Q: May I ask you a question regarding rebirth? Does it always follow the principle of evolution and if so how does that work?
The entire purpose of our entering into relative existence is for us to evolve to the point where our consciousness is so expanded that we can awaken into divine consciousness as perfect reflections of God and participate in his infinite consciousness. (This is considered at length in my book Robe of Light. [also available in print and as an ebook here])
This does not mean however, that we always progress from life to life. It is possible for us to regress when we have lived a life unwisely, even negatively. And with many people the progress is often negligible or not at all.
When a person dedicates himself to authentic religion much more progress is made, and when yoga enters the picture and is maintained steadily, then as Yogananda says, it is the beginning of the end.
Q: Will a lifetime of “spiritual” growth be evident in the next rebirth, a sort of mathematically correct cause and effect so that the character and circumstances of the next life will be more favorable?
This is definitely so.
“No one who does good goes to misfortune. Attaining the worlds of the meritorious, having dwelt there for countless years, he who has fallen from yoga is reborn in a happy and illustrious family. Or else he may be born into a family of wise yogis.
Truly, a birth such as that is more difficult to obtain in this world. There he regains the knowledge he acquired in his former incarnation, and strives from thence once more toward perfection. Truly, without his willing it his previous practice impels him on the yogic path.
He who just desires to know about yoga goes beyond the Vedas. By persevering effort and mastery, the totally purified yogi, perfected through many births, reaches the Supreme Goal” (Bhagavad Gita 6:40-45).
Q: Or can a rebirth possibly take place after a lifetime of “spiritual” growth to bestow the next lifetime with positive attributes to address a seemingly hard life of clearing negative karma accrued from previous existences?
This, too, is so. We judge a good or bad birth according to our egoic, pain-avoiding mind. We think a pleasant incarnation is good, when it may really be stagnation brought about by negative karma. It is the same with a painful incarnation. We may think it is unfortunate, but it may be, as you say, a clearing of much negative karma.
Q: So that although evolution is continuing, it’s outer expression is complex as it seeks to integrate the whole flow of reincarnation.
Indeed so. In fact, it is so complex that we can only understand a bit of the whole picture. Also, we romanticize karma, making it dramatic and therefore somehow even glamorous.
For example, if we get in a serious auto accident we might want to think it is reaction from some intense incident in a previous life, but it may just be because we were too stupid to pay attention to a garageman who told us that our tires were so worn they would give out or skid in wet weather.
A lot of karma is just a result of wrong judgment in this life–perhaps only a matter of minutes, days or weeks previously.
The final word on reincarnation is that of Padre Pio: “The only thing that matters is this: Are you seeking God now?”
- Karma and Reincarnation: Fundamental Spiritual Laws
- Reincarnation: Its Causes and Consequences | Podcast
- Necessity for Reincarnation—by Annie Besant