I wanted to find the Church’s stance on reincarnation and, above all, what the Bible said about this seemingly endless shapeshifting until the purification of the soul is complete, so to speak. What about the Christian belief that we live only once and have no return of life?
According to “A Concise Dictionary of Theology,” reincarnation is the belief or metempsychosis (“animate afterward”) that the soul preexists its embodiment. After death, the soul exists in a ghostly state before animating one again, a body of the same in a different state, which sounds a lot like a demon or malevolent spirit possessing the body of the living. It is this very belief in resurrection and official rejection of the preexistence of wandering souls without corporeal substance that denies reincarnation itself. By maintaining an endless series of chances, the doctrine of reincarnation reduces the seriousness of God’s grace and, most importantly, human liberty exercised in one life that is ended by once-and-for all death.
Furthermore, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, death is the end of man’s earthly pilgrimage. When the single course of our earthly life is completed, we shall not return to other earthly lives as “it is appointed for men to die once” [Hebrews 9:27]. Christianity defends the duality of the body and the soul. However, reincarnation defends dualism that both beings exist separately and that the body is simply an instrument of the soul; existence by successive existence as an altogether different body is repeatedly assumed each time one recycles life. Thus reincarnation denies the idea of the resurrection of the body, as evidenced by the resurrection of Christ, and most primarily rejects the Christian doctrine of salvation. Therefore, there is no reincarnation after death.
I feel much better now than before. While I succumbed to the belief in reincarnation, I couldn’t accept the thought of my present life as punishment for my wrongdoings in my past lives. To think that I have to live in a miserable state of discipline until my subsequent due recycling puts me on the verge of lunacy in the form of murderous headache for which I recently found myself in the ER. Viktor E. Frankl, the survivor of concentration camps during World War 2 and the founder of Logotherapy, urged us to trust that there is meaning in suffering, which helps us lead to our purposes in life. Samuel Johnson, one of the most significant 18th-century English men of letters and the author of A Dictionary of the English Language, describes life as progress from want to want, not from enjoyment to enjoyment. Forget the arguments about the religious dogma dictating an institutionalized belief for mass mind control. Or it so, then so be it. After all, reincarnation is also another offshoot of mysticism developed into religious thought. Then I will follow the light that gives me a sense of hope. And for this reason, I proclaim that my body and soul are inseparable and that I live only once, and that’s it.
For all this time beneath this visiting moon, Where treasure is, my heart has not been at it with the lights of the lamp glowing in the gloom. But now I see the voracious time devour the kingdom of the shore, And the solid earth rule over the liquid main, Increasing store with loss and loss with store; When I see such vicissitudes of state, Or fate itself repeated over and over; Splashes of battle have taught me to ruminate That nothing stays the same to remain forever And I can’t depend on anything that changes. This thought is a truth that hope chooses And in the dying moments of today, fears I lose.
Going to mass every Sunday morning has become a mechanical reflex of programmed biological locomotion ever since I realized that my beliefs were abstract ideals hard to fit in the real world. All those sacraments of the church I learned by rote as a child has become the artifacts of ancient esoteric religion that has turned into institutional paganism itself. In a word, I am on the verge of losing my faith altogether, if not already, still tempted to recourse to the fragments of the belief that I try to reason on my own terms, which I often find hard to win because something such as the message supposedly from the Holy Spirit I randomly picked up yesterday after a mass permanently binds me to the old religion.
I didn’t care much less about Pentecost Sunday when the Holy Spirit descended from heaven filled the hearts of the faithful with messages from God to each different individual. The little bookmark-like cards containing each of Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit were randomly distributed to the attendants after the Eucharist. The priest said they were blessings from God curtailed to individual needs, never coincidental and ever mysterious. I picked up one that was not what I would like, but that what I had denied. It was not Wisdom, Understanding, or Knowledge that I still crave the most. But it was Piety instead, that not so wonderfully mysterious or romantically awe-inspiring banal word for showing respect for God, the church, and the religious people. St. Thomas Aquinas would rebuke me for my low regard for Piety, but it is rather clerical and prosaic virtue that even the most unlearned would have. After all, absolute obedience to God and the Church was what drew Luther’s bow of the Reformation.
But how could it be possible that my gift from God was Piety amid my own religious turmoil in soul’s dilemma? Indeed, there must be more than a respect for priests whom I think as presumptuous elitists inured to be respected, not accustomed to respect. Piety encompasses dutifulness, fidelity, allegiance, and loyalty, giving the impression of militaristic steadfastness. In my own words, I interpret this augury as indicating patience to endure and fulfill obligations till the ripe time and chance happen to me during my journey to a preordained end. My loyalty then requires fidelity of my consistent devotion to a job, filial duty, and the church by not falling wayside to the current instigation of a rebellious spirit. Am I not being an Oracle of the Holy Spirit?
I keep the card and wonder if it is a manifestation of synchronicity. Whatever and from whom it may be, one thing is sure that reverence for obligations arising from a sense of duty helps your ship’s sailing across life’s undreamed shores and unpathed seas against the thunderous maelstroms in nature’s whimsical and capricious temper. It might be just a random message, but then there is nothing as coincidence because we are made of such wonderful stuff of fire, dew, and spirit. What’s more, if I can use the message as a divine oracle to guide my journey into the unknown tomorrows, then it will be all the more beneficial, just as the people of the ancient civilizations did the same. And I think that is why religion exists.