Articles on Talmidi Theology
Why Talmidaism rejects reincarnation
The topic being reviewed here, is why Talmidis should not accept any belief in reincarnation, not that other religions should not accept the belief. Yahwism accepts the fact that other religions exist, and is not opposed to other religions having their own beliefs. What is criticised here, is the acceptance by Talmidis of any belief in reincarnation because of its psychological consequences.
By reincarnation, we mean the transmigration of souls (resurrection is another topic entirely). Reincarnation is the belief that, when anyone or anything dies, its soul enters the newly-born body of someone or something else – sometimes a human, sometimes an animal or a plant.
Reincarnation is based on the assumption that the whole purpose of coming to earth, is either to gain knowledge, or to be perfected. From a purely Yahwist perspective, we are not here for ourselves, but for Yahveh. We are here purely to help God build God’s kingdom, and work for the day when there is but one realm (heaven), not two (heaven and earth).
Whatever imperfections we have when we are here, and remain unrepented of or unresolved by the time of our deaths, will be purified from us in the Outer Darkness (She’ol – which is not hell). And whatever we do not learn here, will be freely available to us in heaven. In Israelite theology, we are perfected by the Glory and Holiness of God, not by cycles of rebirth.
Main reasons for the rejection of Reincarnation
Yahwism concentrates on the now, on what is done in this life; reincarnation instead concentrates the mind on a life not yet lived. Secondly, it is inherently unjust to punish someone for someone else’s sins – moreover, to punish someone for sins they are completely unaware of.
The doctrine also assumes that there is no access to universal knowledge in the afterlife, hence the need to keep coming back and learn what one didn’t learn before. It assumes that many lives are needed in the struggle to attain a clearer understanding of ourselves and of God, because this understanding is supposedly not possible in the afterlife.
Reincarnation also assumes that we are here for ourselves – that the purpose of being here is to improve and better ourselves. Yahwism on the other hand assumes that we are here as instruments and servants of God – here to do the will of God; that each of us has a mission to help God create order out of chaos, and that that heavenly mission serves God, not ourselves.
Reincarnation also assumes that we come back to put right what we have done wrong. The psychological consequence of this, is that it causes human beings to delay putting things right straight away. ‘It doesn’t matter if I make a mistake in this life, I can always correct it next time round’. Yahwism emphasises the prompt correction of mistakes, and speedy recompense for wrongs done.
Leon of Modena wrote in his pamphlet against reincarnation, entitled “Ben David.” He says: “Why subject the soul to the risk of entering into a body with a temperament as bad as, if not worse than, that of the one it has left? Would it not be more in keeping with God’s mercy to take into consideration the weakness of the body and to pardon the soul at once? To send the soul of a man who died young into another body would be to make it run the risk of losing the advantages it had acquired in its former body. Why send the soul of the wicked to another body in order to punish it here below? Was there something that prevented God from punishing it while it was in its first body?’
The story of Samuel
One argument against the existence of reincarnation lies in the story of the witch of `Ein Dor (1Sam 28:3-25). In this, King Saul asks the witch to call up the spirit of Samuel because he desires to know the future, as God is no longer speaking to Saul because of his disobedience. The witch does as King Saul asks and the ghost of Samuel appears and says to Saul, “The LORD will hand over both Israel and you to the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The LORD will also hand over the army of Israel to the Philistines” (1 Samuel 28:19).
This story provides not only one but two arguments against reincarnation. First, if reincarnation is a legitimate fact, the ghost or spirit of Samuel could not be “called up” as it would have already been reincarnated into another body. Second, Samuel tells Saul that both he and his sons would join him in the realm beyond death. He does not say that they would die and be given another chance at life. He says simply, “you and your sons will be with me.”
The bible speaks against mediums (Hebrew: ovot). It says that we should not call upon the spirits of the dead. If reincarnation were an established fact, there would be no need to warn against mediums, since with reincarnation there are no spirits of the dead – they are all reincarnated.
Reincarnation a fashionable trend
The belief in reincarnation is becoming quite fashionable in the West. It is a novelty, and most westerners express favour for reincarnation, and seem to like the idea of coming back several times to learn what they did not learn before.
Hinduism and Buddhism both profess belief in reincarnation. What westerners often do not know is how the two differ. Hinduism believes in perpetual reincarnation, ad infinitum. Apparently in ancient times, this caused a significant number of people to become depressed by the prospect of eternal reincarnation. The reform of Gautama Buddha was that he believed in an escape from reincarnation – nirvana. The goal of human life was to stop reincarnating – to reach a state of perfection so that you did not have to be reincarnated any more. Most westerners do not realise this difference in teaching or its implications.
The most important thing that Westerners do not realise about the role of reincarnation in Eastern religions, is that reincarnation is the punishment. In Buddhism, the goal is to actually escape from the eternal cycle of reincarnation.
The fruit of reincarnation
Some people are made better people by reincarnation; unfortunately the majority have rather different side effects.
