The Higher Self- Modern Christianity does not teach reincarnation. However, once you realize reincarnation is true, it's easy to stop there and miss out on other very important truth.
Truth 1) You are eternal and your "awareness" can not die.
Truth 2) You are composed of spirit and soul.
Truth 3) You are not a human body, You are currently, temporarily, using your body as a vehicle to get your consciousness into the third dimension.
You have a higher-self. New Age understanding of reincarnation presents us as blobs of Spirit moving from body to body and our discarnate existence is either presented as negligible or as some intense experience in heaven or hell. Actually, you are not a human having a spiritual experience, You are a spirit having a human experience. ~Wayne Dyer. Your higher-self is your true self and this body you are experiencing is closer to an avatar or computer generated character that who you really are is using to experience a cleverly crafted illusion for you to enjoy and learn from.
So all those "knowings" you have. They come from your higher-self.
Your higher-self and my higher-self are the same like two branches of a tree are part of the same organism. But my branch may have a squirrel on it and your branch will have a bird singing on it. The purpose for having branches of consciousness having different experiences is so that the supreme source can experience itself in its glory. Without the illusion of separateness, The Supreme higher-self would be extremely limited in where, what and how it experienced the realms of creation. A good example is your own dreams. Every character in your dream is you and are created by your consciousness. But without the illusion in the dream of various people populating the situation your sub-conscious has created for your dream, you would have a lonely experience and it would be limited in its scope and capability. Another example would be a planet with one trillion trees on it. If it was your job to experience the trees of the world as a monkey, it would be impossible to experience them all before the majority of the trees died. However, if you were able to clone your consciousness into a trillion monkeys and each monkey explored and experienced a separate tree, then the job of experiencing them all would be simple. After the project was over, you simply merge all of the monkeys experiences into a single data file and the supreme self could process the trillion tree realm at its leisure. This is why you and I, while part of the same field of consciousness, are essentially the same, yet we have separate experiences and incarnations. At some time in the distant futures all of my experiences and your experiences will return to source and I can review your lives and you can review my lives, But currently, our fragments of consciousness are only able to access the memories our "individual" higher-selves and not until we merge with source will we have access to the other fragments of consciousness.
The hidden secret of consciousness
When you combine two concepts of truth you discover how you are fooled. The first truth is that you are not a body, or thoughts or emotions, you are a soul that has a body for the purpose of experiencing thoughts and emotions.
The second truth is that all energy has a positive and negative component. Masculine and feminine. So the energy that makes up your soul has a dual nature. The ones the ancient mystics taught were masculine and feminine.
Your higher self is actually composed of a dual nature, This is soul and spirit. Another way to explain the dual nature of all energy is the concepts of positive and negative. But an even better word phrase is passive and active.
The discovery of the probability nature of quantum mechanics has allowed science to shine a light on the nature of passive energy. It is composed of infinite probability without any preference or bias. All possibilities are not prejudged or screened. Quantum mechanics has shined the light on the nature of awareness and its role in reality. Nothing manifest from the probability field without being observed. awareness is what is known as active energy. This also known as GOD the Father.
To discuss this in ancient concepts, active energy is male and passive energy is female. So the higher self is composed of soul which is feminine and spirit which is active. Your awareness is composed of passive and active forces. The feminine is like the squirrel watching a robbery. It sees everything and yet understands none of what it observes. The masculine is the active spirit manifesting reality via positive awareness.
Since all awareness is passive and active in the infinite, just a teeny tiny portion of active awareness activates a huge field of passive awareness. So if the awareness of the asleep is like a grain of sand and the awareness of the enlightened is like a grape, you can begin to understand the illusion of awareness and ego.
Even though the grape is orders of magnitude larger than a grain of sand, this creates the illusion your enlightenment is enormous compared to the unenlightened, unless you understand your ultimate goal is to have an awareness that is orders of magnitude of the universe compared to a grape.
Your Higher-Self is the part of GOD that is dedicated to you and its origin is from the transcendent eternal uncreated realm. Your higher self is to GOD what your physical self is to your Higher-Self.
You are a semi-autonomous bio-computer that can run independent of the higher-self... Most people have higher selves that are only able to watch, they can't be guided by their higher-self. The physical body is like a Sim-City character and all they do is watch and listen through the eyes and ears of their physical incarnations. Advanced Souls have the ability to connect to their physical selves. Depending on what the physical self is ready to be exposed to, the higher-self will appear as a religious figure like Jesus/ Mother Mary / Krishna or Buddha or a Guardian Angel or strong guiding thoughts that are obviously not generated by the person's brain.. . In my case I have been coached by mine since I was 4 years old. Everything he/she has ever told me has proven to be true even if it takes decades to get the proof. BTW the higher self is not a male or a female and it exists in a state of transcendence and is not bound by time and space. ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS YOU CAN EVER LEARN IS THAT YOU HAVE A HIGHER-SELF. For thousands of years, this knowledge has been hidden from you. The ones who have known about the higher-self have been running the world behind the scenes and are known as the elite. The ones who will pick up the pieces when their world order is destroyed are known as the elect. We will not help destroy the world order but we will inherit the Earth that is left behind. Jesus said, "The meek will inherit the Earth." This is exactly what he was talking about.
