Two books, Karma, Clairvoyance, Reincarnation – II

Continued from Part I

(Please read the first part if you have not already, as there are many references to that post in this one.)

Many Mansions: The Edgar Cayce story of Reincarnation, is about Edward Cayce’s clairvoyant readings of people who consulted him for their problems. The author Gina Cerminara, a psychologist herself, explains the psychological angle of of the readings with emphasis on the theory of karma.

Cayce gave readings to people far and near, sometimes predicting future characteristics, offering vocational guidance, giving marital counselling, and also giving medical advice when asked for – all based on the temperaments, character flaws, relationships, vocational and other interests which had roots in their past lives. He acted as both physician and spiritual counsellor rolled into one.

Many Lives, Many Masters, by contrast, deals with past life regression by the concerned people themselves. Dr.Weiss has treated emotional and personality disorders which were rooted in traumatic events in the past lifetimes of one of his patients, Catherine.

In his readings, Cayce calls the soul an entity and says it has to be born again and again to balance out the shortcomings of its character. He calls it ‘soul correction’ by human beings over several lifetimes to rectify flaws in their characters and become perfect. Apparently when an entity has a number of flaws, it might need to work on them one by one in several reincarnations. These included not just flaws, but the balancing of temperament, overcoming emotions and the balancing of the predominant male or female characteristic present in all humans. This explains how some men have many feminine traits and vice versa. Even in this day and age of sexual equality, there are traits that predominantly male and female. Carl Jung built his anima-animus theory based on this.

But our ancient wisdom already knew it as the Ardhanari tattva, which is all about the balance of Shiva and Shakti – necessary for a perfect personality. Isn’t it amazing how even profound psychological concepts are wrapped in religious imagery in Hinduism?

Come to think of it, reincarnation itself is a Hindu/Buddhist concept, whereby the soul works out its karma over thousands of births and its aim is to strive for spiritual evolvement to attain oneness with God.

Little wonder then that Cayce was initially very disturbed about the readings he gave, for he was a devout Christian and the Bible didn’t have any reference to reincarnation or karma. But Lammers, who had stumbled upon Cayce’s gift of clairvoyance, allayed Cayce’s apprehensions by listing out the names of intellectuals and thinkers who subscribed to the theory of reincarnation. He also stressed that phrases like “resurrection of the dead” and “last judgement” were meant to be understood symbolically rather than literally. He no doubt was anxious to have Cayce continue with his readings!

Finally convinced that he was not acting against his religion and its teachings, Cayce took his own reading to find out how he was possessed of the powers he did and discovered that in an earlier birth he had been an Egyptian high priest and in another lifetime he had been a physician in Persia. His present life was a test for him to redeem himself from such defects like pride and materialism carried over from earlier lifetimes, by serving humanity.

Cayce had no patience for those who didn’t follow his instructions about altering their attitudes and behaviour along with the appication of the physical treatment he suggested.

“….. when the entity becomes so self-satisfied, so self-centered, as to refuse spiritual things, and does not change its attitude, so long as there is hate, malice, injustice , jealously,  so long as there is anything within at variance with patience , long suffering , brotherly love, kindness, gentleness, there cannot be a healing of condition of this body.

 What does the entity want to be healed for? That it may gratify its own physical appetites? That it may add to its own selfishness? Then, if so, it had better remain as it is.”

This is non-materialism at its best, isn’t it? Cayce spoke like a spiritual master when he was in trance, giving not just the readings but also advice with regard to life decisions.

The readings are replete with the wisdom of eastern religions, which keep cropping up repeatedly. Take for instance, the reference to ‘Akashic memory’ which Cayce is supposed to be accessing while giving his readings. Akasha, as we all know is a Sanskrit word. I wonder if the advice he gave was after all spoken or written by Hindu sages and seers up there! The terms also reminds me of the voices of the ‘masters’ that Catherine speaks of, in Many Lives Many Masters.

So space or akasha is not as empty and silent as it is supposed to be, and all the cloud computing that we have today has been in existence for aeons. Even if we don’t believe in our scriptures we can take the word of western psychologists, based on these two books, can’t we?

While I immensely enjoyed the book for its wisdom and narrative style, I was rather put off by the author’s analysis and judgmental pronouncements about Hinduism, where she makes sweeping statements, I would like to think that she does it because she needs to convince a westerner, especially the Christian westerner about the efficacy of clairvoyance in psychology, and what better way than to pull down another religion in favour of Christianity? Otherwise there is no reason for her to take up such an analysis at all in a book that deals mainly with psychology.

In order to strengthen her case, she tries to find and analyse passages from the Bible which might obliquely refer to reincarnation and karma. She reminds the readers that ‘the original records of his teachings have undergone many changes through the centuries…….’ She then quotes from Mathew 17:12-13, where Christ told his disciples ‘Elias is come already….’ while telling his disciples that John the Baptist was the reincarnation of Elias without actually using the term.

