NOT MY FIRST RODEO
Every soul… comes into this world strengthened by the
victories or weakened by the defeats of its previous life.
Live so that thou mayest desire to live again –
that is thy duty for in any case thou wilt live again!
I walked against the brisk southwesterly winds blowing across the ridge from the Pacific. By now, I had learned how to respond to whatever weather conditions I encountered here. Most of the time, I preferred to experience the elements much as I usually would in my earthly body, only without discomfort. I noticed how the temperature had recently cooled, with the Southern Hemisphere now entering the fall season. The dark foreboding clouds seemed to reflect my inner turbulence.
There was much I needed to consider and even more to reconsider. As peculiar as life was here in this altered state of existence, I was aware of the unique opportunities it afforded me to begin my life anew.
Was this the first time I started or was this just an ongoing pattern of new beginnings that stretched back further than I could imagine? I always dismissed the subject of previous incarnations as irrational and problematic. Even before I came here, it was easy to dismiss many things I didn’t understand.
When I conversed with Eli on this subject, he smirked, saying that previous lives aren’t that difficult to figure out, at least according to playwright Henry Miller: Sex is one of the nine reasons for reincarnation...the other eight are unimportant.
‘Apart from that astute observation,’ he said, ‘it’s also easier to comprehend the nature of incarnating when you understand that conscious awareness is divisible, even while our divine consciousness remains inherently whole. Though each soul remains individuated in self-awareness, it remains part of a greater whole, which is also one with a greater whole, even to the Infinite Source.’
‘I’m not sure if you’re serious or just playing with words,’ I said.
‘Consider,’ he said, ‘the ancient myths that speak of a single soul created to incarnate and split while expressed as both male and female on lower planes. Thereafter, each incarnated entity seeks to reunite with its individuated soulmate so that it can regain its wholeness, although few become reunited on earth.’
‘Now you’re really straining the limits,’ I said.
‘It may sound far fetched at first,’ he said, ‘and to be honest, I can’t say how this occurs, yet there’s something curious about what’s behind the sexual impulse that procreates soul vessels on earth. Think of the myth of Eve being formed from the rib of Adam. You might say she was split from Adam, even if it was just a metaphoric rib.’
‘A whole new twist to further complicate matters… can’t wait to tell my feminist colleagues about this,’ I laughed.
‘From what I understand,’ he said, ‘it may take several tens or hundreds of millennia before souls have acquired whatever experiences are necessary to consummate optimal soul union. When this is achieved, each will enhance the other after several lifetimes of being tempered to become more fully human. Though both male and female remain the essence of what they are, each comes to know their Self within the unity of what they’ve become.
‘Then, incarnation no longer serves any further purpose unless they wish to add texture to more formative experiences on lower spheres of consciousness such as on earth. By then, enough spiritual traction has been created without enduring more of the world’s rigours. However, it seems to take longer to advance spiritually on paradisical planes, depending on how time is perceived.
‘Whatever multiple benefits to incarnating, most of our conscious development is engendered by those who give us the most grief. We likewise reciprocate the favour by contributing to their misery. Life can seem tough at times, especially when we insist on projecting our unhappiness onto others.’
‘Nevertheless,’ Mo said, ‘through these ongoing trials, we discover more about forgiveness, tolerance, patience, grace, and understanding than any other means. For those who don’t learn their lessons on earth, it will be necessary to reincarnate as often as it takes.
‘Many ancient Greek philosophers spoke of how all humans must first drink from The Lethe, the River of Forgetfulness, before incarnating. Lethe is a metaphor for the amnesia required to prevent souls from remembering whatever held them back in their previous lifetimes. That way, they don’t have to carry into the next cycle with whatever encumbered them in their past, even if many do because of their lack of consciousness.’
‘Still, why would anyone want to do the same stupid things again by returning to old habits and addictions?’ I asked.
‘Some called it karma,’ he said, ‘others call it the law of consequences. In any case, everyone reaps what they sow. Since there are no deadlines, it’s up to each when they mature. In the end, free will prevails.’
‘If reincarnation is true, then I must have had more than my fair share of rolling boulders out of the depths of Hades,’ I said, chuckling.
‘Well, who knows, when you finally leave this earth plane, there may never again be a point to rolling boulder or imbibing the waters of Lethe.’
‘So, how about you, Eli? Do you plan to incarnate again?’
‘Not if I can help it,’ he said with a smile. ‘I much prefer the lightness of my spirit body rather than being encumbered by earth’s density. Besides that, I enjoy being of service to others such as yourself, especially when it helps me to advance to higher realms of existence. It would be a real downer if I had to go back to earth… literally. At least for now, I must say, it’s most enjoyable being here with you and Mo.’
As I continued along the ridge, I thought, that’s fine for you, Eli, so what about all the problems clinging to me after I returned? Or was I clinging to them? Good question; even here, I felt compelled to revisit the troubles of my past, although less so all the time.
I supposed another sip or two of Lethe’s water might help me forget hauntings from my past. Or were these forms of karmic retribution? I wasn’t sure about karma, but that didn’t make the question less relevant.
