Monday, December 22, 2008

'Refuting' The Myth Of Reincarnation?

I'm going to play Shirley McClain and go out on a limb. I think Roman Catholicism is going to be in for a rough ride in the future and not just because of liberal dissent, and the culture wars in which it has chosen to engage. It is going to be in for a rough ride because it is deafening in it's silence about paranormal psychic activity and the influence of reincarnational thinking in the West.

This morning I was reading on article on Inside entitled "12 Myths Every Catholic Should Be Able To Answer". The twelfth myth was reincarnation, and the refutation was absolutely pathetic. Anyone who does even the most simple of Google searches will find website after website of scientific investigation on life after death, and website after website of both anecdotal and more stringent scientific verification of past life experiences and information.

The author of the refutation of the reincarnation myth chose to focus on the story of Bridey Murphy, a story which was thoroughly debunked in the sixties. Much has changed and developed in this field since the sixties, not the least of which are sophisticated genealogical sites which can be used to verify past life information.

Reincarnation poses significant theological challenges, especially to notions of atonement theology and definitions of heaven and hell. Reincarnational explanations for the presence of evil in the world make more reasonable sense than resorting to the machinations of demons and an indifferent and vengeful God. They also threaten the theology of the ordained cleric as a necessary intermediary between man and God. The power of Catholic clericalism is fully vested in the notion of human life as a one time shot. Human life as a multiple life time spiritual learning experience doesn't carry the same fear based obedience as single shot Christianity feeds on.

For these and other reasons, I was shocked with how the notion of reincarnation was dealt with in this article. I strongly suspect that many Catholics find reincarnation a far more palatable belief system than the Church wants to admit.

Christianity and reincarnation don't have to be mutually exclusive. Clericalism and reincarnation may be a different story. After all, if we actually got what Christ taught about the spiritual aspects of humanity and how these are to be acted out, reincarnation would be a moot point. We'd be enlightened enough to have finished the temporal learning curve and on to bigger and better things.

On the other hand, I often wonder how many women who feel called to be priests are actually remembering in some way, a lifetime when they were a priest. Maybe there is something to that theological notion that one is a priest forever and carries an ontological mark on their soul.

More on this tomorrow, and some thoughts about mediums and people who have crossed.


  1. That was the dumbest blog I've ever read. Members of the Church find reincarnation "pallatable?" Christians are not necessarily Christ.

    Get your facts straight and go read Catholicism for Dummies and GO PRAY FOR ANSWERS!!

  2. Actually, annonymous, I did pray, and at first I didn't like the answer. I was really hoping this was a one shot deal and that a good death bed confession was all I needed to get into the Kingdom.

    It doesn't work that way. As far as I can tell only two people ever lived the one shot deal. Mary and Jesus. The rest of us have the choice of coming back and living out more lessons. Most of us choose to do so because it's the only way in this dense an energy that we can clean things up and bring in the Kingdom Jesus talked about.

    Perhaps you should try Reincarnation for dummies and pray for answers.

  3. I'm with anonymous on this one.

    1. I sure wrote this one a while ago. So just to update I looked up Catholic belief in reincarnation. The Pew survey from 2011 states it's 37%, which is a quite an increase over the last 10 years.

      As to anon's observations. There's a reincarnational joke about Christians. A good Catholic dies and is informed they must now choose their next lifetime based on what they failed to learn in their just completed life. The Catholic states: "I must be in hell, there is no such thing as reincarnation." The angel replies "That's exactly what you said last time, maybe this next life is the life where you get it.

  4. My belief in reincarnation has been something that prevented me from becoming Catholic, but if 37% of Catholics believe in it, maybe I should re-consider.

  5. We *know* NOTHING, we conjecture. Perhaps reincarnation is PURGATORY, sure feels like that. No Human can make a definitive decision for how God acts in the world. Not one Human can do that. Who told God that He was unable to make souls reincarnate in order to grow, or in order to offer themselves as victim souls for the salvation of others? Because our Church teaches something, does that make is absolutely the Truth? Look at the concept of limbo: means, literally, "on the shelf" because that's what happened during the discussion regarding the disposition of the souls of the innocent (children) at a time when children were the most susceptible to death from disease. Does God take orders from us? What we "believe" is actually our informed (or uninformed) "opinions" based upon culture, morphic resonance and hypotheses presented as "truth". We know Jesus was God in the flesh, we know He lived, we know he died a horrific death for the expiation of the sins (failures) of God's creatures (Humans) and we know He rose again. That's about it, and that's enough. If God chooses reincarnation as a method of growth, or discipline, or learning, or as a method to provide the soul a choice to serve Humanity by suffering (even though that soul does not "remember" this voluntary act to serve God in this way), who are WE to say He cannot do this? Of all religions in the world (especially those in Christianity), I think Roman Catholicism comes the closest to the will of God for us but I do NOT think, nor do I believe, that it can impose restrictions or limitations on God, the Creator. We are the "mouse" on the "space station". Think about it.

