Transmigration of Souls 


Plato Control Mechanism
The Bible Population Explosion
Memories The Christian Alternative
Father of Spirits Revival

Doubting Thomas
Doubting Thomas

LogoPlato

The pagan philosopher Plato tells the story, or 'myth,' of a grand recycling operation. Souls of dead folks are extracted, processed, and sent out the shop door again for another go-round:





  • “Ten thousand years must elapse before the soul of each one can return to the place from whence she came, for she cannot grow her wings in less; only the soul of a philosopher, guileless and true, or the soul of a lover, who is not devoid of philosophy, may acquire wings in the third of the recurring periods of a thousand years; he is distinguished from the ordinary good man who gains wings in three thousand years:—and they who choose this life three times in succession have wings given them, and go away at the end of three thousand years. But the others receive judgment when they have completed their first life, and after the judgment they go, some of them to the houses of correction which are under the earth, and are punished; others to some place in heaven whither they are lightly borne by justice, and there they live in a manner worthy of the life which they led here when in the form of men. And at the end of the first thousand years the good souls and also the evil souls both come to draw lots and choose their second life, and they may take any which they please.
  • “The soul of a man may pass into the life of a beast, or from the beast return again into the man. But the soul which has never seen the truth will not pass into the human form. For a man must have intelligence of universals, and be able to proceed from the many particulars of sense to one conception of reason;—this is the recollection of those things which our soul once saw while following God—when regardless of that which we now call being she raised her head up towards the true being. And therefore the mind of the philosopher alone has wings; and this is just, for he is always, according to the measure of his abilities, clinging in recollection to those things in which God abides, and in beholding which He is what He is. And he who employs aright these memories is ever being initiated into perfect mysteries and alone becomes truly perfect. But, as he forgets earthly interests and is rapt in the divine, the vulgar deem him mad, and rebuke him; they do not see that he is inspired.”

  • (Plato, Dialogue Theatetus).




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There were other voices joining in Plato's chorus in seeking to naturalize the Eastern belief in reincarnation in the stony and inhospitable Greek soil. Various 'gymnosophists' made the trek west, either in the train of Alexander the Great or on their own initiative. Even though one cannot imagine any more miserable bad news than to discover that life is an illusion and our best hope is for personal extinction, that doesn't mean there haven't from the start been Buddhist and Hindu missionaries fanning out across the globe, eager to spread the message and share the misery. While Gautama Buddha's dates are frustratingly difficult to pin down, the Emperor Ashoka is a known historical figure who made a major missionary push within a few centuries of the Buddha's death: "Ashoka ruled from 268 B.C. until his death, in 233. . .In addition, Ashoka was the founder of the Buddhist world mission. He sent religious emissaries to the countries adjoining his kingdom to proclaim the  teaching of the Buddha. . .Other missionaries were sent to the Western countries, and Ashoka ordered some of his inscriptions to be engraved in Aramaic and in Greek." (Christianity and the World Religions, edited by Hans Kung, pp. 334-335). So the bad news of Buddhism, with its invitation to personal extinction, was thoroughly aired in the West. Of course reincarnation was not a discovery of the Buddha, to go along with his other helpful insights like that if you don't care about anyone or anything you can't be disappointed, but rather the matrix out of which Buddhism and the other Indian religions arose.

In Europe, Pythagoras of Samos was the pioneer, a fervent believer in reincarnation, who founded a brotherhood which endured from his day (the sixth century B.C.) up into the Christian era: "He was the first, they say, to declare that the soul, bound now in this creature, now in that, thus goes on a round ordained of necessity." (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, Volume II, Book VIII, Chapter I, p. 333 Loeb edition). Although Buddha's 'traditional' dates seem to keep migrating earlier, presumably in the interests of philosophical one-upmanship, still one must concede to the old crank, "What Buddha taught in the sixth century, B.C., in India, Pythagoras taught in the fifth, in Greece and Italy." (Madame Helena P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled and the Secret Doctrine, Complete Illustrated Edition, p. 347, Kindle location 12006). Pythagoras' dates are equally squishy, although both men are undoubtedly historical figures.

Is it possible that Pythagoras was the innovator rather than the disciple? After all, his followers spread his 'gospel' far and wide, to such unlikely peoples as the Goths and such unlikely places as the British Isles. Was the notoriously back-dated Buddha a copy-cat? This seems unlikely however on a priori grounds. Even if the Buddha were in fact a later figure, the influence most likely migrated westward not eastward, from his predecessors if not from him. He was no innovator on this point; Buddha stands out from his religious matrix in his, and his followers,' very successful evangelistic drive. But the basic framework was old. Buddha was a proponent of the existing Hindu religion, who liked to make lists. The teaching of reincarnation was early universally imposed in India, upon the willing and the unwilling, for reasons which will become apparent. The kinship did not go unnoticed:

"Alexander, in his book On the Pythagorean Symbols, relates that Pythagoras was a pupil of Nazaratus the Assyrian (some think that he is Ezekiel; but he is not, as will afterwards be shown), and will have it that, in addition to these, Pythagoras was a hearer of the Galatae and the Brahmins." (Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, Book 1, Chapter XV).

