There is quite a bit in the New Age movement dealing with past lives. This is the concept of reincarnation: we are essentially spiritual beings who manifest our spirituality within physical bodies; gradually purging ourselves of any baser, negative tendencies; gradually working our way on through higher and higher levels of spirituality. The ultimate goal of course, is "union with the Godhead" according to some believers.
That is of course, quite vague. What seems likely is that as people proceed to higher spiritual "levels" they take on jobs of helping others in the physical world, and perhaps others on the spiritual plane. Thus, many of our guardian angels may be more spiritually developed people. Lives can be lived on other planets as well as earth.
This is not the idea of people coming back in animal bodies, (particularly as punishment for wrongdoings in a previous life). That is the concept of transmigration, and is a minority view within the reincarnation field.
People recall past lives spontaneously, through hypnosis, and sometimes are told of past lives during psychic "readings."
There are of course, many arguments that have been made against any possibility of reincarnation existing. We will briefly examine some of these arguments and a possible response to each.
A. People don't remember their past lives. If they had any, they would remember them, period.
There are actually several responses to this charge. First, many people do remember past lives spontaneously. Many more recall past lives through past life hypnosis and meditation.
A lot of people never bother trying to remember past lives. Many don't believe in reincarnation, and hence would also not try to remember anything from a past life.
It seems likely that what we carry over from one lifetime to another is not a bundle of specific memories, but rather a system of generalized behaviors and attitudes. In your own life for example, how much do you specifically remember about your elementary school days? Yet during that time you developed certain generalized behaviors such as getting along (or not) with others, study habits, etc. The specific details may very well not be that important. General behaviors and attitudes are, though.
Further, a good hypothesis in science is one that can explain what is observed. We all have known people we instantly dislike upon meeting. Why? Perhaps we have known "them" from a past life. Not necessarily in every single case of course, but in some, this is quite possible.
Another example of remembering some things is in the not-infrequent experience of a person visiting somewhere they had never been before in this lifetime, yet being able to describe to others what will be "over the next hill" with accuracy.
B. There is no Biblical support for reincarnation.
Reincarnationists are convinced that the Bible originally held many passages dealing with the subject, but that these passages were removed by various Church Councils over the years, including the Council of Nicea.
In this case, it seems the reincarnationists are wrong. Christianity developed from Judaism, and Judaism does not hold any belief in reincarnation. Jesus, the "founder" of Christianity, was a Jew and hence, by education and culture, not a reincarnationist. Granted, there are those who hold Jesus spent time in India, Japan, and other nations, learning from various gurus who might have taught him about reincarnation. Yet there is no good evidence whatever for such a belief.
So, reincarnation is not really Biblical in nature. The overlooked point however, is who cares? Our society is so steeped in Judeo-Christian views, and we are generally indoctrinated in those views when young, that it seems likely many reincarnationists are trying to "justify" their belief with their upbringing, no matter how much they may decry Christianity as such. There is no need for Biblical justification of belief in Christianity. It is quite basically, totally irrelevant.
(As an aside, there are other Christian works that do have references to reincarnation, including the Book of Origen, but none of these works are actually part of the Bible).
C. Seeming memories of past lives are nothing other than examples of cryptomnesia or fantasies of the mind.
Cryptomnesia is "The unconscious memory of information learned through normal channels." (Harper's Encyclopedia of Mystical and Paranormal Experience). The basic concept of cryptomnesia is this:we remember, albeit on a subconscious level, one heck of a lot more that we see and read than we believe possible. Hence, a person who may describe events of a past life may actually simply be recalling some story or account they read years ago that they have consciously totally forgotten, but that has stayed on a subconscious level just waiting to be recalled. Thus, cryptomnesia could explain many past life "memories."
It cannot explain instances where people can recount details that have not been published nor put into any other mass media form, however, and it cannot explain instances where children recall detail various instances and have never really had time to be exposed to sources of printed/etc. information about the past.
To support this, skeptics point out that most people's recall of past lives does not really contain a whole lot of detail. Yet how many details of our own current lives do we recall? What were you doing for example, seventeen years ago on this very day? How many details of that day do you remember?
