Life, Fate, Death, Afterlife... These subjects get brought up and questioned by even the most firmly believing of us. Even Athiests question this stuff from time to time, so for those of us that believe in higher beings or something more it's impossible for us not to question things. Most of us will come up with our own answers, and your answers may be very different from mine. However, recently I've had a number of questions posed to me about what MY beliefs are and why I have them, so although I hadn't planned to post about my own beliefs here, I have decided to do just that. Please don't think this post is in any way a representation of what anyone besides myself believes. I would however love to have some of you share your beliefs with us as well, please feel free to use the comments section below the post to share!
To be honest, I don't know WHY we are here, I really don't think anyone does. We could be here simply because the Gods had the ability to create and therefore chose to, or because they wanted to feel more powerful, or because of some reason my little brain simply can't comprehend. To me, the WHY doesn't really matter. What matters is that we ARE here.
So, now that we covered that we are here, lets explore what we are supposed to do while we're here. I see life as a cycle. Life, death, rebirth... Each of us are here in order to gain "higher knowledge" or
"understanding" which will allow us to ascend to a higher state of being in the afterlife. Each life has a purpose or lesson. What this lesson or purpose is, is completely individual and none of us have that understanding while we're here. We could be here in order for our spirit to learn something as basic as tolerance, or we could be here in order to affect someone elses life and aid them to learn a lesson... In any case, every life has a purpose, even if we don't know what the purpose is...
Okay, so I don't think that every moment of every day of every year is all planned out before we have any say in the matter. Actually I'm a firm believer in Free Will. However, I have found there to be two "kinds" of fate.
- The first is a "lifelong" style of fate. Each of us has a purpose for being here, and those aspects of our life which must come to pass in order for that purpose to be fulfilled, whatever they may be, are drawn out and unchanging. For example, if your purpose this life is to aid your significant other in learning a lesson, you would have to actually meet your significant other first. So, the two of you meeting would be fated, although the hows and whens may not be so rock solid.
- The second type of fate is more flexible... This type of "fate" is changing. It's simply they idea that "this" is what will happen if you take "this" action, however, if you choose a different path, something else will happen... I'm a fan of day to day divination, every day I plan out my day, at least mentally, and then pull one card simply to tell me how my day will go. If the card is less than positive, I consider changing my plans around... THIS, is the second type of "fate." It's simply what will happen if you don't alter your path.
Okay, so, death is really a very simple subject to cover. ALL physical life has a beginning, and and end. Why? Because without an end of the old, there can be no growth for the new. Lets take a look at a wheat field for example. Each year the wheat grows from tiny seeds and in to full grown "adult" status. At the end of the year, the wheat dies, as it decomposes it fertilizes the ground below and enables the cycle to reoccur next year with new wheat...We aren't any different. In order for there to be progress on either a physical or spiritual level, the old have to die and make room for the new. While it may sound like a rather "simple" explanation to what is a rather complex question - It is. But we are no different from every other being, we have a beginning and we will all have an end, if we didn't there could be no progress.
My beliefs surrounding the afterlife aren't terribly unlike those of many Ancient Religions or even the more modern Christian beliefs of today. I have found there to be quite a few similarities, and I do tend to find more credibility in similarities than differences. So, in an effort to help you all understand my beliefs I'm first going to have to cover those similarities... First, please note that when I use the term Underworld, it's simply to label anything beyond this physical existence, please don't think "Hell" or anything like that. The Ancient Greeks believed the Underworld (Hades) was comprised of three circles, and I share this belief, although not entirely the same way they did.
So lets explore these three circles for just a moment. For the Ancients these levels were simple to define. There was Tartarus, which was originally meant to be a prison for the Titans, but also became a place for the "damned" to serve out eternity under horrific conditions. The Elysian Fields was a beautiful "heavenly" paradise meant for the Heroes and other "Greats." And third there was the Asphodel meadows where the average Joe went to... For some Christians there is the similar belief of Heaven, Hell & Purgatory... This is a pattern seen over and over through religious history. For me, I see things similarly, but not quite the same.
- I have never really placed labels on the "levels" which I believe in, but I do generally refer to the "highest" or "innermost" level as the Elysian Fields, as I believe very similarly as the Greeks did about what one would find there. I see it as very "heavenly," very beautiful and as close to perfection as I think exists. However, unlike the Ancients or Christians or other similar beliefs state, I believe this is something which is achieved by us all rather than a select few.
- The second "level" is the level to which the majority of us will ascend after death. From here we will act as spirit guides, and "guardian angels" to those who remain here on earth. I believe we remain here until we are "forgotten" by those who remain on the physical plain. Of course there are no black and white rules, some of us will move on faster, others slower, but a good way to generalize to me is just to say until we are forgotten, but in reality I assume it's until we are no longer needed.
- Now, what about the third or "lowest" / outermost level? Well, in some ways I see it as similar to Tartarus, but not as a place of punishment. Instead I see it as the level most closely associated with the physical plain. This is the level where "ghosts" exists, where those who have "unfinished" business remain until they either complete their business or move on to the next level for whatever reason. I do not believe the majority of us go here, but those of us that do, it's not never ending, it's simply another step in the process.
As most Pagans, I believe in reincarnation and not simply an afterlife. Going back to my beliefs about life, fate and death, reincarnation is essential to complete the cycle. Each life has a purpose, and the reason for that purpose is to allow our spirit to grow. With each life our spirit grows through these lessons & purposes, and it "moves up" the ladder towards reaching a "higher level." Once we reach this "higher level" we are able to ascend in to that "Elysian Fields" level of the Underworld. However, like achieving a doctorate requires more than one semester of school, becoming a "higher being" requires more than one life cycle in order to learn all the needed lessons... Which is where reincarnation comes in.
So, lets sum things up here. Each life has a purpose and the aspects of that life which are required for us to meet that purpose are fated, however the vast majority of our lives are left up to free will. If something should happen prior to the completion of that purpose fate MAY step in, resulting in what we tend to term a miracle. Death is needed so that further growth is possible. Upon death we enter the "Underworld." If we have unfinished business, can't accept that we are physically dead or fall in to some other categories, we will enter in to that "lowest level" of the underworld and remain present on the physical plain, although in spirit form as a ghost or entity. If we do not fall in to these categories we enter in to the "second/middle" level of the Underworld, where we act as spirit guides, guardian angels or simply ancestral contacts for those who remain on the physical plain until we are no longer needed or until we are forgotten by those who are still physical - at which point we are able to be reborn (reincarnation) in to a physical form. Once we have achieved all the understandings and knowledges we need in order to ascend to the level of "higher being" our life cycles on the physical plain end and we are able to rise to that "highest/third" level of the Underworld where we remain...
Okay, so as I said, I know my beliefs aren't going to be shared by everyone. And I would love to have all of you share your beliefs with us as well. But this is what I believe, agree or agree to disagree, this is it. I hope if nothing else it gave you something to think about or at least a better understanding of what is going on in my head when I refer to these things in other posts...