It would be splendid if I could find a way to adapt the carefree attitudes of Mo and Eli to displace my negative beliefs. Nothing ever seemed to bother or upset them. If only I could remain aloof like that from all my problems back home. Should I return, I’d probably be standing in the academic queue again, trying to elbow my way to a full lectureship, just like last year when I was passed over for a female instructor who recently graduated.
Though I was far more qualified to teach a variety of philosophical disciplines, she had an undergraduate degree in gender studies. No wonder I was cynical. That grated on me… doesn’t merit count anymore?
Still, there were several other opportunities I could have moved on to, just not the ones I was looking for. How many positions did I apply for posted by scores of institutions throughout North America and other world regions? None… since I was only interested in being recruited by a world-class university befitting the philosopher I perceived myself to be.
After all, few understood Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason as well as I did, not that anyone cared. In any case, I didn’t just want a job; I wanted a prestigious position where I would receive the intellectual recognition and acclaim I thought I deserved. Unfortunately, there isn’t much demand for Philosopher Kings these days.
Nevertheless, Mo was right; I had done well for myself, considering the age of most instructors in my department. If I were willing to wait things out, I would probably have a long and fulfilling career. Who knows, possibly there was something even more meaningful somewhere out there. Something that would allow me to freely apply my philosophic innovations without enduring the approval process of invidious committees. I had no time or respect for any of them.
Should I take advantage of what I had learned here by presenting scholarly critiques of the afterlife, the academic gatekeepers would likely say: Over my dead body. Then I’d say: Yes, that’s precisely what it would be over… and what might happen after that. A philosopher should be able to discuss this with impunity, considering how death affects everyone. Not having the freedom to be a free-thinking scholar irked me.
Then what about karma; wasn’t one’s life supposed to be a consequence of choices made, both good and bad? In the past, few in my world considered karma a reality, likely because the idea was too Eastern or metaphysical for traditions based on Judeo-Christian sensibilities. Regardless, the adage you reap what you sow sounded like karma to me.
The topic had never been discussed in all my years of philosophy except with a snicker. Obviously, it wasn’t a subject most agnostics would be interested in since the notion presupposes life continues after physical death. I’m sure, had anyone brought this up in my past, I would have treated the subject with ridicule or outright denial. After all, isn’t that how we handle questions we wish to avoid?
It’s not that philosophers are supposed to have all the answers; we need only ask clever questions for others to answer. That way, all we need to do is ask more questions without going out on a limb; as the saying goes, nice work if you can get it!
Maybe that’s why there are psychics and mediums: no one else seems willing to provide answers to life’s big questions. Even if their answers might sound ridiculous, at least they have something to say about almost everything.
This thought reminded me of Madame Peyroux, who used to amuse me by speculating on my love life. Quite possibly, I amused her too. Coming from the other end of the spectrum, she chided me for being so sceptical about her esoterica.
Still, we become improbable friends. I admired how her crystals seemed to have an answer to everything when so few philosophers would venture to answer anything with such unequivocal confidence.
Though I discounted much of what she said, I listened intently to what she had to say about my issues with women. According to her, my turbulent relations had to do with something in my distant past, although she didn’t say what this might be.
I laughed to myself as I thought about how we could, in some imaginary world, create an innovative psychic-philosopher symbiosis that tapped into her psychic skills as I put questions to Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Then, as she channelled their responses, I would record and edit the transcripts. Later I could add my informed philosophical commentary.
If this worked, we could get into the big questions that most philosophers are no longer willing to discuss. We could publish these sessions under a catchy title such as Afterlife Afterthoughts.
That might have the makings of a bestseller; however, I’d be out of a job in no time, a pariah within the intellectual establishment. That wouldn’t be so bad, provided it made me rich and famous while awakening the world to other dimensions of existence.
I sat on a flat stone to reflect on what a Buddhist friend said about life after death. After living at an ashram in Tibet for several years, he returned to London, firmly entrenched in his newfound beliefs on how life continued on the wheel of samsara.
He tried to explain his version of the afterlife to me, but I told him he was wasting his time since I didn’t believe in the afterlife. However, more than I let on, a few other things he said got my attention. For example, he suggested how you intuit what goes on after death depends on how well you discern the state of your soul’s essence.
He also indicated there was much more to this since the soul is not limited to time and space, and therefore, it’s not the body that incarnates but the soul within.
‘Suppose,’ he said, ‘the earthly body is just one representation of an over-soul that incarnates as a variety of souls on earth or somewhere else in the universe. Now, consider the soul as a stream that has separated from the river to go its way, yet, in essence, remains connected with its oversoul source at all points in what appears to us as linear time. Its individuated identity remains intact. Though the part is contained in the whole, the whole remains contained within the part. By this, identity is never compromised. Instead, it is expanded into what appears to be a diversity of individuated states.’
At that time, I found much of what he said was metaphysical and abstract since I had no frame of reference for what the concept of soul meant other than a metaphor for self-awareness! Nevertheless, these concepts were intriguing, even if I didn’t know what to do with them.
But now… how things had changed! Now, here I was, wondering what had happened to me. Had I fallen into a parallel universe or some lateral stream of consciousness... I didn’t know. Maybe it was something else, such as what some physicists postulated.
