Reincarnation

Reincarnation

Overview
"Past Lives" redirects here. For the band, see Past Lives (band)
Past Lives (band)
Past Lives is a band from Seattle, Washington. The band formed out of the breakup of The Blood Brothers in late 2007.-History:The band got their start in late 2007 after the breakup of The Blood Brothers...

.

Reincarnation best describes the concept where the soul or spirit
Spirit
The English word spirit has many differing meanings and connotations, most of them relating to a non-corporeal substance contrasted with the material body.The spirit of a living thing usually refers to or explains its consciousness.The notions of a person's "spirit" and "soul" often also overlap,...

, after the death
Death
Death is the permanent termination of the biological functions that sustain a living organism. Phenomena which commonly bring about death include old age, predation, malnutrition, disease, and accidents or trauma resulting in terminal injury....

 of the body, is believed to return to live in a new human body, or, in some traditions, either as a human being, animal or plant. This doctrine is a central tenet within the majority of Indian religious traditions, such as Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

, Jainism
Jainism
Jainism is an Indian religion that prescribes a path of non-violence towards all living beings. Its philosophy and practice emphasize the necessity of self-effort to move the soul towards divine consciousness and liberation. Any soul that has conquered its own inner enemies and achieved the state...

, and Sikhism
Sikhism
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion founded during the 15th century in the Punjab region, by Guru Nanak Dev and continued to progress with ten successive Sikh Gurus . It is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world and one of the fastest-growing...

; the Buddhist
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 concept of rebirth
Rebirth (Buddhism)
Rebirth in Buddhism is the doctrine that the evolving consciousness or stream of consciousness upon death , becomes one of the contributing causes for the arising of a new aggregation...

 is also often referred to as reincarnation.
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Encyclopedia
"Past Lives" redirects here. For the band, see Past Lives (band)
Past Lives (band)
Past Lives is a band from Seattle, Washington. The band formed out of the breakup of The Blood Brothers in late 2007.-History:The band got their start in late 2007 after the breakup of The Blood Brothers...

.

Reincarnation best describes the concept where the soul or spirit
Spirit
The English word spirit has many differing meanings and connotations, most of them relating to a non-corporeal substance contrasted with the material body.The spirit of a living thing usually refers to or explains its consciousness.The notions of a person's "spirit" and "soul" often also overlap,...

, after the death
Death
Death is the permanent termination of the biological functions that sustain a living organism. Phenomena which commonly bring about death include old age, predation, malnutrition, disease, and accidents or trauma resulting in terminal injury....

 of the body, is believed to return to live in a new human body, or, in some traditions, either as a human being, animal or plant. This doctrine is a central tenet within the majority of Indian religious traditions, such as Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

, Jainism
Jainism
Jainism is an Indian religion that prescribes a path of non-violence towards all living beings. Its philosophy and practice emphasize the necessity of self-effort to move the soul towards divine consciousness and liberation. Any soul that has conquered its own inner enemies and achieved the state...

, and Sikhism
Sikhism
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion founded during the 15th century in the Punjab region, by Guru Nanak Dev and continued to progress with ten successive Sikh Gurus . It is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world and one of the fastest-growing...

; the Buddhist
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 concept of rebirth
Rebirth (Buddhism)
Rebirth in Buddhism is the doctrine that the evolving consciousness or stream of consciousness upon death , becomes one of the contributing causes for the arising of a new aggregation...

 is also often referred to as reincarnation. The idea was also fundamental to some Greek philosophers as well as other religions, such as Druidism, and later on, Spiritism
Spiritism
Spiritism is a loose corpus of religious faiths having in common the general belief in the survival of a spirit after death. In a stricter sense, it is the religion, beliefs and practices of the people affiliated to the International Spiritist Union, based on the works of Allan Kardec and others...

, and Eckankar
Eckankar
Eckankar is a new religious movement founded in the United States in 1965, though practiced around the world long before with a solid following in China. It focuses on spiritual exercises enabling practitioners to experience what its followers call "the Light and Sound of God." The personal...

. It is also found in many small-scale societies around the world, in places such as Siberia, West Africa, North America, and Australia.

Although the majority of sects within Judaism
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

, Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 and Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

 do not believe that individuals reincarnate, particular groups within these religions do refer to reincarnation; these groups include the mainstream historical and contemporary followers of Kabbalah
Kabbalah
Kabbalah/Kabala is a discipline and school of thought concerned with the esoteric aspect of Rabbinic Judaism. It was systematized in 11th-13th century Hachmei Provence and Spain, and again after the Expulsion from Spain, in 16th century Ottoman Palestine...

, the Cathars, the Alawi
Alawi
The Alawis, also known as Alawites, Nusayris and Ansaris are a prominent mystical and syncretic religious group centred in Syria who are a branch of Shia Islam.-Etymology:...

, the Druze
Druze
The Druze are an esoteric, monotheistic religious community, found primarily in Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan, which emerged during the 11th century from Ismailism. The Druze have an eclectic set of beliefs that incorporate several elements from Abrahamic religions, Gnosticism, Neoplatonism...

 and the Rosicrucians. The historical relations between these sects and the beliefs about reincarnation that were characteristic of the Neoplatonism
Neoplatonism
Neoplatonism , is the modern term for a school of religious and mystical philosophy that took shape in the 3rd century AD, based on the teachings of Plato and earlier Platonists, with its earliest contributor believed to be Plotinus, and his teacher Ammonius Saccas...

, Orphism
Orphism (religion)
Orphism is the name given to a set of religious beliefs and practices in the ancient Greek and the Hellenistic world, as well as by the Thracians, associated with literature ascribed to the mythical poet Orpheus, who descended into Hades and returned...

, Hermeticism
Hermeticism
Hermeticism or the Western Hermetic Tradition is a set of philosophical and religious beliefs based primarily upon the pseudepigraphical writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus...

, Manicheanism and Gnosticism
Gnosticism
Gnosticism is a scholarly term for a set of religious beliefs and spiritual practices common to early Christianity, Hellenistic Judaism, Greco-Roman mystery religions, Zoroastrianism , and Neoplatonism.A common characteristic of some of these groups was the teaching that the realisation of Gnosis...

 of the Roman era, as well as the Indian religions, is unclear.

In recent decades, many Europeans and North Americans have developed an interest in reincarnation. Feature films, such as Kundun
Kundun
Kundun is a 1997 epic biographical film written by Melissa Mathison and directed by Martin Scorsese. It is based on the life and writings of the 14th Dalai Lama, the exiled political and spiritual leader of Tibet...

, What Dreams May Come
What Dreams May Come (film)
What Dreams May Come is a 1998 American supernatural drama film, starring Robin Williams, Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Annabella Sciorra. The film is based on the 1978 novel of the same name by Richard Matheson, and was directed by Vincent Ward. The title is taken from a line in Hamlet's To be, or not to...

and Birth
Birth (film)
Birth is a 2004 film directed by Jonathan Glazer and starring Nicole Kidman, Lauren Bacall, Danny Huston and Cameron Bright.The story is about a young widow from a prominent Manhattan-based family named Anna who slowly becomes convinced that her husband, Sean, who died ten years previously, has...

, contemporary books by authors such as Carol Bowman
Carol Bowman
Carol Bowman, M.S., is an author, lecturer, counselor, and therapist, known for her work in studying cases of reincarnation, especially those involving young children....

 and Vicki Mackenzie
Vicki Mackenzie
Vicki Mackenzie , an author and journalist, was born in England and spent much of her early life in Australia. The daughter of a naval officer, she graduated from Queensland University and became a reporter at the Sun newspaper in Sydney....

, as well as popular songs, regularly mention reincarnation. Some university researchers, such as Ian Stevenson
Ian Stevenson
Ian Pretyman Stevenson, MD, was a Canadian biochemist and professor of psychiatry. Until his retirement in 2002, he was head of the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia, which investigates the paranormal.Stevenson considered that the concept of reincarnation might...

 and Jim B. Tucker, have explored the issue of reincarnation and published reports of children's memories of earlier lives in peer-reviewed journals and in books such as Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation
Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation
Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation is a book written by psychiatrist Ian Stevenson on the phenomena of what he calls spontaneous recall of information about previous lives by young children. The book focuses on twenty cases investigated by the author...

and Life Before Life
Life Before Life
Life Before Life: A Scientific Investigation of Children's Memories of Previous Lives is a 2005 book written by psychiatrist Jim B. Tucker, which presents an overview of more than 40 years of reincarnation research at the University of Virginia Division of Personality Studies, into children's...

. Skeptics
Skepticism
Skepticism has many definitions, but generally refers to any questioning attitude towards knowledge, facts, or opinions/beliefs stated as facts, or doubt regarding claims that are taken for granted elsewhere...

 are critical of this work and many have stated like Carl Sagan
Carl Sagan
Carl Edward Sagan was an American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, science popularizer and science communicator in astronomy and natural sciences. He published more than 600 scientific papers and articles and was author, co-author or editor of more than 20 books...

 (late) that more reincarnation research
Reincarnation research
Reincarnation research is a branch of parapsychology. Psychiatrist Ian Stevenson, from the University of Virginia, investigated many reports of young children who claimed to remember a past life...

 is needed.

Conceptual definitions


The word "reincarnation" derives from Latin, literally meaning, "entering the flesh again". The Greek equivalent metempsychosis (μετεμψύχωσις) roughly corresponds to the common English phrase "transmigration of the soul" and also usually connotes reincarnation after death, as either human, animal
Animal
Animals are a major group of multicellular, eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Animalia or Metazoa. Their body plan eventually becomes fixed as they develop, although some undergo a process of metamorphosis later on in their life. Most animals are motile, meaning they can move spontaneously and...

, though emphasising the continuity of the soul, not the flesh. The term has been used by modern philosophers such as Kurt Gödel
Kurt Gödel
Kurt Friedrich Gödel was an Austrian logician, mathematician and philosopher. Later in his life he emigrated to the United States to escape the effects of World War II. One of the most significant logicians of all time, Gödel made an immense impact upon scientific and philosophical thinking in the...

 and has entered the English language. Another Greek term sometimes used synonymously is palingenesis
Palingenesis
Palingenesis is a concept of rebirth or re-creation, used in various contexts in philosophy, theology, politics, and biology. Its meaning stems from Greek palin, meaning again, and genesis, meaning birth....

, "being born again".

There is no word corresponding exactly to the English terms "rebirth", "metempsychosis", "transmigration" or "reincarnation" in the traditional languages of Pāli
Páli
- External links :* *...

 and Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

. The entire universal process that gives rise to the cycle of death and rebirth, governed by karma
Karma
Karma in Indian religions is the concept of "action" or "deed", understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect originating in ancient India and treated in Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh philosophies....

, is referred to as Samsara
Samsara (disambiguation)
' or Samsaram a sanskrit word, which may also refer to:* Saṃsāra, religious concept of reincarnation in Hinduism and other Indian religions* Saṃsāra , similar but distinct concept in Buddhism...

while the state one is born into, the individual process of being born or coming into the world in any way, is referred to simply as "birth" (jāti
Jati (Buddhism)
In Buddhism, Jāti refers to the arising of a new living entity in saṃsāra.-Truth of suffering:As with "Old Age & Death" , the Buddha includes "Birth" in the canonical description of "suffering" in the First Noble Truth:Elsewhere in the canon the Buddha further elaborates:The canon additionally...

). Devas
Deva (Hinduism)
' is the Sanskrit word for god or deity, its related feminine term is devi. In modern Hinduism, it can be loosely interpreted as any benevolent supernatural beings. The devs in Hinduism, also called Suras, are often juxtaposed to the Asuras, their half brothers. Devs are also the maintainers of...

(gods) may also die and live again. Here the term "reincarnation" is not strictly applicable, yet Hindu gods are said to have reincarnated (see Avatar
Avatar
In Hinduism, an avatar is a deliberate descent of a deity to earth, or a descent of the Supreme Being and is mostly translated into English as "incarnation," but more accurately as "appearance" or "manifestation"....

): Lord Vishnu is known for his ten incarnations, the Dashavatars. Celtic religion seems to have had reincarnating gods also. Many Christians regard Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 as a divine incarnation. Some Christians and Muslims believe he and some prophets may incarnate again. Most Christians, however, believe that Jesus will come again in the Second Coming at the end of the world, although this is not a reincarnation. Some ghulat
Ghulat
Ghulāt , is a term used in the theology of Shia Islam to describe some minority Muslim groups who either ascribe divine characteristics to a member of Muhammad's family , or hold beliefs deemed deviant by mainstream Shi'i theology...

 Shi'a Muslim sects also regard their founders as in some special sense divine incarnations (hulul).

Philosophical and religious beliefs regarding the existence or non-existence of an unchanging 'self
Self (philosophy)
The philosophy of self defines the essential qualities that make one person distinct from all others. There have been numerous approaches to defining these qualities. The self is the idea of a unified being which is the source of consciousness. Moreover, this self is the agent responsible for the...

' have a direct bearing on how reincarnation is viewed within a given tradition. The Buddha
Buddha
In Buddhism, buddhahood is the state of perfect enlightenment attained by a buddha .In Buddhism, the term buddha usually refers to one who has become enlightened...

 lived at a time of great philosophical creativity in India when many conceptions of the nature of life and death were proposed. Some were materialist, holding that there was no existence and that the self is annihilated upon death. Others believed in a form of cyclic existence, where a being is born, lives, dies and then is re-born, but in the context of a type of determinism
Determinism
Determinism is the general philosophical thesis that states that for everything that happens there are conditions such that, given them, nothing else could happen. There are many versions of this thesis. Each of them rests upon various alleged connections, and interdependencies of things and...

 or fatalism
Fatalism
Fatalism is a philosophical doctrine emphasizing the subjugation of all events or actions to fate.Fatalism generally refers to several of the following ideas:...

 in which karma played no role. Others were "eternalists", postulating an eternally existent self or soul comparable to that in Judaic monotheism: the ātman survives death and reincarnates as another living being, based on its karmic
Karma
Karma in Indian religions is the concept of "action" or "deed", understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect originating in ancient India and treated in Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh philosophies....

 inheritance. This is the idea that has become dominant (with certain modifications) in modern Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

.

