Reincarnation . . . or Heaven?


Every once in a while I have reason to mention that I believe in reincarnation.

When I admit this, I usually get one of two reactions.

One is, “So, you think you come back as a cow, huh?”

The other is, “Well, there is no evidence of that.”

There is no point in responding to the first.  The questioner obviously heard something in 3rd grade and hasn’t informed himself or herself since then.  Someone with that little curiosity about life is barely worth talking to about anything metaphysical, other than, “I’d like a metaphysical Coke with that.”  LOL – try that one at McDonald’s or Burger King some day…

This is not about 3rd grade teaching by school marms.

We will define reincarnation as being about a soul coming back to live again in another body, for the purpose of increasing his/her/its soul development.  I include “its” there because if the soul exists we don’t know whether has gender.  The soul itself might, and it might not.

At the same time, no one has even come close to providing scientific evidence of the existence of the soul.  And that applies to either 1-off lives or many lives.

Which brings us to the crux of this.

When someone asserts, “There is no evidence of reincarnation,” what is one to reply with?

The irony, of course, is that in a Judeo-Christian there is no scientific evidence of a Heaven, or God, or a Jesus, either.  This question comes from someone standing on nothing, asserting that someone else’s nothing is not real.

No one has ever provided hard evidence for having had direct contact with any God o Jesus.  Those who assert any such contact inevitably talk about them talking to God or Jesus, and then some moments or time later they get an impression of an answer.  Anyone who has prayed has had such an impression – which might range all the way from, “Yes,” to “No,” and every “Maybe” in between.  But as to evidence of a two-way discussion or even an abrupt “Good morning – good morning” interchange, there is none.

And yet an American, in his/her/its exceptionalism will assert that because someone else’s religion sends people back to the real Earth instead of to a never-before-experienced place they call Heaven.

From their perspective, this is like the discussion in “Stand By Me,” in which one boy asks the other, “If Superman were to fight Mighty Mouse, who would win?”  I say “from their perspective” because they assume that reincarnation is a figment of people’s imagination, while their own never-experienced Heaven is a solid reality.

Neither one – Judeo-Chrisitanity, with its 1-time life and then Judgment for all eternity, or Reincarnation, with its continuing chances to learn and develop – has, at this time, any proof that will satisfy a hard scientist.  Hard science is physics, chemistry, geology, biology.  Soft science is psychology and similar fields of inquiry.

That does not take into account the studies by Ian Stevenson, about children who seem to remember past lives.  Most hard scientists are either unaware of his work or choose to ignore it.

Oddly, while some soft scientists like Stevenson have inquired into evidence of reincarnation, there are no scientists looking into evidence of the Judeo-Christian God, or the existence of Heaven.

Thus, one pertinent response to “Well, there is no evidence of Reincarnation.” might just well be, “Can you please offer one link to a scientific paper proving that Heaven exists?”

So, where DO we go when we die?  Do I have an answer myself?

No.  I CHOOSE to think that we come back and live future lives.  A Judeo-Christian chooses to think what they think, and I am fine with that.  I am NOT fine with them challenging Reincarnation when their own religion is built on a vacuum.  I don’t really care what they think.

I also don’t care whether someone can prove that Reincarnation is true.

Whatever is true is true, and what we all believe – one way or the other – won’t change the actual reality, will it?  We might all become puffy little teddy bears and sit in kids’ toy boxes.  If that is what is true, then it is.  And my beliefs or someone else’s beliefs won’t change that reality one iota.

I CHOOSE to think reincarnation is real because it makes quite a bit more sense than one-life-and-out (or in).  I choose to live my life thinking that a world can exist with SOME kind of reason behind it, rather than none.

And DO be aware that Christianity’s belief that one life (1 hour or 120 years) is all we get is substantially more illogical than Reincarnation.  Would a God (or gods) powerful enough to create well-organized and self-supporting planets, as well as macro-organisms as complex as horses and climate and humans, create all that for nothing?  Would such a powerful and obviously intelligent being have as the participants in such a world as this one play their parts and then just leave, never to return?

If Man is made in the image of their God, one would expect that the god-equivalents should have some of the same powers, and – above all – the ability to interact at some level (perhaps some high level) with the God that created those beings “in his image.”

That the personages within the Christian universe exist more or less the useful lifetime of a paper napkin.  They are apparently some all but overlooked things that are used once and then thrown away.

