Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Reflections on the Meaning of Life

I just finished another interesting book called MANY LIVES, MANY MASTERS by a psychiatrist named Brian L. Weiss. Maybe it was serendipity that I discovered this book now (it was written about 25 gears ago), especially at a time when I've been pondering the meaning of my life and the point of humankind on earth in general. This book begins to shed some light on these issues.

In 1982, Weiss took on a client named Catherine who was having all sorts of personal problems. She suffered from extreme phobias (everything from fear of water to closed spaces to swallowing pills) and also experienced anxiety attacks on a daily basis. Something was clearly wrong with her, so she was referred by her physician to Dr. Weiss to see if his psychiatric practices could shed any light on the situation.

Initially, Weiss attempted basic psychoanalysis to try and get at the root of Catherine's problems, hoping to pinpoint childhood traumas that would explain her phobias. But with the exception of a few minor improvements, Catherine's phobias persisted.

Weiss then took things a step further and tried regression therapy, hoping this would tap into Catherine's subconscious and reveal a repressed trauma or other incident that would explain the phobias. But something unexpected occurred when he did this. Instead of accessing Catherine's subconscious, he accessed something else: what he refers to as her "super-conscious".

While under hypnosis, Catherine started experiencing strange memories that didn't pertain to her current life in any way. She remembered being a girl in Ancient Egypt who embalmed the dead, and then being a little boy in the Ukraine whose father was wrongfully executed in prison, and then being a prostitute in Spain, and even being a Nazi German soldier who died in WWII. Weiss eventually concluded that these memories were of past lives - what he eventually determined to be a whopping 86 lives in total!

But what was even more interesting about the regression sessions was that Catherine would remember the time in between her many lives: that is, she would re-experience floating out of her body after a death, going into a bright light, becoming a spirit in the spirit world and evaluating her life from beginning to end - what she learned, what she did right...and where she went wrong.

And that's not it: to make things even more amazing, Catherine found herself able to convey super-intelligent spirit messages to Dr. Weiss during these "in-between-life" experiences - messages dictated to her from highly evolved spirits (what Weiss refers to as being "the masters"). In other words, she acted as a medium, helping Dr. Weiss communicate with the spirit world. The messages to Weiss were spoken poetically, and they described a spirit world comprised of seven levels, where the lowest levels were for poorly evolved spirits and the highest levels were for the highest evolved spirits. Life, the masters explained, is about learning, and each soul comes to earth to learn a particular lesson that can only be learned in human form. We choose when we want to live and what kind of life we are going to live and what we need to learn during that particular life. The overall meaning of our lives on earth is to obtain as much wisdom and knowledge as we can, so as to become as "God-like" as possible. Each soul grows during each life, and - eventually - everybody reaches the highest spirit levels in the spirit world, as long as we learn what we need to during our various human incarnations.

After several of her regressions, Catherine ultimately freed herself from her fears, phobias, and anxieties. Weiss determined that her dramatic improvements were due to a combination of pinpointing certain past-life traumas and also becoming more spiritually aware through the process of her regression. She came to realize that our souls live forever, and that there is nothing to be afraid of in life, because we never die. There is a greater purpose to our existence: to evolve to the highest level possible.

All in all, Many Lives, Many Masters is an incredibly intriguing book, even if you're skeptical of whether it's all true. One particularly interesting discovery Weiss makes during his time with Catherine is that souls "hang out" in groups and manifest themselves as human beings at similar points in time. This means that people we know in our present life most likely played a role in a past life, but not necessarily the same role. In Catherine's case, her lover in her present life (a man named Stuart) was a father in one of her past lives, and in another past life he was actually her murderer. Yes, it seems strange that a murderer in one life would be a father in another life, but Weiss learns from "the masters" that this occurs because a soul becomes indebted to people they are unjust to in another life. Catherine's murderer, in other words, wanted to repay her for his injustice, so he appeared as a more nurturing father in another one of Catherine's lives.

This all seems very far out, but one can't help but wonder if there is any truth to Weiss' discoveries. After all, why is it that we seem to gravitate towards certain people in our lives? What makes us choose our friends? Lovers? Colleagues? Is it because we know them from another life? Or from several other lives? Do we keep on befriending the same people over and over again? Are we all a part of a greater spiritual journey where we're trying to help each other evolve spiritually?

Overall, MANY LIVES, MANY MASTERS is an incredibly interesting book. It sheds a brighter light on the human identity and the meaning of life in general. According to Weiss' discoveries, we are placed on earth in several different incarnations to learn several different lessons, and we learn these through trials, tribulations and - most importantly - a lot of pain. In a culture where we are supposed to be happy all the time, where we're conditioned by happy-ending Hollywood movies and books like The Secret that teach us to ignore negativity and "think positive", Weiss' book suggests the complete opposite: that it's our PURPOSE on earth to experience hardship and painful times, as it's through these difficulties that our spirits grow and evolve. Only through pain do we become more highly evolved spirits, and, thus, closer to God. What a radical way to look at life.

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