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The studies of past lives.
Dr. Ian Stevenson of the University of Virginia Medical School has researched over 2.600 cases of children’s past life recall. At least 900 of these cases have been verified, which means that Dr. Stevenson got enough information from the children subject of his investigations to identify the past life personality they remembered as theirs.
The methods and investigation techniques that Dr Stevenson has followed for many years has earn him a well deserved respect among the scientific community -always skeptical as we all know- and the few attempts by religious zelots to “debunk” and minimize his findings have been proven to be mistaken and lacking of any valid basis. And it comes as no surprise that the defense against these attacks has been taken not by Dr. Stevenson himself but by his colleagues.
Children’s Past Lives: A very strong case.
One of the most solid basis of Dr. Stevenson’s research about reincarnation is the fact that the subject of his investigations are young children. Why? Because they are more likely not to be as affected by bias or prejudices as we grown-ups are. And the cases studied by Dr. Stevenson have another poweful element: They all are located in which are known as underdeveloped countries and many of the children that were the subjects of his thourough investigation live in poor and small villages, that are completely out of the mainstream of mass media’s influence.
You can surf Dr. Stevenson’s
webpage at Children’s Past Lives.
The reincarnation, a divine gift.
The world will learn the truth about the resurrection of the flesh, which is the reincarnation of the spirit.
Reincarnate: to return to the world to be born again; emerging of the spirit from a human body. That is the truth regarding the resurrection of the flesh, and not the so twisted, as well as absurd interpretation you have been told.
Reincarnation is a gift that God has granted your spirit so as not to be limited to the smallness of the flesh, and its fleeting existence on Earth; or to its natural weakness, but rather, proceeding from a superior nature, that spirit can take possession of many material bodies as may be necessary. However, in the beginning, the world will combat this revelation with fury, giving it the appearance of a strange and false doctrine, in order to make men of good faith distrustful.
Mankind creates legends, fantasies, and even among the most remote tribes, people hidden in the jungles, have a presentiment of the reincarnation of the spirit.
Who are you? What do you know about your past?
Tell Me: Who are you? Whom do you believe to be? Whom do you feel you are? What do you know about your past, and how far back is your origin? What do you know from whence you came, where you have passed through and where you are headed?Who were you before this life? Who are you at the present time, and who will you be in the future? Those are the mysteries that correspond only for the Divine judge to know. For now it should be sufficient for you to comprehend the true significance of the Law of Reincarnation which I have revealed to you as a supreme truth.
One single human life is not enough to give the spirit all the perfection that he needs in order tobe able to sit on the right-hand of the Father.
Reincarnation is the opportunity which God, in His loving justice, offers the spirit, in order that he may recover his purity and return to the pathway. That is the manner through which he can take advantage of the experience acquired during his pilgrimage.
Thus you will understand that one existence alone on Earth, for being so short compared with the spiritual life, cannot be decisive over the eternity of the spirit. In other words, it will not even be sufficient for any of you to reach perfection within that life that would take you directly to the Kingdom of the highest spiritually, which is what you call Heaven; nor will the faults in one lifetime on Earth be enough to determinate if a spirit will lose himself in darkness, or be in pain for an eternity. That is why I established the reincarnation of the spirit as one of My laws of love and justice; to grant him a more extensive field, that will offer him all the necessary opportunities to attain his perfection.
Each existence is a brief lesson, because through any other way the opportunity for man to grasp within it the fulfillment of all my Law, would be very short, but it is necessary for you to learn the meaning of this life.
Those who followed the Lord in the different eras.
Among humanity are beings who in another era crossed the wilderness in search of a Divine promise, who heard the voice of the Father on the mount. I also discover some others who lived during the time of Jesus, beheld His deeds and heard His word; those who followed Me in the wilderness and ate the bread and fish which I gave the multitude when they ascended the mount to hear that voice, and those who were among the mobs, shouting on the day of My crucifixion. I discover those spirits. Many of them come to hear My word, but only I know what spirit is concealed within each body.
Some listen to Me with coolness, others with doubt. But there are many who show their emotions with love and joy, and they feel My essence; while others are tormented with remorse, which their flesh ignores, because many of them at that time shouted to Pilate: Crucify Him! Crucify Him! And today they weep, and in their pain they would be ready to shout with tears in their eyes: Do not crucify Him! He is the Divine Master!
Well, then, if you are to return to the world, one or more times, let it be to gather pleasing fruits, cultivated by you previously, in order for your spirit to experience the satisfaction of having before him the opportunity to conclude some task already begun.
Only the one who purifies himself through love; who practices My Law, will cease to come and reincarnate in this planet. However, he who in his last reincarnation leaves a trace of blood or of evil, he will have to return to this Earth to make amends, to restore what has been destroyed, to give life to the lifeless he left behind, and to forgive. In one word: restitute.
Reincarnation, still a mistery for science and religions
Science, religions and theologians will be unable to discover at this point in time, how My justice works. Sometimes within the heart of a miserable person is concealed a spirit who in another era carried a crown upon his head, or, within a convict is hidden one who in another life deprived a nation of its freedom.
The time of controversies is coming when men will manifest their eloquence, to the point of boastfulness and vanity. My word of the Second Era will again be scrutinized, and there will also be arguments about the different interpretations which have been given. Truly I say to you : From that turmoil the light will surge, and many veils will be removed and hypocrisy will be overwhelmed by the truth.
All the people on Earth perceive the mystery surrounding the past, present and future of each spirit. To some it is a theory, for others a possibility; for others it is a fantasy, and others flatly deny it. Nevertheless, I find them pondering over that truth.
The great truth of reincarnation.
Reincarnation of the spirit is one of the great truths that humanity should know. Through intuition some have a presentiment and accept and believe in it as something which could not be missing in My loving justice toward humanity.
The flesh is of this world, and here it remains, while the spirit arises free and returns to the existence from whence he emerged. “What is born of the flesh, is flesh; What is born of the spirit is spirit.”
I speak the truth. I show you the way. I reveal the reincarnation, which is the Law, in order for the spirit to perfect himself and reaches the goal of his destiny. Do you doubt it? Truly I say to you that the truth is not altered in any way by your doubts, for it continues to be the same.
I say to you, that you should never doubt for the simple reason that you do not understand. Bear in mind that if truth were only what your limited mind comprehends, nothing would exist.
During this Third Era I have brought to you the confirmation of the reincarnation of the spirit. Humanity, throughout the times, has had that intuition, and the spirit has been revealing to it this mystery to the flesh.
Today as never before, there exists among mankind the presentiment and the certainty of these manifestations, although not all dare confess it, for fear of the world.
The gift of reincarnation, since the dawn of humankind.
Since the beginning of mankind the reincarnation of the spirit exists as a law of love and justice, and is one of the forms in which the Father has demonstratedHis infinite clemency. Reincarnation is not only of this period, but of all eras, and you should not believe that this mystery has just been revealed to you now.
Ever since the first eras, there existed in man the intuition regarding the reincarnation of the spirit, but this humanity, seeking material sciences and world riches, allowed itself to be dominated by the passions of the flesh, thus hardening those fibers with which the spiritual is perceived, and converting denying those fibers with which the spiritual is perceived, and turning themselves deaf and blind to everything which corresponds to the spirit. What is the use of posing their eyes on books that contain the Law and the Doctrine which I revealed to you during past times, if their mind is not able to penetrate in its significance, nor does their heart perceive the essence?
You must admit that sensibility and spiritual intuition are wasted in men, and that is why most of the time, while searching for My truth in those texts, they fall into erroneuos interpretations. They have the light before their eyes, but instead of penetrating deeply into the teachings, they linger on the words, that is, in their form. And so, they frequently become confused. But I am here to create light in the mysteries and darkness, as well as to deliver you from confusions and errors.
Will there be someone, after listening or reading this message, who will reject it as a useless, or false teaching? I say to them that only one who finds himself in a degree of extreme materialism, or blind fanaticism, could reject this light without his spirit being moved by it..
A spirit filled with light, purity and innocence, finding himself before God, asked: “Father, tell me what my mission is, for I wish to serve you.” The Father gently replied: “Wait, I will unite a man and a woman on Earth, and from that union a child will be born, in which you will incarnate. In that manner, by being the son of man, you will gather experience in the tribulations of the world and intimately feel the tenderness of a mother and the caress of a father.”
The spirit joyously waited. In the meantime the Father joined a man and woman with bonds of love and thus sent them along the path of life.
A new being was conceived within the womb of the woman; then God sent that spirit to incarnate in that body, and on the ninth month he saw the light of the world. The mother smiled with happiness, while the father was filled with pride. That child was a blessed event for both, for it was the fruit of their love. The woman felt strong, while the man felt somewhat like his Creator. Both dedicated themselves to the devotion of that tender heart.
The spirit who animated the child smiled as he beheld the sweet gaze of his mother and the severe, and at the same time, tender face of the father.
Time elapsed, and the father in his struggles of life, abandoned his nest of love. Taking sinuous paths, he went beyond himself untiel he became lost, leaving behind him shreds of his garments caught in the prickly shrubs. He took poisonous fruits and stripped the maidens of their virtue. Feeling himself sick and depressed, he remembered the two loved ones he had abandoned. He intended to return and search for them; however his strength failed him. Then, mustering enough courage by dragging himself and stumbling along the lengthy journey, he reached the doors of his home where his wife welcomed him with open arms and tears in her eyes, but the child was sick and in agony.
The father, seeing his dying child, implored the Divine charity for his recovery; then he desperately pulled his hair and blashpemed; however, that spirit separated from its body and proceeded toward the Beyond. The parents were desolate and made themselves responsible for the misfortune that afflicted them; he for having left, and she for not being able to detain him.
When that spirit found himself before the presence of the Creator he said: “Father, why have you separated me from the loving arms of that sweet mother, in which my absence has left her weeping and in despair?” To this the Father answered: “Be patient and await the moment in which you will return to that same bosom when they have acknowledged their sins and understood My Law.”
