A few cosmetic changes tonight: I’ve updated the name for this column to The Nightly View and removed numbers from this and The Daily Wisdom columns.
Thorny questions about reincarnation
The worst thing to be reincarnated into is an animal, because you can’t learn, says a past-life specialist who ponders questions such as the reincarnation of Adolf Hitler. Andrea Chalupa interviews Dr. DeBell, a specialist in past-life regression therapy, on the Big Think blog:
Since death isn’t the final liberator, according to Dr. DeBell, the ticket out is living life unflinchingly by the Golden Rule—treat everyone else as you would want to be treated. Working out your “golden rule” muscle makes it stronger over time.
“I am not surprised,” he says, “that given the complexity of trust or humility or applying the golden rule and the amount of progress I see myself and others making in one lifetime, that it takes many lifetimes to master them.”
One of his most useful regressions, he says, was finding himself a cave man suddenly killed by an animal attack, and was surprised that he was still alive. “I experienced,” he says, “that early phase of my soul’s development in a way that helped me come to terms with the very slow pace of development.”
After growing up in a religious Protestant household, he stopped believing in God at the age of 21. Two decades later, after spending most of his career as a psychiatrist in community clinics in New York City’s poorest neighborhoods, he met a spirit guide while practicing self-hypnosis. His exploration in soul self-knowledge reminded him of a feeling he had when he was around eight-years-old, and reading an article in National Geographic about reincarnation. Back then, “Something inside of me reverberated, and I knew it to be the truth.”
This level of self-searching, DeBell says, took him “a couple of years to learn, because I’m scientifically oriented.”
Fifteen years later, he would return to that childhood conviction by founding his own private practice, with his wife, Susan DeBell, where they walk patients through the lessons they’re still working out over lives. For anyone interested in past-life regression therapy, DeBell advises to focus on questions that feel important and have a curiosity about yourself. An open mind is necessary to silence the mental chatter. For those eager to graduate, DeBell recommends, “focus on the process instead of the goal. Any goal can limit us.”
So what happens to the Hitlers, Stalins, al-Assads, Jong-ils, Cheneys?
“God didn’t create Hitler,” says DeBell, “but he certainly created the situation for a Hitler. That is what free will is about.” As for the world’s “bad guys,” they are souls who simply flunked. “It’s like somebody who is put back a grade,” he says. “You find yourself as the big kid in kindergarten. That’s rather humiliating.”
In regards to, say, former Vice President Dick Cheney, America’s very own Mr. Potter of It’s a Wonderful Life, who drove us into war in Iraq and Afghanistan and profited from it, DeBell’s answer, “Dick Cheney could be a very young soul. His soul was dropped into power, and couldn’t handle it.” He added, “It’s not up to us to judge.”
What’s the ultimate punishment? “Coming back as animals is a punishment,” he says, surprisingly, “because you can’t learn. Being unable to learn is the ultimate punishment. It’s like being frozen, you’re trapped. Hitler could have been a lab rat thousands of times.”
As much as my own experience lends support to the belief in reincarnation, I can’t speak to any particular knowledge of the nature of reincarnation as an animal. I find it curious that DeBell doesn’t think animals can learn. The more we learn about animal communication and knowledge, the more it seems we are surprised to find them more human-like than we previously imagined.
The status of women in Pakistan (and beyond)
Mona Eltahawy, the New York-based award-winning columnist and an international public speaker on Arab and Muslim issues, and Zara Jamal, a Canadian writer, received notice today on the Genealogy of Religion blog by Cris. The most vehement and strongly worded statement comes from Eltahy, who is quoted as saying:
Name me an Arab country, and I’ll recite a litany of abuses fueled by a toxic mix of culture and religion that few seem willing or able to disentangle lest they blaspheme or offend. When more than 90 percent of ever-married women in Egypt — including my mother and all but one of her six sisters — have had their genitals cut in the name of modesty, then surely we must all blaspheme. When Egyptian women are subjected to humiliating “virginity tests” merely for speaking out, it’s no time for silence. When an article in the Egyptian criminal code says that if a woman has been beaten by her husband “with good intentions” no punitive damages can be obtained, then to hell with political correctness. And what, pray tell, are “good intentions”? They are legally deemed to include any beating that is “not severe” or “directed at the face.”
What all this means is that when it comes to the status of women in the Middle East, it’s not better than you think. It’s much, much worse. Even after these “revolutions,” all is more or less considered well with the world as long as women are covered up, anchored to the home, denied the simple mobility of getting into their own cars, forced to get permission from men to travel, and unable to marry without a male guardian’s blessing — or divorce either.
Chris also looks to Pakistan, where Zara Jamal reports things aren’t any better. In [Zara Jamal's] To Be a Woman in Pakistan: Six Stories of Abuse, Shame, and Survival, we glimpse a small world of suffering. Jamal prefaces the six stories with this odd observation:
Westerners usually associate the plight of Pakistani women with religious oppression, but the reality is far more complicated. A certain mentality is deeply ingrained in strictly patriarchal societies like Pakistan. Poor and uneducated women must struggle daily for basic rights, recognition, and respect. They must live in a culture that defines them by the male figures in their lives, even though these women are often the breadwinners for their families.
Is Jamal suggesting that the abuse of these women is a byproduct of free-floating or traditional patriarchy? If so, my questions to her would be how did this patriarchy develop and how is it maintained? It surely isn’t by vague obeisance to tradition or patriarchy. The “mentality” and “culture” that Jamal mentions are anchored in and justified by a particular reading of Islam, even if she wants to minimize or not.
The challenge for World Spirituality to help to bring smart, rich spiritual perspectives into the trenches of the oppression of women in many parts of the world. I think the beginning of such a response must not happen merely in blogs such as this one, but by the people closest to the scene. What of the women and men who are co-creating complex lives in the midst of oppressive traditional patriarchal structures? What wisdom do they have about how to find additional measures of security, freedom, love, and joy? Let’s hear straight from them.
Surely we know that an ideology which simply tells us that a class of persons such as Middle East women are dupes of oppression is overly simple and disempowering of them. The question, “Why do they hate us so much?” which Mona Eltahawy voices, is but a moment of anger in a more complex discourse which includes moments of love and forgiveness and wisdom. We must listen to all their voices, and the voices of the men in their lives, and hear ways in which new openings are emerging for liberative changes. The call of evolution, the power of God in history, is none other than the force of liberation, and our answer of that call is the nature of justice.
Photo Credit: Photosenses