higher order of personality, and as always, individuality. It will not be so simple and inadequate as existing forever the way I am now.
It will be pleasant if I meet my parents soon, but I expect them to be as far ahead of me as they were when I was born helpless into my present life. My humility will be my willingness to be a freshman again. That is a progression.