The Buddhist
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 concept of reincarnation differs from others in that there is no eternal "soul", "spirit' or self"
Self (spirituality)
Religious views on the self vary widely. The self is a complex and core subject in many forms of spirituality. Two types of self are commonly considered - the self that is the ego, also called the learned, superficial self of mind and body, "false self", an egoic creation, and the Self which is...

 but only a "stream of consciousness" that links life with life. The actual process of change from one life to the next is called punarbhava (Sanskrit) or punabbhava (Pāli), literally "becoming again", or more briefly bhava
Bhava
The term bhāva is often translated as feeling, emotion, mood, devotional state of mind. In Buddhist thought, bhāva denotes the continuity of life and death, including reincarnation, and the maturation arising therefrom...

, "becoming", and some English-speaking Buddhists prefer the term "rebirth" or "re-becoming" to render this term as they take "reincarnation" to imply a fixed entity that is reborn. Popular Jain cosmology
Jain cosmology
Jain cosmology is the description of the shape and functioning of the physical and metaphysical Universe and its constituents according to Jainism, which includes the canonical Jain texts, commentaries and the writings of the Jain philosopher-monks...

 and Buddhist cosmology
Buddhist cosmology
Buddhist cosmology is the description of the shape and evolution of the Universe according to the canonical Buddhist scriptures and commentaries.-Introduction:...

 as well as a number of schools of Hinduism posit rebirth in many worlds and in varied forms. In Buddhist tradition the process occurs across five or six realms of existence
Six realms
The desire realm is one of three realms or three worlds in traditional Buddhist cosmology into which a being wandering in may be reborn. The other two are the form realm, and the formless realm The desire realm (Sanskrit kāma-dhātu) is one of three realms (Sanskrit: dhātu, Tibetan: khams) or...

, including the human, any kind of animal and several types of supernatural being. It is said in Tibetan Buddhism that it is very rare for a person to be reborn in the immediate next life as a human

Gilgul, Gilgul neshamot or Gilgulei Ha Neshamot (Heb.
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

 גלגול הנשמות) refers to the concept of reincarnation in Kabbalistic
Kabbalah
Kabbalah/Kabala is a discipline and school of thought concerned with the esoteric aspect of Rabbinic Judaism. It was systematized in 11th-13th century Hachmei Provence and Spain, and again after the Expulsion from Spain, in 16th century Ottoman Palestine...

 Judaism
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

, found in much Yiddish literature
Yiddish literature
Yiddish literature encompasses all belles lettres written in Yiddish, the language of Ashkenazic Jewry which is related to Middle High German. The history of Yiddish, with its roots in central Europe and locus for centuries in Eastern Europe, is evident in its literature.It is generally described...

 among Ashkenazi Jews
Ashkenazi Jews
Ashkenazi Jews, also known as Ashkenazic Jews or Ashkenazim , are the Jews descended from the medieval Jewish communities along the Rhine in Germany from Alsace in the south to the Rhineland in the north. Ashkenaz is the medieval Hebrew name for this region and thus for Germany...

. Gilgul means "cycle" and neshamot is "souls." The equivalent Arabic term is tanasukh: the belief is found among Shi'a ghulat
Ghulat
Ghulāt , is a term used in the theology of Shia Islam to describe some minority Muslim groups who either ascribe divine characteristics to a member of Muhammad's family , or hold beliefs deemed deviant by mainstream Shi'i theology...

 Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 sects.

Origins


The origins of the notion of reincarnation are obscure. They apparently date to the Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

 (around 1200 BCE).
Discussion of the subject appears in the philosophical traditions of India and Greece from about the 6th century BCE, but is conspicuously absent from the earlier Vedic texts
Vedas
The Vedas are a large body of texts originating in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism....

 of India. Also during the Iron Age, the Greek Pre-Socratics discussed reincarnation, and the Celtic Druids are also reported to have taught a doctrine of reincarnation.

The origin of the Indian tradition is usually assumed to lie in the non-Vedic shramana
Shramana
A shramana is a wandering monk in certain ascetic traditions of ancient India including Jainism, Buddhism, and Ājīvikism. Famous śramaṇas include Mahavira and Gautama Buddha....

 traditions, which would explain why it only enters the historical record with the adoption of sramana elements into mainstream Brahmin orthodoxy at the end of the Vedic period
Vedic period
The Vedic period was a period in history during which the Vedas, the oldest scriptures of Hinduism, were composed. The time span of the period is uncertain. Philological and linguistic evidence indicates that the Rigveda, the oldest of the Vedas, was composed roughly between 1700–1100 BCE, also...

 along with the associated concepts of karma
Karma
Karma in Indian religions is the concept of "action" or "deed", understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect originating in ancient India and treated in Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh philosophies....

, samsara
Samsara
thumb|right|200px|Traditional Tibetan painting or [[Thanka]] showing the [[wheel of life]] and realms of saṃsāraSaṅsāra or Saṃsāra , , literally meaning "continuous flow", is the cycle of birth, life, death, rebirth or reincarnation within Hinduism, Buddhism, Bön, Jainism, Sikhism, and other...

and moksha
Moksha
Within Indian religions, moksha or mukti , literally "release" , is the liberation from samsara and the concomitant suffering involved in being subject to the cycle of repeated death and reincarnation or rebirth.-Origins:It is highly probable that the concept of moksha was first developed in...

.

Some scholars suggest that the idea is original to the Buddha. Another possibility is an origin in the native tribal religions of the Ganges valley, or in prehistoric Dravidian traditions of South India.

Whatever its ultimate origin, Indian discussion of reincarnation enters the historical record from about the 6th century BCE, with the development of the Advaita Vedanta
Advaita Vedanta
Advaita Vedanta is considered to be the most influential and most dominant sub-school of the Vedānta school of Hindu philosophy. Other major sub-schools of Vedānta are Dvaita and ; while the minor ones include Suddhadvaita, Dvaitadvaita and Achintya Bhedabheda...

 tradition in the early Upanishads (around the middle of the first millennium BCE), Gautama Buddha
Gautama Buddha
Siddhārtha Gautama was a spiritual teacher from the Indian subcontinent, on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. In most Buddhist traditions, he is regarded as the Supreme Buddha Siddhārtha Gautama (Sanskrit: सिद्धार्थ गौतम; Pali: Siddhattha Gotama) was a spiritual teacher from the Indian...

 (623-543 BCE) as well as Mahavira
Mahavira
Mahāvīra is the name most commonly used to refer to the Indian sage Vardhamāna who established what are today considered to be the central tenets of Jainism. According to Jain tradition, he was the 24th and the last Tirthankara. In Tamil, he is referred to as Arukaṉ or Arukadevan...

, the 24th Tirthankara of Jainism
Jainism
Jainism is an Indian religion that prescribes a path of non-violence towards all living beings. Its philosophy and practice emphasize the necessity of self-effort to move the soul towards divine consciousness and liberation. Any soul that has conquered its own inner enemies and achieved the state...

.

Early Greek discussion of the concept likewise dates to the 6th century BCE. An early Greek thinker known to have considered rebirth is Pherecydes of Syros
Pherecydes of Syros
Pherecydes of Syros was a Greek thinker from the island of Syros, of the 6th century BC. Pherecydes authored the Pentemychos or Heptamychos, one of the first attested prose works in Greek literature, which formed an important bridge between mythic and pre-Socratic thought.- Life :Very little is...

 (fl. 540 BCE). His younger contemporary Pythagoras (c. 570-c. 495 BCE), its first famous exponent, instituted societies for its diffusion. Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

 (428/427 – 348/347 BCE) presented accounts of reincarnation in his works, particularly the Myth of Er
Myth of Er
The Myth of Er is an eschatological legend that concludes Plato's The Republic . The story includes an account of the cosmos and the afterlife that for many centuries greatly influenced religious, philosophical and scientific thought....

.

Proponents of cultural transmission have looked for links between Iron Age Celtic, Greek and Vedic philosophy and religion, some even suggesting that belief in reincarnation was present in Proto-Indo-European religion
Proto-Indo-European religion
Proto-Indo-European religion is the hypothesized religion of the Proto-Indo-European peoples based on the existence of similarities among the deities, religious practices and mythologies of the Indo-European peoples. Reconstruction of the hypotheses below is based on linguistic evidence using the...

.
Authorities have not agreed on how the notion arose in Greece: sometimes Pythagoras is said to have been Pherecydes' pupil, sometimes to have introduced it with the doctrine of Orphism
Orphism (religion)
Orphism is the name given to a set of religious beliefs and practices in the ancient Greek and the Hellenistic world, as well as by the Thracians, associated with literature ascribed to the mythical poet Orpheus, who descended into Hades and returned...

, a Thracian
Thrace
Thrace is a historical and geographic area in southeast Europe. As a geographical concept, Thrace designates a region bounded by the Balkan Mountains on the north, Rhodope Mountains and the Aegean Sea on the south, and by the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara on the east...

 religion that was to be important in the diffusion of reincarnation, or else to have brought the teaching from India.
In Phaedo
Phaedo
Plato's Phaedo is one of the great dialogues of his middle period, along with the Republic and the Symposium. The Phaedo, which depicts the death of Socrates, is also Plato's seventh and last dialogue to detail the philosopher's final days .In the dialogue, Socrates...

, Plato makes his teacher Socrates
Socrates
Socrates was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary ...

, prior to his death, state; "I am confident that there truly is such a thing as living again, and that the living spring from the dead." However Xenophon
Xenophon
Xenophon , son of Gryllus, of the deme Erchia of Athens, also known as Xenophon of Athens, was a Greek historian, soldier, mercenary, philosopher and a contemporary and admirer of Socrates...

 does not mention Socrates as believing in reincarnation and Plato may have systematised Socrates' thought with concepts he took directly from Pythagoreanism or Orphism.

In ancient European, Iranian and Indian agricultural cultures, the life cycles of birth, death, and rebirth were recoginized as a replica of natural agricultural cycle
Agricultural cycle
The Agricultural cycle is the annual cycle of activitites related to the growth and harvest of a crop. These activities include loosening the soil, seeding, special watering, moving plants when they grow bigger, and harvesting, among others....

s.

Early Hinduism and Buddhism


The systematic attempt to attain first-hand knowledge of past lives has been developed in various ways in different places.

The Rig Veda makes numerous references to rebirths, although it portrays reincarnation as "redeaths" (punarmrtyu.) It declares, "Each death repeats the death of the primordial man (purusa), which was also the first sacrifice" (RV 10:90).

The following is another excerpt from the Rig Veda (Book 10 Part 02, HYMN XVI):
Burn him not up, nor quite consume him, Agni: let not his body or his skin be scattered. O Jatavedas, when thou hast matured him, then send him on his way unto the Fathers.
When thou hast made him ready, Jatavedas, then do thou give him over to the Fathers. When he attains unto the life that waits him, he shall become the Deities' controller.
The Sun receive thine eye, the Wind thy spirit; go, as thy merit is, to earth or heaven. Go, if it be thy lot, unto the waters; go, make thine home in plants with all thy members.
Thy portion is the goat: with heat consume him: let thy fierce flame, thy glowing splendour, burn him With thine auspicious forms, o Jatavedas, bear this man to the region of the pious.
Again, O Agni, to the Fathers send him who, offered in thee, goes with our oblations. Wearing new life let him increase his offspring: let him rejoin a body, Jatavedas.


The early Buddhist texts discuss techniques for recalling previous births, predicated on the development of high levels of meditative concentration
Samadhi
Samadhi in Hinduism, Buddhism,Jainism, Sikhism and yogic schools is a higher level of concentrated meditation, or dhyāna. In the yoga tradition, it is the eighth and final limb identified in the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali....

. The later Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali are 194 Indian sūtras that constitute the foundational text of Rāja Yoga. Yoga is one of the six orthodox āstika schools of Hindu philosophy, and Rāja Yoga is the highest practice....

, which exhibit heavy Buddhist influence, give similar instructions on how to attain the ability. The Buddha reportedly warned that this experience can be misleading and should be interpreted with care.

Tibetan Buddhism has developed a unique 'science' of death and rebirth, a good deal of which is set down in what is popularly known as The Tibetan Book of the Dead
Bardo Thodol
The Liberation Through Hearing During The Intermediate State , sometimes translated as Liberation Through Hearing or Bardo Thodol is a funerary text...

. The Hasidic tzadik
Tzadik
Tzadik/Zadik/Sadiq is a title given to personalities in Jewish tradition considered righteous, such as Biblical figures and later spiritual masters. The root of the word ṣadiq, is ṣ-d-q , which means "justice" or "righteousness", also the root of Tzedakah...

 was believed to know the past lives of each person through his semi-prophetic
Ruach HaKodesh
The Hebrew language phrase ruach ha-kodesh is a term used in the Hebrew Bible and Jewish writings to refer to the Spirit of YHVH. The Hebrew term ruakh kodeshka , without the definite article, also occurs...

 abilities.

Classical Antiquity


The Orphic religion
Orphism (religion)
Orphism is the name given to a set of religious beliefs and practices in the ancient Greek and the Hellenistic world, as well as by the Thracians, associated with literature ascribed to the mythical poet Orpheus, who descended into Hades and returned...

, which taught reincarnation, first appeared in Thrace in north-eastern Greece and Bulgaria, about the 6th century BC, organized itself into mystery schools at Eleusis and elsewhere, and produced a copious literature. Orpheus
Orpheus
Orpheus was a legendary musician, poet, and prophet in ancient Greek religion and myth. The major stories about him are centered on his ability to charm all living things and even stones with his music; his attempt to retrieve his wife from the underworld; and his death at the hands of those who...

