REINCARNATION IN THE BIBLE?
Opposed to eastern religions, the three religions of the book: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, state that we live once and then after we die, comes the judgment. Yet among the mystical traditions in all three religions, some mystical schools of thought subscribe to the idea, although opposed to the orthodox theology. And unfortunately - and I will be honest here - ministers and those who go to church often just live in a box. They are out of touch with society, not meeting its needs. So we now find a lot of spiritual independents, and people attracted to New Age thought, but without a proper guide to wander through the forest of ideas. Some churches are even detrimental in their doctrine - declaring after we die we just fall asleep, all to await a physical resurrection at some always future date. Its a false doctrine, as there is no literal physical resurrection of the body: however there is a spiritual resurrection of the spiritual body after death. But that is another topic. The point is, most churches are failing to address the issue because they are blissfully ignorant of it inside their box. Just telling people from scripture is not enough.
So, out of curiosity I delved into this to see what Jesus had to say about reincarnation. The topic comes several times. And in every single case, he never answers the question. He gives a different answer to a different question. Which drove the Jewish Pharisees nuts. Here are some examples:
Jesus: Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.To be born again is to experience a spiritual rebirth, to leave one's sins behind and begin a new life. It begins with a period of temptation, but once one overcomes then one is born with a new will, with new desires: based on love for others, rather than being self-centered. One's spirit or soul is then drawn up into heaven. But notice he does not answer the question of Nicodemus. And he says why he does not answer: if he spoke of heavenly matters no one would believe. So Jesus always spoke in parables. Here is another example:
Nicodemus: How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?
Jesus: Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."
Nicodemus: How can these things be?
Jesus: Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. (John 3:3-13)
Jesus: Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?Implied in the question is that prophets reincarnate, held to be true by some Jews at the time. But Jesus does not address that question, He asks them who he is. As a side note, Peter's answer is a hidden explanation of the Trinity: there is a trine which resides in one person Jesus Christ: You are the Christ (3), the Son (2) of the living God (1). But that is another topic. So why does the prophet Jeremiah come up? It is from this passage:
Disciples: Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.
Jesus: But who do you say that I am?
Peter: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. (Matt. 16:13-16)
Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations." (Jer. 1:4-5)Which implies a preexistence, after which the prophet Jeremiah became incarnate. But it can be read the other way: God simply had foreknowledge of who is to come. Here is another passage:
Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.Implied in the question, is that the man born blind had committed a sin in a previous life. Again, Jesus does not answer the question. This just drove me nuts. Just ANSWER the QUESTION. Why does he not answer? The answer is a bit complicated, and involves spiritual matters that could not be revealed at the time. Perhaps he does give an answer in this statement:
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. I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." (John 9:1-5)
And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?"So, Elijah was reborn as John the Baptist? Or he fulfilled the role of Elijah? And then we have this answer:
Jesus answered and said to them, "Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands."
Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist. (Matt. 17:10-13)
Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?"Which could mean John the Baptist was denying he is a reincarnation of Elijah. But then again, maybe he just does not remember? My answer to this is he fulfilled the role of Elijah...but that again is another topic. The point is, when just depending on the literal sense of scripture, we just got nowhere. This is because the literal sense of scripture hides behind it the true spiritual meaning, for those willing to find it. You can't just read it and expect to understand it unless you ask the Lord to reveal it to you. Otherwise the literal sense can be "bent" to confirm what you want it to confirm. Without revelation, it is a closed book.
He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, "I am not the Christ."
