6.5 Interpreting Inter-life

(Story begins here)“Souls are androgynous? But I thought divine female and male were fundamental concepts running through creation at all levels?” Pherecydes considered this impressive question.

“Well, to be more precise, during their phase of samsara where they incarnate as physical sexual organisms, souls experience being male and female an approximately equal number of times, so they have male and female influences and components which cancel out, or which balance to put it more… positively! So maybe the nature of reality may seem a little less unfair in your eyes when considered like that? Understanding reincarnation removes a lot of… perceived injustices!”

“Perfection of the soul is a very gradual, painstaking process. Only a barely perceptible improvement is gained each lifetime.”

“So that’s why you grew interested in reincarnation?”

“I did not grow interested, I discovered the… truth of it! I was the first to teach it.”
“What about the Indian Vedas?”
“The early ones did not teach reincarnation, though they never taught against it. But in fairness, some of the early Upanishads may have taught it in my time,” conceded Pherecydes, “but it was unknown in the West.” Pete was now realising the scale of Pherecydes genius and legacy as the two men sank down back onto Earth which had now reverted to its more familiar shape.

“Did you have fun?” Baba signed with a smile as the pair landed on the beach.

“It was incredible,” breathed Pete, “so much meaning to the Greek pantheon.”

“Pherecydes added meaning to the Greek Underworld as well,” signed Baba, cleverly using both signing boards at once.

“Oh yes! So drab the misunderstanding of the underworld. Glad I did my bit to spread the much happier… truth!” said Pherecydes.

“An eternity underground was seen by the poet Homer as so depressing that he believed the most beneficial thing to happen to a mortal is to never be born or die shortly after birth,” signed Baba.

“The truth is so much more… positive!” the philosopher replied. The three men began sinking deep into the earth, first topsoil passed by, then bedrock as they accelerated downwards, eventually emerging in a stone cavern with numerous sub-terranean streams criss-crossing it.

“How far down are we?” asked Pete shakily.

“It is said that if you dropped an anvil off the earth, it would take nine days to fall down here,” said Pherecydes.

“But the earth is a sphere, surely the anvil would start slowing down and end up hovering in the middle if it had that far to free fall?”

Tartarus is just and has always been a… metaphor. That is what I am showing you.”

“A metaphor for what?”

“For this…” Pete gasped and put his back to the wall as a figure came staggering into view brandishing a kitchen knife. Dowsed in blood his face was contorted in a manic sneer.

“Why did he have to come back so early? The marriage was practically over anyway! I nearly managed to take him with me.” Clutching his stomach the man slumped down against the rough wall of the cavern.

“This is the positive afterlife?” whispered Pete, aghast.

“This is what happens after a badly lived life,” said Pherecydes staring wildly at the cave wall as if it contained the secrets of life itself, “if you live a good one, you go to the Elysian Fields, that’s the positive part of the afterlife, or as it should be known… inter-life! Like most of my work, that part got lost, but that’s where you see Lisa and the higher souls like her. Even I cannot begin to simulate in your mind what a wonderful place that truly is, hence why you see her in a mere lecture theatre, so we will have to make do with down here.” Several Greek men and women approached the slumped figure and carried him to a stone table in the centre of the cavern. They stripped him of his clothes and washed him thoroughly with brightly shining water. The man’s hideous leer faded to a neutral expression. One attendant dipped a pewter goblet in one of the streams and with a smile, offered the drink. The man gratefully sat up and drank deeply. “Lethe,” announced Pherecydes, “to make him forget his past life.”

“That seems a shame.” The philosopher shuddered.

“Not given the life that this man led. But in any case, it is a… necessity! Remember each lifetime is a lesson with a test within, you can’t sit a proper test if you have sneaked any answers into the examination room.”

“Fair enough.” The man’s cleansing continued, until his body began fading away and shrinking, until nothing but an oily liver-like organ remained on the table. Pherecydes raised his eyebrows.

“No wonder he’s down here. That looks like a young soul indeed.” An attendee consulted a vast ancient book, flicking her gaze carefully between the soul and the illustrations. Satisfied, with a fine brush, she carefully dabbed away a few drops of oil from part of the soul and put it back on the slab.

“It doesn’t look like she did much?” said Pete.

“Perfection of the soul is a very gradual, painstaking process. Only a barely perceptible improvement is gained each lifetime.”

“So now he’s trapped here forever?” asked Pete with concern, staring at the apparently discarded soul on the table.

“Patience Pete.” signed Baba. Pete squinted to see in the darkness as the spiritual master continued; “As I taught in my life, the interval between death and birth is taken up by an intense unfolding of the impressions collected. That defines whether you have a little holiday in a heaven state or a hell state. But neither lasts for long.” One of the attendees gingerly picked up the soul and placed it carefully into one of the streams. It spun around in an eddy for a while then began to float past the two visitors towards a small aperture in the wall. Pete peered after it.

“That’s odd, the stream runs through a tiny tunnel, but it looks more like living tissue than rock. You can even see a bit of light through it.”

“The fallopian tube,” said Pherecydes, “that’s what those before me didn’t realise, the afterlife is just a temporary place. To use another metaphor from your time, it is like a pit stop for a soul. Without knowing it, the man that we saw will benefit from his wickedness and be born into a happier childhood where he will be more loved, and which in turn will make him a happier, better person.” Once more the philosopher clapped a hand on the younger man. “It’s always good news, the more you learn about true reality. The ancients just saw the afterlife rivers as running into the dark realms like this. But I was glad to give them the happy news that the rivers also run out of these dark passages again, back to the true eternity, light.”

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