Spiritual Teachers like Socrates, Jesus, and others, tell us that we have descended from a divine level of being into this level of materiality and illusion, and we are now supposed to “find our way home again”. But if we started our existence at “home”, what was the point of sending us down here just so we can find our way back to where we started? Why did God bother?
I think one good explanation can be found in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Here’s a paraphrase of the last part of it:
After the wayward son woke up and realized that he had hit bottom and was feeding another man’s pigs for a living, he decided he would admit his failings and shortcomings and beg his father to take him on as a lowly servant, rather than remaining where he was and perishing from hunger. So he headed home. But while still far off his father saw him, was filled with joy and compassion, and ran to him and kissed him. When the young son admitted his unworthiness, his father ordered servants to bring him the finest robes and to prepare a great feast, “For this my son was dead, and is alive again! He was lost, and is found”
But when the elder son returned home from the fields and saw what was happening, he was very angry and complained bitterly to his father, “This boy, who now returns, wasted everything you gave him on harlots and debauchery. But all these years I have worked for you faithfully, never transgressing, and you have never celebrated with a feast for me!”
It does seem rather unfair. What might the story mean? The ‘father’ in this parable represents God. The elder son represents a child of God who never ventures out into the difficulties of material life. As a result, he has never experienced struggle, failure or sorrow, and he has never experienced triumph, passion or joy. He is ‘good’, he is innocent, but he can never change or learn or evolve. He has no future, he has no potential, his soul was finished as soon as it began, and as such he is of limited interest and limited use to his father. The younger son goes off into life and falls asleep to his father’s world. He is ‘bad’ and he quickly loses his innocence, he squanders everything and cavorts with harlots, he drinks in all the diverse experiences of earthly life, he feels and laughs and suffers and cries. In the end he realizes he is in a pigsty and makes the decision to begin the journey home.
By the time he gets back, he has evolutionary possibilities his innocent brother will never know – qualities that are highly treasured by his father. This son was ‘dead’: his soul, like ours, had descended into the world of illusion. But now, grown wise with the wisdom of experience, grown strong with the grit that only comes from enduring difficulties and overcoming obstacles, his soul has returned home to God and is ‘alive’ again and ready to be of real use. There is far greater joy in heaven for this accomplishment than for the bland, static existence of his older brother.
Refusing the full experience of this world of sense, pain, and pleasure, is to reject the plan of God! Spiritual evolution cannot take place until involution is complete and every bit of life has been experienced.