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Reincarnation in the Numinous World

A reader asks, "How does reincarnation work in the Numinous World?"

Oh cool question! And it's one to which I've given a lot of thought.



To start with, the soul has no gender, no race, no ethnicity. All souls are absolutely equal. In theory, any soul could incarnate next time in any human body on the planet. However, in practice who one is next isn't random. It's about what one needs or wants to learn or experience next, about one's emotional bonds, and especially about one's unfulfilled promises. One is drawn to places or circumstances that help one fulfill these promises or to people or places one cares about.

For example, in the Ravens of Falkenau there is the short story "Paradise" about the Muslim conquest of Alexandria in the seventh century. Mikha'il has returned to Alexandria because Lydias and Charmian loved it so much, and as one of the conquerors he has the opportunity to once again save the city he loves and to oversee its transformation yet again, no longer Alexandria of the Greeks but Arabic Alexandria, one of the greatest cities of the world during the Middle Ages. And there is Dion waiting, the Greek Eucherios, who has stayed behind to protect the remains of the library. Dion too is faithful to what he loves, and he has the opportunity to save priceless treasures, gifts from the ancient world that preserved are the foundation of the Arab renaissance.

A little later in the Ravens of Falkenau there is Jauffre, the crusader Knight Templar, who has again those same books, spark to a renaissance in Europe that is still on the distant horizon. One of them is Arrian's Campaigns of Alexander, a history written in the Roman period based upon Ptolemy's memoirs. Small wonder that Jauffre's imagination is caught, and that he can vividly imagine the world Arrian describes! He was there, of course, as Lydias.

People are also drawn to one another. Emotional bonds and unfinished business return people to each other in different constellations. At the end of Hand of Isis, Charmian chooses to become Lucia so that she can be in Rome with the children. Lucia, moved by those oaths, will follow Cleopatra Selene to Africa, keeping her promise to the only one of the children who survives. But her unfulfilled oaths, her failure to protect Caesarion, Helios and Philadelphos, continues to weigh on her. In the life in Ravens of Falkenau story "Prince Over the Water" she at last keeps her oath to Helios, and by doing so releases herself from that burden. In the Age of Revolution books we'll see what happens as she tries to fulfill her oath to protect Caesarion!

Love is the tightest bond. People tend to go where there is someone they love. That creates clusters of people who have known each other in various ways and various combinations -- husband and wife, parent and child, friends, lovers, siblings, liege and vassal. In Black Ships, Gull and Xandros are together for most of their lives, but are never married because of her oaths. In the unsold Numinous World book, Lioness, they are married. However, only eighty years later in Stealing Fire, Lydias and Artashir are just good friends. Artashir is really not sexually attracted to men, and he's married to someone he loves when he meets Lydias. In Hand of Isis, Charmian and Emrys are lovers.

In Black Ships, Gull is certainly interested in Neas and the feeling is probably mutual, but he has to marry Lavinia and she is with Xandros. It's open to the reader's interpretation whether or not Neas and Gull ever slept together after Xandros' death, or not, but either way the relationship between Gull and Neas is not the most important one in either of their lives. In Stealing Fire, Lydias adores Hephaistion, but this is much more about hero worship than it is about an actual relationship. It's possible that one might have developed had Lydias not been so quick to assume it could never happen! In Hand of Isis, Charmian and Agrippa have a brief and disastrous thing. In The Ravens of Falkenau, Georg and Izabela are married -- and eventually make peace with each other anyway! They've figured out how to have a relationship, but it's fraught. In Fortune's Wheel we'll see them try this again!

And then of course there is Alexander! In Stealing Fire he's offered the chance to get off the bus. Instead of reincarnating, he can choose to remain a spirit with the identity of his current persona, the Immortal Hero Alexander, a daimon. He could choose to become like Mik-el. Remember, in Black Ships Mik-el told Gull that he had once been a chieftain who gave his life for his people and who his people then prayed to for intercession. Mik-el began as a human soul before he became unincarnating several thousand years before Gull's time. That's the choice Alexander is given in Stealing Fire. And he chooses not to because doing that would separate him from people he loves who have not been given that option. He would rather take his chances incarnating if that means that he might be with people he loves. However, this is what gives his future incarnations something indefinable, the sense of being somehow larger than life. To have had the opportunity to be a daimon and turned it down is something that marks you! One of the questions we'll see in Fortune's Wheel is how much he does he remember?