Probably not very many, so criticizing belief in reincarnation on the basis of not recalling details is not very realistic.
How about mind fantasies? Could past lives be nothing other than stories made up by active imaginations? Perhaps some of them are, yet many of the past lives are recalled in various sessions over a period of time and with considerable consistency. If such lives were totally fantasies, the stories would most likely be much less consistent. Also, we are humans after all, and not machines. No one's memory of this life or any other is absolutely perfect. It is quite possible that many would-be dreams of past lives are reinterpreted by the brain to bring them "up to date" with our present circumstances and environments, rather than dreamt as if actually in the past.
E. There is no scientific proof whatever for reincarnation. Since the world is run under scientific, physical principles, reincarnation must therefore, not be true.
This is comparing apples to oranges. There is no scientific proof for the existence of God, either, for that matter. Reincarnation, religion, and spirituality are all metaphysical beliefs. They are not subject to the scientific method. How do you "prove" a belief?
You can't, period. You may eventually be able to obtain evidence that part of the belief is true, but the evidence will still be attacked by those who follow strict, scientific criteria of proof.
For example: "Do mediums who transmit messages from loved ones actually give 'proof' of people surviving death?" Scientifically, they do not. Metaphysically in some instances, they do.
Religion, spirituality, and reincarnation are not physical principles. They are not things that can be precisely measured, weighed, taken apart and put back together, etc. The scientific method, while very valid for science, is not applicable at all to metaphysics. Neither are metaphysical standards applicable to science. They are different critters entirely.
F. There are too many people on the earth today for reincarnation to be true. If people die and their souls are reborn, the number of people on earth would remain constant and not grow. There would be no souls available for new bodies.
This argument is based on a number of fallacies: The first is that souls were created at one time, period, and no new souls have been created since. If souls came into being at some time in the past there seems no reason whatsoever to assume they are not still coming into being. The Creator/Great Spirit/God is all-powerful. This is something many Christians do not seem to totally grasp: "all powerful" (Vast beyond any hope of human comprehension). The Creator/etc. is not limited to having just spent 7 days making the Earth and then laying back, feet propped up, just watching things go by for the rest of eternity. To assume so is to be terribly earth-chauvinistic, which humanity strongly seems to be.
The earth is not the center of the universe. It is 1 planet of 9 (or more) circling a very average star in a very average galaxy in a universe of perhaps 100,000,000,000 galaxies or more, in what may very well be a "multi-verse" of universes. We are not the be-all and end-all of existence, and to assume that is to put a lot more importance on human existence than it really has.
Another fallacy is related to earth-chauvinism, and that is assuming past lives are always be based on earth lives. It seems that when one examines reincarnation in depth, one finds that it is not uncommon at all to have had lifetimes on other planets, as noted by Hawk in Chapter 28. If it is possible to have lifetimes on other planets, then the number of souls available for physical bodies could be far more than adequate for new human bodies.
G. Reincarnation is a cop-out belief, allowing people to attribute their current troubles to events in mythical past lives. Worse yet, it encourages people to commit suicide just to get born into a new life.
Then there is the matter of suicide. Anyone who has made any kind of a metaphysical study at all realizes that suicide is one of the worst things a person can do. It is one of the few areas where Christianity and the New Age thought agree. Things will not automatically be better if one commits suicide. In fact, the next life will very probably be much harsher than the previous one.
Is belief in reincarnation a cop-out? There is no doubt that some people may use reincarnation as an excuse for their current problems. It is equally likely that the same people would use anything else they could as an excuse for their current troubles. So belief in past lives can be a cop-out, but again, not in very many instances.
H. Related to the Biblical argument, Christians argue that the "fact" that Jesus came to "save" humanity shows there is no need for reincarnation, at least in the present time.
Responses to this argument are also numerous. Many people, indeed the majority in the world, are not Christians, and do not accept Jesus as any form of God. Thus, what Jesus did or did not say or did or did not do is of no relevance to them.
