Questions about Reincarnation
This week, I read an absolutely intriguing book entitled Old Souls by Tom Shroder. This book details the journey of one man as he seeks to uncover the truth about reincarnation and the validity of many stories we hear. However, instead of talking about this book and relating more of the anecdotes we have heard before, I would like to address some questions I still have remaining about the topic.
It is hard to listen to the thousands, millions, of stories detailing a person’s recollection of a previous life and fully deny the idea of reincarnation. The evidence alone can come from the multitude of similar cases. I do not doubt that to many people, these experiences are real. However, I have a difficult time aligning them with schemas I have already made about death and our surviving consciousness.
To begin, I wonder about the role the body plays in a person’s life. Obviously, they are our vessels this concrete reality, but do our physical bodies dictate our consciousness in any way? This question mainly comes up because children often recall their past lives, but lose their memory of it as they grow up. If a soul, or consciousness, is reincarnated in a person, shouldn’t that soul be completely indistinguishable to the person it previously belonged to? The only thing that has changed is the physical vessel, so the reincarnated person should be a replication of the first. Also, if memories are intact initially, why do they fade away with age? My concept of souls and consciousness was that it remained relatively constant and cannot dissipate or remake itself. However, if evidence shows people who were reincarnated become separate beings, the soul must be influenced by the body it takes on.
Going along with this, why is it that certain people who have experienced reincarnation have body marks similar to those from the supposed previous life? For example, in the movie we watched in class, one of the children who spoke about being a NYC cop had a heart condition eerily similar to the heart trauma that caused the police officer to die. Why should it matter if the bodies show any similarities? Everything we have read in this class points to the idea that our consciousness is on another level than our bodies and can live on without them. So because they seem so independent of each other, why do similarities on bodies provide evidence for reincarnated souls?
Another question I have about reincarnation is what is the point? I understand that many souls have the choice (or maybe not) to come back to Earth because they need a chance to do something over, learn something new, or get something right. However, in the book Old Souls, they talk about a woman who experiences great anxiety without apparent cause. Under hypnosis, she describes how she used to live as many different people, including an Egyptian woman, a Welsh sailor, a Germman aviator, and many others. She came to figure out that her anxiety was rooted in real fears she had from her previous lives. I cannot help but thinking that if she was sent back to Earth to resolve something, why was she experiencing anxiety at all? It seems as though her reincarnation was self-defeating because it was causing the anxiety and preventing her from growing as a person. In addition, the teenage girl from the video was pained because she was not with her true family. If she came back to finish or learn something, ideally she should be in an environment that would allow that.
Although I question the process of reincarnation, I come back to the same philosophy I have talked about many times before. If the idea of reincarnation brings people hope and joy, then I think they should believe in it. It is a concept that can be seen in a quote from Dr. Ian Stevenson, a researcher on reincarnation. When asked what he was trying to accomplish with his work, he replied, “world peace…I’m quite serious. If you removed the fear of death, the world would be stood on its head. There would no reason for war.”