Is Reincarnation the Key to Life’s Mysteries?
Have you lived before?
Will you live again in some form of life after you die?
These questions may bring to mind the doctrine of reincarnation.
The New Encyclopædia Britannica defines “reincarnation” in the following way: “A belief in the rebirth of the soul in one or more successive existences, which may be human, animal, or, in some instances, vegetable.”
Reincarnation plays an important part in Eastern religions, particularly those that originated in India, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism. Among Hindus in India, for example, life is considered to be a continual cycle of death and rebirth.
In more recent times, however, the idea of reincarnation has come to fascinate many living in the Western Hemisphere, including a number of young people. According to a columnist writing in Canada’s Sunday Star, the reason for much of this interest “is the result of the impact of Eastern religious ideas upon our Western society, which began in the 1960s.”
Another reason for the interest in reincarnation is that certain celebrities have raised their voices and seriously asserted that they have lived one or more former lives. Also, radio, TV, magazines, and other news media have shown an interest in reincarnation, as have various professional people such as doctors and teachers.
All of this has aroused much curiosity. Thus, according to some polls, about a fourth of the people in Canada and the United States have professed some acceptance of reincarnation.
Claims of Former-Life Experiences
Actress Shirley MacLaine claimed in an interview with Phyllis Battelle in Ladies’ Home Journal that she has made several “trips” back in the stream of time. “I remember many of my past lives—sometimes I was a male, other times a female,” she said.
In the book Coming Back, Dr. Raymond Moody described experiments he conducted among his students and others. He said that through hypnosis he took them back to the time before their birth, and they claimed they had memories from former lives. One person said that he had lived as an Eskimo in an Eskimo community. Another asserted that he had lived during a ‘stone age,’ thousands of years ago.
Dr. Moody himself claimed that he had lived nine former lives. These varied from a life in the treetops as some kind of “prehistoric version of man” to a life in the days of the Roman Empire, when, he said, he was attacked and killed by a lion in the arena.
The use of hypnosis to take inquisitive people back to a supposed time before their birth has also been described as beneficial for others. Doctors have used it in treating emotional disorders. It is claimed that mysterious phobias have been relieved by tracing the problem back to some event in a former life. How valid is this idea?
Near-Death Experiences Related
Near-death experiences related by some people have served to popularize the idea of reincarnation. In the book Life After Life, Dr. Moody reports his findings about near-death experiences from some 50 people.
While their experiences have varied, Moody thinks that they form a pattern. These people had the feeling of journeying through a long, dark tunnel. They felt as if they were separated from their bodies, floating freely. They sensed that they were zooming up the tunnel toward a very bright light, and at the end of the tunnel, they saw long-dead family members. Finally, they awakened in their own bodies. However, not all have experienced each of these stages.
It is claimed that such experiences have had a positive effect on those who had them. If so, it should have helped them to lose their fear of death and should have given them the confidence that there is meaning to life. But that has not always been the case. Many continue to fear death and lack confidence in there being real meaning to life.
Those who believe in reincarnation say that they find in such experiences support for the idea that the human soul is reborn in different forms of life. But can any credibility be given to this doctrine? Does reincarnation really provide the key to life’s mysteries? Can we find any answer at all to the questions, Have you lived before? Will you live again? Do humans possess a soul that leaves the body at death? These questions will be discussed in the following articles.
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Reincarnation is fundamental to Eastern religions
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Hindu wheel of life