FIRST SPIRITUAL TEMPLE
Founded in 1883
Reincarnation: Part 1
The Cycle Grows
Reincarnation states that the spirit, through the vehicle of the soul, comes to the Earth plane many times, in order to experience physical life, under a variety of circumstances and conditions. To some, this represents a grotesque cycle in which the soul becomes trapped; others look at it as a wonderful, divine plan which offers an opportunity to expand in our awareness and to correct that which needs to be corrected. Perhaps it boils down to whether one sees a glass half empty or half full.
Just about every culture has had, as part of its teaching, a belief in reincarnation. In the twentieth century, it is undeniably accepted among most religions of the East. In the West, mainstream religions and churches shy away from any discussion or belief in the cycle of rebirth. Modern Spiritualism, at least that segment of it espoused by the National Spiritualist Association of Churches, takes the easy-way out by letting its members decide for themselves. Despite this, recent surveys indicate clearly that the majority of Americans, including Spiritualists, believe in the doctrine of reincarnation.
The question, then, arises: who is correct? Proof of reincarnation is a personal matter; what may constitute proof for one may have no credence to another. This is true of most religious and spiritual teachings and doctrines. Faith, perhaps even more than knowledge and proof, is what strengthens the soul. This does not lessen the importance of knowledge and understanding, but faith in that which simply cannot be proven is what nurtures wisdom. It is our decided opinion and a very integral part of our religious and spiritual teaching that reincarnation is a fact.
The primary purpose of life upon the Earth plane is to master, through experience and involvement, the lower (personality) nature and, thus, become guided and influenced by the higher, or soul, aspects of the divine Spirit within; this, in turn, is guided by the almighty Spirit of God.
The issue of reincarnation relates strongly to questions concerning life and death: when were we, as Spirit, created; for how long and where shall we continue to be?
The major beliefs concerning life and death are as follows:
The Earth plane is the sum-total of all that is. We are created at or around the time of conception, and we cease to exist at the moment of death.
We are created at or around the time of conception, we are born onto the Earth plane, we pass from the Earth plane through death and then we live in some other realm of Spirit for eternity. Life, now and after death, is and shall always be. The nature of life after physical death is subject to much debate by those who hold this view.
We are eternal, both in the past and in the future. We were created at a point in time which is timeless, and we shall always exist. We come to the Earth plane once, in order to experience what it has to offer. After physical death, we live in other realms of Spirit, gradually evolving in our consciousness and in our oneness with God.
This is identical to that noted above, with one exception: we are given the opportunity to be born onto the Earth plane more than once, in order to evolve an understanding of this plane to the point where we no longer need physical incarnation. From there, life continues, in other realms of Spirit and Creation, as a continuous evolutionary process toward oneness with God. Those who adhere to this view of life generally agree on the nature of life encountered after physical death.
Is It All Myth?
Eastern cultures teach and accept the doctrine of reincarnation as a natural part of the life-death cycle. Those from the East would consider us to be spiritually bankrupt for even questioning the reality of this doctrine. We, in the West, however, tend not to accept things unless they can be proven or at least scientifically demonstrated. This tends to create problems when it comes to reincarnation.
There are three basic arguments against the doctrine of reincarnation:
- It is not scientifically proven.
- We come back as a different person, thus reincarnation is not a fact.
- Why should there be a cyclic return to the Earth plane?
Let us look briefly at each of these arguments and see if we can shed some light on it.
Not Scientifically Proven: It is correct to say that reincarnation has not been proven scientifically; it probably never will be. But then again, how many of our spiritual or religious teachings and doctrines have been? To state that a doctrine or teaching is not true because current-day science cannot prove it, is to state that the laws of the Earth plane represent all the laws that exist within Creation; this, of course, is not correct. In considering reincarnation, we are dealing with an aspect of the soul; thus, spiritual laws must be considered. All laws of the Spirit which have stood the test of time point directly to the reality of reincarnation.
Reincarnation has, nonetheless, undergone serious scientific investigation, primarily through the research of Dr. Ian Stevenson. Through various techniques of hypnosis and life regression, Dr. Stevenson and others have been able to confirm that certain people are able to offer direct information concerning past lives; information which they have no way of knowing (at least from the current earthly life) and which can be verified. This type of information is often obtained from children.
Different Body; Thus, No Reincarnation: This is perhaps the most perplexing argument against reincarnation. Opponents of reincarnation who fall upon this argument state that if a person does come back to the Earth plane, he or she does so in a different body, with a different brain; therefore, a different person is involved, and that person has not technically experienced reincarnation. This represents a strictly materialistic viewpoint and does not take into consideration that our bodily forms are merely material cloaks used by our souls. The fact that we change coverings does not mean we change the spirit. “Clothing makes the person” is a cliché based on illusion, in this and in other worlds.
Why Reincarnation?: Many opponents of reincarnation share a common sentiment: why would the soul come back? What does this accomplish? The situations which surround the soul change with each life; therefore, how does this allow us to deal with past circumstances? First, we must come to understand that, even though ages come and go and environments change, we have been struggling with the same basic problems and circumstances for eons of time. We are all seeking to attain a clearer understanding of ourselves and of God and attempting to become closer and more at-one with God and with each other. The basic human condition changes relatively little. How we deal with it is constantly changing. God’s plan and our plan with God remain stable. How that plan happens to be unfolding, at any particular moment in history, differs with people, places, conditions, and, of course, time.
