writings of 18th century Emanuel Swedenborg who claimed to
have seen into the other side for 27 years do not support reincarnation.
He wrote that we have one life - eternal - and that we are born into this physical world to prepare us for our eternal life. In
the book, Heaven and Hell, Swedenborg explained that
these memories of what is now called "past lives' are the
memories of those who have gone before us. Very often, we sense
these past memories and believe them to be our own. Swedenborg's
explanation does not discount the experience - this life was lived
- but not by the person claiming more than one life. We have one
life - eternal life - and we are ourselves throughout eternity. Swedenborg
also wrote that God, being Divine Wisdom, in addition to Divine
Love, is always rational. In other words, God always makes
sense. If something doesn't make sense, it is not from God.
been made aware that a reincarnationist website has quoted my
above paragraph without identifying this article. The point was
made that the above explanation does not take into consideration
why some people are seemingly healed emotionally by "past life
healing." Well, there is an easy explanation - it's called the
placebo effect and it has been documented in medical studies. If a
person believes that something will help them, it very often does
- even if that something is a sugar pill. It's not a stretch of
the imagination to see if someone believes that they have past
lives - then going to past lives therapy will help them.
Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot, which details the
work of David Bohm, a former protégé of Einstein's and Stanford
neurophysiologist Karl Pribram, one the architects of our modern
understanding of the brain, there is a convincing theory given
that the entire universe may be a hologram, from which some
individuals may be accessing the universal memory.
does coming back to this earth to pay for past mistakes and being
doomed to continue the cycle until we figure out for ourselves
what is wrong, with no help from God? It simply does not make
sense. And the earth now has more people than have ever lived
throughout all the ages. Not everyone can be walking around with a
past life then. And how many people claim to have been a famous
person - there are many Cleopatras and Napoleons out there!
Harpur, theologian and Anglican minister,
and member of IANDS
(International Association for Near-Death Studies), in his best-selling
After Death [chapter 13], goes into detail about how the
early Christian Church refuted reincarnation. Origen (c.185--c.254
A.D.) was driven from the priesthood and regarded as a heretic
because of his espousal of the doctrine of reincarnation. Keep in
mind that Origen was reported to have had himself emasculated in
an over-literal application of Jesus' words: And some have
made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom.
also points out that people who are trying to prove reincarnation
from a Biblical standpoint often misrepresent history. They often
times will cite that either the Council of Nicea of 325 AD or the
Second Council of Constaninople in 553 AD voted to strike passages
from the Bible that supported reincarnation. According to Harpur,
who holds a Doctorate of Divinity and who has devoted years of
study researching the original Greek translations, there is
no evidence of any kind that any passages relating to the doctrine
of reincarnation or any other theory were expurgated from the Biblical
have pointed out that John the Baptist was the prophet Elijah
reincarnated because of what Jesus spoke in Matthew 11:7-15.
This passage is referring to Elijah being representative of the
prophets - and that a prophet (John the Baptist) would
declare the Lord's ministry. Look at John 1:21:
they asked him [John], What then, are you Elijah?
And he said, I am not. Are you that prophet? And he
would think that John would know whether he was indeed the prophet
if you recall the story of Elijah, he was carried into Heaven by
God - he did not die - and the Jews expected him to come back, but
not reborn as a child, but returned as himself.
Transfiguration of Christ with the appearance of Moses and Elijah
is also cited as "proof" of reincarnation. Yet, the
disciples who witnessed the Transfiguration, Peter, James and John
clearly recognized Moses and Elijah as themselves. Keep in
mind that Moses and Elijah were seen many centuries after their
death and they were recognized as Moses and Elijah.
to Frank J. Tipler, physicist and author of The
Physics of Immortality, the idea of reincarnation is very
new to the Eastern religious tradition. It did not enter into
Hinduism until around 600 B.C.
to Wilson Van Dusen, noted author and clinical psychologist who
specializes in the area between psychology and religion, wrote in
his articles, Reincarnation: The Universal Return:
people believe reincarnation means that the individual
returns again to this world. I will show this to be an
idea that, although inaccurate and illusory itself, points
toward the real truth: God, the Universal, returns
are actually two doctrines of reincarnation. The simpler
one, known to most everyone, is that the individual
returns again to the this world [and which he refers to as
the 'lesser doctrine']. The other doctrine is that
ultimately there really is no individual, and that God
alone reappears endlessly through the whole of creation
[which he refers to as the 'greater doctrine'].
Christianity, Swedenborg and the oriental
religions basically support the greater doctrine. Indeed
some of the clearest statements on the greater doctrine
are to be found in Swedenborg...