The poor come to accept their poverty. They see it as a punishment for the sins of a former life, and if such is their fate, they should not try to improve themselves.
Drivers can be really reckless. They do not care if they die in a car crash, or kill someone else, because both will be reincarnated.
In any potential nuclear confrontation between Pakistan and India, the Hindus do not care if they are all annihilated in a nuclear holocaust, because they firmly believe that they will be reincarnated anyway. Killing millions of your enemies in a nuclear war is not such a bad things either, because they too will be reincarnated – what are they worrying about; they are doing them a favour!
I once knew an Englishman who believed in reincarnation, and felt that as long as he did not do bad things, then he didn’t really have to do anything with his life, or make anything if himself – this life was not important to him, because as he would always say, ‘I’ll do it all in my next life!’
And then there is the belief that the handicapped, the perpetually sick and the infirm are being punished for the sins they have committed in a past life, so why should we feel any pity for them?
The injustice of reincarnation
Talmidaism is not intolerant of those religions that believe in reincarnation. There are societal consequences to believing in reincarnation, and they are not consequences that are acceptable to Talmidaism as a Yahwist religion.
Take for example the story of a young man who grew up under extreme physical and mental abuse. Many times, he just wanted to die and escape his suffering. Someone who believed in reincarnation told him that he had to accept his pain, because he was being punished for past sins. This was too cruel for him to take. Life was too much to live through once; to have to live through it all again was more pain that he could bear to contemplate. He thought, ‘If God instituted reincarnation, then he must be a cruel sadistic god. He felt that he could either accept reincarnation, or a compassionate and loving God. He chose the latter.
It would be contrary to the justice of God to inflict pain upon children in punishment for sins committed by their souls in a previous state.
So-called evidence for reincarnation
Many people say that they have had past life experiences, and that this is evidence of reincarnation. It may be that there is another reason for recalling ‘past lives’.
One explanation may be that, in heaven, we have access to all knowledge and all time. While we are on earth, we do not normally have access to that knowledge. However, we may occasionall have breakthroughs to such knowledge, and have access to the knowledge of other lives – access to a universal heavenly memory, which is not ours, but God’s
Another is that, in Jewish folk religion, there is a belief in guardian angels – that each person, every nation and even every virtue has a guardian angel. It is believed that when a child is born, it is assigned a Guardian angel by God. When that person dies, the angel’s services are no longer required. It is assigned to another life.
It may be that the Guardian angel retains a memory of the life it has had charge of. On occasion, a person may become aware of the memories of their guardian angel. It seems that most of the lives people recall are those which we were particularly tragic. These memories would be particularly strong in an angel, and would be the most likely recalled.
Of course, this explanation presupposes the existence of angels, which is not a required part of Yahwist belief. With this regard, we can only reiterate that Yahwism concentrates the mind on this life, and on what is happening now; the burdens of the past are gone.
The implications of reincarnation
If one believes in reincarnation, then one has to accept its implications:
- you will never see your loved ones in the afterlife (because they will be someone else)
- it denies the uniqueness of the individual, giving a soul multiple personalities
- it tends to diminish the desire to better one’s lot in this life (by accepting hardship and poverty as punishment for wrongs done in a previous life)
- It tends towards superiority / inferiority complexes on the part of some individuals (e.g. ‘I know that I have been reincarnated in this life because I am more spiritually advanced than you are).
- It makes some people think, ‘I just have to make it through this life,’ as if this life was a prison sentence to be endured and gotten through.
- It also leans a soul towards spiritual arrogance, making reincarnationists feel spiritually superior and advanced to those who do not agree with reincarnation
- it also makes some people less inclined to have sympathy for the suffering of others (‘people suffer because it is their own fault’)
What the Bible says about Reincarnation
‘Who has ever ascended to heaven and come back down again?’ (Prov 30:4)
‘He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return’ (Ps 78:39)
‘But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.’ (2Sam 12:23)
‘when people are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags itself along and desire no longer is stirred. Then people go to their eternal home and mourners go about the streets.’ (Ecc 12:5)
‘and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.’ (Ecc 12:7)
‘As a cloud vanishes and is gone, so one who goes down to the grave does not return.’ (Job 7:9)
‘Only a few years will pass before I take the path of no return.’ (Job 16:22)
‘As a cloud vanishes and is gone, so one who goes down to the grave does not return. He will never come to his house again; his place will know him no more.’ (Job 7:9-10)
‘But a man dies and is laid low; he breathes his last and is no more. As the water of a lake dries up or a riverbed becomes parched and dry, so he lies down and does not rise; till the heavens are no more, people will not awake or be roused from their sleep.’ (Job 14:10-12)
Yahwism concentrates on the here and now; reincarnation focuses on the past and future. It has unfortunate side effects, such as making people responsible for things they have not even done. Reincarnation is incompatible with the focus and emphasis of Talmidaism – that of a just and loving God – and should not be entertained.