Afterlife and Reincarnation Part 5 Basics of Reincarnation

An explanation of the beliefs different religions have about the afterlife and reincarnation, the basics of reincarnation.

Afterlife and Reincarnation

3--a future life on earth. Reincarnation cannot really be categorized, since just about every category in our table applies to it. It involves both the physical (A) and the spiritual (B), its rules apply to all (i) in most systems, it may be pleasant or unpleasant according to how one has lived previously (ii/iii), and it does present an opportunity for further advancement (iv).

One cannot generalize about reincarnationist doctrines, for they vary widely. Basically, they involve the idea that a soul, or spirit, survives bodily death and, either immediately or after a sojourn in some spiritual plane, returns to inhabit another human body. (The idea that humans may return as animals is properly known as metempsychosis and is rejected by most Western reincarnationists and many from the East, too.) The idea is that, since we are not yet worthy to be reunited with God or to attain whatever is our ultimate goal, we return time and again to work on our faults and develop our strengths. The doctrine of karma, or "as you sow so shall ye reap," usually accompanies reincarnation. Often misconstrued as a form of punishment, karma, properly understood and much simplified, is a teaching tool through which when we do right things, things go right for us; when we do wrong things, things go wrong, until we have learned from our mistakes. The learning is often subconscious, so that, though we do not remember what mistakes we may have made in a previous life, our subconscious does remember, which is what matters.

Not all schools of thought recognize a specific soul personality that continues. Rather than seeing reincarnation as an opportunity for individual development, some see it as a continuing process for humankind as a whole. Perhaps an analogy would be that of an ocean which is destined to raise its temperature slowly. Many drops may in some way separate from it and be heated. They return to the ocean to warm it a little, and more drops separate out to gain heat. These 2nd drops may contain some of the same atoms of water that were in the 1st drops, yet they are not the same drops. Nonetheless, the overall temperature of the ocean slowly rises, just as humankind's "group soul" slowly evolves as each soul separates from it to incarnate here, and then returns, hopefully slightly improved, after death. Future incarnations may involve elements of previous souls, but not the total individual soul personality. At the other extreme from this is the very personal theory that all those with whom we are closely involved are souls with whom we have had contact in previous lives.

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