Reincarnation: Promise of Immortality? Or, Terror Management?

3-Year-Old Remembers Past Life, Identifies Murderer and Location of Body [1]

Dalai_Lama_boy
14th dalai lama boy

A 3-year-old boy in the Golan Heights region near the border of Syria and Israel said he was murdered with an axe in his previous life. He showed village elders where the murderer buried his body, and sure enough they found a man’s skeleton there. He also showed the elders where the murder weapon was found, and upon digging, they did indeed find an axe there.

Fire Chief Investigates Past Life as Civil War General: Group Reincarnation? [2]

Retired Assistant Fire Chief Jeffrey Keene stumbled upon evidence he says suggests he was Civil War General John B. Gordon in a past life. Furthermore, Keene’s fire crew seem to strongly resemble men who fought under Gordon.

A rash of reincarnation stories has been spreading through my Google RSS alerts. Many of these stories originated with the Epoch Times, an international newspaper, and from one journalist. Reincarnation stories are fascinating and strange. I’m open to the possibility there’s some unusual phenomena occurring. Do these stories demonstrate reincarnation?

Let’s dig deeper behind the phenomena and look at the evidence being presented.

Who believes in reincarnation?

from Pew Forum Survey on Religion and Public Life December 2009
from Pew Forum Survey on Religion and Public Life December 2009
  • 24% or 75 million Americans and 22% of Christians say they believe in reincarnation, according to 2009 PEW poll [3];
  • 25% of the world population or 1 billion Hindus, 350 million Buddhists, and millions of Eastern/New Age believers believe in reincarnation;
  • Of the 7 billion people alive today, it’s been estimated that a total of 106 billion people have ever been born [4]. Where are the 99.6 billion missing souls if reincarnation is true?
Fájl: Samsara-elme, the wheel of rebirth - Wikipédia
Fájl: Samsara-elme, the wheel of rebirth – Wikipédia

The Hindu’s believe that reincarnation, is the soul’s evolutionary journey back to God, and provides repeated opportunities for growth, achievement, and fulfillment not possible in one brief lifespan of earthly existence [5]. When I was ordained a monk for 14 years, this is what I thought and tried to believe.

In the gospel, Buddha supposedly said: “There is a rebirth of karma; there is reincarnation. This rebirth, this reincarnation, this reappearance of the conformations is continuous and depends on the law of cause and effect [6]”. Buddhism emerged out of Hinduism, and adopted the doctrine of reincarnation.

Assumptions about reincarnation:

  • Death is scary. Reincarnation belief is a kind of terror management?
  • Multiple lives, more chances, and immortality. Hope, if we screw up this life we get another chance!
  • Soul, like energy in a light bulb, has to go somewhere upon death. Right?
  • Soul reincarnates and exists beyond bodily death. Like cycles or seasons of nature?
  • Memories, personalities, karmas, and identities of our self. These stay with soul?
  • The evidence for reincarnation consists of stories of past lives and of spiritual authorities.

Evidence presented for reincarnation

Boy Identifies His Past Life Axe Murderer: Behind The Story
Typically, the evidence comes from children who “remember”, like the 3 year-old boy in Golan Heights who identified his “past life” murderer [1]. This story was related by a regression therapist Trutz Hardo [7]. Dr. Lasch, who died in 2009, had recounted these astounding events to Hardo. A second hand story. The Druse, the ethnic group this boy belonged to, believe in reincarnation and that they are always reborn as Druse. This boy’s story was likely stretched to fit the beliefs of the Druse parents and the good Doctor Hardo’s past life regression beliefs.

Superman in Samsara, by theory-of-everything
Superman in Samsara, by theory-of-everything

Fire Chief Who Was A Civil War Hero-General: “Not Yet” A Psychic Party
What about the uncanny “coincidences” this Fire Chief discovered which he believes shows he is the reincarnation of Civil War General Gordon? The Chief, at a friend’s party, talked to a psychic. She asked him if he believed in reincarnation. As they were talking, the words “not yet,” appeared strongly in his mind and he was compelled to say them. Later, he went home and found a Civil War magazine that he had bought but never read. With a new interest in the subject, he decided to flip through it, and as he skimmed the pages, the words “Not yet” in quotation marks jumped out at him [2].