Mik-el is the only character who remembers everything, because he stands outside incarnation completely. When he talks to Georg and remembers exactly conversations with Gull and Charmian. His appearance changes depending on what the person he's talking to expects to see, but he actually has full access to everything which has happened before. In Fortune's Wheel we'll see him again.

That's kind of a sketch of how it works. What do you guys think? Any questions?

Comments

( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
chiliarch
Oct. 14th, 2011 01:51 pm (UTC)
Gods! Am I the only one who's confused? Or am I simply not tuned into this? This is all new to me and I find it difficult to follow the different characters in their different lives. Perhaps I'll learn eventually.

One thing I do get : Alexander. He refuses because he loves Hephaistion, wanting to be able to meet him again. In "real" life he did this by having Hephaistion declared a "hero" by the oracle at Siwah, not being able to have him declared a god. But this enabled them to be together through all eternity. That's love for you!
jo_graham
Oct. 14th, 2011 01:57 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry it's confusing! :)

Yes, exactly about Alexander. He's offered the chance to be unincarnated, to become a god as his people would understand it, but Hephaistion isn't given that choice. He hasn't earned it yet. There are a lot of words in different cultures for what he might be -- a god, a daimon, a bhoddisatva, a guardian angel -- but it would mean being separated from Hephaistion as Hephaistion incarnates again and again, not remembering him and not knowing him, unable to interact except in the rare ways that the incorporeal interacts with the corporeal. And so he chooses not to do that, as you say, out of love! He'd rather take his chances as a mortal with all the risk of suffering that entails. And because he makes that choice out of love it marks him.
mari4212
Oct. 14th, 2011 03:49 pm (UTC)
It gets easier on re-reads, and I've started just keeping an Excel document, so I can track the parallels. It became a lot clearer doing that!
_illumina_
Oct. 14th, 2011 06:48 pm (UTC)
Hehe, me too! Glad I'm not the only one!
jo_graham
Oct. 17th, 2011 03:34 pm (UTC)
Wow! Really?
_illumina_
Oct. 17th, 2011 08:34 pm (UTC)
Erm, yeah. Dunno about anyone else, but I have a few OCD tendencies lurking...
jo_graham
Oct. 18th, 2011 12:35 pm (UTC)
That is so awesome! I've never actually managed to make a spreadsheet! Wow, that's flattering!
cadenzamuse
Oct. 18th, 2011 09:27 pm (UTC)
Man, I was going to ask Jo if she had a spreadsheet, because I'm finding it confusing and I'm lazy, and I'd really like to get my timelines and people sorted out. Would anyone be willing to share theirs?
jo_graham
Oct. 17th, 2011 03:33 pm (UTC)
Seriously you keep an excel document? That is so cool and so flattering!
draco_stellaris
Oct. 14th, 2011 02:36 pm (UTC)
I really like that theory of reincarnation. And it's so fascinating to see what choices all the characters make in their respective lives. I sometimes have a hard time figuring out who is who but that's just me being slow.

It must be difficult to keep in mind all of these different characters and plotlines so they always relate to each other and make sense, and to avoid goofs. Kudos for that!
jo_graham
Oct. 14th, 2011 03:40 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you think it's interesting. Sometimes their choices grow very organically from previous choices -- for example, in Hand of Isis Agrippa makes a mess in several different ways, and so one of the things that happens in his future is that he makes choices trying to avoid Agrippa's mistakes. And sometimes this helps and sometimes it doesn't!
florastuart
Oct. 15th, 2011 08:17 pm (UTC)
I think one of my favorite things about the way reincarnation works in these stories is how the various reincarnations of different characters don't always love each other in the same way. If that makes sense. Two souls aren't necessarily destined to be in love romantically with each other in every incarnation - sometimes, they are in love; sometimes they are close friends without any sexual attraction being involved; sometimes they are attracted to each other but it doesn't ultimately work out in that lifetime. And they have close relationships with more than one soul, over the centuries, and there's no one relationship that is *most* important every time.