The man and the woman continued in unity, in solitude, and inwardly repentant of their faults, when again they were surprised by the announcing of a new child. God again directed the spirit to return to that bosom by saying: “Incarnate in that body which is preparing for a new existence, and be joyful to be within that bosom again..”
The parents who had regarded their first-born as lost, were not aware that he had returned to their bosom; however the emptiness left by the first was filled by the second. Happiness and peace returned to the bosom of that home. The mother smiled again and the father was in a joyful mood.
Now the man feared a separation from his family, and tried to sorround them with love by remaining near them, but in time he forgot his past experience, and influenced by bad friends, he yielded to vice and temptation. The woman complained and began to reject him. That home was converted into a battleground. Soon the man felt defeated, sick and weakened. Meanwhile the woman, leaving the child in the cradle, would arise in search for bread for the innocent and sustenance for her companion who did not love or cared for her. She suffered humiliations and blasphemy, endured dangers and challanged the instincts of men of bad faith. In that manner she managed to provide daily bread for her loved ones.
God had compassion for the innocent spirit, and before he could open his eyes to reason, He called him again. When the spirit was in the presence of the Father, he said with great grief: “Father, once again you have separated me from the arms of those whom I love. Behold, how difficult my destiny is! Today I implore you to either leave me in their bosom or in yours forever; however do not allow me to peregrinate anymore, for I am tired.”
When the man returned from his lethargy, he beheld a new scene of grief. His wife wept without consolation at the bedside of the second child who had died. Then the man attempted to take his own life, but his companion intervened and said: “Do not attempt against your life. Hold your hand and realize that we ourselves are the cause why God has taken our children.” The man regained his senses, realizing that there was truth in those words. As each day passed, calm slowly came to those hearts, who sorrowfully remembered the children who departed and had been the joy of that home which later became a place of desolation.
The spirit then asked the Father: “Father, are you going to send me to Earth again?” The Father answered: “Yes, again, and as many times as necessary, or until those hearts are cleansed.” When the spirit incarnated again, its body was sick and so were his mother and father. From his bedside that spirit elevated himself to the Father in demand of healing. This time he had not contemplated the light of the world. There were no smiles in the lips of his parents, only tears. The mother wept from morning till night near the cradle of the infant, while the repentant father felt his heart pierced from grief, seeing that the child had inherited his own ills.
The presence of that spirit within that sick body was brief, thus returning before the presence of the Father.
Once again the couple experienced solitude; however suffering had brought them together as never before. Their hearts showed devotion, and they promised to march in unity till the end. The man fulfilled his duties, and she in turn looked after her husband, and both were healed of their ills.
They regarded as difficult that God would again grant them another child, but behold! when the Father contemplated that the physical and spiritual health flourished within those beings, He sent them that spirit as their reward, for the abnegation of one and the correction of the other. Then from the bosom of that woman there came into being a tender little body, as fragant as a bud, who filled that home with happiness and peace.
The man and the woman, weeping with joy, kneeled and gave thanks to God, while that patient and obedient spirit smiled through the body of the infant and said to God: “Father, do not separate me again from my parents, for there is peace in my home, love in their hearts, warmth in my cradle, milk and honey in the bosom of My mother. There is bread on the table, there is affection in my father, and in his hands implements of work. Bless us.” And the Father, with great joy in His Spirit, blessed and left them united in a single body, a single heart and only one will.
All the texts of this topic are excerpts taken from The Book of the True Life.
Some of My Journeys in Medicine
Dr. Ian Stevenson
The 1989 Flora Levy Lecture in
The University of Southwestern Louisiana
I noticed with some misgivings the announcement that this is the Levy Lecture in the Humanities. It may seem tactless therefore for me to state at the beginning of the lecture that after intending to study history and indeed doing so for several years, I abandoned history for medicine. History became for me Robert Frost’s “the road not taken.” Frost’s metaphor, however, does not fully suit my care because I have continued to have a strong interest in history and other humanities. If I shall later seem to have accomplished something original in science, I may owe this to my study of history. Let me explain.
I do not believe that what history teaches is that history teaches nothing. What it has taught me is the transience, not of our aspirations, but of our material accomplishments and, even more, of our ideas about the nature of man. In particular, the history of medicine shows a humbling succession of ideas about disease, each appearing inviolable for a short period only to prove degradable by the next idea that—at first also hailed an ultimate—is overthrown in its turn. Knowledge in science, as Whitehead said, keeps like fish. An awareness from my reading of history of the ephemeral nature of most concepts about the nature of things freed me to challenge received opinions in medicine. For me everything now believed by scientists is open to question, and I am always dismayed to find that many scientists accept current knowledge as forever fixed. They confuse the product with the process.
Early in my medical career I undertook some research in biochemistry. To this I brought some ideas, but the success of our experiments on aspects of the oxidation of the kidney tissue was largely due to the technical expertise of my collaborator, who later went on to become a distinguished biochemist. An unexpected result of our experiments was the destruction by our data of a dogma concerning oxidation that the great German chemist Otto
Warburg had pronounced. I thought little of that and was astonished one day when a German biochemist who learned of our results told me that it would have been impossible to publish them in Germany. He meant that the awe in which Warburg was held would have led to editorial rejection of our report. From this episode I may date my strong interest in all the obstacles that confront the conduct of original research and the communication of its results.
Sir Peter Medawar described reductionism as “the most successful research stratagem ever devised: it has been the making of science and technology.” Quite so, but science can study more than parts considered separately. While killing harmless rats (in order to use their kidneys in the experiments on oxidation mentioned earlier) I experienced a revulsion for this kind of scientific activity and decided that I wanted to devote myself to something more than the study of parts and to something closer to whole human beings.
My mother had believed strongly in the influence of thoughts on physical well-being, and I may owe to her my initial interest in psychosomatic medicine. Even as a medical student I was keenly interested in the physical accompaniments of emotion. One of the first patients assigned to me had angina pectoris, the dreadful pain which comes when the heart, through blockage or spasm of the coronary arteries, receives insufficient oxygen. One day I was on this patient’s ward when he became angry at a nurse and instantly gripped his chest in the agony of this disease. I can still recall vividly the suffering in his face.
The impression from this and similar observations led me, when I abandoned reductionism, to take up research on the physical accompaniments of stress and the emotions it induces. The group with which I was associated in this at the New York Hospital in the late 1940s showed, for almost every organ of the body, that strong emotions inducted by life stresses, and even by talking about such stresses, included markedly altered physical functions, often to the point of experienced symptoms.
In these researches we thought of ourselves as pioneers, but we could not long sustain this view unless we stopped reading and also forgot what we had already read. Solomon had said in Proverbs: “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” References to what we call psychosomatic medicine occur frequently in Shakespeare and in many other writers outside the medical profession. One can find reports of psychosomatic symptoms in Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year, Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy, and Wesley’s Journal. This is to mention three authors only. However, what needs emphasis is not the frequency of references to the effect of the mind on the body, but the acceptance without question through centuries of this relationship. Doubts and neglect of this knowledge came later, at least within the medical profession, with the discovery of the role of microorganisms in disease. Louis Pasteur said as he was dying, “[Claude] Bernard was right. The terrain is everything.” He was wiser than many who built on his discoveries, and it was the middle of this century before physicians discovered again the power of the mind on the body.
If our group at the New York Hospital has a rightful claim to originality, it may lie in our having asked (and provisionally tried to answer) the question: “Why during stress does one person develop asthma, another high blood pressure, and a third a peptic ulcer?” W.B.Cannon had already shown that many of the physiological accompaniments of fear and rage correspond to those that occur during strenuous physical exertion; the body
reacts as if the person is going to respond to the provocation by fighting or running away. This rarely happens in civilized society, but the atavistic physical changes occur anyway. Some of my colleagues extended Cannon’s hypothesis with conjectures about the symbolic meaning of various localized psychosomatic symptoms. For example, a woman who reacted to her stresses with a running nose was said to be trying to wash away her troubles; the man whose bronchi closed in the spasms of asthma was trying to shut out the truth of some unpleasant aspect of his situation. This kind of thinking led to even wilder surmises, from the more ridiculous examples of which I shall spare you.
None of these interpretations seemed satisfying to me. The organ whose psychosomatic relationship I investigated was the heart, and I published numerous papers about our observations. However, I could never believe that arrhythmias have any purposeful function for those afflicted by them.
My discontent with the interpretations by some of my colleagues of psychosomatic phenomena increased when I became aware that not infrequently the same physical symptoms occurred in a person not only when he was angry or frightened, but also when he was unusually happy or joyful. I began to collect instances of physical symptoms that had occurred during pleasurable emotional states. Here my habit of reading outside medicine brought me some useful examples. I learned that both Beethoven and Goya could be fairly described as having died of joy. They had been ill, to be sure, but their final relapses occurred just after they had received news that made them excitedly happy. Other examples occurred among the appallingly emaciated prisoners held in German concentration camps at the end of World War II. Some of them literally died of joy when they saw the Red Cross buses approach the camps to bring them food and liberty.
In trying to publish these and similar reports I encountered another instance of the resistance to deviant ideas on the part of otherwise first rate scientists.1 I owe more to H. G. Wolff than I can take time here adequately to acknowledge. He has had few equals in the standards of rigorous investigation and clarity in the presentation of results that he demonstrated himself and demanded of his associates. However, he was much attached to the teleological interpretation of psychosomatic symptoms. He believed they must have some meaning, some protective purpose in the economy of persons manifesting them. Not surprisingly he reacted with noticeable coolness to my data on the occurrence of physical symptoms during pleasurable emotional states. A crisis was avoided, because it was time for me to move to another position, and I published my results in two papers after I left the New York Hospital.
Although our studies at the New York Hospital failed to answer the question of why a person develops one particular disease instead of another, I have never lost interest in this problem. If my professional work has a recurring theme, this is it, and I shall have more to say about the subject later.