Really? Among other uncanny “coincidences, this “not yet” is evidence he was General Gordon? And, talking with a psychic and looking for evidence to confirm his beliefs, he would connect the dots and see patterns to convince himself he was a celebrated Civil War General. Funny that he didn’t discover he was an abused runaway slave or a nobody Southern spinstress. Everyone seems to want to be the reincarnation of a heroic and noble soul, a Mary Queen of Scots, a Charlemagne, or a Chief Geronimo! No one seems to come up with stories of reincarnation as a lowly piss boy, a medieval whore, or an Adolf Hitler?

Stories of reincarnation and past lives offer an abundance of hope with an absence of evidence. Feelings and anecdotes of unexplained coincidences are not evidence [8]. I understand the hope and desire for having more than one chance to live a life. But hope and wishful-thinking is not proof. Not close. As a former yoga monk turned skeptic, I confess I used to believe in reincarnation– in that past life.

works cited

[1] 3-Year-Old Remembers Past Life, Identifies Murderer and Location of Body, Tara MacIsaac, Epoch Times, May 17, 2014

[2] Fire Chief Investigates Past Life as Civil War General: Group Reincarnation? Tara MacIsaac, Epoch Times, May 20, 2014

[3] Eastern, New Age Beliefs Widespread, Many Americans Mix Multiple Faiths, PEW Research Religion Project, Dec 2009

[4] Fact or Fiction?: Living People Outnumber the Dead, Scientific American, 2007

[5] Yogananda, Paramahansa. Where There Is Light, chap 2

[6] 500 BC, BUDDHA, THE GOSPEL

[7] Three-Year-Old Who Convicted His Murderer: A regression therapy case study by Trutz Hardo

[8] Stories Of Past Lives Prove Reincarnation Is Real, 50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True, Guy P Harrison

The Reincarnation Blues, Stuff to Blow Your Mind Podcast.  The metaphysics of reincarnation are nothing short of enthralling, from the notion of an immortal soul drifting through myriad life forms to the intimidating Wheel of Samsara with its heavenly and hellish realms. Why does this version of immortality appeal to us? And what, if anything, can science tell us about the survival of the soul?

Creator of Skeptic Meditations
11 comments
  1. Like you, I have a real problem with the reincarnation issue, even after personal experiences and years in Asia.

    I did several posts on reincarnation:
    http://triangulations.wordpress.com/2013/11/11/on-reincarnation/

    My reincarnation dream was not glorious, I was shot as a traitor or a loser by Nazi soldiers — I might have been a Nazi myself — well, if I believed in the stuff. I’ve had reincarnation validating experiences and seen ghosts and believe in neither. You and I sound very similar — except for 14 years as a monk!!! 😉

    You may enjoy the graphic I did showing the population issue you discussed:
    http://triangulations.wordpress.com/2010/08/23/reincarnation-problem-1/

  2. @Sabio: I just read several of your posts on reincarnation, after you sent me the links. Good stuff. I’ve replied with my comments to those on your entertaining and informative website. I’ll be reading more and added triangulations to my blog roll on this site, and I recommend it to others.