From what I understood, the Many Worlds Interpretation was even more bizarre with its multiverse hypothesis. Still, the theorem was consistent with how electrons continually split, reformulate, appear and disappear seemingly all at once in several places in the universe. Even when seemingly separate, they instantly respond to the spin of their split half regardless of distance.
Ah yes, I thought, the weird and wacky world of quantum superpositions. Considering all the other ideas postulated in what some call the New Physics, anything seemed possible. Perhaps the soul is like that too, where it appears to be an individuated unit of consciousness while remaining integrally entangled within a soul group, or whatever it’s called. If so, that would validate what my Tibetan friend suggested.
All singularities would be united as one, enriched by the other’s unique experiences and qualities, ultimately residing in the Source. Would such a supposition be too much of a quantum leap to believe?
Mo often stated and restated how nothing in the subatomic world wasn’t entangled; all is one in the vortex of the infinite void that creates all that could be. The paradox is that this void isn’t a void in the usual way we think since there remains more to it than emptiness.
Instead, he suggested, it should be conceived as infinite potentiality that remains enfolded in the implicate order of the unmanifested universe of nothingness. From within this spiritual reality emerges the manifested, explicate order.
According to him, we’re all entwined in the essence of the enshrouded universe. Nevertheless, we become expressed as individuated forms in the unfolded explicate universes of manifest forms.
I wasn’t sure how well I grasped such novel, esoteric concepts, yet what they said made more sense the longer I dwelt in this alternate state. As I attempted to reconcile the metaphysical implications of what came out of their postulates,
I understood why many scientists object to quantum equations being linked with consciousness. From the linear perspective, much too subjective and unconventional. Even in this dimension, I found it challenging to fathom.
Mo often reminded me how the more astute scientists recognised that something more than physical matter is inferred from the evidence. He once quoted physicist David Bohm saying: The implicate order implies a reality beyond what we call matter. Matter itself is merely a ripple in this background. 
Before my shocking entry into this alternated reality, I attempted to understand the nature of consciousness with my scholarly intellect instead of intuiting it with my heart. But now it no longer seemed ridiculous to regard consciousness as an emanation from within the implicate order, as Bohm called it. Or, as theologians might say: God; metaphysicians: Source.
Did this mean I had two forms; the vessel of the conscious spirit I was experiencing and the incarnated vessel docked at some hospital in London? That was tough to comprehend; I still wasn’t sure what to think.
For those such as my ashram friend, I couldn’t understand why reincarnation had such appeal when it’s assumed some higher cosmic plan somehow prearranges our destiny. He also seemed to think we’re involved in hatching a rough script for our next foray on earth and others we’re associated with on a higher spiritual plane. Nevertheless, I had a problem understanding why anyone would choose to come to this world, knowing what nasty things they might be in for.
There must be a better way unless one’s destiny is somehow latently contained within their soul’s blueprint. I remember how I suggested to my Buddhist friend, albeit somewhat cynically, that if this cycle of rebirth occurs, it must be a set-up to amuse the gods, much like Roman speculators at the Coliseum. It seemed that if everything is planned, whereby we are to be born into specific families, communities and countries, then the planners ought to take the rap for when things go wrong, which, as it turns out, is most of the time.
He responded, saying we contrive our roles in this drama with other players who play their part in our script, just as we play our role in theirs. According to his cosmology of events, we each enact our assigned roles, collaborating with the celestial playwrights who help put it all together for our eventual conscious evolution.
All that sounded too deterministic for me, if not farfetched. Why would I choose to participate in this theatre of the absurd unless I could change the script before it was too late? 
After my friend returned to Tibet, I gave little thought to this, at least not until now. But now, might some of what he said fit into my new order of existence? I didn’t know; such uncertainty made me feel uncomfortable.
I got up to walk towards the pinnacle where I stood, contemplating my many thoughts. I recalled how Mo and Eli talked about the soul’s history as a series of oscillating progressions and regressions over aeons of time, long before recorded history.
According to what they said, the dynamics of the soul’s evolution, devolution and involution have always existed outside sidereal time in the multiverse as part of its creative tension of moving further up and further in.
‘Devolution occurs when the collective soul of humanity forgets itself,’ Mo said, ‘while evolution occurs when souls begin to remember the divine soul to which they belong. Self-remembering is how the world keeps involuting new complexities of existence within the tension of these polarities of consciousness. To remember, however, one must first awake from their slumber.’
‘That’s humanity’s assignment when re-entering the world,’ Eli said, ‘and it’s your assignment too; remember who you are and then take it from there in your conscious evolution.’
‘For these reasons and more,’ Mo said, ‘it’s not for us to judge our lives as good, bad, fortunate or unfortunate. Rather, lifetimes on earth develop new facets of character, providing more opportunities for divine expansion.
‘Only then does it make sense why souls would return to earth or some other dimension of existence. That’s how the universes expand through conscious expansion since everything begins within the soul’s conatus.’
I thought again about what Mo said about us choosing to incarnate on a limited third-dimensional plane. According to them, we come explicitly to evolve and expand the quality of our souls to a greater depth than what would be possible in the spirit domains where there are few, if any, resistances.
At higher levels of awareness, the soul tends to be drawn primarily towards circumstances and souls that add more qualitative substance to our essence. I never thought of the world as a crucible, yet, as Eli put it, it provides the optimal frequency to help mould and develop humanity’s latent potential.
