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Reincarnation/Free Will and the reincarnation cycle


How can the use of free will change our reincarnation cycle? Do our choices in the now come from past experiences embedded in our habit energy?

Hi Ross,

It is delightful to get up early, check my e-mail and grapple right off with the question of free will! I saw a philosophy professor's website once, wherein she explained that she had begun her career intending to solve the question of free will, but it had "taken a bit longer than she anticipated" so she had ended up specializing in another topic...

This question, as I understand it, revolves around one's arbitrary assignment of identity, which means, who exactly is the "our" in your question? If that "our" is the individual, incarnated entity, the ego, then he (or she) has very limited free will, in my opinion. It is much less than people think. My favorite analogy is white-water canoeing. In a canoe, you have the limited ability to guide the canoe a little to this side or to that side, thus avoiding rocks, eddies, and so-on. But you do not, actually, have the ability to turn it around and paddle backwards; nor do you have the ability to scoot from this side of the stream to that side before you pass it. In this analogy, the force of the rushing water represents mental impressions left over from past lives, which impressions are embedded in a higher spiritual body, called, variously, the "mental body" or "causal body" (which is how they can carry over from one incarnation to the next).

The whole trick of human existence is to manage these powerful impelling forces; for that, you have to understand what makes them tick and how they are formed. This is handled adeptly by my Guru (disclaimer), Meher Baba; but it can also be found in Patanjali's yoga system and in other sources. In Meher Baba's teachings the word is translated into English as "sanskaras"; in every other system I have found, they are spelled with an "m," "samskaras."

To answer your question, our choices come from different layers of our being. They are prompted, or one might say impelled or "tempted," or suggested, by these mental impressions. Such impressions come from past choices, and they "want" to be repeated--what Freud called "repetition compulsion." In short, at this level, all of life is repetition compulsion (or addiction). What Buddha called "desire and attachment."

On the other hand, there are impulses which come from a higher (or deeper, if you prefer) level, the level of the true Self; at this level, the person is already one with the Highest. This is the only place where one has true free will. Everything else is impelled.

Therefore, the paradox arises, that the only free will is to be found in surrendering to God's will (God being the true Self).

This is a high teaching, and not to be diluted or distorted into the *ego* being the true self!!!!!!

To the extent, then, that all actions are dedicated to God--as Krishna teaches in the Bhagavad Gita--those actions are an expression of true free will. Everything else--bar none--is an expression of impelling mental impressions from past lives.



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Stephen Sakellarios


I can answer questions about reincarnation (from both Eastern and Western perspectives) and life after death, and how these topics relate to religion and spirituality.


I produced a documentary entitled "In Another Life: Reincarnation in America" which aired on PBS station KBDI in Denver, CO, Jan. 2003
I have a masters in counseling from FSU, and over thirty years' study of Eastern mysticism from carefully selected sources, plus eight years' study of contemporary Western reincarnation studies. I've published nine related articles online and in print. I offer an online class on the subject and maintain an extensive educational website at, as well as giving talks and radio interviews (archived on the website).

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