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The Cosmic Game, Part 1
We are not the characters we play: Reincarnations, Awakenings, and the Otherworld.
We find ourselves in a world we do not fully understand. The sheer changing complexity of everything around and inside us is as fascinating as it is overwhelming. Natural forces, both inner and outer, act on us with what seems like an inescapable necessity, while simultaneously feeling that our will has a certain freedom to shape our destiny.
We do not come to this world alone but are accompanied by others like ourselves, parents and the whole medley of people who make up our contemporaries, who have been alive in the world we’re joining longer than we have. But we soon learn there have been countless others that have left us a legacy and record of innumerable decisions made in the face of experiencing the world, whether in the form we find it today or in another that is long gone. Everyone gives us, by gift, record, artifact, ceremony, tradition, payment or example, their own opinions as to who we are, what world we have found ourselves in and what we’re supposed to do in it.
Yet little time is left to pause and ponder. In school or elsewhere, we are rushed to be taught or told what to do and are supposed to make a living before we really learn how to live and what life is worth living. Then the years pass relentlessly, our prime for most of us provided we reach it, dedicated to a recurring activity that sustains our life and the world around it without justifying its suffering nor explaining its wonder. Past our prime, some of us will be lucky to live our last years in peace, finally catching up with old questions at a time we lack the mental fitness or adequate time to answer them. In the end, we prepare for our last farewell, never to return to that world in the form we learned to live in it.
There is no pause button in life. We constantly find ourselves at crossroads and have to make decisions and face consequences even if we don’t choose.
What are we to make of all this?1
In this series of posts, I’ll answer this question with my current level of understanding.
We’re in a Cosmic Game
Yet we tend to forget we are playing it, identifying with the character we are playing completely. Some of us remember we are not the character we play and can even remember playing other characters. This recall can occur naturally, often seen in children between the ages of three and five2, or due to exceptional circumstances brought about unintentionally (e.g. near-death experiences due to accidents, spontaneous out-of-body experiences accompanied by past life recall3) or intentionally (e.g. in altered states of consciousness brought about by a multitude of modalities, from past life regression via hypnosis4, meditation and breathwork, to the use of entheogens/psychedelics, and trance via dancing or ceremony).
The consilience between different experiences and sources of evidence inevitably leads to the realization that reincarnation is real5 and that we don’t die when our characters do. Instead, we transition to a place in between. The Tibetans called it bardo, the ancient Egyptians, duat. The Tibetan Buddhists wrote about it in Bardo Thodol, the Egyptians in Amduat. I’m going to follow Freddy Silva’s convention and call it the Otherworld6.
Across the world and throughout history, we have used different means to gain knowledge of the Otherworld and labeled this knowledge as occult, which comes
directly from Latin occultus “hidden, concealed, secret,” past participle of occulere “cover over, conceal”7
The meanings associated with the past participle (e.g. “cover over”) presupposes a cover or veil, which relates to idioms like beyond the veil that refer to “a mysterious or hidden place or state, especially the unknown state of existence after death”8.
According to Silva, for the ancient Egyptians, the Otherworld,
unlike the physical world, which is governed by time and decay, this parallel place exists outside of time; it is present and eternal and simultaneous with the physical, like two serpents entwined around a pole…
[It] interpenetrates the world of the living. It is the place from where all physical forms manifest and to where they return. It is an integral component of birth, death, and rebirth. Only through a direct experience of the [Otherworld] can a person fully grasp the operative forces of nature, the knowledge of which was said to transform an individual into an akh—a being radiant with ‘inner spiritual illumination.’9
Ecstasies and Awakenings
People who are unaware of what is beyond the veil, unaware that they’ve played different characters across countless lifetimes, are often metaphorically described as being asleep. In contrast, those who are aware, those with ‘inner spiritual illumination’ are described as being awake or enlightened. Though these terms tend to exist on a spectrum, given there are gradations of awareness and ability, those who have had profound insight and experiences of the Otherworld beyond mere conceptual understanding, know there are thresholds on the spectrum that, once crossed, unmistakably and irrevocably transform those crossing them. Knowing we are playing a character in this lifetime, that we’ve played many characters in past lifetimes, and therefore that we are effectively immortal, is one of them.
I will call the crossings of threshold points ecstasies using the original ancient Greek meaning of the word which was “standing outside oneself”, in addition to the one used by 17th century mystical writers for “a state of rapture that stupefied the body while the soul contemplated divine things.”10
Spiritual traditions give different labels to the thresholds, the methods, rituals, and ceremonies to cross them, the titles for those who cross them, and the abilities (siddhis) and virtues that are exhibited in relation to spiritual advancement in both the everyday world and the Otherworld. For some, like Buddhism, the title for the awakened one (“Buddha”), means something very specific.