As they said, not all progress is linear; in actuality, it seldom is. Though crude, gritty and unrefined, the earth remains an exquisite zone between light and darkness, reality and illusions. Just as a pearl forms from an irritant in the oyster’s shell, humans, likewise, emerge from the contrasts of the world's experiences.
Mo recently handed me a copy of The Zohar, which I recognised as being the essential writings of the Jewish Kabbalah. I don’t know where he found it; maybe he just manifested it. In any case, he asked me to look at the pages he had earmarked. In particular, he underlined the following quote:
Souls must re-enter the Absolute from whence they have emerged. But to accomplish this end, they must develop the perfections, the germ of which is planted in them. And if they have not developed these traits in this one life, then they must commence another, a third, and so forth. They must go on like this until they acquire the condition to join again with the Creator.
As I contemplated this, I was reminded of what William Blake wrote in a poem: Without contraries, there is no progress.’ I got up from the rock where I was sitting and chuckled, congratulating myself on all the progress I must have made so far… considering all the contraries I had experienced.
If what Blake said was true, possibly the principles of karma were at work in me as I progressed or regressed in life instead of being punished or rewarded for my decisions. According to my companions, a new go-forward plan is agreed to after each lifetime on earth, based on what occurred and was intended prior to the previous incarnation.
I began to think of myself as a pearl, living as an irritant in the oyster shell of my life where new thoughts, innovations and expanding desires formed to create something of lasting value. Accordingly, my lifetimes might be understood as brief segments on a continuum of existence designed to actualise the divinity within.
Contrary to how we experience time, they said, each life on earth is only a flash in the pan to help us progress and expand towards the Infinite Source. That’s why difficult lifetimes are exceptional windows of opportunity to overcome whatever bogged us down in the past. That certainly puts a positive spin on what’s not always so obvious.
‘If it seems we keep regressing,’ Eli said, ‘it’s only a matter of lifetimes until we once again move forward in a time outside of time.’
To me, however, time outside of time, or time in no-time, seemed more like a meaningless contradiction than a paradox.
As for their supposed past lives, from what I could gather, Mo said he lived a life in Scotland where he taught Humanities at various institutions, including Glasgow and Edinburgh, in the late nineteenth century. Likely this was why I detected a subtle lingering Gaelic accent when he spoke.
Even though he lived a respectable life, he indicated he couldn’t establish a distinguished career or write much after suffering rheumatic fever. I found it curious that he wouldn’t comment on whether this was his last life on earth.
Eli’s previous life, at least the one he was willing to tell me about, seemed relatively robust, living much of his life as a sailor. When not at sea, he lived in Bordeaux and a few other Atlantic seaports in France. That might explain why he preferred Bordeaux wine and often recited specific French phrases after mentioning I frequently visited Paris.
He didn’t say much more about his life, except he drowned after his ship capsized during a storm on the Mediterranean Sea. Possibly it was because of our mutual experiences at sailing that he sometimes called me matey. Also, he occasionally would use metaphors from the sea when illustrating a point.
Mo confessed that while on earth, he remained undecided on life after death, often wondering about his fate, especially during his later years. Even now, his perspectives on life often seemed a bit curious and ambiguous, much like my Buddhist friend.
In one instance, he indicated he didn’t like the word reincarnation since too many misconceptions resulted when interpreting a multi-dimensional reality with a flat and linear paradigm. Instead, he preferred terms such as bestowal instead of embodiment, which I didn’t understand.
He once suggested that we’re simultaneously bestowed with multiple lives in various dimensions outside of time. ‘That made no sense,’ I said, ‘and possibly the most irrational hypothesis I’ve ever heard.’
‘And by what rational hypothesis do you now find yourself here, my friend?’ he asked.
How was I to answer that? It wasn’t about thinking of myself as being here, rationally or irrationally; it just happened, so I didn’t have an answer for him.
As for my past lives, they wouldn’t say anything when I asked, only that I should inquire with my medium friend back home to find out what she had to say. Eli cautioned me that receiving such information might complicate my life even more. Of necessity, that’s why we incarnate without memories of our prior lives on the space and time continuum.
Though I might no longer occupy my biological body, I wondered what it would mean if I were to return to it. Would I be the same bloke after vacating it for a season, or would I be different, having reincarnated backwards into my slightly used, abused and battered war vessel?
That’s how life seemed to work for me as of late; everything was in reverse as if this reality was dyslexic. Even getting up here was backward. Imagine having to crash headlong down the void to end up on top. At least life here wasn’t boring.
This thought caused me to wonder if my body was relevant to who I was, regardless of what form it might manifest – especially if I was nothing more than a latent thought in the universe, conceived before the foundations of the world, as Mo would say.
At first, these seemed frivolous questions, yet they were profound, perhaps too much to answer satisfactorily. Likewise, the notion of prior lives. But what did I know? Evidently, not as much as I thought when I first arrived here.
I needed help to clarify matters, although my companion's answers had a way of confusing me more. They seemed to enjoy stretching me beyond my rational capacity, or maybe they just wanted to demonstrate how limited I could understand what was beyond the rational pale of this earth.