The 'Galatae' perhaps are Galatian Gauls, but the Druids' belief in reincarnation was, according to some ancient writers, learned from Pythagoras' disciples, not taught to him by them: "Between these two came the Druids, men of loftier genius, bound in brotherhoods according to the precepts and example of Pythagoras; and their minds were elevated by investigations into secret and sublime matters, and from the contempt which they entertained for human affairs they pronounced the soul immortal." (Ammianus Marcellinus, The History of Rome, Book XV, Chapter IX, Section 8). The Pythagoreans were themselves successful missionaries.

In the United States, the folk wisdom fire marshals handed down to their successors was belatedly tested by experiment and found lacking. Though they had long held that the place most badly burned must be where the fire started, this finding could not be replicated in experimental test fires. So arsonists convicted according to this 'junk science' must be released. Still, doesn't it make sense? In the East, almost everybody accepts reincarnation, in the West, scarcely anyone does, nor was the belief even close to universal before Christianity drove the last nail into its coffin; so where did this belief originate? In the East, I and the fire marshals say. No doubt there are exceptions to this rule; Buddhism, invented in India, today scarcely exists in its native land. At a minimum, there was a world conversation going on at the time which subsequently fell silent.

Pythagoras' disciple Empedocles continued to carry the torch, explaining, "'Before now I was born a boy and a maid, a bush and a bird, and a dumb fish leaping out of the sea.'" (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, Volume II, Book VIII, Chapter 2, p. 391 Loeb edition). Empedocles was a god-claimant, as was also Pythagoras. Indeed his philosophy was a veritable factory churning out gods:




". . .according to Empedocles, it is necessary that

"'From the blest wandering thrice ten thousand times,
Through various mortal forms the soul should pass.'"

(Quoted by Celsus, in On True Doctrine, Arguments of Celsus, Porphyry, and the Emperor Julian Against the Christians, Kindle location 465).

. . .the body being a prison, but one we can't seem to help falling into, given the recidivism rate as quoted above.

The Greeks to whom Homer sang and the native Romans alike shared a rather depressing vision of the afterlife, with pale, bloodless shades all that remains of mortals:

"What madness is it to call black Death to us by warfare! It is ever close upon us: it comes unseen on silent feet. Below there are neither cornlands nor well-kept vineyards; only wild Cerberus and the ill-favored mariner of the stream of Styx. There wanders a sallow throng beside the dusky pools with eyeless sockets and fire-ravaged hair." (Tibullus, Book I, Chapter X, 33, p. 247 Loeb edition).

Yet belief in reincarnation came in. Where did this information transfer between East and West take place: Egypt, as tradition suggests? Several ancient authors attest to Egypt's political hegemony over India in past time: "Among the tombs are obelisks with inscriptions, denoting the wealth of the kings of that time, and the extent of their empire, as reaching to the Scythians, Bactrians, Indians, and the present Ionia; the amount of tribute also, and the number of soldiers, which composed an army of about a million of men." (Strabo, Geography, Book XVII, Chapter 1, Section 46, p. 262). However, though there seems nothing incredible about a rich and populous country establishing an empire, modern Egyptologists scoff at the idea that Egypt ever held sway over the East. There does however seem to have been contact, at a minimum, sufficient to introduce this paradigm, if it was not Egypt's own way of understanding the problem of mortality. Herodotus however gives credit for originality to the Egyptians themselves:

"The Egyptians say that Demeter and Dionysos are rulers of the world below; and the Egyptians are also the first who reported the doctrine that the soul of man is immortal, and that when the body dies, the soul enters into another creature which chances then to be coming to the birth, and when it has gone the round of all the creatures of land and sea and of the air, it enters again into a human body as it comes to the birth; and that it makes this round in a period of three thousand years. This doctrine certain Hellenes adopted, some earlier and some later, as if it were of their own invention, and of these men I know the names but I abstain from recording them." (Herodotus, Histories, Book II, Chapter 123).

If the Egyptians did invent this doctrine and then pass it on to the inhabitants of India and Eastward, then that transaction is lost in the mists of time. Certainly the dogma has been naturalized in those regions, where it is all but universal. At a bare minimum they had their own reasons for adopting it, as we shall see. Reincarnation was not the Greeks' native understanding, nor was it Rome's. These latter nations, as readers of Homer's epics are aware, had originally shared a depressing vision of wan, bloodless persistence:

"Nevertheless the quick-revolving moons repair their wanings in the skies; but when we descend [to those regions] where pious Aeneas, where Tullus and the wealthy Ancus [have gone before us], we become dust and a mere shade." (Horace, Odes, Book IV, Ode VII).

