The Cycle of Life and Death of the Unbelievers
Let us begin with the cycle of life and death of the unbelievers. After a person dies, they are taken away by a bailiff from the spiritual world. And what of them is taken away? Not their flesh, but their soul. When their soul is taken away, they arrive at a place that is an agency of the spiritual world, one which specially receives the souls of people who have just died. (Note: The first place they go after anyone dies is strange to the soul.) When they are taken to this place, an official carries out the first checks, confirming their name, address, age, and what they did with their life. Everything they did in their life is recorded in a book and verified for accuracy. After it has all been checked, the person’s behavior and actions throughout their life are used to determine whether they will be punished or continue being reincarnated as a person, which is the first stage. Is this first stage frightening? It’s not too frightening, because the only thing that has happened is the person has arrived at a dark and unfamiliar place. That’s not too scary.
In the second stage, if this person has done many bad things throughout their life, if they have committed many wicked deeds, then they will be taken to a place of punishment to be punished. That will be the place they will be taken to, a place expressly for the punishment of people. The specifics of how they are punished depend on the sins they committed, and on how many wicked things they did before they died—which is the first situation that happens in the second stage. Because of the things they did and the evil they committed before they died, when they are reincarnated following their punishment—when they are once more born into the material world—some people will continue to be human, and some will become animals. Which is to say, after a person returns to the spiritual world, they are punished because of the evil they have committed; moreover, because of the wicked things they have done, in their next reincarnation they do not become human, but an animal. The scope of animals that they might become includes cows, horses, pigs, and dogs. Some people might become a bird in the sky, or a duck or goose…. After they have been reincarnated as an animal, when they die they return to the spiritual world, and, as before, based on their behavior before they die the spiritual world will decide whether or not they are reincarnated as a person.
Most people commit too much evil, their sins are too grievous, and so when they are reincarnated they become an animal seven to twelve times. Seven to twelve times—isn’t that frightful? What’s frightening to you? A person becoming an animal, that’s frightening. And for a person, what’s most painful about becoming an animal? Having no language, having only simple thoughts, only being able to do the things that animals do and eat the things that animals eat, having the simple mindset and body language of an animal, not being able to walk upright, not being able to communicate with humans, and none of the behavior and activities of humans bearing any relation to animals. Which is to say, among all things, being an animal makes you the lowest of all living things, and is much more painful than being a human. This is one aspect of the spiritual world’s punishment of those who have done much evil and committed great sins. When it comes to the severity of the punishment, this is decided by the kind of animal that they become. For example, is being a pig better than being a dog? Does a pig live better or worse than a dog? Worse, surely. If people become a cow or a horse, will they live better or worse than a pig? (Better.) It looks as if, given a choice, you have taste. Will it be more comfortable if someone becomes a cat? It will be a lot more comfortable than becoming a horse or cow. If you had a choice between animals, you’d choose becoming a cat, and that’s more comfortable, because you could laze away most of your time in sleep. Becoming a cow or horse is more laborious, and so if people are reincarnated as a cow or horse, they have to work hard—which seems like a harsh punishment. Becoming a dog is a little better than a cow or horse, because a dog has a closer relationship with its master. What’s more, today, a lot of people keep a dog and after three or five years it has learned to understand a lot of what they say! Because a dog can understand many of its master’s words, it has a good understanding of its master, and it can adapt to its master’s mood and requirements, therefore the master treats the dog better, and the dog eats better and drinks better, and when it is in pain it is looked after more—so does the dog not enjoy a happy life? Thus, being a dog is better than a cow or horse. In this, the severity of a person’s punishment determines how many times they are reincarnated as an animal, and as which type of animal they are reincarnated. You understand, yes?
Because they committed so many sins while they were alive, some people will be punished by being reincarnated as an animal seven to twelve times. Having been punished for enough number of times, when they return to the spiritual world they are taken somewhere else. The various souls in this place have already been punished, and are of the type who are preparing to be reincarnated as human. This place categorizes each soul into a type according to what kind of family they will be born into, what kind of role they will play once they have been reincarnated, and so on. For example, some people will become singers when they come to this world, and so they are placed among the singers; some will become businesspeople when they come to this world, and so they are placed among the businesspeople; and if someone is to become a scientific researcher when they become human, then they are placed among the scientific researchers. After they are classified, each is sent out according to a different time and appointed date, just like how people send e-mails today. In this will be completed one cycle of life and death, and it’s very dramatic. From the day that a person arrives at the spiritual world up until when their punishment ends, they may be reincarnated as an animal many times, and then they prepare to be reincarnated as a human; this is a complete process.