Humbling, yes, but then, that might have been the point. My companions often told me how I first needed to stabilise myself on whatever level I was on before taking the next step towards what might be higher.
I decided it was time to return to the cabin, even though I still had plenty on my mind. I considered how I needed to go beyond the old beliefs of the Flatlands, where I had been so cavalier in dismissing the existence of the soul and its immortality. It was now apparent that I had disregarded many of life’s most important questions by remaining closed and antagonistic to what seemed beyond my comprehension.
Then again, it's much easier that way since it’s unnecessary to work through the questions; you need only deny what you don’t understand and then feel superior for being able to see through such ignorance. In the past, I thought such questions were only for believers who needed a crutch. Now, I was beginning to wonder if it was me who needed the crutch...the crutch of denial.
For now, I decided to leave these questions aside. It was more important that I don’t again become mired in the Lowland’s ruts after returning. Rather than remaining jaundiced about life’s shortcomings, I could be supremely grateful for what I had and discovered on this Summit. My choice, my destiny! However, I would have to find a way to remember my time here.
As things stood, I could sense something was holding me in the clutches of my past; perhaps the dragon Mo alluded to, demanding I pay for some dreadful sin I committed in this life or some past life I no longer remembered? But was that karma?
In the past, Roman Catholics required penance to be acquitted and released. As for me, I had no intention of purchasing any of their Indulgences to buy my way out of their purgatory for whatever transgression I might have committed.
Just before approaching the cabin, I stopped to reflect on what I had contemplated on my hike. Nietzsche once said: All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking. I wasn’t sure how great my thoughts were on this walk, but I realised they were only possible by having great questions.
Still, I had enough questions; what I wanted now were answers. Before getting too neurotic about how little I knew, I scampered down the slope to our charming lodge, anxious to discuss what my sages might say.
The hovering gloom blew off as the dark clouds drifted towards the eastern horizon while the sun shone brightly. Eli greeted me with a bottle of ale as I stepped onto the deck. How appropriate!
Pushing back on my chair with my feet perched on the railing, I sat contently in the bright sunlight, happily guzzling down my pint. Whatever karma might mean, I had the freedom to choose whatever thoughts I wished to think.
Instead of feeling upset about life not being perfect back home, I focused on all that felt right here and now in this extraordinary realm. It wasn’t heaven, although it felt like it might be the next best thing.
I couldn’t help thinking about my life in London should I return. Would it be business as usual where I was jostled about in academia’s narrow, hallowed halls? If only I could take this delightful existence with me by finding a way to replicate Summit U back home. But how? I supposed I could set up an online university, though I’m not sure how that would work out.
Mo finally joined us to share a platter of his freshly baked scones.
‘So, James, my friend, did you clear your head breathing in the fresh air of the gods?’
‘Not exactly; if anything, it’s becoming more even clogged with questions.’
‘Such as what?’
‘For example, the concept of karma still confuses me whenever I think about it. Would you say it’s just a quirky belief from the ancient East, or is there something to it? If it’s real and active, how does that relate to free will and determinism?’
‘Before I offer you my views, I’d first like to hear what you think.’
‘Okay… I admit it; I remain sceptical about the concept. Like predestination or fatalism, it can become an excuse for shirking responsibility. On the other hand, karma might come in handy to explain why I sometimes feel like I have an albatross hanging around my neck.’
‘Then let me ask what you consider the biggest challenges you’ve had to deal with?’ he asked.
‘I don’t know why so much of life has to be a struggle. Even when things should be fun, often they’re not. According to Mensa, I have an exceptionally high IQ, yet I haven’t figured out how to have a harmonious life, particularly in my relations with women.
‘It seems that when things aren’t difficult, I find a way to make them such. It’s as if I have to keep raising the bar to prove something. Maybe that’s why I keep taking on the most difficult challenges I can find, be it women, scholarships, career or climbing an impossible Mountain like this. Does that make me psychotic? I’m not so sure.’
‘No, I don’t think you are,’ Eli said, smiling… ‘just a tad neurotic when you don’t get your way.’
‘Beliefs, James, beliefs,’ Mo said. ‘Even after achieving what few have attempted, your ego-mind wants to convince you that you’re a failure, though, in your right mind, you know you’re not.
‘Just because you haven’t found what you’re looking for,’ Eli said, ‘doesn’t mean you need to dwell on your shortcomings.’
‘I know, so why can’t I be content with my achievements or find the relationships I’ve always fancied? Some say I come across as arrogant and narcissistic, although I don’t mean to be. But if it seems that way, perhaps it’s only me compensating for my insecurities.’
‘That’s possible,’ Eli said. ‘Narcissistic people are invariably insecure. Is that you? I don’t think so. What if your life is just as it should be in its current stage of conscious evolution, and your circumstances reflect the attitudes you’ve chosen, consciously and unconsciously? What if your perceived failures aren’t mistakes or the unfortunate consequences of karma; instead, the experiences you unwittingly created for yourself?’
‘Still, why do I always seem to make life more difficult than it needs to be as if I need to punish myself for something? I can’t think of any reason for doing this apart from creating trouble for some adversaries who probably had it coming.’