Unscientific Freudian Psychoanalysts
In the 1950s there seemed some prospect that a medical specialty or subspecialty of psychosomatic medicine would develop. This did not happen, and eventually all physicians who had been active in this field had to move decisively toward either internal medicine or psychiatry. Psychiatry then seemed to offer a better opportunity than internal medicine for the further study of the effects of mental states on bodily ones. So I chose psychiatry and accepted an appointment in a Department of Psychiatry. However, I had had comparatively little training in psychiatry; and it was partly to remedy this deficiency that I enrolled in a psychoanalytic institute and in due course graduated from it. Some of this training was beneficial, but the atmosphere of a psychoanalytic institute was
foreign to my eclecticism.
The Arabs have a proverb: “Beware of the man with a single book.” I enlarge the proverb to say “Beware of those who read only the works of a single man.” In the psychoanalytic institutes the works of Freud and a few of his disciples were treated as having the authority of an oracle. The works of other authors were not read, let alone discussed. “Where all men think alike, few men think at all.”
Having left the reductionism of the biochemistry laboratory, I found psychoanalysis to be equally uncongenial. Given the concepts of Freud, it might follow that art and religion could be reduced to expressions of infantile cravings and frustrations. But what was the factual basis for his concepts? A reading of Malinowski’s Sex
and Repression in Savage Society in which Malinowski reported his failure to find the allegedly universal Oedipus complex among the matrilineal Trobrianders stimulated me to look more closely at psychoanalytic evidence. The psychoanalysts’ inability to accept Malinowski’s evidence, if only as an exception to a generalization, made me realize that psychoanalysis had lost its right to reduce religion because it had itself taken on the negative attributes of a religion: the uncritical acceptance of what its founder says.
There are other means of attaining knowledge besides the scientific method. Art, music, poetry, and other types of literature give us knowledge. I can also believe that in mystical experiences we may have direct access to important
truths or, more specifically, to the most important truth of all, which is that we ourselves are part of a Great All. I do not know whether you would call William James’s The Varieties of Religious Experience a work of the humanities
or one of science. It partakes of the best of both, and for me is one of the greatest books ever written; I know no better defense of the value of mystical experiences. But inspirational and mystical experiences are, as experiences,
incommunicable, whereas scientific observations are and must be communicable: there is no science without public demonstrability. This means independent verification of a patient’s (or informant’s) statements. But in psychoanalysis, independent verification has been almost entirely lacking. Thus for me, Freud’s greatest mistake was in not attempting to inquire into the truth of his patients’ claims about sexual seduction in childhood. To say that there is no difference between being sexually abused and imagining that you have been sexually abused is to
take oneself out of science.
As if the foregoing were not enough to turn me away from psychoanalysis, I found unconvincing its assertion that a person’s later character depends almost exclusively on the events of infancy. This seems to me like smuggling in predestination; for what infant can avail against the follies of his parents? But then these wicked parents must have been mistreated during their infancies by their parents, and so on back to Adam. One of my earliest papers in psychiatry questioned whether human personality is more plastic in infancy and childhood than it is in the later years of life. This provoked much annoyance among psychoanalysts; and because they were then the dominant force in American psychiatry, Sir Aubrey Lewis, who was professor of psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, asked me (soon after the paper’s publication) whether I could go about on the streets unarmed.
In sum, Freud now appears to me to have been an emperor without clothes, and I am less surprised that he developed the concepts he espoused than that he succeeded in persuading so many persons to accept them.
We must leave to the historians of science the task of explaining why, of the several concepts of unconscious mental processes current in the early twentieth century (including those of Pierre Janet, Morton Prince, William James, C. G. Jung, and F. W. H. Myers), Freud’s attained such popular acceptance and almost crushed the others into oblivion. The concepts of the unconscious mind developed by the other thinkers I have named, especially James, Jung, and Myers, allowed for unconscious mental processes to be the sources or the conduits of man’s higher creative achievements (as well as some of his pathological aberrations); they allowed also for the experiences we call paranormal and even for a soul. How the facts on which they based their larger concepts of the unconscious mind
became overlooked during the Freudian period remains a mystery. Perhaps the very extravagance of Freud’s claims to be able to explain psychopathology, art, war, and religion made his ideas attractive to uncritical thinkers craving for certitude. Be that as it may, the widespread acceptance of psychoanalytic ideas among psychiatrists and anthropologists shows that the social sciences cannot yet claim to be obtaining cumulative knowledge as physics, chemistry, and biology are doing. I do not mean to be querimonious about Freud, but it is necessary to learn from mistakes in scientific method if we are to progress.
Freud’s psychoanalysis has recently been in decline, and not only because its inherent weaknesses were exposed to damaging criticism. It received challenges as well from new observations about the nature and treatment of mental disease in psychology, genetics, and neurobiology. I regard these replacements as mixed blessings. Psychoanalysis, despite its taint of determinism from infantile experiences, had preserved an awareness of the importance of mental processes in human disease. This element is minimized or openly denied by most investigators in psychology,
genetics, and neurobiology. For them mind is a by product of cerebral processes and free will an illusion.
A Role for Psychedelics
While I was still involved with psychoanalysis, I began experimenting with hallucinogenic (perhaps better called psychedelic) drugs. I have taken or had administered to me a number of drugs and anesthetics as part of a search for
drugs that would assist psychiatrists in interviewing or in psychotherapy. However, here I shall speak only of the effects on me of mescaline and LSD.
The sensory apparatus of my body is defective: I have had poor eye-sight since youth, my hearing is imperfect, and my sense of smell extremely dull. My first wife was a gifted amateur artist and also a lover of natural beauty, especially that of forests and jungles. Her senses were extraordinarily acute, and I was often aware that she could perceive aspects of the world that I did not. Mescaline could not improve my vision, but it vastly bettered my appreciation of what I saw. The beauty of the colors that I inwardly saw under the influence of mescaline made me ever afterward far more sensitive to color both in nature and in art than I had been before. From my experience with mescaline I also became more aware than I had been of the subjective element in our sense of the passage
With LSD I had less experience of beautiful colors and much more of memories of my early life. With one of my experiences with LSD I also had a mystical experience by which I mean a sense of unity with all beings, all things. After the second of my LSD experiences I passed three days in perfect serenity. I believe that many persons could benefit as much as I did through taking psychedelic drugs under proper medical supervision, which is the only sensible way to take them.
I have mentioned these experiences here to say that they increased my conviction of the dual nature of mind and body. This may seem paradoxical, because if a small amount of a drug acting on the brain can markedly alter our mental experiences does this not prove that our thoughts are only our subjective awareness of our brain’s activity? For me it does not. I admit certainly that the chemical changes in my brain that the drugs induced released the extraordinary images and feelings that entered my consciousness. However, this does not account for the images
themselves, which (apart from those that I could identify as memories) had no correspondence to anything that I had earlier experienced. Here I need to add that my experiences included nothing that I could prove to have originated outside my mind and, if you like, my brain. I had no verifiable extrasensory experience when under the influence of drugs. My interest in extrasensory perception did not derive from my experiences with drugs, although they enhanced it.
For many years I had had a keen interest in extrasensory experiences and kindred phenomena. My dissatisfaction with prevailing theories of human personality led me to extend this interest, and in the 1950s I began to read systematically in the literatures of theosophy and psychical research. These had both arisen in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, but their methods were altogether different. Theosophists presented a potted version of Buddhism to the Western world, but they combined this with the teachings of alleged Masters channeled through the imperfect minds of frail humans. Like psychoanalysts, theosophists eschewed verifications of their claims, and however valuable the moral teachings of theosophy are, it forms no part of science.
Psychical research, on the other hand, does. The Society for Psychical Research was founded in 1882 in London, and within a few years a sister society, the American Society for Psychical Research, was established in New York. They exist “to examine without prejudice or prepossession and in a scientific spirit those faculties of man, real or supposed, which appear to be inexplicable on any generally recognized hypothesis.” In simpler words, the Societies study evidence of communication without the known sensory organs and of movements occurring without the usual motor forces. Implicit in their programs is the possibility of obtaining evidence that human personality survives bodily death. However, the societies hold no views as a group, and a belief in mind/body dualism or even a belief in extrasensory perception is not a requirement for membership in them. A member need only believe that the question of paranormal phenomena is worthy of inquiry and amenable to scientific investigation.
Investigators of these phenomena use two different methods. One group of researchers seeks to produce or observe the phenomena in laboratories, which provide conditions for excluding normal means of communication and which also, at times, permit varying the conditions in order to learn more about the requirements for the occurrence of the phenomena and their processes. There have been important successes with the experimental method, and I could list for anyone interested a dozen experiments for which I am satisfied that normal explanations fail to explain the observations. However, it must be admitted that experimental results in psychical research are unpredictable. Although experiments have been successfully repeated, they are not voluntarily repeatable as are most experiments in the more developed branches of science. A further weakness of laboratory experiments
is that (with rare exceptions) the positive effects are meager and only detectable by statistical methods. A large number of trials is required in order to show an effect, but then one cannot say which successes are due to chance and which to paranormal processes. This necessarily limits what one can learn about processes from experiments. Hopes once held that laboratory experiments in extrasensory perception would convince the majority of scientists to take the phenomena seriously have not been fulfilled.
Nevertheless, an appreciable number of scientists (thirty percent in one recent survey) do believe that something like extrasensory perception is either an undoubted fact or a likely possibility. However, it seems that most of them
have reached this judgment through personal experiences instead of from reading reports of laboratory experiment. The study of such experiences—those that occur spontaneously in everyday life—forms the second division of psychical research, and it is the one to which I have given nearly all my attention for the past twenty years.
The study of spontaneous cases of extrasensory perception sometimes needs defending against the disapproval of those who have come to equate science with the controlled conditions that laboratories can offer and naturalistic situations cannot. Here the first point to make is that some important phenomena, such as the weather, volcanoes, fossils, earthquakes, and meteorites, do not occur in laboratories under controlled conditions, and yet wt study them with scientific methods. We do this because science is not a physical location where we obtain evidence, but instead a process for appraising evidence where ever we find it.