Not dust and shade, but lions and tigers and bears, says the Pythagorean Apollonius:

"The following incident also of Apollonius' stay in Egypt was thought remarkable. There was a man [who] led a tame lion about by a string, as if it had been a dog; and the animal not only fawned upon him, but on anyone who approached it. It went collecting alms all around the towns, and was admitted even in the temples, being a pure animal; for it never licked up the blood of the victims, nor pounced on them when they were being flayed and cut up, but lived upon honey-cakes and bread and dried fruits and cooked meat; and you also came on it drinking wine without losing its character.

"One day it came up to Apollonius when he was sitting in the temple, and whined and fawned at his knees, and begged of him more earnestly than it had ever done of anybody. The bystanders imagined it wanted some solid reward, but Apollonius exclaimed: 'This lion is begging me to make you understand that a human soul is within him, the soul namely of Amasis, the king of Egypt in the province of Sais.'

"And when the lion heard that, he gave a piteous and plaintive roar, and crouching down began to lament, shedding tears. Thereupon Apollonius stroked him, and said: 'I think the lion ought to be sent to Leontopolis ["Lion's city"] and dedicated to the temple there [of the god Mihos], for I consider it wrong that a king who has been changed into the most kingly of beasts should go begging, like any human mendicant.'

"In consequence the priests met and offered sacrifice to Amasis; and having decorated the animal with a collar and ribbons, they conveyed him up country into Egypt with pipings, hymns and songs composed in his honor." (Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana, Book V, Chapter 42).


Plato Home


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So as to where the gnostics, and their belated medieval progeny the Kabbalists, got it from, one or the other of these popular pagan teachers is likely to be the source. As to where they did not get it from, they most emphatically did not get it from the Bible, because it ain't there.

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Thriceholy Radio


Control Mechanism

In its native setting, the myth of reincarnation keeps the lid on a horrifically unjust social order. Indian society is a layer-cake with light-skinned 'Brahmins' perched on top, dark-skinned 'Untouchables' occupying the very bottom, with the remainder of the spectrum spread out between. The innocent 'Untouchables' have done no wrong, yet at birth they received a life sentence: they can perform only menial labor, cannot mingle with decent society, and must keep to themselves. Fortunately these unjust practices are falling by the wayside; they could not survive contact with more enlightened societies. This social structure is evidently a remnant of a long-ago conquest of the indigenous, dark-skinned people by lighter-skinned invaders. These imaginative invaders set out to explain why the world was so structured that they and their descendants deserved places at the top, whereas other folks would have to content themselves with picking up the scraps they dropped. Thus exponents of the Hindu faith exercise themselves in explaining why those in the lower castes deserve to be treated like dogs,-- because they sinned in a prior life,-- while those in the upper castes deserve to have everything handed to them on a platter,-- because they behaved well in a prior life. The untouchable who demands due process: who demands that his accusers prove in a court of law by rational evidentiary standards that he did anything bad in a prior life,-- waits for his hearing in vain.

Transmigration is the engine that makes the caste system go. Why else would the people on the bottom accept, generation after their generation, their subservient status? The really bad people come back as animals. This was the rather diabolical way the medieval inquisitors could tell who belonged to the gnostic Cathari, believers in transmigration:

"Human souls are similarly all fallen spirits passing through probation, and this was very generally the belief of all the sects of Cathari, leading to a theory of transmigration very similar to that of Buddhism, though modified by the belief that Christ's earthly mission was the redemption of these fallen spirits. Until the perfected soul could return to its Creator, as in the moksha or absorption in Brahma of the Hindu, it was forced to undergo repeated existence. As it could be still further punished for evil deeds by transmission into the lower animal forms, there naturally followed the Buddhistic and Brahmanical prohibition of slaying any created thing, except reptiles and fish. The Cathari who were hanged at Goslar in 1052 refused to kill a pullet, even with the gallows before their eyes, and in the thirteenth century this test was regarded as a ready means of identifying them." (Henry C. Lea, A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, Volume I, Kindle location 1771).

But what can it mean to say that that one's grandmother may have come back as a moth? What is the point of contact between the moth and your grandmother? Is the moth 'kind' or 'compassionate,' as it may be hoped your grandmother was? How can the moth be one and the same as your grandmother? The early Christian apologists hammered away at this point, stressing the absurdity of conflating the essence of a human being with a pig or a flea or a frog:

"And, how was it, that we were not made wise by those sages among the Egyptians, or by those Greeks who made broad their foreheads; those who said that the soul which was in man, was in no respect better in its essence than were gnats, fleas, worms, or reptiles; nor even, than the soul of the serpent, the viper, the bear, or the panther? and that swine, as to their soul, differed in respect, (from men)?" (Eusebius, Theopania, Fifth Book, Chapter 6).