  3. Cool thanx.
    I have replied to your comments — hope you are following the replies by email.

  4. “Unaccomplished activities of past lives are also one of the causes for reincarnation. Some of us reincarnate to complete the unfinished tasks of previous birth. The is evident from my own story of reincarnation:
    “My most Revered Guru of my previous life His Holiness Maharaj Sahab, 3rd Spiritual Head of Radhasoami Faith had revealed this secret to me during trance like state of mine. This was sort of REVELATION.
    HE told me, “Tum Sarkar Sahab Ho” (You are Sarkar Sahab). Sarkar Sahab was one of the most beloved disciple of His Holiness Maharj Sahab. Sarkar Sahab later on became Fourth of Spiritual Head Radhasoami Faith.
    Since I don’t have any direct realization of it so I can not claim the extent of its correctness. But it seems to be correct. During my previous birth I wanted to sing the song of ‘Infinite’ (Agam Geet yeh gawan chahoon tumhri mauj nihara, mauj hoi to satguru soami karoon supanth vichara) but I could not do so then since I had to leave the mortal frame at a very early age. But through the unbounded Grace and Mercy of my most Revered Guru that desire of my past birth is being fulfilled now.”
    I am one the chief expounder and supporter of Gravitation Force Theory of God. This is most scientific and secular theory of God. This is the Theory of Universal Religion. I have given Higher Theory of Everything. Sometimes back I posted this as comments to a blog on:
    ‘Fighting of the Cause of Allah by Governing a Smart Mathematics Based on Islamic Teology’
    By Rohedi of Rohedi Laboratories, Indonesia. Rohedi termed my higher theory of everything more wonderful than which has been developed by Stephen Hawking. Some details are quoted below:
    rohedi
    @anirudh kumar satsangi
    Congratulation you have develop the higher theory of everything more wonderful than which has been developed by Stephen Hawking. Hopefully your some views for being considered for Unified Field Theory are recognized by International Science Community, hence I soon read the fundamental aspect proposed by you.
    I have posted my comments to the Blog of Syed K. Mirza on Evolutionary Science vs. Creation Theory, and Intellectual Hypocrisy. Syed Mirza seems to be a very liberal muslim. He responded to my comments as mentioned below.
    “Many thanks for your very high thought explanations of God.
    You said:
    “Hence it can be assumed that the Current of Chaitanya (Consciousness) and Gravitational Wave are the two names of the same Supreme Essence (Seed) which has brought forth the entire creation. Hence it can be assumed that the source of current of consciousness and gravitational wave is the same i.e. God or ultimate creator.
    (i) Gravitation Force is the Ultimate Creator, Source of Gravitational Wave is God”
    Whatever you call it, God is no living God of any religion. Yes, when I call it “Mother Nature” is the God generated from all Natural forces and Gravitational force is the nucleus of all forces or we can presume that Gravitation is the ultimate guiding principle of this Mother Nature we call it non-living God unlike living personal God of religions. I can not believe any personal God would do so much misery created for its creation. Hence, only non-living natural God can explain everything in the Universe. When we think of any living personal God, things do not ad up!”
    I have also discovered the mathematical expression for emotional quotient (E.Q.) and for spiritual quotient (S.Q.).
    Austrian Scientist Rudolf Steiner says,
    “Just as an age was once ready to receive the Copernican theory of the universe, so is our age ready for the idea of reincarnation to be brought into the general consciousness of humanity”.

  5. @ Anirudh: Your revelations sound intriguing.

    How do you mean “sort of” revelation?
    You also say that your guru[?] “revealed this secret to me during trance like state of mine”.

    You mention you have a theory of everything…Do you have technical education and practice in the professional field of advanced physics or mathematics?

    I still don’t see how your comments can help me understand any better or believe the idea of reincarnation. I’m very familiar with Hinduism, reincarnation, and I’ve intensely practiced raja yoga while I was ordained a Brahmachari monk 14 years in the monastic order of Self-Realization Fellowship founded by Swami Paramahansa Yogananda.

    I am doubtful there is any disembodied “essence” or soul that can incarnate.

  6. Scott, I also practice meditation (Surat Shabd Yoga) regularly. I have sufficient education to understand and explain theory of everything. According to Hindu philosophy and also of Radhasoami Faith, soul can incarnate. You should have no doubt.

  7. Scott, it was revealed to me by Guru of my previous birth which simply means that I succeeded Him and became Guru of Radhasoami Faith in my previous birth.

  8. @Anirudh: I asked about your educational and scientific qualifications in your comment below because –

    1) You claimed to have theories that are “more wonderful” than Stephen Hawking. And, you seem to have come to these “theories” by way of revelation.

    2) You seem to be claiming your “theories” are scientific — “A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that is acquired through the scientific method, and repeatedly confirmed through observation and experimentation.”

    If you are claiming your theories are truly “scientific” (using the definition above), then please tell us briefly how you’ve well-substantiated your claims.

  9. @Anirudh: Is Anirudh Kumar Satsangi your real name? Apparently, the guru/successor of the organization you mention is “Gurinder Singh – Master, 1990–present“.

    Doubt and skeptical inquiry are the best methods for examining extraordinary claims and deciding what is the most reliable way to “knowledge”. Of, course google searches can help too :).

  10. Yes Scott, Anirudh Kumar Satsangi is my real name in this life. Guru means spiritual guide. We don’t have any connection with the organization of respected Gurinder Singh ji. I am connected with Radhasoami Satsang Sabha, Dayalbagh.

  11. I agree Scott, doubt is the backbone of scientific searches.

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