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Chapter 9

Reincarnation I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have changed several times since then.--Alice Born Again?
Great minds and mystics have grappled with the theory of reincarnation for eons. The modern Christian church dismisses the concept. The party line is that we are born once; we have the option of accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior for our ticket to heaven; if we don’t, we are condemned to hell. This interpretation of scripture promotes church membership quite effectively. But looking historically and globally, I found that reincarnation has been embraced by cultures far and wide. Even the Bible retains passages that allude to it. Besides the reference above from Matthew naming John the Baptist and Elijah as the same soul, Jesus seemed to convey the concept in several references: John 8:58--Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am. Luke 9:18-20--“Who do the people say that I am?” And they answered, “John the Baptist; but others say Elijah; and others, that one of the old prophets has risen.” John 9:2—As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

If you take the above passages at face value, it appears there was a cultural acceptance of the idea that souls return to the earthly plane. Clearly, the people of the time exhibited a belief in reincarnation if they conjectured Jesus might be the returning spirits of Elijah or an Old Testament prophet. Also implied in the last quotation is an understanding of karma, the cosmic law of cause and effect. Who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind? The question indicates a belief that a child born blind could be the result of previous misdeeds.

Other scriptures point to a karmic philosophy: Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap-Galatians 6:7 Do unto others what you would have them do to you—Matthew 7:12 All who draw the sword will die by the sword—Matthew 26:52

Theologians have argued these passages for two thousand years. One of the earliest and most respected was Origen of Alexandria who lived from 185-254 A.D. According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, he believed in the “pre -existence and fall of souls; multiple ages and transmigration of souls; and the eventual restoration of all souls to a state of dynamic perfection in proximity to the godhead.” Quite the metaphysician, Origen. He devoted his life to teaching and writing his Christian beliefs until the Roman Emperor of the day ordered a purging of the followers of Christ. Origen was martyred in Tyre. The debate continued for another two hundred years until the church grew into a political institution. According to Life Between Life by Joel L. Whitton, Ph. D, “The new Church-State alliance, aiming for the cultivated dependence of the masses, felt threatened by those who believed in rebirth because such Christians tended to be self-reliant, free-thinking individuals whose subservience could not be guaranteed.” In 553 A.D., the Fifth Ecumenical Council condemned Origen’s theories as heresy (the root definition meaning “able to choose”). Emperor Justinian formally denounced the concept of rebirth in no uncertain terms: If anyone assert the fabulous pre-existence of souls and shall assert the monstrous restoration which follows from it: let him be anathema Wow--let him be anathema-- as in a “person or thing accursed or consigned to damnation or destruction.” 1 Zealous church leaders followed up that dictate by slaughtering a half million reincarnationbelieving Cathars in Southern France during the 1200’s. Not satisfied with that carnage, the Inquisition was born. Carol Bowman sums up the legacy of such repression in Children’s Past Lives thus:

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Dictionary.com

The murderous efficiency of the Inquisition proved effective. The persecution by the institutional Church has scarred our collective psyche, and it has surrounded us with an invisible fence dividing what is safe from what is dangerous to believe. Since then, people who harbor forbidden ideas have learned to keep their thoughts to themselves. Our cultural memory still carries the fear of reprisal for publicly associating with any occult practices, the use of psychic powers or a belief in reincarnation. Consequently, believers in reincarnation were effectively wiped out or muzzled. In time, the masses of the West generally forgot about it. The day-to-day struggle to survive and the poor education of the eras erased reincarnation concept from cultural memory. History marched on—the Renaissance, the split of church by the Reformation, and the Industrial Revolution transformed the West, but reincarnation did not figure into the world-view paradigm. And maybe that was a good thing.

Cruel Karma
It is well-known that Eastern religions incorporate the concept of reincarnation. For me, personally, seeing some of the societies that have resulted from the reincarnation-based religions is a major reason not to embrace reincarnation. I remember reading a story in the National Geographic. A reporter sat in a rickety boat with a group of East Indians, bobbing down a river. A small boy fell in the river and was drowning. The reporter moved to save the boy’s life, but the people in the boat stopped him. They claimed he’d be interfering with karma. The boy died and no one lifted a finger to help. I remember thinking, “if that’s what believing in reincarnation is about, forget it.”

Karma has spawned complacency in the East, an acceptance of the status quo to the point of inertia. Caste systems still exist that forbid the lower castes to rise from poverty. Only the filthiest of jobs and servitude are available to them. The diseased and disabled go untreated because their condition is considered their deserved karma. As a Western person, that mindset is unacceptable. Yet, I’ve had a fascination with the philosophy for decades. Maybe Eastern culture wasn’t the only way to view reincarnation.