There is here in evidence, on the part of the first formulators of the 'reincarnation' theory, either a childish anthropomorphism touching the fleas and frogs, which ascribes to them a nature they do not possess, or a jaundiced and reductive view of human nature. In Aesop's fables, the animals talk, revealing that they enjoy an inner life much like our own, though this is not very likely. In reality the gulf between fleas and humankind is broad. All that could actually ever survive such a transmutation is a spark, a 'life-force,' the least common denominator shared between the pigs and us, not a human personality.



Porphyry
 On Abstinence from 
Animal Food


There are economic consequences to counting the animals amongst our own kind:

"Hinduism teaches that people who die come back as animals. There are plenty of cows and pigs that roam the streets freely, but no one will slaughter them, even if their child's belly is bloated with malnutrition. Moreover, two hundred million "sacred cows," eat up enough food to feed seven people, taking enough sustenance that could feed as many as 1.4 billion. Neither will they kill the mice and rats that devour much of the grain." (Christian Post, America's Christian Roots and Its Impact on the Economy, June 2, 2014, Mark H. Creech).

Whatever other-worldly rewards it promises,— its explicit hope looks suspiciously like extinction,— what Hinduism delivers in this world is misery: "The great poverty and starvation in India, for example, may be laid at the feet of Hinduism, the pagan religion that spawned a host of other religions, including Shintoism and Buddhism. . .Because of Hinduism's belief in reincarnation, all animals are considered to be incarnations either of men or deities. Cows are held especially sacred because supposedly they are incarnated deities, of which Hinduism has 330 million. These cows aggravate the food shortage because they consume 20 percent of India's total food supply." (John MacArthur, Jr., Alone With God, p. 121).

Reincarnation is the Eastern answer to the problem of evil. The child born deformed is punished for his misdeeds in a prior life. Otherwise, they claim, the problem of human suffering would be insoluble:

"For were it otherwise — had there been a new soul created for each of the countless milliards of human beings that have passed away, and had there been no reincarnation — it would become difficult indeed to provide room for the disembodied 'Spirits;' nor could the origin and cause of suffering ever be accounted for. It is the ignorance of the occult tenets and the enforcement of false conceptions under the guise of religious education, which have created materialism and atheism as a protest against the asserted divine order of things." (Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled and the Secret Doctrine, pp. 182-183 SD, Kindle location 28813).

For those susceptible to this form of persuasion, this has been the answer, for thousands of years, to the crippled child: you deserve it:

"For we, looking to that which is most brief, direct our attention to things present, and to this momentary life, and the manner in which it subsists. But the powers that are superior to us know the whole life of the soul, and all of its former lives; and, in consequence of this, if they inflict a certain punishment from the prayer of those that invoke them, they do not inflict it without justice, but looking to the offences committed by souls in former lives; which men not perceiving think that they unjustly fall into the calamities which they suffer." (Iamblichus, On the Mysteries of the Egyptians, Chaldeans, and Assyrians, Section IV, Chapter IV, p. 111).

To which one hopes the crippled child will respond, 'Prove it:'




Arthur Schopenhauer, perhaps a transmigrationist, makes a virtue of necessity: isn't it nice to be so close to our animal friends, that we see in them our future (though my cat would likely consider it a demotion to come back as a human):

"I may mention here another fundamental error of Christianity, an error which cannot be explained away, and the mischievous consequences of which are obvious every day: I mean the unnatural distinction Christianity makes between man and the animal world to which he really belongs. It sets up man as all-important, and looks upon animals as mere things. Brahamanism and Buddhism, on the other hand, true to the facts, recognize in a positive way that man is related generally to the whole of nature, and specially and principally to animal nature; and in their systems man is always represented by the theory of metempsychosis and others, as closely connected with the animal world. . .The standard recognized by the Hindus and Buddhists in the Mahavakya (the great word),— 'tat-twam-asi' (this is thyself), which may always be spoken of every animal, to keep us in mind of the identity of his inmost being with ours." (Arthur Schopenhauer, The Collected Essays, 'The Christian System,' Kindle location 2047).

This is a testable assertion: are we identical, in our inmost being, with frogs and spiders?— and it's simply not true. If immortality means that you or I will come back as a dog, then there is no immortality, because there is no survival of any human personality, nothing more than a numbered karma account in an off-shore bank. Speaking of Confucius' alleged rejection of a future life, Madame Blavatsky says, "If he rejected it, it was on the ground of what he calls the changes — in other words, rebirths — of man, and constant transformations. He denied immortality to the personality of man — as we do — not to MAN." (Madame Helena P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled and the Secret Doctrine, Complete Illustrated Edition, SD p. 440, Kindle location 39049). This is no blessed hope, just a swindle. One might as well say, with gain in truth, that as your body decays in the ground, you get to come back. . .as a cabbage.