, its legendary founder, is said to have taught that the immortal soul aspires to freedom while the body holds it prisoner. The wheel of birth revolves, the soul alternates between freedom and captivity round the wide circle of necessity. Orpheus proclaimed the need of the grace of the gods, Dionysus
Dionysus
Dionysus was the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness and ecstasy in Greek mythology. His name in Linear B tablets shows he was worshipped from c. 1500—1100 BC by Mycenean Greeks: other traces of Dionysian-type cult have been found in ancient Minoan Crete...

 in particular, and of self-purification until the soul has completed the spiral ascent of destiny to live for ever.

An association between Pythagorean philosophy
Pythagoreanism
Pythagoreanism was the system of esoteric and metaphysical beliefs held by Pythagoras and his followers, the Pythagoreans, who were considerably influenced by mathematics. Pythagoreanism originated in the 5th century BCE and greatly influenced Platonism...

 and reincarnation was routinely accepted throughout antiquity. In the Republic
Republic (Plato)
The Republic is a Socratic dialogue written by Plato around 380 BC concerning the definition of justice and the order and character of the just city-state and the just man...

Plato makes Socrates tell how Er, the son of Armenius, miraculously returned to life on the twelfth day after death and recounted the secrets of the other world. There are myths and theories to the same effect in other dialogues, in the Chariot allegory
Chariot Allegory
Plato, in his dialogue Phaedrus , uses the Chariot Allegory to explain his view of the human soul. He does this in the dialogue through the character of Socrates, who uses it in a discussion of the merit of Love as "divine madness"....

 of the Phaedrus, in the Meno
Meno
Meno is a Socratic dialogue written by Plato. It attempts to determine the definition of virtue, or arete, meaning virtue in general, rather than particular virtues, such as justice or temperance. The first part of the work is written in the Socratic dialectical style and Meno is reduced to...

, Timaeus
Timaeus (dialogue)
Timaeus is one of Plato's dialogues, mostly in the form of a long monologue given by the title character, written circa 360 BC. The work puts forward speculation on the nature of the physical world and human beings. It is followed by the dialogue Critias.Speakers of the dialogue are Socrates,...

 and Laws. The soul, once separated from the body, spends an indeterminate amount of time in "formland" (see The Allegory of the Cave
Allegory of the cave
The Allegory of the Cave—also known as the Analogy of the Cave, Plato's Cave, or the Parable of the Cave—is an allegory used by the Greek philosopher Plato in his work The Republic to illustrate "our nature in its education and want of education"...

 in The Republic) and then assumes another body.

In later Greek literature the doctrine is mentioned in a fragment of Menander
Menander
Menander , Greek dramatist, the best-known representative of Athenian New Comedy, was the son of well-to-do parents; his father Diopeithes is identified by some with the Athenian general and governor of the Thracian Chersonese known from the speech of Demosthenes De Chersoneso...

 and satirized by Lucian
Lucian
Lucian of Samosata was a rhetorician and satirist who wrote in the Greek language. He is noted for his witty and scoffing nature.His ethnicity is disputed and is attributed as Assyrian according to Frye and Parpola, and Syrian according to Joseph....

. In Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 literature it is found as early as Ennius
Ennius
Quintus Ennius was a writer during the period of the Roman Republic, and is often considered the father of Roman poetry. He was of Calabrian descent...

, who, in a lost passage of his Annals, told how he had seen Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

 in a dream, who had assured him that the same soul which had animated both the poets had once belonged to a peacock. Persius in his satires (vi. 9) laughs at this: it is referred to also by Lucretius
Lucretius
Titus Lucretius Carus was a Roman poet and philosopher. His only known work is an epic philosophical poem laying out the beliefs of Epicureanism, De rerum natura, translated into English as On the Nature of Things or "On the Nature of the Universe".Virtually no details have come down concerning...

 and Horace
Horace
Quintus Horatius Flaccus , known in the English-speaking world as Horace, was the leading Roman lyric poet during the time of Augustus.-Life:...

.

Virgil
Virgil
Publius Vergilius Maro, usually called Virgil or Vergil in English , was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He is known for three major works of Latin literature, the Eclogues , the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid...

 works the idea into his account of the Underworld in the sixth book of the Aeneid
Aeneid
The Aeneid is a Latin epic poem, written by Virgil between 29 and 19 BC, that tells the legendary story of Aeneas, a Trojan who travelled to Italy, where he became the ancestor of the Romans. It is composed of roughly 10,000 lines in dactylic hexameter...

. It persists down to the late classic thinkers, Plotinus
Plotinus
Plotinus was a major philosopher of the ancient world. In his system of theory there are the three principles: the One, the Intellect, and the Soul. His teacher was Ammonius Saccas and he is of the Platonic tradition...

 and the other Neoplatonists. In the Hermetica
Hermetica
The Hermetica are Greek wisdom texts from the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE, mostly presented as dialogues in which a teacher, generally identified with Hermes Trismegistus or "thrice-greatest Hermes", enlightens a disciple...

, a Graeco-Egyptian series of writings on cosmology and spirituality attributed to Hermes Trismegistus
Hermes Trismegistus
Hermes Trismegistus is the eponymous author of the Hermetic Corpus, a sacred text belonging to the genre of divine revelation.-Origin and identity:...

/Thoth
Thoth
Thoth was considered one of the more important deities of the Egyptian pantheon. In art, he was often depicted as a man with the head of an ibis or a baboon, animals sacred to him. His feminine counterpart was Seshat...

, the doctrine of reincarnation is central.

In Greco-Roman thought
Hellenistic philosophy
Hellenistic philosophy is the period of Western philosophy that was developed in the Hellenistic civilization following Aristotle and ending with the beginning of Neoplatonism.-Pythagoreanism:...

, the concept of metempsychosis disappeared with the rise of Early Christianity
Early Christianity
Early Christianity is generally considered as Christianity before 325. The New Testament's Book of Acts and Epistle to the Galatians records that the first Christian community was centered in Jerusalem and its leaders included James, Peter and John....

, reincarnation being incompatible with the Christian core doctrine of salvation
Salvation
Within religion salvation is the phenomenon of being saved from the undesirable condition of bondage or suffering experienced by the psyche or soul that has arisen as a result of unskillful or immoral actions generically referred to as sins. Salvation may also be called "deliverance" or...

 of the faithful after death. It has been suggested that some of the early Church Fathers, especially Origen
Origen
Origen , or Origen Adamantius, 184/5–253/4, was an early Christian Alexandrian scholar and theologian, and one of the most distinguished writers of the early Church. As early as the fourth century, his orthodoxy was suspect, in part because he believed in the pre-existence of souls...

 still entertained a belief in the possibility of reincarnation, but evidence is tenuous, and the writings of Origen as they have come down to us speak explicitly against it.

Some early Christian Gnostic sects professed reincarnation. The Sethians and followers of Valentinus
Valentinus (Gnostic)
Valentinus was the best known and for a time most successful early Christian gnostic theologian. He founded his school in Rome...

 believed in it. The followers of Bardaisan of Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

, a sect of the 2nd century deemed heretical by the Catholic Church, drew upon Chaldean
Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

 astrology
Astrology
Astrology consists of a number of belief systems which hold that there is a relationship between astronomical phenomena and events in the human world...

, to which Bardaisan's son Harmonius, educated in Athens, added Greek ideas including a sort of metempsychosis. Another such teacher was Basilides
Basilides
Basilides was an early Gnostic religious teacher in Alexandria, Egypt who taught from 117–138 AD, notes that to prove that the heretical sects were "later than the catholic Church," Clement of Alexandria assigns Christ's own teaching to the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius; that of the apostles,...

 (132–? CE/AD), known to us through the criticisms of Irenaeus
Irenaeus
Saint Irenaeus , was Bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, then a part of the Roman Empire . He was an early church father and apologist, and his writings were formative in the early development of Christian theology...

 and the work of Clement of Alexandria
Clement of Alexandria
Titus Flavius Clemens , known as Clement of Alexandria , was a Christian theologian and the head of the noted Catechetical School of Alexandria. Clement is best remembered as the teacher of Origen...

. (see also Neoplatonism and Gnosticism
Neoplatonism and Gnosticism
Neoplatonism is the modern term for a school of Hellenistic philosophy that took shape in the 3rd century, based on the teachings of Plato and some of his early followers. Neoplatonism took definitive shape with the philosopher Plotinus, who claimed to have received his teachings from Ammonius...

 and Buddhism and Gnosticism
Buddhism and Gnosticism
Certain modern scholars, notably Elaine Pagels, have proposed that similarities existed between Buddhism and Gnosticism, a term deriving from the name "Gnostics" given to a number of Christian sects by early Christian heresiologists.-Manichaeism:...

)


In the third Christian century Manichaeism
Manichaeism
Manichaeism in Modern Persian Āyin e Māni; ) was one of the major Iranian Gnostic religions, originating in Sassanid Persia.Although most of the original writings of the founding prophet Mani have been lost, numerous translations and fragmentary texts have survived...

 spread both east and west from Babylonia
Babylonia
Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia , with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as a major power when Hammurabi Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as...

, then within the Sassanid Empire
Sassanid Empire
The Sassanid Empire , known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in Middle Persian and resulting in the New Persian terms Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651...

, where its founder Mani
Mani (prophet)
Mani , of Iranian origin was the prophet and the founder of Manichaeism, a gnostic religion of Late Antiquity which was once widespread but is now extinct...

 lived about 216–276. Manichaean monasteries existed in Rome in 312 AD. Noting Mani's early travels to the Kushan Empire
Kushan Empire
The Kushan Empire originally formed in the early 1st century AD under Kujula Kadphises in the territories of ancient Bactria on either side of the middle course of the Oxus in what is now northern Afghanistan, Pakistan, and southern Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.During the 1st and early 2nd centuries...

 and other Buddhist influences in Manichaeism, Richard Foltz
Richard Foltz
Richard Foltz is a Canadian scholar of American origin. He is a specialist in the history of Iran and the history of religions, particularly Islam and Zoroastrianism...

 attributes Mani's teaching of reincarnation to Buddhist influence. However the inter-relation of Manicheanism, Orphism, Gnosticism and neo-Platonism is far from clear.

Taoism


Taoist documents from as early as the Han Dynasty
Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...

 claimed that Lao Tzu appeared on earth as different persons in different times beginning in the legendary era of Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors. The (ca. 3rd century BC) Chuang Tzu states: "Birth is not a beginning; death is not an end. There is existence without limitation; there is continuity without a starting-point. Existence without limitation is Space. Continuity without a starting point is Time. There is birth, there is death, there is issuing forth, there is entering in."

The Celts


In the 1st century BC Alexander Cornelius Polyhistor wrote;
Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

 recorded that the druids of Gaul, Britain and Ireland had metempsychosis as one of their core doctrines;

Middle Ages


Around the 11-12th century several reincarnationist movements were persecuted as heresies, through the establishment of the Inquisition
Medieval Inquisition
The Medieval Inquisition is a series of Inquisitions from around 1184, including the Episcopal Inquisition and later the Papal Inquisition...

 in the Latin west. These included the Cathar
Cathar
Catharism was a name given to a Christian religious sect with dualistic and gnostic elements that appeared in the Languedoc region of France and other parts of Europe in the 11th century and flourished in the 12th and 13th centuries...

, Paterene or Albigensian church of western Europe, the Paulician movement, which arose in Armenia, and the Bogomils in Bulgaria
Bulgaria
Bulgaria , officially the Republic of Bulgaria , is a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic in Southeast Europe. The country borders Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, as well as the Black Sea to the east...

.

Christian sects such as the Bogomils and the Cathars, who professed reincarnation and other gnostic beliefs, were referred to as "Manichean", and are today sometimes described by scholars as "Neo-Manichean". As there is no known Manichaean mythology or terminology in the writings of these groups there has been some dispute among historians as to whether these groups truly were descendants of Manichaeism.

Norse mythology



Reincarnation also appears in Norse mythology
Norse mythology
Norse mythology, a subset of Germanic mythology, is the overall term for the myths, legends and beliefs about supernatural beings of Norse pagans. It flourished prior to the Christianization of Scandinavia, during the Early Middle Ages, and passed into Nordic folklore, with some aspects surviving...

, in the Poetic Edda
Poetic Edda
The Poetic Edda is a collection of Old Norse poems primarily preserved in the Icelandic mediaeval manuscript Codex Regius. Along with Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda, the Poetic Edda is the most important extant source on Norse mythology and Germanic heroic legends, and from the early 19th century...

. The editor of the Poetic Edda says that Helgi Hjörvarðsson and his mistress, the valkyrie
Valkyrie
In Norse mythology, a valkyrie is one of a host of female figures who decides who dies in battle. Selecting among half of those who die in battle , the valkyries bring their chosen to the afterlife hall of the slain, Valhalla, ruled over by the god Odin...

 Sváfa
Sváfa
In Norse mythology, Sváfa or Sváva is a valkyrie and the daughter of king Eylimi. Consequently she was probably the maternal aunt of Sigurd, the dragon slayer, although this is not explicitly mentioned in Helgakviða Hjörvarðssonar where Sváfa's story appears.-Etymology:The etymology of the...

, whose love story is told in the poem Helgakviða Hjörvarðssonar
Helgakviða Hjörvarðssonar
Helgakviða Hjörvarðssonar is a poem collected in the Poetic Edda, found in the Codex Regius manuscript where it follows Helgakviða Hundingsbana I and precedes Helgakviða Hundingsbana II...

