It is believed by hundreds of millions of people who practice Hinduism, Buddhism and other Eastern religions. Its influence is impacting the books, movies and music people choose, raising questions about its validity.
The New Encyclopedia Britannica defines reincarnation as “A belief in the rebirth of the soul in one or more successive existences, which may be human, animal, or, in some instances, vegetable.”
While the idea of rebirth and learning from one’s mistakes in countless existences is a fascinating concept, there are some problems with the theory. For example, at the moment of conception a person inherits 50 percent of their genes from each parent. So there is no way you can be 100 percent like anyone in a previous existence. What about those “past memories” people have under hypnosis?
Most experts say memories gained under hypnosis could be a result of imagination or suggestion by the hypnotist. Besides, many of the memories reported do not match recorded history.
Dr. Ian Stevenson, a leading authority on reincarnation, admitted in a 1988 interview in Omni magazine, “In my experience, nearly all so-called previous personalities evoked through hypnotism are entirely imaginary and a result of the patient's eagerness to obey the hypnotist’s suggestion. It is no secret that we are all highly suggestible under hypnosis.”
Such past-life “memories” could also be a result of cryptomnesia, which occurs when things seen in books, movies, TV, newspapers or other sources have been forgotten, but emerge as “past memories” under hypnosis. What about seeing people and places that seems strangely familiar? Is this proof that we have been in those places or met those people in a previous life?
Actually, it’s not uncommon that people and places seem familiar since many people are similar in appearance, mannerisms and personality, while scenery in widely separated places often looks alike.
Experts say déja vu can also be triggered by transmission delays in the optic nerve so that the image received by one of the eyes causes the brain to feel as if it is experiencing it again. Are such experiences a reliable guide to say one has lived before? You decide. For me, the “rebirth of the soul” as reincarnation has a bigger problem.
More than 400 years before Buddha, the oldest holy book on the planet made this comment about death, at Ecclesiastes 12:7, “The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” — New International Version.
This says nothing about one’s spirit entering animals, plants or other people. It says “the spirit returns to God who gave it.” The Hebrew word translated “spirit” is “ru’ach,” meaning the breath, life force or active power inside all living things. The fact that it has no personality or memory is seen in several Bible verses, including Psalm 146:4: “His spirit departs, he returns to the earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.” — New American Standard Bible.
Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 says, “For the living know that they will die. But the dead know nothing ... Also their love, their hatred and their envy have now perished.” — New King James Bible.
If this is true, then the life force that returns to God is similar to energy, wind or electricity in that it carries no emotions or human consciousness. Only God can restore this “spirit” or “ru’ach” into a lifeless corpse so that it can live again. But reincarnation teaches a person’s “soul” or “spirit” begins a new life in a new body.
This view seems contrary to what we have personally observed. How so? Well, what happens when a person is knocked unconscious, faints or is put under anesthesia? If the soul is really something separate from the body and is able to function intelligently apart from the body, so that even death itself does not affect its existence and its functions, why is it that during such periods of unconsciousness people are completely unaware of all activity around them? If their “soul” can see, hear, feel and think after death, why does something far less drastic than death, like a period of unconsciousness, stop all these functions?
Everlasting life is the gift God gives by Christ Jesus, according to Romans 6:23, not something we’ve always had as eternal spirits traveling from rebirth to rebirth by reincarnation.
Since there were more than 500 people who saw Jesus resurrected, as stated in 1Corinthians 15:3-8 — people who were willing to die than deny what they saw — as well as support from the oldest, most widely distributed sacred book of all time, I choose to believe in the resurrection hope and not in reincarnation. Certainly, we are all free to believe what we want.
But if Revelation 21:4 proves true, God’s promise that soon there shall be no more death or sorrow will end all questions about the dead and our destiny.
Now there’s a concept worth mulling over and over and over again.