As you can see, it spans 500 years. Strangely, the author (or perhaps script writer) seems to have some knowledge of the hybrid program of UFO abductions (see The Orion Messages of Stan Romanek and Extraterrestrial Cattle Mutilations - and Secret Intelligence for physical evidence of this, suppressed from the media by certain government agencies), which is implicit in the scenes from the year 2144 where the world is divided between "purebloods" and "fabricants." The fabricants are clones...and the purebloods are..well, they have black dilated pupils (for some weird stories from multiple witnesses, look up "black eyed children" on the internet).
But that is merely a side story of the movie. The main theme of the movie is this (from Wikipedia):
But that is merely a side story of the movie. The main theme of the movie is this (from Wikipedia):
The official synopsis for Cloud Atlas describes the film as: "An exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution."
In other words, it is an argument for reincarnation as being responsible for shaping our destiny before we are born. It is a more dramatic explanation of how small acts can have a ripple effect beyond our own lives. I previously discussed the concept of reincarnation in the blog post Christianity, Reincarnation and Emanuel Swedenborg. However I thought I would share some further thoughts I have had on the matter, based on some comments on that blog post.
THE ORIGIN OF THE SOUL
Emanuel Swedenborg, a scientist of the eighteenth century, spent several years on a search for the human soul. If we follow the principle of Occam's Razor, and evidence from biology, the soul originates upon conception of the human sperm with the female ovum. In certain passages Swedenborg states in his writings that the soul originates from the seed of the father. However this may have not been from revelation, but rather from the science of the day based on certain classical authors such as Aristotle and Pliny. If we look at other passages, it is quite clear that the soul originates from something prior to conception, composed of a spiritual substance that does not interact with light. Here are some passages based on one of my comments from the blog post Christianity, Reincarnation and Emanuel Swedenborg:
1. Swedenborg states that the soul does NOT originate from the seed or the ovum, but from a spiritual influx. This is in direct disagreement with the idea that the soul originates from the seed of the father, which he probable borrowed from others. I knew I read it somewhere, finally found it: "Who at this day does not believe that man springs from the seed and the ovum according to nature? and that there is in the seed from the first creation the ability of producing itself into such forms, first within the ovum, next in the womb, and afterward of itself, and that it is not the Divine which continues to produce? The cause of its being so believed is, that no one knows there is any influx from heaven, that is, through heaven from the Lord" (Heavenly Arcana, n. 4322)
2. Something spiritually prior must exist before the seed: "Unless there were such an eminent perfection in prior and simple things, neither man, nor any animal, could exist and afterward subsist from seed" (Divine Love and Wisdom, n. 204)
3. The seed is merely a receptacle of life (Divine Love and Wisdom, n. 269)
4. Seeds are impregnated with a substance of a spiritual origin (Divine Love and Wisdom, n. 310). As for the soul, we will never perhaps know of it directly, as Swedenborg said it was composed of a substance that does not interact with light (Divine Love and Wisdom, n. 432).
5. "nature contributes nothing at all to the production of plants and animals, but ...all are produced by that which flows in from the spiritual world into the natural" (Divine Love and Wisdom, n. 344). Also, the image of creation originates from the spiritual, not the natural (Divine Love and Wisdom, n. 315)
6. There is this odd passage where he says "as the soul descends the truth descends" and "that while this is being done the whole soul forms itself and clothes itself and becomes a seed" and the soul can exist in the smallest of receptacles (the seed) as much as the fullest receptacle (the body) (Angelic Wisdom concerning Marriage Love, n. 220).
7. Finally, Swedenborg mentions "a secret from heaven" concerning conception between a disunited married pair. He then repeats "the soul is procreated; but in its descent, while it is becoming seed, it is covered over by such things as are of his natural love" (Angelic Wisdom concerning Marriage Love, n. 245)
So, a more accurate picture of the origin of the soul is that a spiritual substance combines with the physical union at conception, which exists prior to conception. The seed and ovum is nothing more that a vessel for reception. So while genetically offspring will be similar, personalities in each offspring can be exceedingly different. Note that in the last passage Swedenborg indicates that a "secret of heaven" is being revealed, which may indicate something more exists to this process.
ABORTION OR ADOPTION?