, were reborn as Helgi Hundingsbane
Helgi Hundingsbane
Helgi Hundingsbane is a hero in Norse sagas. Helgi appears in Volsunga saga and in two lays in the Poetic Edda named Helgakviða Hundingsbana I and Helgakviða Hundingsbana II. The Poetic Edda relates that Helgi and his mistress Sigrún were Helgi Hjörvarðsson and Sváva of the Helgakviða...

 and the valkyrie Sigrún
Sigrún
Sigrún is a valkyrie in Norse mythology. Her story is related in Helgakviða Hundingsbana I and Helgakviða Hundingsbana II, in the Poetic Edda...

. Helgi and Sigrún's love story is the matter of a part of the Völsunga saga
Volsunga saga
The Völsungasaga is a legendary saga, a late 13th century Icelandic prose rendition of the origin and decline of the Völsung clan . It is largely based on epic poetry...

and the lays Helgakviða Hundingsbana I and II. They were reborn a second time as Helgi Haddingjaskati
Helgi Haddingjaskati
Helgi Haddingjaskati meaning "Helgi the lord of the Haddingjar" was a legendary Norse hero of which only fragmentary accounts survive.It is said in the end section of Helgakviða Hundingsbana II, a part of the Poetic Edda, that the hero Helgi Hundingsbane and his lover Sigrún were reincarned as...

 and the valkyrie Kára
Kára
In Norse mythology, Kára is a valkyrie. Kára is attested in the prose epilogue of the Poetic Edda poem Helgakviða Hundingsbana II. The epilogue details that "there was a belief in the pagan religion, which we now reckon an old wives' tale, that people could be reincarnated," and that the deceased...

, but unfortunately their story, Káruljóð, only survives in a probably modified form in the Hrómundar saga Gripssonar
Hrómundar saga Gripssonar
Hrómundar saga Gripssonar or The Saga of Hromund Gripsson is a legendary saga from Iceland. The original version has been lost, but its content has been preserved in the rímur of Hrómundr Gripsson published in Fernir forníslenzkar rímnaflokkar...

.

The belief in reincarnation may have been commonplace among the Norse since the annotator of the Poetic Edda wrote that people formerly used to believe in it:

Renaissance and Early Modern period


While reincarnation has been a matter of faith in some communities from an early date it has also frequently been argued for on principle, as Plato does when he argues that the number of souls must be finite because souls are indestructible, Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Dr. Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat...

 held a similar view. Sometimes such convictions, as in Socrates' case, arise from a more general personal faith, at other times from anecdotal evidence such as Plato makes Socrates offer in the Myth of Er.

During the Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 translations of Plato, the Hermetica
Hermetica
The Hermetica are Greek wisdom texts from the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE, mostly presented as dialogues in which a teacher, generally identified with Hermes Trismegistus or "thrice-greatest Hermes", enlightens a disciple...

 and other works fostered new European interest in reincarnation. Marsilio Ficino
Marsilio Ficino
Marsilio Ficino was one of the most influential humanist philosophers of the early Italian Renaissance, an astrologer, a reviver of Neoplatonism who was in touch with every major academic thinker and writer of his day, and the first translator of Plato's complete extant works into Latin...

 argued that Plato's references to reincarnation were intended allegorically, Shakespeare made fun but Giordano Bruno
Giordano Bruno
Giordano Bruno , born Filippo Bruno, was an Italian Dominican friar, philosopher, mathematician and astronomer. His cosmological theories went beyond the Copernican model in proposing that the Sun was essentially a star, and moreover, that the universe contained an infinite number of inhabited...

 was burned at the stake by authorities after being found guilty of heresy by the Roman Inquisition
Roman Inquisition
The Roman Inquisition was a system of tribunals developed by the Holy See during the second half of the 16th century, responsible for prosecuting individuals accused of a wide array of crimes related to heresy, including Protestantism, sorcery, immorality, blasphemy, Judaizing and witchcraft, as...

 for his teachings. But the Greek philosophical works remained available and, particularly in north Europe, were discussed by groups such as the Cambridge Platonists
Cambridge Platonists
The Cambridge Platonists were a group of philosophers at Cambridge University in the middle of the 17th century .- Programme :...

.

19th to 20th centuries


By the 19th century the philosophers Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher known for his pessimism and philosophical clarity. At age 25, he published his doctoral dissertation, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which examined the four separate manifestations of reason in the phenomenal...

 and Nietzsche could access the Indian scriptures for discussion of the doctrine of reincarnation, which recommended itself to the American Transcendentalists Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau was an American author, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, historian, and leading transcendentalist...

, Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman
Walter "Walt" Whitman was an American poet, essayist and journalist. A humanist, he was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse...

 and Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century...

 and was adapted by Francis Bowen
Francis Bowen
Francis Bowen was an American philosopher, writer, and educationalist.-Biography:He was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts. He was educated at Mayhew School, Boston, Phillips Exeter Academy, and Harvard University, graduating from the latter in 1833...

 into Christian Metempsychosis.

By the early 20th century, interest in reincarnation had been introduced into the nascent discipline of psychology
Psychology
Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Its immediate goal is to understand individuals and groups by both establishing general principles and researching specific cases. For many, the ultimate goal of psychology is to benefit society...

, largely due to the influence of William James
William James
William James was a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher who was trained as a physician. He wrote influential books on the young science of psychology, educational psychology, psychology of religious experience and mysticism, and on the philosophy of pragmatism...

, who raised aspects of the philosophy of mind
Philosophy of mind
Philosophy of mind is a branch of philosophy that studies the nature of the mind, mental events, mental functions, mental properties, consciousness and their relationship to the physical body, particularly the brain. The mind-body problem, i.e...

, comparative religion
Comparative religion
Comparative religion is a field of religious studies that analyzes the similarities and differences of themes, myths, rituals and concepts among the world's religions...

, the psychology of religious experience and the nature of empiricism. James was influential in the founding of the American Society for Psychical Research
American Society for Psychical Research
The American Society for Psychical Research is an organisation dedicated to parapsychology based in New York, where it maintains offices and a library. It is open to interested members of the public to join, and has a website...

 (ASPR) in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 in 1885, three years after the British Society for Psychical Research
Society for Psychical Research
The Society for Psychical Research is a non-profit organisation in the United Kingdom. Its stated purpose is to understand "events and abilities commonly described as psychic or paranormal by promoting and supporting important research in this area" and to "examine allegedly paranormal phenomena...

 (SPR) was inaugurated in London, leading to systematic, critical investigation of paranormal phenomena.

At this time popular awareness of the idea of reincarnation was boosted by the Theosophical Society
Theosophical Society
The Theosophical Society is an organization formed in 1875 to advance the spiritual principles and search for Truth known as Theosophy. The original organization, after splits and realignments has several successors...

's dissemination of systematised and universalised Indian concepts and also by the influence of magical societies like The Golden Dawn
The Golden Dawn
The Golden Dawn were an indie pop/indie rock band from Glasgow, Scotland formed in 1986, who were signed to Sarah Records on the strength of a 9-track demo. They had two hits on the UK Indie Chart in 1988 and 1989, with what have been described as "awesomely ragged, feedback-riddled singles"...

. Notable personalities like Annie Besant
Annie Besant
Annie Besant was a prominent British Theosophist, women's rights activist, writer and orator and supporter of Irish and Indian self rule.She was married at 19 to Frank Besant but separated from him over religious differences. She then became a prominent speaker for the National Secular Society ...

, W. B. Yeats and Dion Fortune
Dion Fortune
Violet Mary Firth Evans , better known as Dion Fortune, was a British occultist and author. Her pseudonym was inspired by her family motto "Deo, non fortuna" , originally the ancient motto of the Barons & Earls Digby.-Early life:She was born in Bryn-y-Bia in Llandudno, Wales, and grew up in a...

 made the subject almost as familiar an element of the popular culture of the west as of the east. By 1924 the subject could be satirised in popular children's books.

Théodore Flournoy
Théodore Flournoy
Théodore Flournoy was a professor of psychology at the University of Geneva and author of books on spiritism and psychic phenomena...

 was among the first to study a claim of past-life recall in the course of his investigation of the medium Hélène Smith
Hélène Smith
Hélène Smith was a famous late-19th century French psychic. She was known as "the Muse of Automatic Writing" by the Surrealists, who viewed Smith as evidence of the power of the surreal, and a symbol of surrealist knowledge...

, published in 1900, in which he defined the possibility of cryptomnesia
Cryptomnesia
Cryptomnesia occurs when a forgotten memory returns without it being recognised as such by the subject, who believes it is something new and original...

 in such accounts.
Carl Gustav Jung, like Flournoy based in Switzerland, also emulated him in his thesis based on a study of cryptomnesia in psychism. Later Jung would emphasise the importance of the persistence of memory and ego in psychological study of reincarnation; "This concept of rebirth necessarily implies the continuity of personality... (that) one is able, at least potentially, to remember that one has lived through previous existences, and that these existences were one's own...". Hypnosis
Hypnosis
Hypnosis is "a trance state characterized by extreme suggestibility, relaxation and heightened imagination."It is a mental state or imaginative role-enactment . It is usually induced by a procedure known as a hypnotic induction, which is commonly composed of a long series of preliminary...

, used in psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis is a psychological theory developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis has expanded, been criticized and developed in different directions, mostly by some of Freud's former students, such as Alfred Adler and Carl Gustav...

 for retrieving forgotten memories, was eventually tried as a means of studying the phenomenon of past life recall.

Reincarnation research



Psychiatrist Ian Stevenson
Ian Stevenson
Ian Pretyman Stevenson, MD, was a Canadian biochemist and professor of psychiatry. Until his retirement in 2002, he was head of the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia, which investigates the paranormal.Stevenson considered that the concept of reincarnation might...

, from the University of Virginia
University of Virginia
The University of Virginia is a public research university located in Charlottesville, Virginia, United States, founded by Thomas Jefferson...

, investigated many reports of young children who claimed to remember a past life. He conducted more than 2,500 case studies
Case study
A case study is an intensive analysis of an individual unit stressing developmental factors in relation to context. The case study is common in social sciences and life sciences. Case studies may be descriptive or explanatory. The latter type is used to explore causation in order to find...

 over a period of 40 years and published twelve books, including Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation
Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation
Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation is a book written by psychiatrist Ian Stevenson on the phenomena of what he calls spontaneous recall of information about previous lives by young children. The book focuses on twenty cases investigated by the author...

and Where Reincarnation and Biology Intersect
Where Reincarnation and Biology Intersect
Where Reincarnation and Biology Intersect is a 1997 book by psychiatrist Ian Stevenson, published by Praeger. The book is about birthmarks and birth defects ostensibly associated with reincarnation...

. Stevenson methodically documented each child's statements and then identified the deceased person the child identified with, and verified the facts of the deceased person's life that matched the child's memory. He also matched birthmarks
Birthmarks
"Birthmarks" is the fourth episode of the fifth season of House and the ninetieth episode overall. It aired on October 14, 2008.-Plot:...

 and birth defects to wounds and scars on the deceased, verified by medical records such as autopsy
Autopsy
An autopsy—also known as a post-mortem examination, necropsy , autopsia cadaverum, or obduction—is a highly specialized surgical procedure that consists of a thorough examination of a corpse to determine the cause and manner of death and to evaluate any disease or injury that may be present...

 photographs, in Reincarnation and Biology
Reincarnation and Biology
Reincarnation and Biology: A Contribution to the Etiology of Birthmarks and Birth Defects is a 1997 two-part monograph written by psychiatrist Ian Stevenson and published by Praeger...

.

Stevenson searched for disconfirming evidence and alternative explanations for the reports, and believed that his strict methods ruled out all possible "normal" explanations for the child’s memories. However, a significant majority of Stevenson's reported cases of reincarnation originated in Eastern societies, where dominant religions
Eastern philosophy
Eastern philosophy includes the various philosophies of Asia, including Chinese philosophy, Iranian philosophy, Japanese philosophy, Indian philosophy and Korean philosophy...

 often permit the concept of reincarnation. Following this type of criticism, Stevenson published a book on European Cases of the Reincarnation Type
European Cases of the Reincarnation Type
European Cases of the Reincarnation Type is a 2003 book by psychiatrist Ian Stevenson, who conducted research into claims of reincarnation. The work focuses on different reincarnation research case studies in a Western setting...

. Other people who have undertaken reincarnation research include Jim B. Tucker, Brian Weiss
Brian Weiss
Brian Leslie Weiss , M.D., is an American psychiatrist. His research includes reincarnation, past life regression, future-life progression and survival of the human soul after death.-Personal and professional life:...

, and Raymond Moody
Raymond Moody
Raymond Moody is a psychologist and medical doctor. He is most famous as an author of books about life after death and near-death experiences , a term that he coined in 1975. His best-selling title is Life After Life.-Life:...

.

Some skeptics, such as Paul Edwards
Paul Edwards (philosopher)
Paul Edwards, born Paul Eisenstein, was an Austrian American moral philosopher.-Life and career:Edwards was born in Vienna in 1923 to assimilated Jewish parents, the youngest of three brothers....

, have analyzed many of these accounts, and called them anecdotal
Anecdotal evidence
The expression anecdotal evidence refers to evidence from anecdotes. Because of the small sample, there is a larger chance that it may be true but unreliable due to cherry-picked or otherwise unrepresentative of typical cases....

. Skeptics suggest that claims of evidence for reincarnation originate from selective thinking and from the false memories
False memory
False memory syndrome describes a condition in which a person's identity and relationships are affected by memories which are factually incorrect but are strongly believed. Peter J...

 that often result from one's own belief system and basic fears, and thus cannot be counted as empirical evidence. Carl Sagan
Carl Sagan
Carl Edward Sagan was an American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, science popularizer and science communicator in astronomy and natural sciences. He published more than 600 scientific papers and articles and was author, co-author or editor of more than 20 books...

 referred to examples apparently from Stevenson's investigations in his book The Demon-Haunted World
The Demon-Haunted World
The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark is a book by astrophysicist Carl Sagan, which was first published in 1995.The book is intended to explain the scientific method to laypeople, and to encourage people to learn critical or skeptical thinking...

as an example of carefully collected empirical data, though he rejected reincarnation as a parsimonious explanation for the stories.

