Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Pre-mortal life

From The Salutation by Thomas Traherne

These little limbs,
These eyes and hands which here I find,
These rosy cheeks wherewith my life begins,
Where have ye been? behind
What curtain were ye from me hid so long?
Where was, in what abyss, my speaking tongue?

When silent I
So many thousand, thousand years
Beneath the dust did in a chaos lie,
How could I smiles or tears,
Or lips or hands or eyes or ears perceive?
Welcome ye treasures which I now receive.

(Read the whole thing)

It seems to be characteristic of Romantic Christians that they - we, including myself - have a belief in having lived before this mortal life.

Often this takes the form of some version of reincarnation - which seems to be a basic, default belief among tribal people, and many Eastern religions. But the key things seems to be not reincarnation, but the direct, intuitive conviction of having lived before this mortal life; of having lived as a spirit, before being incarnated.

In the poem above Traherne describes (or imagines) the memory of being incarnated; and many people - perhaps all Romantic Christians - have some such memory, although they may be unsure of its validity.

William Blake explicitly believed in a pre-mortal existence; Wordsworth described it in glorious detail in his Intimations of Immortality; Coleridge in a poem to his son. But of these, Coleridge seemed especially uncomfortable about his statements - and rejected the  reality of pre-mortal life; and Wordsworth became similarly negative about in his later life - because it conflicts with the metaphysical assumptions of traditional Christianity.

(The reality of pre-mortal spirit life is, however, consistent-with the Fourth Gospel - being specifically asserted for Jesus; and indirectly in the discussions of the Baptist's identity, and at John 9:2.) 

I have come to recognise that a belief in my pre-mortal existence is more powerful and more causally-important for me than a belief in post-mortal Life Eternal.

This is so, because the pre-mortal implies the post-mortal; and the pre-mortal is more sure.

Memory of my pre-mortal life, albeit dreamlike and hazy, is a direct and personal experience. And since I also believe that pre-mortal life had no beginning, but was from eternity; then this implies to me that post-mortal life is also eternal.

Since I have lived from eternity, then I expect that I shall live - in some form - to eternity; since I was transformed (not created) at birth, then I expect to be transformed (not annihilated) at death. 

By contrast, post-mortal life eternal (after biological death) can, for me at least, only be known indirectly*.

*Those who know post-mortal life directly are (I guess) those who (potentially) believe in reincarnation; but I do not have such memories or intuitions.