  6. I go back and forth on this one. As a long time believer in reincarnation, who has recently come back to the Catholic Church, I hsve not yet ditched the possibility of multiple lives simply because the Church says so. I don't however think that reincarnation is ideal, based upon the testimony of those religions in which it plays a central role. Hindus, Buddhists and Sihks are all, in their own way, trying to escape from this cycle.It is not seen as something desirable, as is often the case with Western believers whose belief in multiple lives is often used as an excuse to become more lax in their spiritual practices. If I truely believed that life was only a "one shot" deal, should'nt my level of devotion and charity exceed that of any guru or Eastern monk who is EXPECTING to return? Yet it's like asking for a limb to get many Catholics to recite a daily Rosary and/or Divine Mercy Chaplet...let alone frequent Confession!
    If given a choice, Purgatory or reincarnation, which would I choose? Purgatory has the advantages of being linear, temporary, and sanctifying; the Holy Souls of the Church Suffering are already saved and know why they are there and where (rather, to Whom) they're headed...none of these things are true for reincarnation. On the contrary, without specific knowledge of WHY one as been reborn there is always the karmic risk of making things worse SIMPLY BY BEING ALIVE. On the other hand, being alive on Earth as a member of the Church Militant gives one the opportunity to,in Eastern terms,"acrue merit" (Indulgences) for those souls who are still suffering...that is however, the ONLY advantage. How many of us are boddhisattvas who are fully aware of why the have returned, who they have been, and what they need to do to primarily help others (NOT themselves) "move forward"?
    As it stands at the time of this writing my perspective is this: while reincarnation COULD be true in light of God's Omnipotence and Soveriegty it should not be held as a goal but rather Christ Himself should be the focus of our devotions, hope, and expectations. If, as a Catholic, my primary focus is on Christ, imitating His life, recieving the Sacraments (particularly Confession and Communion), and engaging in both Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy rather than metaphysical speculations then I CANNOT possibly lose karmically-speaking.In short, error on the side of caution and aim for Sainthood, not rebirth, and even IF reincarnation is true, the state of one's soul will be far better for it!
    Just an opinion.

    1. "If I truely believed that life was only a "one shot" deal, should'nt my level of devotion and charity exceed that of any guru or Eastern monk who is EXPECTING to return?"

      This would be true if one was born in ideal circumstances in which that approach was truly lived and taught. Very few of us are born in those circumstances and so we fumble around to the best of our ability.

      My own view on reincarnation is that it is operative in our lives, but I never lose sight of the fact that if we really did get what Jesus taught, and acted on that truth, we would end the cycle. That's if the Bhuddist and Hindu concepts of reincarnation are actually true. I actually think it's more complicated than that, principally because free choice must be operative because it's part of our intrinsic selves. I think we choose to come back for many many reasons. Suffering souls would be a good example of such a choice. Learning lessons and playing critical parts in the lives of others would be another reason.

      I truly believe the mission of humanity is to bring forth the perfection of this material expression of God's life. I think this is true because the one experiential component of three demensional reality that is unique is the sense perception of touch. It maybe that God created this dense reality in order to know love through touch. In which case it's no wonder we have been obsessed with touch through sexuality. We, those of us who are born into this reality, are in a very real sense writing the rules about love through touch. It's not hard for me to believe we would want to keep coming back to help write those rules.

      Jesus's Crucifixion most certainly shows the kind of rules involving touch, we don't want to write. His Resurrection also shows if we follow His teachings and understand on a profound level what they really mean, we can experience a body that is capable of touch and impervious to pain. We can experience of fully divinely powered body that can enjoy this experience while not being limited to it's laws of expression. What a deal huh? I can easily believe I have returned more than once to help make that possibility reality. This time around I've actually experienced it, and it blew everything I thought I knew about anything completely away. Finally, I can imagine an Earth in which things are done here exactly as they are in heaven.

    2. Good points, and I can honestly say that my belief in reincarnation was a key factor in coming back to the Church..though that's not something I usually announce:) The idea that I would recieve the measure that I give to others, in this life or another,not only requires time, space, and flesh but was certainly more spiritually motivating than the idea of dealayed judgment or reward. I knew it had to be Christ-centered and the advantage of the Catholic Church is that it is a Christianity that one actually DOES...not that we are saved by works but that salvation, once had, needs to be cultivated. My issues now are primarily theological and I would be interested to hear your views:
      1.) How to understand the Crucifixion and Resurrection in light of the possibility of multiple lives? Does Atonement Theology completly fly-out-the-window? Why would God resort to such extremes personally, through the Incarnation, if other options/lives were posssible?
      2.) Does Hell have a part in this cosmology as it does with the Buddhists who believe in Heaven and Hell but see them as temporary..although on a much different time scale ('Wheel of Samsara', etc)?
      Great Blog...and hope to hear back soon!:)

    3. Bryan, I have this blog set up with the commenting monitored on older posts so that I can engage in these kinds of conversations with readers in some privacy. So yes, I do check the monitored comments frequently. So here's my thoughts on your questions.