The most cited objection to reincarnation is that there is no mechanism known to modern science that would enable a personality to survive death and travel to another body, and researchers such as Professor Stevenson acknowledge this limitation. Another objection is that the vast majority of people do not remember previous lives. A possible counter-argument to this is that not all people reincarnate, although Professor Stevenson once proposed "maybe we're supposed to forget, but sometimes that system malfunctions, and we don't forget completely". Stevenson found that in the majority of cases he investigated people who remembered past lives had met some sort of violent or untimely death. Some people see a problem with population increase as there seems to be no way of "new souls" coming into existence, though this is addressed by many philosophies: Saiva Siddhanta believes that new souls constantly emanate from God like sparks from a fire; Other explanations include souls moving between people and animals, multiple planets and the time between incarnations decreasing as population increases.

Reincarnation in the West



During recent decades, many people in the West have developed an interest in reincarnation. Feature films, such as The Reincarnation of Peter Proud
The Reincarnation of Peter Proud
The Reincarnation of Peter Proud is an American motion picture released by Bing Crosby Productions, and Cinerama Productions Corporation. In the supernatural suspense genre, the film was directed by J...

, Dead Again
Dead Again
Dead Again is a 1991 psychological thriller/neo-noir directed by Kenneth Branagh, starring Branagh and his then-wife Emma Thompson. Andy García, Derek Jacobi and Robin Williams are also featured.-Plot summary:...

, Kundun
Kundun
Kundun is a 1997 epic biographical film written by Melissa Mathison and directed by Martin Scorsese. It is based on the life and writings of the 14th Dalai Lama, the exiled political and spiritual leader of Tibet...

, Fluke
Fluke (film)
Fluke is a 1995 film directed by Carlo Carlei and starring Matthew Modine, Eric Stoltz, Nancy Travis, Max Pomeranc and the voice of Samuel L. Jackson. Bill Cobbs, Ron Perlman, and Jon Polito co-star...

, What Dreams May Come
What Dreams May Come (film)
What Dreams May Come is a 1998 American supernatural drama film, starring Robin Williams, Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Annabella Sciorra. The film is based on the 1978 novel of the same name by Richard Matheson, and was directed by Vincent Ward. The title is taken from a line in Hamlet's To be, or not to...

and Birth
Birth (film)
Birth is a 2004 film directed by Jonathan Glazer and starring Nicole Kidman, Lauren Bacall, Danny Huston and Cameron Bright.The story is about a young widow from a prominent Manhattan-based family named Anna who slowly becomes convinced that her husband, Sean, who died ten years previously, has...

, contemporary books by authors such as Carol Bowman
Carol Bowman
Carol Bowman, M.S., is an author, lecturer, counselor, and therapist, known for her work in studying cases of reincarnation, especially those involving young children....

 and Vicki Mackenzie
Vicki Mackenzie
Vicki Mackenzie , an author and journalist, was born in England and spent much of her early life in Australia. The daughter of a naval officer, she graduated from Queensland University and became a reporter at the Sun newspaper in Sydney....

, as well as popular songs, regularly mention reincarnation.

Recent studies have indicated that some Westerners accept the idea of reincarnation including certain contemporary Christians, modern Neopagans
Neopaganism
Neopaganism is an umbrella term used to identify a wide variety of modern religious movements, particularly those influenced by or claiming to be derived from the various pagan beliefs of pre-modern Europe...

, followers of Spiritism
Spiritism
Spiritism is a loose corpus of religious faiths having in common the general belief in the survival of a spirit after death. In a stricter sense, it is the religion, beliefs and practices of the people affiliated to the International Spiritist Union, based on the works of Allan Kardec and others...

, Theosophists
Theosophy
Theosophy, in its modern presentation, is a spiritual philosophy developed since the late 19th century. Its major themes were originally described mainly by Helena Blavatsky , co-founder of the Theosophical Society...

 and students of esoteric
Esotericism
Esotericism or Esoterism signifies the holding of esoteric opinions or beliefs, that is, ideas preserved or understood by a small group or those specially initiated, or of rare or unusual interest. The term derives from the Greek , a compound of : "within", thus "pertaining to the more inward",...

 philosophies such as Kabbalah
Kabbalah
Kabbalah/Kabala is a discipline and school of thought concerned with the esoteric aspect of Rabbinic Judaism. It was systematized in 11th-13th century Hachmei Provence and Spain, and again after the Expulsion from Spain, in 16th century Ottoman Palestine...

, and Gnostic and Esoteric Christianity
Esoteric Christianity
Esoteric Christianity is a term which refers to an ensemble of spiritual currents which regard Christianity as a mystery religion, and profess the existence and possession of certain esoteric doctrines or practices, hidden from the public but accessible only to a narrow circle of "enlightened",...

 as well as of Indian religions. Demographic survey data from 1999-2002 shows a significant minority of people from Europe and America, where there is reasonable freedom of thought and access to ideas but no outstanding recent reincarnationist tradition, believe we had a life before we were born, will survive death and be born again physically. The mean for the Nordic countries is 22%. The belief in reincarnation is particularly high in the Baltic countries, with Lithuania having the highest figure for the whole of Europe, 44%. The lowest figure is in East Germany, 12%. In Russia, about one-third believes in reincarnation. The effect of communist anti-religious ideas on the beliefs of the populations of Eastern Europe seems to have been rather slight, if any, except apparently in East Germany. Overall, 22% of respondents in Western Europe
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

 believe in reincarnation. According to a 2005 Gallup poll 20 percent of U.S. adults believe in reincarnation. Recent surveys by the Barna Group, a Christian research nonprofit organization, have found that a quarter of U.S. Christians, including 10 percent of all born-again Christians, embrace the idea.

Skeptic Carl Sagan
Carl Sagan
Carl Edward Sagan was an American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, science popularizer and science communicator in astronomy and natural sciences. He published more than 600 scientific papers and articles and was author, co-author or editor of more than 20 books...

 asked the Dalai Lama
14th Dalai Lama
The 14th Dalai Lama is the 14th and current Dalai Lama. Dalai Lamas are the most influential figures in the Gelugpa lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, although the 14th has consolidated control over the other lineages in recent years...

 what would he do if a fundamental tenet of his religion (reincarnation) were definitively disproved by science. The Dalai Lama answered; "if science can disprove reincarnation, Tibetan Buddhism would abandon reincarnation... but it's going to be mighty hard to disprove reincarnation."

Ian Stevenson reported that belief in reincarnation is held (with variations in details) by adherents of almost all major religions except Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 and Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

. In addition, between 20 and 30 percent of persons in western countries who may be nominal Christians also believe in reincarnation.

One 1999 study by Walter and Waterhouse reviewed the previous data on the level of reincarnation belief and performed a set of thirty in-depth interviews in Britain among people who did not belong to a religion advocating reincarnation. The authors reported that surveys have found about one fifth to one quarter of Europeans have some level of belief in reincarnation, with similar results found in the USA. In the interviewed group, the belief in the existence of this phenomenon appeared independent of their age, or the type of religion that these people belonged to, with most being Christians. The beliefs of this group also did not appear to contain any more than usual of "new age" ideas (broadly defined) and the authors interpreted their ideas on reincarnation as "one way of tackling issues of suffering", but noted that this seemed to have little effect on their private lives.

Waterhouse also published a detailed discussion of beliefs expressed in the interviews. She noted that although most people "hold their belief in reincarnation quite lightly" and were unclear on the details of their ideas, personal experiences such as past-life memories and near-death experiences had influenced most believers, although only a few had direct experience of these phenomena. Waterhouse analyzed the influences of second-hand accounts of reincarnation, writing that most of the people in the survey had heard other people's accounts of past-lives from regression hypnosis and dreams and found these fascinating, feeling that there "must be something in it" if other people were having such experiences.
Another effect the concept that reincarnation has is its influence on cinematic art. In 2006, a movie called Pan's Labyrinth, directed by Guillermo Del Toro, expands on the idea of reincarnation in a way that appeals to western culture because the main character is reborn, and returns to a fantasy, or heaven like environment. this is a form of reincarnation, in that it relates to Hinduism because the girl was reincarnated into another realm; however it still comes from a western perspective because it is not in the same realm as humans.

Hinduism


In Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

often reffered to as Sanatana Dharma, the soul (atman
Atman (Hinduism)
Ātman is a Sanskrit word that means 'self'. In Hindu philosophy, especially in the Vedanta school of Hinduism it refers to one's true self beyond identification with phenomena...

) is immortal while the body is subject to birth and death. The concept is that beings are reincarnated as Atman
Atman
Atman means 'self' in Sanskrit and is a concept of importance in Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Yoga and Jainism:* Ātman * Ātman * Atman Atman may also refer to:...

, who go through the cycle of life known as Samsara
Samsara
thumb|right|200px|Traditional Tibetan painting or [[Thanka]] showing the [[wheel of life]] and realms of saṃsāraSaṅsāra or Saṃsāra , , literally meaning "continuous flow", is the cycle of birth, life, death, rebirth or reincarnation within Hinduism, Buddhism, Bön, Jainism, Sikhism, and other...

. In life people gain karma by acting, which prompts the need for reincarnation. whereas the only way to escape the cycle of life (reincarnation) is through meditation, which is referred to as "Moksha
Moksha
Within Indian religions, moksha or mukti , literally "release" , is the liberation from samsara and the concomitant suffering involved in being subject to the cycle of repeated death and reincarnation or rebirth.-Origins:It is highly probable that the concept of moksha was first developed in...

 " because it connects one with the rest of the universe.

The Bhagavad Gita
Bhagavad Gita
The ' , also more simply known as Gita, is a 700-verse Hindu scripture that is part of the ancient Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata, but is frequently treated as a freestanding text, and in particular, as an Upanishad in its own right, one of the several books that constitute general Vedic tradition...

 states;



and,
According to the Hindu sage Adi Shankaracharya, the world - as we ordinarily understand it - is like a dream: fleeting and illusory. To be trapped in samsara (the cycle of birth and death) is a result of ignorance of the true nature of our existence. It is ignorance (avidya
Avidya
Avidyā is a Sanskrit word that means "ignorance", "delusion", "unlearned", "unwise" and that which is not, or runs counter to, vidya. It is used extensively in Hindu texts, including the Upanishads and as well in Buddhist thought...

) of one's true self that leads to ego-consciousness, grounding one in desire and a perpetual chain of reincarnation. The idea is intricately linked to action (karma
Karma
Karma in Indian religions is the concept of "action" or "deed", understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect originating in ancient India and treated in Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh philosophies....

), a concept first recorded in the Upanishad
Upanishad
The Upanishads are philosophical texts considered to be an early source of Hindu religion. More than 200 are known, of which the first dozen or so, the oldest and most important, are variously referred to as the principal, main or old Upanishads...

s. Every action has a reaction and the force determines one's next incarnation. One is reborn through desire: a person desires to be born because he or she wants to enjoy a body, which can never bring deep, lasting happiness or peace (ānanda). After many births every person becomes dissatisfied and begins to seek higher forms of happiness through spiritual experience. When, after spiritual practice (sādhanā
Sadhana
Sādhanā literally "a means of accomplishing something" is ego-transcending spiritual practice. It includes a variety of disciplines in Hindu, Sikh , Buddhist and Muslim traditions that are followed in order to achieve various spiritual or ritual objectives.The historian N...

), a person realizes that the true "self" is the immortal soul rather than the body or the ego all desires for the pleasures of the world will vanish since they will seem insipid compared to spiritual ānanda. When all desire has vanished the person will not be born again. When the cycle of rebirth thus comes to an end, a person is said to have attained liberation (moksha
Moksha
Within Indian religions, moksha or mukti , literally "release" , is the liberation from samsara and the concomitant suffering involved in being subject to the cycle of repeated death and reincarnation or rebirth.-Origins:It is highly probable that the concept of moksha was first developed in...

). All schools agree this implies the cessation of worldly desires and freedom from the cycle of birth and death, though the exact definition differs. Followers of the Advaita Vedanta
Advaita Vedanta
Advaita Vedanta is considered to be the most influential and most dominant sub-school of the Vedānta school of Hindu philosophy. Other major sub-schools of Vedānta are Dvaita and ; while the minor ones include Suddhadvaita, Dvaitadvaita and Achintya Bhedabheda...

 school believe they will spend eternity absorbed in the perfect peace and happiness of the realization that all existence is One Brahman
Brahman
In Hinduism, Brahman is the one supreme, universal Spirit that is the origin and support of the phenomenal universe. Brahman is sometimes referred to as the Absolute or Godhead which is the Divine Ground of all being...

of which the soul is part. Dvaita
Dvaita
Dvaita is a school of Vedanta founded by Shri Madhvacharya....

 schools perform worship with the goal of spending eternity in a spiritual world or heaven (loka
Loka
Loka is a Sanskrit word for "world". In Hindu mythology it takes a specific meaning related to cosmology.-Hindu tradition:In the Puranas, and already in the Atharvaveda, there are fourteen worlds, seven higher ones and seven lower ones , viz...

) in the blessed company of the Supreme Being
Supreme Being
The term Supreme Being is often defined simply as "God", and it is used with this meaning by theologians of many religious faiths, including, but not limited to, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Deism. However, the term can also refer to more complex or philosophical interpretations of the...

.

Jainism


Jainism
Jainism
Jainism is an Indian religion that prescribes a path of non-violence towards all living beings. Its philosophy and practice emphasize the necessity of self-effort to move the soul towards divine consciousness and liberation. Any soul that has conquered its own inner enemies and achieved the state...

