Reincarnation in Different Religions

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Reincarnation keeps making flirty eyes at me of late and I can’t quite figure out why, other than it’s a possible sign from the great unknown that it wants me to look at it. But then again, if all we ever have is just the constant awareness of the now then why would anything need to make itself known to someone for them to investigate it? Indeed, if that is all that we have, and I’ll die on that hill, then we already have the answers, don’t we? Well, no it would seem like we don’t. 

There’s plenty of proof out there for reincarnation. But there’s an even larger amount of proof that it doesn’t exist. As far as I’m aware not a single person in human history has died and come back as themselves. Except that is Jesus Christ but nobody can seem to agree on whether he actually died or not. One theory suggests he and his uncle hung out in the cave for a few days and got high as motherfuckers until the coast was clear and they skedaddled. Although to be totally honest on the Christ crucifixion I’m pretty much onboard with the theory that he survived, went west and taught about non-duality and all that lark and ended up in Kashmir, where he’s buried. You can read more about it here: https://www.indiaheritagewalks.org/blog/tomb-jesus-kashmir-roza-bal-shrine On a fairly recent episode of the podcast we spoke about a BBC documentary about it which you can listen to here: https://youtu.be/tFNyiHl7-CM

The Dalai Lama; sound chap

The documentary goes into some pretty speculative stuff, suggesting Jesus was a Buddhist and this is supposed to account for his so-called ‘missing years’ when he was, the doc suggests, taken off to India and learnt about Buddhist teachings. This, they say, explains the appearance of the Magi at his birth; they knew of his earthly arrival and were sent on a mission to claim him and educate him. Now, that doesn’t sound so crazy when we consider that Tibetan Buddhists carry on this tradition to this day and it’s what happens when every Dalai Lama is born. A child is identified as a born-again Bodhisattva of compassion and they are raised and educated to carry on the line of Lamas. Tenzin Gyatso, the current Dalai Lama, is turning 87 this year and has stated in the past he’ll announce when he’s 90 if he’ll reincarnate. There’s much political heave-hoing over who the 15th Dalia Lama will be, as China currently controls Tibet they say they’ll announce who the next one will be. Nobody outside of China will support that decision though and we may well see a split in the coming years.

So what exactly is meant by reincarnation, well, how long is a piece of string? It’s twice the length from the middle isn’t it? The Eastern religions of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism all preach of reincarnation with slight yet important differences. In Hinduism the belief is that we all have an atman and this soul persists after death and is reborn again and again until it attains self-knowledge. This might help explain why the earth’s population continues to rise; we’re feckin eejits that can’t realise we’re all one soul because we’re too busy watching Reality TV and watching people on YouTube playing video games. We are really dumb in fairness. 

The Buddhists, on the other hand, believe there is no soul and no self so while Buddhists do believe in reincarnation there’s no self or soul that’s reborn as there is no self. But you are reborn. Yea, look, it’s a bit confusing and I’m not sure what’s reincarnated if there’s nothing to be incarnated in the first place. Unless everything is an illusion but plainly that can’t be the case as there’s no such thing as no-thing because for something to exist it either does or does not. And everything that exists exists. Duh.

Nothing is Real…man!

Buddhists will say the soul, or self does not exist and while I can see the self not existing, as in it’s a construct we build so we can live as best we can, I cannot see existence as not existing, because y’know, it plainly does exist. And anyway we, humans that is, can only experience about 0.0035% of reality so, yes, ok, while we don’t experience the fullness of existence and it may seem like our existence is an illusion in terms of the other 99.9965% of actual reality you can’t just say that everything outside of our perception doesn’t exist because, well man, it’s just wrong. Sorry my Buddhist friends, I’m all Hindu on this. 

Jainism then is a bit more like Hinduism but you need to be more restrictive in how you live, a life of asceticism is the name of the day there, along with the shared beliefs of Yama and Niyama (non-killing, non-violence, compassion, charity etc.) of the more well-known Indian traditions.

Buddhist Wheel of Reincarnation

In the three main Western religions then we have reincarnation coming into Jewish thought during the middle ages when Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism began taking root. It’s similar to the Hindu thought of a soul existing that leaves the body on death and floats around upstairs for a while before coming back to perfect its work. Some early Christians believed in reincarnation, many Gnostic sects did too. I mean, they’d kind of have to wouldn’t they since their main dude came back to life. But then things get all muddled up when the idea of the trinity comes along and God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit become one being instead of three even though they are also still three separate beings but also one in the same. Yea. Try making sense of that and try sitting through religion classes in Catholic school with priests telling you that you literally have to believe it if you want to live in the clouds after you depart this mad shop of a planet.

Of course, these two religions, and Islam that I’ll get to later all owe quite a debt to Ancient Greek religion and philosophy and the Greeks had a few different traditions that believed in reincarnation, the earliest being Orphisim which was centred on the death and rebirth of that mad craic Greek god Dionysus, Peter Kingsley’s grá Persephone and her auld one Demeter were important in that tradition too. There’s a mighty book I listened to (The Immortality Key: The Secret History of the Religion with No Name by Brian Muraresku) that posits a great argument that Christianity is the bastard child of the Orphic and Eleusinian Mysteries (which is what the Orphic tradition evolved into) and that the wine they drank was some high-octane ergot-infused wonder punch that got you off your chops and you got to chill with the head honcho of the clouds for a bit and have a chinwag with him. 

