Is Di Muzio’s account of Christian reincarnation realistic? And what would the potential impact be for “ordinary” Christians if they adopted it?
KEYWORDS: Christianity, divine justice, divine punishment, hell, karma, law of attraction, metempsychosis, personal identity, philosophy of religion, reincarnation, samsara, transmigration.
I have previously written articles about reincarnation in several places: in my post on the idea of bad karma from previous lives, in my article on reincarnation in the Bible, as well as in my theme post called You and the Universe: The Absolute Guide.
Today, however, my focus is on Gianluca Di Muzio’s article about Christian reincarnation, and how it relates to the idea of “infinite punishment in hell”.
The core parts of this article are therefore found in Part 2 (“Di Muzio’s Argument”), where I give a descriptive account of Di Muzio’s “Christian reincarnation” argument, and in Part 3 (“My Review of Di Muzio’s argument”), where I proceed to evaluate it.
However, unlike “regular” academic reviews, I am not here merely reviewing Di Muzio’s paper to see if has any “scholarly merits”, for it is obvious that it has many. I have two other purposes as well, both of which may be especially interesting to the many Christians who are also students of the Law of Attraction.
My first additional aim is to discuss the potential impact of adding a reincarnation scenario to the basic Christian philosophical framework: How would that affect “ordinary” Christians, practically speaking? This discussion is found in Part 1 (“Christian Reincarnation?”).
Another aim, found in Part 4 (“The Worldview of ALA”), is to present a short account of the worldview of the authorized version of Law of Attraction (ALA), in order to demonstrate how smoothly certain philosophical issues (problem of evil, the concept of morality, etc.) can be “handled”. This may not only give Christian students of the Law of Attraction more confidence in the worldview of ALA, but may perhaps also act as an “idea trigger” for professional researchers in the areas of Christian theology and philosophy of religion, and thereby give them new inspiration to approach persistent old issues from a new vantage point.
- PART 1: CHRISTIAN REINCARNATION?
- 1.1 Reincarnation: Why Now?
- 1.2 The Importance of Beliefs
- 1.3 The Transition Experience
- PART 2: DI MUZIO’S ARGUMENT
- 2.1 The Problem: Imbalance
- 2.2 The Solution: Reincarnation
- 2.3 Objection 1: Identity and Memory
- 2.4 Objection 2: Identity and the Body
- 2.5 Objection 3: Reincarnation and Negative Dispositions
- 2.6 Summary of the Argument
- PART 3: MY REVIEW OF DI MUZIO’S ARGUMENT
- 3.1 The Main Argument
- 3.2 Objection 1: Identity and Memory
- 3.3 Objection 2: Identity and the Body
- 3.4 Objection 3: Reincarnation and Negative Dispositions
- PART 4: THE WORLDVIEW OF ALA
- 41 “Ego” and Body
- 4.2 Manifestation and Physical Reality
- 4.3 Inner Being (“God”)
- 4.4 Purpose of Life and Spiritual Growth
- 4.5 Karma and Reincarnation
PART 1: CHRISTIAN REINCARNATION?
As the reader will see in Part 2, Di Muzio’s article is about the idea of potentially modifying Christian teachings as to include reincarnation. Assuming that this would be philosophically possible and desirable, why would any Christian follower care about this issue? After all, Christianity has been without reincarnation for more than two millennia. So why now?
Reincarnation: Why Now?
First, let us try to address the timing of all of this. One point to consider is the fact that Christianity is an enormously complex network of beliefs about all aspects of human life. It contains a large set of parables and allegories and creation myths and tales from many different authors and cultures and eras. As if this wasn’t enough, it is also a network of beliefs that is full of tensions, where many ideas are not fitting comfortably into the larger scheme.