If that is what Americans or Christians want their lives to be, who am I to disabuse them of such a worthless and ephemeral existence?

My ideas about Reincarnation have been developed over about 45 years, and the ideas are not simple like “one person dies and one is born”.  My ideas are about how I MYSELF would make such a system work.  Those concepts have taken decades to develop, and I am not going to delineate them here.

One part of it, though – for me and me alone – is that I think that if we build a better world NOW, then there will be a better world THEN in the future, a better world to come back to.  THAT – whether true or false – makes a better world, and what is wrong with wanting that?

BTW, it would never occur to me to insult someone by asking them, “Well, do you have any proof that Heaven exists?”

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16 responses to “Reincarnation . . . or Heaven?

  1. Here’s a question.

    What is it that comes back or gets reborn?

    Is it your self at death after years of experience if you live to normal expectancy? Is it some idealized version of your self? Maybe your self at some peak of physical and mental capacity? Your best self? Your worst self?

    Our notion of self is mostly illusion anyway. We are not even the same from moment to moment. Our sense of continuity is a sort of juggling act where we think a set of balls are being juggled but really balls are dropping out and new ones being added continually. This is most obvious in the actual physical atoms of our body that are constantly being replaced but is also the same with our mind and our consciousness.

  2. James -

    First I should clarify: I am for the most part of a scientific mind, but in a more open-minded way than most scientists or engineers. I actually have a gestalt that does not exclude souls. This is not the moment to go into that, however. For now, just know that I don’t see a conflict. I can get into it at some other time if you wish, but I’d like to stay focused here.

    (Another point: I am not a Creationist nor ID guy, not in the slightest. I think they are among the most delusional people on the planet. I am not in the slightest religious at all, in the normal view of religion. I see no reason that thinking that SOMEONE or some group of intelligences may have created the universe would conflict with anything discovered in science. I choose not to WORSHIP or to go all mumbo-jumbo over the idea that there may be some very evolved sentients out there. If anything, I look at them as pretty damned good engineers, and in that vein I would applaud their capacities and project management abilities. )

    Getting to the gist of your comment, you DO gave a good take on this from the OTHER POV – the scientific/atheistic direction. It is at least as valid a POV as the religious ones. I have nothing against atheism nor science. Except this against science, as it exists:

    Science claims to be a bit more all-knowing than it really is. We are all of about 350 years into the Scientific Age. To some that means they’ve come to know just about everything about just about everything. To me that says science has only taken its first few steps, and that we are currently at some point along the continuum from not knowing squat about the natural world and – in the far future – knowing everything about the natural world.

    FYI – I wasn’t addressing this post to the scientists. I was addressing it to the Christians, who I see as so gullible and sure that a translation of a translation of some old writings is the magical word of “their” god.

    You COULD be asking Christians the same questions, yes?

    As to your questions about “self” – I am reminded of Hawking’s Black Hole Information Paradox. AND that he changed his mind and now accepts that some information may be able to escape black holes. He is quoted as saying, “A black hole only appears to form but later opens up and releases information about what fell inside. So we can be sure of the past and predict the future.

    We might see a self as an analog of the information of which he speaks. And we could also see death as the black hole. Speaking here metaphorically? Probably, but not necessarily so! Can information – of ANY kind – come out of the abyss of death or black holes? Will death, like his black holes, ever “later open up and release information”?

    I myself do not know the answer to any of that.

    At its core (if I don’t mis-characterize it) your POV comes down to:

    Is our consciousness something that derives from the body, or is the consciousness something that inhabits the body? And you think it is the former. Many agree with you.

    I am open to the latter.

    Is consciousness something other than information? Is it erased from the universe at death? Is it corporeal and tied to the physical brain as the collection of responses to sensory input in the environment? None of this has been proven one whit yet. You will get a good argument from the psychologists on all those points. Awareness has not yet been reduced to 1s and 0s at the synapse level.

    If you have not read up on “greedy reductionism” yet, be my guest.

    In the absence of quantifiable evidence that is acceptable to scientists, the scientific POV is that the soul does not exist. If you have papers you could lead me to that say otherwise, I will suggest that you paste in the links, and I will get to them in good time.

