I have approached several topics so far over the past couple years, but one fascinating concept that I have yet to explore, until today, is reincarnation. More than most, this is a topic of some contention within the realm of Christian ideology, as at first glance, there appears to be notable conflict between what the Bible states about the limitations of our existence, and the reality of certain documented occurrences in recent history. To establish a baseline, let’s first review the general bases of opposition that Biblical canon presents.
The most direct opposition to the idea of reincarnation can be found in Hebrews 9:27, where it is stated that it is appointed to man only once to die, and then to be judged. A soul is considered a unique creation, given unto a singular existence in the mortal realm, where the actions and path of said soul determine its final judgment and ultimate residence in the beyond. Based on this, most theists of the Christian faith have resolved that reincarnation simply isn’t permissible if the Bible is to be taken literally. In studying and contemplating reincarnation, I have approached the idea from this perspective first, simply to establish the parameters and identify the baseline of allowances and restrictions according to Biblical text. I will elaborate on this in the next section.
Let us consider an example of a single soul. For a more familiar reference, I often imagine the ideas and visualizations put forth in the beautiful and thought-provoking movie, “What Dreams May Come” (Robin Williams is one of my favorite actors, RIP).
In the afterlife as imagined in this cinematic masterpiece, a person, or soul as it were, is permitted, if they so desire, to return to earth in a new body, to live a new life after their most recent death. We can assume from watching the film that this is only possible for those who end up on the heavenly side of eternity. If were a choice available in hell, I’m sure it would be a pretty empty place, wouldn’t you? While this option may seem like an adventurous and romantic proposal, one must also stop to consider the risks. Is there a guarantee that just because you apparently met the criteria for heaven the first time, that your soul will inevitably repeat the process in a way that brings you back to paradise in the end next time? We are all human and subject to our fallible nature, so what is there to stop your next life from not turning out so well and, in your innate weakness, you follow a path that leads to the more unpleasant and permanent destination? Not only does this present an immense dilemma in your decision-making process regarding returning to mortality, but it also flatly negates the rules clearly established in the Bible. Lastly, this perspective assumes we would retain fleshly ambitions and motives in the hereafter, as shown in the movie, where we should instead, according to scripture, be experiencing paradise beyond imagination, and have no iota of desire to return from whence we came. Overall, this certainly does reinforce the divide currently established between the two ideologies. A great deal more information can be found on this contradictory nature here.
A strange question then arises: did my soul not exist in any form before my physical birth? Was I at any point a queued-up pupae of a soul, existing yet still awaiting a fleshly home, or did I blink into existence at the moment of conception? Perhaps the “man” that has only “once to die” is simply the meat casing that holds an infinitely more complex entity bound by entirely different rules. Might it be that the specific man, or woman, or child, currently encasing a soul, does indeed have but once to die and be judged for its actions during its existence, but the soul within is a much more fluid conglomerate of its incarnations, that is judged over a vast spectrum of its dips into mortality? If nothing else, the possibility should be considered.
There is talk that early versions of Christians texts, as well as texts not recognized as official canon, do acknowledge reincarnation as a part of the faith. I am in the process of reading such texts here, and may very well write another article on these matters in time. For now, let us examine some current examples of evidence of reincarnation, as purported by documented happenings in recent years.
There are numerous cases, predominantly involving children, where a person recalls accurate memories of a life prior to their current corporeal form. There is a slight chance of some of these being explained by overactive imaginations, or by the child overhearing something and concocting an elaborate story around it, but the odds are slim to none that all of these stories are mere fabrications. One of the most famous examples is the tale of Shanti Devi, an Indian child in 1930s Delhi, who retained an astonishing amount of information from her claimed previous life. Not only was she able to identify the location of her residence in her previous life, she also correctly identified critical individuals from her hometown in this location, such as her neighbors, husband, and even her son. She did this despite the attempts by those observing to fool her into incorrectly identifying people and places, hoping to disprove her claims. In the end, her knowledge was completely accurate and beyond question, even delving into personal and sensitive matters of the townsfolk, with details that had been shared only in quiet gossip during Shanti’s previous existence. This seems to prove the reality of reincarnation, does it not? Here is an article with more detail on Shanti’s case, and her story is readily found via basic Google search.
Does this mean, then, that we should just close up shop and stop questioning the inclusion of reincarnation into standard everyday dogma? Not quite yet, I’m afraid. While all of this is truly fascinating and worthy of investigation, as a modern-day Christian I am not yet resigned to either committing reincarnation to or shunning it from the realm of possibility. Indulge me, if you will, an alternate viewpoint on the subject, as I feel this is a sensible perspective that you are likely to hear from other believers when approached with this topic.
I have previously discussed the topic of familiar spirits and demonic possession. Well, unfortunately most, if not all of these occurrences are likely to fall squarely into this realm. As stated, familiar spirits are demonic presences that may have resided with a person or family for years or even generations, and are thoroughly familiar with every detail of the person’s life and their interactions with others. Does this not sound like the ideal candidate for something attempting to create the illusion of an earthly continuation of the soul? Consider this perspective: the familiar spirit, or demon, has a straightforward purpose: to create disquiet and to deceive. Many can perpetuate their ruse for years upon years in order to enact a specific purpose, that may not even seem “evil” at first glance, but we must be careful to analyze the end goal. You may be asking, “what harm have these individuals like Shanti Devi caused with their stories?” Well, by acknowledging these seemingly innocuous cases of children recalling past lives, we are giving credence to the possibility that the Bible and the rules it has set forth regarding existence are faulty and can be circumvented. While I am fascinated by these cases and I will not entirely shut out the possibility that something we do not yet understanding is occurring, my first instinct is to pause, and ponder what ulterior motives might be at work. As a Christian, that should be the first bar by which things are measured.
This has been a difficult topic for me to write about, as typically I prefer to leave things a little more open-ended when I reach my conclusions. This is because I understand the importance of remaining open-minded and studying things for yourself instead of just blindly taking someone’s word on it. I suppose in the end this simply must apply to my words as well. I may have reached the perspective in my studies where I feel reincarnation is not a likely possibility, based upon what I have discovered and what I believe. You, however, may have additional thoughts, ideas, and perspectives that lead you down another path, and I would love for you to share those things with me. Let me know how the internal struggle with these timeless questions has effected you, and maybe we can help each other to understand things in ways we never dreamed possible!
Thank you for reading, and as always, keep on smashing! 🙂