Chapter 5: Compassion, Forgiveness, and the Journey of the Soul
The concepts in this chapter may contradict much of what you have understood to be true about life and death as it discusses reincarnation. If you find yourself resisting, I invite you to ask “What if it’s true?” rather than dismissing what you read. If you suspend disbelief for a time, you may find that you are expanded and uplifted by the beauty and the possibilities of these discoveries.
The concept of reincarnation is not new. Diverse cultures have understood for thousands of years that we are a combination of an immortal soul and a mortal human body. Even in modern Western society, there is extensive anecdotal evidence for reincarnation.
This chapter presents potent support for the idea that we are both soul and human being. It discusses the work of a hypnotherapist who developed a process for guiding his clients to the realm to which our souls return after physical death. From the accounts of thousands of clients, he created a coherent model of what happens in that realm.
Linked to the journeys of our souls is the concept that not all conceptions result in perfect babies, and there is a great need for compassion and forgiveness.
The Journey of Our Souls
This section provides the needed context for understanding how fragile human life is in the beginning. Dr. Michael Newton began his career as a conventional hypnotherapist, if there is such a thing. Early in his practice he encountered two unusual clients. Their experiences while in hypnosis compelled him to expand his practice beyond the boundaries of a single lifetime.
The first client had a pain in his side that he couldn’t heal until he went into a past life. The second client took Dr. Newton into a completely new area, an area which has traditionally been the domain of mystics and ancient spiritual traditions. It is the place of life between lives, where our human souls originate, and where we return to continue our learning between incarnations.
Over the next thirty years, Dr. Newton developed and applied a process which involved regressing the client into a past life. He would then guide the client through the last moments of that life, when the soul separates from the dying body and returns home.
In his first book, Journey of Souls, he presents a model of a typical time in the soul realm between incarnations. This model is based on the descriptions of more than 7,000 clients while they were in a deep trance.
The first time I made this journey I was guided by a hypnotherapist trained at the Newton Institute. Since then, I have made the journey on my own a number of times. I use a combination of the techniques from the Newton Institute and what I have learned and applied on my own spiritual path.
The most profound aspect of every one of these journeys is that in that realm an inexpressibly beautiful and powerful love infuses every moment and every interaction. There is humor, even teasing, and directness combined with profound patience and understanding, but malice, power over another, and other negative or hurtful motivations and emotions are absent.
My first guided meditation to the realm of souls began with hypnotic regression to my most immediate past life. Then I moved through the death experience of that life and into the realm of souls. I was surprised by how easy the transition was, even though the death was violent. Toward the end of the three-hour session, I went to the place where I made plans for my incarnation in this current lifetime. I was attended by my guide, an advanced soul who has been with me from my beginning. In that place I experienced again the process of deciding on various aspects of this current life.
The greatest gift of that first journey was that I discovered my purposes in this lifetime, both as a soul and as a human being.
I also re-experienced preparing for my current life in cooperation with the souls who are now incarnated with me. During loving and patient discussions those other souls and I had with our guides, we designed the relationships and circumstances that would help us learn the lessons to which we had committed ourselves.
We all felt excitement and anticipation. We also knew that this was a time of serious consideration of our purposes for this incarnation. Together, we designed the family constellation into which we would be born, agreeing with each other on the major relationships we would experience and planning the general course of our lives. We decided what bodies we would inhabit (I chose my current one from among three).
In many cases, the souls with whom we incarnate in a family or in close friendships are members of our Soul Group, twelve to twenty souls who were created together. We know them well and have most likely incarnated with them many times before. (Have you ever had the feeling that you lived with someone in another life? There’s good reason for that feeling: you did!) We work in partnership with them from one lifetime to another to determine who will be parents or children, and who will be siblings, other relatives, friends, and partners, and who may not be in that lifetime at all (as sometimes souls agree not to meet in that lifetime).
Does this sound too deterministic, too much like the plan? There is a plan, certainly; we created it ourselves before we came into our human body. Yet it is important to recognize that within the plans our souls made for this lifetime, we still possess free will. There are several stories in Dr. Newton’s books from souls whose planned lives were altered in large or small ways by their (sometimes impulsive) exercise of free will during an incarnation. Sometimes the consequences were beneficial, and at other times they completely thwarted the plans those souls had made before they incarnated.
If you find resistance in yourself to the idea that you chose your family and your circumstances, you’re in good company. When I first encountered this idea, I found it offensive. For years I refused to consider that it might be true. I didn’t care for the situation and events of my childhood, and often felt that I should have had more compatible family members and companions. It was only when I made the journey into the place of life between lives that I saw my life in a much bigger context. I came to understand that the lessons I came here to learn are more important to the growth of my soul than I could comprehend from a human point of view.
