In my last post I discussed Rabbi Gershom author of Beyond The Ashes: Cases Of Reincarnation From The Holocaust . Now I would in my last post reviewing the book to discuss the book itself. As the title suggests, this book is about documented cases of people believing they are reincarnated from the Holocaust-era. This is a groundbreaking book and I highly recommend it for anyone interested in reincarnation or the Holocaust. Those who are into psychology, the paranormal, and religion will also find it a worthy read.
The written style of the book is plain-spoken which adds to its appeal. My first surprise was at how many cases there are – clearly if someone could track them worldwide you’d be look at a number at least in the hundreds of thousands – and that there are a mix of cases involving Gentiles and Jews, all races, and most compelling those who have no knowledge of the Holocaust itself.
Many cases approached the Rabbi because for years they had suffered with repressed type memories and it wasn’t until they heard of the Rabbi and his work that they realized there might be an answer to what had been otherwise a problem they kept to themselves. This speaks – again – to the ever constant need in our society to explore the unknown. We have a tendency to toss people aside when they don’t fit neatly into the niches we have created for our world. Truth is very little about our existence fits into a niche and if there is one thing that quantum physics should teach us is that just about anything is possible.
Is reincarnation possible? Who can definitively say? Is it impossible? I would argue that it isn’t impossible but again that doesn’t mean it occurs. Rabbi Gershom approaches the subject from his Jewish background. Most people will be surprised to learn that reincarnation has historically almost always been an integral part of the Jewish faith. For Christians who have abandoned this possibility, it should be noted that you find Jesus making references to reincarnation in the New Testament. It would be church leaders later that ruled it out.
Reincarnation though raises one big question and it is a question that Gershom tackles head-on in this book at least to the point he can. That question is, ‘to what ends are we being reincarnated?’. What is the overall aim of it? Most scholars would say it is to learn from past mistakes or to fulfill an uncompleted task. Others would argue a karma aspect or combination of all the above. There is also the possibility that somehow there is a collective consciousness to not only our species but possibly the universe that is in play here.
For me this raises another question Gershom touches on but for obvious reasons can only go so far with in the book. If you accept the possibility that reincarnation might occur or has taken place in your life, what do you do with that knowledge? Do you dwell on a past life? Do you try to figure out what mistakes you made, or traits you are supposed to be changing, and work on them? Do you adjust your goals not to just survive this life but lay the groundwork for what is yet still another life to come?
In the last couple years I’ve probably had more encounters with people who believe in reincarnation than I have the rest of my life put together. While reading this I couldn’t help but think of the girl I was seeing just over a year ago who was basically neo-pagan but believed this was her 5th reincarnation. For whatever reason, she thought you only got 5 tries to get it right. As you can tell, I can be open-minded at times.
One of the main reasons I left her though was that she was spending this ‘last’ life doing nothing. She had a military disability pension so while not rich she was ok financially. So, she didn’t want to work. She didn’t want to accomplish anything of substance other than do a whole lot of partying. When I pressed her on her own belief system about this – how exactly this behavior was supposed to be furthering her karma – she couldn’t quite grasp why I thought it wise to spending your ‘last life’ focusing on a goal of some sort. She told me I was too goal oriented. She was right but eventually that only made it easier for me to pack my bags.
However, it goes back to my question of what do we do with the information? Gershom touches on this but obviously there is no set answer. This is an aspect we must delve into for ourselves. It seems from the cases he quoted that many people were cut off early so there were tasks left unaccomplished. Others needed to correct bad karma they had sown and Gershom does a good deal of citing examples.
One thing he also does well is bring up the fact that bad people also get reincarnated. We would naturally consider victims of the Holocaust when discussing this but Gershom also talks about those who believe they were Nazis who might be reincarnated and theorizes on how if there is reincarnation we might be facing – my term here – 2 strands of it. One of a good karma type that is working to propel our universe forward and another mired in power and materialism that is bound to holding us back. Matter vs. anti-matter. Time vs. anti-time. The age-old struggle between eternal opponents.
I can’t stress what a wonderful book this was to read. It was thought-provoking, philosophical, and when you take in consideration the personal cases of those dealing with what they believe are reincarnated lives, it is touching on many levels. I hope someone at some point picks this work back up. I hope that the exploration of the unknown continues and I really hope you find a copy of this book – either through used book sites like Abe’s Books or Gershom’s personal webstore – and give it a read. If nothing else, I promise it will expand the boundaries of your mind. In the end, isn’t that what you really want from a book anyway?