Now listen to what she has to say about Hindus and Hinduism with regard to karma.

Unfortunately karma has become associated in the minds of many with passivity, lethargy, and fatalism. This is largely because the people of India, where the belief in karma is almost universal, appear for the most part to be passive, lethargic and fatalistic.

Oh really? If this were true, those of us who believe in karma would not be working, or striving to improve our own lives and those of others while lolling around! It is her above conclusion that makes her say in another chapter how Indians lack compassion and empathy toward those suffering from disabilities. According to her, they shrug it off as the sufferer’s karma!

The masses of people of India have decided the question in favour of non-interference with justice. It is this which accounts in large part for the seeming indifference with which Indians regard the afflicted and the exclusiveness with which they treat their outcasts.

And of course, the caste system has to be flogged as the single most important concept of Hinduism, one that has supposedly made Hindus insensitive and callous. What is more, it is supposed to have turned Hinduism into a rigid dogma! ‘‘The teaching (of Manu) became a social custom; the custom crystallised into a social order. Tradition and superstition – rife among a population almost 90% illiterate – conspired to make the crystallization hidebound and rigid.

Contrary to her conclusion that one is indifferent to sufferings of another, we are taught that bad karma has resulted in someone’s misfortune and that he or she has already paid the price for it. Therefore it is important to be compassionate towards them and thereby increasing our own spirituality. At least this is how the ‘illiterate’ and ‘superstitious’ Indian masses are taught compassion for fellow beings! If I have to list the things they do to serve others it would need another post.

Why does the term karma only conjure up images of past life and reincarnation? Or for that matter passivity and fatalism and everything negative? Isn’t karma supposed to mean ‘action’? It is such a dynamic term, if you ask me. When we say our karmas comes back to us, we are just reiterating that what goes round comes round.

For me, karma makes perfect sense – whether as a path of life or yoga, whether as a cause and effect theory, or as a reminder to strive for oneness with God. I also like that it holds the individual responsible for his or her actions – present and past — and therefore has the power to determine their circumstances in life. And above all, it adequately explains the inequalities and suffering in the lives of human beings, unlike Abrahamic religions which lay the onus on God for creating unequal beings so that they ‘will reach out for Him, no matter what their circumstance.’ It somehow makes God’s creation seem arbitrary and whimsical.

And for those amongst us who would rather look to the west to endorse our ancient wisdom, the following quotes might help.

Says Cerminara:

“Karma is a precise law, to be sure, but its purpose is to give the soul and opportunity to bring itself back into alignment with the cosmic truth of beings.”

 “If one realises the true intention of karma as being educative or justifying…..one realises also that its penalties are not arbitrary or inexorable.”

And then there is Aldous Huxley who says:

“….in whatever circumstances in which he finds himself, a human being always has omissions to make good, commissions whose effects must if possible be neutralised. …..it is well even for the most brutally sinned against to be reminded of their own shortcomings.”

But Cayce has the final word: “….For the mind and soul are from the beginning.”

Rounding up the post, it is a moot point whether past life regression is an effective tool for treatment in psychiatry, because it can be tricky and can have detrimental, even disastrous outcomes. With clairvoyance, though this danger is minimized as the patient does not regress into the past, but a third party does it on his behalf.

Perhaps this is what made Cerminara root for clairvoyance as a tool for psychiatric treatment. Whether one can find genuine clairvoyants to be part of clinical therapy is another big question, for it is clear from the Cayce readings that spirituality has to be an integral part of the whole exercise. Our rishis had divya drishti (clairvoyance), acquired through severe austerities, tremendous mind control and spiritual energy. How far modern day clairvoyants working under lab conditions can produce readings like our rishis and or even Cayce, for that matter — for them to be an effective in treatment is a question well worth pondering.

My interest in the book was solely because it dealt with concepts I have grown up with and also because the cases are well analysed by Cerminara to give a psychological angle to a spiritual subject. I was also fascinated to see how modern psychology has drawn so much from eastern religions, and wisdom. So what if they have given scientific names to the spiritual concepts?

Do read this book if you can lay your hands on it. If you liked Many Lives…..you will be blown away by this one.

(As I had clarified in the previous post, I am not an authority on either religion or psychology. Whatever I have shared is my reaction to both the books based on personal experiences and thoughts).

Homepage image courtesy: quotesgram.com

7 comments

  1. […] Sometimes too, there are no visible physical or psychological cause for a physical ailment or pattern of behaviour – at least in the present life. Dr. Brian Weiss in his book Many Lives Many Masters has recounted his sessions with one of his patients whom he helped get rid of painful memories carried over from not just one, but several lifetimes spread over millennia by using a method called ‘regression’. That memories get carried over lifetimes is also reiterated in the book Many Mansions: The Edgar Cayce story of Reincarnation by Gina Cerminara who has studies thousands of recorded cases of reincarnation stories. You can read the posts on these two books here and here. […]

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  2. Each one interprets as per his understanding and finds facts to support their version. Ancient civilisations like the Chinese, Indian, Greek etc are replete with examples and stories how man and woman complement each other. Facts are distorted by those in power from time to time to perpetuate what they feel is right.

