5B: Reincarnation in Religions

5B: Reincarnation in Religions

4. Reincarnation in Bible

A significant volume of public literature is available that presents existence of reincarnation in Bible. The book [Smith, p. 73] says there are many mentions in the Bible that can only be adequately explained in the light of reality of reincarnation. Smith says these can hardly be seen if Bible is read in a literalistic, dogmatic, and traditional way. The examples of burning bush, Cain, and Job when understood and taken collectively, according to Smith, establish the foundation of reincarnation in the Bible. He shows “how the Bible reveals reincarnation and its essential counterpart, the karma of humanity and of the individual soul”.

In John 3: 1-12, there is one of the most concrete references to reincarnation. Here Christ the Master states, “Marvel not that I said unto thee you must be born again. The wind blows where it lists, and you hear the sound thereof, but cannot tell from where it comes, and where it goes: so is every one that is born of the Spirit” [Robinson]. The last part of the sentence is a very clear indication of cycles of birth. The paper says there are at least thirty references in the Bible that directly or indirectly confirm the continuity of life. Robinson explains [Robinson], how the commonly used statement against reincarnation, from Hebrews 9:27, in which Paul is the speaker, “And as it is appointed unto man once to die, but after that the judgment…”, when placed in proper context will in fact corroborate reincarnation.

The book [Sigdell] provides another aspect of reincarnation in Bible. Most famous father of church, Origen (185-253 AD), undisputedly taught preexistence of soul. However, Origen’s more than 2000 writings were nearly all burnt in the 6th century, so that researchers cannot today judge it from his original texts. Along with Origen many other Greek fathers made positive remarks about reincarnation. Rufinus (345-410 AD) translated some of the texts of Origen and openly admitted in correcting them so as not to run into conflict with Dogma.  [Sigdell, p. 54] confirms the idea of power struggle in our life – “The Church accuses the reincarnation doctrine of teaching a path of self-redemption. A rivalry mentality of the Dogma seems to come through here, which doesn’t want to permit any way to God, which isn’t approved by the power structure of the Church”.

As we have mentioned it is quite possible, like birthmark and birth defect cases, every aspect of our physical body is created by our soul, while in mother’s womb, independent of any other conditions. Thus it is quite possible that the case of the blind person discussed in the Bible is also a birth defect case of reincarnation. Everybody is reincarnated; we just do not know, and may never know to what extent the body is reconstructed. John 9:2-3 declares: His disciples asked Him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.’ This statement confirms that the nature always provides the proof.

5. Reincarnation in Quran

This author did not find any comprehensive research that investigates the idea of reincarnation in Quran, the way it has been done, for example by [Smith] on Bible. Research in analyzing every verse, with reincarnation in mind, in the context of the global philosophy of Quran, appears to be missing. Many authors say that the Arabs, before Mohammad, believed in Reincarnation. Had there not been in the heart of Islamism a strong germ of esoteric teachings, Sufism could never have sprung from it. Quran was written after the death of Mohammad [Pascal]. Mohammad’s sons also died before him. Sufism has deeper connection with Mohammad’s daughter.

Mainstream Islam rejects the concept of reincarnation. Believing in reincarnation into this world, in such a way that it could be interpreted as a denial of resurrection, may constitutes apostasy in Islam. A very few Sufi groups believe in reincarnation claiming that this concept is included in, “How can you deny God, when you were dead and God gave you life? Then God will cause you to die, and then revive you, and then you will be returned to God” (Quran 2:28). The mainstream Islam however rejects this understanding of the verse, claiming that it refers to the worldly human life and the consequent resurrection in the hereafter [Marathakam].

Spanish-born Sufi poet Ibn Arabi (1164-1240) commented: There is some difference of opinion among the Muslim learned men as regards the method of Resurrection. Some of them say that Resurrection will be by reincarnation and quote passages from the Quran and authenticated sayings of the Prophet in support of their contention [Hall].

Another verse has been pointed out in [Rumi]: “Set forth to them the similitude of the life of this world. It is like the rain which we send down from the skies, the earth’s vegetation absorbs it, but soon it becomes dry stubble, which the winds do scatter: It is Allah who prevails over all things”, Quran 18:45. However, the book also says, there are other verses that contradict the above in the Quran. Hence, more orthodox Muslims strongly contest the Sufi view.

Besides Sufi communities, Druze and Alawi are two Islamic sects, most numerous in Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey; who recognize reincarnation concepts.  There are many, among them, who are also skeptics about the phenomenon. At the same time [Rumi] there are others who discuss stories and maintain openness about the phenomenon. Interestingly, on both ends of the spectrum there is a guardedness associated with the talk of reincarnation because of sensitivity to outside perceptions. The above paper [Bennett] presents some audio taped details of real life reincarnation stories among Druze families.