    I am glad you commented. I really, REALLY didn’t want to get into it with the Christian crazies, and perhaps should not have written this post. But I wanted to vent about how absurd their thinking is. Mine is somewhat off the beaten path, but I will never try to shove my POV down even one person’s throat. Any effort on my part would be useless at best. there are at least three points of view on this, and I am sure that in my lifetime none of it will be resolved enough to convince the other POVs that one and only one of these is correct. I don’t mind discussion and debate, but I prefer it to be reasonable and based on SOME semblance of reality – not on some delusional cult like fundamentalist Christianity.

    I don’t know everything. I never will. Science doesn’t, but in the future it will. But that time isn’t now.

    Thanks for commenting.

    Steve

  3. I am with you about the Christians.

    My own view about materialism and soul I have tried to clarify in the last two posts on my blog. Particularly this one:

    http://broadspeculations.com/2013/10/27/the-light-body/

    Fundamentally I believe mind (or soul) and matter are simply different ways of describing a unitary phenomenon.

    So consciousness is something that neither derives from or inhabits a body. Individual consciousness is coexistent with the body but is a participant as a node in a broader network of intelligence and consciousness that extends through the universe and is coexistent with the universe. The information of our consciousness is, in a sense, not really our own, not housed any more in our physical body than is the IP traffic passing through a router on the Internet. Ultimately when the power switch goes off on the router, it drops from the network . In the same way, when we die we too drop from a network. The information that composed our consciousness, that wasn’t really our own to begin with, is routed to other nodes

    • Not altogether bad thinking, at all. Creative, astute, and open to the bigger picture.

      I use the node concept myself, as a major component of an alternate physics – that I am WAY too under-educated to complete. It’s all qualitative, no math. It’s fun to think about, though.

      As to tying the physical to mind in your way, it is as good as anyone else’s ideas out there, and one I can see could lead to some profound realizatoions.

      I am big on questions – asking the right questions. Ask the right question and the right answer is staring you in the face – a no-brainer. All of our questions from where were are at present have to be projections from what we know – which isn’t much. If where we are isn’t close to the reality, our questions cannot lead to anything much. You, me, Einstein, Hawking, Feynman, Sheldrake, Bohm – it is all flailing in the dark, and all of us completely incapable of asking the right questions. But flailing or not, someone has to keep asking. If our questions lead to the next question, then it’s useful – perhaps. Sometimes someone asks the right question and then dies before others hear it.

      The right question/answer is so far out ahead of us that we don’t even know in which direction it is.

      As to self/soul/entityship/personality, what you say does depend on whether this sensory video game/environment we are in is real or not. We trust our senses because they allow us react with the environment – but is this the only one? If not, is this the more real one? If not, then what?

      Equipment can help us widen our senses, beyond our normal five. For example, radar, radio, gravitometers, geiger counters, etc. Science right now is assuming that the extension of those senses is now pretty complete. I have no solid idea, but I suspect that we may find one or more entire class of new extensions. With such devices we reach farther and farther into realms that didn’t exist 200 years ago (as far as we knew).

      If a soul exists in some sensory range we don’t know about now, it would be invisible to us. Electricity was, too, 300 years ago. Does that make, in 1713, electricity non-real?

      If a soul is real, it is designed to interact with our bodies and through them with the natural world. Is it significant that we have not found it? Does non-detection count as proof of its non-existence? In 1666, when the Royal Society was formed, that might have been the attitude. But it wasn’t. The members and those they communicated with all knew there was a LOT out there to discover. Right now the attitude is the exact opposite: It is thought that all important things have been discovered and we only have to fill in the gaps.

      I disagree.

      I do personally like the direction Sheldrake seems to be going in, but he is getting sidelined with dogs and mice. That is not unexpected; it’s a bit like where electricity and magnetism were in the mid-1800s – still trying to even see what it is he is dealing with, what is real and what isn’t. Faraday and Ohm and others were in the same boat back then. But Sheldrake challenges the reductionism and positivism of science well, asking the questions they won’t ask. But I am only recently looking into what direction he is heading in. 100 years ago science was a lot more open-minded; now they just write him off as a kook. But he is no more silly than many of the ideas by scientists I’ve read about in the last 15 years or so. Less silly, in many ways.

      When we are not informed enough to ask the right question(s), it is time to do fundamental work and see what questions arise. E.g., yesterday I was doing work on drumlins, elongated glacial ridges on the landscape, and I learned to my surprise that they are not from glacial advances but glacial retreats. Now my set of questions is different than two days ago.