‘During our earthly years’, Mo said, ‘we’re often beset with what feels like failure in relationships, finances, health, and achievements, to name a few. It’s called life, what we all came to experience so we might discover what we want and don’t want. By this means, we make our way through the confusing field of whatever illusions we have created for ourselves. Is it possible everything you’ve experienced in life so far was meant to help you find your way to this Mountain?’
‘That’s an interesting hypothesis; I’ll have to think about that.’
‘Yes, think long and hard. What if everything in your life you consider a failure is helping you discover who you are by causing you to go deeply within to examine your soul? Then, one day, a soul of divine resplendence emerges that claims to be you; would that be a failure?’
‘Was kind of question is that?’ I asked.
‘You decide; was it karma that caused you to fall into the abyss to pay for all your past sins, errors, and omissions? And is that why your body languishes in the hospital so that it might make a fresh start? Or was it the destiny of your soul? Regardless, there’s nothing for you to pay, neither your education nor your lodging.’
‘That’s splendid,’ I said, ‘even if I receive an esoteric education at your unacclaimed, unaccredited university, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with all this information after returning home. Although, I suppose I could join my friend in some Tibetan ashram.’
‘Or possibly,’ Eli said, ‘become a celibate monk somewhere in the desert. That might be fun… for a while.’
‘I don’t think it’s come to that yet since it seems celibacy is mainly for those with no choice; otherwise, why would they?’
‘So, if that’s not an option, what are your big dreams?’
‘I used to dream of lecturing to the brightest minds in the world, but with how things are going, I fear I might fail with that too.’
‘That’s most revealing!’ Mo said. ‘Remember when I asked you what you considered your biggest struggle? You said that your whole life was a struggle. And you were right; however, it’s only been a struggle because of what you identified as the root of your struggles.’
‘Oh… and what did I just identify?’ I asked.
‘Listen to yourself, James. You just said: I fear I might fail. Don’t you realise that fear and failure are always vibratory matches? That’s why you struggle; it’s because you fear failure. What has ruled most of your life hasn’t been love; instead, it's the opposite: fear. Perhaps that’s why you can’t experience a real loving relationship; no more than you can find the career you seek.
‘If you can’t experience love in your relationships and have no passion for your workplace, it’s because you fear. You always receive what you give your attention to. No one struggles in love, only in fear.’
‘Still, as I’ve said, I struggle in love too.’
‘Indeed, you do… at least in conditional love. That’s why you must learn how to love unconditionally; otherwise, you will continue to fail in finding the love you seek. So, let your failures become your back door to success. More often than not, it’s the only door to success. We suggest, therefore, you embrace your perceived failures as opportunities to lead you to where you wish to go.
‘Unless you live life from all angles, you will never understand or appreciate what success is, even if it seems you’ve succeeded. Failure gives you the contrast you need to move further up and further in. You may not realise it, James, but that’s how you made up here.’
‘In a manner of speaking, I suppose it was,’ I said.
‘Of course,’ he said. ‘Was it not failing to cross the chasm that brought you to this Summit, more glorious than you could ever have anticipated? Without any doubt, this was your most significant achievement in life, not to mention the other incident when you failed to make your descent back into the Lowlands. I’m sure you didn’t feel like such a hero then.’
‘No, I guess I didn’t. It seemed I might die on a ridge.’
‘Nevertheless, this seeming failure allowed Eli to exhibit his agility in a way that prepared you to discover your hidden abilities, which, of course, is how you came to discover that you existed as a spirit body! Failure after failure taught you the magnificence of who you are.’
‘You know,’ Eli said, attempting to be witty, ‘many are dying to find that out. Not you, though; you found another way.’
‘With that being the case,’ Mo asked, ‘why would you ever consider anything from your past a failure? It was these setbacks that led you to find who you are. Few do, so that will always be your most outstanding achievement.’
‘Just as you failed to make it up in your human body,’ Eli said, ‘you also failed to make it the whole way down. Both so-called failures were necessary for you to discover your immortal reality and go where you couldn’t have otherwise gone.
‘Even the romantic relationships you assumed were failures will provide you with the contrast you need to recognise the woman you seek. As we’ve stated repeatedly, light can only be understood when darkness provides luminosity contrast. Likewise, fear has no reality, only the absence of love.
‘In other words, how would anyone know they were successful unless they experienced failure as the absence of success? Each seemingly wrong turn, or in your case, fall, can lead towards new revelatory vistas in life.’
‘So, James,’ Mo said, ‘we hope you keep this in mind when you return to pursue your future career and relationships. From now on, try to view these failures as opportunities to choose again.
‘That’s what free will is all about… to choose. A choice to fear is a choice not to love. It’s the most under-rated, under-valued and under-utilized gift humanity has, even when determinists wish to convince you that choice is a delusion.’
‘Yes, I know many who take that position,’ I said. ‘Like many of my sceptical colleagues, I’ve wondered if the idea of free will is an illusory belief.’
‘Perhaps the best way to understand freedom,’ Eli said, ‘is simply by experiencing the contrast of not being free by remembering how things felt before. You know… much like being stranded on the ledge.
‘Did that not serve to remind you how free you were after I rescued you? So, why bother to convince anyone they are free if they, like most, wish to remain confined on their ledge? Remember, it wasn’t easy for me to convince you to get off yours, even when you were free the whole time.’
