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Birth, Death and Rebirth

by Annamaria Hemingway


In considering the concept of a continuum of consciousness that includes an afterlife, it is important to look to ancient civilizations, who had no problem in understanding their place in the cosmos. They lived in close harmony with the rhythms of the natural world, in which all forms of animal and plant life were, as they believed, connected. Through observing natural cycles, these people were able to make sense of the mysteries of birth, death and rebirth. They understood the symbolic analogy that nature provided, which enabled them to experience and feel a cosmic, numinous, sacred higher power that guided the workings of the universe. Life was considered to be a continuum of consciousness, controlled by a form of psychic energy that manifested in symbolic metaphors. It was during this period that archetypal divinities made their presence felt in human consciousness.

Nature provided and instilled a feeling of “oneness” with an expanded form of consciousness, because the natural world constantly has the ability to renew itself, and with every death, there follows rebirth. The process symbolized the eternal life of the soul, and there were many examples. Each evening, the dying sun – often at its most luminous point – descended and set like a golden globe on the horizon. This is the place where the sky meets the earth, and a thin white line symbolizes the thinnest of veils that separates the visible from the invisible world. The moon was also constantly reborn, and renewed itself each month. The shore of the ocean was hidden and then exposed by the turn of the unceasing incoming and outgoing tides, and the barren starkness of winter gave way to the reemergence of spring and new life.

As the memories of summer begin to fade and the days become mellow, the subtle changes that are taking place in the change of season give us the opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with this ancient wisdom. Through contemplating how the once vibrant blossom and foliage has begun to wither and leaves fall gently back to the earth, we are reminded of the analogy of The Tree of Life, which provides an image of the macrocosm and the microcosm and can instill us with a magical sense of connection to the primordial origins and divine roots of human existence.

In Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl illustrated how this sacred connection could still be accessed. He related the experience of a young woman who was dying in the Nazi camps. Through the window of her hut, she could see a single branch of a chestnut tree that had two blossoms in flower, and she remarked to Frankl:

This tree here is the only friend I have in my loneliness. I often talk

to this tree…It said to me, ‘I am here – I am life, eternal life.’

In modern-day Western society, sacred communion to the natural world no longer exists, as the ability to maintain our relationship and sense of wonder with these symbolic images is no longer a part of human consciousness. We now try to control the forces of nature, and view ourselves as set apart, rather than as being a part of the teeming life force of the planet. As a result, the ability to connect with our Divine legacy has been lost, and people are unaware of and unable to recognize the archetypal images that manifest all around them.

Unfortunately, the voice of the natural world and its divinities can no longer be heard, and the Swiss Psychiatrist, C.G. Jung described people as only being able to refer to a belief, because they had lost this primordial understanding. Jung lamented that today’s people no longer experience sacred connection to the natural world, and have no understanding of the real world that is alive in rivers, oceans, mountains and nature in general. As a result, they live their lives in exile, with only unconscious stirrings to remind them of their true purpose and ultimate destiny

However, as we approach the oncoming fall and winter and the days become shorter, we have the opportunity to journey inwards and reconnect with the powerful, symbolic imagery provided by the natural world to reflect on how death in nature, symbolizes the hope of resurrection. This capacity for renewal was also illustrated through myth, for the ancient gods died during the summer solstice, as the sun descended in the west into the depths of winter and crossed the threshold into the darkness of the underworld. At the winter solstice, the gods were seen to reappear in the sky, when the returning sun commenced its journey in the south and heralded the promise and stirrings of regeneration.

Through meditating on these ancient myths and primordial images, we can recognize once more the soul in nature and remember that our own soul is merely clothed in the physical body, and emanates from the same life force that is visible everywhere in the natural world. This understanding can enable us to live life with a sense of purpose and meaning, as a celebration of our existence and help us become fully involved in the practice of conscious living and dying.

Annamaria Hemingway is a Ph.D. candidate writing her dissertation on: The Near-Death Experience: A Mythic Model for Conscious Living and Dying. She writes articles for various magazines and is the author of Practicing Conscious Living and Dying: Stories of the Eternal Continuum of Consciousness. Published by 0 Books, publication date Jan 08. Her work is focused on all aspects of conscious living and dying and she is a member of the International Association for Near-Death Studies. Website: www.annamariahemingway.com


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