, like Buddhism, is historically connected with the sramana tradition with which the earliest mentions of reincarnation are associated. Like Hinduism, and Buddhism, Jainism was one of many religions that spawned from India. Both Buddhism and Jainism were cultivated from Men who were members of India's As these religions may appear similar because they share common regional identity, they contain notable differences. The Spiritual Leader of this movement was known as Mahavira
Mahavira
Mahāvīra is the name most commonly used to refer to the Indian sage Vardhamāna who established what are today considered to be the central tenets of Jainism. According to Jain tradition, he was the 24th and the last Tirthankara. In Tamil, he is referred to as Arukaṉ or Arukadevan...

 or "The Great Hero."

Ahimsa
Ahimsa
Ahimsa is a term meaning to do no harm . The word is derived from the Sanskrit root hims – to strike; himsa is injury or harm, a-himsa is the opposite of this, i.e. non harming or nonviolence. It is an important tenet of the Indian religions...

 is the name for the Jainism symbol, which represented the cycle of amsara].

Buddhism


While accepting the idea of reincarnation, Buddhists believe that the mind (as a non-physical being) is always reborn. It is a "formless continuum, and have had countless rebirths because unlike minds, bodies are temporary." --Benny2020 (talk) 14:01, 1 December 2011 (UTC) The early Buddhist texts make it clear that there is no permanent consciousness that moves from life to life. Gautama Buddha
Gautama Buddha
Siddhārtha Gautama was a spiritual teacher from the Indian subcontinent, on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. In most Buddhist traditions, he is regarded as the Supreme Buddha Siddhārtha Gautama (Sanskrit: सिद्धार्थ गौतम; Pali: Siddhattha Gotama) was a spiritual teacher from the Indian...

 taught a distinct concept of rebirth constrained by the concepts of anattā, that there is no irreducible ātman
Atman (Buddhism)
The word Ātman or Atta refers to a self. Occasionally the terms "soul" or "ego" are also used. The words ātman and atta derive from the Indo-European root *ēt-men and are cognate with the Old English æthm and German Atem....

 or "self" tying these lives together, which serves as a contrast to Hinduism, where everything is connected, and in a sense, "everything is everything." and anicca
Impermanence
Impermanence is one of the essential doctrines or three marks of existence in Buddhism...

, that all compounded things are subject to dissolution, including all the components of the human person and personality.

In Buddhist doctrine
Doctrine
Doctrine is a codification of beliefs or a body of teachings or instructions, taught principles or positions, as the body of teachings in a branch of knowledge or belief system...

 the evolving consciousness (Pali: samvattanika-viññana) or stream of consciousness (Pali: viññana-sotam, Sanskrit: vijñāna-srotām, vijñāna-santāna, or citta-santāna) upon death (or "the dissolution of the aggregates" (P. khandhas, S. skandha
Skandha
In Buddhist phenomenology and soteriology, the skandhas or khandhas are any of five types of phenomena that serve as objects of clinging and bases for a sense of self...

s)), becomes one of the contributing causes for the arising of a new aggregation. At the death of one personality, a new one comes into being, much as the flame of a dying candle can serve to light the flame of another. The consciousness in the new person is neither identical to nor entirely different from that in the deceased but the two form a causal continuum or stream. Transmigration is the effect of karma (kamma) or volitional action. The basic cause is the abiding of consciousness in ignorance (Pali: avijja, Sanskrit: avidya
Avidya (Buddhism)
Avidyā or avijjā means "ignorance" or "delusion" and is the opposite of 'vidyā' and 'rig pa'...

): when ignorance is uprooted rebirth ceases.

The Buddha's detailed conception of the connections between action (karma
Karma in Buddhism
Karma means "action" or "doing"; whatever one does, says, or thinks is a karma. In Buddhism, the term karma is used specifically for those actions which spring from the intention of an unenlightened being.These bring about a fruit or result Karma (Sanskrit, also karman, Pāli: Kamma) means...

), rebirth and causality is set out in the twelve links
Twelve Nidanas
The Twelve Nidānas are the best-known application of the Buddhist concept of pratītyasamutpāda , identifying the origins of dukkha to be in tanha and avijja...

 of dependent origination
Pratitya-samutpada
Dependent origination or dependent arising is a cardinal doctrine of Buddhism, and arguably the only thing that holds every Buddhist teaching together from Theravada to Dzogchen to the extinct schools. As a concept and a doctrine it has a general and a specific application, both being integral to...

. The empirical, changing self does not only affect the world about it, it also generates, consciously and unconsciously, a subjective image of the world in which it lives as 'reality'. It "tunes in" to a particular level of consciousness which has a particular range of objects, selectively notices such objects and forms a partial model of reality in which the ego is the crucial reference point. Vipassana
Vipassana
Vipassanā or vipaśyanā in the Buddhist tradition means insight into the true nature of reality. A regular practitioner of Vipassana is known as a Vipassi . Vipassana is one of the world's most ancient techniques of meditation, the inception of which is attributed to Gautama Buddha...

 meditation uses "bare attention" to mind-states without interfering, owning or judging. Observation reveals each moment as an experience of an individual mind-state such as a thought, a memory, a feeling or a perception that arises, exists and ceases. This limits the power of desire, which, according to the second noble truth of Buddhism, is the cause of suffering (dukkha), and leads to Nirvana
Nirvana
Nirvāṇa ; ) is a central concept in Indian religions. In sramanic thought, it is the state of being free from suffering. In Hindu philosophy, it is the union with the Supreme being through moksha...

(nibbana, vanishing (of the self-idea)) in which self-oriented models are transcended and "the world stops". Thus consciousness is a continuous birth and death of mind-states: rebirth is the persistence of this process.

While all Buddhist traditions accept rebirth there is no unified view about precisely how events unfold after death. The Tibetan
Tibetan Buddhism
Tibetan Buddhism is the body of Buddhist religious doctrine and institutions characteristic of Tibet and certain regions of the Himalayas, including northern Nepal, Bhutan, and India . It is the state religion of Bhutan...

 schools hold to the notion of a bardo
Bardo
The Tibetan word Bardo means literally "intermediate state" - also translated as "transitional state" or "in-between state" or "liminal state". In Sanskrit the concept has the name antarabhāva...

 (intermediate state) that can last up to forty-nine days. An accomplished or realized practitioner (by maintaining conscious awareness during the death process) can choose to return to samsara, that many lamas choose to be born again and again as humans and are called tulkus or incarnate lamas. The Sarvastivada
Sarvastivada
The Sarvāstivāda were an early school of Buddhism that held to 'the existence of all dharmas in the past, present and future, the 'three times'. Vasubandhu's states:-Name:...

 school believed that between death and rebirth there is a sort of limbo in which beings do not yet reap the consequences of their previous actions but may still influence their rebirth. The death process and this intermediate state were believed to offer a uniquely favourable opportunity for spiritual awakening. Theravada Buddhism generally denies there is an intermediate state, though some early Buddhist texts seem to support it, but asserts that rebirth is immediate.

Some schools conclude that karma
Karma
Karma in Indian religions is the concept of "action" or "deed", understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect originating in ancient India and treated in Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh philosophies....

 continues to exist and adhere to the person until it works out its consequences. For the Sautrantika school each act "perfumes" the individual or "plants a seed" that later germinates. In another view remaining impure aggregates, skandhas, reform consciousness. Tibetan Buddhism stresses the state of mind at the time of death. To die with a peaceful mind will stimulate a virtuous seed and a fortunate rebirth, a disturbed mind will stimulate a non-virtuous seed and an unfortunate rebirth. The medieval Pali scholar Buddhaghosa
Buddhaghosa
Bhadantācariya Buddhaghoṣa(Chinese: 覺音)was a 5th-century Indian Theravadin Buddhist commentator and scholar. His best-known work is the Visuddhimagga, or Path of Purification, a comprehensive summary and analysis of the Theravada understanding of the Buddha's path to liberation...

 labeled the consciousness that constitutes the condition for a new birth as described in the early texts "rebirth-linking consciousness" (patisandhi).

Sant mystics and Sikhism


Reincarnation remained a tenet of the Sant
Sant
Sant is an Indian term derived from a Sanskrit verb that means both "to be good" and "to be real". From the fifteenth century the term has often referred to those who sing the name of God and worship Him, particularly the bhakti poets of Marathi...

 Bhakti movement
Bhakti movement
The Bhakti movement is a Hindu religious movement in which the main spiritual practice is loving devotion among the Shaivite and Vaishnava saints. The Bhakti movement originated in ancient Tamil Nadu and began to spread to the north during the late medieval ages when north India was under Islamic...

 and of related mystics on the frontiers of Islam and Hinduism such as the Baul
Baul
Baul .Though Bauls comprise only a small fraction of the Bengali population, their influence on the culture of Bengal is considerable. In 2005, the Baul tradition was included in the list of "Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity" by UNESCO.-Etymology:The origin of the word...

 minstrels, the Kabir panth and the Sikh
Sikh
A Sikh is a follower of Sikhism. It primarily originated in the 15th century in the Punjab region of South Asia. The term "Sikh" has its origin in Sanskrit term शिष्य , meaning "disciple, student" or शिक्ष , meaning "instruction"...

 Brotherhood. Sikhs believe the soul is passed from one body to another until Liberation. If we perform good deeds and actions and remember the Creator, we attain a better life while, if we carry out evil actions and sinful deeds, we will be incarnated in “lower” life forms. God may pardon wrongs and release us. Otherwise reincarnation is due to the law of cause and effect but does not create any caste or differences among people. Eckankar
Eckankar
Eckankar is a new religious movement founded in the United States in 1965, though practiced around the world long before with a solid following in China. It focuses on spiritual exercises enabling practitioners to experience what its followers call "the Light and Sound of God." The personal...

 is a Western presentation of Sant mysticism. It teaches that the soul is eternal and either chooses an incarnation for growth or else an incarnation is imposed because of Karma
Karma
Karma in Indian religions is the concept of "action" or "deed", understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect originating in ancient India and treated in Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh philosophies....

. The soul is perfected through a series of incarnations until it arrives at "Personal Mastery".

African Vodun



The Yoruba believe in reincarnation within the family. The names Babatunde (father returns), Yetunde (Mother returns), Babatunji (Father wakes once again) and Sotunde (The wise man returns) all offer vivid evidence of the Ifa concept of familial or lineal rebirth. There is no simple guarantee that your grandfather or great uncle will "come back" in the birth of your child, however.

Whenever the time arrives for a spirit to return to Earth (otherwise known as The Marketplace) through the conception of a new life in the direct bloodline of the family, one of the component entities of a person's being returns, while the other remains in Heaven (Ikole Orun). The spirit that returns does so in the form of a Guardian Ori. One's Guardian Ori, which is represented and contained in the crown of the head, represents not only the spirit and energy of one's previous blood relative, but the accumulated wisdom he or she has acquired through a myriad of lifetimes. This is not to be confused with one’s spiritual Ori, which contains personal destiny, but instead refers to the coming back to The Marketplace of one's personal blood Ori through one's new life and experiences. The explanation in The Way of the Orisa was really quite clear. The Primary Ancestor (which should be identified in your Itefa (Life Path Reading)) becomes - if you are aware and work with that specific energy - a “guide” for the individual throughout their lifetime. At the end of that life they return to their identical spirit self and merge into one, taking the additional knowledge gained from their experience with the individual as a form of payment.

Islam


The idea of reincarnation is accepted by a few Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 sects, particularly of the (Ghulat
Ghulat
Ghulāt , is a term used in the theology of Shia Islam to describe some minority Muslim groups who either ascribe divine characteristics to a member of Muhammad's family , or hold beliefs deemed deviant by mainstream Shi'i theology...

), and by other sects in the Muslim world such as Druze
Druze
The Druze are an esoteric, monotheistic religious community, found primarily in Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan, which emerged during the 11th century from Ismailism. The Druze have an eclectic set of beliefs that incorporate several elements from Abrahamic religions, Gnosticism, Neoplatonism...

s. Historically, South Asian Isma'ilis performed chantas yearly, one of which is for sins committed in past lives. (Aga Khan IV
Aga Khan IV
Prince Karim, Aga Khan IV, NPk, NI, KBE, CC, GCC, GCIH, GCM is the 49th and current Imam of the Shia Imami Nizari Ismaili Muslims. He has held this position under the title of Aga Khan since July 11, 1957, when, at the age of 20, he succeeded his grandfather, Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan...

) Sinan ibn Salman ibn Muhammad, also known as Rashid al-Din Sinan, (r. 1162-92) subscribed to the transmigration of souls as a tenet of the Alawi
Alawi
The Alawis, also known as Alawites, Nusayris and Ansaris are a prominent mystical and syncretic religious group centred in Syria who are a branch of Shia Islam.-Etymology:...

, who are thought to have been influenced by Isma'ilism.

Modern Sufis who embrace the idea of reincarnation include Bawa Muhaiyadeen. However Hazrat Inayat Khan has criticized the idea as unhelpful to the spiritual seeker.

Judaism


Reincarnation is not an essential tenet of traditional Judaism
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

. It is not mentioned in the Tanakh
Tanakh
The Tanakh is a name used in Judaism for the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The Tanakh is also known as the Masoretic Text or the Miqra. The name is an acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the Masoretic Text's three traditional subdivisions: The Torah , Nevi'im and Ketuvim —hence...

 ("Hebrew Bible"), the classical rabbinical works (Mishnah
Mishnah
The Mishnah or Mishna is the first major written redaction of the Jewish oral traditions called the "Oral Torah". It is also the first major work of Rabbinic Judaism. It was redacted c...

 and Talmud
Talmud
The Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history....

), or Maimonides
Maimonides
Moses ben-Maimon, called Maimonides and also known as Mūsā ibn Maymūn in Arabic, or Rambam , was a preeminent medieval Jewish philosopher and one of the greatest Torah scholars and physicians of the Middle Ages...

