There has been of old a deep alliance between the psychopathic and the diabolic. Belief in the divine is nothing other than the substantially convinced recognition of the fact that the world is meaningful, that is to say, a spiritual world. Madness is the completest denial of this meaningfulness. More than that, it is the symbol of the meaninglessness of creation embodied in a creature. Where the last vestige of the world's meaning is obliterated in a soul – a very rare occurrence – madness assumes mastery. Thence it comes that ages which deny the divine meaningfulness of the universe are smitten even to blood by collective madness, however reasonable and enlightened they may be in their own conceit.
Franz Werfel – from The Song of Bernadette
She was a lady from a distant land,
Beyond Aconcagua's peak.
Her time was short, she took my hand
In hers - she had no need to speak.
She was a lady from a distant land
Whose love was true, embraces weak,
Her lonely land was distant though,
beyond Aconcagua's peak,
I came too late, so I'll never more know
Her glances, the smiles I used to seek,
The embraces, even though weak, of
The lady known as Bernadette.
Bernadette meant very much to me. Please, however, do not imagine some kind of passionate, tragic love affair. In fact, we only ever spent a total of three days together spaced over several years, in two different continents, and during only one unbroken twenty-four hour period. So the love that existed between us, although also physical, was mostly spiritual.
She a teacher of handicapped children in a distant Latin land. I watched her with the children and she watched me watching. I do hate to use a corny expression like “love at first sight”, so I won't. However, what I felt was more like recognition at first sight, that this was someone I already knew, although I had never seen her before.
A year passed before we met again, with me popping in and out from the airport to a hotel, to business and finally to her school and her home, for she was recovering from an operation for lung cancer.
She died when I was thousands of miles away, literally on the other side of the world. I was not surprised for, although she seemed to be improving when she journeyed to Switzerland and we spent that day together with a view of Lake Geneva, I knew that lung cancer almost always turns out badly. Not long afterward, months before we planned to meet again in the south of that distant land, I received a telegram from her friend, Mónica: Bernadette passed away on Easter Sunday. Pésame, Mónica.
A lack of surprise is one thing, another is a feeling that our relationship was not over. And yet I knew that it was over... here, not only in Switzerland and that distant land, but on the planet Earth. Please don't think that I was expecting to meet her again in heaven where we would be bored stiff from floating on a cloud from here to eternity. I believe in immortality, as does she. (Of course: she's experiencing it.) But not that kind. You see, I have studied the work of Rudolf Steiner, as did Bernadette. In fact, the school where she taught was based on Steiner's pedagogical teaching. A fundamental aspect of his thought, which he called Anthroposophy, is reincarnation and karma. Now these things are almost always associated with eastern religions and theology. But along came Steiner and applied them to western philosophy, which he expounded in many books and literally thousands of lectures which were preserved in shorthand, then transliterated to clear script, typed, printed and published.
The idea of reincarnation had long fascinated me, even before I encountered Rudolf Steiner, who explained it in clear, logical language. After all, what is the meaning of life if it's over almost as soon as it begins, many a decade if you're lucky, much less if not. To have meaning is to be intelligent. Take nature, which is intelligent and beautiful, although often cruel. I know, Darwin's theory of evolution sees this and much more as random, as “natural selection” – a contradiction in terms if I ever saw one: How can a random occurrence select, when selection requires at least a modicum of consideration, which requires intelligence and even thinking? Therefore, if nature is beautiful and true and good, then a thinking-being or beings must have made it so. The only thinking beings we know of, however, are human beings, but these beings did not create nature. Therefore, another thinking being or beings must exist, so intelligent and capable that they could create nature. Now let's take a step beyond nature, for such beings would hardly be satisfied with only nature and all its living components, including plants, insects, animals and, yes, even man.
The important thing is the conclusion that there must be a reason, because it´s unimaginable that such an intelligent being (or beings) would go to all that trouble for no reason. Unless they are playing a game. But even games have reasons for being played, like winning or just learning to play well. So let's admit that we don't know the reason, but insist that there must be one, or more.
When experiencing the death of a child, a gringo friend once cried: It's not fucking fair! Although perhaps expressed differently, it's hard not to agree with him. There are so many things in life that are not fucking fair, like Bernadette´s death at 29, that one could easily despair. The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard reasoned that things are so unfair that a real philosopher could only commit suicide, for without a reason there is no hope. And the only way to have hope is to have faith in God and/or in Jesus Christ. Well, it worked for him, according to him.
But with all that science has learned since then about how things work (not why) and the decline and corruption of the churches, it has become increasingly difficult to have the kind of faith Kierkegaard advocated. That's where reincarnation comes in. It furnishes hope by teaching that we are all on a path of development and that wrongs will be righted and right will be rewarded on the path of this development, during which freedom will be obtained through love, or vice versa. In other words, reincarnation redeems meaningfulness.
According to the stretchable laws of reincarnation, we have all lived many times previously as steps on the path of development; some have done well at it, others not. And we are destined to live many future lives until it is no longer necessary: Nirvana
An important question arises, however: how to explain the population explosion. Or rather: how to accommodate explosive population increase with reincarnation. Where did all the seven billion inhabitants of the earth come from if there was only a small fraction of today's population a thousand years ago, or even a few hundred years ago, or – to be extreme – not so long after Adam and Eve? An explanation I've heard is that conditions have changed so rapidly that it's necessary for souls to incarnate more rapidly as well, or that there might be new souls. But that doesn't even approach the number of human beings which account for the population explosion.
According to the present official scientific theory, around 13.7 billion years ago everything we know of in the cosmos was an infinitesimal singularity – sort of a really tiny black hole over-stuffed with stuff. Then some unknown trigger caused it to expand and inflate in three-dimensional space. As the immense energy of this initial expansion cooled, light began to shine through. Eventually, the small particles began to form into the larger pieces of matter we know today, such as galaxies, stars and planets.
