Questions & answers on reincarnation, karma, & past lives
with Benjamin Creme
Q. If God were omnipresent, this would be heaven. Why is there suffering?
A. You are a soul incarnating on the physical plane, through a personality, with a physical, an emotional, and a mental vehicle. All of these make up your personality, the reflection on this plane of a great god, your own soul, which is identical with the Logos of this planet, of which we are all part. The reason we suffer, fundamentally, is because we believe and experience ourselves as separate from God. If we could, from moment to moment, as the Masters of the Wisdom do, as the highest initiates do, experience ourselves as one with all that exists, One and identical, we would realize that we and God are one. We would no longer suffer.
If God is immanent in all of creation, He is physically in us. What we call the physical world is God manifesting at this level of consciousness. God at the soul level of consciousness is manifesting in a much more perfect way and, if we had perfect soul consciousness, we would realize that we and God are One. There is no separation. But because we identify with the personality and with this body, with its suffering and its hopes and fears and its ambitions and so on, we suffer; because that is the level that we reduce God to, through identification.
It is a part of God because there isn't anything outside God. But the part cannot see the whole in its entirety. If we can bring that part, that physical plane personality, into soul infusion, we become initiate, we become aware of God and manifest that God in Its true state. This is the perfecting process of evolution, in which we are all engaged, the process which the Masters of Wisdom have finished. They have arrived at that point; they are totally at-one with God. They know God from moment to moment because that is what they identify with. They do not suffer. They are an example for us, so that we, too, shall come to the same point. But this is an evolutionary process. We can't do it all at once. This is why reincarnation, the doctrine of rebirth, is a fact; why from life to life we need to undergo experience, to gradually become soul-infused and perfected.
Q. Is there any way of telling whether suffering is caused by our karma or otherwise?
A. By karmic, I think the questioner probably means stemming from long past action, and this is frequently the case. But most of our suffering comes from our thoughts, actions and reactions of the present and immediate past. Our hatreds, fears, jealousies, envy, frustrations and (thwarted) ambitions cause us to suffer, moment to moment. This, too, is the action of karma. We misuse energy -- soul, mental, astral and etheric -- and so we suffer, through the Law of Cause and Effect, by such misuse. The desire principle has us in its grip, and only by controlling the desire principle -- through the mind -- can we overcome suffering. Most of our suffering is therefore self-inflicted and unnecessary. We share, however, in the karmic suffering of humanity as a whole, but that is something else, the human inheritance.
Q. Is misfortune always retribution for past lives or can it be purely an opportunity for spiritual growth through overcoming suffering?
A. We are so used to functioning under the pleasure-pain syndrome that we tend to consider all painful experience as misfortune and as retribution for past misdeeds. The Law of Karma is not about retribution, but about cause and effect. Our life proceeds in cycles: some painful, representing opportunities for growth through understanding and gaining of detachment; and others relatively pleasurable, evolving easily on the gain of the previous struggle.
Q. (1) Are physical handicaps always the result of karma? (2) Does the soul provide its vehicle with physical handicaps for a particular purpose?
A. (1) No, physical handicaps are quite frequently the result of straight-forward accidents at birth. Karma is not only reaction but action. New causes -- which produce the effect, karma -- are continually being set in motion. (2) There are certain limitations which the soul quite definitely seeks in incarnating. It might even seek a body with very severe handicaps in order precisely to limit it for that life, and in so doing burn up a burden of karma accumulated from previous lives, which may be holding back the evolution of the individual. It is often the case that, as the result of the tension generated by the overcoming of the limitations, the next life is one of great progress and development.
Q. Why do some writers say that we are fallen angels? What happened?
A. This relates to the biblical fall of man from paradise. Essentially, each of us is a soul in incarnation, a solar angel. On the soul plane, each soul is an individualized part of one oversoul; the separation we experience on the personality level is an illusion -- the great heresy. The fall refers to the decision of the human souls to come into incarnation for the first time, eighteen-and-a-half million years ago, to leave paradise -- the soul's natural state of perfection -- for the experience of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. This is a great sacrifice for the human soul, for it involves severe limitation of its sphere of expression. The sacrifice is willingly undertaken, however, to carry further the Plan of evolution of the Logos of the planet. Thus the fall is really symbolic.
Q. You have said that our present life situation is due to our past karma. Is not then the present life situation of the starving millions due to their past karma? Have they not been placed in that starving situation by reason of past misdeeds? If not, it would seem that the Law of Karma was not operating justly in this case.