And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." (John 1:19-21)
THE SPIRITUAL REALM AS SEEN BY EMANUEL SWEDENBORG
There is a certain spiritual uncertainty to important questions unless a direct revelation is given. It is questions such as these that led me to Emanuel Swedenborg - one who claimed to have had continuous visions of heaven and hell over a period of 25 years. He had extraordinary gifts of the mind - see The Confirmed Clairvoyance of Emanuel Swedenborg. One of the main reasons for the revelation is that most people have absolutely no idea what happens to them after they die, and deny the afterlife. And he wrote volumes concerning what he experienced. He summed up the afterlife in his work Heaven and Hell. Simply put, the world of ideas inside our mind is what becomes our reality when our body dissipates. More accurately, it is our will that survives more so than our intellectual thought, for the will - how we lived - determines who we are. So what does Swedenborg have to say? A lot. Actually more than a lifetime of study. Within our material body there is a more refined spiritual body that causes the material form to live, which is not visible to light:
With regard to the soul, of which it is said that it shall live after death, it is nothing else than the man himself who lives in the body, that is, the interior man who acts through the body in the world, and who causes the body to live. This man when loosed from the body is called a spirit, and appears then altogether in a human form, yet cannot in any wise be seen by the eyes of the body, but by the eyes of the spirit; and before the eyes of the latter appears as a man in the world, having senses, namely, touch, smell, hearing, sight, much more exquisite than in the world; having appetites, lusts, desires, affections, loves, such as in the world, but this in more excellent degree; thinking also as in the world, but more perfectly; conversing with others; in a word, he is there as in the world, insomuch that if he does not reflect upon his being in the other life, he knows no otherwise than that he is in the world — as I have sometimes heard spirits say; for the life after death is a continuation of life in the world. This then is the soul of man which lives after death. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 6054)The soul is not amorphous, or some aether in the air. It is in its complete human form. Not only that, but a male will be male and a female will be female, and this does not change to eternity:
Since man lives as a man after death, and man is male and female, and the masculine is one and the feminine another, and they are so different that one cannot be changed into the other, it follows that after death the male lives as a male, and the female as a female, each a spiritual man. It is said that the masculine cannot be changed into feminine, nor the feminine into masculine, and that therefore after death the male is a male and the female is a female (Angelic Wisdom concerning Marriage Love, n. 32).The sex does not change. If you examine accounts of past lives retrieved through hypnotic regressions, you will find that past lives will interchange between male and female. Why? These memories one is accessing through hypnosis are not exactly "past lives."
THE COLLECTIVE MEMORY OF THE SOUL
One's memory of what one did in life survives after death - this becomes a "book" that is inscribed on everyone's life, that can be read by anyone that is close in the spiritual world. It is what is read when one first enters the light of the afterlife, to determine where you belong. And memories of different spirits are accessible in the other life through telepathy.
For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light. (Mark 4:22)Hypnosis was not known in the time of Emanuel Swedenborg. And yet he speaks of what would happen should one come into contact with the memory of another spirit:
An angel or spirit is not allowed to speak with a man from his own memory, but from that of the man; for angels and spirits have memory as well as men. If a spirit should speak with a man from his own memory, then the man would not know otherwise than that the things which he then thought were his own, when yet they were the spirit's; it is like the recollection of a thing, which yet the man never heard or saw. That it is so, has been given me to know from experience. From this some of the ancients had the opinion, that after some thousands of years they should return into their former life, and into all its acts, and also that they had returned. They concluded it from this, that sometimes there occurred to them a recollection, as it were, of things which they never saw or heard; and this came to pass because spirits flowed from their own memory into their ideas of thought. (Heaven and Hell, n. 256)This perfectly explains past life memories retrieved under hypnosis: they are the memories of those who have gone before us. It also explains why in ancient times they held to the belief of reincarnation: when their minds were more spiritually open, they came into touch with these kindred spirits from the spiritual realm, and thought the memories were their own. Each and every individual is associated with angels and spirits which influence how one thinks and acts, and these spirits are so integrated with the personality that they think that one's own memory is their own memory. These spirits are both good and bad:
With every man there are good spirits and evil spirits; by good spirits man has conjunction with heaven, and by evil spirits with hell. These spirits are in the world of spirits, which world is in the midst between heaven and hell, and will be described particularly hereafter. These spirits when they come to a man, enter into all his memory, and thence into all his thought; evil spirits into the things of the memory and thought that are evil, but good spirits into the things of the memory and thought that are good. The spirits do not know at all that they are with man, but when they are with him they believe that all things of his memory and thought are their own (Heaven and Hell, n. 292)It is for this reason that those who get in touch with spirits through channeling - which are typically lower order spirits - will constantly insist that reincarnation is a fact. This is false - it a fallacy that comes from shared memory between the spirit and the subject:
The spirits who are in company with a man enter into all his memory and into all the knowledges of memory that he possesses. Thus they take upon themselves all things belonging to the man, so completely that they do not know but they are their own. This is a prerogative that spirits have above man. In consequence, all things which the man thinks they think, and all things that the man wills they will. Conversely also, whatever the spirits think the man thinks, and whatever the spirits will the man wills; for they act as one by conjunction. Yet on both sides it is supposed that all these thoughts and feelings are in and from themselves, both on the part of the spirits and on the part of man. But this is a fallacy. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 5843)And the funny thing is when these spirits were told that reincarnation is not true, that these are shared memories with the subjects they influence, they get extremely upset and angry:
From much experience it has been given me to know that whatever the spirits think and speak from the memory of man, they suppose to be their own and in themselves. If it is told them that it is not so, they are highly indignant — such fallacy of sense reigns with them. To convince them that it is not so, they were asked whence they knew how to speak with me in my mother tongue, when they had known nothing at all of it in the life of the body, and how they knew other languages with which I was acquainted, and they of themselves knew not one — whether they believed these were their own. I read Hebrew in their presence and they understood it, even children, as far as I did and no farther. And all the science that was in my mind, was in theirs. From this they were convinced that when they come to a man, they come into possession of all his knowledge, and that they are in error in believing it to be their own. They have also their own knowledge, but they are not permitted to draw this forth, to the end that they may serve man through his knowledge — as well as for various other reasons, of which above (n. 2476, 2477, 2479) — and because there would be the greatest confusion if spirits should flow in from their own memory (n. 2478). (Heavenly Arcana, n. 5858)Apparently, under hypnotic regression this barrier between the subject's memory and the memory of spirits is somehow brought down - especially when someone is asked to remember something from the time before they were born. This brings about confusion as to identity. Indeed, one spirit was so integrated with Swedenborg's memory that he thought he was Swedenborg:
Another spirit also supposed himself to be me, insomuch that he believed when he talked with me in my native language that he was speaking from his own, saying that the language was his. But it was shown that the language that belongs to spirits is entirely different, and that it is the universal language of all, and that from it ideas flowed into my native language, and thus they spoke, not from themselves, but in me; and that this is a proof that they not only come into those things which are man's, but also that they suppose them to be their own. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 6199)So one can begin to understand why Jesus did not answer the question concerning reincarnation. It involves the interaction of the spiritual world with the lower material world. And if he gave answers such as the above, the Jews probably would have stoned him for heresy. When Jesus revealed who He was they thought He was an insane demoniac. Even in the present day, many are not ready to hear about these spiritual matters. But at this time I believe these answers must be given, as there is a proliferation of reincarnation in New Age thought and the church has not addressed it, nor are they ready to address it.
THE ORIGIN OF THE SOUL
It is quite understandable why many believe in reincarnation, especially those who may have become more spiritually advanced and had their minds opened through meditation. The past memories will be of lives similar to your own. But for those that believe in reincarnation, the origin of the soul becomes problematic. In the other world Swedenborg encountered some ancients who could not adequately explain the origin of the soul:
But some of them, not indeed dissenting from the rest, but to throw light on the state of the question, said: "Souls sprang into existence when the ether gathered itself together from that great chaos, and then in the highest region divided itself into innumerable individual forms, which infuse themselves into men while they begin to think from the purer air; and these are then called souls." Hearing this another said, "I grant that the individual forms, formed from the ether in the upper region, were innumerable; but still the men born since the creation of the world have exceeded their number; how then could those ethereal forms suffice? Wherefore I have thought with myself that the souls which go out of the mouth of men when they die return to the same after some thousands of years, and enter into and pass a life similar to the former; that many wise men believe in such things and metempsychosis, is well known." (True Christian Religion, n. 79)So, when and where does the soul originate? The answer is quite simple, and it is one that is supported by biology: the soul, or one's life, originates at conception of the seed of the father with the ovum of the mother.
