Why are we frightened of reincarnation?

Ever-Flowing Streams: Tapping into Healing Energy

Chapter 9


This excerpt is Part II in a series on reincarnation:

I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have changed several times since then.–Alice in Wonderland

Born Again?

Great minds and mystics have grappled with the theory of reincarnation for eons. The modern Christian church dismisses the concept. The party line is that we are born once; we have the option of accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior for our ticket to heaven; if we don’t, we are condemned to hell. This interpretation of scripture promotes church membership quite effectively.

But looking historically and globally, I found that reincarnation has been embraced by cultures far and wide. Even the Bible retains passages that allude to it. Besides the reference above from Matthew naming John the Baptist and Elijah as the same soul, Jesus seemed to convey the concept in several references:

John 8:58–Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.

Luke 9:18-20–“Who do the people say that I am?” And they answered, “John the Baptist; but others say Elijah; and others, that one of the old prophets has risen.”

John 9:2—As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

If you take the above passages at face value, it appears there was a cultural acceptance of the idea that souls return to the earthly plane. Clearly, the people of the time exhibited a belief in reincarnation if they conjectured Jesus might be the returning spirits of Elijah or an Old Testament prophet.

Also implied in the last quotation is an understanding of karma, the cosmic law of cause and effect. Who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind? The question indicates a belief that a child born blind could be the result of previous misdeeds.

Other scriptures point to a karmic philosophy:

Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap-Galatians 6:7

Do unto others what you would have them do to you—Matthew 7:12

All who draw the sword will die by the sword—Matthew 26:52

Theologians have argued these passages for two thousand years. One of the earliest and most respected was Origen of Alexandria who lived from 185-254 A.D. According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, he believed in the “pre-existence and fall of souls; multiple ages and transmigration of souls; and the eventual restoration of all souls to a state of dynamic perfection in proximity to the godhead.” Quite the metaphysician, Origen. He devoted his life to teaching and writing his Christian beliefs until the Roman Emperor of the day ordered a purging of the followers of Christ. Origen was martyred in Tyre.

The debate continued for another two hundred years until the church grew into a political institution. According to Life Between Life by Joel L. Whitton, Ph. D, “The new Church-State alliance, aiming for the cultivated dependence of the masses, felt threatened by those who believed in rebirth because such Christians tended to be self-reliant, free-thinking individuals whose subservience could not be guaranteed.”

In 553 A.D., the Fifth Ecumenical Council condemned Origen’s theories as heresy (the root definition meaning “able to choose”).  Emperor Justinian formally denounced the concept of rebirth in no uncertain terms:

If anyone assert the fabulous pre-existence of souls and shall assert the monstrous restoration which follows from it: let him be anathema

Wow–let him be anathema– as in a “person or thing accursed or consigned to damnation or destruction.” [1]

Zealous church leaders followed up that dictate by slaughtering a half million reincarnation-believing Cathars in Southern France during the 1200’s. Not satisfied with that carnage, the Inquisition was born.

Carol Bowman sums up the legacy of such repression in Children’s Past Lives thus:

The murderous efficiency of the Inquisition proved effective. The persecution by the institutional Church has scarred our collective psyche, and it has surrounded us with an invisible fence dividing what is safe from what is dangerous to believe. Since then, people who harbor forbidden ideas have learned to keep their thoughts to themselves. Our cultural memory still carries the fear of reprisal for publicly associating with any occult practices, the use of psychic powers or a belief in reincarnation.

Consequently, believers in reincarnation were effectively wiped out or muzzled. In time, the masses of the West generally forgot about it. The day-to-day struggle to survive and the poor education of the eras erased reincarnation concept from cultural memory.

History marched on—the Renaissance, the split of church by the Reformation, and the Industrial Revolution transformed the West, but reincarnation did not figure into the world-view paradigm. And maybe that was a good thing.

End of excerpt

All of Chapter 9 is available to read at Scribd.com

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© 2010 by Dana Taylor
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3 comments on “Why are we frightened of reincarnation?

  1. I believe in reincarnation.My brother is a genealogist and has traced our family & families related to us,back to the 500 and discovered that we,as groups,have been alive together throughout history.This supports my belief that we are reincarnated in groups.The bible also supports reincarnation in other places.I have an extremely vivid past life remembrance as a child during the Spanish Inquisition.I was 3or 4years old and dressed with bracelets and cloth around my ankles .The memory is being lifted up by a strange man with a funny hat who threw me off the top of the mountain where we lived,I don’t recall feeling fear,more like awe and then nothing.The next part ,I remember hovering over my body and that’s it.I enjoyed the article very much.

    • Thanks for your comment. This is a subject that rattles a lot of chains. Metaphysical literature does support the idea that we reincarnate with soul families. As I’ve been working with my personal Akashic Records, more “memories” have come to me. It’s a fascinating exploration.

  2. When you read this: http://www.reincarnation.ws/reincarnation_in_early_christianity.html
    it tells you that reincarnation was banned not by divine insight but rather by political intrigue. It wasn’t the pope who decided it. The pope was not in attendance regardless whether by choice or by force (kidnapped?) at the Council in 553 AD. It was Justinian who ran the show. Those who backed reincarnation were under represented (political power). The pope didn’t oppose it. And thus was accepted. It was Justinian who began to enforce it.

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