Saturday, March 7, 2009

More Roots and Thorns

I believe in reincarnation. Of a sort. I believe that this is not my first time around the block and may be my last. I know something about who I may have been before both from what I *know* and what Sensitive people I trust have told me including that I am an old soul. People who knew me well enough and didn't feel silly saying it, have told me throughout my life that I seem to have wisdom beyond my years. I really wish I could apply that wisdom more often to my own life - maybe I'd manage to stay out of mitzrayim more often. :)

My personal view of reincarnation, something I came up with long before I started researching Jewish mysticism, is that there is a Great Reservoir of Spirit which for arguments sake I call Ein Sof, the All etc. I don't have this totally sorted out yet so bear with me but basically imagine the All as a big ball of Spirit of which S/He grabs a piece of Him/Herself to create a soul to stick in a corporeal creation (ie. baby). The experiences etc. that the creation goes through in it's life 'flavors' the piece of Spirit that is within it. When it dies, the soul returns to the All providing that it has not been corrupted too badly to re-enmesh itself. It's like having a big ball of white clay that you break off a piece of and you take the smaller piece and roll it into a ball on the counter; it may pick up things while you're rolling it around so that when you try to mush it back into the big ball it may be so off color that you can't do it and maintain the white of the large ball. Incarnations of a soul in various corporeal forms might be a cleansing process. One possibility is that when a new soul is needed, pieces of previous souls get grabbed which is where memories of past lives could come from and explains why such memories are so fragmented in most people and there are people who have conflicting memories but sometimes beliefs, mannerisms etc. bleed through from incarnation to incarnation.

So why am I going into all this? To provide context for more roots. I mentioned I was raised fairly strict Catholic which has been the lifelong faith of my father. He was the person in my life who gave me my love of tradition, liturgy and all that appeals to me about organized religion. He is a religious, humble man who would have made a great monk in a different situation. He was the one though that cultivated my interest in different cultures and religions.

My mother had been raised Lutheran and converted to Catholicism on her own in her 20's (see a trend here?) but nature and the earth have been in her blood since day 1. She didn't express it more than being a great gardener as an adult and seeking out the wild places as much as she could as a kid. She was the first witch in my life and passed on a love of and feeling of responsibility for growing things and a belief in things that fit more with paganism than with organized religion. She also taught me to celebrate the seasons with our own rituals for which I am exceedingly glad. Nothing fancy or structured but stuff like welcoming the first warm rain of spring or thanking the plants for their efforts as we were pulling out the dead stalks for the compost pile in the fall. She grew up in the city and had no one to encourage such a tie to nature and pagan mindset; as she gets older it's getting stronger. With the idea that some older people are more able to access parts of their essential spirit I wouldn't be surprised to find out that part of her was a pagan at some point.

She also was the first Jew in my life - no, not literally although she had flirted with the idea on her way over to Catholicism. Even though she hadn't had any exposure to Jewish culture etc. until I started getting into it, a lot of her phrases are very Yiddish, many of her personal beliefs are Jewish - something not discovered until I was doing my learning, and many of the things she feels comfortable with would be familiar to somebody who is Jewish but unfamiliar to one who is not or not exposed to it which she wasn't. The number of things that fell into place the more I learned about Judaism and Jewish culture was eerie. She also had a great desire to understand the Holocaust as if it was intensely personal to her and a part of her was crying - what happened?! Was she Jewish in a previous life? It would make sense.

So that's my roots. Just as my mother has an innate knowledge of things Jewish, I was drawn at a young age to things Celtic, with about as much reason. A Sensitive friend of mind has Seen me as a fair skinned redhead among other little things that add up. I've also had impressions of myself from a young age as an Ashkenazi Jewish woman who covered her hair and until I hit a certain age I knew that I was going to die young and it had something to with who I am which didn't make any sense in this day and age. It was a great relief and something of a bewilderment when I hit that point a number of years ago and nothing happened and the feeling disappeared. Of course I've been interested and delved into other cultures but none have struck a cord with me like those 2 have so I'm inclined to think there's something there.

If I accept that 1) some form of reincarnation (which is a concept in Jewish mysticism) is possible and 2) that I have been various people before then is there anything wrong with amalgamating the various spiritual lessons and inclinations of those incarnations into my spiritual path today? After all, I became a Jew because Judaism most closely matched my beliefs and the areas of deviation were acceptable to me - not because I had any great desire to be Jewish per se although I have always felt a need for a people/tribe and a very faint/faded connection to the ancient Israelites; I always explained that from my Christian upbringing and the fact that I'm an ethnic mutt but maybe . . . Going through the rituals of conversion (mikvah & bet din) though was for me an expression of 'as above, so below' since if I was going to make this my home I wasn't going to only playact it. Somehow, like any well done ritual, (although the actual ceremony was devoid of spiritual feeling and sucked) it cemented things on a spiritual level.

This does not mean that I gave up the rest of who I am though and the past decade or so I have fought so hard to be accepted by the Jewish community that I was willing to place the other spiritual urges on the back burner. Now that I don't live in a Jewish community and am having to rely on myself more for spiritual guidance these things are creeping out again. I guess this is why there are so many cautions and #4 in the 'oath'. If I incorporate Celtic elements via Wicca, or Germanic ones in my current spiritual path, am I abandoning or adulterating Judaism beyond any recognition? Or is it rather the amalgamation of paths and truths that, if humanity can ever get it together, will allow us to perceive and comprehend the Truth? If we can, do we not have the duty to evolve as much as possible as individuals? There is this thing in the back of my mind though that once you have begun the furrow you must stay and finish it. Stability vs chaotic enlightenment? (Any Vorlons or Shadows around? (B5 joke)) Do I not have the right to explore all avenues my soul seeks to wander down? It's not like I'd ever deny being Jewish for that is what at least a great part of my soul is although there are undeniably other ways influencing it. Are they important or have the lessons of those paths been learned or does the fact that I am aware of them mean that there is unfinished business there?

Questions, questions, questions. While I'm at it why don't I discover the meaning of life and the nature of the cosmos - wait, didn't Monty Python already do that? :) Thanks for listening to my ramblings and your insights are welcome - other than the opinion that I'm absolutely nuts :)

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