I think that's really cool, and different from the way this sort of theme is usually handled.
jo_graham
Oct. 17th, 2011 03:41 pm (UTC)
Yay! That's one of my big points. It's not as simple as "soul mates". There are a number of people that each person loves, and who they're with romantically in any incarnation depends on the circumstances and who they both are right then. Lydias and Artashir, for example, isn't going anywhere because Artashir is straight. And so they're really good friends, but it's not romantic. It truly is brotherly.

Another example is Caesar and Agrippa, who are never going to be Alexander and Hephaistion because of the age difference. As far as Caesar is concerned, Agrippa's like a son. It's never going there. He has zero interest in a sixteen year old when he's fifty-something.

Charmian and Agrippa also don't work, but that has more to do with circumstances and culture than lack of interest. In Ravens of Falkenau, that one is turned around when Charmian is Georg and Agrippa is Izabela!
florastuart
Oct. 20th, 2011 06:48 pm (UTC)
Something I just noticed on a reread of Black Ships the other night, in the scene where they go to the underworld - was Neas also Patroclus?

I don't know how I missed that bit the first time. (Possibly I'm too used to Homer's timeline, where both of them are alive at the same time?)
jo_graham
Oct. 24th, 2011 03:22 pm (UTC)
Yes, Neas was Patroclus! He turned around quickly like Charmian did with Lucia.

The timeline difference is that instead of having one war that lasted ten years I've gone with the archaeological evidence that there were two destructions of Troy -- Troy VIA around 1205 BC and Troy VII around 1180, basically a generation apart. This is like someone, in 3,000 years, conflating World War I and World War II into a single war! You can see how easy it would be to do that. Patroclus was killed in the first war, and Neas is in the second.
cadenzamuse
Oct. 18th, 2011 09:40 pm (UTC)
So is there a way to "opt out" other than becoming a daemon? Or does one just go to the Utter West and get healed and hang out for a while and then eventually reincarnate?

Also, are there sometimes restrictions on when you can reincarnate? I'm thinking of Hand of Isis, when Isis tells Charmian that Caesar/Alexander can't be in the world very often, because he is the epicenter of so much upheaval.

(...and yes, this means I've finally read one of the books. *grin* I will email you some time soon to squee and such.)

Also, also, I have started Black Ships, and am surprised to find out that Xandros is Emrys, as I had rather had him pegged for Dion.
jo_graham
Oct. 24th, 2011 03:17 pm (UTC)
Sorry to take so long with this reply -- I had the child home sick throwing up and got distracted!

There isn't a way to opt out permanently except by becoming a daimon, a permanently disembodied benevolent spirit. (Mind you daimon is Lydias' word! Elza would say guardian angel.) How long one "rests" between may change, and may be longer or shorter for various reasons. Charmian chooses an immediate turn around in order to try to help the children, but it's much more normal to wait 10-40 years. Caesar/Alexander may wait longer, perhaps a century or so generally, though sometimes less.

There are sometimes restrictions on when or where you can go. Generally you can't go where you've just been. You can't go back to the same family or same situation to resume your old life. You have to have a new life. (You can't take it with you!) There may be some association, like being in the same city, or some specific thing that you want to accomplish, but Charmian can't go be Octavia's child in order to be born into the same house as the children. Lucia is a different person with a different family who lives in the same large city, and she has an entirely different background. No coming back as your grandchildren! :) That's cheating!

I'm so glad you've read Hand of Isis! That's exciting! And I hope Black Ships is being fun too!
linneasr
Oct. 30th, 2011 11:00 am (UTC)
Yes, this makes sense to me. It's very Hindu in its basic framework, and that's a logic that has well withstood the questions of thousands!
jo_graham
Oct. 30th, 2011 01:02 pm (UTC)
It has, and I'm glad you think it makes sense!
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )