Reincarnation


#1

I’m new to these boards, thoroughly Christian, and not one to stir up controversy. But I’d love to get some responses to this question.

I notice that not only Hasidic Jews believe in the possibility of multiple lives (gilgul), but also that I have met a fair amount of younger people who seem to remember past lives, or a time before being born in this realm. Perhaps some of you have read “Across Time and Death: A Mother’s Search for Her Past Life Children” by Jenny Cockell.

Likewise, the late Dr. George Ritchie, so justly famous for his classic Near Death Experience related in “Return from Tomorrow” in which he relates a ten-minute encounter with Jesus Christ, ended up being sympathetic to reincarnation. Of course we see it also in the unusual readings of Edgar Cayce, which admittedly seem mixed in value.

As far as I know, this was not a typical belief in 1st century Judaism – unless there is an implication in that the crowds thought that Jesus might be “Jeremiah or one of the prophets”.

What do you think about the possibility of multiple incarnations, culminating in a final resurrection?


#2

I’m agnostic on the topic, thanks to the following concepts:

1.) “It is appointed for men once to die and then the judgment” – from Heb 9:27 (and on which I was composing an extended analysis a week ago, before last week’s deluge of ‘work’ work at work. Still continuing this week, btw… :wink: ) The gist of OT and NT teaching on the topic tends to synch up with this.

2.) The reincarnation of OT prophets is testified to in the Gospels as part of the popular belief of the time, not as authoritative teaching…

3.) …except that Jesus sort of affirmed it, too, when talking about JohnBapt…

4.) …but affirmed it in an oddly qualified way, difficult to translate (at least in Greek, whatever the original phasing may have been in Aramaic). “And, if you care to receive it, he even was Elijah”, or something like that. It certainly leaves open the question of the extent to which JohnBapt was supposed to be Elijah.

5.) On the other hand, George MacDonald was definitely willing to speculate along this line, both in his official theology (one or two refs in Unspoken Sermons) and in his fantasy work (The Princess and Curdie being the most obvious example of the principle); where the reincarnation serves a purgatorial purpose somewhat like it does for various forms of Buddhism or Brahmanism. (Sinners come back as non-human animals, in order to spiritually develop, not to say evolve, back to full humanity.)

6.) On yet the other hand, any theology (which I certainly affirm) that involves a bodily resurrection (in whatever mode), by default includes at least one incident of “reincarnation”, very strictly speaking. (Though apparently not in the sense of being physically born again, which reincarnation theories tend to feature. Though then again again again :mrgreen: there’s the debate with Nicodemus in GosJohn chp 3. Nic was almost certainly engaging in a typical rabbinic habit of showing their rejection of an idea by rephrasing it in the most offensive manner that occurs to them, but Jesus, especially in GosJohn as later with the whole flesh-munching episode, has a habit of turning that tactic back around by revealing that, as a matter of fact, He does mean literally that, in a way, sort of! :laughing: )

So, eh. :slight_smile: I can take it or leave it, but I don’t have to have it. But scripturally speaking, I would not be expecting it, except at the general resurrection in some way. So I’m much closer to denying it than accepting it.

(There are, however, a lot of weird things in the world, so I’m leery of outright denying it, too. :slight_smile: )


#3

I think Heb. 9:27 is making a general observation that it’s given to all men (in all but the last generation, when some will be changed in the twinkling of an eye) to die at least once.

I don’t think it rules out the possibility that some will die more than once, because I count at least 7 individuals (in the Old and New Testaments, not counting those mentioned in Matt. 27:52-53) who were raised to physical life–and must have eventually died again.

(Heb. 9:27 doesn’t say “at least” once, but it doesn’t say “only” once either.)

What seems to weigh more strongly against reincarnation is that it would weaken Paul’s argument concerning election by Grace:

…though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad, in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call, she was told, “The elder will serve the younger.” (Romans 9:11-12.)

At the very least, Paul seems to presume that Jacob had done nothing in a previous life (or pre-incarnate state) to earn God’s favor (and Esau had done nothing to earn His dis-favor), and I think that argues against reincarnation.


#4

Actually, the context of the statement is as an illustrative comparison to the death of Jesus: as it is reserved for mankind once to die and then the judgement, so Christ died once and for all, etc.

The comparison tends to preclude reincarnation as typically proposed. (Although you’re right about the word used as “once” there being historically singular but not exclusively unique, e.g. “Once when I was playing Dawn of War…”)

One of these days I’ll post up the analysis I’ve been working on for that verse, Kav, I promise… :wink:


#5

lol thanks, and no problem. Take your time! :slight_smile:

  • Pat

#6

I am open to reincarnation. Not totally convinced, but open. :smiley:

I just ordered that book “Return from Tomorrow” from Amazon.com. It sounds intriguing.


#7

Jason said: 3.) “…except that Jesus sort of affirmed it, too, when talking about JohnBapt…” Now is He affirming reincarnation in the case of John the baptist or does He mean that John was a figure, not a literal fulfillment? I don’t think that we can narrow the possibilities to one here. Bottom line, perhaps we don’t know what He meant!


#8

First, I’ll note that Jesus affirmed that John the Baptist was a postfigurment of Elijah.

Second, Christianity contradicts all teachings about karma. For example, nothing in the Bible remotely suggests that anybody has any consequences from past lives.


#9

True (as far as I recall. :mrgreen: )

This is certainly the usual interpretation of Jesus’ odd statement, which I reffed earlier (if that’s the affirmation you’re talking about); but I noted that the statement itself is very peculiar. As near as I could reconstruct, the harmonized statement reads “For all the prophets and the Law do prophecy till John; and if you care to have it, he himself is ‘Elijah-who-is-to-come’. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

Later, after the Transfiguration (where Elijah and Moses show up to talk with Jesus about the ‘exodus’ that He would accomplish in Jerusalem), Jesus strongly declares, after His disciples inquire of Him, saying, “Why then do the scribes and Pharisees say that Elijah must be coming first?” “Elijah is certainly coming, and is restoring all! Yet how is it written then of the Son of Man, that He must suffer much and may be scorned? Now I am also saying to you: Elijah came already, and no one recognized him; but they do to him whatever they wish, as it is written of him. Thus also will the Son of Man be suffering by them soon.” So the disciples understand, He spoke concerning John the Baptist.’

The first portion of this looks like Jesus making a wordplay on the name Elijah (literally “My God is Yah”) to refer to Himself; the only one who will be restoring all when He is coming again. And the second portion could be read as a similar parallel identification between Elijah and the Son of Man. On the other hand, if He really was speaking of John the Baptist the whole time, how is it that John the Baptist is still to come and will be restoring all? (Even if JohnBapt is supposed to be one of the two witnesses of RevJohn, which is far from obvious, he isn’t restoring all: that’s the job of the Messiah/YHWH.)

Keep in mind, these same guys were around when Jesus gave the odd qualified agreement that John was Elijah “if you care to receive it”. They’ve just been told, after the Transfiguration, that they have to keep quiet about what they’ve seen until “the Son of Man” is raised from the dead. They aren’t expecting the Son of Man to die, but to be victorious, and anyway wasn’t Elijah supposed to come first?–i.e. from the dead?

So the Gospel discussions about JohnBapt in his connection to Elijah are not exactly clear, so far as Jesus’ own statements on the topic go. John himself, on the other hand, bluntly declares to the interrogating Pharisee deputation (in GosJohn) that he is not Elijah. The Synoptics also record a popular belief, in two places, to the effect that Jesus is Elijah returned. (In one place right before mentioning that Herod wants to meet Jesus because he’s just sure that Jesus is John the Baptist returned! The other place is the famous “But you, who do you say that I am?” question of Jesus to his disciples, a week before the Transfiguration event.)

It is the angel to Zechariah in GosLuke who provides the clearest concept of John being like Elijah: “coming in the spirit and power of Elijah” as the forerunner for Christ, calling people to repent for His coming. I agree that like Elijah, a postfigurement, is still probably the best interpretation; but the data from Jesus is a little weird. (But possibly explained as a rabbinic double-meaning wordplay referring to Himself first and then also maybe to JohnBapt.)


#10

Hope you don’t mind the bump.

I was thinking about the prospect of reincarnation just the other day and how it might relate to UR. Biblical ‘evidience’ aside (i.e. with all the talk about John), I wondered why God would allow reincarnation even if it were true. Presently , those who claim to have been reincarned have scant memory if it occurring. Indeed, many don’t come to the ‘realization’ of being reincarnated until they have been in some deep hypnosis. Intriguing as this may be, it doesn’t lend a clear purpose in the return. If we have little or no memories of being reincarnation, how is that supposed to bring us to a place where we would learn from our mistakes. Unless it is being dealt as some kind of punishment as karma suggests, though that would still imply some kind of learning process. Even so, what is one supposed to be learning? Such are my doubts about the issue.

Leaving aside that one might be reincarnated into another species (which I would doubt on a biblical basis anyway), I would offer here how reincarnation might be beneficial providing certain criteria were met.

  1. If for some reason, a person died prematurely and wasn’t given an opportunity to fulfill the purposes of God. I would count such souls that were miscarried, aborted, stillborn, or otherwise die prematurely shortly after birth before gaining an individual conscience. In these cases, a rebirth into another family would have minimal effect with anything retained from the previous life.

  2. In certain circumstances, maybe very young children whose lives were cut short by factors unseen. A sudden traumatic event, a car accident, some accidental death like poisoning, a disaster, or maybe even murder. Bad things happen to good people. And while we like to think that God is under control, for the most part I believe He allows the natural course of events to happen. For these cases, perhaps God in His wisdom would grant a second chance at life.

  3. The only way I can see older children or adults to be reincarnated is if there were a clear memory of what occurred in the previous life. Else, there is simply no guarantee that the person would improve on his/her life, unless it is judged that a different environment/cultural/basckground would be such as to correct the problem (i.e. a Klansman reincarnated into a black family ora Nazi into a Jewish family, in some bizarre Twilight Zone episode).


#11

I personally tend to doubt reincarnation, although it is a fairly regular feature of NDE “returnees” to mention observing or learning about something quite like (yet not quite like) reincarnation occurring in their experience in the beyond. The interesting thing is that all of the reincarnations are as other people, not animals; sometimes even on other planets/ worlds!

From the NDE accounts I’ve read that feature visions of reincarnation-like events , the purpose seems to be spiritual development, even though memories of past life are supposedly intentionally wiped at the new birth. The suspicious thing about this (to me) is that sometimes the wiping is incomplete, and that’s how some people end up with bits of memories of past lives manifesting in regressions, DejaVu, and whatnot.

Perhaps these people are viewing some sort of spiritual reality, but they are not comprehending what they are actually seeing, and so describe it incorrectly as the nearest thing their mind can grasp?


#12

I do not believe in Reincarnation but that doesn’t mean this is the first time we have lived this life…

I have been studying this for a while, and the same objections continue to come up concerning reincarnation in which I must submit, if you believe in any tenant of Christianity, the Eastern view of reincarnation must be rejected. However, there is a possibility that early Christians believed in a different type of incarnation…

There is some belief, which I am inclined, that AIONIOS KOLASIS, is actually a reliving of one’s life in the same time and place but learning from previous wrong choices, akin to the movie, “Ground Hog Day.” Origen proposed this may be what Jesus was talking about concerning AIONIOS KOLASIS which usually gets confused with reincarnation and why some mistakenly believe Origen believed this.


#13

That presupposes that the memory was to be completely wiped, how can anyone learn from past mistakes and successes, if they do not remember them in some form or fashion.

Near Death experiences are a little different however, and what a person is actually experiencing is an advanced form of Pareidolia. As the mind begins to lose oxygen, it begins to die, as it dies it releases small electric shocks to try to wake you up, these synapses shocks are so insignificant they are not read on regular medical monitors. These shocks stimulate memory but the memory is not-congruent and has no meaning, it is only your brain trying to wake you up. So what the conscious mind does is try to invent a way these random images make sense and it creates a false memory which most people believe is another life and such.


#14

I strongly recommend getting a copy of “Irreducible Mind” by Kelly and Kelly et al (2007).

You may also want to participate in this thread: Purgatorial Hell and Evangelism (plus Near Death Experience) . A lot more could have been said, and perhaps we can get into the relevant literature.


#15

I don’t discount supernatural experiences, however the overwhelming facts support that in an NDE, a majority of the memories created are false images created by the brains ability to create a pattern out of random things.

The technology to notice tiny electro-chemical combustion was not known in 2007, and since then they have found that the brain continues active on an almost quantum level. The electrical signal to wake a person up, happens randomly throughout the brain activating memories and senses. A person who has a NDE is actually seeing bits of their own experiences but the conscious mind does not understand it’s meaning (since there is none) and fills in the gaps by creating a false memory incorporating them. It is much how our mind uses the dream state to store our the information of the day and then forms them into a story which we call a dream. This is not to say that there are no supernatural experiences in a NDE, or that there are no supernatural experiences in a Dream, only that most of the time, a dream is a dream and nothing more.

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#16

Please provide some references. Are you aware of cases when subjects gain accurate information that they could not have obtained through the normal 5 senses? Several cases are discussed by Kelly and Kelly et al, Fontana, and Atwater. Also, as I noted in the other thread, I don’t see why brain damage from cardiac arrest would increase cognitive functions (especially not several minutes after cardiac arrest). It is in that state that subjects often obtain the aforementioned accurate information.

Please check out the sources I recommended in the other thread, and please provide your own sources.

Are you suggesting that “tiny electro-chemical combustion” after cardiac arrest can cause victims to acquire accurate information that they (in the best cases) could not have acquired through normal senses? Again, please check out the work of Kelly and Kelly et al. Please also explain how such “tiny” activity could increase cognition.

There are important differences between NDEs and dreams. The most interesting NDE cases occur after the onset of cardiac arrest, and those NDEs often involve a higher-than-normal degree of cognition and lucidness (a degree that isn’t seen in dreams), as well as genuine “remote viewing” (verified in the best-documented cases). Also, I’m not aware of any case when dreaming has given the person visual access to actual events while they occur.

best wishes to you


#17

Really? It happens more often than NDE’s. The person knows their enviroment, their brain can easily recreated the visual stimuli within a dream while one’s other senses are fully intact. The brain then forms a visual memory of them actually seeing what is happening because they are able to hear what is going on. The sense of hearing, is very underestimated with it’s ability to recreate visual of one’s surroundings.

If anything can be explained in a non-spiritual and rational manner, then it is non-spiritual and rational in origin.

When a person actually studies actual science on the subject and is open to the alternatives without jumping to a supernatural explanation, we will be able to more understand the difference between a natural and supernatural event. NDE’s are very much so explained in a non-spiritual and rational science, with observed and provable results.


#18

Unfortunately, you quoted me out of context, did not address my actual points, and didn’t provide any refs. You also appear to be making assumptions about what constitutes “rational” or “scientific”.

First, I specified that the information was about events that could not have been perceived through the normal 5 senses (and I gave a few examples in the other thread). In the best cases, the subjects do not “know their environment”. And even if they did, it would not explain how they acquire accurate information about distant events. Once again, have you read the work of Kelly and Kelly et al? If not, please do.

Second, I pointed out that such veridical NDEs also frequently involve dramatically increased cognition, even after cardiac arrest (which dramatically decreases brain function… you claimed that there is still “tiny” brain activity that causes the NDE imagery, but you did not provide any refs for me to check up on).

But you haven’t explained the NDE cases that I mentioned in a “non-spiritual” manner. You’ve insinuated that all NDEs can be explained as products of “tiny” brain activity. I replied by saying that such “tiny” brain activity would not give subjects information about distant events (or events that are beyond the reach of the normal 5 senses), and by saying that such “tiny” activity shouldn’t be expected to increase cognition. I gave examples in the other thread.

You replied by saying that brains can reconstruct events that took place within the immediate environment. I’ve dealt with that objection several times.

I’m not talking about all NDEs because some of them don’t carry much evidential weight. But others do, and again, I gave examples in the other thread.

For the record, I actually do study “actual science” on the subject, and so does Edward Kelly, Emily Kelly, Peter Fenwick, Bruce Greyson, PMH Atwater, etc etc etc. I know the work of NDE skeptics (e.g. Blackmore), but I try to read both sides.

I did not “jump” to a supernatural explanation, and neither did the researchers that I mentioned. Instead, the authors go to great lengths to engage skeptical arguments while presenting strong cases that skeptics have trouble with.

Can I infer that you have not (and are not going to) read the work of Kelly and Kelly et al?


#19

There are also situations where the data could normally have been obtained through one of the 5 senses, but the person was not in a condition to be able to have used that data to construct or reconstruct anything either during the event or prior to the event. One example I’ve given in the past was a situation where someone who experienced an NDE who was blind from birth was able to see during the NDE and accurately later describe (among other things) a medical instrument that she had obviously never seen before. Someone who has no visual frame of reference could not have described something like that in detail, unless they had actually seen it during the NDE as reported.