What the heck is reincarnation
Inspired & Blessed

What the heck is reincarnation?

Feb 7, 2024, 12:28 AM
Bob Acebedo

Bob Acebedo

Columnist

The recent episode of the TV news magazine program, KMJS (Kapuso Mo Jessica Sojo) featured a story about a lady from Davao City who visited the National Museum in downtown Manila and got the surprise of her life when a portrait almost perfectly resembled her face. The program host poked a thought: Is this a veritable case of reincarnation?

Pray thee, hence, is reincarnation really plausible? What, curiously so, is the phenomenon of reincarnation?

It is said that even a good number of Christians – about 25%, according to some sources – believe in reincarnation.

Reincarnation, which from Latin literally means “to be made flesh again,” is the belief (philosophical or religious) that after death the soul lives on in another body – either human or animal.

In many local religions, belief in multiple souls is common. The soul is frequently viewed as capable of leaving the body through the mouth or the nostrils and of being reborn, for example, as a bird, a butterfly, or an insect. The Venda of Southern Africa believe that when a person dies, the soul stays near the grave for a short time and then seeks a new resting place or another body – human, mammalian, or reptilian.

The major religions that hold a belief in reincarnation are Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism, which all arose in India. They all hold in common the doctrine of karma, the law of cause and effect, which states that what one does in this present life will have its effect in the next life.

For us, Catholics, reincarnation runs contrary to our beliefs. The Catechism of the Catholic Church expressly states:

“Death is the end of man’s earthly pilgrimage, of the time of grace and mercy which God offers him so as to work out his earthly life in keeping with the divine plan, and to decide his ultimate destiny. When the ‘single course of our earthly life’ is completed, we shall not return to other earthly lives: ‘It is appointed for men to die once’ (Heb. 9:27). There is no ‘reincarnation’ after death.” (CCC 1013).

In defense of the Catholic Church’s rejection of reincarnation, author and Catholic apologist, Trent Horn – who has master’s degrees in Theology, Philosophy and Bioethics, and professor at the Holy Apostles College Seminary (Connecticut) – puts forward the following three plausible arguments against reincarnation.

1. Population argument. Horn refutes the claim made by proponents of reincarnation that new souls are never created or destroyed. Instead, souls are only “reborn” into other bodies. But, Tertullian, 3rd century Christian apologist, wrote: “If the living come from the dead, just as the dead proceed from the living, then there must always remain unchanged one and the same number of mankind” (A Treatise on the Soul 30). He noted (and modern science has confirmed) that there has been a “gradual growth of the human population." This growth can be explained only by new souls coming into existence and it conflicts with the notion of the perpetual reincarnation of the same souls into different bodies.

Also, scientists agree that life on Earth began, at the earliest, billions of years ago. This disproves the idea that souls have been reincarnating into physical bodies for all eternity.

2. Humans and animals are of different nature. Horn argues that migration of souls between human and animals is as impossible as the procreation of bodies between humans and animals – intellective soul (with its faculty of “knowing and willing”) for humans, and “sensitive” or “instinctive” soul (read: “life operative principle”) for animals. In the fourth century, St. Ambrose of Milan wrote that it would be impossible that “the soul which rules man should take on itself the nature of a beast so opposed to that of man,” or that man, “being capable of reason should be able to pass over to an irrational animal” (On Belief in the Resurrection 127).

3. Humans do not behave as if they possessed souls that live before the birth of their bodies. Horn supports this argument by quoting the third-century ecclesial writer, Tertullian: “If souls depart at different ages of human life, how is it that they come back again at one uniform age? For all men are imbued with an infant soul at their birth. But how happens it that a man who dies in old age returns to life as an infant? I ask, then, how the same souls are resumed, which can offer no proof of their identity, either by their disposition, or habits, or living?” (A Treatise on the Soul 31).

For Horn, the empirical evidence in the form of “past-lives” testimonies offered by defenders of reincarnation are not convincing enough as they only point to scanty or vague correlations, and hence cannot be considered as a “continuity of one and the same soul” (or perhaps, let me add, they can simply be taken as “interactions” between the two souls, the deceased and the one alive).

Whew, for me, I can verily find meaning in Paul’s letter to the Hebrews 9:27 – “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and is afterwards judged.”

Aptly, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God – it is not ‘produced’ by the parents – and also that it is immortal: it does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection” (CCC 366).

Peace ye, let’s make this only one life meaningful and beautiful – for “we shall pass this way but once”.

#InspiredAndBlessed #BobAcebedo #WhatTheHeckIsReincarnation #Reincarnation #Death #OpinYonColumn #OpinYon #WeTakeAStand


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