Reader of Hindu literature learn that the key to social harmony, in the "happy days of yore," is that the lower orders must not get uppity; they must remain content with their dismal lot, reconciling themselves to keeping in their place:

"Kshatras bowed to holy Brahmans, Vaisyas to the Kshatras bowed, Toiling Sudras lived by labor, of their honest duty proud. . .Pure each caste in due observance, stainless was each ancient rite, And the nation thrived and prospered by its old and matchless might, And each man in truth abiding lived a long and peaceful life. . ." (Ramayana, Book I, Chapter I).

Equal opportunity would unravel the very fabric of the universe, or at any rate of this grossly unjust society. The myth of reincarnation makes palatable an otherwise intolerable state of calcified and racist inequality. Why is their lot in life so hard, while the indolent Brahmin's is so easy? Because they are being punished for prior transgressions. They say there is a sucker born every minute, and some people actually believe these things.

The Indian consensus for reincarnation, which underlies the major Eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism, is not supported by any empirical evidence. The rationale for the system is only that, if it were not true, India's inherited social order, a racist apartheid regime imposed long ago by light-skinned invaders who left the darker-skinned natives occupying the bottom of the social pyramid, is not fair. South Africa experienced a very similar history, though in the full glare of recorded history: militarily superior light-skinned late arrivals established a social order with themselves and their descendants at the apex, and the darker-skinned original inhabitants filling the bottom rungs.

What saith the scriptures?: "Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons. . ." (Acts 10:34). This paradigm of reincarnation is very popular today with Hollywood starlets and other deep thinkers. Yet the South African racists, who also tried to rationalize a racial layer-cake society, were shunned by the whole world until their system collapsed. Why the double standard? What did the white South Africans omit? One thing only:

They neglected to propound the fairy tale of 'karma' and 'reincarnation;' they forgot to tell the darker-skinned peoples that they occupied a hierarchical society's basement level because they did bad things in a prior life. The corrective to their misery is not to throw off the racists who are oppressing them, but rather to uphold their masters' elevated status, because if they do good things in this life, then they get a posthumous promotion and are reincarnated as one of the lighter-skinned upper classes, a descendent of the ancient imperialists. The South African racists, alas, were not as creative as the 'Aryans' who conquered India; they could not bring themselves to tell such a fanciful tall tale. This transparently self-serving social myth is so compelling to some people that this 'religion' even wins 'converts.'

Certain 'New Atheist' authors keep hoping against hope: "There may even be some credible evidence for reincarnation." (Sam Harris, 'The End of Faith,' p. 242). Sam Harris's concept of scientific rationalism is a very big tent indeed, which shelters beneath it every kind of Eastern obscurantism and New Age mystical practice. Only not monotheism; anything but that!:

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The Bible

Does the Bible teach reincarnation? It can scarcely be suspected of any intention so to teach:



  • “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.
  • “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.
  • “My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
  • “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.”

  • (Psalm 139:13-16).



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Notice that in the mind of the psalmist, there are as yet no days written in his book when he first began to be framed in the womb. Had he believed in reincarnation, he ought to have said, 'The page turned, and another chapter commenced.' Rather, he perceives a blank book. Another verse of similar tendency is, "But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me." (2 Samuel 12:23). Of course the New Testament leaves no room for reincarnation,

"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:. . ." (Hebrews 9:27).

There have however been Christian expositors willing to entertain the idea of pre-existence. At times the great theologian Origen seems to be tending in that direction: "Indeed, it is concerning those stages in which souls divested of their bodies or again clothed with bodies will dwell that the Lord made His proclamation in the Gospel by saying 'With my Father are many stages; it it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a stage for you?' (Jn. 14:2). Thus, there are many stages that lead to the Father." (Origen, Homily XXVII On Numbers, Section 2, p. 248). "Many"? There are two scriptural examples which might be adduced in favor of the concept: Jesus and John the Baptist. Jesus pre-existed His incarnation: He says, "Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God." (Hebrews 10:7). But of course Jesus pre-existed His earthly incarnation; He is God! John the Baptist is identified as the 'Elijah' who was to come, which gnostic heretics like Carpocrates construed as evidence of reincarnation:

“I apprehend that heretics of this school seize with especial avidity the example of Elias, whom they assume to have been so reproduced in John (the Baptist) as to make our Lord’s statement sponsor for their theory of transmigration, when He said, 'Elias is come already, and they knew him not;' and again, in another passage, “And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come.” Well, then, was it really in a Pythagorean sense that the Jews approached John with the inquiry, “Art thou Elias?” and not rather in the sense of the divine prediction, “Behold, I will send you Elijah” the Tisbite? . . .How, therefore could John be Elias? You have your answer in the angel’s announcement: “And he shall go before the people,” says he, “in the spirit and power of Elias” — not (observe) in his soul and his body.” (Tertullian, A Treatise on the Soul, Chapter 35, pp. 392-393).

