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Death, Rebirth and Past Lives – Sacred Teachings for the Winter Solstice

December 21, 2015

The ideas I present here are a brief synthesis of many sacred teachings from the ancient ‘wisdom’ or spiritual traditions:


We all have mental, emotional and physical reactions to experiences in this life and previous lives. These 3 processes are interconnected and therefore they all need to be healed and integrated in order to be free of suffering. This essentially requires us to overcome inner obscurations that are described variously as ignorance, jealousy, pride, anger, guilt, fear, sorrow and attachment. This also allows us to direct our soul consciously into a better rebirth, a more auspicious incarnation.

The soul can reincarnate into different dimensions, different realms of consciousness while it learns how to transform the ignorance, attachment and delusion which create traumatic thoughts, emotions and physical experiences.

Dying is a complex process. There is lots of light, sound and movement, and it may take as long as 3 months for all of our consciousness to leave the physical body and this world. Personal challenges that we have not overcome in life, such as fears about loneliness, poverty or lack of personal development and achievement, will all influence how we die.

When we die, we have experiences with far greater intensity than in life and we are attracted to the emotional and mental processes that have been dominant in our lives. These strong attachments can move the soul quickly into a new incarnation without much clear or conscious direction, like a small boat being swept by a strong current over a giant waterfall. Sometimes this will result in a new human incarnation on this planet, sometimes elsewhere.

Our past death has a great influence on our current life and the way we will die this time around. The significant patterns of this lifetime tell a story about our previous lifetimes and the issues that we have brought with us to heal and resolve, as well as the skills and knowledge that we can develop.

Our most significant interactions can sometimes be with those who we have encountered before in previous lives and who we are meeting again for the purpose of soul learning. It may be the case that souls deliberately plan certain experiences, whether painful or pleasurable or both, in order to acquire deeper self awareness.

A brief synthesis of teachings on the stages of death and rebirth look something like this:

Physical processes cease functioning
Sensory experiences break down
The soul gradually detaches from the body
Strong emotions, beliefs and desires are re-experienced
Life lessons may be reviewed
A new birth will be chosen with varying degrees of conscious direction

A human life represents a great opportunity to develop self-awareness because we have free will, the capacity to make choices regarding our thoughts, feelings and actions.

There is currently a lot of publicity surrounding the practice of ‘mindfulness’, the ability to remain present and ‘be in the moment.’ While this is a powerful notion it also requires a lot of self development as the mind, body and emotions must be healed from attachments to the past which are built up over many lifetimes. We are often moving our attention between the past and the future, being constantly influenced by both of them without being present at all.

We must go into our fears and doubts from the past, we must go into our hopes and dreams for the future, and transform them so that we realise we are not actually any of these reactive processes. This realisation results in freedom, and it is achieved through the careful and sustainable development of wellbeing, compassion, a lack of prejudice and heart-centred living. The heart can unfold to experience the present with a direct clarity that has no need for analysis based upon previous beliefs or prejudice from the past.

Out of this clarity, wise action can then emerge into the everyday world and create evolved structures in all aspects of society – from art and science, to commerce, politics and relationships.

It requires courage, discipline and dedication to release your identification with your personal story (your history, cultural beliefs and personal past) as a description of ‘the real me’ – because this is not who you really are, it is just a karmic process of mind, body, emotion. Of course we attempt to live well with kindness and service to others, and in doing so we can fully engage with society and culture. But at the same time we stop identifying with our thoughts, emotions and physical body as “Me”.

I am writing tonight on the Winter Solstice, it is a moment of ‘rebirth’ in the calendar, as remembered by all the Winter rituals from Diwali and Chanukah, to Yule and Christmas.

The Winter Solstice, the rebirth of the Sun, is an important turning point that marks the shortest day of the year, when the hours of daylight are at their least. It is also the start of the increase in the hours of daylight, until the Summer Solstice when darkness becomes ascendant once more.

In traditional mythology this is the seed time of year, where the Goddess once again becomes the Great Mother and gives birth to the new Sun King. It is on this, the longest and darkest night of the winter, that there springs forth a new spark of hope, a Sacred Fire. Thus, fire festivals celebrating the rebirth of the Sun have been held on the Winter Solstice throughout history and across all cultures.
Spencer Joseph

  1. Thanks for this reflective post, Spencer. I enjoyed reading the processes of death and beyond summarised so succinctly…very apt, on the Winter Solstice…

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