These excerpts are taken from the text: “Reincarnation. The Lost Link in Christianity “by Elizabeth Claire-Profit
Table of Contents
1. What is happening with Christianity?
Millions of Americans, Europeans, and Canadians believe in reincarnation. Many of them call themselves Christians, but stubbornly believe in what was rejected by the church fifteen centuries ago. According to official sources, over one-fifth of American adults believe in reincarnation, and one-fifth of all Christians are among them. The same statistics are in Europe and Canada. Another 22 percent of Americans say they are “not sure” about reincarnation, which at least indicates their willingness to believe in it. According to a 1990 Gallup poll, the percentage of Christians in America who believe in soul reincarnation is approximately equal to the percentage of believers in the general population. An earlier survey provided a breakdown by denomination. Found out that 21 percent of Protestants (including Methodists, Baptists, and Lutherans) and 25 percent of Catholics believe it. For the counting clergy, this means a stunning result –28 million Christians who believe in reincarnation!
The idea of reincarnation begins to rival mainstream Christian dogmas. In Denmark, a 1992 survey found that 14 percent of Lutherans in that country believed in reincarnation, while only 20 percent believed in the Christian doctrine of the resurrection. Young Lutherans are even less inclined to believe in the resurrection. In the 18-30 age group, only 15 percent of those surveyed said they believe in him, while 18 percent believe in reincarnation.
These shifts in Christian beliefs indicate a trend towards the development of what some scholars call Western post-Christianity. It is a departure from the traditional authority of the church towards a more personal faith based on establishing a connection with God in oneself.
Like the Protestant Reformation, this religion places personal contact with God above church affiliation. But, unlike Protestantism, it rejects some of the principles inherent in Christianity since the fourth century – such concepts as hell, resurrection in the flesh, and the idea that we only live on earth once. Some Christian denominations are trying to find a place for reincarnation and related beliefs in Christianity itself. Others remain irreconcilable with this idea.
What many Christians do not know, however, is that the idea of reincarnation is not new to Christianity. Today most congregations will answer “no” to the question, “Can you believe in reincarnation and remain a Christian?” But in the second century, the answer would be yes.
During the first three centuries after the coming of Christ, various Christian sects flourished, and some of them preached the doctrine of reincarnation. Although these beliefs had already come under attack from orthodox theologians beginning in the second century, the controversy over reincarnation continued until the middle of the sixth century.
Among the Christians who believed in the reincarnation of souls, there were Gnostics who claimed to have the innermost, most spiritual teachings of Christ, which were hidden from the masses and were kept for those who can comprehend them. The religious practice of the Gnostics was more formed around enlightened spiritual mentors and based on their own perception of God than based on membership in any organized church.
The Orthodox, however, taught that salvation can only be bestowed by the church. This dogma ensured stability and long life for their goals. When the Roman emperor Constantine began to support Christianity in 312, he also supported the idea of orthodoxy, in all likelihood that this would lead to the building of a stronger and more organized state.
Between the third and sixth centuries, ecclesiastical and secular authorities consistently fought Christians who believed in reincarnation. But these beliefs emerged on the face of Christianity like an annoying pimple. Ideas about the reincarnation of the soul spread to present-day Bosnia and Bulgaria, where they appeared in the seventh century among the Pavlikians, and in the tenth among the Bogomils. These beliefs also wandered into medieval France and Italy, where a sect of Cathars formed around them.
After the church cracked down on the Cathars in the thirteenth century, starting a crusade against them, followed by the outburst of the Inquisition, torture, and bonfires, the idea of reincarnation continued to live in the secret traditions of alchemists, Rosicrucians, Kabbalists, Hermeticists and Frankish Masons until the nineteenth century. … Reincarnation continued to sprout in the church itself. In nineteenth-century Poland, Archbishop Passavalli (1820-1897) “grafted” reincarnation to the Catholic faith and openly recognized it. Under his influence, other Polish and Italian priests also adopted the idea of reincarnation.
The Vatican would be very surprised to learn that 25 percent of Catholics in America today believe in soul reincarnation. This statistic is backed up by unpublished testimony from those Catholics who accept reincarnation but prefer to remain silent. I have met quite a few of them who accept this belief. And one former Catholic priest from a major city in the Midwest told me, “I know many, many Catholics and Christians from other congregations who believe in soul reincarnation.”
2. The main problem of Christianity
Why do some Christians believe in reincarnation? On the one hand, it provides an alternative to the all-or-nothing representation of heaven or hell. And although 95 percent of Americans believe in God and 70 percent believe in life after death, only 53 percent believe in hell. 17 percent of those who believe in life after death, but do not believe in hell, probably cannot accept the idea that God will make someone burn in hell forever or even, as the current Catholic catechism claims, will forever deprive Him of His presence.