Further, there is argument within Christianity, itself over just precisely what the mission of Jesus was. To "save" humanity doesn't really say very much, for humanity hasn't exactly proceeded on a very positive trend since the time of Jesus. There are also a number of people who have grave doubts about the nature of Jesus, as witnessed by his alleged comments about coming to divide families, and that those who do not hate their mothers, etc, cannot be true followers of him.
I. God does the punishing and rewarding. There is no need for reincarnation.
There is a Christian verse that says: "Whatsoever a man shall sow, that shall he also reap". Yet how many demonstrably evil people in this world never seem to be punished for their misdeeds? How many murderers are never caught? How many crooked politicians retire with no one the wiser? How many times have we been lied to by governmental officials, and become none the wiser? The bad do not always get punished, the good often die young. This is not really fair, to say the least. Thus, Christianity has a scapegoat. Even if you get away with things in this life, you will be eternally punished in a hell afterwards.
Reincarnation however, does not follow this "one chance only" approach. Reincarnation works over a period of time; perhaps thousands of years. Within that period of time things balance out; not necessarily within one single life. You also have more than one chance to try and get your act together, unlike Christianity where you have just this one chance.
How about people born into considerable poverty or other bad conditions? They start life with major disadvantages. Should they be expected to achieve the same level of spiritual improvement that someone born into better circumstances can attain; someone who doesn't have to spend most of her/his lifetime just trying to survive and find food and shelter? In this matter reincarnation is a much more "humane" approach than Christianity.
J. If reincarnation is true, and souls work toward getting better on a progressive basis, then why is the present-day world so messed up, even though the souls have supposedly been reincarnated over and over?
This makes the assumption that earth souls are static: that is, that no new souls are coming to earth, and that all souls are confined to earth.
It cannot be denied that humanity has not made a whole lot of progress. There are still wars, mass starvation, and millions (if not billions) of people in need of the very basics of food, shelter, clothing, love, etc. The disintegration of the Soviet Union and the lessening of the threat of nuclear war do seem to be two very positive developments, of course. But even though the threat of international violence has decreased, we see the rising of violence on a more personal level in this country and in other countries in the increase of crimes, riots, and smaller-scale wars.
So, that's basically a very good point if all souls are old and if all souls are confined to the earth plane.
Yet metaphysical thought does tend to hold that souls do not always remain on the earth plane. Here is where we get to some very speculative metaphysical ground. People often make the assumption that there is a "here" (a physical plane), and a "there" (a spiritual plane), and that both planes have one single level. We move from this plane to the spiritual plane, and then live there happily forever after.
When one examines the various metaphysical evidence, including some matters such as channeling, mediumship, etc, and adds some of the frontier physics thoughts, a very different picture emerges.
Let's consider the physical, first: We do have this physical earth plane, no doubt about that. Yet thanks to frontier physics, it has become reasonable to think about various dimensions and/or alternate, or parallel universes with their own earth planes. This does not account for life on other planets, either. So in effect, we have this one earth plane and very probably a number of "alternative" earth planes, plus planes of other physical planets. In effect, there are a lot of physical planes for a life to incarnate on.
Granted the correctness of this assumption, it follows that souls are not confined just to this earth. A soul might very well incarnate on this earth plane, then on an alternative-dimension, alternative-universe earth plane; then on another planetary body; etc. Hence, there is not a stable pool of souls bound to this earth. This greatly increases the probability that souls incarnating at any particular time on this physical earth plane are not all advanced, nor have they been at spiritual progression on a steady basis for a long time. They may be, basically, relatively new to this "life" game, and even relatively new to this planetary plane.
Further, we need to consider spiritual planes of existence. It seems highly unlikely that we die, then go to another spiritual plane and spend the rest of eternity playing harps and singing the praises of the Creator. What seems more likely, again from channelings, mediumships, etc., is that the "other side" consists of a variety of planes, itself. When we die, we go to the other side and in effect, return to school, trying to learn more lessons so we can improve further, spiritually. We may end up incarnating again on the physical plane. On the other hand, we may end up incarnating on another spiritual plane, in effect removing ourselves from the soul-pool of earth. This, in effect, leaves the physical earth plane as the repository for new and less-advanced souls. The souls, themselves will change over time, with souls advancing to other levels as they grow spiritually, but they will be replaced by other, not-so-advanced souls. This leaves the earth inhabited by people who do tend to be less-than-perfect, spiritually (and thus, less-than-perfect in their physical actions, also).