If we allow scripture to interpret scripture, there is no reason to think reincarnation is what is meant, or that, if it were, his circumstance would be typical of humanity in general. It could not technically be reincarnation in any case, as Elijah never died.


The Accusation Gnosticism
Early Church Fathers The Same God
Athens and Jerusalem Platonic Heresies
Influence Realism vs. Nominalism



LogoParadoxically, one the principal Bible 'proof-texts' offered in favor of reincarnation is an explicit denial of its occurrence:

“Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.” (John 9:1-3).

Some commentators link this question to verses like, "For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me. . ." (Exodus 20:5). But standing in the way are the prophets, "But every one shall die for his own iniquity; every man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge." (Jeremiah 31:30). Is it possible that some of the disciples had heard the theory floated, that those who suffer in this life are being punished for misdeeds in a past life? This theory was believed and promoted by not only by the far-away Buddhists and Hindus, but by the near at hand Pythagoreans and Platonists. It is no more remarkable that they had heard this theory, than that modern people would know that Shirley MacLaine believes in reincarnation. There was a broad spectrum of views on the after-life in antiquity, ranging from flat denial of any personal survival of death to occasional survival for remarkable persons to belief that this life is one chapter in a long story. The Bible's teaching is resurrection, not reincarnation. Since the Lord explicitly denies that the blind man is being punished for wrongs committed in a prior life, it is strange this particular verse should serve as Exhibit 'A,' yet it does; Jerome had heard it offered as a proof a reincarnation:

“Men of this type whisper in corners and pretend to inquire into the justice of God. Why, they ask, was a particular soul born in a particular province? What is the reason that some are born of Christian parents, others among wild beasts and savage tribes who have no knowledge of God? Wherever they can strike the simple with their scorpion-sting and form an ulcer fitted to their purpose, there they diffuse their venom. “Is it for nothing, think you,”— thus they argue — “that a little child scarcely able to recognize its mother by a laugh or a look of joy, which has done nothing either good or evil, is seized by a devil or overwhelmed with jaundice or doomed to bear afflictions which godless men escape, while God’s servants have to bear them?” Now if God’s judgments, they say, are “true and righteous altogether,” and if “there is no unrighteousness in Him,” we are compelled by reason to believe that our souls have pre-existed in heaven, that they are condemned to and, if I may so say, buried in human bodies because of some ancient sins, and that we are punished in this valley of weeping for old misdeeds. This according to them is the prophet’s reason for saying: “Before I was afflicted I went astray,” and again, “Bring my soul out of prison.” They explain in the same way the question of the disciples in the gospel: “Who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” and other similar passages." (Jerome, Letters, Letter CXXX, Chapter 16, to Demetrias, pp. 599-600, ECF_2_06).

Jesus, however, does not buy into their theory. Elijah turns up at Jesus' miraculous transfiguration on the mountain, which is sometimes cited by adherents of this theory, although it is difficult to see what weight it lends of their view. Certainly it does add weight to the idea the human beings survive their demise in this world, but Christians believe that also:

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LogoPopulation Explosion

The world did not go from a human population of two, Adam and Eve, to six billion souls, in one jump. The aggregate population does not remain in a steady state; new people come on-line continuously. Whatever explanatory value the first formulator of the theory of reincarnation thought that it had, thus falls short. Where do human souls come from? 'From recycling the old ones,' not only fails to take into consideration population growth, but is an explanation by regress. The urban legend is told, that after pragmatist philosopher William James gave a lecture, a woman from the audience approached him, and explained her theory that the world rested upon the back of a giant turtle. 'And upon what does that turtle rest, Madam?' asked James, politely. 'On another turtle!' This went on for a while, until the lady triumphantly proclaimed, 'It's no use, Mr. James; it's turtles all the way down!'



  • “But what must we say in reply to what follows? For, in the first place, if the living come from the dead, just as the dead proceed from the living, then there must always remain unchanged one and the selfsame number of mankind, even the number which originally introduced (human) life. The living preceded the dead, afterwards the dead issued from the living, and then again the living from the dead. Now, since this process was evermore going on with the same persons, therefore they, issuing from the same, must always have remained in number the same. For they who emerged (into life) could never have become more nor fewer than they who disappeared (in death). We find, however, in the records of the Antiquities of Man, that the human race has progressed with a gradual growth of population, either occupying different portions of the earth as aborigines, or as nomadic tribes, or as exiles, or as conquerors — as the Scythians in Parthia, the Temenidae in Peloponnesus, the Athenians in Asia, the Phrygians in Italy, and the Phoenicians in Africa; or by the more ordinary methods of emigration, which they call αποικιαι or colonies, for the purpose of throwing off redundant population, disgorging into other abodes their overcrowded masses.”

  • (Tertullian, A Treatise on the Soul, Chapter 30, pp. 379-380 ECF).