Way back in my college days, I experienced an epiphany. I remember being alone in my dorm room. I’d been reading some sort of philosophical material, pondering the mystery of reincarnation. Lying down on an unpadded carpet, my knees were raised and I inhaled deep breaths, allowing my mind to quiet. In the timeless moments of meditation, I received an insight that has stayed with me for over thirty years: The basic idea of reincarnation is valid. Souls do incarnate on the earthly plane multiple times. The older societies of the East understood this, but they perverted the basic truths of reincarnation. They created a caste system to keep a few people at the top of society and the majority of others at the bottom, using karma as an excuse to punish and exploit. Karmic justice has been twisted into every conceivable adulterated version to keep people from bettering their lots in life. It also makes people complacent, thinking that even if they don’t accomplish much in this life, they can always try again in another life. Reincarnation was hidden from the West because humans hadn’t handled it well. If you believe you only have one life to live before meeting eternal judgment, you are motivated to put your best foot forward. You strive for perfection. Believing in reincarnation isn’t necessary for a positive human existence. Many people live more productively without the knowledge. That revelation stuck in my mind—reincarnation is valid, but many people live more productive lives without understanding it. Had the Almighty purposely veiled the truth from the Western world after seeing the negative consequences of its knowledge in the East?

Mystics and Therapists
A new concept of reincarnation began emerging in the last century through the work of therapists and modern mystics. As far back as the 1890’s a Frenchman named Colonel Albert de Rochas used hypnosis to regress patients to previous lives. In 1954 an amateur hypnotist, Morey Bernstein, regressed Colorado housewife Virginia Tighe back to nineteenth century Ireland and revealed her memories as Bridey Murphy. Worldwide attention spawned Come As You Were Parties and controversy about the case rages on today via the Internet. My introduction to reincarnation came in the 1970’s through the books of Jess Stearn on the twentieth century seer, Edgar Cayce.

Billed “the sleeping prophet,” Cayce gave over two thousand well-documented readings during the span of more than two decades. Once Cayce entered a trance sleep state, his wife would tell him the name and location of a patient. He would locate the individual, diagnose ailments and proceed to suggest treatments. Though most of Cayce’s work dealt with health issues, references to reincarnation popped up in the readings. Interestingly, Cayce himself did not initially believe in reincarnation. Raised in the rural South of the early twentieth century, Cayce was steeped in the old time religion. A devout Christian, he taught a Sunday school class for over forty years. The first references to reincarnation in his sessions disturbed the young Edgar Cayce and drove him to his Bible for answers. Over the course of time, he incorporated reincarnation with his Christian faith, but he didn’t belabor it. In fact, he discouraged wasting time or energy on mere curiosity of past lives. And to find that ye only lived, died and were buried under the cherry tree in Grandmother’s garden does not make thee one whit better neighbor, citizen, mother or father!2 Reincarnation made sense to many Western innovators and thinkers of the last two hundred years: Benjamin Franklin, Victor Hugo, Frederick the Great, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Henry Ford, Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, and General George Patton.

Past-Life Therapy
For the last fifty years, highly degreed professionals have been exploring reincarnation through clinical studies. In the 1960’s Dr. Helen Wambach began a ten-year study of past-life recalls using hypnosis in 1,088 patients. Initially hoping to debunk reincarnation, instead she became a firm believer. Dr. Ian Stevenson devoted forty years to the study of “spontaneous” memories of children between the ages of three to seven in an effort to “prove” reincarnation. Funded by the inventor of the Xerox machine, Dr. Stevenson traveled the world on the trail of children recalling verifiable recent past lives. By 1987 he’d published 65 detailed cases, largely from reincarnation-friendly nations. The children remembered intimate details of former families and homes. Upon traveling to the places of their former existence, they could pick out landmarks and identify family and friends. They
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From The Essential Edgar Cayce by Mark Thurston, Ph.D.

often detailed the events of their deaths. 3 As a meticulous academic, Dr. Stevenson wrote copious books and journals on the subject. Though Dr. Stevenson’s work was voluminous, it was also tedious and thus, failed to gain popular notoriety. Paradigm-busting isn’t for sissies and the scoffers remained firmly in their positions. Make a stand for reincarnation and be ready to be labeled a kook. Shirley MacLaine was the butt of jokes for decades.

