1. If we survive death ( let's skip over materialist position, since if we accept it, there is no need for other questions ) - who is "I" who survives ?
2. Why all this phantasmagoria of "life" ?
3. If there is an individualized existence after death, and is it permanent? What is the nature of time, or, respectively, causality? Or, free will & predestination ? Or God ?
4. Can this be described, at least metaphorically, in a comprehensible language ?
So, here follow my "findings". Some are "original", the majority-not; anyway, they satisfy my curiosity for now. I won't speak in terms of my "visions" or dialogue with the Self ( smacks of a preposterous exhibitionism ), but will try to elucidate with passing references to various existing sources.
1. My experience is that before essential realities of life, language falters. We do not yet possess conceptual framework capable of describing Reality more or less satisfactorily. So, all I can do is to rehash old notions & try, stammeringly, to point out to metaphors which are least unsatisfactory.
2. I think universe/multiverse and "man" are ultimately energy/consciousness. This "consciousness" is not describable in terms we conveniently ascribe to this psychological function. Also, "energy" is not any known physical energy. Yet, I am stuck with these metaphors as the closest I can find to describe my experience of Reality. The structure of various levels of consciousness is probably the challenge to the science to be. My opinion is that the relation consciousness-energy is similar to Tao and Te ( the Way and its Power ). Of course, Shiva/Shakti notion comes to mind immediately, but, my experience is that energy aspect can't be virtually self-subsistent. It is just the operating function of "substance"-consciousness. The tacit hidden "dualism" in Shaivism doesn't conform to my experiences. Maybe "creative imagination" a la Ibn Arabi is pretty close: consciousness imagines ( activates its energy) the worlds; also, Seth's desciption of "creation" and "All that is" approximates what I am trying to convey. I tend to disagree with "illusionists" a la Advaita, or with consciousness-only schools ( Zen, although they would use different terminology ) whose aim is to dissolve all energy activity ( "do not cling to forms, kill the Buddha etc.") as manifested in forms/images and to return to purely formless consciousness state with energy aspect "pushed back" into latency ( it can't be extinguished due to its very nature ). So, for me, a human being is essentially equal to energy/consciousness entity. I will call this entity "Self".
3. Self is coexistent with "God", either Manifest or Unmanifest Absolute.
As in popular similes, Self is like a wave in the ocean of God, can expand itself to become coextensive to God, can "move" and "travel" within "God" ( not just created dimensions/worlds ), can lose itself in Abyss of Godhead to re-emerge triumphant in the Manifestation, can fuse with other Selves & still retain its integrity. In short, Self is:
1. Individual, with indestructible individuality ( hence, I disagree with "drop to ocean" theory ).
2. Coeternal with God, with added aspect of individuality. Here, I feel that ancient notions of Adam Kadmon ( Luria ) and Mahapurusha ( Great Person ) are close to truth. But, not in the sense that there is one Adam Kadmon. Every Self is Adam Kadmon, but not always, nor in the "final" state. Because there is no "final state", nor "ultimate enlightenment". Also, caricaturally, two supremely expanded Selves are two Adam Kadmons with inexplicable unity & diversity I can only faintly imagine.
3. The life of Self in Absolute is mystery I can only say I suspect is full of dimensions of experience that are hidden from me. What was "revealed" ( maybe I was fooled ;^) ) is that Self is God, but God is more than Self ( or, Atman is essentially, but not existentially Paramatman; although it can expand itself to "cover" the entire Paramatman, this is not its true nature- after a while, Paramatman, as it were, "spits out" Atman ( rather irreverent talk, I admit ). ) Not one Self is not individual "now"; Buddha, Shankara, Zen patriarchs,... all exist in "unity in diversity state". My final dictum ( at this stage ) would be:
a) there is no final goal, or final enlightenment. These are all our feeble human expressions when confronted with supramundane reality. b) the unity in diversity is an approximation I see as the most tenable. c) of the forms of activity in these "spheres" we are to the great extent incapable to giving expression to. d) also, this "superhuman" goal can ( theoretically ) be attained in a lifetime ( so, I disagree with theosophical all-too-slow progress ). One can become Adam Kadmon in one's life. e) whenever this body is present, "ego" ( in ordinary parlance ) is present. Therefore, no "enlightened being", be it Christ, Buddha, whoever, is free from error, egotism, ego-inflation, stupidity, fantasies,..
Ego is, as it were, in-built in some mysterious way ( genes ? neural structure ? ) in our bodily existence.
So, what then with the manifest reality in worlds/planes ?
My experience ( or intuition ) of "worlds" is not given in emanationist perspective, but ...in the shoreless ocean of energy that is "God", "bubbles" appear. Within these bubbles, different layers/strata are "built" by more and more restricted energy/consciousness, similar to layers of onions. At the centre of an onion is physical universe, all "higher" planes being layers closer to the surface of a bubble/onion, where, conventionally, causal or Atziluth is dissolved into "God". IMO, Self remains "outside" of creation/bubble; yet, inexplicably, it permeates it ( better, its aspect/ground Paramatman does ). In its "individual" nature, Self stays "above", simultaneously not involved & at the same time, within its being a sort of primal will, desire, whatever...impulse towards play appears. So, Self delights in creation. Also, we must not be misguided: 1. Self "learns" through experience, but it is not something smacking of a plodder 2. Self delights, but this is beyond our notion of joy, play and delight 3. Self desires, but its vast desire is something surpassing our small dissatisfactions.