Another fact to consider is the substantial rise in knowledge in all aspects of Christian theology and neighboring disciplines that are connected to the origins of the Christian teachings: Jewish studies, Babylonian studies, new manuscript discoveries, new dating techniques, new archaeological finds, the development of hermeneutics, advances in the knowledge of ancient languages like Greek, Coptic, Hebrew, etc. [note 1]
The result of this development has brought us a much clearer view of how diverse the beliefs of the early Christians were. And we now also can conclude that modern Christianity is just as much a result of the interpretations made by eighteen hundred years of church fathers and philosophers as it is a coming-together of the many different surviving stories about what purportedly happened in the Holy Land. [note 2]
In other words, if the internal inconsistencies haven’t been solved in two millennia, how can Christianity go on, doing nothing? Well, as both Thomas Kuhn and ALA teach, beliefs and paradigms are hard to change. For even if one’s beliefs may be false, they still are familiar, and they still have some emotional attachment value (cf. “comfort zone”).
And what makes the situation much more difficult is of course that these beliefs are now part of a “cemented” belief system that millions, or even billions, of people are subscribing to. So how easy would it be for the representatives of Christianity (or any other religion or organization) to admit that they erroneously have held on to some false beliefs for hundreds or thousands of years?
The Importance of Beliefs
But, as ALA also teaches, we, as individuals, are not dependent on whether, say, the Catholic Church ratifies reincarnation, or not. We all have our own free will, and we all have the cerebral and emotional power to build our own belief networks. So there is nothing stopping the intelligent practicing Christian from updating the Stonehenge version of Christianity to a more modern, reincarnation-based one.
However, the question still remains: Why would a Christian, at all, be interested in adopting reincarnation? What’s at stake, really?
It all boils down to what happens immediately after death. If eternal damnation in hell is a possibility after the end of each life, how can any Christian ever have a good night’s sleep?
Thus, by ACCEPTING to believe that eternal damnation is a possibility after the current life, one virtually programs oneself into an emotional corner of negativity. And by continuing to contemplate this possibility during one’s days here on Earth, one gradually “cements” that belief vibration more and more into one’s soul, and thereby moves one’s psychological state into more and more negative territory. So this is nothing else than self-inflicted torture.
To prevent this from happening, one must consciously DECIDE to adopt a better belief system, where eternal hell is not present, or at least where eternal hell is so much “delayed” into the future that one does not have to deal with it right now, in this particular lifetime.
So if we would have a plausible reincarnation scenario at hand, and no eternal damnation to expect after this particular lifetime, we may be able to drastically improve our own emotional profile, so that we can be much happier here and now, even if we are slowly approaching the time of death. For if there is no chance of ending up in hell, our minds will be less agitated.
This may lead to a more positive attitude in life. And even if death still may be a potential worry, the removal of any possibility of eternal punishment will most probably also result in a more relaxed state of mind in the days before the transition, compared to otherwise.
The Transition Experience
Another advantage in adopting a reincarnation scenario is that the transition experience may be less worrisome as well. For according to the worldview of ALA, the smoothness of the transition process from the physical realm to Source-Heaven in the spiritual realm is dependent on each person’s beliefs, experiences, habits, and emotional profile.
So if a person, for example, thinks that death is the end of everything and that nothing comes after it (i.e., no reincarnation), then he may very well experience oblivion for some limited time (Seth Speaks, p. 123). A belief in reincarnation, which ALA confirms is the way the universe works, may therefore act as an insurance policy against experiencing such an uncomfortable situation.
However, the possible transition issues are many. But the general idea is that one’s transition experience is just as dependent on one’s thoughts, beliefs, and emotions as one’s ordinary physical life is (Seth Speaks, p. 123; my square brackets):
“The surroundings in which the dead find themselves will often vary. Vivid hallucinations may form experience quite as real as any in mortal life. Now, I have told you that thoughts and emotions form physical reality, and they [also] form after-death experience.”
In the larger scheme of things, of course, there is no REAL danger in any of this. For the after-death experience is, we may say, merely a “spiritual drama” that is customized for each person. And the purpose is simply to gradually lead the home-coming person back to Source-Heaven.
So the approximate experience for many Christians will be something like this (Seth Speaks, p. 124; my square brackets):
“Christianity has believed in a heaven and hell, a purgatory, and reckoning; and so, at death, to those who so believe in these symbols, another ceremony [than the previously mentioned Styx ceremony] is enacted, and the [spiritual] guides take on the guises of those beloved figures of Christian saints and heroes. [Pause.] Then with this as framework, and in terms that they can understand, such individuals are told the true situation.”