...the soul is from the father and the body from the mother; for the soul is in the seed of the father, and it is clothed with a body in the mother; or, what is the same, all the spiritual that man has is from the father, and all the material is from the mother. (True Christian Religion, n. 92)
What a man receives from his father is one thing, and what he receives from his mother is another. From his father a man receives all that is internal, his soul itself or life being out of the father; but he receives from his mother all that is external. In a word, the inner man, or the spirit itself, is from the father; but the outer man, or the body itself, is from the mother; which every one can comprehend merely from this, that the soul is itself implanted from the father, and this begins to clothe itself in a little bodily form in the ovule. Whatever is afterwards added, whether in the ovule or in the womb, is of the mother; for it has no increase from anywhere else. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 1815)The soul originates from the seed of the father. And this explains why Jesus was born of a virgin - as there was no human seed, but conception was by the Holy Spirit, His soul was Divine, and this is the reason why he calls God His Father:
Every man's internal is from his father, and his external from his mother; or what is the same thing, the soul itself is from the father, and the body with which the soul is clothed is from the mother. The soul and the body together still make a one; for the soul is the body's, and the body is the soul's; they are therefore inseparable. The Lord's internal was from the Father, and thus was the Father Himself. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 2005)Most Christian churches have fallen into the error in believing that the Father is a separate distinct being from Jesus. The New Church does not make this error, it is this doctrine which distinguishes the New Church from the older Christian churches. What does this mean? Jesus is Jehovah in human form:
The Divine Itself which is the Esse of all things was in the Lord alone, for He was conceived of Jehovah; and every man has from his father the esse of his life, which is called his soul. Hence it is evident that the Divine good of the Divine love was in the Human of the Lord, as the soul of a father in a son. And because with man nothing lives but his soul, for the body without the soul does not live, and because everything of the body is produced from the soul, thus to the image of it, in order that the soul may be in adequate condition and adapted to functions in the ultimates of order, which are in the world, it hence follows that the Esse itself in the Human of the Lord was Jehovah, which is the Divine good of the Divine love. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 10125.2)Thus the human in which He was born eventually became glorified and one with the Divine, and rose from the dead:
So was it in the Lord as to His Human; yet concerning His Human it cannot be said that it was regenerated, but that it was glorified, for His inmost, which with man is called the soul from the father, was the Divine Itself, as He was conceived of Jehovah. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 10052.2)Thus the "Son of God" is the human that was born to Mary in time, not from eternity:
Whence is the soul of a son but from the father? and whence is his body, but from the mother? We speak of the Divine of the Father, and mean the Father Himself, since He and His Divine are the same; this also is one and indivisible. That it is so, is evident also from these words of the angel Gabriel to Mary: The power of the Highest shall overshadow thee, and the Holy Spirit come upon thee, and the Holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God; and just above He is called the Son of the Highest, and elsewhere, the only-begotten Son. (True Christian Religion, n. 112)Finally, the Christian church invented the doctrine of a "Son of God born from eternity" - this doctrine was introduced into the Nicene Creed in the fourth century, and from that error much of Christianity became a corrupt religion that was not truly monotheistic. Swedenborg compares this doctrine of the Nicene creed to the fable of reincarnation:
That a Son of God born from eternity descended and assumed the Human, may be compared to the fables of the ancients, that human souls were created from the beginning of the world, and enter into bodies and become men; and also to the absurd notions that the soul of one passes into another, as many in the Jewish Church believed — as, that the soul of Elijah passed into the body of John the Baptist (True Christian Religion, n. 171)
PERFECTION OF THE SOUL CONTINUES FOR ETERNITY
Those who have held reincarnation as a central tenet of their belief system may be disappointed to hear that one only lives once, then comes the judgment, and then that is it, the end. But it is not the end, it is the beginning: for the perfection of the soul continues for eternity.
The Lord out of Divine mercy regenerates man, and this is effected from his infancy even to the end of his life in the world and afterward for ever. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 9452)In this life we have barely touched the surface of what we will experience in the higher planes of existence:
...it is an arcanum [hidden secret], man's regeneration in the world is only a plane for the perfecting of his life to eternity. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 9334.3)
...one who is being born again passes through the ages of life as when first born; and that the state that precedes is always as an ovum with respect to the following one, and thus that he is continually being conceived and born; and this not only when living in the world, but also to eternity when he comes into the other life; and still he can never be perfected further than to be as an ovum to the states that still remain, which are without number. It is manifest from this how innumerable are the things relative to man's regeneration, when as yet man knows scarce any of them (Heavenly Arcana, n. 4379)The means by which a soul is perfected is barely known to us, but they are based on the means of perfection in this life, beginning with acknowledgment of one's faults through self examination, and exercising love for others according to their need:
Sins are not remitted by repentance of the mouth, but by repentance of the life. Sins are continually remitted to man by the Lord, for He is mercy itself; but sins adhere to man, albeit he supposes that they are remitted, nor are they removed from him except by a life according to the precepts of faith. So far as he lives according to those precepts, so far his sins are removed, and so far as they are removed, so far they are remitted. For man is withheld by the Lord from evil and is held in good. And he is so far able to be withheld from evil in the other life, as in the life of the body he had resisted evil. And he is so far able to be held in good then, as in the life of the body he had done good from affection. From this it may be evident what the remission of sins is, and whence it is. He who believes that sins are remitted in any other way, is much deceived. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 8393)Belief is nothing unless you live by it. But how is one perfected to eternity? There are a variety of passages I can draw from Swedenborg, but I found this one interesting - angelic spirts occasionally revert back to their natural state. This is explained in the symbolism of the Jewish law concerning touching dead bodies:
Again: The soul which toucheth any such [uncleanness] shall be unclean until the even, and shall not eat of the holy things; unless he bathe his flesh in water. And when the sun is down, he shall be clean; and afterward he shall eat of the holy things (Lev. xxii. 6, 7). And again: Any man that is not clean . . . when evening cometh on, shall bathe himself in water; and when the sun is down, he shall come within the camp (Deut. xxiii. 10, 11). That this law also has its origin from the laws of good and truth, or the laws of order, which are in the Lord's kingdom, may be evident; otherwise it would never have been commanded that the unclean person should be unclean until the evening, and should then wash himself with water, and after the sun was down should be clean. The law of order in the Lord's kingdom, from which the above law comes, is that good and angelic spirits, when they lapse into a state of self-love, and thereby into a state of falsity, are then remitted a little into their natural or lower state, and are there imbued with knowledges of good and truth as to that thing, which is signified by washing themselves with water in the evening. That washing with water means being purified from falsities, may be seen above (n. 3147, 3148); and that waters are the knowledges of truth (n. 28, 680, 739, 2702, 3058). And after they have been in that obscure state, which is signified by the going down of the sun, they return into their former state, which is signified by their being clean, and entering into the midst of the camp — on which subject, by the Divine mercy of the Lord, something shall be said elsewhere from experience. From what has been said it is now manifest that the going down of the sun, in the Word, signifies an obscure state as to truth with the good, and a state of falsity with the wicked. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 3693.7)And what happens when an angelic spirit descends to a lower natural state of self desire? That angelic spirit becomes conjoined with the mind of a person on earth who has chosen to live in the same state of being. A spirit can become conjoined with the memory of a living person to the point where they think that memory is one's own. So is the doctrine of reincarnation true or false? It is not true, but it is not exactly false either. To all intents and purposes, we will each have the experience of multiple life times in order to be perfected. And yet as a material life form, we only live once. Going down to a lower natural state is not the only means of perfection. Angelic beings are given tasks as guides for others: at birth, two angelic spirits and two evil spirits are assigned to each person at birth:
Man does not know at all that he is governed of the Lord by means of angels and spirits; and that with every man there are at least two spirits, and two angels. Through spirits communication of man with the world of spirits is effected, and through angels with heaven. Without communication through spirits with the world of spirits, and through angels with heaven, and so through heaven with the Lord, man can by no means live. His life entirely depends on that conjunction. If the spirits and angels should withdraw, he would perish in a moment. While man is unregenerate, he is governed quite otherwise than when regenerated. While unregenerate there are evil spirits with him, who so domineer over him that the angels, though present, are scarcely able to do any thing more than just to guide him so that he may not plunge into the lowest evil, and bend him to some good — in fact to bend him by means of his own desires to good, and through the fallacies of the senses to truth. He then has communication with the world of spirits, through the spirits who are with him, but not so much with heaven, because evil spirits rule, and angels only avert their rule. But when man is regenerated, angels rule, and inspire him with all goods and truths, and with fear and horror of evils and falsities. The angels indeed lead, but only as ministers, for it is the Lord alone who governs man by angels and spirits. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 50)And the above is similar to ancient Neoplatonic thought, where an angelic genius is assigned to each person at birth. This blog entry is long, but I have barely touched the surface. Obviously broaching this topic of the spiritual afterlife brings up a host of other questions. I had to eliminate a lot of other passages from Swedenborg, there was a lot to choose from. But my intent here was to focus on the spiritual matters behind the idea of reincarnation. Perhaps, by participating in the memories of others, one can find the means to escape from limbo:
Did anyone bother to read the confidential paper that appears at the beginning of the movie Inception?
The heading of the confidential paper says PROCLUS. Proclus, of course, was one of the last major Neoplatonic philosophers. So what did he have to say about the soul? Here is a summary from wikipedia:
Individual souls have the same overall structure as the principle of Soul, but they are weaker. They have a tendency to be fascinated with the material world, and be overpowered by it. It is at this point that individual souls are united with a material body (i.e. when they are born). Once in the body, our passions have a tendency to overwhelm our reason. According to Proclus, philosophy is the activity which can liberate the soul from a subjection to bodily passions, remind it of its origin in Soul, Intellect, and the One, and prepare it not only to ascend to the higher levels while still in this life, but to avoid falling immediately back into a new body after death.