And will those who have finished being punished, and will no longer be reincarnated as animals, be quickly sent to the material world to become human? Or how long will it be before they can come among man? What is the frequency with which these people become human?[a] There are temporal restrictions to this. Everything that happens in the spiritual world is subject to the appropriate temporal restrictions and rules—which, if I explain with numbers, you’ll understand. For those who are reincarnated within a short period of time, when they die their rebirth as a human will be prepared. The shortest time is three days. For some people, it is three months, for some it is three years, for some it is thirty years, for some it is three hundred years, for some it is even three thousand years, and so on. So what can be said about these temporal rules, and what are their specifics? A soul’s arrival in the material world, the world of man, is based on need: It is according to the role that this soul is to play in this world. When people are reincarnated as an ordinary person, most of them are reincarnated very soon, because the world of man has a pressing need for such ordinary people, and so three days later they are sent out again to a family that is completely different to the one they were in before they died. But there are some who must play a special role in this world. “Special” means that there isn’t a great demand for these people in the world of man; not many people are needed to play such a role, and so it may be three hundred years before they are reincarnated.[b] Which is to say, this soul will only come once every three hundred years, or even once every three thousand years. And why is it so? Because for three hundred years or three thousand years, such a role is not required in the world of man, and so they are kept somewhere in the spiritual world. Take Confucius, for example. He had a profound impact on traditional Chinese culture. You all probably know him; his arrival had a deep effect on the culture, knowledge, tradition, and thinking of the people of that time. But a person such as this is not needed in every era, and so he had to remain in the spiritual world, waiting there for three hundred or three thousand years before being reincarnated. Because the world of man was not in need of someone like this, he had to wait idly, for there were very few roles such as his, there was little for him to do, and so he had to be kept somewhere in the spiritual world for most of the time, idle, and be sent out when the world of man had need of him. Such are the spiritual realm’s temporal rules for the frequency with which most people are reincarnated. Whether they are someone ordinary or special, the spiritual world has appropriate rules and correct practices for the processing of people’s reincarnation, and these rules and practices come from God, they are sent down from God, and not decided or controlled by any bailiff or being in the spiritual world. Now you understand, yes?
For any soul, the role they play after being reincarnated—what their role is in this life—what family they are born into, and what their life is like are closely related to their past life. All kinds of people come into the world of man, and the roles they play are different, as are the tasks they carry out. And what tasks are these? Some people come to repay a debt: If they owed others too much money in their previous life, they repay a debt. Some people, meanwhile, have come to collect a debt: They were scammed out of too many things, and too much money in their previous life, and so after they arrive in the spiritual world, the spiritual world will give them justice and allow them to collect their debt in this life. Some people have come to pay a debt of gratitude: During their previous life—before they died—someone was kind to them, and in this life they have been given a great opportunity to be reincarnated and so they are reborn to repay this debt of gratitude. Others, meanwhile, have been reborn into this life to claim a life. And whose life do they claim? The person who killed them in their previous life. In sum, every person’s present life bears a strong relationship to their previous life, it is inseparably connected. Which is to say, every person’s present life is hugely affected by their previous life. For example, before he died Zhang cheated Li out of a large amount of money. So does Zhang owe Li a debt? If he does, is it natural that Li should collect his debt from Zhang? And so, after they die, there is a debt to be settled between them, and when they are reincarnated and Zhang becomes human, how does Li collect his debt from him? One means is that Li collects his debt by being reborn as Zhang’s son, with Zhang as his father. This would be what happens in this life, in the present life. Li’s father Zhang earns lots of money, and it is squandered by his son, Li. No matter how much money Zhang earns, his son Li “helps” him by spending it. No matter how much Zhang earns, it is never enough, and his son, meanwhile, for some reason always ends up spending his father’s money through different ways and means. Zhang is mystified: “What’s going on? Why has my son always been a hoodoo? Why is it that other people’s sons are so good? Why does my son have no ambition, why is he so useless and incapable of earning any money, why do I always have to support him? Since I have to support him I will, but why is it that no matter how much money I give him, he always needs more? Why can’t he do an honest day’s work? Why is he a loafer, eating, drinking, whoring, betting—doing it all? What on earth is going on?” Zhang then thinks for a while: “Is it because I owed him something in the