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Editorial Reviews. Language Notes. Text: English (translation) Original Language: German. About the Author. Rudolf Steiner (–) was born in the small.
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Early texts of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism share the concepts and terminology related to reincarnation. Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism disagree in their assumptions and theories about rebirth. Thus Buddhism and Hinduism have a very different view on whether a self or soul exists, which impacts the details of their respective rebirth theories. The reincarnation doctrine in Jainism differs from those in Buddhism, even though both are non-theistic Sramana traditions. Early Greek discussion of the concept dates to the 6th century BCE.

An early Greek thinker known to have considered rebirth is Pherecydes of Syros fl. Some authorities believe that Pythagoras was Pherecydes' pupil, others that Pythagoras took up the idea of reincarnation from the doctrine of Orphism , a Thracian religion, or brought the teaching from India. In Phaedo , Plato has his teacher Socrates , 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.

Reincarnation and Karma

The Orphic religion , which taught reincarnation, about the 6th century BC, organized itself into mystery schools at Eleusis and elsewhere, and produced a copious literature. 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 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 and reincarnation was routinely accepted throughout antiquity.


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In the Republic 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 of the Phaedrus , in the Meno , Timaeus and Laws.

The soul, once separated from the body, spends an indeterminate amount of time in "formland" see The Allegory of the Cave in The Republic and then assumes another body. In later Greek literature the doctrine is mentioned in a fragment of Menander [92] and satirized by Lucian. Persius in his satires vi. Virgil works the idea into his account of the Underworld in the sixth book of the Aeneid. In Greco-Roman thought , the concept of metempsychosis disappeared with the rise of Early Christianity , reincarnation being incompatible with the Christian core doctrine of salvation of the faithful after death.

A Western Approach to Reincarnation and Karma - Selected Lectures and Writings (Paperback, New)

It has been suggested that some of the early Church Fathers, especially Origen , 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 believed in it. Another such teacher was Basilides —? In the third Christian century Manichaeism spread both east and west from Babylonia , then within the Sassanid Empire , where its founder Mani lived about — Manichaean monasteries existed in Rome in AD.

Noting Mani's early travels to the Kushan Empire and other Buddhist influences in Manichaeism, Richard Foltz [] attributes Mani's teaching of reincarnation to Buddhist influence. However the inter-relation of Manicheanism, Orphism, Gnosticism and neo-Platonism is far from clear.

The Pythagorean doctrine prevails among the Gauls' teaching that the souls of men are immortal, and that after a fixed number of years they will enter into another body. Julius Caesar recorded that the druids of Gaul, Britain and Ireland had metempsychosis as one of their core doctrines: []. The principal point of their doctrine is that the soul does not die and that after death it passes from one body into another Surviving texts indicate that there was a belief in rebirth in Germanic paganism.

Scholars have discussed the implications of these attestations and proposed theories regarding belief in reincarnation among the Germanic peoples prior to Christianization and potentially to some extent in folk belief thereafter.

A Western Approach to Reincarnation and Karma : Selected Lectures & Writings

The belief in reincarnation had first existed among Jewish mystics in the Ancient World, among whom differing explanations were given of the afterlife, although with a universal belief in an immortal soul. Kabbalah teaches a belief in gilgul , transmigration of souls, and hence the belief in reincarnation is universal in Hasidic Judaism , which regards the Kabbalah as sacred and authoritative, and is also held as an esoteric belief within Modern Orthodox Judaism.

In Judaism , the Zohar , first published in the 13th century, discusses reincarnation at length, especially in the Torah portion "Balak. The 18th century Lithuanian master scholar and kabbalist, Elijah of Vilna, known as the Vilna Gaon , authored a commentary on the biblical Book of Jonah as an allegory of reincarnation. The practice of conversion to Judaism is sometimes understood within Orthodox Judaism in terms of reincarnation.

According to this school of thought in Judaism, when non-Jews are drawn to Judaism, it is because they had been Jews in a former life. Such souls may "wander among nations" through multiple lives, until they find their way back to Judaism, including through finding themselves born in a gentile family with a "lost" Jewish ancestor.

There is an extensive literature of Jewish folk and traditional stories that refer to reincarnation. Taoist documents from as early as the Han Dynasty 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. 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. Around the 11—12th century in Europe, several reincarnationist movements were persecuted as heresies, through the establishment of the Inquisition in the Latin west. These included the Cathar , Paterene or Albigensian church of western Europe, the Paulician movement, which arose in Armenia, [] and the Bogomils in Bulgaria.

