Energy & Reincarnation
In the world of metaphysics, it is generally believed that the nature of energy is such that it can be neither created nor destroyed. Starting with the assumption that the soul is energy, then it too can neither be created nor destroyed. Some people counter this theory with the fact that there are more people living now then have lived in all of history. So, where did all the extra souls come from? One theory maintains that they are the souls from lower life forms and from other parts of the universe. These souls can move about in the universe as they go from lifetime to lifetime, learning and growing from their various experiences.
Reincarnation means literally "to be made flesh again". As a mystical belief, it holds the notion that some essential part of a living being can survive death in some form, with its integrity partly or wholly retained, to be reborn in a new body. This part is often referred to as the “spirit or soul”, the “higher or true self”, or the “divine spark”. In these beliefs, a new personality is developed during each life in the physical world, but some part of the original being remains constantly present throughout these successive lives as well.
Humans have believed in a future life since the Ancient Egyptians. They thought the soul transmigrated from body to body so they embalmed the body in order to preserve it so it could journey to the next world or life along with ka, an animating lifeforce (equivalent to "soul"), that was believed to be the counterpart of the body.
This establishes the dating of the concept of reincarnation back to the ancient Egyptian religion but many think it dates beyond antiquity and ancient graves containing both people and possessions may testify to such beliefs that a person would have need for their treasured possessions once again despite physical death.
Gradually the concept of a soul developed with a further realization that the soul departed the body at death and entered the body at birth. Soon it was thought that the soul leaving a dead body would seek another body (whether human, animal or other lower life form) to enter. It was also thought that the soul left the body during sleep. This soul was pictured as vapors that entered and left through the nostrils and mouth. Later, the notion grew that the soul transmigrated to an infant of one of dead person's kin which helped to explain family resemblances.
Reincarnation is rebirth. Just as the earth is renewed so too is the spirit or soul which cannot die. Reincarnation follows the course of nature. Spring sees trees giving birth to new leaves and flowers bloom. In summer and fall, crops are harvested. Winter watches the earth rest and everything is dormant. This is the earth's life-cycle which many believe symbolizes the spirit's. In Western philosophy it is also believed that if man does not reach a higher spiritual level, he must repeat the cycle until he does. And so, he is reincarnated to begin anew.
There are several common concepts of a future life. In each of them either the person, or some essential component that defines that person (the soul or spirit) persists in continuing existence:
- Life Beyond Concept: People live on this earth, and then live in some kind of afterlife for the rest of eternity : heaven (paradise) or hell, or the Kingdom of the Dead, or some other higher plane. They do not return to earth as such.
- Apocalyptic Concept: People die, but will return to the earth or are revived in some final Judgement, or at some final battle . They may go to heaven or hell at that point, or live again and repopulate the earth.
- Transmigration Concept: People die, and are returned to this or another existence. Their form upon return being of a 'higher' or 'lower' kind depending upon the virtue of their present life.
- Classic Concept: People die, go through inner planes and return, rebirth, (usually or often) as new human beings. In many versions, eventually there is the potential to escape the cycle, e.g. by joining God, enlightenment, some kind of self-realization, a spiritual rebirth, entering a spiritual realm, etc.