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Having come of age in an era when the hippies espoused a complete detachment from the consumerist/careerist madness of modern society and replacing it with a celebratory immersion in nature’s bounty and status free brotherhood, while political activists of the New Left advocated and practiced direct confrontation with the terminally corrupt war economies, I know a thing or two about the intersection of personal pain and political activism.

The two camps seemed to despise each other, the fingers pointing to self-indulgent hedonism on one hand and self-righteous preaching on the other.  Between the eruption of memoirs, many portrayals in film, mini-series and the pop psychology of journalism, the conjunction of the walking wounded with the fierce determination of idealistic crusades for the improvement of society has become something of a cliche.  Does anyone raise an eye at the personal wounds of the politicized now?  Jokes about abused childhoods and comforting one’s inner child are more the order of the day now.  Of course the anguish of suffering can be buried in many outward pursuits, and if carefully transmuted, can provide engines to power productive life paths for decades.  Unfortunately the act of transmutation is not always carried out successfully and the accumulated energies can burn up the vehicle carrying them.

When I read of the young man who blew himself up in the cab when police surrounded him and then discovered the background of jihadist sympathizing, arrests and surveillance, I wondered how successful his transmutation could have been.  His father commented that “years before his son became an extremist, he had transformed into an angry child after his mother’s death from brain cancer.”

Not only did I have several friends, over the years, who went through periods of anger over a parental demise from cancer,  but my own childhood was disrupted by my father’s death from emphesema, resulting in a number of negative emotional states eating away at my psyche until a series of uncanny dream recalls, wherein the spirit of my father, as real as he ever was in so-called life, advised me to think of his absence as a long holiday.  These lead to a search for relevant books, which, when I found them, seemed to fit into the category called “spiritualism”.  The information within, concerning existence in the afterlife, satisfied my yearning for a sense of meaning which transcended the tragedy of suffering and death, a yearning that this young man tried to fill with radical political action in a world unfit for his current understanding of the sacred.

I was further touched by this utterance from his father: “The way we look at it, we gave him back to his mother on his birthday.  He always wanted to be close to her.”  I had felt, on these lucid dream recalls from so many years ago, that I had been reunited with my father, although I seemed to understand that the reunion was temporary.  But despite that I was reassured and satisfied that the life disruptions engendered by his demise contained their own mysterious significance that would somehow explain itself by unraveling as the years went by.  And that is pretty much what transpired, leading me gradually into a greater and deeper understanding of this incarnation and its purposes.

Of course this path was facilitated by my immersion in what used to be called esoteric teachings, of which the lucid dream recall and baby steps of spiritualism were but the opening gambits.  The young Canadian jihadist took another path, one which he thought was divinely inspired but which also lead him inexorably to the perils implicit in radical political action.  Another man in his position might have chosen to work for an international aid organization, his anguish a springboard for compassionate service.  Choices, choices, choices, but what prompts the decision ultimately?  Not surprisingly, if you’ve been following this blog, I’m going to plump for the soul, its innate wisdom penetrating the layers of egoistic illusions plus family and society imposed beliefs.

Those esoteric teachings, once considered anathema to faith and its eternal rewards and punishable by all manner of merciless tortures, are now easily available in the past-life and between-life regression literature, tell us that plans are hatched the the pre-birth state, plans based on prior mistakes and present ambitions.  Now it would seem that all souls, regardless of birth-defined ethnicity and status, choose a family and society in which nurturing their needs and desires is balanced by the challenges of harsh treatment and the depradations of various levels of oppression, whether religious, economic or political.  Success, however one defines it, seems to be brought about by the soul’s ability to remind the blinkered and stressed out ego of the lessons it actually came to learn, rather then the easier enchantments of, say, unbridled ambition, sensuality and consumerism, to name but three.  And that ability seems to be refined by some mysterious combination of incarnational variety and the brewing of the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ into one’s personal wisdom tradition.

Now while the youthful soul of the home grown jihadist opted for a jagged and ultimately self-destructive path, bringing what will likely be years of suffering and remorse to his loved ones, I, aping the patterns of the old soul, rediscovered what would seem to be an option of brief suffering leading to a lengthy and productive enlightenment, of benefit not only to the ‘current vehicle’ but also to other incarnate souls spread about this networked planet, negotiating the turbulent waters of our own evolutionary stage.

But who’s to say the defeated and likely depressed jihadist, now somewhere in the lands of spirit, perhaps immersed in periods of remorse while happily reunited with the soul that was his mother, will not someday realign his karma with sustained efforts to help others in his belief system predicament, becoming a beacon for growth and understanding, as exemplified by the recent book “My Life After Death: a memoir from heaven”, wherein a suicided teenager recovers his balance and goes on to irreverently inform his audience of the joys, delights and challenges of spirit life, despite the depression that ended his earthlife, a book which has reached a much larger audience while communicating a similar loose-lipped youthview of spiritlife as my own “American In Heaven” of some years back, a book whose message I can only applaud despite being somewhat envious of its reach.