‘That sounds strange when you put it that way. Admittedly, I did have some limiting beliefs about what was possible.’
‘To change someone’s mind about anything,’ he said, ‘requires a choice to believe differently. You remained convinced you needed a rope, even when you didn’t. If one chooses not to choose differently, would this too not be a choice?’
‘That sounds even stranger,’ I said. ‘You know, there’s a lot of fancy dancing around this question of free will. As you might guess, my department is full of determinists, but I don’t argue. Why bother if that’s their choice… freely, and might I say, willingly determined. Ironic, isn’t it?’
‘Word plays aside,’ Mo said, ‘there’s some truth to what determinists say about those who choose to remain asleep in a complacent state of unconsciousness.
‘When forgetting they have a choice, they react as if they have no choice. Yet, there’s no freedom in reacting; only by intentionally responding can one truly act. Reacting is not the same as acting. Re-acting is what programmed automatons do. On the contrary, souls are imbued with the capacity to respond, and therefore, every soul has the capacity to remain free.’
‘Unfortunately, without being aware of this inherent freedom,’ Eli said, ‘it’s easy for humans to fall into a deep slumber, pawns to an upside-down world of fear. We’re neither a pawn nor a victim, regardless of what happens, unless that’s what we choose to believe. Even so, when decisions don’t go well, we’re still free to choose again.
‘In the words of your great physicist, Max Planck,’ Mo said, ‘When you choose to see things differently, the things you see are different. That’s because you can choose to see with the eyes of love instead of fear. While one’s vision remains illuminated by divine light, nothing is perceived as before in the darkness.’
‘That’s why we say nothing you’ve done in your life should be considered a failure. Even when failing to cross the chasm, it became possible for you to cross over to this dimension to become what you now are.
‘It brought you to this Summit, allowing you to view life from the high vista you sought when you left the Lowlands. You’ve achieved what many would consider impossible. Some failure. Keep it up!’
‘Too bad I can’t add these accomplishments to my curriculum vitae,’ I smiled.
‘Who says you can’t? And while you’re at it, don’t forget to mention how, even before breakfast, you’ve been known to ascend five mountain peaks. Who else can do that except the Queen of Hearts? As she once said: Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. So James, as you believe, so shall it be. Now, what other impossible things can you do?’
‘I don’t know,’ I said, ‘perhaps one day I’ll find my impossible love; that would be good enough, although probably not before breakfast. What at first seemed possible sometimes feels impossible, and what seemed impossible is beginning to feel possible. So, what’s going on; is there some good karma finally kicking in for me?’
‘If karma is about experiencing the consequences of who you are, let me be the first to agree.’ Eli said. ‘What has been sown within is reaped without, yet it’s often not recognised until harvest when the soul returns home.
‘Should you incarnate on earth again, your character will not be determined by fate but by what you’ve chosen to become. If that’s what you call karma, then that’s what it must be!’
‘I hope I can make enough progress this time so I won’t have to return to do this all over again. It’s bloody exhausting.’
‘You have made much progress. Your most significant growth spurts occurred when you paid attention to what your soul was sensing, even when you weren’t sure. Because you were true to the vision of the Mountain and your inward inklings, you couldn’t fail, even if your broken, bruised, and battered body in London suggests you had.
‘And might I add, you didn’t fail your body either; who else receives more loving, unconditional care from such a beautiful woman?’
‘That alone seems a good enough reason to return,’ I smiled.
‘Indeed, it would be, especially if she can teach you the meaning of unconditional love. Have you ever experienced this before?’
I shrugged. ‘Maybe, although I probably wouldn’t have known if I had.’
‘That’s right.’ Mo said. ‘You can only know what you’ve already given.’
Leaving that curious statement hanging in the air, they got up to go as it was approaching nightfall.
‘Muchas gracias,’ I said. ‘I feel much lighter now with you both listening to my frivolous complaints during these last few days.’
‘We are pleased to be of service,’ Eli said. ‘As Mo suggested, we only receive what we give. Buenos Noches, amigo.’
‘Buenas noches,’ I replied.
‘Mañana will be a new day,’ Mo said. ‘It always is… without end.’
As I climbed to my loft to rest my weary mind, I thought about how, in all my adult years, I never had confidants I could trust more than these two. Who else would listen to all my whining without judgment?
Now more than ever, I was grateful to be on this surreal journey with their company. Through them, I was learning who I was, even while my body remained comatose in a hospital half a world away, which, I suppose, had its own reasons for being grateful. Thank you, Julianne.
My life felt charmed, not because of who I was in my past but because of who I was becoming in the present. Now that most of Lowland’s veil of fears was lifted, I had less reason to grumble and complain. What I considered problems now felt more like just the residue of past illusions of fear. Little did I realise that a committee of physicians in London was today deciding on my body’s fate. My life on earth might soon be no more. And with it, this dream. Unless…
As I drifted off to sleep, I contemplated how this realm, at first so bewildering, had become my new reality. Yet, I wondered if this was but another reality I was dreaming about in my coma.