(And if you really want to boggle your mind for a while, think about this: what if the other spiritual planes have their own attendant physical planes also, these physical planes co-existing with ours but not on the same "vibrational" frequency. There could be an incredible number of earths in this manner.)
Also, it seems that some of the more "developed" souls end up getting jobs as guardian angels, etc, and are also removed from the soul-pool of earth.
K. Xenoglossy is just another form of cryptomnesia.
Xenoglossy is the ability of people under hypnosis to speak in a foreign language that they have never learned in this lifetime. Such instances are not overly common, but they do happen.
Skeptics hold that such people have read the language some time in their past and just forgotten it on a conscious level. Yet when xenoglossy happens, it seems that the people have a very good knowledge of the language; more so than they would pick up from just reading about it. The speaking would require fluency, not just mild familiarity with the language spoken.
7. Walk-ins are souls that enter the adult physical body when the soul occupying it decides he/she wants to move on. Such arrangements are voluntary. The concept has become quite popular in the media within recent years, yet it remains one of the more shadowy areas of metaphysical thought.
A PAST-LIFE MEDITATION
Because a past-life meditation can bring up unpleasant memories and unsettling events, along with positive memories and events, it is a good idea to protect yourself first. Get in a comfortable position where you will not be interrupted. Calm your mind and focus your thoughts. Visualize a white sphere of light totally surrounding your body. Visualize this forming a protective barrier against all negativity from outside, and as a link to you internally, so that any negativity will be quickly shunted outside of your body and away from you.
It is also a good idea to have a code word or action that will bring you immediately out of the meditation. For example, you might program your mind to bring you automatically out of any meditation if you mentally say the word "enough". End of meditation, period.
It is also a good idea to have some writing materials available, so after the meditation you can write down any impressions.
Begin the meditation: Picture yourself in a meadow on a clear, bright, comfortable day. See the flowers around you. Hear the sounds of the birds and insects. Mentally arise, and notice that there is a path before you that leads into the forest. Follow that path without fear. It will enter the forest and you will soon be surrounded by tall, stately trees. Squirrels hop from branch to branch, and you can see other small animals darting through the undergrowth.
In the distance a deer stands quietly watching you, its large eyes following your movements as you continue down the path. Soon you come to an opening in the forest. In the center of the opening is a large Greek-style temple, in gleaming white marble. Columns hold up the enormous roof. The temple seems to be in pristine condition.
As you approach the doorway to the temple someone comes out to meet you. This may be your guardian angel or a spirit guide, or even a totem animal. They will guide you into the temple, to the place where you will begin your journey.
The center of the temple has an open roof, and on all sides of you stand portals. Each portal is filled with a white light, glistening with various sparkles throughout. Your guide explains that each portal is a doorway into another time in your life. All you have to do is walk through the doorway to return to some time in your past. Your guide will remain to greet you upon your return.
Go now to one of the portals. Choose the one that "feels" right for you. Walk through the portal.
Once on the other side, look around you. Notice everything you can. See what kind of people are there, and what kind of clothes they are wearing. Observe any room you are in. If you are in a street, look at the surrounding buildings. Pay as close attention as you can, but at the same time, try to relax.
Listen to what is being said. Try to determine accents. Watch for calendars or newspapers to give you a specific date. Basically, you need to pretend for a bit that you are like Sherlock Holmes, master (or mistress) of detail.
Whenever you are ready you just turn around and command the portal to appear to you. Walk through the portal, and you will be met by your guide. You can then leave the temple, walk back through the forest, into the field, and to your resting place.
Breathe deeply, and then come fully awake. Immediately write down all the impressions you can about what you saw, heard, smelled, touched, tasted, or felt.
Later, if you desire, and if you received any specific names and/or dates, you can carry out some research to try and track down what, who, and when you saw.
Also, you can take the above meditation, modify it to suit your own personal tastes, and tape-record it. Then play the tape back while you meditate.
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