A. I think we would all agree that no-one understands the working of the Law of Karma better than Maitreya, the Christ. Yet He has said: "These people die for no other reason than that they have the misfortune to be born in one part of the world rather than another." They are not "placed in that starving situation by reason of past misdeeds," but are brought into incarnation under group law. The family and tribal groups to which they belong have for centuries, probably, lived in these areas.
They starve because we, the developed nations, usurp and waste three-quarters of the world's food, because *we* can afford to pay the market price. Many developing countries export food, needed by their hungry citizens, in order to earn the hard currency to pay for essential imports of oil and machine goods. Moreover, since most of the capital for development comes from abroad, most of the profits created by their developing industry likewise goes abroad. They can never catch up, since the rich nations dictate the rules of international commerce -- in their own favor. So the fault is not in *their* past misdeeds but in *our* greed and lack of sharing, whereby we in the West are generating a great burden of karma for the whole world. Karma is an active, not passive, process in which we all share responsibility.
Q. Will Maitreya wipe the slate clean, the karmic debt of mankind?
A. No. The Christian church's concept of a vicarious atonement is a misunderstanding of the Christ's function. He came (in Palestine) and has come again now, to show the way, to lead, guide and inspire, but not to go against the Law of Karma. We must save ourselves through response to His teachings.
He does, however, act as the agent of divine intervention, to mitigate the effects of disasters such as earthquakes. A study of earthquake patterns (as to frequency and related deaths) both before July, 1977 -- when He entered the modern world -- and since, will show the powerful effect which His Presence and work have had on these phenomena.
Q. Does your Master expect a purification of world karma on the physical plane in the form of catastrophe?
A.If the questioner means will there be major earth changes, then the answer is no. The Law of Karma is the Law of Cause and Effect, and karma is not purified but resolved or balanced. By the action of this Law, the present imbalances and irrationalities in man's thinking and behavior (separation, division, wars, millions left to starve, etc.) create conditions of extreme imbalance in nature. This is being, and will continue to be, expressed in the form of hurricanes, high winds, floods, freak weather patterns and so on. When man begins to put his house in order, the nature elementals will respond with more balanced activity, and greater harmony will result.
Q. How does the soul make its choice as to where, when and to whom it will be born?
A. It depends on the evolution of the soul. Under the Law of Evolution of evolution, unevolved souls are drawn magnetically to the prepared bodies through karmic necessity; they have little choice. More advanced humanity, coming in under group law, are attracted to particular family and national groups (with which they have karmic connections) according to the world's need for such groups' energies at a particular time. Initiates enter under the law of service and choose (with the help of their Master) the family, conditions, etc., which will allow them best to serve in their special way.
Q. Is one always karmically related to all the members of one's family?
A. Usually, but not always. From time to time new blood is brought into most families. Of course, new karmic ties are being formed all the time.
Q. How does the mechanism, if any, work which decides that one is to be born as a boy or a girl?
A. It is the soul which decides. According to its purpose in any particular life, the soul creates its vehicle of expression on the physical plane in all respects. We really are an expression of our soul. On the soul plane there is neither male nor female, and the division of the sexes on this level is but a reflection of the polarities of the Father-Mother God, whose union brings us as souls into being. Through repeated experience as both male and female, we eventually bring both these aspects into equilibrium.
Q. Does miscarriage signify that the soul drawn into possible incarnation has changed its mind?
A. No. The vast majority of miscarriages occur because of technical factors: the state of health of the woman involved, the introduction of drugs, or some other physical cause. There remains a small percentage of cases in which the incarnating entity resists incarnation and aborts the pregnancy.
Q. In a specific life as a Westerner, could it still be visible that one was from Asia or Africa in a previous incarnation?
A. In physical characteristics, no, but in ways of thought, general approach to the world, yes.
Q. What effects do you foresee the acceptance of reincarnation having on the Western world?
A. It seems obvious that a true realization of the implications of reincarnation (and not simply an intellectual acceptance) will transform the whole Western approach to reality. The idea that life is not short, brutish and arbitrary; that there is purpose and plan; that we are undergoing a process of gradual perfectionment; above all that the great Law of Cause and Effect governs our existence, must change our viewpoint. The need for right human relationships, for harmlessness, will become abundantly clear.
Benjamin Creme, the chief editor of Share International, lectures throughout the world on the emergence of Maitreya -- the World Teacher -- and His group, the Masters of Wisdom. Click here to see Mr. Creme's upcoming lecture venues or here to listen to his previous talks located on this site.