past life? Ah, it could be that I had a debt to him in the past life. Well then, I’ll pay it off! This won’t end until I pay it in full!” The day may come when Li really has recouped his debt, and when he’s forty or fifty, there will be a day when he suddenly comes to his senses: “I haven’t done a single good thing during the first half of my life! I’ve squandered all the money my father earned—I should be a good person! I’ll steel myself: I’ll be someone who is honest, and lives properly, and I’ll never bring grief to my father again!” Why does he think this? Why does he suddenly change for the better? Is there a reason for this? What is the reason? In fact, it is because he has collected his debt; the debt has been repaid. In this, there is cause and effect. The story began long, long ago, before the two of them were born, and thus this story of their past life has been brought to their present life, and neither can blame the other. No matter what Zhang taught his son, his son never listened, and never did an honest day’s work—but on the day the debt was repaid, there was no need to teach him; his son naturally understood. This is a simple example, and there are, without doubt, many other such examples. And what does it tell people? (That they should be good.) That they should do no evil, and there will be retribution for their evildoings! Most unbelievers, you can see, commit much evil, and their evildoings have been met with retribution, right? But is this retribution arbitrary? All that is met with retribution has a background and a reason. Do you think nothing will happen to you after you’ve cheated someone out of money? Do you think that, after having tricked them out of money, there will be no consequences for you after you’ve taken their money? That would be impossible: What goes around comes around—this is totally correct! Which is to say that regardless of who they are, or whether or not they believe that there is a God, every person must take responsibility for their behavior, and bear the consequences of their actions. With regard to this simple example—Zhang being punished, and Li being repaid—is it fair? It is fair. When people do things like that, there is that kind of result. And is it divorced from the administration of the spiritual world? It is inseparable from the administration of the spiritual world. Despite being unbelievers, those who do not believe in God, their existence is subject to such heavenly edicts and decrees from which no one can escape; no matter how high their position in the world of man, no one can avoid this reality.
Those who have no faith often believe that everything that can be seen exists, while everything that can’t be seen, or which is very far from people, doesn’t. They prefer to believe that there is no “cycle of life and death,” and there is no “punishment,” and so they sin and commit evil without compunction—after which they are punished, or reincarnated as an animal. Most of the various people among the unbelievers fall into this vicious circle. And why is that? Because they do not know that the spiritual world is strict in its administration of all living beings. Whether you believe or not, this fact exists, for not a single person or object can escape the scope of what is observed by God’s eyes, and not a single person or object can escape the rules and limitations of the heavenly edicts and God’s decrees. And so I tell each of you this simple example; regardless of whether or not you believe in God, it is unacceptable to sin and commit evil, there are consequences, and this is absolute. When someone who cheated another out of money is so punished, such punishment is fair and reasonable, and righteous. Commonly-seen behavior such as this is penalized by the spiritual world, is punished by the decrees and heavenly edicts of God, and so grievously criminal and wicked behavior—raping and looting, fraud and deception, theft and robbery, murder and arson, and so on—is even more subject to an array of punishments of varying severity. And what do these punishments of varying severity include? Some of them employ time to establish the level of severity, some do so through differing methodologies, and others do so through where people go when they are reincarnated. For example, some people are foul-mouthed. What does being “foul-mouthed” refer to? It means often swearing at others and using malicious language, language that curses people. What does malicious language signify? It signifies that someone has a foul heart. Malicious language that curses people often comes from the mouths of such people, and such malicious language is accompanied by severe consequences. After these people have died and received the appropriate punishment, they may be reborn as mutes. Some people are very calculating when they’re alive, they often take advantage of others, their little schemes are particularly well-planned, and they do much that harms others. When they’re reborn, it could be as a half-wit or someone who is mentally disabled. Some people often peep into the privacy of others; their eyes see much that they should not have been privy to, and they know much that they ought not to know, and so when they are reborn, they may be blind. Some people are very nimble when they’re alive, they often fight, and do much that is evil, and thus when they are reborn they may be disabled, lame or missing an arm, or else they might be a hunchback, or wryneck, they might walk with a limp, or have one leg shorter than the other, and so on. In this, they are subjected to different punishments based on the level of evil they committed while alive. And what say you, why are people skew-eyed? Are there many such people? There are a lot of them