Wisely consider before committing abortion. It is quite clear from what Swedenborg has said on the origin of the soul, is that it is created upon conception. One can always go for adoption. And this is not only from Swedenborg, but from other personal revelations from others, that upon conception, we are dealing with another human living being. The very act is unnatural, and the spiritual impact of committing this act is not good. For a very beautiful story about a mother being reunited with a daughter she gave up, see ‘Burger King Baby’ reunited with birth mother after nudge to search from adoptive mom.
What happens to children when they die? They all go to heaven, and they become children of the Lord, and eventually grow to become angels. It was from the children who died young that a new heaven was formed for the New Church.
ANGELS AND SPIRITS ASSIGNED AT BIRTH
Each person who is born is not an isolated individual. In order to form a complete human personality, a conjunction is formed between the spiritual world and our material form. This idea was actually common in ancient Platonic and Neoplatonic philosophy. A demon - a generic term for spirit in Greek thought - was assigned to each person at birth. This is described in the work Egyptian Mysteries by the Neoplatonic philosopher Iamblichus:
"This demon, therefore, is present as exemplar before the souls descend into the realm of generated existence. As soon as the soul chooses him for leader the demon immediately comes into charge of the completing of its vital endowments, and when it descends into the body, unites it with the body, and becomes the guardian of its common living principle. He likewise himself directs the private life of the soul, and whatever the conclusions we may arrive at by inference and reasoning, he himself imparts to us the principles. We think and do just such things as he brings to us by way of thought. He guides human beings thus continually till through the sacred theurgic discipline we shall obtain a god to be guardian and leader of the soul."In Roman times, this spirit assigned at birth was often known as one's "genius." When Christianity came along, it was generally termed as "guardian angel" and this is common to this day. In his visions it was shown to Emanuel Swedenborg that the ancient Neoplatonic philosophy was in fact correct. However, two angels an two spirits are assigned to each person at birth:
Man does not know at all that he is governed of the Lord by means of angels and spirits; and that with every man there are at least two spirits, and two angels. Through spirits communication of man with the world of spirits is effected, and through angels with heaven. Without communication through spirits with the world of spirits, and through angels with heaven, and so through heaven with the Lord, man can by no means live. His life entirely depends on that conjunction. If the spirits and angels should withdraw, he would perish in a moment. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 50)It is through this spiritual influx that each person has free will, and has to constantly decide between good and evil. For those who turn away from sin, the good angels become dominate, but for those who follow their sinful desires the evil spirits become dominate.
SHARED MEMORY BETWEEN LIVING PEOPLE AND SPIRITS
The conjunction between the spiritual world and the mind of each person is so close that when the spirits come into conjunction with a person's mind, they believe that the memory of the person they are in touch with is their own memory. There is somewhat a loss of individual identity:
The spirits who are in company with a man enter into all his memory and into all the knowledges of memory that he possesses. Thus they take upon themselves all things belonging to the man, so completely that they do not know but they are their own. This is a prerogative that spirits have above man. In consequence, all things which the man thinks they think, and all things that the man wills they will. Conversely also, whatever the spirits think the man thinks, and whatever the spirits will the man wills; for they act as one by conjunction. Yet on both sides it is supposed that all these thoughts and feelings are in and from themselves, both on the part of the spirits and on the part of man. But this is a fallacy. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 5843)
From much experience it has been given me to know that whatever the spirits think and speak from the memory of man, they suppose to be their own and in themselves. If it is told them that it is not so, they are highly indignant — such fallacy of sense reigns with them. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 5858)
Another spirit also supposed himself to be me, insomuch that he believed when he talked with me in my native language that he was speaking from his own, saying that the language was his. But it was shown that the language that belongs to spirits is entirely different, and that it is the universal language of all, and that from it ideas flowed into my native language, and thus they spoke, not from themselves, but in me; and that this is a proof that they not only come into those things which are man's, but also that they suppose them to be their own. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 6199)
This "shared memory" or "collective memory" among souls in the spiritual world is probably where Carl Jung obtained his idea of the collective unconscious. But this point is key to understanding reincarnation and the memory of past lives. Yes, it is true that we will go through the experience of multiple lives. But as a spiritual being, what is most likely is that we are only born once, created at the time of conception. The literal idea of reincarnation that we are actually born again and again is probably false - it is only an appearance of the truth, not the actual truth. And yet is is true we will experience multiple lives through shared memory. So, for that reason, I regard the spiritual philosophy behind the idea of reincarnation to be actually helpful for any spiritual development. People who have gone through past life regression under hypnosis have found it to be helpful to understanding how and why they behave the way they do. Those who have studied the phenomenon get puzzled when the chronologies overlap, but this problem disappears when one realizes that this is due to shared memory among multiple souls who have a similar personality.