However, the more acquainted anyone becomes with different spiritual traditions, the more obvious it is that they often speak of the same places or states, and once you experience such states or get to such places, it becomes easier to understand why two different people would describe them in different ways even though they are the same, just like two different people visiting Japan would give different accounts of the same country.
Moreover, the experience of awakening, is available in multiple dimensions, some of which are behind, not beyond, the veil11. For example, someone who is completely unaware of the history of misogyny12 or of U.S. military and CIA involvement in the foreign affairs of other countries after the Second World War, sometimes orchestrating coup d'etats and political assassinations13, may experience a rather rude awakening when they discover the horror and injustice in ample display in both. So the experience of awakening for me can refer to a drastic shift in awareness, irrespective of whether that shift occurs in reference to knowledge that is behind or beyond the veil.
One crucial reason for rituals, ceremonies, and guides
Crossing the thresholds that lead to ecstasy is not without any risk. Once the bearings you have used to navigate reality are shattered, it can be challenging to reorient oneself and integrate what you have seen and experienced. This is why spiritual traditions around the world have sophisticated rituals and ceremonies, with guides helping you cross and integrate your revelations. From the ancient Egyptians and the Cabeirian, Eleusinian, and Dionysian Mysteries14 of the Ancient Greek world with their hierophants, to the mystical aspects of the main religions (Sufism for Islam, Hesychasm for Christianity, with a plethora of mystical practices in Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism in Asia, just to name a few) there are shamanic and occult esoteric traditions pretty much everywhere around the world and throughout history15. They all, in some way, aim to help you cross from the realm of the profane, everyday world, to the realm of the sacred, numinous Otherworld, through a series of preparations, initiations and rites of passage that transform your understanding, experience, and consciousness.
An unprecedented moment in history
For the first time in history, with the aid of modern scholarship, science, technology, and research, in addition to an unprecedented facility to travel around the world, we are not only capable of a truly panoramic view of our magnificent human heritage, but we are able to experientially verify enough of the occult truths claimed in the various traditions, ancient and modern, to finally say with certainty that the people who represent those traditions were not primitive or merely superstitious, unversed in science—it’s just that most of us were uninitiated and couldn’t understand what they were talking about, being too busy arguing their claims did not match the shadows we were used to in our Platonic caves16. That does not mean everything claimed in those traditions is true, any more than everything claimed in the history of science is true. It’s up to us to approach those traditions with humble reverence and a beginner’s mind to discover the jewels of wisdom that only diligent study and practice can reveal. Those jewels can give us unexpected answers and guide us on our journey to understand what we are and what we’re doing here.
Throughout this series, I’ll be drawing from jewels I find and my own mystical experiences to illuminate the Cosmic Game. In the next part of this series, I’ll be diving deeper into ecstasies, traumas, and how they affect our relationship with truth and our calling.
See the work of Dr. Michael Newton, Journey of Souls: Case Studies of Life Between Lives and Dr. Brian Weiss, Many Lives, Many Masters.
Once again, the best and shortest lecture with the evidence for it is the lecture by Prof. Dr. Christopher Bache On the Scientific Evidence for Reincarnation.
From his fascinating book The Lost Art of Resurrection: Initiation, Secret Chambers, and the Quest for the Otherworld.
From Chapter 1 of The Lost Art of Resurrection: Initiation, Secret Chambers, and the Quest for the Otherworld with slight modifications (what’s in square brackets) and omissions to match what has already been covered.
It is helpful to experience both kinds in order to have a more complete understanding of how they are interrelated.
See Jack Holland’s A Brief History of Misogyny: The World's Oldest Prejudice.
See Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions since World War II by William Blum, found on the Internet Archive here.
There were many mystical rites related to the different cults of Ancient Greece, but I thought I’d mention at least three major ones.
In Silva’s book, The Lost Art of Resurrection: Initiation, Secret Chambers, and the Quest for the Otherworld, he mentions a variety of traditions sharing a similar ritual, that of the living resurrection, that provides a life-changing experience of the Otherworld.
See, Allegory of the Cave. Ironically, Plato warned us about this in Phaedo when he had Socrates say: “There are indeed, as those concerned with the mysteries say, many who carry the thyrsus, but the Bacchants are few. These latter are, in my opinion, no other than those who have practiced philosophy in the right way”. What is implied here is that many people can dress the part (the thyrsus was a ceremonial rod held in Dionysian ceremonies), when it comes to the Mysteries, but the true initiates (in this case initiates to the Mysteries of Dionysus/Bacchus), are few. It’s also important to note that Plato would have thought that any contemporary professor of philosophy not initiated to the Mysteries is simply not practicing philosophy the right way.