I am forever curious and have questions about all kinds of things. I want to understand, and yet there are things we are not meant to fully understand, at least not in our limited human experience.
Reincarnation is one of those topics. Before you run screaming in the opposite direction, certain I have flipped off the edge, hear me out. For years, and according to Christian indoctrination, anyone who believes in reincarnation needs to be excommunicated, considered a heretic, or worse, a demon. Exploring the world of spiritual philosophy has whet my appetite to possibilities Christianity has forbidden. But, do we ask why certain topics are forbidden?
What do most of us know about reincarnation? In general, reincarnation is dying in this lifetime and returning as something or someone else in another; a sort of recycling of the spirit. The word is derived from the Latin, meaning ‘to enter the flesh again.’ Reincarnation is predominantly thought to be a Hindu-Buddhist philosophy, although other philosophies have their versions, as well. The idea is to become better with each successive lifetime, to learn and grow without advantage of knowledge from previous lifetimes. Sounds nearly impossible!
But did you know reincarnation is also accepted within Judaism? The words reincarnation and resurrection are often used interchangeably in Judaism, and the philosophies vary somewhat within Judaism. The concept of reincarnation is usually associated with the Kabbalah, the mystical branch of Judaism, and was prevalent in the Middle Ages, however, its origins go back much farther. Originally, like most of the texts, the Kabbalah was an oral history passed down through the years until it landed in written form. Those who practiced mystical Judaism were not the only Jews who believed in reincarnation, however.
The Pharisees and Sadducees were predominate players in Biblical texts regarding Jesus; the Pharisees believed in resurrection and reincarnation, whereas the Sadducees did not, as recorded in scripture and through Flavius Josephus, a first century historian. Nicodemus, a Pharisee, came to Jesus at night to ask about resurrection, what Christianity has skewed to be taught as being “born again”. Jesus had told Nicodemus that man must be ‘born again’; born of water and the spirit. Christianity teaches this by equating water with the physical birth, and the spiritual birth occurring when the Holy Spirit descends upon those who recognize their sinful nature, ask forgiveness, and accept Jesus as Savior; a pivotal doctrine of Christianity. Most teachers of Christianity explain Nicodemus was “confused” by the words of Jesus, but part of the story is conveniently left out. Why would a member of the High Priests be confused by a discussion on resurrection? We are taught Nicodemus sought Jesus in the dark of night, implying he didn’t want anyone to know he was talking with Jesus, and perhaps he didn’t given the fact there was no love lost between Jesus and the religious leaders of the day. However, Nicodemus’s question would have seemed reasonable to any Pharisee; perhaps Nicodemus was getting clarification, maybe because he wanted unequivocal proof his sect was right and the Sadducee’s wrong.
We are taught the Pharisees believed in resurrection, with reincarnation being conveniently left out, yet the words, at that time, were used interchangeably. Christianity teaches resurrection in relation to Jesus and those who accept Christ as Savior, and reincarnation as part of witchcraft and/or paganism. In fact, the Apostle Paul also belonged to the Pharisees, and believed in reincarnation.
The intentionally hidden doesn’t stay hidden forever, and in 1945 the Gnostic Gospels were discovered, dated as written earlier than the Biblical Gospels, putting a different spin on the 66 books known as the Bible. The Gnostics were a sect of Christians ultimately hunted down and burned at the stake by the Roman Orthodox church. The Gnostics believed knowledge came through the heart, or in communion with the Divine Spirit, whereas the church taught faith as the basis of belief. Gnostics may have considered themselves Christians, for lack of a better description, yet they likely are more closely associated in theology to those subscribing to spiritual pursuit. In the Gnostic Gospels, resurrection and reincarnation are separate concepts; resurrection akin to a spiritual awakening, while one is alive. Spiritual awakening is sought through meditation and study; enlightenment, in other words. Reincarnation occurs because a soul did not awaken during a physical life, therfore, needs to return in order to learn. The Gospel of Philip, one of the Gnostic Gospels, says it this way, “People who say they will first die and then arise are mistaken. If they do not first receive resurrection while they are alive, once they have died they will receive nothing.”
Gnosticism has been around for centuries and will likely endure for centuries to come. And, for the sake of correct word usage, a Gnostic and an Agnostic are not one and the same, as many believe. Gnostics base their interpretation of the universe and the Divine on knowledge, whereas an Agnostic reveres science to the point the existence of God is in question. One of the more recognizable names in recent history who studied Gnosticism was Carl Jung, the revered early 20th century Swiss psychologist. Many who study spiritualism are familiar with his writings about archetypes. Jung believed archetypes represented universal patterns and images we all share.
So, what is the lesson from all these words? Curiosity doesn’t give us a “go directly to hell” card in the game of life, and it’s okay to learn and explore other possibilities. I cannot accept that curiosity is inherently evil, and suspect the ultimate goal of all subjects ‘forbidden’ has more to do with controlling others, than it does protecting them. Stay tuned…..