|“The soul has neither beginning nor end. [They] come into this world strengthened by the victories or weakened by the defeats of their previous lives”– Origen,183-253 A.D.|
The two major Abrahamic religions, Christianity and Islam, deny the reality of reincarnation, but looking back at history we see this denial has more political than spiritual roots. Reincarnation was taken off the Christian agenda at a church council, called by the Roman Emperor Justinian in opposition to the wishes of the Pope (whom the emperor held prisoner at the time), in Constantinople in 553 AD. It did not serve the interests of the political state to have the populace believing in the transmigration of the soul (and in the 21st century it still doesn’t). Internet sources tie in the behind-the-scenes maneuverings Justinians’s wife Theodora, who had her sights on the goal of deification no less, in securing this denial of the teachings of Origen. We are still living with the destructive consequences of this twist in humanity’s tale:
The council was called to deal with a group known as the Origenists, who believed that after a series of incarnations a soul could achieve divine status, equal to Christ. Orthodox Christians could not accept this – at the council the belief in the pre-existence of the soul was condemned, and reincarnation disappeared from Christian teachings. Debate over reincarnation – metempsychosis was the Greek term used – had raged from the time of Origen, one of early Christianity’s greatest teachers, until this politically motivated move. Since then the Church has taught that a new soul is created with each birth, and it put great effort into dispensing with every heretical Christian group that saw things differently during subsequent centuries. The Cathars, Bogomils, Albigenses, Waldenses and other ‘Free Spirit’ groups which the Church wiped out, embraced reincarnation, and indeed these persecuted groups also saw all forms of sexuality as acceptable and believed the soul could reach divine status while in the body.
Islamic teachings encourage a linear view of life too, and it seems likely that was also inspired by the needs of the political rulers more than the spiritual seekers. Some of the early Islamic Caliphs wiped out the followers of reincarnation-believing faiths, such as Manichaeism in Mesopotamia and Persia (Iran/Iraq), but belief in it remained amongst the mystical Sufis, some Shia sects and in cultures in Asia which retained some of their pre-Islamic shamanistic cultural beliefs.
Note that the oldest of the Abrahamic religions has always accepted reincarnation as part of the great mystery. It forms part of the central understanding in Kabbalah, and orthodox Judaism also acknowledges it, without emphasising it. Christians and Muslims have been manipulated and controlled by this denial of the soul for a very long time, and the motivation behind it was political.
Other religions of the world include reincarnation as a given. When challenged on this by scientist Carl Sagan, the Dalai Lama replied, “If science can disprove reincarnation, Tibetan Buddhism would abandon reincarnation… but it’s going to be mighty hard to disprove reincarnation.”
The mythologies of the ancient Middle East and the Greek and Roman empires reveal that the land of the dead was often viewed with some trepidation, in sharp contrast to the deeply ancient rooted Celtic culture of northern and central Europe. The ancient Sumerians believed in the Dark House of Death, and the mythology around their great Goddess Inanna involves her fateful visit to it. Greeks saw the Underworld as a fearsome place of darkness and silence, gloom and desolation, the Romans feared it was even worse. However, underpinning these visions was a deep faith in the soul that was inherited from the Egyptian civilisation, from which we have the Papyrus Anana, from around 1320 BCE: “Between each life is a Veil of Darkness. The doors will open at last and show us all the chambers through which our feet have wandered from the beginning…”
Classical writer Posidonius recorded that the Celts held that “the souls of men are immortal, and that after a definite numbers of years they live a second life when the soul passes to another body”. Strabo wrote that the Druids believed that “men’s souls and the universe are indestructible, although at times fire and water may prevail.” (Yes the Druids knew about climate change). Julius Caesar tells us of their belief that “souls do not suffer death, but after death pass from the one to the other”, which underpinned the Celtic warriors absolute lack of fear in battle.
Considering the bleak view of the afterlife that the Romans adopted, Christianity, with its promise of salvation and heaven, must have shone like a beacon of hope. But by removing reincarnation from its teachings, the religion made entry into heaven reliant on obeying the rules set down by its Church, condemning those it regarded as sinners to a nightmare hell.
The modern ‘faith’, science, removes the spirit world all together from the picture, and instead of judgement after death sending us to heaven or hell, we are told nothing awaits us but an obliteration of our very essence of being. In the ‘rational’ scientific age, we are still being mind-controlled, discouraged from seeking our own answers and manipulated into serving and upholding the status quo of the current politico-economic system.
Yet surveys show over and over that a third or more of people of the western world do accept reincarnation as a fact, and consistently this is the case whether people have a religious belief or not. The soul in us knows that we come here to grow – and maybe eventually reach the point of realisation of our own divinity. This is more than a one-lifetime experience we are involved in. The Kingdom of Heaven is within, said Jesus, that’s where the answers to our questions lie, and at this time of mass obsession with the external world, those that turn within will surely find what they seek.
“I died as a mineral and became a plant,
I died as a plant and rose to animal,
I died as an animal and I was Man.
Why should i fear? When was I less by dying?” – Rumi
“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Revelation 21:4 King James Version