Consider this analogy: Have you ever attended a weekend event or workshop that you knew would be difficult? It may have been challenging physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, or all these, but even with this foreknowledge you went, and you went willingly, because you knew from previous experience that you would learn and grow. From the point of view of the soul, a full human lifetime is like one of those weekends. You take on hardships to gain the benefits.
If you were born into a family or circumstances that were not pleasant, I invite you to examine the possibility that you chose that journey. You, as a soul, took on the challenge because it would assist you in your development. Many of Dr. Newton’s clients, speaking from the realm of souls, told of previous lifetimes where they inflicted pain on other people. They then described how they decided to take on similar pain in this lifetime for their own growth and karmic resolution. Others told of receiving pain in one lifetime, then taking on the role of an abuser in a later life so they could understand the pain that drove the abuse. Through this experience, their soul was able to learn compassion for abusers.
I invite you to recognize that the souls that are in your children came together with your soul before you came into this life. You chose them to be your children, and they chose you to be their parents.
With this understanding, no parent and no child can possibly be unwanted.
This does not mean that the journey is easy. In fact, almost all lifetimes have difficulty in them (almost all—sometimes souls choose what is called a “reward life” after they have experienced a number of tough ones). We accept challenges because our souls know that there is a higher purpose in the hardship, pain, trauma, joy, love, and beauty in our lives on this planet. Souls also know that when they return home, there will be rejuvenation, acknowledgment, celebration, and limitless love for them there.
Incomplete Pregnancies and Perfectly Imperfect Babies
We live in a world where we are taught and even expected, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, to blame ourselves when we are not perfect. With something as complex and uncertain as parenthood, it is easy to feel guilt or shame if we do not produce perfect children every time. What we actually need is compassion for all mothers, forgiveness for ourselves, and forgiveness for others. We also need the presence of human community to help us with the pain of what we perceive as loss.
We are far from perfect. In fact, more than two thirds of babies do not become healthy adults. Those of us who have attained healthy maturity are walking marvels!
In prenatal development, there are two situations that are potential sources of grief: incomplete pregnancies and the birth of a baby that is imperfect from the human point of view.
One of the first responsibilities of the mother’s body is to determine whether a fertilized egg is capable of becoming a healthy baby. On physical and spiritual levels she must watch over that tiny being for the first several months after conception. If the time is not right, her body will end the pregnancy.
This happens much more than you might suppose. A review of research in the US concluded that “Based on the current evidence, if you factor in fertilized eggs that fail to implant along with pregnancies that end in miscarriage, around 70% to 75% of all conceptions will end in pregnancy loss.”
Premature births are another part of the picture. In 2016, about 10 percent of babies (400,000 in the United States) were born prematurely (before 37 weeks or 8.6 months). Many of these babies do not survive the first day; others die within the first year, are disabled to some degree, or require long-term support.
What about the perfectly imperfect ones? In the US each year, approximately 3 percent of babies are born with what are called “birth defects.” In actual numbers, that is about 120,000 babies per year. In the UK, a government publication stated in 2018 that “Significant congenital anomalies affect between 2% and 3% of all births.” The March of Dimes organization stated in 2006 that “Every year, an estimated 7.9 million children—6 percent of total births worldwide—are born with a serious birth defect of genetic or partially genetic origin. . . . Hundreds of thousands more are born with serious birth defects of post-conception origin.”
I place quotation marks around the term “birth defects” because this experience takes on a transcendent meaning when we remember that the souls of the parents and the soul of a less-than-perfect baby have mutually chosen to have this experience for their own growth. There is nothing defective and much that is awe-inspiring about that.
Souls and Temporary Lives
Dr. Newton discovered that a soul will not merge with a human body before thirteen weeks after conception. The neurological development of the fetus is not sufficiently advanced. A soul may visit its human partner for “get acquainted” visits, but most souls do not fully enter into the relationship until the fetus is about twenty-one weeks old.
Dr. Newton spoke with many souls who partnered with babies who died before, at, or soon after birth. He found that the soul knows beforehand that the baby will not live. This is in accordance with the plan created in the realm of souls. In these cases, the soul often returns (also as planned) to join with the next baby conceived by those same parents.
Many of the souls who join with babies who will die young or be disabled are souls who have incarnated many times. They have progressed in their evolution to a point where they no longer need to incarnate. They have learned the lessons that having a body offers. Nevertheless, they take on this role willingly. They choose to be in a disabled body or mind, knowing beforehand the pain that both they and their families will endure. They make this choice from love, knowing that a less mature and less capable soul might be overwhelmed by the stresses of a short or difficult life.
Sometimes parents are aware that the body of their child with a disability is an ancient soul. I have a son who has lived beyond any expectations identified for him by his doctors. He has been epileptic since he was very young and has been wheelchair-bound for more than twenty years. Yet I know that his soul is very old, and I have met other parents who recognize ancient souls in their own disabled children. More of his story and my learning with him is found in appendix 4.
Published August 17 2021