      You learn something everyday – but only if you are paying attention.

      I am likely to post what I’ve found, but it has grown too long, so I need to re-work it.

  4. Great discussion.

    By the way, when I wrote:

    “In the same way, when we die we too drop from a network. The information that composed our consciousness, that wasn’t really our own to begin with, is routed to other nodes.”

    That may be one way of describing reincarnation.

  5. Pingback: Reincarnation . . . or Heaven? | Broad Speculations

  6. I thought of that when I read it, but I didn’t want to sound like I am pushing it down your throat. . . :-)

  7. I believe totally in reincarnation. It isn’t that WE come back but the energy that brought us here cannot be destroyed so it transforms itself. That energy can come back if it chooses to.
    When people question me about reincarnation I tell them the Universe is the great recycler. Energy will not and cannot be destroyed only transformed. Therefore our physical body can die but the Divine part of our conscious energy cannot be destroyed therefore it has an option to come back or not depending on probably many vibrational opportunities.
    I believe we have choices and options always, free will.
    I guess it is a question that some need to have answered but for me I ask why does it matter. What we do here in this life is important and will probably determine what happens in our afterlife. I guess I like to keep a wait and see attitude about it.
    Thanks for your post and thanks to Jim for sending it along. I just got back from a trip to Florida with my very Christian brother and we had many lively discussions driving up and back about the nature of consciousness and vibration. Conversations like that make me feel very alive. Ok so we don’t know everything, that is ok. Let’s talk about it. Is it possible we are creating it as we go anyway.
    You gotta love life, deeply, passionately and with complete abandonment.
    Thank you both for challenging our minds to think about the possibilities.

    • Hey, Marilyn -

      I appreciate your comment.

      I just want to ask if you got my point – that people demand reincarnationists to give them some evidence of it. But they don’t, for example, ask Christians “Where is Heaven?” or “What is God’s email address?” or “Where’s your evidence?”

      (BTW, nobody asking that last question will accept the Bible as evidence, and moist KNOW that that is exactly the evidence that most Christians will first present. Which is kind of funny, because the real question being asked is actually, “How did you get so gullible?”…LOL)

      But maybe in asking for evidence they are actually giving us more credit than Christians. They KNOW they aren’t going to get a Christian to give the mailing address of Heaven. But they will ask US if there was ever any evidence of reincarnation.

      That might be a good sign! . . . LOL

      Steve

  8. In relation to reincarnation (and Sheldrake) I would have to bring up the quite salient “hard evidence” of DNA encoding. Stepping aside from metaphysics for a moment, we can all agree that it is fairly common knowledge that the accumulated data in DNA has been replicated across numerous (countless) generations – and in this way, transcends the limitations of individual lifetimes.

    So we see that the mechanism for transmission of data (or life experience) accumulated by a given life form is the replication of DNA by way of sexual relations. For this replication to occur, a productive offspring must be derived from the coupling of a male and female (in most species we know of).

    Serious students of cosmology do well to keep in mind the axiom of microcosm and macrocosm. This is not just a philosophical point.

    Stepping back into the metaphysics, we can begin to approach the realities of generally unknown processes by way of understanding personally known processes. The extent of extrapolation and calculation and even innervation and so forth which is required is a matter of personal discovery alone, and it is directly concerned with the “magnum opus” of one’s life.

    Just as the survival of individual consciousness is nothing more than a personal concern, the relevant details serve nothing more than a personal purpose. The wider community of essential truth is inherently in agreement, and delves only into further clarification amongst its own relations. Those who do not approach such realities cannot be forced into them – nor is that desirable, by natural design. You cant pick an apple from a tree while it is still in the form of a leaf, nor can you eat a leaf and expect it to be an apple. The leaf is part of the process – it serves a purpose as well.

    The main concern is never metaphysical, and the deepest knowledge and truth is not something that needs to be created or built. It is simply revealed to one who has entirely seen through their own psyche – and then subsequently rendered it transparent. The main concern is always psychological. The work is personal, and it is specific to the given individual in question. The fundamental basis of all processes lies under the roots, “before” the personal mind occurs, in all moments – in all time. So the realization of how such time is personally spent in this lifetime is intensely relevant. The understanding of a personal “why?” is the tandem gateway for approaching the understanding of a universal “why?”. Such phenomena has numerous (countless) implications.