Buddhists use the analogy of a candle to explain
reincarnation. I have an unlit candle that gives no light.
It is lit by the One Flame that can light all candles. The
candle is the body, individuality, the personal history.
The One Flame that gives light is God. But burning here
and lighting my study, it appears alone, unique.
Reincarnation is a new candle lit by the old flame, the
Universal. This is very similar to Swedenborg's statements
that we are recipient vessels. The new vessel (candle)
receives the influx (Universal Light). The quality of the
vessel affects how well it reflects the light. The real
mystery is, how could I experience the life of a long dead
Mayan priest? Not because I am something, but because It,
the Light, knows all lives. I was shown something of the
Universal in my life that illuminates all human nature. We
are essentially recipient vessels and ultimately what is
received is the Universal. The journey from the individual
to the Universal is a loosening and expansion of the
boundaries of personhood. And it is also an
intensification of person hood into its source and life,
the Universal. Reincarnation and its companion doctrine of
karma are both small aspects of this underlying drift
towards the oneness of things...
center of Swedenborg's works is the process of
regeneration. The most detailed treatment of it is in his
twelve-volume Arcana Coelestia [Heavenly Secrets].
In regeneration we move from the conception of the unitary
spiritual self into the more heavenly world of usefulness
and networking toward the experience of God. I think one
of the most pervasive errors in theology is that many
think moving from awareness of self to awareness of God
must represent a loss of self. I can only say the
experience is far from loss.
The more closely one is conjoined to the Lord the
more distinctly does he seem to himself to be his
own, and the more plainly does he recognize that he
is the Lord's.
Divine Providence No. 42]
idea of loss of self is rooted in the idea of the unitary
package of self. It never did exist. It is illusion on
whatever level you examine it. The experience of moving
from self-awareness into the full awareness of God is a
continuous one of expansion of the self. Not loss, but
expansion. Finally the expansion reveals the ultimate
truth. Only God exists. What was called the self before
was the life of God hidden in darkness.
much experience I have come to know that there is
but one life - the Lord's.
Arcana Coelestia, No. 3484]
can also be a dangerous doctrine to accept. Several years ago, an
acquaintance told a story where she did not intervene in a child
abuse situation. Her reasoning was that it was the child's karma -
he must have really done something wrong in his past life - and he
must pay for it and set it straight. Look at modern India today,
with the shameful treatment of the lower castes - due to the
notion of reincarnation.
pondered whether people believe reincarnation because they fear
living in the spiritual world as a spirit. I had this fear myself
- who wants to be an ethereal, vaporous form of themselves? Yet,
according to Swedenborg, that is NOT what a spirit is. A spirit is
merely a person that has died - and is now residing in the
spiritual world. Our spirits have form - human form and we look
very similar to what we look like now - only without physical or
mental defect. The spiritual bodies that we reside in are merely
the spiritual bodies that we were born with - and have developed
in - when we leave this world, we merely cast off our physical
bodies (like a pair of pajamas) and are then in the spiritual
world. We have all the faculties of sight, sound, taste, smell,
and touch. Indeed Swedenborg wrote that the spiritual
universe looks very similar to our material universe.
Swedenborg wrote that there is a correspondence of all things
in nature and spirit. When we consider that there is One God, that
seems to point to the correspondence of one life. If reincarnation is considered, it may lead one
to believe in many lives, many gods - Hinduism which teaches
reincarnation does have a belief in many gods.
it matter what I believe?
wrote that we are free to believe as we want. It's not our
beliefs, but rather how we live our life (and the underlying
motivation of our choices) that determines whether we are in
heaven or hell. God gives us the freedom to believe whatever we
want. The only caution that I make is this: when we believe things
that are not true and which do not stand up to the light of
examination, we become confused. Untrue beliefs cause confusion,
which leads to depression and despair. I know...for I have lived a
life of not understanding spiritual truths and experiencing the
confusion that results from not having those truths.
who doesn't, in their heart of hearts, long to be reunited with
loved ones in an eternal Afterlife - never to be parted again? The
idea of one individual/one life gives worth and dignity to each
person -- and it seems to go hand-in-hand with our ONE GOD.
"For God is not the author
of confusion but of peace. "
I Corinthians 14:33
is destined to die but once..."
For more on
please read the articles:
Rebirth and Reincarnation
by Charles A. Hall
edited by Rev. Lee Woofenden
by the Rev. John Odhner
The Straight Facts ~
An Alternative Perspective
by the Swedenborg Movement
How Good Do We Have to Be?
by Rev. Robert McCluskey
Music: On Your Shore by Enya