Here's an interesting little daydream that might be helpful in thinking about some problems arising from mediumistic communications and reincarnation accounts. It stems from the idea that spirits at higher levels of development exist outside of time as we understand it.
Let's take a spirit named Casper. Casper goes through many incarnations on earth, while occupying time between physical incarnations on the spiritual plane known in the vernacular as Summerland. Casper's physical lives naturally play out in what we might call “clock time”–the kind of time we are familiar with on an everyday basis. Casper's Summerland interludes also play out in some kind of time that is unfamiliar to us but that seems to be related to earthly clock time.
Throughout his various incarnations, Casper makes progress in terms of spiritual evolution, and eventually he reaches the stage where he can advance beyond Summerland to the next plane of spiritual existence. For the sake of simplicity, we will call this the 4th plane. On the 4th plane, Casper exists entirely outside of time as either we or even the inhabitants of Summerland experience it.
Okay. Think about what that means. Casper has reached the point where he exists outside of time. That means, in terms of earthly reckoning, he has always existed, he exists right now, and he will continue to exist indefinitely.
Meanwhile, here on earth, Casper is undergoing one of his many physical incarnations, and may not be anywhere close to the spiritual epiphany that will eventually summon him to the 4th plane.
Casper is in two places at once! He is here on earth at this very moment, perhaps incarnated as a stevedore in New Delhi or a greengrocer in Santa Barbara. But he is also on the 4th plane, because he is always on the 4th plane, because the 4th plane is outside of time.
Now, if Casper in his present earthly incarnation were aware of all this, he might say, “Well, then, what's the point of my striving through a series of difficult earthly incarnations when I am already on the 4th plane, and in fact have always been there and always will be?”
But Casper's objection would be misplaced, because it is precisely his series of incarnations that allowed him to attain his transcendent state on the 4th plane in the first place. If he had not undergone those incarnations, he would never have made it to the 4th plane. The fact that he is on the 4th plane means that he did undergo (or will undergo, and must undergo) the necessary incarnations.
Casper might say, “That means I have no free will.” Maybe yes, maybe no. It's entirely possible that he has a great deal of freedom of action in any given incarnation, and that in any one lifetime he can make mistakes that retard his progress, or make good choices that advance his progress. On the other hand, he seems to have no freedom of choice about participating in the overall process, nor is the end result of the process in doubt. We might say, not poetically but as a literal statement of fact, that it is Casper's “destiny” to rise to the 4th plane; he is fated to do so, and we know this because if he had not done so he would not be there ever, which means he would not be there now.
Does this mean that Casper's identity is bifurcated into a timeless aspect and a time-bound aspect? Is Casper cut in two? From our earthly perspective it would seem so. But from the perspective of the 4th plane, it may not seem that way at all. It's impossible for us to know how things would appear to an inhabitant of a higher-dimensional plane of reality, just as it is impossible for the inhabitants of Flatland to imagine living in a three-dimensional world.
We might, however, make the idea a little clearer by means of a geometrical analogy. Suppose we picture earthly existence as one point on a triangle, while Summerland occupies the side of the triangle directly opposite that point. This is a two-dimensional figure, drawn on a sheet of paper–paper that is lying flat on a table. Now let's imagine that we place a small paper pyramid over the triangle in such a way that the pyramid's base precisely covers the triangle. The top of the pyramid represents existence on the 4th plane. What we've done, in short, is to extend a two-dimensional figure into a three-dimensional solid.
Now imagine yourself as a point on the two-dimensional triangle traveling from the vertex representing earthly life to the line representing Summerland and back again, over and over, leaving a trail–represented by a straight line–each time. As a moving dot, you would be aware only of the line behind you–the history of your current incarnation. But suppose you instead occupied the vertex atop the three-dimensional pyramid. From this elevated vantage point, you could look down and see all of the lines spread out below you–all of your lifetimes on earth and in Summerland.
And yet your consciousness is not actually bifurcated, because the triangle is part of the pyramid (namely, the base), and the pyramid as a whole represents your awareness.
Naturally, it would be possible to repeat this process. We could take our three-dimensional pyramid and squash it (conceptually) into a two-dimensional triangle, then build a new pyramid on top of it. And so on, and so on, building into higher and higher dimensions, each of which subsumes all the lower dimensions that went into building it up.
If the 4th plane is outside of time, what could the 5th or 6th or 7th planes be like?
The mind boggles.