A guide to reincarnation and what people believe outside religion
Many people will have heard the term reincarnation without understanding exactly what it is and why it is relevant today, even in people who aren't necessarily religious in the traditional sense.
Here, we'll present our brief guide to the phenomenon and some recent developments about the perceptions of it in order for you to see how your own life could be affected.
What is reincarnation?
Reincarnation is the concept of the soul or spirit beginning a new life in a new body after biological death. It has been a central part of the Indian religions for hundreds of years, with a billion Hindus, half a billion Buddhists and many more ancient Greeks, Jews, Christians, Native Americans and Inuits having believed in reincarnation since time immemorial.
They believe that since the natural world is cyclical, maybe the human spirit is too – until it achieves perfection and is free to move on to the next stage with a higher power.
Debate has raged over whether or not this is an accurate philosophy for centuries, with Plato among those to argue that since souls are indestructible, then the number of available souls must be finite.
On the opposite side, scientists insist that there is no mechanism that could enable a soul or spirit to survive death and be transferred.
In a recent interview, the Dalai Lama maintained that until science can disprove reincarnation once and for all, then Tibetan Buddhists will continue to believe in it – and of course, actually disproving it is not yet possible.
Recent developments and belief in reincarnation
Lots of religions have very specific beliefs, but reincarnation is one that holds particular fascination. Furthermore, it has proven interesting over the past few decades to people outside of the religions traditionally required to believe in it.
Indeed, many in the western world now support the idea that something in the brain or body can survive after death and go on to be connected to a new child.
One of the reasons for this could be the internet and the ability to quickly find stories that support an overlap between past lives and present ones – people don't just have to believe in reincarnation as an abstract concept these days, they can see 'evidence' of it taking place.
There are lots of tales from people who say they hold memories of lives they have lived before as someone else. For example, retired language teacher Peter Bostock from Manitoba told the New York Times he remembers managing an estate in Derbyshire in the 1880s.
An American woman named Molly Curnutte told the Epoch Times her three-year-old son Cade has memories of dying in 9/11, complete with details he shouldn't have been privy to.
Perhaps the most startling example is that detailed in the book Soul Survivor: The Reincarnation Of A World War II Fighter Pilot, in which it is suggested that a young boy in the 21st century vividly remembers being involved in conflict in Japan.
What are the memories there for?
Unfortunately, nobody really knows the answer to why some people seem to have memories of past lives when others do not.
The Hindus believe that reincarnation occurs for a variety of reasons, including to reap rewards earned before or to complete unfinished business, so perhaps the memories are there to ensure this occurs.
Another suggestion that has been put forward is akin to that used in the paranormal world to explain ghosts – perhaps the soul did not move on properly and forget the previous life as they should because they left it traumatically, for example, the little boy who says he died in 9/11.
It is also possible that the more recent the previous life, the more likely the new person is to hold intact memories of it, whereas those from other centuries might fade.
Unfortunately, many people who remember details of past lives often turn out to have some form of psychic ability too, so it can make the distinction between reincarnation and picking up on other people's information hard to distinguish.
Learn more about reincarnation and past lives
This is a fascinating topic and one that is well worth reading more about if you're interested by this brief introduction, with many of the anecdotes proving truly jaw-dropping.
If you think you might have memories that don't seem to fit with your present existence, you could also try talking to one of our psychic mediums about a past life regression session.