There’s a reason I absolutely slaughter my opponents in trivia games. I read a lot of genre fiction. Most genre fiction writers are fanatics about their interests and meticulous researchers. I don’t know how many times a novel has triggered my interest in history or mythology or science or weaponry, sending me trotting to the library or the bookstore to find out more. I love talking to writers about their interests. So when I read the paranormal romance, Incorporeal, by J. R. Barrett, and then its sequel, In The Flesh, I had to ask Julia, “Why ghosts? Why the recycling souls?” Not only did she have a ton of ghost stories to share, but she knows a lot about Jewish mysticism. Well, well, well, tell me more. So she did:
Eastern and Western philosophy collide when it comes to the mystical Jewish notion of the transmigration of souls and the Buddhist philosophy of the wheel of karma. Both philosophical systems assume a rebirth, or a reincarnation, until the soul reaches perfection. In both systems, a soul can be reincarnated into either an animal or human form.
In Jewish mysticism, a soul can be corrupted here on earth. The soul must then return until it, at last, reaches purity or perfection, at which time it can be reunited with the Primordial Cause, or, in other words, God. Sound familiar? Seems remarkably similar to karma, the Buddhist wheel of reincarnation and Nirvana, or the final obliteration of the self in the Primordial Cause, doesn’t it?
From Cabala (not pop-Cabala): Hence if the soul, on its first assumption of a human body and sojourn on earth, fails to acquire that experience for which it descended from heaven, and becomes contaminated by that which is polluting, it must re-inhabit a body till it is able to ascend in a purified state through repeated trials. This is the theory of the Zohar, which says: “All souls are subject to transmigration; and men do not know the ways of the Holy One, blessed be He! They do not know that they are brought before the tribunal both before they enter into this world and after they leave it; they are ignorant of the many transmigrations and secret probations which they have to undergo, and of the number of souls and spirits which enter into this world and which do not return to the palace of the Heavenly King. Men do not know how the souls revolve like a stone which is thrown from a sling. But the time is at hand when these mysteries will be disclosed” (Zohar, ii. 99b).
Like Origen and other Church Fathers, the cabalists used as their main argument in favor of the doctrine of metempsychosis the justice of God. But for the belief in metempsychosis, they maintained, the question why God often permits the wicked to lead a happy life while many righteous are miserable, would be unanswerable. Then, too, the infliction of pain upon children would be an act of cruelty unless it is imposed in punishment for sin committed by the soul in a previous state.
The striking similarity in these two schools of mysticism has fascinated me for years. This concept of reincarnation, or the transmigration of souls, is a running theme through both of my paranormal works, Incorporeal and In the Flesh. In both books, I also draw upon the Cabalistic notion that there are multiple heavens, or levels of heaven, angels of different standing and power, and various attributes of God – some of which take on an actual persona of their own.
I won’t pretend to a scholar of Jewish mysticism, but I did want to include a little of what I’ve learned over the years. I think a well-written, thoughtful romance contains far more elements than just hard, hot boy meets soft, yielding girl. There are deeper themes underlying a good romance novel, even if we don’t recognize them as we read a story.
Wow, thanks, Julia. There’s definitely a trip to the library in store for me.
Lightning in the middle of a blizzard? Dr. Sydney Blake has read about it, but this is the first time in all her life she’s experienced it. Has her truck been struck? Blinded by the flash, she slams on the brakes and dives from the driver’s seat, right into a snow drift. As a shivering Syd gropes to her feet, she keeps her eyes shut tight, praying she didn’t actually see what she thinks she saw in that flash of light… a golden giant standing smack dab in the middle of the road. No way. Not possible. Or is it?