Continued in Elysium’s Passage, The Summit, book two of the Elysium’s Passage novel series
 From De Principiis by Origen of Alexandria (185-254 AD), a highly regarded as a theologian, often considered the most prominent of all the Church Fathers (Encyclopedia Britannica) and said by St Gregory of Nyssa to be: The greatest teacher of the church (St Jerome); the prince of Christian learning in the third century.
 Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
 Quoted from Henry Millers’ memoir; Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch, (1957)
 After subsequently discussing the topic of Holons, this concept became easier to understand.
 What I discovered about the complementary nature of the sexes is a fascinating and exotic topic which I will attempt to explain more fully in subsequent narratives.
 Plato refers to this underworld river of oblivion in The Myth of Er, in Book X of The Republic
 In reference to the Greek myth of Sisyphus.
 A concept Plato advocated in The Republic where only wise philosophers would rule the people.
 For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. Galatians 6:7 (KJV)
 The Buddhist teaching of the Wheel of Samsara has to do with cyclic, impermanent, transient, constantly changing existence.
 The multiverse is an example of what is often called the New Physics. The Many Worlds interpretation was first postulated by physicist Hugh Everett in 1957.
 The double-slit experiment is discussed briefly in Chapter 12. It was the first and perhaps most apparent demonstration of quantum super-positions. Various physics have argued this indicates of the role of consciousness in the collapse of the wave/particle function.
 What nature of this implicate order is, however, was not made clear by Bohm. He seems to suggest, whatever it is, subsumes atter rather than transcends it. Though he remained on the cutting edge of spirituality and science, he doesn't say this proves the implicate order is, in reality, spiritual since spirit cannot be inferred or proven by material densities that lie below.
 My friend may have been alluding to Shakespeare’s line, All the world's a stage, and all the men and woman merely players, from As You Like It.
 The Theatre of the Absurd (Le théâtre de l'absurde) is related to absurdist fiction plays written by various European playwrights in the 1950s, such as Stoppard, Beckett and Camus, which portrayed existential themes regarding the meaning, or lack of meaning, in life.
 In Latin, conatus means to endeavour. Philosophers have employed this word throughout the ages with varying degrees of meaning. Descartes defined it as an active power or tendency of bodies to move, expressing the power of God. Bergson names this principle élan vital (i.e., vital impulse).
On the subject of reincarnation, Emanuel Swedenborg stated: Man, when he is reborn, passes through the ages as he who is born; and the preceding state is always as an egg in respect to the subsequent one; thus he is continually conceived and born: and this not only when he lives in the world, but also when he comes into another life to eternity: and still when he cannot be further perfected, then to be as an egg to those things which remain to be manifested, which are indefinite.
 The Zohar, meaning splendour or radiance, is the foundation writings of the Jewish Kabbalah, which had its origins in Jewish mysticism as early as 1,000 BC
 William Blake, English poet (1757-1827), Marriage of Heaven and Hell
 It wasn't until sometime later, in the following narrative, that we got into an in-depth discussion on how the Christian West became politicised against the belief in the pre-existence of souls, mainly as a result of Origen's anathematisation at the instigation of Byzantine Emperor Justinian in 553 AD.
 Often, the exception to this are young children. Dr Ian Stevenson (1918-2007) and Dr Jim Tucker, both Professors of Psychiatry and Neuroscience Behavior at the University of Virginia, have investigated reports of thousands of children throughout the world who effortlessly recount experiences from their previous life. These testimonials have been thoroughly researched and investigated to confirm the details. One of the dozens of books on this topic is Children Who Remember Past Lives by Dr Stevenson.
22] I'm not sure what this verse might infer when it states: He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love. Ephesians 1:4
 The Catholic Church's sale of Indulgences was contrived to mitigate God's alleged punishment for sins. It was abused in medieval times to extract payments from those fearing God's wrath after death. And should they not fear God's wrath, they were made to do so. Reaction to this corruption gave rise to Martin Luther's Protestant Reformation, beginning in 1517.
 In reference to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s metaphor found in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798), meaning a burden to be carried in penance for some past misdeed.
 From Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass and What Alice found There (1871)
This concludes the first book of the ELYSIUM'S PASSAGE novel series. The following six novels will be released in eBook format over the next few years, beginning this spring and summer with THE SUMMIT AND QUANTUM LEAPS.
All three books are now undergoing final proofing, including this book, THE ASCENT. (Yes, I know there are still a few errors here and there, but hopefully will have this all smoothened out in the next short while.
PREVIOUS CHAPTERS IN ELYSIUM'S PASSAGE: THE ASCENT
Prologue to the Series
Chapter One: A REALLY CRAZY DREAM
Chapter Two: WHERE AM I?
Chapter Three: STORYTIME
Chapter Four: THE COMPANY YOU KEEP
Chapter Five: THE FALL
Chapter Six: SUMMIT UNIVERSITY
Chapter Seven: DOWN AND OUT
Chapter Eight: THE SCEPTIC’S DILEMMA
Chapter Nine: THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER
Chapter Ten: A NEW GIRLFRIEND
Chapter Eleven: LAMENT TO LOVE
Chapter Twelve: MY BIG BREAK
Chapter Thirteen: DOUBLE DOUBLE TOIL AND TROUBLE
Chapter Fourteen: NOT MY FIRST RODEO