In the study of spontaneous paranormal phenomena we must usually interview and cross-question informants about events that have happened before we arrive on the scene. In principle, the methods are those that lawyers use in reconstructing a crime and historians use in understanding the past. Once we have the best account possible of the events in question, we consider one by one the alternative explanations and to try to eliminate them until only the single most probable one remains. Then we try with further observations to confirm or reject the initially preferred explanation. In addition, we search through series of apparently similar phenomena for recurrent features that may provide clues to causative conditions and processes of occurrence.
The investigators of paranormal phenomena have tried to find a middle way between the gullible and the skeptical, the former saying (usually from the perspective of a religion) that everything relevant is already known, the latter that there are no genuine phenomena to be investigated. Nevertheless, although psychical researchers have never been more than a handful in number and never possessed of adequate resources, they have managed somehow to survive. They have now passed on a tradition of systematic inquiry through four generations. With quiet persistence they adhere to Bacon’s assertion that “rarities and reports that seem incredible are not to be suppressed or denied to the memory of men.” In my library the publications of the British and American Societies for Psychical Research almost fill one large bookcase. What distinguishes the work of these societies is an almost ruthless insistence on corroboration of an experiment’s statements and equal insistence on independent verification of the correspondence between these statements and the apparently related event of which the percipient claimed paranormal knowledge. “Were I asked” William James wrote “to point to a scientific journal where hard-headedness and never-sleeping suspicion of sources of error might be seen in their full bloom, I think I should have
to fall back on the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research. The common run of papers, say on physiological subjects, are apt to show a far lower level of critical consciousness.”
Evidence for Survival After Death
I have had some interest in nearly all the phenomena subsumed under the term “psychical research.” However, I have concentrated most of my effort in examining the evidence for the survival of human personality after death.
I have studied and written reports on apparitions, the visions of dying persons and of persons recovered from near death, and certain types of mediumistic communications. The evidence that I have found most promising has been that provided by children who claim to remember previous lives. I have studied their cases more than those of any other group in this field.
From my childhood reading I had become familiar with the idea of reincarnation. The concept made sense to me, but I never thought until many years later that there could ever be any evidence to support a belief in it. Certainly the theosophists had offered none. Here again, my habit of wide reading proved useful. In the course of this reading I came across accounts of persons who actually claimed to remember the details of previous lives. These accounts mostly appeared as individual case histories or in small groups of case reports. Moreover, I found most of them in newspapers and magazines or in books for general readers. Still, there seemed to be more than a few of them, and I decided to tabulate and analyze them for recurrent features. They had some. For example, the great majority of the persons who claimed to remember previous lives were very young children when they first spoke about these lives; and in most instances the children stopped speaking about the previous lives when they were still young children
of between five and eight years. I could tell also that, although some of the reports I had collected were of low quality and little more than journalistic anecdotes, this was not true of all. In several cases cautious adults had inquired searchingly into the claims of the children, and in three instances someone had made a written record of what the child had been saying before its statements had been verified.
In 1960 I published in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research an essay reporting these observations. My report discussed the various interpretations of the cases and recommended accepting reincarnation only after excluding all others. My main conclusion was that if more cases of the same general type could be found and investigated carefully, we might obtain better evidence of survival after death. I added that “in mediumistic communications we have the problem of proving that someone clearly dead still lives. In evaluating
apparent memories of former incarnations, the problem consists in judging whether someone clearly living once died. This may prove the easier task.”
I do not think that it occurred to me then that I would be the person to undertake the task.2 Although the American Society for Psychical Research awarded a prize to me for the essay, its journal was (and still is) one of the most
obscure journals in the whole of science. Nevertheless, the essay attracted some attention, and within a few months I received a telephone call from Eileen Garrett, who had (about ten years before) established the Parapsychology Foundation. She had learned of a case in India that seemed to resemble the ones whose reports I had reviewed, and she asked me whether I would be interested in going to India to investigate it. I was indeed interested, and the following summer (August 1961) I made my first visit to India, where I spent about five weeks before going on to Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was then called) for another week. Before leaving for India I had learned of some other cases of fairly recent origin, and I also had the addresses of some subjects figuring in cases I had reviewed in my essay. I thought they might still be alive, and I wanted to meet them if I could.
On reaching India I underwent considerable culture shock; yet this was less than the shock of learning how little I knew about India and Sri Lanka. I have subsequently thought that if I had known how ignorant I was of Asia I should
never have had the nerve to begin these investigations. However, shielded by this ignorance I pushed on with them. I soon found that the cases were much more numerous than I had been led to expect from the scattered reports I had summarized for my essay. (Altogether, during this first trip, I learned about and studied—not all with the same thoroughness—about twenty cases in India and five in Sri .Lanka.)
Also unexpected by me were the informants’ often lively reports of the unusual behavior that most of the subjects showed-behavior that harmonized with the child’s statements about the previous life it claimed to remember. I had expected that the cases would consist exclusively of statements the subjects would express neutrally about the previous lives. Instead, I found that the children often talked with strong emotions about the previous lives, and they sometimes behaved as if still living in the past life. For them it seemed still present, not past. For example, a child of low-caste parents who said that he remembered the life of a Brahmin would show snobbish behavior toward his own family and might even refuse to eat their food: from his perspective it was polluted. A child remembering a previous life as a person of the opposite sex might dress for that sex and play its games. One who remembered being shot would show a fear of guns and loud noises. As I mentioned, many of the reports I had used for my essay had appeared in newspapers or other popular publications, and one expects that journalistic accounts will exaggerate the basic facts of an event; however, this example shows that such accounts may also miss important details.
Back in Virginia after this first trip to Asia I tried to assimilate a mass of information about the cases that far exceeded my initial expectations. I wrote and had accepted for publication in 1964 a monograph about some of the cases that I had investigated. At this point doubts were publicly expressed about the honesty of the man who had been my interpreter for several of the stronger cases in India. Learning of these suspicions, the publisher halted the publication of my monograph. Although the man in question undoubtedly had been dishonest in some matters—something I did not know during my first journey to Asia—I did not think he had deceived me as an interpreter. However, rather than lose the extensive work involved in the cases in which this man had helped me, I decided to return to India and study again these cases (and some others) with new interpreters.
The happy side of this misfortune was that the cases I investigated again proved to be even stronger than they had earlier seemed to be. Moreover, I learned the value of repeated interviews. From this experience I date my habit of trying to return to cases for second and third interviews whenever possible. Too often after leaving the site of a case I think of questions that I should have asked when I was there; I can ask them on a second or later visit.
After my second visit to India I revised my monograph, and it was published, in 1966, without further difficulty. If I were inclined to equate market success with scientific worth, I should be more than satisfied with this book. It had
been translated into seven foreign languages, has sold about 50,000 copies since 1966, and is still in print. However, I am well aware that these sales figures reflect public interest in the subject of reincarnation and little else. In 1977 I achieved what was for me a more gratifying success. In that year I published in a scientific journal an article entitled “The Explanatory Value of the Idea of Reincarnation.” For this I had more than 1,000 requests for reprints from scientists all over the world, This was far more than I had ever had for any of my numerous articles derived from what I call orthodox research. In this paper I drew attention to reincarnation as a hypothesis of explanatory value for a wide variety of unsolved problems in psychology and medicine. The interest it evoked among other scientists assured me that I was not alone in my discontent with psychoanalytic and other current theories of human personality.
At about the time of my first visit to India, Chester Carlson, the inventor of xerography, (encouraged by his wife, Dorris) began to offer me funds with which to expand my investigations. I remember being at first conscientiously
unable to accept as much money as Chester Carlson offered, because I was then heavily involved in administrative and teaching duties as Chairman of the University of Virginia’s Department of Psychiatry. However, I was able gradually to change my situation, and Chester Carlson then offered matching funds for an endowed chair that would enable me to devote myself full-time to psychical research. The risks of giving up the secure position I then had were obvious; but the unique opportunity offered warranted the risks, and I have never regretted my decision to engage full-time in this research.
I am sometimes asked what my colleagues at the University of Virginia think about my research. It has had a mixed reception among them. A few have openly disapproved of having such research at the University, but the majority (at least of those whose opinions have reached me) adhere to the maxim of the University’s founder, Thomas Jefferson: “Here we are not afraid to follow truth whereever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it,”)
Evidence for Reincarnation
Since 1967 I have widened and deepened the research as much as available time and financial resources have permitted. I have published some sixty-five detailed case reports, mostly in books. And I have published each year three or four articles about various aspects of these cases and about other types of cases that I have studied. In late 1987 I published a book written for general readers in which I described my methods of investigation and summarized the results and my present conclusions about children who say they remember previous lives. Before telling you about these conclusions I should briefly describe for you the scope of the research.
Between my first visit to India and the publication, finally, of my monograph reporting, as its title says, twenty cases suggestive of reincarnation, I had extended my investigations to the tribal peoples of northwest North America, and to Lebanon, Brazil, Turkey, and Thailand, In the 1970’s I began investigating cases in Burma and West Africa. I have also investigated whatever cases came to my attention in Europe and in North and South America.3 The number of cases now available for our analysis has gradually increased to about 2,500; but I wish to stress that the cases are of varying quality and we have not investigated all of them with the same thoroughness.
Adults sometimes claim to remember previous lives, but with rare exceptions their cases have much less value than those of young children and most, in my view, are worthless. This is because in the case of a young child of only two or three years of age one can reach reasonably satisfactory conclusions concerning the information to which the child might have been normally exposed. In contrast, the mind of an adult and even that of an older child has been filled with a large amount of information that becomes available for the ingredients of an imagined previous life. Accordingly, I have concentrated my efforts increasingly on the cases of young children.
I mentioned earlier that in the cases I first reported in 1960 I had discerned some recurrent features. We have since found other recurrent features. One of these is a high incidence of violent death in the persons whose lives the children remember. This feature occurs in the cases of all ten cultures for which we have examined groups of cases; although the incidence of violent death in the cases varies from one culture to another, it is far higher among the cases than in the general populations from which they are drawn. Other recurrent features also vary from culture to culture. These include the occurrence of dreams in which a deceased person seems to announce to the dreamer the intention of being reborn (usually in the family of the dreamer), the incidence of claims to have been a person of the opposite sex in the previous life, and the interval between the concerned deceased person’s death and the subject’s birth.
