Let us imagine a pool, located underground, in a cave, let us say, where there is no wind. Suppose crumpled pieces of paper are periodically dropped into the pool from above. They are coated with citric acid and baking soda, the stuff that makes alka-selter fizz. When they’re dropped in, they send ripples expanding outwards toward the edges of the pool, where they hit and then get reflected back inward. The water works its way into the folds and triggers the fizzing, which sends the paper ball drifting this way and that as the coating reacts with it. This generates more ripples.
Eventually all of the coating has fizzed away, the paper becomes fully waterlogged, and it sinks down to the bottom. It no longer generates ripples, but the ripples it caused before affected other pieces of paper that are still floating, and thus the ripples they in turn generate as time goes on are therefore indirectly affected by floating existence of this piece of paper.
Now the paper represents a human being, and the time it was floating the span of their life. But I use this analogy to focus on another aspect of the life, which is the ripples. Imagine ALL of the ripples a paper generates in all the time before it sinks, and the evolution of these ripples over time: spreading out, reflecting off the walls, and coming back, interfering with each other and so on. Let us call this sum total of ripples over time a “Pattern”, capitalized to distinguish it from a momentary pattern visible in the pool at any one time. This latter, momentary pattern results not just from the single crumpled paper, but from the interactions of all its papers in the pool. But a Pattern is the contribution of just one of the papers to that whole, stretching over the entire time it floats on the surface. And analogously we have a Life – not just the time a person was alive or the things they did during that time, but all of the effects that this living and doing had on the entire world over that whole time.
Now we can obviously see that this Life has its existence extending far beyond the life that gave rise to it, perhaps indefinitely. But what are we talking about here: a Life, like a Pattern, some set of objective events taking place in the world. Activity in the human brain as well is made up of patterns. Patterns of electrico-chemical impulses flitting back and forth, physical events.
We do not know the nature of the relation between these electrico-chemical patterns and the awareness they are associated with. But for the purposes of this analogy we do not need to — it is enough to know that the patterns and the awareness are in some way codependent — when one stops, the other is invariably stopped as well, and it must surely be that their operation is equally bound together. And so then we ask, what of these Patterns we discussed, and ultimately of Lives? Could there be some manner of awareness associated with them?
We are going to examine this question, but to continue following this main line of thought for now, we are going to assume that yes, there is some kind of Awareness associated with a Life, that just as the interplay of inputs, patterns, and countercurrents within a brain “generates” (or, at least, is codependent with) awareness, the interplay of interactions making up a Life and its interaction with other Life generate Awareness. We can only understand a little of the nature of this Awareness, since our own time- and space-localized awareness makes up only the smallest fraction of it. It is in some ways as if our individual cells were attempting to know something, through their highly sensitive but localized chemical perceptions of their environment, of our mental experience.
But we can understand some basics that are in common with both cells and minds — that while the Life is a constant thing by its definition as the sum total of the effects of a person’s life, this is essentially its “birth”, and after that, its nature unfolds over time as it interacts with other Lives and with the physical world (filtered through its affect on the lives of the humans making up the matrix of its existence). It is a realm of existence, therefore, with interactions and a “physical” universe that likely have very different qualities than our own.
But in this realm we can speak of some constant that goes beyond our own individual life. And perhaps there is some way to have a connection, a link between life and Life, and it may be that it is at the time of death that this connection is most closely established. Death, the ending of an awareness, but the completion of the birth of an Awareness. And, if this, could it not be that when a new life is born, for some reason, some chance intersection of coincidences and synergies, that it becomes in some way associated with a pre-existing Life? Far-fetched to be sure. But it is one way to fathom these mysterious ideas of an eternal soul and reincarnation using only (at least a pretense to) objective logic and not metaphysical assumptions or intuitive faith.