Madame Blavatsky also sees an economical advantage in avoiding the creation of new souls:

"In reference to the Monads, the reader is asked to bear in mind that Eastern philosophy rejects the Western theological dogma of a newly-created soul for every baby born, as being as unphilosophical as it is impossible in the economy of Nature. There must be a limited number of Monads evolving and growing more and more perfect through their assimilation of many successive personalities, in every new Manvantara. This is absolutely necessary in view of the doctrines of Rebirth, Karma, and the gradual return of the human Monad to its source — absolute Deity." (Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled and the Secret Doctrine, Complete Illustrated Edition, p. 171 SD, Kindle location )

While there is no evidence the souls are 'evolving' in the direction of deity, there certainly are more of them than there used to be, a fact which itself requires explanation.

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Memories

Some people feel moved to tell stories about their prior lives. Other rather suggestible folks are amenable to offering such stories, if prompted. For my taste, these stories have an annoying tendency to cluster around the 'glamor spots' of the world as it then was: these people were all scribes in ancient Egypt, or favorites of Caesar. How refreshing it would be to hear of past lives spent as a yak herder in Outer Mongolia, because, after all, not everyone can have been a scribe in ancient Egypt.

Transmigration has been offered as a solution to the difficulty of moral character. This author believes moral temperament to be innate, and wonders where it comes from, if not from a prior life-time:

"But the innateness of all truly moral qualities, of the good as of the bad, is a doctrine that consorts better with the metempsychosis of the Brahmins and Buddhists, according to which a man's good and bad deeds follow him from one existence to another like his shadow, than with Judaism. For Judaism requires a man to come into the world as a moral blank, so that, in virtue of an inconceivable free will, directed to objects which are neither to be sought nor avoided—liberum arbitrium indifferentiae— and consequently as the result of reasoned consideration, he may choose whether he is to be an angel or a devil, or anything else that may lie between the two. Though I am well aware what the Jewish scheme is, I pay no attention to it; for my standard is truth." (Arthur Schopenhauer, The Complete Essays, Kindle location 5597).

As should be apparent, answering the difficulty in this way only kicks the can down the road. From whence did the prior generation obtain the tendencies and dispositions they displayed? Moreover, this author's perception that character is immutable, that ". . .neither experience, nor philosophy, nor religion can effect any improvement in him. . ." (Essay on Character, Arthur Schopenhauer, The Complete Essays, Kindle location 5603), is eccentric to say the least and is not confirmed by experience.

The old Greek conviction that the dead lived a shadowy, phantom existence in Hades likewise seems to stem from a certain kind of experience, which is indeed very common, more so than 'prior life' expereiences, namely that dead folks show up in living folks' dreams:

"Dreams, indeed, are of astonishing force among all people of warm imaginations; nay, probably they were the first muses, the parents of poetry and fiction. They introduced men to forms and things which no eye had seen, but the desire of which lay in the human mind, for what could be more natural than that the beloved dead should appear in dreams to those they left behind, and that they who had lived so long with us awake might now wish to live with us at least as shades in a dream?"

(von Herder, Johann (2016-02-24). Outlines of a Philosophy of the History of Man (Kindle Locations 4318-4321). Random Shack.)

They concluded, not only that the human soul persists through mortality, but that it must do so in a form very much like that in which it currently appears, namely, fleeting, insubstantial. This whole train of thought seems to concede too much to psychological experiences; like dream visitations, memories of a 'prior life' likely begin and end in the human mind of those experiencing them.

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LogoThe Christian Alternative

The gospel does not preach the survival of some impersonal spark or 'life-force,' which is not 'you' but might just as well be a goat or a bat, rather the endurance and ultimate resurrection of the whole person:





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Unlike Eastern religions which assign a negative value to the human personality and urge their devotees to free themselves from the illusion that there is any such thing, the gospel promise is that we, being what and who we are, will live forever. Some 'New Age' types are unhappy about this discomformity. They would have liked it if Jesus Christ were more their type of guy, and so they conform Him to the pattern of a later travelling mystic and mountebank called Apollonius of Tyana. Apollonius imbibed the wisdom of the Brahmins, like the Beatles sitting at the feet of their guru. He was into reincarnation, of course, which is far groovier than resurrection.