These and other variations in the cases tell us that culture—by which I mean here the beliefs of a group of people-powerfully influences the features of the cases. This being so, it may fairly be asked whether beliefs are not the sufficient causes of the cases. We do not know the actual prevalence of cases (except from one survey in India), but we do know that the cases can be found much more readily in cultures having a belief in reincarnation than in ones not having this belief.4 Critics of the cases have therefore suggested that a child’s fantasies, perhaps of an imaginary playmate, may become shaped by its parents and peers, through their questions and suggestions, until the child assumes an identification with a deceased person. In this way the child becomes the subject of a factitious case suggestive of reincarnation.
This argument has considerable force, and its cogency can hardly be denied when we consider the numerous cases in which the subject of a case and the deceased person with whom he or she identifies belong to the same family or same village. However, it will not suffice to explain the smaller, but not negligible number of cases in which the two families live widely separated and, from all the evidence, have had no acquaintance with each other before the case developed. Moreover, in the stronger of such cases the child has furnished specific details (sometimes written down before verification) about the deceased person; there can be no question in such cases of imaginings, confused memories, and pseudo-identification. In examining the cases of this group we are almost forced to believe that the child has somehow acquired knowledge about a deceased person by other than normal means. If this be granted, one has still a choice among several explanations all of which suppose some paranormal process; and reincarnation is only one of these.
Journalists have sometimes incorrectly (and unjustly) described me as trying to prove that reincarnation occurs. This allegation is wrong as a description both of my motive and of science. Outside of mathematics there is no proof in science; scientists make judgments about probabilities, and they rarely express themselves in statements of certainty. It is true that I search for stronger evidence than we now have for paranormal processes in the cases I study, and if that evidence points toward reincarnation I am not displeased. I have never hidden my interest in the results of my research. William James pointed out that “if you want an absolute duffer in an investigation, you must, after all, take the man who has no interest in its results…the most useful investigator…is always he whose eager interest in one side of a question is balanced by an equally keen nervousness lest he become deceived.”
The search for stronger evidence is therefore not with an aim at developing some coercive proof. Instead, it recognizes that different persons require different amounts and qualities of evidence before they alter their opinions. Although most educated Westerners have some acquaintance with the idea of reincarnation from at least a slight knowledge of Hinduism and Buddhism, few are familiar with concrete instances of children’s claims to remember a previous life. It is not surprising that the truth of the claims seems to them antecedently improbable. As Charles Richet, a great French physiologist (and psychical researcher) observed: “Pour croire complètement à un phénomène il faut y etre habitué.” Perhaps my main contribution will be that of making Western persons familiar, not with the idea of reincarnation—it must be one of the oldest ideas in the world—but with evidence tending to support a belief in reincarnation.
I am frequently asked whether I myself believe in reincarnation. I decline to answer this question because my beliefs should make no difference to anyone asking such a question. As Leonardo da Vinci said, “Whoever in discussion adduces authority uses not intellect but rather memory.” Everyone should examine the evidence and judge it for himself. As I have just said, the evidence that my colleagues and I have obtained gives some support to a belief in reincarnation. Before the modern investigations a belief in reincarnation had to rest on the basis of faith, usually inculcated by the scriptures or oral teachings of a traditional religion. Now, one may, if one wishes, believe in reincarnation on the basis of evidence. However, the evidence is not flawless and it certainly does not compel such a belief. Even the best of it is open to alternative interpretations, and one can only censure those who say there is no evidence whatever.
Birthmarks and Birth Defects
Has then an impasse been reached without a way forward? I do not think so, because I believe we will advance further with the publication of cases of subjects who have birth marks or birth defects that seem to derive from previous lives. These marks and defects correspond closely in size and location to wounds (occasionally other marks) on the deceased person whose life the child later claims to remember.
Apart from their relevance to medicine, the cases with birthmarks and birth defects raise the standard of evidence for the cases in which most of them occur: the birthmarks (or defects) can be photographed, and for many of the corresponding wound, we have obtained medical records, such as autopsy reports. These are important steps toward greater objectivity in the research. You can readily understand how these cases have brought me back to my principal interest in medicine: psychosomatic relationships. However, now we are tailing about a mind’s influence on a body across the gap of death.
Most of the marks and defects of these cases are on the skin or extremities. However, in a small number of cases the subject has had some internal disease similar or identical to one which the person whose life the child remembers had had. For such a case to be significant the disease must be one from which the subject alone of all members of his family has suffered. We have a few such cases, and they have returned me to that topic in which I have never lost interest: Why does a person acquire one particular disease instead of another?
I think that for most scientists today this last question is absurd. They believe that there is no person apart from a body. For them, any disease a person acquires derives from the combination of the genes he draws in the lottery of parenthood modified by the environment into which he is born and in which he later lives. No one is more aware than I of how subversive it is to talk in the West today5 of a soul that may survive the death of one physical body and later become associated with a second body which it influences, at least to some extent, in form and function. Nevertheless, the accumulated evidence, which I shall be publishing in detail next year, warrants conjectures of this kind.
Here I need to add and to emphasize that the evidence suggestive of reincarnation imperils no present knowledge. I do not question the findings of genetics or even that environments have some effect on us (although I do deny any primacy for the events of infancy among all environmental influences). I am suggesting that instead of a single line of evolution—the one of our physical bodies—we also participate in a second line of evolution—that of our minds or, if you prefer, our souls.
The claim to have evidence of a second line of evolution is, I need hardly say, a large one, and if it does not challenge any substantial knowledge it certainly does throw into question many common assumptions about the nature of man, especially those concerning the relationship between mind and brain. To this I add the heterodox idea that certain birth defects and even some internal diseases may have mental causes anteceding the conception of a person’s body. In presuming to doubt the ideas about the nature of man that most Western scientists hold, I can take comfort in an aphorism of the great French neurologist Charcot: “La théorie, c’est bon, mais¸ a n’empeche pas d’exister.” Those who would judge my conclusions should first examine the evidence that has led me to them.
It is tempting to conclude this lecture by invoking the names of the many great philosophers and poets who have believed in reincarnation and thereby obliquely exhort you to believe in it yourself. I have already said that such a path is closed to me; authority has no place in science. Yet science acknowledges leaders, and it particularly pleases me to remember that some of the greatest encouragement for the scientific methods of psychical research has come from humanists like William James and Henri Bergson. Each of these great men accepted the Presidency of the Society for Psychical Research, and James was for many years at least a part-time investigator of psychical phenomena. I venerate them less for the particular views they held than for their endorsement of the scientific method applied to paranormal experiences as a means of attaining important new knowledge of man’s nature.
Such are some of my journeys in medicine with occasional wanderings in the humanities. I do not agree with a great writer who said that “to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.” Certainly those who do not travel hopefully may never arrive, but hope alone cannot long sustain a journey in science. Accordingly, I have tried to describe for you some of the choices that I made of roads to take during my journeys.
Copyright ©1990, The Levy Humanities Series
I am grateful to Margaret Petzoff Stevenson and Emily Williams Cook for improving this Lecture with their helpful comments.
1. This is a subject in which I have never lost interest, and I later published two papers about it.
2. In 1925 an Indian (R. B. Sunderhl), who had studied four of the cases that I later included in my 1960 Essay, offered reports of them for publication by the American Society for Psychical Research. The Research Officer (W. F. Prince) sent a polite note of rejection in which he said “it is difficult to see how, unless such cases could be multiplied, and attested by various evidences, such a claim .., could be proved true.” Another member of the Society’s staff commented in a memorandum that the cases were “worthy of following up by some Western scientific methods and investigators.” Sunderlal published his report in India and also, in 1924, in the French journal of psychical research Revue Metapsychique.
3. I have published detailed reports or analyses of cases from all these regions, except Western Europe.
4. I am not halting here to discuss why the cases are found more readily in some parts of the world than in others. The question is certainly an extremely important one, and I have made a beginning attempt to consider the factors involved in my book for general readers.
5. If heretics were burned alive today, the successors in science of the theologians who, in the sixteenth century, burned anyone who denied the existence of souls would today burn those who affirm their existence.
Dr. Stevenson’s Bibliography as referred to in his Lecture
“The Influence of Oxygen Tension upon the Respiration of Rat Kidney Slices.” Archives
of Biochemistry. 17 (1948): 61-75 (with Lucile Smith).
“Life Situations, Emotions, and Extrasystoles.” Psychosomatic Medicine.
11 (1949): 257-72 (with C. H. Duncan, S. Wolf, H. S, Ripley, and H. G. Wolff).
“Circulatory Dynamics before and after Exercise in Subjects with and without
Structural Heart Disease during Anxiety and Relaxation,” Journal of Clinical
Investigation. 28 ( 1949): 1534- 1543 (with C, H, Duncan and H. G. Wolff).
“Physical Symptoms During Pleasurable Emotional States.” Psychosomatic
Medicine, 12 (1950): 98-102.
“Physical Symptoms Occurring with Pleasurable Emotional States.” American
Journal of Psychiatry. 127(1970): 175~79.
“Scientists with Half-Closed Minds.” Harper’s Magazine. 217 (1958): 64-71.
“On the Irrational among the Rational: Incredulity in Scientists.” Virginia
Quarterly Review, 41 (1965): 40-57.
“Is the Human Personality More Plastic in Infancy and Childhood?” American
Journal of Psychiatry. 114(1957): 152-161.
“The Evidence for Survival from Claimed Memories of Former Incarnations.” Journal
of the American Society for Psychical Research. 54 (1960): 51-71 and 95-117.
Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation. Second edition, revised. Charlottesville:
Univ. Press of Virginia, 1974. First published as Proceedings of the American
Society for Psychical Research, 26 (1966): 1-362.