I have a "picture in my mind" of who I am and my speculation on how it works is like this.
Using the computer as an allegory or metaphor, Let's pretend I have a digital character in an immersive virtual reality world. When I want to I can don goggles and a pair of head phones and have what my character sees and hear in the fake 3D digital world so vividly it creates the illusion I am there. Let's pretend I have two set of gloves that allow me to do certain physical actions with just a few flicks of my fingers. But to give me even more control over my virtual body, I have shaved my head and a cranial cap made of highly sensitive electrodes fits tightly over my head that essentially reads my thoughts.
Let me take a break from my pretending to share actual data I saw on the Discovery Channel or National Geographic. They were interviewing a man who was an expert at running remote control submersible drones for working under the water. He wore goggles to give him a 3D panoramic view. An underwater cameras with binocular feeds to the left and right eye makes it easier to see perspective for detailed work. A flat screen is a 2 Dimensional picture and when dealing with million dollar oil equipment and possible explosion or toxic leaks, you want as much control as possible. One of the interesting facts revealed in the interview was how they became so immersed in their work, they BECAME the underwater robot. And if they worked a double shift, it was hard to adjust right away to being human, it was easier to sleep and go back to work. In their mind, they essentially became the robot while connected to the remote submersible. They felt as if the remote arms and hands of the under water robot was who they are.
Well, it takes no stretch of imagination to see how the same thing could happen in a digital virtual world if we see it occurring in remote controlled submersibles.
The time it takes to become so proficient at controlling that robot you become one with it probably has a learning curve. Back to my digital self inside the virtual world. Lets assume that the learning process of controlling a virtual self also has a learning curve. Lets also pretend that this virtual character is so important that when I can't actually run it or I haven't yet learned how, it has a set of programs that run it for me. Now lets assume that I need to take regular breaks from my character and the easiest and safest way for him or her be disconnected from me is while the character sleeps. During this time I can do stuff I need to do in the physical world, which after all makes it possible for me to have this permanent virtual character to play with.
My personal experience feels very similar to this. Some of my most intense mystic experiences have been while dreaming. Some have occurred while meditating.
So to answer your question 'So who was running your body when you weren't "in it". Was it "alive"?' I have a speculation I will share.
I don't run my body, it's on automatic. I don't beat my heart with my conscious mind. I don't have to remind my mouth to salivate when I chew. Breathing for me is effortless and I can only force myself to stop breathing for so long. My consciousness is riding this body it isn't running it.
What if the time it takes for a spirit/soul to learn how to "control" a physical body takes 3 or 4 years and that is why we don't start laying down memories until then?
When I have an out of body experience, my consciousness is detaching from the body and is becoming aware of my real self. My body is alive but on automatic. Whether I am asleep or I am meditating my consciousness is no longer fooled by the body, it isn't limited by the body and I can then become aware of my "spirit body" or "soul body" or my "ethereal body" I don't really know what to call it.
I like to think of out body experiences as near death experiences without dying. My physical body is on automatic while my consciousness is actually being aware of another body.
The term spirit or soul or consciousness are not all exact synonyms in my glossary. When I lucid dream am I experiencing the spirit or the soul? In my glossary its the Soul. In my glossary, the soul is the eternal part of me that is "keeper of the memories" and the spirit is the part of me that is the "keeper of the karma". My understanding of the spirit is that separate from the soul it has no "identity" or memories. My speculation is that the reason the chakras in our bodies are whirls is because of a similar effect we see in when cold air meets warm air, they mix in a vortex. Perhaps the soul represents "cold" or "passive energy" and the spirit represents "hot" or active energy. Perhaps when the soul and spirit are not compressed together using the electro-neural network created by the body, separated they resemble ice and water vapor. Only together can their combined opposite energies create a liquid.
I can't prove any of this, so I use the word 'speculate' instead of 'believe'. I know all of this, but that knowing is a non-verbal gestalt knowing composed of images, feelings, and intuition with a dash of imagination. For me to believe something I have to have a logical, cogent, non-contradicting narrative. What you just read was my best attempt to take what I know and turn it into cogent verbal representation in sentences and paragraphs of what I have experienced.
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