Reincarnation in Christianity

According to plenty of research he cites, women played such a crucial role in these traditions because they controlled the crops to ensure there would be some ‘spoiled’ by ergot and they knew how to made the kickass brew and this tradition might, maybe, maybe, just maybe have made its way into early Christianity but then was stamped out by the zealots because those lads are no craic and don’t like anyone having any craic. They still don’t. Reincarnation was stamped out pretty quickly too by the lads who called the shots.

Islam followed suit; we have a soul but we only get one shot at being good otherwise it’s an eternity imprisoned in the fiery brimstone of hell along with Satan and his lubed-up pitchforks. What am I saying, there’s no way there’s lube in Hell. How and ever, some sects of Islam do believe in reincarnation and there’s a group in South Asia who perform a yearly ritual where they ask for forgiveness for sins committed during previous lifetimes.  

Celtic Reincarnation

Let’s do one final one just because I’m Irish. The Celts, sure I couldn’t do an article about reincarnation without mentioning them. The Celts also believed in reincarnation, well, of course they did as Hinduism and the Celts came directly from the Proto-Indo-Europeans, and that the soul lived on after the death of the body and after a certain number of years it would return to the earthly realm and take up a new abode. The belief was so strong that money could be borrowed based on it being paid back by your following incarnation. 

Reincarnation in Thelema

Oh, Thelema is worth a mention too as it’s a little confusing. Aleister Crowley dismissed the idea of reincarnation because “The idea of incarnations ‘perfecting’ a thing originally perfect by definition is imbecile.” But then again, Crowley was sure he was the reincarnation of Edward Kelley Dr. (Dr-not-a-medical-doctor) Dee’s buddy, a Russian farmer called Ivan, a chap called Heinrick van Dorn who was into some baddie magic (evil shenanigans), then Count Alessandro di Cagliostro, an Italian occultists and merchant of the craic and then, finally Eliphas Levi. Not content with having a fairly wild life himself, Crowley also had experienced plenty of other eventful ones too. Well, his higher self anyway. Fair play to him, Aiwass the lover of the craic. 

As mentioned above there’s plenty of both proof and non-proof for reincarnation. But the guy I trust on this is the American professor and child psychiatrist Jim Tucker. He popped up again in a recent episode of TaSTA where we were talking about a documentary you can watch here. I’ve seen him now in a number of documentaries and since watching the doc have been reading up on some articles about his work and listened to/watched a good few interviews with him too and y’know, the argument is really, really, really convincing that some children can remember their past lives.

At this stage I’m pretty much convinced in reincarnation, largely thanks to my belief that the one soul is all that exists and we’re all just teeny-tiny cogs in the varying sizes of larger and smaller cogs of the universe and as such it’s a God that experiences consciousness through our lived experiences. In other words, I’m with the Hindus on this. However, I’m well aware that I also want it to be true because y’know as tough and troubling and strifeful and harsh and shitty and terrible and god-fearingly brutal as life can be, it’s still wonderful to be alive and it’s not always those bad things, everything, every-single-thing we experience is fleeting and to have the awareness to experience it fully is bloody magical. So, yea, I want it to be real because I’d love to come back after I draw my last breath and do it all again. But I won’t get to; Spud won’t get to, but the conscious ever-awareness that I experience will and I’m pretty happy I got to experience it as this version of it.

Maybe I do know why reincarnation keeps making flirty eyes at me. There’s something in me that wants to know about if I had past lives, maybe I was an animal before and this is my first go as a human. It might explain why dogs and cats and horses and birds and snakes and turtles and even capybaras all seem to like me more than a fair deal of humanity does, or that’s just a bias I’m showing, actually, yea, that’s definitely a bias/projection. Regardless, I’m curious as to what the soul in me experienced before it was brought crashing down to earth in a wee rural village in Wexford. I’m bloody petrified of finding out too though. 

There was a TV programme on Irish television a few years ago now. It was about one of Ireland’s best-known news reporters, Charlie Bird, a fantastic reporter and journalist and a proud Irish man. The show was about looking into his ancestry and all that goes with that. Well, the look of sheer horror on his face when it was discovered he had English blood in him and not just English blood from a normal lad from say, Stoke or Birmingham, nay, poor Charlie was a direct descendant from an occupying soldier who had been given land by an English royal because he was so good at the raping and pilaging he’d done on Irish soil. Maybe it’s better I leave sleeping dogs lying in front of the fire but you know me by now, someday, probably not any day soon, but someday I’ll get around to it and get to the bottom of who I was before I became who I think I am. 

And anyway, they’re not supposed to be blood relatives. Mostly. Christ, I just know there was  some god-awful redcoat in the 1600s called Brigadier Montgomery Ramsbottom III who rounded up 50 Murphys, men, women, children, auld lads and biddies into a shed and set it ablaze somewhere in Wexford. FFS.

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