In other words, every soul’s journey back to Source-Heaven is meticulously monitored and supervised by specially trained spiritual guides. By taking into account the particular beliefs of each soul, they enact various spiritual dramas to gently facilitate the transition between “faulty beliefs” and “true situation”. This will prepare the returning soul for its rejoining with its own unique “family cluster” of eternally loving and cooperative energy beings (“Inner Being”, “God”).
PART 2: DI MUZIO’S ARGUMENT
Note that I have simplified Di Muzio’s argument somewhat, in order to more easily bring home the main points. For more details, see Di Muzio’s article “Reincarnation and Infinite Punishment in Hell“.
The Problem: Imbalance
The idea of an eternal hell is problematic. For it suggests that some human beings may end up in a particular place or circumstance where a never-ending stream of suffering will be experienced.
The question is therefore: How can a fair, loving (Christian) God apply such punishment for such an incredibly long time, when the sinners merely sinned on a limited number of occasions during just one human life?
In other words, there seems to be an (enormous) imbalance between the “quantity” of committed offenses and the “quantity” of the enacted punishment.
The Solution: Reincarnation
In order to rectify this perceived imbalance in “quantity” between sins committed and punishment enacted, the idea of reincarnation must be introduced. This is because the time lived during just one human lifetime is much too short in comparison with the idea of an eternal hell.
The solution is thus to introduce a virtually unlimited number of lifetimes, so that the reincarnating person has thousands, or millions, of attempts to “learn the lesson”. So by experiencing an extremely wide variety of circumstances, life after life, each person gets an incredible number of opportunities to develop the appropriate moral sensibilities.
And if the person still would not “comply” after all of that time, then it would not be unreasonable of God to execute a punishment in the form of a painful eternal existence in hell.
Objection 1: Identity and Memory
After having presented reincarnation (metempsychosis, samsara, transmigration) as a solution to the problem of eternal punishment in hell, Di Muzio goes on to present three possible objections to his proposal. The first objection deals with identity and memory.
Since people in general do not remember their previous lives (if reincarnation indeed is happening for all of us), in what sense can we then claim that it is the same person that has lived all those lives? So if we live one life as a male beggar in Calcutta and another life as a famous female scholar in Toronto, but in neither case don’t remember our previous lives, where is the psychological unity in terms of personal identity? And how could God, in such a situation, do anything else than to consider each of these lives separately (and thus again invoke that imbalance between offense committed and punishment enacted)?
Di Muzio’s reply to this objection goes something like this. The fact that people do not remember their past lives does not present a real problem. This is because personal identity is not substantially about biological gender or occupation or fame or fortune or the remembrance of other superficial details about one’s previous lives. Rather, personal identity is about one’s accumulated character and one’s developed moral and spiritual signature.
In fact, the proposed solution REQUIRES that each person must NOT remember their past lives, while living them. Otherwise, we would not be able to achieve the feeling of a “fresh start” when we enter a new round of Earthly life. How would life be possible if we continuously were reminded about the thousands of different lives we previously have lived? How could we even form a consistent “I-am-one-person” image of ourselves among all of those perplexing memories?
Objection 2: Identity and the Body
The second objection deals with the Christian notion that identity is intrinsically linked with a particular body. The idea is thus that the soul must be accompanied by “the one and only correct body” that “belong” together. With any other body than that, the body-soul package would not be considered the same person. Therefore, in such a scenario, reincarnation would not work as a solution.
Di Muzio’s reply to such an objection is this. Because Christians are committed to the idea of resurrection, God may very well bring back the same person many times. So repeated resurrection is basically just reincarnation. Therefore, the idea that a particular body needs to be used to obtain a certain identity does not preclude reincarnation.
And even if eons of time have passed in between resurrections, God still knows where all the individual atoms and molecules of every body that ever lived are. Thus, even if the particular body of an individual is since long decomposed, God will be able to resurrect it by assembling all of the original atoms and molecules into a fully functional biological body. So reincarnation is still on the table.
But even if God’s knowledge is absolute, the question still arises: which body, exactly, is God to reconstitute? Since the body is constantly evolving, its cells die and new are forming. So how can we at all accept the idea that a physical body, conceived of as a conglomeration of atoms, molecules, and cells, have anything to do with the eternal identification of whom a person is?