But: Is ours the only universe that resulted from this “big bang”? With current technology we are limited to observations within this universe because the universe is curved and we are inside the fishbowl, unable to see the outside of it (if there is an outside). Nevertheless, there actually is quite a bit of evidence for a multiverse. And some of the biggest names in science have taken the idea seriously. Stephen Hawking was probably the most famous scientist who dabbled in the parallel universe question. Indeed, his last work described a theory which reduced the quantity of possible universes from infinite to reasonable, so to speak.
Either way, a smooth running reincarnation system (cum karma) doesn't seem probable as the cosmos is presently understood. That's what I was thinking when I asked Robert Fuchs who, when I asked him what he thought, said: Isn't it reasonable to consider the possibility of parallel universes, which give us more room to roam? Then, after I enthusiastically agreed, and after pulling on his earlobe so hard that his hearing aid fell out, he said, What if they, all those souls, came from a parallel universe?
That was a long time ago in a vegetarian restaurant on Maipú Street in Buenos Aires. My office was close and I had recently decided to give up eating so much meat, so I had lunch there almost every day. Robert was also there often and we began to nod to each other, then sat at the same table and conversed, first with small talk, then more interesting things. He was twice my age, but looked twice as healthy and fit. I asked him if he was a vegetarian and he nodded. You? he asked. He used the informal tú which was all right because he was so much older. After a few minutes, though, he told me I should tutear him as well. At that very moment I decided that from then on I was indeed a vegetarian, so I said yes, which turned out to be true.
A few years previously I had encountered Anthroposphy because of the Waldorf primary school my daughter attended in a Buenos Aires suburb. I had also become a member of the Anthroposophical Society, but soon realized that although Steiner's work was indeed illuminating, the Society supposedly responsible for it in Argentina was a different story, plagued by the usual egotism, ambition and dogmatism. I thought, well, this is Argentina, what can one expect?
Robert and I discussed this one afternoon after lunch. We decided to walk a bit together and go deeper into the subjects that interested us both most. About my disappointment with the Anthroposophical Society, Robert said, After the death of the founder of a spiritual movement or organization, it may continue, but will certainly degenerate, slowly or quickly, but inevitably. I thought that was an exaggeration, but years later found it to be true. When we arrived at the Plaza de Mayo, site of the Casa Rosada, Argentina's pink white house, I suggested that we sit on one of the benches, but Robert preferred to continue walking, claiming that one thought better that way.
I can't continue quoting him because it was long ago, but I understood quite well his meaning. He said that earth-like planets existed, if not in our own galaxy, then in others, where human beings incarnate after or before their earth incarnations. So, he claimed, my Bernadette was probably alive, or eventually would be, in one of those other earthly planets, and that I would likely follow when my time came. After all, he explained, we have mutual karma to live through.
We made a complete round of the plaza in silence before I stopped and faced Robert. It's an interesting theory, I told him, but no more than that. He agreed that for me it could be no more than a theory, but that he happened to know that it was much more than a theory.
But how do you know? I asked.
I have seen it, he answered. As my bewilderment was so evident, he went on: I was a physicist at the Max Plank Institute in Germany. When I began to talk about multiple universes and reincarnation, I got strange looks from my colleagues and in answer to the obvious question of how I knew, I explained that I had seen it, the director suggested that I see a psychiatrist. Actually, it was more than a suggestion for he made clear that if I wanted to keep my job I would take a month off, with pay, and put myself under the care of a well known – to him – shrink. It was really quite generous of him, but not what I had in mind.
He continued walking and I skipped to catch up. You see, he continued, in the field of quantum mechanics it's permissible to mention parallel universes, as long as it's with a smile, visible or not. But when you add reincarnation to the jumble and even karma, and are serious about it, they think you mad. That's because they can only try to observe the subatomic universe without considering the meaning of the real universe, to the extent that meaningfulness itself is denied, because it implies the divine, the non-random. Well, to me that 's a form of madness and I told them so.
He seemed to have finished, so I asked why he had come to Argentina. He smiled and said his future wife was a research assistant from Argentina. They fell in love and when he left the Institute she left with him. He had written a book, in English, From Genesis to the Big Bang, sort of popular science, under an invented name, Georg Schubert, in order not to embarrass the Institute, and himself. It sold well. She offered to translate it into Spanish, assuring him that it would also sell well in the Spanish speaking world, which is numerically second only to the English speaking one in the western world. He was surprised when it turned out that she was right. They moved to Argentina, where he continued writing popular science books with a smattering of science fiction under the nom de plume Jorge Schubert, and she continued editing and translating them. He opined that the translations were better than the originals.
I asked if he had written about reincarnation in alternate universes. He said he hadn't yet, that he preferred to use the spoken word. There were small groups of interested people in Buenos Aires and Mendoza, where he lived most of the time with his wife, whose name happened to also be Bernadette.
Look Roberto, he said. I know what you're thinking. I say I know because I saw. But why should you believe that if you haven't also seen? Well, my dear friend, it's a question of belief, not blind belief, fé in Spanish, but of being open to the possibility, first of parallel worlds and then belief in the possibility of human reincarnation in them. Eventually, then, you will also see.
He stopped walking, looked strangely at me, then embraced me and said he must go, that he was leaving early in the morning for Mendoza and would be away for some time. He turned and walked quickly away. I felt like running after him, asking how to contact him, where his groups were located. But I thought of all that afterwards, when it was too late. Although I continued patronizing the vegetarian restaurant on Maipú Street, he never came again.
I haven't seen yet, but I have at least learned to believe in the possibility.