' 13 Principles of Faith
Jewish principles of faith
The concept of an explicit, paramount definition of faith does not exist in Judaism as it does in other monotheistic religions such as Christianity. Although Jews and religious leaders share a core of monotheistic principles, and there are many fundamental principles quoted in the Talmud to define...

, though the tale of the Ten Martyrs in the Yom Kippur liturgy, who were killed by Romans to atone for the souls of the ten brothers of Joseph, is read in Ashkenazi Orthodox Jewish communities. Medieval Jewish Rationalist
Jewish philosophy
Jewish philosophy , includes all philosophy carried out by Jews, or, in relation to the religion of Judaism. Jewish philosophy, until modern Enlightenment and Emancipation, was pre-occupied with attempts to reconcile coherent new ideas into the tradition of Rabbinic Judaism; thus organizing...

 philosophers discussed the issue, often in rejection. However, Jewish mystical texts (the Kabbalah
Kabbalah
Kabbalah/Kabala is a discipline and school of thought concerned with the esoteric aspect of Rabbinic Judaism. It was systematized in 11th-13th century Hachmei Provence and Spain, and again after the Expulsion from Spain, in 16th century Ottoman Palestine...

), from their classic Medieval canon onwards, teach a belief in Gilgul Neshamot (Hebrew for metempsychosis of souls: literally "soul cycle", plural "gilgulim"). It is a common belief in contemporary Hasidic Judaism
Hasidic Judaism
Hasidic Judaism or Hasidism, from the Hebrew —Ḥasidut in Sephardi, Chasidus in Ashkenazi, meaning "piety" , is a branch of Orthodox Judaism that promotes spirituality and joy through the popularisation and internalisation of Jewish mysticism as the fundamental aspects of the Jewish faith...

, which regards the Kabbalah as sacred and authoritative, though unstressed in favour of a more innate psychological mysticism. Other, Non-Hasidic, Orthodox Jewish groups while not placing a heavy emphasis on reincarnation, do acknowledge it as a valid teaching. Its popularisation entered modern secular Yiddish literature
Yiddish literature
Yiddish literature encompasses all belles lettres written in Yiddish, the language of Ashkenazic Jewry which is related to Middle High German. The history of Yiddish, with its roots in central Europe and locus for centuries in Eastern Europe, is evident in its literature.It is generally described...

 and folk motif.

The 16th-century mystical renaissance in communal Safed
Safed
Safed , is a city in the Northern District of Israel. Located at an elevation of , Safed is the highest city in the Galilee and of Israel. Due to its high elevation, Safed experiences warm summers and cold, often snowy, winters...

 replaced scholastic Rationalism
Jewish philosophy
Jewish philosophy , includes all philosophy carried out by Jews, or, in relation to the religion of Judaism. Jewish philosophy, until modern Enlightenment and Emancipation, was pre-occupied with attempts to reconcile coherent new ideas into the tradition of Rabbinic Judaism; thus organizing...

 as mainstream traditional Jewish theology, both in scholarly circles and in the popular imagination. References to gilgul in former Kabbalah became systemised as part of the metaphysical purpose of creation. Isaac Luria
Isaac Luria
Isaac Luria , also called Yitzhak Ben Shlomo Ashkenazi acronym "The Ari" "Ari-Hakadosh", or "Arizal", meaning "The Lion", was a foremost rabbi and Jewish mystic in the community of Safed in the Galilee region of Ottoman Palestine...

 (the Ari) brought the issue to the centre of his new mystical articulation, for the first time, and advocated identification of the reincarnations of historic Jewish figures that were compiled by Haim Vital in his Shaar HaGilgulim. Gilgul is contrasted with the other processes in Kabbalah of Ibbur ("pregnancy"), the attachment of a second soul to an individual for (or by) good means, and Dybuk ("possession"), the attachment of a spirit, demon, etc. to an individual for (or by) "bad" means.

In Lurianic Kabbalah, reincarnation is not retributive or fatalistic, but an expression of Divine compassion, the microcosm of the doctrine of cosmic rectification of creation. Gilgul is a heavenly agreement with the individual soul, conditional upon circumstances. Luria's radical system focused on rectification
Tikkun
Tikkun/Tikun is a Hebrew word meaning "Fixing/Rectification". It has several connotations in Judaism:Traditional:*Tikkun , a book of Torah scroll text, used when learning to chant Torah portions or for correct-fixed scribal calligraphy...

 of the Divine soul, played out through Creation. The true essence of anything is the divine spark within that gives it existence. Even a stone or leaf possesses such a soul that "came into this world to receive a rectification". A human soul may occasionally be exiled into lower inanimate, vegetative or animal creations. The most basic component of the soul, the nefesh, must leave at the cessation of blood production. There are four other soul components and different nations of the world possess different forms of souls with different purposes. Each Jewish soul is reincarnated in order to fulfil each of the 613 Mosaic commandments
613 mitzvot
The 613 commandments is a numbering of the statements and principles of law, ethics, and spiritual practice contained in the Torah or Five Books of Moses...

 that elevate a particular spark of holiness associated with each commandment. Once all the Sparks are redeemed to their spiritual source, the Messianic Era begins. Non-Jewish observance of the 7 Laws of Noah assists the Jewish people, though Biblical adversaries of Israel reincarnate to oppose.

Rabbis who accepted reincarnation include the mystical leaders Nahmanides
Nahmanides
Nahmanides, also known as Rabbi Moses ben Naḥman Girondi, Bonastruc ça Porta and by his acronym Ramban, , was a leading medieval Jewish scholar, Catalan rabbi, philosopher, physician, kabbalist, and biblical commentator.-Name:"Nahmanides" is a Greek-influenced formation meaning "son of Naḥman"...

 (the Ramban) and Rabbenu Bahya ben Asher
Bahya ben Asher
Bahye ben Asher ibn Halawa also known as Rabbeinu Behaye was a rabbi and scholar of Judaism. He was a commentator on the Hebrew Bible and is noted for introducing Kabbalah into study of the Torah.He is considered by Jewish scholars to be one of the most distinguished of the Biblical exegetes of...

, Levi ibn Habib (the Ralbah), Shelomoh Alkabez, the Baal Shem Tov and later Hasidic masters, and the Mitnagdic Vilna Gaon
Vilna Gaon
Elijah ben Shlomo Zalman Kramer, known as the Vilna Gaon or Elijah of Vilna and simply by his Hebrew acronym Gra or Elijah Ben Solomon, , was a Talmudist, halachist, kabbalist, and the foremost leader of non-hasidic Jewry of the past few centuries...

. Rabbis who have rejected the idea include Saadia Gaon
Saadia Gaon
Saʻadiah ben Yosef Gaon was a prominent rabbi, Jewish philosopher, and exegete of the Geonic period.The first important rabbinic figure to write extensively in Arabic, he is considered the founder of Judeo-Arabic literature...

, David Kimhi
David Kimhi
David Kimhi , also known by the Hebrew acronym as the RaDaK , was a medieval rabbi, biblical commentator, philosopher, and grammarian. Born in Narbonne, Provence, he was the son of Rabbi Joseph Kimhi and the brother of Rabbi Moses Kimhi, both biblical commentators and grammarians...

, Hasdai Crescas
Hasdai Crescas
Hasdai ben Judah Crescas was a Jewish philosopher and a renowned halakhist...

, Joseph Albo
Joseph Albo
Joseph Albo was a Jewish philosopher and rabbi who lived in Spain during the fifteenth century, known chiefly as the author of Sefer ha-Ikkarim , the classic work on the fundamentals of Judaism.-Early life:Albo's birthplace is generally assumed to be Monreal, a town in Aragon...

, Abraham ibn Daud
Abraham ibn Daud
Abraham ibn Daud was a Spanish-Jewish astronomer, historian, and philosopher; born at Toledo, Spain about 1110; died, according to common report, a martyr about 1180. He is sometimes known by the abbreviation Rabad I or Ravad I. His mother belonged to a family famed for its learning...

 and Leon de Modena. Among the Geonim
Geonim
Geonim were the presidents of the two great Babylonian, Talmudic Academies of Sura and Pumbedita, in the Abbasid Caliphate, and were the generally accepted spiritual leaders of the Jewish community world wide in the early medieval era, in contrast to the Resh Galuta who wielded secular authority...

, Hai Gaon
Hai Gaon
Hai ben Sherira , was a medieval Jewish theologian, rabbi and scholar who served as Gaon of the Talmudic academy of Pumbedita during the early 11th century. He was born in 939 and died on March 28, 1038...

 argued in favour of gilgulim.

Native American nations


Reincarnation is an intrinsic part of many Native American
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...

 and Inuit
Inuit
The Inuit are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic regions of Canada , Denmark , Russia and the United States . Inuit means “the people” in the Inuktitut language...

  traditions. In the now heavily Christian
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 Polar North
Polar region
Earth's polar regions are the areas of the globe surrounding the poles also known as frigid zones. The North Pole and South Pole being the centers, these regions are dominated by the polar ice caps, resting respectively on the Arctic Ocean and the continent of Antarctica...

 (now mainly parts of Greenland
Greenland
Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe for...

 and Nunavut
Nunavut
Nunavut is the largest and newest federal territory of Canada; it was separated officially from the Northwest Territories on April 1, 1999, via the Nunavut Act and the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act, though the actual boundaries had been established in 1993...

), the concept of reincarnation is enshrined in the Inuit language
Inuit language
The Inuit language is traditionally spoken across the North American Arctic and to some extent in the subarctic in Labrador. The related Yupik languages are spoken in western and southern Alaska and Russian Far East, particularly the Diomede Islands, but is severely endangered in Russia today and...

.

The following is a story of human-to-human reincarnation as told by Thunder Cloud, a Winnebago shaman referred to as T. C. in the narrative. Here T. C. talks about his two previous lives and how he died and came back again to this his third lifetime. He describes his time between lives, when he was “blessed” by Earth Maker and all the abiding spirits and given special powers, including the ability to heal the sick.

T. C.’s Account of His Two Reincarnations

Christianity


Though the major Christian denominations reject the concept of reincarnation, a large number of Christians profess the belief. In a survey by the Pew Forum in 2009, 24% of American Christians expressed a belief in reincarnation. In a 1981 Survey in Europe 31% of regular churchgoing Catholics expressed a belief in reincarnation.

Geddes MacGregor, an Episcopalian priest who is Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern California, Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a recipient of the California Literature Award (Gold Medal, non-fiction category), and the first holder of the Rufus Jones Chair in Philosophy and Religion at Bryn Mawr, demonstrates in his book Reincarnation in Christianity: A New Vision of the Role of Rebirth in Christian Thought, that Christian doctrine and reincarnation are not mutually exclusive belief systems.

Theosophy


The Theosophical Society
Theosophical Society
The Theosophical Society is an organization formed in 1875 to advance the spiritual principles and search for Truth known as Theosophy. The original organization, after splits and realignments has several successors...

 draws much of its inspiration from India. The idea is, according to a recent Theosophical writer, "the master-key to modern problems," including heredity. In the Theosophical world-view reincarnation is the vast rhythmic process by which the soul, the part of a person which belongs to the formless non-material and timeless worlds, unfolds its spiritual powers in the world and comes to know itself. It descends from sublime, free, spiritual realms and gathers experience through its effort to express itself in the world. Afterwards there is a withdrawal from the physical plane to successively higher levels of Reality, in death, a purification and assimilation of the past life. Having cast off all instruments of personal experience it stands again in its spiritual and formless nature, ready to begin its next rhythmic manifestation, every lifetime bringing it closer to complete self-knowledge and self-expression. However it may attract old mental, emotional, and energetic karma patterns to form the new personality.

Eckankar


Awareness of past lives, dreams, and soul travel are spiritual disciplines practiced by students of Eckankar
Eckankar
Eckankar is a new religious movement founded in the United States in 1965, though practiced around the world long before with a solid following in China. It focuses on spiritual exercises enabling practitioners to experience what its followers call "the Light and Sound of God." The personal...

. Eckankar teaches that each person is Soul, which transcends time and space. Soul travel is a term specific to Eckankar that refers to a shift in consciousness. Eckists believe the purpose of being aware of past lives is to help with understanding personal conditions in the present. Practicing students of Eckankar can become aware of past lives, through dreams, soul travel, and spiritual exercises called contemplations. This form of contemplation is the active, unconditional practice of going within to connect with the "Light and Sound of God" known as the divine life current or Holy Spirit.

Scientology


Past reincarnation, usually termed "past lives", is a key part of the principles and practices of the Church of Scientology
Church of Scientology
The Church of Scientology is an organization devoted to the practice and the promotion of the Scientology belief system. The Church of Scientology International is the Church of Scientology's parent organization, and is responsible for the overall ecclesiastical management, dissemination and...

. Scientologists believe that the human individual is actually an immortal thetan
Thetan
In Scientology, the concept of thetan is similar to the concept of spirit or soul found in other belief systems. The term is derived from the Greek letter theta, which in Scientology represents "the source of life, or life itself." In Scientology it is believed that it is the Thetan, not the...

, or spiritual entity, that has fallen into a degraded state as a result of past-life experiences. Scientology auditing
Auditing (Scientology)
Auditing was developed by L. Ron Hubbard, and is described by the Church of Scientology as "spiritual counseling which is the central practice of Dianetics and Scientology".-Description:...

 is intended to free the person of these past-life traumas and recover past-life memory, leading to a higher state of spiritual awareness. This idea is echoed in their highest fraternal religious order, the Sea Organization, whose motto is "Revenimus" or "We Come Back", and whose members sign a "billion-year contract" as a sign of commitment to that ideal. L. Ron Hubbard
L. Ron Hubbard
Lafayette Ronald Hubbard , better known as L. Ron Hubbard , was an American pulp fiction author and religious leader who founded the Church of Scientology...

