One of the earliest Greek philosophers, Plato, believed in an ideal world where the souls of the dead return to be rejoined with their forms after death. Poet Wordsworth wrote, “Birth is but a sleep and a forgetting.” Robert Schwartz’s book Courageous Souls revives a similar belief.
Schwartz proposes that each of us plans our existence before birth. During our life spans, when faced with some troubling and/or disabling condition, accident, or even the death of a loved one, we find ourselves asking, “Why did this happen to me? Why do I have cancer? Why did I have an accident that paralyzed my legs? Why did I contract HIV?”
Courageous Souls provides an answer. Before our births, each of us chooses to experience certain challenges, painful though they may be, to insure that when we are incarnate (joined with our physical bodies on earth), we have the chance to discover our fullest potential and who we really are.
Schwartz claims that this pre-birth planning is far-reaching. We choose our parents, the schools we will attend, our friends. We choose everything about our lives including our physical appearance and temperament. When we clothe our spirits with physical bodies, then all experiences, when accepted for what they are, lead to personal growth and ultimately to love.
Schwartz gives examples of this pre-birth planning by examining the lives of ten individuals. With the aid of mediums and channels who sometimes call upon spirits and angels from the other side, we are able to hear, in their words and in his, an explanation of how and why certain challenges were chosen by these ten people.
Jon, the first person Schwartz discusses, became infected with HIV, contracted from his gay partner. Why would anyone choose such a debilitating challenge? After several trances with channel Glenna Dietrich who summoned an angel from the spiritual realm to assist her, Jon and Schwartz found their answer. Before birth Jon chose the HIV infection not only to help him understand the trauma faced by similarly afflicted persons in real time, but to help him accept and love gay men.