Those who do not believe in hell inevitably ask themselves: “Well, does everyone go to heaven? What about the murderers? ” For many, reincarnation seems like a better solution than hell. Christianity finds it difficult to answer the question: “What happens to those who die not good enough for heaven and not bad enough for hell?”
We often read stories in newspapers that seem to defy standard Christian explanations. For example, stories about apparently decent people who, having committed murder in a state of passion, take their own life. Many Christians, including Catholics, are convinced that they should go to hell. While murder is a serious crime, do those who commit it deserve eternal punishment?
Here’s a recent example. James Cook, an employee from Los Angeles, retired to rural Minnesota with his wife Lois and two teenage adoptive daughters. He lived in harmony with his neighbors, earning money by milking cows.
In September 1994, sixty-three-year-old James learned that Lois had told the police that he was molesting their daughters. James killed all three – Lois with a shot in the back, and two girls, Holly and Nicole while sleeping. Then he shot himself. In a suicide note, he apologized for the murders but did not confess to the harassment.
Where did Mr. Cook’s soul go when it ended up on the “other” side? To heaven or hell? Did God really send him to burn in hell forever? Will he ever get an opportunity to atone for his last terrible deeds?
If hell doesn’t exist, or if God didn’t cast him there, did he go to heaven? Assuming Lois, Holly, and Nicole are in heaven, should they be in contact with their killer forever? The first option lacks mercy; in the second, justice. The only reincarnation provides an acceptable solution: Mr. Cook must return and give life to those whom he took. They must incarnate to complete their life plan, and he must serve them to pay for the suffering caused.
All four need another opportunity on Earth. Many who have died prematurely need this. Christianity does not provide answers to the questions: “Why does God allow babies and children to die? What about teenagers killed by drunk drivers? Why do they even live if their life is so short? ” “Lord, why did you give me Johnny, except to make him die of leukemia?”
What can priests and spiritual pastors say to this? Their preparation offers reassuring responses such as, “This must be part of the Divine Plan.” or “We cannot understand His purposes.” They can only assume that Johnny or Mary was here to teach us about love and then left to live with Jesus in heaven. Reincarnation as an answer to such questions attracts many. But continued opposition from the church is forcing many Christians to create their own faith. They are in a kind of spiritual limbo between beliefs that satisfy the needs of the soul and a church that still refuses to take them into account.
Take the example of actor Glen Ford, who, under hypnosis, remembered his life as a cowboy named Charlie and a cavalryman from the time of Louis XIV. “She [reincarnation] is contrary to all my religious beliefs,” he worries. “I am a God-fearing person and I am proud of it, but I am completely confused.”
The United States is a land of God-fearing people, many of whom call themselves Christians. However, the contradictions inherent in Christianity do not disappear. While Christianity provides many people with meaning and inspiration, there is an equal number of those who are disillusioned with it. The latter cannot understand Christianity, which proclaims that non-Christians will burn in hell, and God, who “allows” our loved ones to die. Reincarnation is an acceptable solution for people who wondered about Divine justice. Many great minds have turned to her.
3. Our legacy of reincarnation
The list of Western thinkers who accepted the idea of reincarnation or seriously thought about it reads like “Who is who?” In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, these included: the French philosopher François Voltaire, the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, the American statesman Benjamin Franklin, the German poet Johann Wolfgang Goethe, the French writer Honoré de Balzac, the American transcendentalist, and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson, and the American poet Lufong Waddell …
In the twentieth century, this list was supplemented by the English novelist Aldous Huxley, the Irish poet V.B. Yeats and English writer Rudyard Kipling. The Spanish artist Salvador Dali said that he remembers his incarnation by Saint Juan de la Cruz.
Other great Western writers have paid tribute to reincarnation by writing about it or making their heroes express this idea. These include the English poets William Wordsworth and Percy Bysshe Shelley, the German poet Friedrich Schiller, the French novelist Victor Hugo, the Swedish psychiatrist Carl Jung, and the American writer J.D. Salinger. Yeats addressed the topic of reincarnation in the poem “Under Ben Balben”, which he wrote a year before his death:
Man is born and dies more than once
Between the eternity of the race and the eternity of the soul.
All this was known to ancient Ireland.
In bed, he will meet death
Or a bullet will slay him to death,
Do not be afraid, because the worst that awaits us –
Just a short separation from those whom we loved.
