For Shakespeare: What About Reincarnation?

>> Thursday, September 10, 2009

Reincarnation; the Hindu understanding. Image by the external link Himalayan Academy, from Wikipedia - Wikipedia link original url. Copyrighted to Wikipedia link Himalayan Academy Publications, Kapaa, Kauai, Hawaii. Licensed for Wikipedia under Creative Commons License cc-by-sa-2.5 and requires attribution when reproduced.

Shakespeare asked: What are your thoughts about past lives, about reincarnation. Does it exist, and what evidence is there that it might?

I'm going to answer the second part first because it's easier. There is no objective evidence today that reincarnation has ever happened. That ought to satisfy the Mother.

I'll expand, however, and say there's no way for objective evidence to exist, however, with our current technology. In order for there to be credible objective evidence of reincarnation, one would have to have a way of identifying people's souls definitively, like one can bodies via DNA or fingerprints - and then comparing it to a similar soul in a previous life. Since we can't even prove souls exist, this is beyond us and may always be (assuming, of course, souls exist). There has been some research done on this with some pretty compelling anecdotes (particularly the book, Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation by Ian Stevenson) and I must say that the critic's arguments fall flat for me. Assuming, because you're sure it can't exist, that it doesn't is hardly scientific; however, since I also don't discount the notion of psychic power out of hand, I can't discount that reincarnation is not the only explanation.

And that's why I specified "objective evidence." If you're open to the concept, as I am, the evidence seems pretty compelling. If you're closed to the notion, you can find excuses to dismiss the evidence with other explanations, which might be convoluted but can't be discounted out of hand. And it's all anecdotal, which is hard to evaluate objectively.

Having said all that, let me tell you what I think. I think it's quite plausible and personally believe it likely, even that I've lived previous lives. Why?

Several reasons that I find personally compelling. First, I believe, absolutely, in souls, in children having distinct and different souls that, in combination with the genetic makeup of their bodies, the physiological circumstances and environment, create the finished personality. I'm personally at a loss to understand how one could have children and not recognize the existence of souls, but I have no doubt it's happened. Just because I find the evidence overwhelming does not mean someone else would. But I think the belief in souls is required to open to the notion of reincarnation.

And I have a great respect for nature, who recycles like no one's business with nothing going to waste. It seems illogical to me, wasteful, for souls to be used and tossed with nowhere to go from there and, since Heaven is actually a harder concept for me to swallow (but I wouldn't have a problem with reincarnation even if I swallowed that), it makes sense to me that lives become journeys where you capture the most important lessons, the ones that affect your soul, over time, over lives before moving on to the next plane, whatever that might be.

I also have seen some very old souls in some young people, myself included. I can't remember when I didn't feel very old. And I see it in my eldest daughter as well.

But I don't expect that kind of evidence to be compelling to anyone else. Nor am I offended if someone else doesn't see it like I do.

But that's how *I* see it and, after all, I'm the one you asked.


  • Jeff King

    I think it might happen... this world is like a test if you fail that test you come back again.

    i do not think one strike and you’re out, maybe you just start with a disadvantage. Like having lots of money and no one to hold you responsible, that would make it hard to pass any morality test...

    But of course having proof or memory of it would defeat such a test.

  • Roy

    Hmmmm... Personally, I'm a skeptic when it comes to reincarnation. I believe in the soul, but not in reincarnation. Why? Observation. Observation of universal phenomena points out one widespread, overwhelming characteristic of all entities in the universe: call it diversity, or individuual uniqueness, or non-duplication. Nothing, at least as observable to this point, duplicates. Everything is its own unique, non-duplicated individuality. Reincarnation would violate that principle, and so far I haven't observed the universe violating any of its operational principles on this level. So I cross off reincarnation as wishful thinking.

    Just thought I'd throw that in.

  • Stephanie B

    As I said, Roy, I don't expect everyone to agree with me. Reality will be whatever we think or believe.

  • Doctor Faustroll

    My favorite anecdote from talking with Joseph Campbell many years ago:

    Joe was in India doing research on a Zen master and a fly kept buzzing around them, eventually landing on the master's arm, whereupon Mr. Zen smote the fly, killing it, and said, winking at Mr. Joe: "Come back in a more acceptable form."

  • Shakespeare

    Thanks for answering the question. I'm not sure about the whole test thing, Jeff, though Buddhism and Hinduism both seem to think that's likely in its own way (we are reborn up or down in the chain depending on how we developed in the last life)... though I can see that. I'm just not sure I ascribe any moral teaching to it. I like the whole idea of being "recycled," as you put it, Stephanie.

    I can't say I have any proof it happened to me. Just wondering.

  • The Mother

    I just loved the "objective evidence" barb.

    Stephanie and I disagree on this one. I am a card carrying member of the skeptics society, and there is no evidence at all of psychic phenomena in general, let alone reincarnation in particular.

    I don't believe in the concept of "souls." What we perceive as conciousness is the sum total of our biochemical/neuronal makeup. Nothing more, and certainly nothing sustainable past death.

    But can I prove it? Nope, any more than anyone can prove that it does exist.

  • Stephanie B

    See, I knew that would be your reaction, the Mother (no psychic power required). But that's OK, you're not wrong about either side being unprovable.

    And I'm cool with not everyone agreeing with me. In this case, in my opinion, there's really no harm done either way.

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