, the founder of Scientology, does not use the word "reincarnation" to describe its beliefs, noting that: "The common definition of reincarnation has been altered from its original meaning. The word has come to mean 'to be born again in different life forms' whereas its actual definition is 'to be born again into the flesh of another body.' Scientology ascribes to this latter, original definition of reincarnation."

The first writings in Scientology regarding past lives date from around 1951 and slightly earlier. In 1960, Hubbard published a book on past lives entitled Have You Lived Before This Life
Have You Lived Before This Life
Have You Lived Before This Life is a non-fiction book published by L. Ron Hubbard in 1960. It is one of the canonical texts of Scientology....

. In 1968 he wrote Mission into Time, a report on a five-week sailing expedition to Sardinia, Sicily and Carthage to see if specific evidence could be found to substantiate L. Ron Hubbard's recall of incidents in his own past, centuries ago.

Meher Baba


The Indian spiritual teacher Meher Baba
Meher Baba
Meher Baba , , born Merwan Sheriar Irani, was an Indian mystic and spiritual master who declared publicly in 1954 that he was the Avatar of the age....

 stated that reincarnation occurs due to desires and once those desires are extinguished the ego-mind ceases to reincarnate:

The power that keeps the individual soul bound to the wheel of life and death is its thirst for separate existence, which is a condition for a host of cravings connected with objects and experiences of the world of duality. It is for the fulfillment of cravings that the ego-mind keeps on incarnating itself. When all forms of craving disappear, the impressions which create and enliven the ego-mind disappear. With the disappearance of these impressions, the ego-mind itself is shed with the result that there is only the realisation of the one eternal, unchanging Oversoul or God, Who is the only reality. God-realisation is the end of the incarnations of the ego-mind because it is the end of its very existence. As long as the ego-mind exists in some form, there is an inevitable and irresistible urge for incarnations. When there is cessation of the ego-mind, there is cessation of incarnations in the final fulfillment of Self-realisation.

See also


  • Afterlife
    Afterlife
    The afterlife is the belief that a part of, or essence of, or soul of an individual, which carries with it and confers personal identity, survives the death of the body of this world and this lifetime, by natural or supernatural means, in contrast to the belief in eternal...

  • Arthur Flowerdew
    Arthur Flowerdew
    James Arthur Flowerdew was a retired English Captain from Norfolk, England whose unique recollections of the ancient city of Petra in Jordan strongly suggest to some the existence of reincarnation.- Life :...

  • Bhavacakra
    Bhavacakra
    The bhavacakra is a symbolic representation of samsara found on the outside walls of Tibetan Buddhist temples and monasteries in the Indo-Tibet region...

  • Joan Grant
    Joan Grant
    Joan Grant was an author of historical novels and reincarnationist. Her first and most famous novel was Winged Pharaoh . Grant shot to unexpected fame upon publication...

  • Karmic astrology
    Karmic astrology
    Karmic Astrology is practiced by the astrologers who believe in karma and reincarnation. Some of these astrologers profess they can read the person's karma in a Natal chart by studying - in particular - Lunar nodes and retrograde planets...

  • Life review
    Life review
    A life review is a phenomenon widely reported as occurring during near-death experiences, in which a person rapidly sees much or the totality of his or her life history in chronological sequence and in extreme detail. It is often referred to by people having experienced this phenomenon as having...

  • Lifetimes True Accounts of Reincarnation
  • Past life regression
    Past life regression
    Past life regression is a technique that uses hypnosis to recover what practitioners believe are memories of past lives or incarnations, though others regard them as fantasies or delusions. Past life regression is typically undertaken either in pursuit of a spiritual experience, or in a...

  • Planes of existence
    Plane (esotericism)
    In esoteric cosmology, a plane, other than the physical plane is conceived as a subtle state of consciousness that transcends the known physical universe....

  • Pre-existence
    Pre-existence
    Pre-existence , beforelife, or pre-mortal existence refers to the belief that each individual human soul existed before conception, and at conception one of these pre-existent souls enters, or is placed by God, in the body...

  • Shanti Devi
    Shanti Devi
    Shanti Devi is a schooner, later rigged as a ketch. From about 1974 it was owned by famous Norwegian author Axel Jensen and his Indian wife Pratibha who lived on board for many years until 1990. The couple bought it in Waxholm...

  • Soulmate
    Soulmate
    A soulmate is believed by some to be the person with whom one has a feeling of deep or natural affinity, similarity, love, intimacy, sexuality, spirituality, or compatibility. A related concept is that of the twin flame or twin soul, which is thought to be the ultimate soulmate...

  • Spiritism
    Spiritism
    Spiritism is a loose corpus of religious faiths having in common the general belief in the survival of a spirit after death. In a stricter sense, it is the religion, beliefs and practices of the people affiliated to the International Spiritist Union, based on the works of Allan Kardec and others...

  • Subtle body
    Subtle body
    A subtle body is one of a series of psycho-spiritual constituents of living beings, according to various esoteric, occult, and mystical teachings...

  • Xenoglossy
    Xenoglossy
    Xenoglossy , also written xenoglossia , is the putative paranormal phenomenon in which a person is able to speak or write a language he or she supposedly could not have acquired by natural means...

  • Zalmoxis
    Zalmoxis
    Zalmoxis , is a divinity of the Getae, mentioned by Herodotus in his Histories IV, 93-96...


Further reading

  • Alegretti, Wagner, Retrocognitions: An Investigation into Memories of Past Lives and the Period Between Lives. ISBN 0-9702131-6-6, 2004.
  • Archiati, Pietro, Reincarnation in Modern Life: Toward a new Christian Awareness. ISBN 0-904693-88-0
  • Atkinson, William Walker, Reincarnation and the Law of Karma: A Study of the Old-new World-doctrine of Rebirth and Spiritual Cause and Effect, Kessinger Publishing, 1997. ISBN 0-7661-0079-0.
  • Baba, Meher
    Meher Baba
    Meher Baba , , born Merwan Sheriar Irani, was an Indian mystic and spiritual master who declared publicly in 1954 that he was the Avatar of the age....

    ,
    Discourses, Sufism Reoriented, 1967, ISBN 1-880619-09-1.
  • Bache, Christopher M., Lifecycles, Reincarnation and the Web of Life, 1991, ISBN 1-55778-645-3
  • Besant, A.W., Reincarnation, Published by Theosophical Pub. Society, 1892.
  • Boulting, W. Giordano Bruno, His Life, Thought, and Martyrdom, London: Kegan Paul, 1914.
  • Bowman, Carol
    Carol Bowman
    Carol Bowman, M.S., is an author, lecturer, counselor, and therapist, known for her work in studying cases of reincarnation, especially those involving young children....

    ,
    Children's Past Lives
    Children's Past Lives
    Children's Past Lives: How Past Life Memories Affect Your Child is a 1997 book by Carol Bowman. It is the first non-academic book to explore the putative phenomenon of children’s spontaneous past life memories....

    , 1998, ISBN 0-553-57485-X
  • Bowman, Carol, Return from Heaven, 2003, ISBN 0-06-103044-9
  • Cerminara, Gina, Many Mansions: The Edgar Cayce Story on Reincarnation, 1990, ISBN 0-451-03307-8
  • Childs, Gilbert and Sylvia, Your Reincarnating Child: Welcoming a soul to the world. ISBN 1-85584-126-6
  • Doniger O'Flaherty, Wendy
    Wendy Doniger
    Wendy Doniger is an American Indologist and Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago Divinity School, the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, and the Committee on Social Thought...

     (1980).
    Karma and Rebirth in Classical Indian Traditions. University of California Press. ISBN 0520039238.
  • Doore, Gary, What Survives?, 1990, ISBN 0-87477-583-3
  • Edwards, Paul
    Paul Edwards (philosopher)
    Paul Edwards, born Paul Eisenstein, was an Austrian American moral philosopher.-Life and career:Edwards was born in Vienna in 1923 to assimilated Jewish parents, the youngest of three brothers....

    ,
    Reincarnation: A Critical Examination ISBN 1-57392-921-2
  • Foltz, Richard
    Richard Foltz
    Richard Foltz is a Canadian scholar of American origin. He is a specialist in the history of Iran and the history of religions, particularly Islam and Zoroastrianism...

    ,
    Religions of the Silk Road, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010, ISBN 978-0-230-62125-1
  • Gyatso, Geshe Kelsang, Joyful Path of Good Fortune, pp 336–47, Tharpa Publications
    Tharpa Publications
    Tharpa Publications is "a major international and multilingual publisher of Buddhist books" by world renowned Buddhist author and scholar Geshe Kelsang Gyatso...

     (2nd. ed., 1995) ISBN 978-0-948006-46-3
  • Gyatso, Geshe Kelsang, Living Meaningfully, Dying Joyfully: The Profound Practice of Transference of Consciousness, Tharpa Publications
    Tharpa Publications
    Tharpa Publications is "a major international and multilingual publisher of Buddhist books" by world renowned Buddhist author and scholar Geshe Kelsang Gyatso...

     (1999) ISBN 978-0-948006-63-0
  • Head, Joseph and Cranston, S.L., editors, Reincarnation: The Phoenix Fire Mystery, 1994, ISBN 0-517-56101-8
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    Max Heindel
    Max Heindel - born Carl Louis von Grasshoff in Aarhus, Denmark on July 23, 1865 - was a Christian occultist, astrologer, and mystic. He died on January 6, 1919 at Oceanside, California, United States.- Early infancy :...

    ,
    The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception
    The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception
    The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception or Mystic Christianity is a Rosicrucian text, written by Max Heindel - Western Wisdom Teachings :The first edition was printed in November 1909...

    (Part I, Chapter IV: Rebirth and the Law of Consequence), 1909, ISBN 0-911274-34-0
  • Leland, Kurt. The Unanswered Question: Death, Near-Death, and the Afterlife. Hampton Roads Publishing (2002). ISBN 978-1-57174-299-5
  • Klemp, H. (2003). Past lives, dreams, and soul travel. Minneapolis, MN: Eckankar. ISBN 1-57043-182-5
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  • Newton, Michael, Destiny of Souls: New Case Studies of Life Between Lives, 2000, ISBN 1-56718-499-5
  • Nikhilananda, Swami. Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, (8th Ed. 1992) ISBN 0-911206-01-9
  • Prophet, Elizabeth Clare
    Elizabeth Clare Prophet
    Elizabeth Clare Prophet was an American spiritual author and lecturer who was the leader of The Summit Lighthouse and Church Universal and Triumphant, a New Age religious movement which gained media attention in the late 1980s and early 1990s while preparing for potential nuclear disaster.During...

    , Erin L. Prophet,
    Reincarnation: The Missing Link in Christianity, 1997, ISBN 0-922729-27-1
  • Palamidessi Tommaso
    Tommaso Palamidessi
    Tommaso Palamidessi was an Italian esotericist. Precociously attracted by astrology, parapsychology and yoga-tantric doctrines, he was led by his manifold interests in the field of the occult and by his intense spiritual pursuit to build up an original form of Esoteric Christianity, which he...

    , The Memory of Past Lives and Its Technique, ed. Archeosofica, 1977
  • Ramster, Peter, In Search of Lives Past, ISBN 0-646-00021-7
  • Rinehart, Robin, ed., Contemporary Hinduism, (2004).
  • Roberts, Jane. Seth Speaks: The Eternal Validity of the Soul, (1972). ISBN 1-878424-07-6
  • Semkiw, Walter, Return of the Revolutionaries: The Case for Reincarnation and Soul Groups Reunited, 2003, ISBN 1-57174-342-1
  • Steiner, Rudolf
    Rudolf Steiner
    Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner was an Austrian philosopher, social reformer, architect, and esotericist. He gained initial recognition as a literary critic and cultural philosopher...

    ,
    Karmic Relationships: Esoteric studies, 8 volumes, various dates, Rudolf Steiner Press. ISBN 0-85440-260-8 and others.
  • Steiner, Rudolf, A Western Approach to Reincarnation and Karma: selected lectures and writings; ed. and intr. by René Querido. Hudson, NY: Anthroposophic Press, c1997, ISBN 0-88010-399-X
  • Steinpach, Richard, Hidden Connections Determine Our Earth-Life, 1988, ISBN 1-57461-013-9
  • Stevenson, Ian
    Ian Stevenson
    Ian Pretyman Stevenson, MD, was a Canadian biochemist and professor of psychiatry. Until his retirement in 2002, he was head of the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia, which investigates the paranormal.Stevenson considered that the concept of reincarnation might...

     (1980).
    Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation
    Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation
    Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation is a book written by psychiatrist Ian Stevenson on the phenomena of what he calls spontaneous recall of information about previous lives by young children. The book focuses on twenty cases investigated by the author...

    , second (revised and enlarged) edition, University of Virginia Press. ISBN 978-0-8139-0872-4
  • Taylor, Michael, "Master of the Rose", Comstar Media LLC, 1997–2007, ISBN 1-933866-07-1
  • Tucker, Jim (2005). Life Before Life
    Life Before Life
    Life Before Life: A Scientific Investigation of Children's Memories of Previous Lives is a 2005 book written by psychiatrist Jim B. Tucker, which presents an overview of more than 40 years of reincarnation research at the University of Virginia Division of Personality Studies, into children's...

    : A Scientific Investigation of Children's Memories of Previous Lives, ISBN 0-312-32137-6
  • Weiss, Brian L.
    Brian Weiss
    Brian Leslie Weiss , M.D., is an American psychiatrist. His research includes reincarnation, past life regression, future-life progression and survival of the human soul after death.-Personal and professional life:...

    ,
    Only Love is real: the story of soulmates reunited, 1996, ISBN 0-446-51945-6

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