“The Explanatory value of the Idea of Reincarnation.” Journal of Nervous
and Mental Disease. 164 (1977): 305-26,
“American Children Who Claim to Remember Previous Lives.” Journal of
Nervous and Mental Disease, 171 (1983): 742-48.
Children Who Remember Previous Lives: A Question of Reincarnation. Charlottesville:
University Press of Virginia, 1987.
In the first section we saw the prophecies from Jesus and Joel, in relation to the opening of the
Sixth Seal and
the Third Era, that have come to pass.
We will now see the prophecies from John related to the same topic and which appear in the
Book of Revelation or
Apocalypse, and which real name is the Book of the Seven Seals.
Apocalyptic prophecies about the opening of the Sixth Seal.
And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal,
and, lo, there was a great earthquake;
and the sun became black as
sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;
So far John’s prophecy repeats the prophecies delivered by Jesus to His apostles before the crucifixion and that we have seen in the first part of this work.
But further ahead, even when it takes the allegoric view of the star shower that is part of the material signs that Joel had anticipated, the context seems to refer to something else: The beginning of the communications with the spiritual world, which prelude became Spiritism, so popular in Europe and some American countries in the middle of the last century.
One warning: In some Bibles, especially the catholic ones, a verse was added in Deuteronomy or Leviticus, depending on the version, against Spiritism, quoted even by its name, and this verse does not even appear in any of the original biblical texts. We can easily deduce that it was simply a reaction from the religious hierarchies of that time towards the attention that the Spiritism movement was getting from the beginning.
And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even
as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs,
when she is shaken of a mighty wind.
And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is
rolled together; and every mountain and island
were moved out of their places.
And the kings of the earth, and the great men,
and the rich men, and the chief captains,
and the mighty men, and every bondman,
and every free man, hid themselves in the dens
and in the rocks of the mountains;
And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us,
and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne,
and from the wrath of the Lamb:
For the great day of his wrath is come;
and who shall be able to stand?
Here the scatological prophecy of John gets into a more abstract and metaphoric terrain, anticipating the beginning of the communication with spiritual entities which descend from on high to humanity. The appearance of new philosophies and thought currents are commonly spread after the fall of the monarchies.
The Stars of Heaven Fell
1840 Germany. Jacob Lorber receives messages through automatic writing which he called “the New Revelation”.
1849. Paris and all of Europe is in commotion because of the phenomenon known as “levitating tables”.
These would inexplicably elevate without apparent physical cause.
1850. Leon Rivail “Allan Kardec” takes notes of communications from what he calls superior intelligences, which manifests through two young ladies or “mediums”. He took notes during a period of two years and published them in the book “The Book of Spirits”, fundamental work for Spiritism.
1862. Roque Rojas, Mexican ex-seminarist has a vision that announces the imminent opening of the Sixth Seal.
1866. In Mexico, the beginning of the Third Era opens with the manifestation of the Prophet Elijah’s spirit through the human understanding of Roque Rojas.
1871. In Scotland, Daniel Dunglas-Hume shows manifestations that he assures come from the spiritual world, reaching to the point of materializing some of them in plain daylight. His works were never able to be refuted.
1884. Damiana Oviedo becomes the first spokesman of the Holy Spirit and begins the delivery of
the Third Testament, taking place in Mexico City.
1887. In Mexico City, the beginning of the manifestations of the spiritual world of light through human understanding takes place. This continues until December 1950. During all this time there are multiple healings. Time-Life has published a book that covers part of these astonishing events.
Heaven Departed as a scroll when it is rolled together…Rev. 6:14
This allegory is clear when it refers to the disappearance of the old order of ideas, being
replaced by a new one.
1762. Rousseau writes “Social Contract”, a master piece that has a decisive influence over the freedom movements all over the world.
1776. Adam Smith publishes “Wealth of Nations” and establishes the basis of capitalism.
1776. Proclamation of the Bill of Rights in the American Colonies from England.
1776. Declaration of Independence of these Colonies, establishing the United States of
1781. Kant publishes his master work “Critique of Pure Reason”, and proposes rationalism as a theory.
1786. The Taking of the Bastille in France. The beginning of the French Revolution.
1789. Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen by the French Assembly.
1810. Mexico and the South American countries initiate independence movements.
1848. Marx and Engels deliver “The Communist Manifesto”
1866. The First International meets in Geneva. Socialism is born.
The kings and great men hide themselves…
The fall of the monarchies is anticipated in this verse. And in fact, by the end of the 19th century,
absolutism practically disappears as a governing system; there are some countries with kings and queens that have no ruling power and their position is merely symbolic.
1649. Charles II from England is executed.
1793. Louis XVI, deposed King of France, goes under the guillotine.
1832. England’s Great Reform Act transfers power to the common man, above the royal power.
…and every bond man and every free man….
Not only human power was moved; every social class felt the arrival of that new era.
1793. Robespierre restores the “Kingdom of Terror”, the guillotine colors with blood all of France.
1861. The opposition of the southern American states, abolition of slavery, the bloody Civil War breaks.
The opening of the Sixth Seal.
This is the period that Jesus describes as “the beginning of birth pains” (Matthew 24:7). As you will see, humanity entered a phase so turbulent as history has never recorded before.
And after these things I saw four angels standing on
the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth,
that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any
And I saw another angel ascending from the east,
having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to
the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea,
Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the
trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.
And I heard the number of them which were sealed:
and there were sealed a hundred and forty and four thousand of
all the tribes of the children of Israel.
Rev 7: 1-4
And I saw another angel ascending from the east…
Since the times of Augustine, theologians and analyzers of the Bible agree that here, John is speaking about the Prophet Elijah, agreeing with the words from Luke 1:78 and 2 Kings 2:11. There is a hypothesis that the Greek myth of Helios came from this last verse.
1866. The spirit of Prophet Elijah manifests through the human understanding of Roque Rojas; he declares that it is the opening of the Sixth Seal as well as the beginning of the Third Era. The first “signs” are delivered to men and women who subsequently would bring forth the communications from “the stars in the sky”, the spiritual world of light.
After the sign, John’s report about his vision of the Sixth Seal seems to jump to Rev. 9:13, where the sixth angel represents the same seal.
And the sixth angel sounded,
and I heard a voice from the four horns of
the golden altar which is before God,
Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet,
Loose the four angels which are bound
in the great river Euphrates.
And the four angels were loosed,
which were prepared for an hour, and a day,
and a month, and a year, for to slay the
third part of men.
And the number of the army of the horsemen
were two hundred thousand:
and I heard the number of them.
And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and
them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire,
and of jacinth, and brimstone:
and the heads of the horses were as
the heads of lions;
and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke
By these three was the third part of men killed,
by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone,
which issued out of their mouths.
Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates…
1981. Iraq and Iran, on each side of the river Euphrates, begin to war.
Fire, smoke and sulfur….
1981-1991. During a conflict where more than a million people died and more than two million are hurt, there were land to land missiles, land to air and air to land, as well as millions of rockets and mortars that were used by tanks with metallic armors on both sides, they truly looked like they were throwing fire and sulfur over the war zone, and the smoke columns are visible for several miles.
Have the prophecies from the Bible regarding the end of times been fulfilled?
Some skeptics say no. Others, in blind faith because of their different religions or philosophies, believe that it is so…but they don’t really know, nor can they prove it.
But actually, several biblical prophecies that tell us about this era have been fulfilled…and there
is data to prove it.
The biblical language of the prophecies.
Probably, the most common reason for so much misunderstanding and obscure interpretations of the Bible is the fact that many of its writings are presented in an allegoric, metaphoric and symbolic language.
And why is this?
Couldn’t these messages from above had been delivered in a simple language without the need of metaphors or allegories?
The answer is no.
Human languages are poor to describe things and concepts far beyond the ordinary.
It does not matter which road you take to describe them, you will have to resort to the use of allegories, metaphors, parables and symbols, taking objects and ideas that surround ordinary people to make those things and concepts comprehensible at least in a figurative and, therefore, incomplete manner.
Simply speaking, this is why the messengers of the Divinity used symbols and allegories (flying scrolls, thrones, candlestands, oil vases, etc. etc.) to put in limited terms what is of an indescribably superior nature. Of course, we have to consider the cultural context of the recipient of the messages. With this in mind, is only natural to learn that, for example, the punishments and consequences for evil behavior for the Eskimos or the Laplanders would be described as a cold of a terrifying magnitude, while for the inhabitants of warmer zones, the more suited allegory is that of a burning fire.
Imagine someone asking you to transcribe “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy, using a typing machine which has four or five letter keys missing. Or try to play “Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony” on a piano that has three natural keys missing in each octave, let’s say, do, mi and sol. In both cases, your readers or listeners would have to rely on their imagination to deduce all that is missing due of the lack of enough elements to transmit that idea or concept.
After these examples, it will be easier to comprehend the reasons for that apparently obscure or ciphered language in which the prophecies about the Third Era were delivered.
An then, there is the problem of literal interpretations while reading the Scriptures, that leads to severe contradictions and dogmatism. Paul warns about this: “..for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life”. (2 Cor. 3:6)
Take, for instance, John 3:13 where Jesus said that no man but himself has ever ascended to Heaven, and compare it with Hebrews 11:5, where Paul asserts that Enoch was taken bodily into Heaven. If you try to explain this following the letter of the Scriptures, you will have a very hard time. And there are many similar passages, where apparently the Bible contains contradictions.
The Prelude of a New Era
There are references in diverse passages from the Bible that, considering the explanation at the beginning of this page, are very clear and precise to describe the events that would be the prelude to the arrival of a new era for humanity, an era marked by great events of worldwide scale.
But, how we can be sure of that these are the times of the end? In Luke, Jesus gives the sign to recognize the time of the end.
“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come”… (Matthew 24:14)
We could easily deduce that the final advent is very close to us (if it hasn’t already started) when we see that through the modern systems of global communication, the Evangelist preachers (mainly North Americans) have reached practically every corner of the Earth with the Gospel. In fact, inadvertently or not, Billy Graham, a very well know and respected Christian preacher, made a crusade as few years ago exactly with this purpose, which had a very wide success.
