Unification News for July 2001
Volume 5 Part 6
Belief in reincarnation has been with us since the earliest days of human life. Hindus and Buddhists have held to the belief for many centuries, and the Western world has become familiar with it through the channels of Oriental influence in the last fifty years. Let us examine it in light of the Divine Principle.
According to the doctrine of reincarnation the soul has successive bodies of flesh and, therefore, many lives upon the earth. Through these many lives, the individual soul is able to evolve. What a person does not work out or achieve in one lifetime, he completes in the next.
Assuming this is the case, the theory of reincarnation purports to answer questions such as the following: Why is one person so well placed in life, given every advantage that money and culture can confer, while another person is born into very difficult circumstances, where it seems impossible to make any advance in life? Why is one child born a cripple, or born blind, while another child arrives in this world with a healthy body? Why does one child live to a ripe old age, while another child dies after only a few days or years? Men and women are not born free and equal but start this life like horses in a handicap race, no one two bearing an equal burden.
How can this be, the reincarnationist is likely to ask, if indeed God is loving, just, and all-powerful? The reincarnationist answer is that we are reaping today, for good or evil, the results of the seeds we have sown during the course of many previous lives. Many times we have been a man, and many times a woman. Some of those at the bottom of the social ladder today have walked the earth as kings, presidents, generals, admirals and high priests; and some who now sit in the seats of the mighty have toiled as simple peasants in days gone by, pulled at the oar of a galley, or worn the chains of a slave.
Despite these arguments, Divine Principle objects to the theory of reincarnation on several grounds. First of all, the idea is contrary to the Principle of Creation, which teaches that man was originally to become fully mature in one lifetime. Afterwards, he was to pass on to the spiritual heaven and to live with God in the utmost joy and glory.
Human beings were thus not designed to take a physical form again and again, however imperfect one is at the end of his life on earth. Assuming one can progress only on earth, the doctrine of reincarnation ignores God's design for the blessed eternal spiritual heaven, in which there are innumerable spheres and regions for man's evolution and where he has great opportunities for improvement.
Within the Hindu tradition, the Karmic Law of cause and effect states that the consequences of every act must be discharged in this or some future life on earth. Divine Principle affirms that the law of cause and effect operates in the creation and that no one can escape it. However, the consequences of all our actions will be discharged not in another incarnation but in this life and the spirit realm. Therefore, it is important to realize what we think, love, and do now determines our life and character in the eternal spirit world, for we are forming our spirit self here on earth.
Nor can we be persuaded by the fact that the doctrine presumes to explain apparent worldly injustices such as why one man is poor and another rich. Such states cannot be simplistically attributed to one's prior goodness or evil.
As most people would agree, material wealth, physical comfort, prestige and power are not true blessings of ultimate spiritual value. Moses gave up an easy and comfortable life in Pharaoh's court and became a shepherd to be closer to God. Gautama Buddha left his palace, forsaking his position as a prince, in order to seek enlightenment. In our day, Albert Schweitzer chose to serve the primitive Africans with Christian love, giving up a good position and a high standard of living. Also, Helen Keller, though blind, deaf, and dumb, achieved the highest academic goal and spiritual light and peace. Many people turn to God and for the first time find inner joy and high purpose in life after a serious illness or accident. Why? Because an easy life and luxurious environment are often hindrances to one's spiritual growth.
Regardless of such argumentation, there are nevertheless many cases cited of people who, while reading ancient history or tales of other lands and times, "remember" the events about which they are reading. In the view of Divine Principle, a "memory" of this type occurs when cooperating spirits strengthen the mental images invariably created while reading.
Swedenborg, the great psychic and revelator of the seventeenth century, once explained that if a spirit were to speak from his own memory with a man, the man would not know otherwise than that the thoughts then in his mind were his own, although they were in fact the spirit's thoughts. Thus, startling ideas and thoughts can be influxes from the memories of cooperating spirits.
Finally, if reincarnation had been a fact throughout the ages, should we not find evidence of it in a goodly portion of perfected souls among us? Surely by this time we should see many mature and advanced spirits among the wealthy, the beautiful, and the powerful on earth. But is this true? On the contrary, in many instances such people seem to be just as immature and imperfect as the rest of mankind, if not more so!
In conclusion, Divine Principle teaches that a spirit person can reach maturity only in conjunction with physical body. Because of this principle, discarnate spirits are destined to return to contact earthly people in order to advance to the state of completion. Discarnate beings do come back as spirit persons to be invisible teachers, to guide and help humanity. They more they serve others, the more they progress.
This is especially so at this time. By serving and cooperating with those who work for the Lord of the Second Advent, those in spirit world can advance more rapidly than at any other time in history.
Next Month, Part 7, Unity of Religions
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