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    1. You are right about facts scriptures distorted by those in power to suit their purposes. But when the powers are foreign, there is the added danger of subverting a civilization itself! That is what is happening now, despite our having got freedom from foreign rule nearly seven decades ago!

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  3. You have said it, Zephyr! There are many in the West’s intellectual classes who still carry the white man’s/woman’s burden. For them, while Christian teachings have gone through many revisions over time, Hindu teachings have been stuck in time, since Manu. And not to mention, most of these people generally have no clue about something as basic in Hinduism as the difference between Sruti and Smriti, or any other thing related to Indian spiritual philosophy.

    But why blame only the West. We have plenty of ignorance going around amongst our own. Peddling all kinds of mumbo-jumbo about caste, curry and cows (the three C’s of the oriental/colonialist view of India, that Rajiv Malhotra speaks of – the three C’s often used to run down everything Indian/Hindu). They will not bother to find out on their own what Karma means or what is the philosophical explanation for rebirth or the sociological underpinning of something like jati-varna. They will go on repeating nonsensically the same ignorant and prejudiced stuff about caste, karma as fatalism, etc. Interestingly, they have no problem quoting the modern spiritual masters from the West, especially those who borrow wholesale ideas and concepts from Hindu and Buddhist sources and conveniently remove all traces of the origin of those ideas and sell them as their own. So many modern thinkers of the West have built huge careers on this ‘borrowing’ from Indic/dharmic sources.

    As far as I understand some of the basics of Hinduism, it is actually not a religion in the sense Christianity or Islam is a religion. There is no dogmatic belief system of any kind, the emphasis is on doing, practicing. There is no saviour, no final salvation, every soul is on its own unique path to liberation. All that sounds very psychological, doesn’t it? Yoga is actually all about psychology. Karma yoga, Jnana yoga, bhakti yoga, everything is rooted in deep understanding of human psychology, covering ranges of consciousness from inconscient/subconscient to supraconscient. How could yoga as a science, as a discipline have developed if there were no strong foundation of spiritual psychology to begin with? The whole Vedic yagna can also be seen from a deeper psychological viewpoint. All vedic deities are psychological powers that we can develop within/invoke within through sadhana. What better example of India’s deepest understanding of deep human psychology is there than our very own Bhagavat Gita?

    But because we are not told all this about our great traditions, our great texts and scriptures, we wallow in the muck of ignorance and look up to the West for everything. Even for affirmation of our own spiritual philosophy! What a tragedy!

    O boy, I am going on and on, and it is becoming a post in itself. So I must stop here. But thank you for writing this wonderful post. And for sharing your ‘reading’ of these two books.

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    1. Spiritual psychology sums it up perfectly. Thank you for the detailed explanation of the basics of Hinduism. But who wants to understand the deeper meaning, when the three Cs are there for popular consumption, with the addition of a B(eef)?

      I had read the book mainly to see how the western mind has interpreted the karma theory. For me, that is the one point explanation for the inequalities and sufferings in the world. Perhaps it had to do with growing up listening to my father reiterate the cause and effect of karma. One thing is very clear, though. We need more Indian scholars to demystify a simple dharma like ours, which had ironically gone from being a simple faith woven into our everyday lives to being demonised as a harsh, discriminatory and callous paganism, thanks to convenient interpretations by westeners to make their points and for colonial masters for their political purposes.

      There needs to be a reawakening and rejuvenation of this great dharma – whether through intellectual discourse, bhakti yoga or whatever other method that takes to bring this about. Thanks for adding your wisdom to the post through this comment, Beloo!

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  4. Yeah – I truly love it when half-baked western opinions are spoken of Hindu philosophy; makes me feel we did not create this ‘Have opinion; will speak; even if we have neither the brains nor the knowledge’ only after the advent of social media 🙂 As much, indeed,as I love the fact that it requires western endorsement to make Indian philosophical thought acceptable.

    That is not to denigrate those of the west who have been open-minded enough to assess and understand philosophical thoughts that are ‘Not Invented Here’ for them. AND those who have the honesty to say where it comes from instead of delving into the crevices of their own texts to see if it can be sourced from there by some means 🙂

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    1. Loved the ‘crevices of their own texts’ part 🙂 There indeed are many many scholars in the West who have more knowledge than many here, and who as you say don’t shy away from acknowledging the source of their wisdom. I read somewhere that it is about time for Indian institutions and business houses to fund studies by Indian scholars of our ancient texts. The Source by James Michener, which is about the history of Judaism, has this reference to Deuteronomy, which has been interpreted by Christians over the centuries to mean very different things the original meaning lost in translation. The Israeli asks his American friend to read it in Hebrew to know how different it is! So unless we have unbiased scholars translating and interpreting our texts, we will have to make do with such translations and even applaud them!!

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