And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple:
and his disciples came to him to show him
the buildings of the temple.
And Jesus said unto them,
See ye not all these things? verily I say
unto you, There shall not be left here one stone
upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
And as he sat upon the mount of Olives,
the disciples came unto him privately, saying,
Tell us, when shall these things be? and what
shall be the sign of thy coming,
and of the end of the world?
And Jesus answered and said unto them,
Take heed that no man deceive you.
For many shall come in my name, saying,
I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars:
see that ye be not troubled: for all these things
must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
For nation shall rise against nation,
and kingdom against kingdom:
and there shall be famines, and pestilences,
and earthquakes, in diverse places.
All these are the beginning of sorrows.
There are idiomatic expressions within the vernacular of the Aramaic and the Hebrew languages that change the meaning of the expression when they are translated literally. In the first century, after the crucifixion, many were waiting for Jesus’ return at the end of that century. Simon Peter, considered by many to be the prince of the apostles, clearly knew the meaning of that expression. This is how he explained to those who believed Jesus was returning at the end of the first century:
“But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”
2 Peter 3:8
When Jesus warned His disciples about the arrival of false Christs and prophets, He gave a glimpse that His return was to be in spirit, which the following verse clears up even further:
Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.
According to this, we could be sure that the presence of Christ on Earth, at the end of times, was
not be expected as physical or material, but rather as spiritual, subtle, sublime.
Following is a description of the period that anticipated the opening of the Third Era and therein the Sixth Seal. From now on we will give you some references that were taken from the Encarta Encyclopedia by Grolier, which could be easily searched by anybody.
The black plague devastated Europe in the 16th century and killed millions of people. In America, millions of Indians died from various contagious illnesses: syphilis, tuberculosis, etc., which were caught from the Spanish conquistadors. The Bubonic Plague also took millions of victims in Asia, in Asia, Africa and parts of Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries.
Great famines during the 17th century devastated Europe, Asia and Africa;India lost more than 10 million of its people in 1769. Between 1845 and 1850 took place in Ireland what is known as The Great Potato Famine killing almost 2,000,000 people and in 1866, more than 1,500,000 people died in Ovissa!
Terrible earthquakes have devastated many nations and areas of the world. Iran, Turkey, Greece, Argel, Japan and South America have suffered repeatedly massive destructions caused by these quakes. Lisbon was destroyed in 1755 by an earthquake that killed 60,000 people; Voltaire narrates this in his novel “Candida”. In 1812, the New Madrid earthquake altered the Mississippi River’s course.
It could be said, that after knowing the magnitude of destruction that humanity reached during the two World Wars, that the constant wars that spread all over the world since the invention of the fire arms in the 15th century were really rumors of genocidal wars that would come later. The 30 Year War, the 100 Year War, the Great War of Northern Europe, The Crimean War, the War of the Seven Weeks, the Civil War of the Ottoman Empire, the US Civil War and many more give funereal testimony of this.
Nation Against Nation
Experts say that the Russian invasion by Napoleon in 1812 started a new way to begin a war, not only because of religious motives between the small cities-state, but also because of secular economical and political motives among the great nations. The Franco-Prussian War, the Russian-Japanese war and several more; all of them were the prelude of a new era for humanity and ended at the First World War. A conflagration of such magnitude that humanity had never witnessed, but that was easily surpassed by the horrors of the World War II.
Signs for the opening of the Third Era and with it, the Sixth Seal.
There are several prophecies that describe this Third Era, prophecies that have come to pass in such a way that can be corroborated by anyone. Joel’s prophecy is particularly specific:
And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my spirit upon all
flesh; and your sons and your daughters
shall prophesy, your old men shall
dream dreams, your young men
shall see visions:
And also upon the servants
and upon the handmaids
in those days will I
pour out my spirit.
And I will show wonders in the heavens
and in the earth, blood, and fire,
and pillars of smoke.
The sun shall be turned into darkness,
and the moon into blood,
before the great and the terrible day
of the Lord come.
2 Joel 2:28-31
Today, it no longer surprises anyone to learn of the multiplicity of visions and prophetic dreams that many people from any social condition, nationality, race and age, experience every day of the year.
This has provoked the creation of the new science of parapsychology, which tries to study these spiritual manifestations, which are so vast, that they are already seen like something natural, but at the same time they don’t stop being extraordinary events in humanity’s history.
But, what about the signs in the skies and on earth? Did they come to pass? When and where? Let’s see.
Prodigies in the Skies
1858, Comet Donati. The triple tail of this phenomenon covered 50 degrees of arc in the sky. It is calculated that this corresponded to lineal figure of 70 million kilometers!
August 1862. The first of two meteor showers (Perseids) observed from practically everywhere in the world; scientists explain now that they are a residue of Comet 1866 III and flared up when entering the earth’s atmosphere.
November 1862. The second – and notable- meteor shower, this one belonging to the luminous residue of Comet 1866 I.
1882, the appearance of a comet close to the sun, its brightness so unusual that it provoked wonderment and terror in many countries.
Prodigies on Earth
This portion of the prophecy could have a different interpretation from the natural phenomena when we realize the great and surprising advance of science and human technologies. The list of inventions and scientific discoveries since the 19th century is long, and we will only mention some of the more relevant.
1802. Fulton invents the boat with steam power.
1837. Morse invents the telegraph.
1839. Daguerre invents the first photographic camera.
1840. Cayley, considered by many the father of aviation, invents the first flying machines for passenger transportation.
1858. Marsh and Marsh invent the harvester.
1866. Tilston Bright installs the first transatlantic cable between the U.S. and England.
1866. Nobel invents dynamite.
1868. Glidden and Latham invent the automatic typewriter.
1876. Graham Bell invents the telephone. (It is also attributed to Elmo).
1877. Edison invents the phonograph.
1877. Berliner invents the microphone.
The sun in darkness and the moon in blood
1883. The explosion of the Krakatoa, the volcano between Java and Sumatra, is perhaps the most impressive material sign of all the ones that announced the arrival of a new era and the fulfilling of the prophecies of Joel and John in the Apocalypse. The night of August 27, 1883; the most violent volcanic eruption that is recorded in history took place, it destroyed the island where it stood and the consequences of such a disaster were felt all over the world; the gas cloud, dust and vapor were projected 27 kilometers into the sky, and the ocean waves or tsunamis provoked by the phenomenon reached more than 15 meters in height, reaching as far as 12,000 kilometers and killing thousands of people in the coasts of Java and Sumatra. The sound from the explosion is considered the greatest one in history and was heard in Australia and in the US Pacific Coast. The dense dust cloud emitted by the volcano, very much in the likeness of a 200 million tons nuclear blast, covered the sun light for over a day and after that, the moon looked like if it was painted red, very much like the color of blood. During the following three or four days, observers from all over the world reported bright strange colorations during sunrise and sunset due to the solar light refraction in the suspended particles of the dust cloud product of the explosion.
…Since the beginning of mankind, the reincarnation of the spirit exists as a law of love and justice, and as one of the ways through which the Father has shown His infinite clemency …
This is the Time of Light
Reincarnation is not only of this period, but for all eras; and do not think that it is only now that this mystery has been revealed to you. Ever since the first eras, there existed in man the intuition of the reincarnation of the spirit.
The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, which is true Spiritualism in this Era, comes to clarify the mystery of the law of reincarnation of the spirits; law of justice and of love, clearly explaining the why of its existence, the why of its justice; a law that could not be lacking among the divine laws, because if this were so, the Divine Spirit would cease to be perfect and just.
The Lord did not reveal this law amply in past times because the evolution of your spirit did not allow it. It was not yet the time for those things to be revealed; nevertheless, there were some signs of it in past times.
And the spirit of man had, since the first eras, a deep, intimate intuition that the incarnation of the spirit existed.
In how many spirits, ever since the first periods of Humanity, harbored the idea of returning to this Earth after death! Some, for not being satisfied with their experiences in life; others, because they had left undone a chore to which they had dedicated all their life and their effort; and for that, the spirit felt the need, the immense desire to return, to revive, to reincarnate and finish the work they had begun.
Thus, many spirits harbored an intuition that the law existed.
When you dwell in the flesh, your spirit comes to purify blemishes of past lives, and it becomes necessary to reveal all this, so that you may bear your suffering on Earth with patience.
There is an ancient debt that you have contracted with your Father, and with your brethren of the different nations of the earth. Who knows what he sowed in past eras? Who knows of his deeds in past lives?
Each time a spirit comes to Earth to incarnate, he brings a knowledge of past lives, and the light he receives in the Spiritual Realm is experience; it is a beacon that illuminates his path of evolution.
The knowledge of life is the true science; it is the eternal light of the spirit, and all that accumulated experience is science you are acquiring.
In the end, the only treasure preserved by the spirit, will be the knowledge acquired in the struggle. That is why I say to you, that light, which is your inheritance, you should not squander in superfluous deeds, only in what is good, elevated, and noble. An example of what I am saying you can find in the money of the world which, when it is well applied, is a blessing and, on the other hand, when it is squandered, brings only headaches.
The world will learn the truth about the resurrection of the flesh, which is the reincarnation of the spirit.
To reincarnate: Return to the material world to be born anew; the spirit to emerge within a human body to continue a mission. That is the truth about the resurrection of the flesh which your elders have spoken to you about, giving it such distorted as well as absurd interpretations.
The reincarnation is a gift which God has granted your spirit, so that he can never be limited to the smallness of the flesh, and to its fleeting existence on Earth with its natural weaknesses, but rather, coming from a superior nature, the spirit can take on as many physical bodies as he will need for the fulfillment of his great missions in the world.
Through this gift, the spirit demonstrates his immense superiority over the flesh, over death, and over everything terrestrial, surviving a body, then another and as many as will be entrusted to him; conqueror of time, of difficulties, and of temptations.