    • Fu Xi -

      You, like everybody else commenting here is missing the point of this post, which is to ask why ONLY reincarnationsists are asked to give factual proof of their beliefs, while Christians are allowed to say anything and not required to produce an iota of evidence.

      As to Sheldrake, I think you would need to actually read some of what Sheldrake says about DNA in order to understand that your points about DNA also miss HIS salient point. He points out that DNA shows no mechanism for determining what form a limb takes, or an eye, or a strand of hair. All DNA does is code for proteins.

      Although Sheldrake goes into metaphysical avenues, his main thrust is not metaphysical. It is to question ten dogmas of science, one of which pertains to DNA and its failure to contribute in any way so far to an understanding of how organic FORM occurs and is determined.

      This is not to argue against the idea – that “everyone knows” that DNA does determine everything about inheritance of characteristics. Arguing it isn’t necessary; it has never been shown to do any such thing. To the contrary, DNA does NOT show signs of doing this at all, so there is no arguing the facts, only informing people that DNA doesn’t do much of what we assume it does.

      None of these points are metaphysical. They are discussing science, from a POV within science.

      • [Comment deleted as being off topic and abusive. SMG 2014 Jan 10]

      • Fu Xi -

        You claim to have not missed the point and yet you went off on all sorts of tangents, most of which were attacks on me as being some subjective person who has an overriding need to be right. Nothing you have asserted is cogent to this post and is personal attacks on me. Sorry, I approved you comment and am now sufficiently bored with your diatribes which, as I pointed out, have nothing to do with why Christians are not required to show proof of their God while reincarnationists are required to prove their case before any dialog is permitted.

        Your comment is therefore ruled to be off topic and abusive, as well as boring and uninteresting as hell. We are not here to argue over the number of angels that can fit on the head of a pin.

        Your comment is thus hereby un-approved and deleted and will be marked as such.

        You are welcome to comment here in the future, but you will be strictly required to stay on topic. If you abuse that, then future comments will be blocked.

  9. Soul. Life Force. Consciousness. Energy. Why wouldn’t it be continuous and/or recycled? Have you read anything by Michael Newton – Journey of Souls, for instance? Fascinating studies.

  10. Mary -

    Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    Not meaning to sound hostile or anything, but…

    As you’ve expressed it, you, like the other commenters here, have entirely missed the salient point of this post.

    This post was NOT about an introductory primer for reincarnation. I’ve been a reincarnationist for nearly half a century now, and am far removed from needing to read up on any anecdotal accounts.

    The point of this was the double standard wherein reincarnationists are asked, knee-jerk, what proof we have, while Christians are given a free pass. I say “knee-jerk,” because, in my experience, literally the first words out of non-reincarnationists’ mouths are to ask, “But can you prove reincarnation?” or “What is the evidence that reincarnation is true?”

    To which this post suggests that Christians be asked hard-nosed questions about their beliefs.

    One of these days I plan a post on why, even if there is a God (or gods), is it necessary to mush it all up with flowery phrases and gushing? Francis Bacon, who translated and wrote the King James Version of the Bible in English for King James, did the world a BIG disservice by couching it in flowery Shakespearean prose. Like those who gush at Romeo and Juliet, Christians have had stars in their eyes ever since, thinking that God and Jesus and all the Biblical characters spoke in that way, with all the “thee’s” and “thou’s.” Actually the Old Testament people spoke in either Hebrew or Egyptian, while the New Testament folks spoke either in Aramaic or koine, a bastardized form of Greek, both of which were vernacular, meaning common everyday languages, not some high-falootin’, flowery stage talk.

  11. Mary, if you yourself want to read some good accounts of reincarnation, I suggest reading Ian Stevenson’s book “Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation.”

    Rupert Sheldrake takes the position that there might be other explanations for such accounts, such as telepathy. I think it is more likely to be reincarnation than telepathy, but what do I know? Did you notice in that that Sheldrake uses one parapsychological thing to explain away another? I think that is a hoot – but necessary, because nothing in the mainstream can explain those cases. BTW, Stevenson had many other suggestive cases, not only twenty.

    Sheldrake is an open-minded biologist from Cambridge University whose work you might enjoy, too. He has some YouTube videos of him giving talks. Try this one, if you are interested: The Science Delusion, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKHUaNAxsTg

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