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". 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 held a similar view.

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During the Renaissance translations of Plato, the Hermetica and other works fostered new European interest in reincarnation. Marsilio Ficino [] argued that Plato's references to reincarnation were intended allegorically, Shakespeare alluded to the doctrine of reincarnation [] but Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake by authorities after being found guilty of heresy by the Roman Inquisition for his teachings.

By the 19th century the philosophers Schopenhauer [] and Nietzsche [] could access the Indian scriptures for discussion of the doctrine of reincarnation, which recommended itself to the American Transcendentalists Henry David Thoreau , Walt Whitman and Ralph Waldo Emerson and was adapted by Francis Bowen into Christian Metempsychosis. By the early 20th century, interest in reincarnation had been introduced into the nascent discipline of psychology , largely due to the influence of William James , who raised aspects of the philosophy of mind , comparative religion , the psychology of religious experience and the nature of empiricism.

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At this time popular awareness of the idea of reincarnation was boosted by the Theosophical Society 's dissemination of systematised and universalised Indian concepts and also by the influence of magical societies like The Golden Dawn. Notable personalities like Annie Besant , W. Yeats and Dion Fortune made the subject almost as familiar an element of the popular culture of the west as of the east.

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By the subject could be satirised in popular children's books. 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 According to various Buddhist scriptures, Gautama Buddha believed in the existence of an afterlife in another world and in reincarnation,. Since there actually is another world any world other than the present human one, i.

The Buddha also asserted that karma influences rebirth, and that the cycles of repeated births and deaths are endless. Different traditions within Buddhism have offered different theories on what reincarnates and how reincarnation happens. This process, states this theory, is similar to the flame of a dying candle lighting up another. Transmigration is influenced by a being's past karma kamma. Buddhist traditions also vary in their mechanistic details on rebirth. Theravada Buddhists assert that rebirth is immediate while the Tibetan schools hold to the notion of a bardo intermediate state that can last up to 49 days.

Within Japanese Zen , reincarnation is accepted by some, but rejected by others. A distinction can be drawn between "folk Zen", as in the Zen practiced by devotional lay people, and "philosophical Zen". Folk Zen generally accepts the various supernatural elements of Buddhism such as rebirth. Philosophical Zen, however, places more emphasis on the present moment. Some schools conclude that karma 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.

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. In the major Christian denominations, the concept of reincarnation is absent and it is nowhere explicitly referred to in the Bible.

However, the impossibility of a second earthly death is stated by 1Peter , where it affirms that Jesus Christ God died once forever in Latin : semel , [] a single time for the sins of all the human kind.

Some Christian theologians interpret certain Biblical passages as referring to reincarnation. These passages include the questioning of Jesus as to whether he is Elijah, John the Baptist, Jeremiah, or another prophet Matthew —15 and John —22 and, less clearly while Elijah was said not to have died, but to have been taken up to heaven , John the Baptist being asked if he is not Elijah John There is evidence [] [] that Origen , a Church father in early Christian times, taught reincarnation in his lifetime but that when his works were translated into Latin these references were concealed.

One of the epistles written by St. About ten years ago that saintly man Pammachius sent me a copy of a certain person's [ Rufinus 's [] ] rendering, or rather misrendering, of Origen's First Principles ; with a request that in a Latin version I should give the true sense of the Greek and should set down the writer's words for good or for evil without bias in either direction. When I did as he wished and sent him the book, he was shocked to read it and locked it up in his desk lest being circulated it might wound the souls of many.

Under the impression that Origen was a heretic like Arius , St. Jerome criticizes ideas described in On First Principles. Further in "To Avitus" Letter , St.


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Jerome writes about "convincing proof" that Origen teaches reincarnation in the original version of the book:. The following passage is a convincing proof that he holds the transmigration of the souls and annihilation of bodies. Those who require bodies are clothed with them, and contrariwise, when fallen souls have lifted themselves up to better things, their bodies are once more annihilated. They are thus ever vanishing and ever reappearing. The original text of On First Principles has almost completely disappeared. It remains extant as De Principiis in fragments faithfully translated into Latin by St.

Jerome and in "the not very reliable Latin translation of Rufinus. Reincarnation is a paramount tenet in the Druze faith. Therefore, reincarnations occur instantly at one's death.