The Story On Reincarnation

By | Category: Words of Wisdom

The theory of reincarnation goes way back in history, and has been a part of most religions at one time or another.  Other concepts used at times interchangeably with reincarnation are metempsychosis, transmigration and resurrection, but there are some fine differences.

Both metempsychosis and transmigration essentially mean the same thing, that the same being can inhabit different bodies in different lifetimes, without any type of evolutionary factor.  In other words, in one life you could be human, the next a butterfly, the next a leopard, and on and on.  It is roughly changing from one life form into another life form without regard as to what that form will be.  Another factor can be that there is no time between lifetimes.  The being goes from death directly right into another body.  In the case of transmigration it is sometimes used in describing situations where physical birth does not occur.

The idea of resurrection is a concept that implies a rising or reanimation of someone already deemed as having died.  Most people believe this to be essentially a Christian concept, but actually the Christians borrowed it from the Jews, who had borrowed it from the Zoroaster religion.

In reincarnation there is an evolution to the growth process of a being.   Once you’ve graduated to the level of human life, for the most part you will probably stay there, and go beyond.  It took many, many lifetimes to attain this level and to incarnate into a lower life form would mean going back in evolution.  Also, there is a period between lifetimes on the other side, with a wide variance of time based on a number of factors.  Reincarnation actually means “a spirit which becomes flesh again and again”.  So, this is considered an ongoing process of birth, death and rebirth, allowing the being’s soul to evolve into higher forms of life.

According to several different polls taken the past couple decades, between 25% and 50% of people in America believe in reincarnation.  Even more amazing, a recent online poll found that more than 50% were convinced reincarnation was fact, another 25% that thought it was likely and another 15% thought it possible, making more than 90% of those polled felt reincarnation could be reality.  Certainly a very intriguing reflection of our current times.

Nobody knows for sure when and where this concept first originated, but the ancient Egyptians believed it (although some seem to think it more of resurrection), as well as the mystic Jews, the ancient Greeks, Druids, Gnostics, Neo-Platonists and most other mystery schools.  As far as religion is concerned, it has been a part of the Hindu religion since about the ninth century B.C., partially as a result of the growth of the Upanishads.  From there Buddhism, Jainism and Taoism adopted it.

Two religions where it seems to be conspicuously missing is both in Christianity and Islam.  However, there are some exceptions in these cases.  In Islam there is the Sufi mystical sect, also influenced by the Buddhists and Hindus, and who believe in it.  If we examine some past history in Christianity we come up with some intriguing stories.  Although there is some controversy here, as well as opposing views to the reliability of some historical accounts.

Approximately in the first century A.D., reincarnation was widely taught in most of the biblical and Jewish lands.  Among the earliest Christians, mostly in the Gnostic sects and the Essenes, it was a common part of the teachings.  After the first generations of Christians, between about 150 to 250 A.D., several of the early church fathers taught certain aspects of reincarnation.  One of the more famous ones was Origen, who became the center of ongoing controversy for several centuries after he died.

Origen was the first person since Paul to develop a theological system around Jesus’ teachings.  He believed in reincarnation and pre-existence of the soul, which he taught could be found in both the Old and New Testaments.  It was his teachings in these mystical areas that later became heresy and were expunged from church doctrines.

About a hundred years later in the early part of the fourth century, another priest opened this controversy, causing an internal split over certain issues that would eventually affect the church’s stance on reincarnation.  To quell this growing split, it required that the Roman emperor Constantine intervene into church affairs.

In 325 the Council of Nicea convened for two months with Constantine attending, along with 300 bishops basically under his control.  Thirteen years before, Constantine had converted to Christianity, which would have a great effect on its spread.  With the Roman Empire on the decline, here he saw his opportunity to exert his influence of the growth of this new sprouting religion, as well as attempt to re-exert the power of the empire.  By intervening and helping establish new church creeds (still in force today), and exerting such dictatorial governmental policy into religious affairs, he would have a profound effect on the direction that Christianity grew, bringing about inconsistent and intolerant theological teachings.

This also marked the beginning of the end for the concept of reincarnation and a host of other related mystical concepts.  An interesting note is that at the same time the idea of reincarnation was being destroyed the idea of original sin was being created, paving the way for what would eventually be allowed to go into the Christian Bible.

However, it would take a series of events two hundred years later when Justinian became emperor to put the nail in the coffin of this “heretical” concept.  By this time the empire was crumbling and on the verge of collapse, with the Byzantine Empire replacing it, at least what was left.  With an edict that Justinius issued and all bishops signed in 543, and then in 553 with a church council convening to condemn heretical writings, which included reincarnation references, the idea of reincarnation disappeared from any church teachings permanently.  Basically, it conflicted with the proper understanding of redemption and allowed the church to increase its power over the people it supposedly served.  Salvation now had to be accomplished in one lifetime.

To further codify and embed its position, the church in both 1274 and 1439 declared that after death the soul promptly goes directly to heaven or hell and does not venture into physical bodies again.  Despite all this, several noted clergymen over the centuries were influenced by Origen’s knowledge, as well as several Christian mystic sects, and continued to teach the possibility of reincarnation.  But because they were violently persecuted and slaughtered, they were forced to go underground.

Today the Catholic Church denies that anything about reincarnation took place during these periods, and that reincarnation has never held any standing with the church.

In the 20th and into the 21st century the concept of reincarnation has evolved somewhat from the more traditional Eastern version.  In the east the notion of reincarnation has been looked upon in a more negative way.  By having to incarnate again, one has failed to achieve the spiritual goals needed to be free of the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.  Having to come back and suffer the consequences of the physical is looked upon as a type of failure.

Through the efforts of Theosophy, several ‘progressive’ Eastern gurus and the New Age movement, reincarnation has gone from being a torment man must suffer to being a positive, eternal growth progression that the soul embarks on towards higher levels of spiritual existence.  Classical Eastern spirituality actually rejects the notion that such personal elements are involved in this whole cycle.  However, that element was influenced by this Westernized thought process.  Obviously, reincarnation has yet to be proved to the satisfaction of any mainstream science, as absolute proof is probably impossible to attain.

Probably the most extensive scientific research into reincarnation was conducted by the psychiatrist Dr. Ian Stevenson in the 1960’s.  When he found that traditional psychiatric remedies were too restrictive and didn’t help his patients, he became interested in spontaneous past life recall.  Over a number of years he interviewed over 4,000 children from all over the world who claimed they had memories of past life incidents.  His work was published in several psychiatric journals in the 1970’s, and his meticulous research methods shook up the traditional academic and medical world from its skeptical complacency.  It was one of the first times that an established scientist with reputation had produced some viable evidence for reincarnation.

He found that most past memories occur between the ages of two and four, but fade between five and eight.  Many reported violent deaths, and had birthmarks or deformities that related to how they died.  A number of their mothers reported having dreams in which they knew their child was a reincarnation.  The child usually had skills or abilities that had not been taught or learned.  Usually they had phobias that related to how they had previously died.  Most had very vivid accounts of specific events that had happened to them.

Even so, it seems that there can be no absolute proof of reincarnation, but also none against it.  Besides, how many of our spiritual and religious beliefs have ever been proved, at least by the strict physical and empirical standards of the scientific community?  It’s obvious the whole concept of reincarnation is very complex and has continually evolved over time.  Now whether that’s because we’ve been learning more, or because we’ve grown more creative in our beliefs, who knows?  Anyway, here are some compiled highlights of current schools of thought:

1) There seem to be five main ways that people remember past lives; through hypnosis, dreams, deep meditation, triggered recall (an event-triggered waking dream) or spontaneous recall (a waking dream surfacing from nowhere).

2) There seem to be four main ways that past lives affect a person’s current life; a) unexplained physical afflictions with no evident cause, b) recurring dreams or nightmares of the same events, c) a strong, inexplicable interest in a particular time period, place or event, or d) irrational fears or phobias, which are usually tied around an event that caused their death.

3) Personality traits seem to be carried over from life to life, but are also continuously growing, evolving and being added to our collection of individual traits.

4) Several factors influence the whole reincarnation process; attachments or patterns, individual choices, lessons to be learned, experiences desired or a mission to be accomplished.

5) There seems to be a wide variance in the time period between lives, starting from just a few months to several centuries.  Some feel if a person reincarnates too soon without learning or reflecting about their previous life, that they may jump into physical life because of a previous desire they didn’t unattach themselves from; such as alcohol, drugs, sex, money, power, etc, and that these cravings and appetites have become endless traps they must clear themselves of.

6) Physical life may be the best and fastest way to learn certain lessons, thus we come back for more, until we get it right and can graduate from this series of lessons in this spiritual school.

7) Reincarnation is not a way to avoid responsibility, but a way to correct our mistakes and grow in the process.

8) Through the law of karma, we reap what we sow, and what we do to others will then later be done to us.

9) Even though most people do not remember past lives, scores of people throughout history believe they have.  There are several theories as to why not everyone remembers their past lives.  It may be because we are focused on this life in the here and now and not the past.  Or possibly it’s built in not to remember much, because of the excess “emotional baggage” that we’d have to deal with and the complications that would cause.  Or maybe we are supposed to remember, but there is a flaw in the system.  Or maybe the part of us that reincarnates does not carry that memory with us when we come back, but resides somewhere on the other side, or dies with the body at death.  Or finally, maybe all the memories are just subliminally under the surface waiting for us to figure out how to retrieve them.

10) There are several ways to try and develop your ability to remember past lives.  Past life regression, usually through hypnosis is one, but many have reported this as unreliable, either because of unprofessional people, or believe it just taps into subconscious desires and is difficult to prove.  Some people go to psychics, but that is probably even more unreliable.  The best way is probably a method of deep meditation, in which you can relax and get in touch with the innerscape of your being, allowing the process to happen gradually over time, not in some kind of immediate flashing, triggered series of events.

The idea of reincarnation is certainly a very intriguing, complicated system of how life is set up, works and evolves, however you may personally choose to view it.  However, overall we should just concern ourselves with living in the here and now, to create the best and fullest life we can.  Certainly the past can affect us in the present, and we should deal with it when it does have too much influence on our present life.  But it is gone and we should not live there.  If we live focused, strong and happy in the present, our future should be bright and secure, and hopefully full of promising adventure, without the “baggage” of the past.

Comments

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3 Comments to “The Story On Reincarnation”

  1. Cevu says:

    Nice one… Loved the content!!

  2. ELANGO says:

    i seek next spiritual journey not the one in the past!
    Human sholud prepare himself to the coming or next stage…

  3. Lee says:

    Loved reading this article! Personally re-inforced my own ‘knowing’ : ) I LOVE ‘Being’ here! lol x