Many years ago, during the open forum in a conference about reincarnation held in a school in Metro Manila, one student handed me a piece of paper with the following questions:
“In Catholic schools, it is taught that the human soul is individual, that is, one person is endowed with an individual soul, and so is responsible for his actions within one lifetime.
“Christ’s words in the New Testament say that one will have to answer for his actions during one lifetime.
“This seems to contradict your position that a soul can have several lifetimes and is given a chance to perfect himself progressively. How can several persons be held responsible for a number of lifetimes which may be bad one time, good in another and so-so in a third?
“What is the Church’s official position on the Transmigration of Soul?’’
Before I answer the questions, let me make it clear that I don’t want to engage in a debate about religion, politics or sex, because everyone considers himself or herself an expert on these topics and I respect that.
Allow me first to respond to the last question. As far as I know, during the early years of Christianity, there was no distinction between the concepts of “transmigration of soul’’ and “reincarnation.’’ In fact, the word “reincarnation’’ did not exist then.
But “transmigration of souls,’’ or “metempsychosis,’’ was held by Origen, considered the greatest theologian in the first century of Christianity.
The belief in metempsychosis, or the preexistence of the soul, was condemned by the Christian Church in the second council of Constantinople in 553 A.D. under the reign of Emperor Justinian. By condemning or declaring the teaching of Origen to be anathema, such belief, which implied reincarnation, was in effect also condemned or anathematized.
St. Augustine and St. Jerome, who were doctors of the Church, believed and accepted the teachings of Origen, until such were condemned by the Church in the said Council.
Same spirit, different bodies
Now, the other questions are based on wrong assumptions about reincarnation. Reincarnation is the belief that the same entity or spirit may occupy different bodies in subsequent incarnations or lifetimes.
It is still the same spirit occupying the different bodies and, therefore, he is still the same entity who is solely responsible for his actions committed in one lifetime or in previous ones.
It is like changing one’s clothes. If you change your clothes tomorrow, will you be a different person? No, you are the same person in a different attire.
In the same manner, a soul may occupy a different body in a future life, but it is the same soul acting within that different body. Because of this, it is true that we are solely responsible for our actions in a given lifetime or many lifetimes.
I am aware of the fact that in this Christian country, majority of the people do not believe in reincarnation or the concept that a person may have several lifetimes, to perfect himself and correct mistakes made in the past. Reincarnation’s purpose is to evolve and perfect ourselves, and this cannot be achieved in a single lifetime.
Is reincarnation in the Christian Bible? This depends on one’s interpretation. As a word, reincarnation is not found in the Bible. But the concept of multiple rebirth is implied in many passages in the Bible. As the American psychic and prophet, Edgar Cayce, pointed out: “One can read reincarnation into the Bible and another can read it out again.’’
Debating on this issue is a useless and fruitless endeavor. We need to respect everybody’s religious belief, even if we don’t agree with it.
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