It is a curious way of doing history, to lay down that an historical personage is possible if another can be found just exactly like him, but not otherwise. Failing this test, he is to be dismissed as mythical, an invention. Imagine how wide a swath this methodology would cut through modern history. Napoleon was possible, but only if there were another contemporary Napoleon; but there are not two Napoleons, rather only one; therefore Napoleon was mythical. Adolf Hitler was possible, only if there were a ditto-Hitler active at the same time, which there was not; therefore Hitler was mythical. Let is not be said, "Never man spake like this man." (John 7:46); if none ever so spoke, then Q.E.D., He never existed. Some people try to compress Jesus into the constricted pattern set by Talmudic odd-balls like 'Honi the Circle-Drawer.' Others try to shoehorn Jesus into the mold stamped out by the later Apollonius of Tyana. Which makes the thinking reader wonder, how do we know there ever was, really, an Apollonius of Tyana, unless there already were a double-Apollonius with which to verify his existence, whose real existence would in its turn have to be verified with reference to a triplicate-Apollonius, and so on?:

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Scape-goating Transmigration of Souls
Proteus Incarnate Post Hoc
Suttee Just Deserts
Respect of Persons Pollution



LogoFather of Spirits

According to the Bible, God is the "Father of Spirits:"

"Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?" (Hebrews 12:9).

To Biblical religion, the human soul and spirit is as much a creation of God as is the transient flesh, which fades as the flower of the grass:

"Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it." (Ecclesiastes 12:7).
"Thus says God the Lord, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, Who gives breath to the people on it, and spirit to those who walk on it:. . ." (Isaiah 42:5).
"For I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry; for the spirit would fail before Me, and the souls which I have made." (Isaiah 57:16)
"The burden of the word of the Lord against Israel. Thus says the Lord, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him:. . ." (Zechariah 12:1).

The human spirit is not eternal or self-subsisting but created, it came into being; it has not always been. However the rival teaching, if taken to its logical conclusion, is that we are as eternal as is God, that His title of 'Ancient of Days' is only by courtesy, and that, being coeternal with God, we cannot be His creation. This ascription of true and independent eternity to the human soul and spirit segues into the claim often made by those of this tendency that we ourselves are gods, or that they are, at any rate:

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  • “While the Christian is taught that the human soul is a breath of God — being created by him for sempiternal existence, i.e., having a beginning, but no end (and therefore never to be called eternal) — the Occult teaching says, 'Nothing is created, but is only transformed. Nothing can manifest itself in this universe — from a globe down to a vague, rapid thought — that was not in the universe already; everything on the subjective plane is an eternal IS; as everything on the objective plane is an ever becoming — because transitory.”

  • (Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled and the Secret Doctrine, Complete Illustrated Edition, Kindle location 33684, SD pp. 570-571).




LogoRevival

From time to time ideas similar to Buddhism surface in the West, for example, Mary Baker Eddy sought to convince her contemporaries that disease was unreal:



  • “Mortal existence is a dream of pain and pleasure in matter, a dream of sin, sickness, and death; and it is like the dream we have in sleep, in which every one recognizes his condition to be wholly a state of mind. In both the waking, and the sleeping dream, the dreamer thinks that his body is material and the suffering is in that body.”

  • (Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Keys to the Scrptures, Chapter VII, Kindle location 2408).




Logo Mary Baker Eddy did not believe in reincarnation, though she did disbelieve the resurrection in the flesh. Others among her contemporaries sought to revive the whole package:




Logo Although, as we have seen, the religion of the Old Testament leaves no room for reincarnation, one very popular modern form of the religion Judaism does teach this doctrine:

"He who neglects to observe any of the 613 precepts, such as were possible for him to observe, is doomed to undergo transmigration (once or more than once) till he has actually observed all he had neglected to do in a former state of being." (Kitzur Sh'lh, p. 6, col. 2, Hebraic Literature: Translations from the Talmud, Midrashim and Kabbala, Kindle location 4400).
"The sages of truth (the Kabbalists) remark that Adam contains the initial letters of Adam, David, and Messiah; for after Adam sinned his soul passed into David, and the latter having also sinned, it passed into the Messiah." (Nishmath Chaim, fol. 152, col. 2, Hebraic Literature: Translations from the Talmud, Midrashim and Kabbala, Kindle location 4400).

"Cain had robbed the twin sister of Abel, and therefore his soul passed into Jethro. Moses has possessed by the soul of Abel, and therefore Jethro gave his daughter to Moses." (Yalkut Chadash, fol. 127, col. 3, Hebraic Literature: Translations from the Talmud, Midrashim and Kabbala, Kindle location 4408).

"If a man be niggardly either in a financial or a spiritual regard, giving nothing of his money to the poor or not imparting of his knowledge to the ignorant, he shall be punished by transmigration into a woman. . .Sometimes the souls of pious Jews pass by metempsychosis into Gentiles, in order that they may plead on behalf of Israel and treat them kindly. For this reason have our Rabbis of blessed memory said, 'The pious of the nations of the world have a portion in the world to come.'" (Yalkut Reubeni, Nos. 1, 8, 61, 63, Hebraic Literature: Translations from the Talmud, Midrashim and Kabbala, Kindle location 4417).

There is much else in the Kabbalah that would strike a familiar chord with New Age type of folks, because it is a medieval updating of Valentinian Gnosis. By means of number and letter games, they incorporated ideas from pagan religion and philosophy into Bible interpretation:

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