around today. Some people are skew-eyed because in their past life they made too much use of their eyes, they did too many bad things, and so when they are born into this life their eyes are skewed, and in serious cases they are even blind. Do you think people who are skew-eyed are nice to look at? Do they leave a good impression? See how they have good facial structure, their skin is clear and pale, they have big eyes and double eyelids—but unfortunately one of their eyes is skewed. What do they look like? Does this not have a total impact on the person’s demeanor? And with this impact, what kind of life do they have? When they meet others, they think to themselves: “Oh, I’m skew-eyed! I mustn’t look at people so much, I don’t want them to see my eyes. I must speak with my head bowed, I can’t look at them face-to-face.” Their skewed eyes influence how they look at things, and their ability to look at people face-to-face. In this, have they not lost the use of their eyes? And so, have the excesses of their previous life not been redressed? Thus, in the next life, they won’t dare to do anything as bad. This is retribution!
Some people get on well with others before they die, they do many good things for those around them, for their loved ones, friends, colleagues, or the people connected to them. They help others, they give charity and care to others, or assist them financially, others think very highly of them, and when such people return to the spiritual world they are not punished. For an unbeliever to not be punished in any way means they were a very good person. Instead of believing in the existence of God, they only believe in the Old Man in the Sky. They only believe that there is a spirit above them watching everything they do—that’s all they believe in. And what is the result? They’re much better-behaved. These people are kindhearted and charitable, and when they ultimately return to the spiritual world, the spiritual world will treat them very well and they will soon be reincarnated and reborn. And what kind of family will they arrive in? Although it won’t be rich, family life will be peaceful, there will be harmony among its members, they will pass serene, happy days, everyone will be joyous, and they will have a good life. When the person reaches adulthood, they will give birth to many sons and daughters, and have a large extended family, their children will be talented and enjoy success, and they and their family will enjoy good fortune—and such an outcome is hugely connected to the person’s past life. Which is to say, a person’s whole life, right through to after they die and where they go when they are reincarnated, whether they are male or female, what their mission is, what they will go through in life, their setbacks, what blessings they enjoy, who they will meet, what will happen to them—no one can predict this, avoid it, or hide from it. Which is to say, after your life has been set, in what happens to you, however you try and avoid it, by whatever means you try and avoid it, you have no way of violating the life course set out for you by God in the spiritual world. For when you are reincarnated, your life’s fate has already been set. Whether it be good or bad, everyone should face up to this, and should keep going forward; this is an issue that no one who lives in this world can avoid, and no issue is more real. Right, you’ve understood all this, yes?
Having understood this, do you see that God has very exacting and rigorous checks and administration for the cycle of life and death of the unbelievers? Firstly, God has established various heavenly edicts, decrees, and systems in the spiritual realm, and after the declaration of these heavenly edicts, decrees, and systems, they are strictly carried out, as set by God, by beings in various official positions in the spiritual world, and no one dares violate them. And so, in the cycle of life and death of mankind in the world of man, whether someone is reincarnated as an animal or a person, there are laws for both. Because these laws come from God, no one dares break them, nor is anyone able to break them. It is only because of such sovereignty of God, and because there are such laws, that the material world that people see is regular and orderly; it is only because of such sovereignty of God that mankind is able to coexist peacefully with the other world that is completely invisible to mankind, and able to live in harmony with it—all of which is inextricable from God’s sovereignty. After a soul’s fleshly life dies, the soul still has life, and so what would happen if it were without God’s administration? The soul would wander all over the place, intruding everywhere, and would even harm the living things in the world of mankind. Such harm would not only be toward mankind, but could also be toward plants and animals—but the first to be harmed would be people. Were this to happen—if such a soul were without administration, and really harmed people, and really did wicked things—then there would also be proper handling of this soul in the spiritual world: If things were serious, the soul would soon cease to exist, it would be destroyed; if possible, it would be placed somewhere and then reincarnated. Which is to say, the spiritual world’s administration of various souls is ordered, and carried out according to steps and rules. It is only because of such administration that the material world of man has not fallen into chaos, that the mankind of the material world is possessed of a normal mentality, normal rationality, and an ordered fleshly life. Only after mankind has such a normal life will those who live in the flesh be able to continue thriving and reproducing throughout the generations.