Spiritual evolution does continue, unbroken and uninterrupted, even though we incarnate into different bodily forms, surrounded by different people, and occupy our time differently. Again, it is the soul which evolves toward oneness with God, creation, and its own spirit. In effect, when we incarnate is of secondary importance. What is of importance is that we move onward in our journey and know that we do come to the Earth plane, from time to time, as part of that journey.
Yes, It Does Make Sense!
The fact of reincarnation makes more sense and is more in line with natural law than the myth of it. Here are some reasons:
- Reincarnation follows the universal Law of Cycles and Natural Law.
- Reincarnation is a wonderful demonstration of God’s grace and our ability to correct that which needs to be corrected.
- It seems inconceivable that we can master the lower aspects of the personality in one earthly lifetime.
- Reincarnation helps explain the appearance of evil in a world guided by a loving God.
Let us take a brief look at each of these:
Law of Cycles: Everything in life follows the great Law of Cycles. Seasons come and go. People are born and die. Trees follow a cyclic pattern of life and apparent death. History seems to repeat itself, until there is no longer a need to repeat the cycle. Why should we assume that our earthly lives would not follow the same cyclic patterns exhibited by the rest of Creation? The cycle of rebirth is one of many cycles in which we are involved. “Cycles within cycles within cycles” is an expression used by Syrsha, the late Rev. Stephen Fulton’s Spirit guide to suggest the many cycles in which we all live.
God’s Grace at Work: What kind of God would say: “If you make an error, too bad; suffer with it for the rest of eternity?” That would be a cruel and mindless God. But God says quite the opposite: “I know you make errors, and I shall give you every opportunity to correct them and become a better reflection of your Spirit.”
Through reincarnation, we are given the opportunity to set straight that which may have gone wrong. We are given the opportunity to come back to the Earth plane and “relive” some of our experiences, to see if we can react less to the thrill of the moment and respond more to the prompting of the Spirit. Through reincarnation, we are given the opportunity to come back with another soul, or group of souls, to make good that which may be bad, or to make even better that which is already good. Through reincarnation, we are given the opportunity to become all that we are capable of becoming, rather than remain where we are. Reincarnation, as it manifests within the great Law of Karma, is perhaps the greatest demonstration of God’s love for and faith in us.
Mastering the Lower Nature: The process of spiritual evolution involves mastering the lower personality, that the higher aspects of the soul and Spirit may be free to express themselves. In order for us to master the lower nature, we must rise above the temptations of the flesh and personality and work consciously with the inspirations of the Spirit. The personality is deeply embedded within the Earth plane. By this, we mean that the Earth plane offers the greatest opportunity and potential for the lower aspects to dominate the life of the individual. Where else are we able to deal with the limitations of time and money? Where else is the bodily form of such importance? Where else is the sexual appetite so powerful? The Earth plane, with all its limitations, is truly one of the most expansive realms of life. Now, that may seem like a paradoxical statement, but life is full of paradoxes. Consider for a few moments: where else in Creation are we allowed to become fully engrossed within such dense matter while dealing with our spiritual quest and journey?
So you see, the Earth plane is truly a grand place; a place where we can, for all practical purposes, have the best of both worlds: spiritual and material. It is also a realm full of paradox. We use the material in order to appreciate its non-reality, that we might then begin to sense and work with the reality of the Spirit. For this to be accomplished in the span of a few short years seems unlikely.
Through the process of reincarnation, we are able to deal with the whole of the earthly experience and reach a point where we no longer need these experiences. It is at that point that we can say to ourselves: “I no longer need to come back to earthly form.” But even here, evolution does not cease; we merely move onward to other cycles and realms of life.
God in the Midst of Evil: A question which will challenge one’s faith perhaps more than anything else is: how can there be such evil and suffering in a world which is supposed to be governed by an all-loving and all-forgiving God? An understanding of reincarnation and karma sheds great light upon this perplexing question and offers hope where there seems to be little hope. Through an understanding of karma and reincarnation, we can see that it is because there is such a loving and forgiving God that evil and suffering do appear upon our planet. God could very easily intervene and wipe away all pain, all suffering, and all form of negativity from our lives. But in so doing, He would rob us of our greatest gift: the gift of choice. We would, then, most assuredly be nothing more than puppets on a string, manipulated by God.
But God is a loving God; God allows each of us to become the master of our own destiny. We are given the freedom of choice: the choice either to live by Divine Law, or in opposition to it. Choice is important to us. Men and women have suffered and died, in order to defend that inherent right — or gift — of the Spirit. In this, however, we shall reap the fruits of our labors and our choices. This is the Law of Karma.
If we plant bad seeds, the harvest will be bad. If we plant good seeds, the harvest will be good. If we plant good seeds, but do not tend to them, they will sprout and die shortly thereafter. If we plant bad seeds and then recognize that we have done so, we can dig up our garden and plant good seeds. So, we have ample opportunity to manifest good as well as evil.
Karma explains why there is evil in the midst of a loving Creation. Reincarnation offers us a means of transforming that evil into good.