Let the work of the gravediggers belong,
Sharp their shovels, their hands are strong,
However, they open the way back to the human mind.
When he was twenty-two years old, Ben Franklin composed an epitaph for himself, predicting his reincarnation. He compared his body to battered bookbinding, from which “all the contents have been ripped out.” He predicted that the content “will not be lost” but “will appear next time in a new, more elegant edition, checked and revised by the Author”.
4. The stream breaks out to the surface
These thinkers reflected the new processes of open discussion of reincarnation that began during the Enlightenment. In the late nineteenth century, the popularity of the theory of reincarnation of souls increased in the West thanks to the Russian mystic Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and her Theosophical Society. With an emphasis on Eastern religion and philosophy, Madame Blavatsky also turned to esoteric Christianity. William C. Judge, one of the Society’s co-founders, liked to call reincarnation a broken string in Christianity.
Theosophy has opened the doors to many other groups to teach reincarnation in a Christian context. These include the Anthroposophical Society of Rudolf Steiner and the Unified School of Christianity of Charles and Myrtle Fillmore.
Edgar Cayce, the “sleeping prophet,” was a zealous Christian who believed in and taught reincarnation to millions of people. He began as a diagnostic medium who foresaw the state of health of people in a self-induced hypnotic sleep. Even though Cayce never studied medicine, his providences are recognized as accurate and his tools are effective. He gave advice on the use of all existing therapies – from drugs and surgery to vitamins and massage.
Casey first mentioned reincarnation in a session in 1923. Reading information from the object, Arthur Lammers, he said: “Once he was a monk.” Casey never remembered what he said during the sessions, so when the transcript was read to him with such words, he fell into confusion. “Doesn’t reincarnation contradict the Scriptures?” He asked himself.
Cayce accepted a literal interpretation of the Bible, which he reread every year until 1923 throughout his forty-six years of life. He knew about reincarnation but viewed it as an Indian superstition. After a session with Lammers, Casey reread the entire Bible to see if she condemned the idea. He decided that he was not judging, and continued his past life providences. He eventually took reincarnation and predicted his own reincarnation in the twenty-second century in Nebraska. Cayce’s writings have impacted millions of Americans, many of whom will never return to the Orthodox Christian vision of life.
But what the author of the book writes about his past life memories:
Memories in a sandbox.
Like Casey, I came to believe in reincarnation through the extraordinary experiences I had. When I was four years old, I remembered my past life. It happened on a spring afternoon when I was playing in the sandpit on the fenced-in area my father had set up for me. It was my own little world in the larger world of our courtyard in Red Bank, New Jersey.
That day I was alone, playing with sand falling through my fingers and watching fluffy clouds floating across the sky. Then, gradually, gently, the scene began to change. It was like someone was turning a radio tuner and I ended up on a different frequency – playing in the sand near the Nile in Egypt.
It looked as real as my Red Bank playground and as familiar. I had fun there for hours, splashing in the water and feeling the warm sand on my body. My Egyptian mother was there. Somehow this was my world too. I’ve known this river forever. There were fluffy clouds too.
How did I know this was Egypt? How did I recognize Neil? Knowledge was part of my experience. Perhaps my conscious mind was connected, as my parents hung a map of the world over my toy box and the names of most countries were already known to me.
After a while (I don’t know how long it lasted) the knob seemed to turn again, and I returned home to my courtyard. I felt neither confusion nor shock. I just returned to the present, fully confident that I had been somewhere else.
I jumped up and ran to find my mother. She was standing at the stove and cooking something. I blurted out my story and asked, “What happened?”
She sat me down, looked carefully, and said: “You remembered a past life.” With these words, she opened another dimension to me. The enclosed playground now contained the whole world.
Instead of ridiculing or denying what I experienced, the mother explained everything to me in words that the child could understand: “Our body is like a coat that we wear. It wears out before we complete what is assigned to us. Then God gives us a new mom and a new dad, we are born again and can complete the work that God has sent us, and finally, we return to our bright home in heaven. But even when we receive a new body, we remain the same soul. And the soul remembers the past, even if we don’t remember ”.
As she spoke, I felt as if the memory of my soul was awakening, as if I knew about it before. I told her that I knew that I had always lived.
She constantly drew my attention to children born crippled or blind, gifted, some born in wealth, and others in poverty. She believed that their actions in the past led to inequality in the present. Mom said that there can be no talk of either divine or human justice if we have only one life and that we can know divine justice only by having the opportunity to experience many lives in which we will see how the consequences of past actions return to us in the current circumstances.