AFTER DEATH, OUR PROGRESSION IS ETERNAL
The truth of the matter is that there is no death, death is merely our transition into the spiritual world without the encumberance of a physical material body. And after that, our progression towards perfection will be eternal:
The Lord out of Divine mercy regenerates man, and this is effected from his infancy even to the end of his life in the world and afterward for ever. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 9452)
...it is an arcanum [hidden secret], man's regeneration in the world is only a plane for the perfecting of his life to eternity. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 9334.3)
...one who is being born again passes through the ages of life as when first born; and that the state that precedes is always as an ovum with respect to the following one, and thus that he is continually being conceived and born; and this not only when living in the world, but also to eternity when he comes into the other life; and still he can never be perfected further than to be as an ovum to the states that still remain, which are without number. It is manifest from this how innumerable are the things relative to man's regeneration, when as yet man knows scarce any of them (Heavenly Arcana, n. 4379)So don't expect heaven to be a life of abstract consciousness or plucking a harp on a cloud. It will be a spiritual life of active usefulness towards others. Science is now discussing higher dimensions than the 3 or 4 we know, and realms without time and space, and Swedenborg saw that the spiritual world lies in a higher dimension where time and space do not exist. After we die, we will continue in a fully human spiritual body - and we will continue to be male or female as we are now, to eternity.
As each person dies and enters into heaven, heaven actually gets bigger, and more perfected, and this goes on to eternity. A child once told me she had a dream of heaven: it was blank, like a blank piece of paper. She then heard a loud voice say: MAKE THIS PLACE COLORFUL. She then rode on a horse through it, and everywhere the horse walked became a green path full of flowers. There will be no end to creativity, for it is a world where ideas become immediate realities.
EACH SOUL BELONGS TO A SPIRITUAL SOCIETY
Each individual's heaven will be different from another person's heaven. But we all belong to a particular society of heaven, and in scripture these particular societies are known as the "stars of heaven," because from afar each society appears as a glowing star.
Since there are in heaven infinite varieties, and no one society just like another, nor even one angel like another, heaven is distinguished generally, specifically, and particularly — generally into two kingdoms, specifically into three heavens, and particularly into innumerable societies. These several divisions will now be described. The general division is said to be into kingdoms, because heaven is called the kingdom of God. (Heaven and Hell, n. 20)
All who are in similar good also know one another, just as men in the world do their kinsmen, their near relations, and their friends, though they have never before seen them; for the reason that in the other life there are no other kinships, relationships, and friendships than such as are spiritual, thus such as are of love and faith. This has sometimes been given me to see, when I was in the spirit, thus withdrawn from the body, and so in company with angels. Then some of them seemed as if known from childhood, but others as if not known at all. They whom I seemed to have known from childhood, were those who were in a state similar to that of my spirit; but they who seemed unknown to me, were in dissimilar state. (Heaven and Hell, n. 46)These heavenly societies are what I call the "group soul," and one of the visions of Swedenborg confirms this:
...the Lord leads all who are in the whole heaven as if they were one angel, and in like manner those who are in each society. Hence an entire angelic society sometimes appears as a one, in the form of an angel, as I have been given by the Lord to see. And when the Lord appears in the midst of angels, He does not then appear encompassed by many, but as one, in angelic form. From this it is that the Lord in the Word is called an angel, and that an entire society is so called. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael are no other than angelic societies, so named from their functions. (Heaven and Hell, n. 52)Even when we are living, in the spiritual world our spiritual self belongs to some spiritual society, and this through the angels or spirits assigned to us at birth. Heaven is ever striving to reach perfection, and amazingly Swedenborg saw that the shape of heaven was that of the human form. Heaven is constantly striving to reach a perfect human form as a whole. Thus if a society in heaven is imperfect, or lacking, I believe that at that moment a new soul is created to fill that particular gap in heaven, which is then immediately conjoined to the embryo at conception. Thus the personality of each person is designed to be unique to fill a gap in a large and ever growing jigsaw puzzle. If a society of angels or spirits are lacking, perhaps due to a common mistake or sin they had committed in life, a person will be born who will then go through that same pattern of hardship, so they could all learn a lesson and grow from it through shared memory. And that is my spiritual interpretation of the movie Cloud Atlas. Here is a trailer for it, which at first makes it appear like a boring British movie drama (which I can assure you it is not):