……When it comes to the unbelievers, is the principle behind God’s actions that of rewarding the good and punishing the wicked? Do you see that there is a principle to God’s actions? You should be able to see that there is. The unbelievers don’t actually believe in God, they do not obey God’s orchestrations, and they are unaware of God’s sovereignty, much less do they acknowledge God. More seriously, they profane against God, and curse Him, and are hostile toward those who believe in God. Though these people have such an attitude toward God, God’s administration of them still doesn’t deviate from His principles; He administers them in an orderly way in accordance with His principles and His disposition. How does God regard their hostility? As ignorance! And so He has caused these people—the majority of the unbelievers—to have once been reincarnated as animals. So what say you, are the unbelievers in the eyes of God? (Livestock.) In God’s eyes, they are of this type, they are livestock. God administers livestock, and He administers mankind, and He has the same principles for this kind of people. Even in God’s administration of these people and His actions toward them, there can still be seen God’s disposition and the laws for His dominion over all things. And so, do you see God’s sovereignty in the principles by which He administers the unbelievers that I just spoke of? Do you see God’s righteous disposition? (We do.) You see God’s sovereignty, and you see His disposition. Which is to say, no matter which of all things He deals with, God acts according to His own principles and disposition. This is God’s substance. He wouldn’t casually break with the decrees or heavenly edicts that He set because He regards this kind of people as livestock; God acts according to principles, without the slightest disarray, His actions are totally unaffected by any factor, and no matter what He does, it is all in abidance with His own principles. This is decided by the fact that God has the substance of God Himself, which is a unique substance not possessed by any created being. God is conscientious and responsible in His handling of, approach to, management of, administration of, and ruling of every object, person, and living thing among all the things He created, and He has never been careless in this. To those who are good, He is gracious and kind; to those who are wicked, He inflicts remorseless punishment; and for the various living beings, He makes appropriate arrangements in a timely and regular manner according to the different requirements of the world of mankind at different times, such that these various living beings are reincarnated according to the roles they play in an orderly manner, and move between the material world and spiritual world in an orderly way. This is what should be understood and known by mankind.
The death of a living being—the termination of a physical life—signifies that the living being has gone from the material world into the spiritual world, while the birth of a new physical life signifies that a living being has come from the spiritual world to the material world and begun to undertake its role, to play its role. Whether it be the departure or arrival of a being, both are inseparable from the work of the spiritual world. When someone comes into the material world, suitable arrangements and definitions have already been made by God in the spiritual world for the family they go to, the era they arrive in, the hour on which they arrive, and the role they play. And so this person’s entire life—the things they do, and the paths they take—proceeds according to the arrangements of the spiritual world, without the slightest fault. The time when a physical life terminates, meanwhile, and the manner and place in which it terminates, are clear and discernable to the spiritual world. God rules the material world, and He rules the spiritual world, and He will not delay a soul’s normal cycle of life and death, nor could He commit any errors in the arrangements of a soul’s cycle of life and death. Each of the bailiffs in the official posts of the spiritual world carries out their tasks, and does that which they ought to do, according to the instructions and rules of God. And so, in the world of mankind, every material phenomenon beheld by man is orderly, and contains no chaos. All of this is because of God’s orderly rule of all things, as well as because God’s authority rules over everything, and all that He rules over includes the material world that man lives in, and, moreover, the invisible spiritual world behind mankind. And so, if mankind wishes to have a good life, and wishes to live in nice surroundings, in addition to being provided with the entire visible material world, man must also be provided with the spiritual world, which no one can see, which governs every living being on behalf of mankind, and which is orderly. Thus, when it is said that God is the source of life for all things, have we not added to our awareness and understanding of “all things”?
from “God Himself, the Unique X” in The Word Appears in the Flesh