      1) I don't see Jesus living the reincarnational cycle at all. I see his life as both a gift from God and God's willingness to share the difficulties in order to experience the problems and teach us the solutions. In that sense He came to teach us life on Earth could be as it is in heaven. But again, free choice was in play and the consequences of the choices of others were not deflected by His will. The Crucifixion was inevitable because what he teaches completely undermines the idea of 'power' as it developed on Earth. 'Service to' is the total opposite of 'dominion over'. For me the Resurrection was the big message, the final gift--when we give up all notions of dominion over, and place service to as the organization principle in our lives, we get to live life in bodies which speak to our total truth. That is they are manifestations of the quantum universe in which this reality is built. They can be touched and touch, and yet walk through walls and move through distance instantly. Heaven indeed on Earth. It's a very narrow path to get there because one is talking about having the creative power of the universe coursing through their body and bending to their will. Access is protected and the key is understanding the teachings of Jesus. Unfortunately I think a lot the teachings were never passed on--oral history is like that. Or as Jesus would put, we got what people 'had the ears to hear, and the eyes to see'.

      Atonement theology recedes in importance. It has to because it's based on a petulant vengeful God who demanded the brutal murder of his own Son for the indiscretions of others. Jesus' life is really not about sacrifice, it's about the incredible actual power of Love and the importance of reducing the fears of the ego. Sacrifice is a starting notion about love, it's not the end point.

      2)Hell does exist as a temporal state holding people whose despair was such that they are not even aware they are in a form of hell, and yet they are in one of their own making. This is difficult to describe, but I have 'seen' it and it is full of people who project utter hopelessness. There are many who try to bring these souls out, but the souls are truly blind to their presence. Eventually though, an energy comes whose light/love is so bright these individuals do 'see' another path. Such as when Jesus descended into hell between His crucifixion and Resurrection. This despair thing, frequently created in childhood by belief in the worthlessness of man relative to God--atonement theology--is one very big reason I am not keen on atonement theology.

      If I go on any more, my own comment will wind up in the SPAM folder. LOL

    4. OK, finally, I see the Reincarnation cycle as having the end point of evolving us to the point Jesus was at when He Resurrected. We too are aiming to learn to love and forgive and be compassionate and tame all of our brain generated ego fears to the point we don't reincarnate, we resurrect. It's going to also take a community of believers to support that resurrected individual or individuals and vice versa, which is the whole idea of what Jesus originally intended by 'church' because we aren't all going to get there at the same time and those who do make it, will be quite the gift for the others.

  7. Bryan wrote: "Hindus, Buddhists and Sihks are all, in their own way, trying to escape from this cycle."

    Not necessarily. For many Hindus of the Bhakta ("devotional") traditions, their goal is service to God, or communion with God. Whether that service or communion takes them out of the reincarnation process is secondary. There main aim is God.

  8. Some mystics have proposed ways to reconcile reincarnation and monobioism ("one-life-ism"), and most involve recognizing the multi-dimensional aspect of the human person. Hazrat Inayat Khan, a Sufi who first came to America in 1910, proposed that, after death, one's deepest self/soul returned to God, but the elements making up one's physical body and spiritual body remain in the earthly realm, waiting to be adopted by a newly arriving self/soul, who could then have "memories" of a past life. The Baha'is have a similar model.

    Among some Hindus, reincarnation is rejected -- but so is birth and death -- because, ultimately, God is All in all, and why would God need to be reincarnated?

  9. Bryan, I'm similar to you and I'm glad to hear what you said. For me, reincarnation seems pretty obviously true, and it actually goes together with my Catholicism rather than against it, even though I acknowledge that the Catechism says I'm wrong on this point. Jesus came to show us the way, but I believe that he keeps showing us the way through multiple lives -- and that where we go between lives also depends on how closely we follow Jesus and absorb and actualize what He came to impart. There are two really good books to read: "The Other Side" by Michael H Brown about what we learn from near-death experiences, and "Testimony of the Light" by Helen Greaves -- the channeled observations of a deceased Anglican nun reporting on how the universe works, both in this life and on the other side. I saw very little in either book that would present any trouble at all for those who believe in Christ's message, though there are some things that may conflict with the scare tactic of telling people we have one shot to get it right or else we go to hell. -- Martha