Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Resurrection metaphysically supersedes Reincarnation

Reincarnation seems to imply (if not to entail) the eternal primacy of spirit life (unembodied, 'pure' spirit) above incarnation (embodiment). 

That is; with reincarnation Men are primarily - first and last - spirit forms; and the history of a Man's being begins with being-a-spirit and ends with being-a-spirit. 

This spirit undergoes a series of incarnations which may be (eventually, according to some versions of reincarnation) aiming-towards eternal status as a spirit. The spirit learns-from - or is otherwise affected-by - an incarnation; however, it is only the spirit which persists. 

Or else there is an unending cycle of (re-) incarnations (and perhaps transformations, for instance to other beings such as animals) through-which the spirit moves serially. But, equally; only the spirit is eternal, with the multiple incarnate forms being left-behind. 


But the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and his promise of resurrection to all who follow him, implies a final incarnation. 

Resurrection (which is an eternal embodied state) is thus implicitly regarded as having a higher status than that of pure spirit. 

For me this means that when someone becomes a Christian, he expects (or at least hopes) that his death will be followed by resurrection; and therefore Not by another reincarnation. 


Against this understanding are ranged several of my spiritual mentors such as Rudolf Steiner and Owen Barfield, and perhaps William Arkle. Steiner and Barfield are explicit that the ultimate and eternal aim of Man is to be a pure (discarnate) spirit; and that incarnations are 'merely' a series of 'descents' into the material, from-which the spirit is intended to learn. 

I can only regard this combining of Christianity and reincarnation as an error - a metaphysical* incoherence. A failure correctly to discern and understand the core teaching of Jesus Christ and the demonstration that was his life, death, resurrection and ascension.   

And I think the source of this error lies in the (common, almost universal) failure to regard the Fourth Gospel (termed 'John') as the primary Christian scripture; because this text seems to state quite explicitly (and repeatedly) that followers of Jesus can expect resurrection to life everlasting after the death of their mortal bodies: which clearly (so it seems) excludes the possibility of reincarnation. 

A Christian who built his faith from the Fourth Gospel would (surely?) cease to expect - and to want - any further reincarnation? 


*Note - By metaphysical incoherence I mean a matter of incompatible primary assumptions; which therefore has nothing to do with 'evidence' or 'observation', because metaphysical assumptions frame the nature and status of evidence and observation.

Further Note - I am not saying that there never was reincarnation; in the contrary I assume that it certainly has happened in some times and places, and possibly continues to happen. What I am saying is that following Jesus Christ to Heaven necessarily terminates the cycle of reincarnations. 

2 comments:

Mark said...

Reincarnation has always had an end thus you have masters who help others in all cultures be it bodisattvas or avatars. In the West we only focused on Jesus and on some of the saints who seem to intervene on our behalf in magical ways. Without an independent spirit being, there is no freedom. Otherwise you are a material outpouring of your parents' DNA and God blessing, without an independent free spirit core. You are driven by DNA, materiality, psychological determinism as well as your parents;=' choice of religion. Only reincarnation can give meaning in the earthly morass and the power of our individual spirit can navigate the material determinism of our earthly environment. If living a pious christian life is all that is needed to leave the cycle of reincarnation, then the heavens must be filled with bodisattvas and saints waiting to be incorporated into the pantheon of saints in Rome. The majority of practicing Christians would have to be condemned to hell (as many important church fathers have told us) for the flesh is weak and in spite of our actions our salvation is dependent not on spiritual laws of karma but by the arbitrary will of God. Right?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Mark - "Right?"

Well, No!

You are arguing against something I didn't say.

But anyway, it seems clear from your comment that places Jesus with other Masters that you are not a Christian - in the sense that you do Not regard Jesus Christ of Nazareth as specifically (in some strong sense) necessary for salvation.

I have a very broad definition of Christian compared with most people - but to be a Christ-ian, there must be some unique necessity for Christ.

My point was that it seems metaphysically incoherent to be A Christian (in the sense in which I personally understand the term) and to believe in reincarnation for oneself, after this coming biological death.

I think the only way around this is to regard resurrection as referring to some kind of spiritual (not incarnated) state of being - but I can't square this with Jesus Christ's life, teaching and example - especially as articulated in the Fourth Gospel.