Sunday 30 March 2014

Reincarnation - three explanatory functions


1. Animism - reincarnation is the unending circulation and transformation of a finite number of immortal souls through multiple sentient entities - this circulation and transformation is  'life' itself.

2. Eastern Hinduism/ Buddhism/ Jainism - reincarnation is the purpose of life: reincarnation is a punishment. Life is suffering, but death is not an escape unless or until multiple lives have educated the soul to die and escape reincarnation, when individual self-hood is extinguished and reabsorbed into the primary energies.

3. Modern New Age-ism - reincarnation is the purpose of life: reincarnation is an ascent towards divinity; necessary because one life is not enough to accomplish all the learning and spiritual progression needed to bridge between the human and the divine.


Christians, I take it, believe that reincarnation simply does not happen, at least not as a norm; although I don't think Christians would regard reincarnation as absolutely impossible, if it was necessary in some way to God's purposes - which means it might have happened, but exceptionally and not as a standard part of God's basic plan of salvation. 



ajb said...

In the dictionary sense, it seems fairly straightforward that Christians *ought* to believe in reincarnation, although many think Heaven is a disembodied existence.

Here are three definitions of 'reincarnation' from

1. the belief that the soul, upon death of the body, comes back to earth in another body or form.

2. rebirth of the soul in a new body.

3. a new incarnation or embodiment, as of a person.

The (general) resurrection seems to fit 3. It might fit 2., as the body will be new in the sense of being a) discontinuous with the previous body b) presumably of different stuff as the body had previously, and c) glorified (so significantly different in a functional sense).

The Crow said...

Reincarnation is the recycling of unsold cans of Evaporated Milk.

Humans, I consider to be at the bottom of the reincarnation hierarchy. Not, as is commonly posited, the top.
The challenge is to learn the arcane art of humility. Imagine the humility necessary to live a successful life as a frog. Or a slug.

Humility is THE quality that allows spiritual enlightenment. A reduction to nothing, as in quantum state. And recognition of consciousness for what it really is. The stuff of Life.

Wm Jas said...

Jesus strongly implies that John the Baptist is the reincarnation of Elijah. Some of the Jews also believed that Jesus himself was Elijah or Jeremiah or John the Baptist (odd, that last one, since Jesus and John were contemporaries), showing that a belief in reincarnation was normal in the time of Christ. The Jews may also have been assuming reincarnation when they asked, "Who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (Mormons use this as a proof-text for our pre-mortal life as spirits, which is another possible interpretation.)

Mormons do not normally believe in reincarnation, but one could argue that the idea is implicit in the description of the Telestial Kingdom (the lowest of the three heavens to which people may be sent after death and resurrection) as "the world in which we now live."

Bruce Charlton said...

@WmJas - Yes, I had forgotten that - perhaps it conforms my Christian interpretation that reincarnation is possible (for specific purposes) but exceptional - also that it is NOT an element in salvation/ spiritual progression (whether up-going or down-going).

@Crow - This doesn't make sense to me. If becoming simple animals and learning humility were the purpose of life, then (since the system and objective implies a designer and a purpose) there would be no point in having humans in the first place.

The Crow said...

@Bruce: you imagine God adheres to things like 'points'?
Maybe He likes a challenge.
There's nothing on earth quite so not-humble as a human.
Getting one of those to 'get-it' would be a considerable victory.