Life as a Open Book
I have prepared life itself so that it may be for you like an open book of elevated wisdom; the number of its pages is countless; its contents are profound and one life is not enough to be able to know it totally and even less to comprehend it. Its volume is big; it has been written by the Perfect Being, by the Author of Life and all Creation; but that book, filled by so much wisdom, is written with simplicity, with clarity, as are all the works of God.
The first lesson – in other words, the first page – is the most simple, but if it is not understood despite its simplicity, the second comes to explain the contents of the first and so on, up to the end of this great Book of the Life, which I have placed before man, opened to its sixth chapter, so that he knows the Father and comes to learn about his life and his destiny; that he understands his past, his present and, to the extent of My Will, his future.
With the condemnation of Origen, so much that is implied in reincarnation was officially stigmatized as heresy that the possiblity of a direct confrontation with this belief was effectively removed from the church. In dismissing Origen from its midst, the church only indirectly addressed itself to the issue of reincarnation. The encounter with
Origenism did, however, draw decisive lines in the matter of preexistence, the resurrection of the dead, and the relationship between body and soul. What an examination of Origen and the church does achieve, however, is to show where the reincarnationist will come into collision with the posture of orthodoxy. The extent to which he may wish to retreat from such a collision is of course a matter of personal conscience.
With the Council of 553 one can just about close the book on this entire controversy within the church. There are merely two footnotes to be added to the story, emerging from church councils in 1274 and 1439. In the Council of Lyons in 1274 it was stated that after death the soul goes promptly either to heaven or to hell. On the Day of Judgment all will stand before the tribunal of Christ with their bodies to render account of what they have done. The Council of Florence of 1439 uses almost the same wording to describe the swift passage of the soul either to heaven or to hell. Implicit in both of these councils is the assumption that the soul does not again venture into physical bodies.
There is one episode in particular from the healing miracles of Christ that seems to point to reincarnation: “And as he was passing by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who has sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?” Jesus answered, ‘Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents, but the works of God were to be made manifest in him.'” (John 9:1) The disciples ask the Lord if the man himself could have committed the sin that led to his blindness. Given the fact that the man has been blind from birth, we are confronted with a provocative question. When could he have made such transgressions as to make him blind at birth? The only conceivable answer is in some prenatal state. The question as posed by the disciples explicitly presupposes prenatal existence. It will also be noted that Christ says nothing to dispel or correct the presupposition. Here is incontrovertible support for a doctrine of human preexistence.
Also very suggestive of reincarnation is the episode where Jesus identifies John the Baptist as Elijah. “For all the prophets and the law have prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who was to come.” (Matt 11:13-14) “And the disciples asked him, saying, ‘Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’ But he answered them and said, ‘Elijah indeed is to come and will restore all things. But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also shall the Son of Man suffer at their hand.’ Then the disciples understood that he had spoken of John the Baptist.” (Matt 17:10-13)
Here again is a clear statement of preexistence. Despite the edict of the Emperor Justinian and the counter reaction to Origen, there is firm and explicit testimony for preexistence in both the Old and the New Testament. Indeed, the ban against Origen notwithstanding, contemporary Christian scholarship acknowledges preexistence as one of the elements of Judeo-Christian theology.
As for the John the Baptist-Elijah episode, there can be little question as to its purpose. By identifying the Baptist as Elijah, Jesus is identifying himself as the Messiah. Throughout the gospel narrative there are explicit references to the signs that will precede the Messiah. “Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” (Mal 4:5) This is one of the many messianic promises of the Old Testament. One of the signs that the true Messiah has come, according to this passage from Malachi, is that he be preceded by a forerunner, by Elijah. Jesus was sometimes taken to be a reincarnation of one of the prophets.
In Mark 8:27, Jesus asks “Whom do men say that I am?” The consensus of opinion seems to have been that He was a reincarnation of either John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the Old Testament prophets. It is hard to see how Jesus could have been a reincarnation of the prophet by whom He was baptized, but that has not deterred these believers in reincarnation around Jesus.
Indeed the reincarnationist can even find scriptural support for personal disincarnate preexistence. Origen took Eph 1:4 as proof for his case: “He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish in his sight and love.” Jerome, who is just as uncomfortable as Justinian about preexistence, interprets the passage to mean that we preexisted, not in distinct disincarnate form, but simply in the mind of God (Against Rufinus 1.22), and from this throng of thoughts God chose the elect before the creation of the world.
The distinction is indeed a fine one, for Jerome is asking us to distinguish between that which exists as a soul and that which exists as a thought. What is illuminating for the reincarnationist is that this passage from Ephesians offers very explicit scriptural testimony for individual preexistence.
Looking at the sequence of creation from its inception to its conclusion, one could summarize Origen’s system as follows: Originally all beings existed as pure mind on an ideational or thought level. Humans, angels, and heavenly bodies lacked incarnate existence and had their being only as ideas. This is a very natural view for anyone like Origen who was trained in both Christian and Platonic thought. Since there is no account in the scriptures of what preceded creation, it seemed perfectly natural to Origen to appeal to Plato for his answers.
God for the Platonist is pure intelligence and all things were reconciled with God before creation – an assumption which scripture does not appear to contradict. Then as the process of fall began, individual beings became weary of their union with God and chose to defect or grow cold in their divine ardor. As the mind became cool toward God, it made the first step down in its fall and became soul. The soul, now already once removed from its original state, continued with its defection to the point of taking on a body. This, as we know from Platonism, is indeed a degradation, for the highest type of manifestation is on the mental level and the lowest is on the physical.
Such an account of man’s fall does not mean that Origen rejected Genesis. It only means that he was willing to allow for allegorical interpretation; thus Eden is not necessarily spacially located, but is a cosmic and metaphysical event wherein pure disincarnate idea became fettered to physical matter. What was essential for Christianity, as Origen perceived, is that the fall be voluntary and result in a degree of estrangement from God.
Where there is a fall, there must follow the drama of reconciliation. Love is one of God’s qualities, as Origen himself acknowledged, and from this it follows that God will take an interest in the redemption of his creatures. For Origen this means that after the drama of incarnation the soul assumes once again its identity as mind and recovers its ardor for God.
It was to hasten this evolution that in the fullness of time God sent the Christ. The Christ of Origen was the Incarnate Word (he was also the only being that did not grow cold toward God), and he came both as a mediator and as an incarnate image of God’s goodness. By allowing the wisdom and light of God to shine in one’s life through the inspiration of Jesus Christ, the individual soul could swiftly regain its ardor for God, leave behind the burden of the body, and regain complete reconciliation with God. In fact, said Origen, much to the outrage of his critics, the
extent and power of God’s love is so great that eventually all things will be restored to him, even Satan and his legions.
Since the soul’s tenancy of any given body is but one of many episodes in its journey from God and back again, the doctrine of reincarnation is implicit. As for the resurrection of the body, Origen created a tempest of controversy by insisting that the physical body wastes away and returns to dust, while the resurrection takes on a spiritual or
transformed body. This is of course handy for the reincarnationist, for it means that the resurrected body either can be the summation and climax of all the physical bodies that came before or indeed may bear no resemblance at all to the many physical bodies.
There will come a time when the great defection from God that initiated physical creation will come to an end. All things, both heavenly bodies and human souls, will be so pure and ardent in their love for God that physical existence will no longer be necessary. The entire cohesion of creation will come apart, for matter will be superfluous. Then, to cite one of Origen’s favorite passages, all things will be made subject to God and God will be “all in all.” ( 1 Cor 15:28 ) This restoration of all things proposed by Origen gave offense in later centuries. It seemed quite sensible to Origen that anything that defects from God must eventually be brought back to him. As he triumphantly affirmed at the end of his “On First Principles”, men are the “blood brothers” of God himself and cannot stay away forever.
During the period from A.D. 250 to 553 controversy raged, at least intermittently, around the name of Origen, and from this controversy emerged the major objections that orthodox Christianity raises against reincarnation. Origen of Alexandria, one of Christianity’s greatest systematic theologians, was a believer in reincarnation.
Origen was a man devoted to scriptural authority, a scourge to the enemies of the church, and a martyr for the faith. He was the spiritual teacher of a large and grateful posterity and yet his teachings were declared heresy in 553. The debates and controversies that flared up around his teachings are in fact the record of reincarnation in the church.
The case against Origen grew by fits and starts from about A.D. 300 (fifty years after his death) until 553. There were writers of great eminence among his critics as well as some rather obscure ecclesiasts. They included Methodius of Olympus, Eppiphanius of Salamis, Theophilus, Bishop of Jerusalem, Jerome, and the Emperor Justinian. The first of these, Methodius of Olympus, was a bishop in Greece and died a martyr’s death in the year 311. He and Peter of Alexandria, whose works are almost entirely lost, represent the first wave of anti-Origenism. They were concerned chiefly with the preexistence of souls and Origen’s notions about the resurrection of the dead. Another more powerful current against Origenism arose about a century later. The principals were Ephiphanius of Salamis, Theophilus of Alexandria, and Jerome. From about 395 to 403 Origen became the subject of heated debate throughout Christendom. These three ecclesiats applied much energy and thought in search of questionable doctrine in Origen. Again the controversy flared up around 535, and in the wake of this the Emperor Justinian composed a tract against Origen in 543, proposing nine anathemas against “On First Principles”, Origen’s chief theological work. Origen was finally officially condemned in the Second Council of Constantinople in 553, when fifteen anathemas were charged against him.
The critics of Origen attacked him on individual points, and thus did not create a systematic theology to oppose him. Nonetheless, one can glean from their writings five major points that Christianity has raised against reincarnation:
- It seems to minimize Christian salvation.
- It is in conflict with the resurrection of the body.
- It creates an unnatural separation between body and soul.
- It is built on a much too speculative use of Christian scriptures.
- There is no recollection of previous lives.
Any discussion of these points will be greatly clarified by a preliminary look at Origen’s system. Although it is of course impossible to do justice in a few pages to a thinker as subtle and profound as Origen, some of the distinctive aspects of his thought can be summarized.