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.
The Sentence by Louise Erdrich is about the power of words, spoken or written, awakening the spirits of the author, storyteller, characters, and readers, all adrift and luminous as the boundary between the real and the ideal collapses. It’s a polyphonic work of trauma narrative, cultural studies, social commentary, and philosophical memoir interwoven in multiple strands of a joint account.
The story evolves around Tookie, a doubting bibliophile who thinks books have everything you should know except what actually matters. Books are no more than a portal to mental escapade, a world of make-believe in the likeness of truth or reflected in the highest ether of reason and sentiment, which makes no defining impact on her checkered life as if it were her sentence from the judges of this world and the beyond. So much so that when Tookie finds that the newly deceased soul of a regular customer haunts the bookstore, she works at, she laments her fate of chaos that seems ever to stalk her small wish to live a quiet everyday life. Is it her sentence to live In perceptual existential malaise? And yet, Tookie ends up living daily life with a loving husband and daughter in a house of their own with a steady job as a bookstore attendant. Isn’t it what is considered an everyday life? So why can’t Tookie let the ghost alone when ghosts refuse to depart for the other until they finish their businesses in the world as part of their spiritual sentence?
I decided to read this book after reading a review from the NYT Book Review a couple of months ago because of Tookie for being exceptional wanting to be ordinary. I felt for her, which was valid until the middle of the book. But as Tookie became settled with her husband in their own house burgeoning as a knowledgeable employee at a local bookstore, she began to lose her fabulous, unique luster. Indeed, I was all high fives for her happiness that I felt deserving, but the further I progressed to pages, the more my heart parted with Tookie’s existential frustration, except the touching moments of love between her and her husband. Also, unlike the book’s general introduction as a ghost story, It is not a supernatural book that will fulfill your cravings for an intelligent horror story. Instead, it is an extended short story featuring a ghost as a fire-starter of narratives connected by bibliophilia. The author believes bibliotherapy is a recipe for the existential malady to quiet the anxious mind. There is no more enchanting than a book, electronic or bound. The lifeless words become alive as the reader awakens the book’s spirit by entering the world of make-believe through the labyrinth of stories leading to the secret garden of truths that the author has fruited.
Like Hecate, the goddess of underdogs, I have a soft spot for writers and thinkers who arose above personal hardships and triumphed in the will. If they have not experienced human highs and lows, how could they write and explain the meaning of life? Take the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky whose near-death experience on the gallows and subsequent travails shaped how he viewed humanity, the purpose of God, and the dichotomy of good and evil. I compared the life of Dostoevsky with that of Victor E. Frankl, the father of Logotherapy, who survived five death camps during World War 2 because both men’s intellectual fervor saved them from self-destruction in the darkest hours of their lives.
Dostoevsky (hereinafter “D”) was a political prisoner sentenced to death for reading banned books. But the most incredible feat of luck pulled him out of the gallows, and he was sent to a Siberian work camp. He forced himself to channel a danger of hopelessness and resignation in such a squalid environment into the world of imagination. His characters were his alter egos trapped in a cycle of solipsistic containment of morality, religiosity, and social justice. In these attitudinal and creative values as a way of relieving himself from the slough of despond, D finds a kindred spirit in Frankl (hereinafter “F”), whose spirit never succumb to the hopeless situations in death camps where life seemed to be a curse. Instead, f kept himself busy by constantly devising his school of thought, analyzing it, and structuralizing the concepts in his head and on any writable medium he could find discreetly. The result is Logotherapy, the third Viennese school of psychotherapy that encompasses philosophy, religion, neurology, and psychoanalysis, whose nature and method are common to all humans and applicable to all regardless of age, gender, race, and culture.
So much so for the reading of the brief article, but the effect is magnanimous and resonant with a pellucid tenor of a victorious high human spirit with humor as a handmaid to intellect (wit), which would otherwise be grim and dreary subject to temperamental bouts of depression and pessimism. Both men in their prime of youth had their sovereign rights of individualities in tatters and shackles, but their willingness to live and achieve their goals exceeded the compass of the malicious fortune and triumphed in perennial glory. They are, as Ben Jonson in his humor might have concurred, men not of an age but for all time.
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