This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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The concept of heredity

We can imagine this heredity in two ways:

The first involves the simple acknowledgement that the past lives of human beings influence present lives. To deny this is nonsense, since my ancestors undoubtedly made decisions that have determined my existence for better or for worse, and in fact I owe my bare existence to the actions of my parents.

The second way of thinking about this heredity is in terms of a single series of continuous lives leading up to the present in the form of an unbroken chain. It seems clear that the Buddhist view, like the Brahmanical one that predates it, adopts this latter.

If it seems like the choice to adopt this second framework results in a questionable oversimplification, we can suggest that it has pragmatic advantages and offers simple answers to questions like the one posed to Christ: “Who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” The Indian response, whether Buddhist or Brahmanical, is straightforward: this man did sin. The difference is that Buddhism takes this type of continuity for granted and does not explain how it is maintained from one life to the next, whereas the Brahmanical tradition postulates the linga-sarira (subtle body) as the vehicle of consciousness and ‘character’ which is like the soul of the body-soul-spirit composite and does not disintegrate at death. The subtle body then serves as the mould for the new material body which ‘materializes’ around it.

We have distinguished the Brahmanical postulate of the soul from the silence of Buddhist theory, but this does not imply that the former is denied by the latter, or that they are not incompatible, and in fact it would seem that we can assume the Brahmanical position behind the Buddhist silence. The survival of the subtle body, or soul, or personality, after death does not mean that this soul is immortal, and so does not conflict with the Buddhist’s emphatic insistence on the non-eternal-soul; nor does it contradict the doctrine Nirvana, since once that state is attained we have moved beyond the individual order entirely and the vehicle of karma, the soul, is no longer a factor.

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