It took a Western psychiatrist to give reincarnation a hint of credibility. In 1988, Dr. Brian Weiss released his now-classic Many Lives, Many Masters. With impeccable credentials from Columbia University and Yale Medical School, Dr. Weiss brought respectability to the reincarnation mindset. His book chronicles the first patient, Catherine, who led him from standard psychotherapy to hypnotic pre-birth regression. When orthodox therapy failed to reveal the root causes of Catherine’s problems, he was forced to delve into past -life relationships and traumas. The story illustrates the negative baggage many of us evidently carry from previous lives. It puts a whole new slant on our troubled relationships or mysterious phobias. What Dr. Weiss and other past life therapists have discovered is that sometimes simply illuminating the root experience may cause a phobia to disappear. The investigation of reincarnation turned from trying to “prove” a philosophy to becoming a tool for healing. In 1980 a group of trail-blazing therapists banded together to form the International Association for Regression Research and Therapies. And as the years ticked by, the queen of popular culture, Oprah Winfrey, legitimized reincarnation further by featuring therapists like Dr. Weiss, Carol Bowman

(www.childpastlives.org) and Gary Zukav (The Seat of the Soul) on her daily show offering their spins on the ancient concept.

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Children Who Remember Previous Lives by Ian Stevenson, M.D.

Between Lives
The search for knowledge continues with the work of Dr. Michael Newton (Journey of Souls) and Dr. Linda Backman (Bringing Your Soul to Light) using hypnotherapy to explore not only past lives, but between lives. Data from thousands of clients comes together to reveal multidimensional realities we might recognize as “heaven” or “the other side.” We all evidently have the ability to access information forever recorded in Akashic Records or the Book of Life, as some believe the Bible refers to life histories. I picture some great server in the sky—a God-created Internet. Newton and Backman present the idea that each of us possesses a distinct personality and ego that peels away in the transformation of death. It’s similar to the huma n experience. We’re constantly transforming from one stage of life to another. I’m no longer a ten-year-old child, yet the essence of that child remains in my memory and identity. Beyond this life experience, I’ll “cast off the mortal coil” as they used t o say, yet the essence of “me” will continue in other dimensions. Because I am so aware of unseen energy bodies, this is only a very small mental leap for me. Our various lives are like a strand of pearls, each separate, yet united by a common thread—our soul. Those therapists’ books present a picture of an enduring soul that incarnates again and again within a very orderly system. Common threads are soul families, teachers and guides, soul mates, and chosen challenges (i.e. disability, poverty, difficult relationships). We evidently are given a pre-life set of choices and areas to work on for our soul growth. Free will is very much in evidence as we make decisions and deal with the consequences of those actions. The work of the hypnotherapists has provided a new model of reincarnation for the twentyfirst century. It’s no longer an import from the East. You don’t have to be linked to Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism or any religion to incorporate an acceptance of re-birth as part of life. It is not necessary to adopt the Eastern philosophy of harsh karmic justice--born low-caste, destined to stay low-caste. Admittedly, as a Christian I have a lot of unanswered questions about Christ and prayer and basic beliefs that are never addressed in the scientifically presented case histories. But, given the challenges of my confrontation with a past-life connection, the books gave me a new world view.

Karmic Christianity
My basic understanding of life is that we exist before birth in another dimension and incarnate on the earthly plane for personal and corporate growth. By “corporate growth” I mean our part in the whole human experience. Yes, we come as individuals, but we are also part of a family, a community, a country, a planet. The decisions we make have ripple effects on countless others, for good or evil. It’s important to strive for improvement and grasp the life lessons coming our way. Complacency about simply catching the next life is a big mistake. The concept of “karma” is fundamental to the theory of reincarnation. It is a cosmic law of cause and effect. We reap what we sow…what goes around comes around…do unto others what you would have them do unto you. A simplistic view is that good works will render “positive karma” and bad works will bring forth “negative karma.” Of course, human nature being what it is, most of us are stacking up a lot of “negative karma” without much hope of redemption from our own good works. This is where becoming a Christian can get us off the endless wheel of karmic retribution. I see no problem with being a Christian and retaining a belief in the process of reincarnation. If anything, it makes the concept of Christ “washing away our sins” an even greater gift of God’s grace. What if the Christ spirit releases us from multiple life times of “sin” or “bad karma”? How much greater is the meaning of “cast all your cares on me.” Christ becomes the intermediary bridging the gap of numerous incarnations. And how wonderful to believe as a follower of the Way of Love, I can stop incurring karmic debt by following the righteous life Christ embodied and taught. Christ taught “the Kingdom is within.” We are each part of the whole, eternal One. Christians are often overcome with emotion when they realize they are loved by their Lord, despite shameful deeds they’ve perpetrated on others in this life. How much greater is the forgiveness and healing when we understand divine grace dispels karmic debt from lifetime after lifetime! I just may change my Facebook religious status to “Christian Reincarnationist.” Think it will start a trend?

End of Excerpt Ever-Flowing Streams: Tapping into Healing Energy Available at: Ebook Amazon.com Paperback Lulu.com © 2010 by Dana Taylor All rights reserved

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