Have you ever had that feeling of déjà vu in a place you have never been to before? A feeling that you have been there before? Have you ever had the feeling of already knowing a person you meet for the first time? Have you ever felt that you know which way to go in a place you have never visited before? Have you experienced the feeling that you have had the exact same conversation, word for word with one of your friends? All these questions for which we cannot find concrete explanations could be memories from our past lives. To find the roots of reincarnation, it is essential to speak of the soul. Let us begin in Ancient Egypt.
The Egyptians were fascinated by death. Their tradition believed that death is a new aspect of life, a new birth to an endless and infinite life. They selected objects to take with them in their tombs and practiced the weighing of the soul (a synonym of the heart for them). Osiris was the representative, The Lord of reincarnation. In ancient Greece, in the sixth century BCE, three philosophers; Pythagoras, Plato and Aristotle had their own vision on death and reincarnation.
The meeting point between the ancient Egyptians and the ancient Greek is the mystic Hermes Trismegistus, who in many writings and beliefs is thought to be a reincarnation of the Egyptian God Thoth. The meaning of the name “Thoth” is “time” and “thought”. One of Thoth’s attributed gifts, was the art of writing, of which he is purported to being the inventor, as well as being the inventor of the 365-day Calendar. Thoth was a font of knowledge and wisdom and as worshipped as a kind of “all knowing” Deity. With the head of an Ibis, he was also the god of the Moon, of Magic and of the Underworld. The spells in the Egyptian Book of the Dead are attributed to Thoth, as well as him having another 42 Scriptures attributed to him, many of which contain the Egyptian concepts on energy, time and space, the reflection of heaven and earth and writings on the afterlife, of which reincarnation is an important factor.
Legend has it that as part of the Divine plan, it was decided at a spiritual level that humans needed to evolve spiritually without his guidance. As a result, he changed his physical form into a Greek man, so that he would no longer be recognisable as Thoth. In this form he was known as Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus, otherwise known as the God Hermes, as well as being the Roman equivalent of the God Mercury. Now let us look at this from a Greek perspective. Hermes is one of the main 12 Gods and is the winged messenger who can flit between Heaven, Earth and the Underworld. His teachings include the 7 Divine Laws of Nature that deal with all the aspects of life in terms of philosophy, energy, spirituality and material existence. Legend has it that it was Hermes that taught The Greek Philosopher Pythagoras his fundamental wisdom of science and energetic beliefs, although many others date the existence to Thoth to around or before the time of Moses (born 2368 days after the creation of the World as we know it, that’s is 1393 BCE according to Jewish writings). Whichever way we look at it, the writings of Thoth, Hermes Trismegistus or Hermes are the basis of many belief systems on life, death and reincarnation.
believed that a countless number of souls floated in the air. Plato thought that after living a first life, the soul was reincarnated into the body of a woman, and then that of an animal, if the woman had not honoured the Gods. Aristotle said that the soul cannot exist without the body. Only the the intellectual heart of the soul is immortal. For Greek thought, reincarnation is belief that as well as ultimately being an unavoidable process from which we need to free ourselves, it is also a chance for the afterlife and gives freedom of the soul in this respect.
addresses the soul as the "Self" which changes bodies in order to ultimately achieve true freedom, known as Nirvana. A soul may live many times in many different bodies and in any different times, each time learning a lesson to progress into the next life. The Bhagavad Gita tells us "Just as a man discards his worn out clothes and puts on new clothing, the soul discards worn out bodies and then wears new ones". The laws of Karma play an important role in this whole process of renewal. Some people believe that when the soul is within a human body, it can only "see" its current life. In a state of a pure soul, when the soul is free of a body, it is able to see all of its lives and make decisions, without the restriction of a body and its human emotions and physical restraints, of how it may need to progress.
"the therapeutic and spiritual goal of Buddhism is to break free from the cycle of reincarnation ." We also find the concept of Karma and Nirvana in Buddhism as well.
During the first centuries BC, the idea of reincarnation is also commonly found in the Jewish Kabbalah. These teachings incorporate the concepts of good and evil. The souls of the righteous meet God after death, those of sinners go to a place of torment. Those in between, spend a few months in torment for a chance to return to earth.
According to recent statistics, twenty-five percent of people baptised in the West, believe in reincarnation. Some of the early Christians believed it too and this belief was classified as being heretical for political reasons. St. Augustine was a heavy influence on the Church. In his Confessions he writes: "Tell me, Lord ... tell me, tell me whether my infancy succeeded another age of mine, which had at that time perished? Was it that which I passed in my mother's womb? For of that something has been made known to me, and I have myself seen women with child. And what, O God, my joy, preceded that life? Was I, indeed, anywhere, or anybody? For no one can tell me these things, neither father nor mother, nor the experience of others, nor my own memory." Jesus said in the Gospel of John: "Yes, I say to you, this is the truth: no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." Certain Christians feel that reincarnation is compatible with their faith and beliefs.
"How can you disbelieve in Allah when you were lifeless and He brought you to life; He will cause you to die, then He will bring you back to life, and then to Him you will be returned".
was born in 1877, considered one of the greatest mystics of the United States. With the gift of prediction among others, Cayce said: "Each of us has a series of lives in order to evolve spiritually and regain full consciousness of our divine nature”. They exclude the transmigration of the soul, that humans could reincarnate in animal form. In essence, they provide a philosophical framework to the past, focusing on how to fulfil our present life: we must live for the moment, while developing our souls and helping each other. According to Cayce, the paths that we have taken have led us to where we are right now. The essential thing is not who we were or what we did before, but how we react to opportunities and events that occur now, right here. Indeed, it is our choices and actions of the moment, chosen by our free will that really matter. Does believing in the theory of reincarnation give us the illusion that we will save ourselves through our own efforts? Is reincarnation a natural circumstance of the spiritual evolution of the human being? Does Reincarnation allow our soul to progress? Does the process of reincarnation allow us progressive maturity and escalating wisdom as lives progress? Can the ideas of the creation of original sin, of purgatory and of salvation and these kinds of belief be rethought through the acceptance of the concept of reincarnation? Does reincarnation, like the resurrection, give hope for a better life and to one day end our suffering?
Of course through these kinds of questions, each of us can find our own answer. The important thing is to take hold of what works for us today. We have seen that through the centuries, man has always questioned the notion of the soul and reincarnation. As long as we ask questions we open our minds to the meaning of our lives and what lies beyond it