We left Self peeking into creation ( with only one aspect of its multidimensional life ). It desires to live all life that can be lived. So, Self, staying "above" creation, "emanates" or radiates its energy/consciousness continuum field into "worlds". On various levels of creation, different energy bodies are built ( sheaths/koshas), terminating with physical body. We have one energy/consciousness field, with one, the "Sun" of Self as radiant centre, and all other bodies being sort of "knots" or "phase transitions" of more & more restricted fields of awareness. Conscious human being forms a focus of awareness ( "I" ), but the true "King, Inner Controller" remains Self. Here I disagree with theosophists ( especially Bailey ) or others who speak of "Angel" ( "Ego", Solar Angel, Holy Guardian Angel, etc.) as the 3rd, intermediate entity between Self and empirical consciousness. Personally, I don't think such an entity exists at all. I tend to appreciate many descriptions of "daimon" or "psychogogue" as a messenger or a manifested energy being sent by Self. There is only one consciousness, extending from its active pole/source ( Self ), through various worlds to self-conscious focus at the end of manifestation. This focus can shift on, say, frequency levels of physical or causal worlds ( and will always stay "I", but with modified or expanded ( or contracted ) awareness ), can meet a Self's messenger ( "Solar Angel"), can even discourse with Self ( who activates its energy/communication attributes ), or plunge back into the Self & recognize that it has always been that. Shortly, I disbelieve in more or less permanent ( surpassing a lifetime ) existence of a "superpersonality" residing somewhere in supraphysical, but nonetheless created world ( say, causal plane ). As for "Ego"- that's me, here, now. No "SuperArvan" somewhere in celestial world ( although I don't deny a possibility of meeting him/her/it if necessary ). A few clairvoyants have ( independently ) perceived my "Solar Angel" ( for want of a better word ), but, I have always seen that it is practically either a subpersonality or a messenger.
A description of Ibn Arabi's experiences will suffice:
"..the Shaykh encountered a Divine messenger or Angel of God - an Evanescent Youth of remarkable beauty. In fact, this Angel.. would seem to be associated with the Angel Gabriel himself. And, ultimately, this visionary figure is none other than the Shayhk's own spiritual guide and Companion, even his transcendent "counterpart" in the Realm of Imagination... ...As the mystic Youth tells the Shaykh "the Temple which contains Me is your heart".....As such, this Imaginal vision must have a spiritual Guide or Master, a being with higher knowledge to lead the initiate into the mysteries of the Imaginal. ...The figure contains the secret of the Temple of the Heart; for it is at once Ibn Arabi's heavenly Master or spiritual Guide, as well his own innermost Counterpart and Self within the Heart."
So, do I believe in reincarnation ? Does Self reincarnate ? I think-not. Do "I", empirical Arvan, reincarnate ? I think-not. Is there some "essence", a protopersonality who reincarnates ? Yes and no. No, because I don't think anything describable in personal terms descends, ascends & lives succeeding lives. In will try to clarify my opinion by adumbrating three points:
1. Self has, in its first manifestation, created a primordial personality engram ( I like this word- anyway, it was coined by Richard Semon and is used in various fields ). I suppose it is imprinted in Self's Mind - anyway, I won't speculate. In and out, through this personality image/door, consciousness/energy manifestation of the Self "descends" or builds a new life. I don't think there is some "entity" going down & up the Jacob's ladder of worlds/planes/energy fields. It is just a projection of Self's consciousness.
2. Is one's life preserved ? I think- yes. I guess individual life is recorded in Self's Mind. Is Mind destructible ? Some, equating it with the Vedantist notion of causal body, would say- yes. I beg to differ. I suspect Mind is the essential attribute of the "naked" Self, or at least, deeper dimensions of Mind.
3. Does Self profit from incarnation ? Or, just its sheaths ? I have had an impression that individual's life experiences are like a sweet nectar enriching & delighting the Self. So, even when ( or if ) Self discards all bodies, evolutionary enterprise is "saved". Or, more: which is the purpose of "evolution" ? I think, the complete & the most potent realization of all potentialities ( in traditional parlance, all chakras radiating in all dimensions with maximum intensity; yet, I would say there is more, but am presently just fuzzily conscious of it ).
4. What about karma, or cause and effect ? All I can say: I think that Self, being outside of creation, perceives/lives all lives simultaneously. I have heard many explanations connecting belief in reincarnation with ethical "improvement". From my point of view I remain unconvinced. Is Hitler in hell ? I don't know. Is he living some wretched life ? I don't know. Was Hitler some great soul taking upon itself all the opprobrium for greater good ( Gnostic interpretation of Judas theme rehashed ) ? I don't know. Neotheosophical reincarnationist hypothesis ( learning, improvement,..), which has become virtually a New Age cornerstone, leaves me indifferent. Maybe because due to my own temper I remain skeptical re any effort of "moralizing the universe".
5. And, finally: I have a hunch that Self is mutable, but its mutability has extratemporal modes that make it incomprehensible to our time-bound consciousness. So, do I believe in reincarnation ? See above.