Objection 3: Reincarnation and Negative Dispositions
A third way to object to the main argument is to claim that the original estimation was unrealistically optimistic. For although the “very-many-lives” scenario theoretically expands the total lifespan in which a given individual would be evaluated by God, it would not necessarily lead to a more virtuous outcome, but rather the opposite. This is because such a scenario would offer an enormous amount of opportunities to perform sinful acts. Consequently, there is high a likelihood that this will lead more in the direction of eternal damnation than in a more glorious direction.
Di Muzio replies to this objection in the following way. The idea behind the “extremely-many-lives” approach is that each person will experience many different situations in which to morally mature. Admittedly, there will be an enormous amount of opportunities to sin. But there will also be an enormous amount of opportunities to perform virtuous actions.
One crucial point that is not addressed adequately by the objection is the fact that the proposed system is based on the premise that a very large number of different perspectives are to be experienced. The idea is thus that there will not be MORE potentially sinful-promoting situations to encounter than there will be potentially virtue-forming ones.
Also, there is the additional expectation that a truly loving God would want all of his creatures to return to him, and NOT be destined for eternal suffering in the Nether Regions.
Therefore, it is plausible that God will customize each person’s experiences in an optimal way as to maximize the possibility that his creatures safely make their way to his kingdom.
This, however, will of course not guarantee the development of a suitable moral character for everyone. For each individual has his or her own free will.
Summary of the Argument
Christian reincarnation is a much better scenario than the idea that humans only live one single life. For it is virtually inconceivable that a fair, loving God would send a person to eternal damnation in hell after just one lifetime.
Much more plausible is the scenario that a loving God would maximize the number of changes for his creatures to reach his kingdom. Consequently, some version of reincarnation must be added to the Christian philosophical framework(s).
PART 3: MY REVIEW OF DI MUZIO’S ARGUMENT
The Main Argument
Di Muzio’s paper is a very interesting read. He skillfully navigates between arguments in the history of philosophy of religion. And he also has a very clear, concise, and unpretentious style of writing, which makes his line of reasoning easy to follow.
In addition to this, his main argument is very good. For the perceived imbalance in “quantity” between sins committed and punishment enacted is very apparent, and makes little philosophical sense.
Overall, then, the idea of reincarnation as a many-lives environment for the living beings to experience a huge number of different and contrasting morally relevant conditions is an excellent one. For then a loving God gives his creatures a maximum number of opportunities to gradually adjust their moral compasses. [note 3]
Consequently, it is therefore perfectly natural to conclude that reincarnation should be added as a central component to the framework of Christian theology, ethics, and philosophy of religion.
Objection 1: Identity and Memory
The first objection (“identity and memory”) is, in my opinion, the strongest of the three objections that Di Muzio presents. Therefore, it is of paramount importance to be able to deal with this objection in the best way possible.
Di Muzio’s reply seems to work well. For in order to be able to “make use of” a reincarnation scenario, one must assume that a scheme of “continuity of character” is at play (Di Muzio 2013, p. 173).
Furthermore, one must insist, as Di Muzio also does, that conscious memories from previous lives must NOT happen. For if full remembrance of previous lives were a fact, we would have multi-schizophrenic individuals who, for all practical purposes, would be more or less incapable of thinking of themselves as “one person”.
Consequently, one cannot allow conscious memories from previous lives. Only then will it be possible for the individuals to develop a psychologically balanced and well-functioning single-person self-image.
Therefore, the “identity and memory” objection has no real power.
Objection 2: Identity and the Body
In the second objection (“identity and the body”) the idea is that the “total identity” of a particular person is composed of a particular soul paired with a particular body. If another body is paired with that soul, then that “soul-and-body-pair” cannot be recognized as “the same person”.
Di Muzio responds to this objection by saying that resurrection is basically nothing else than metempsychosis. And he also makes the point that the requirement for a particular body does not preclude a repeated coming-together with the soul.
Although Di Muzio may be correct to claim that such an arrangement would be somewhat equivalent to reincarnation, it doesn’t really save one of the more important aspects of his own account. For even though one theoretically, of course, might reincarnate thousands of times using the same body (if God knows the whereabouts of all atoms, molecules, and cells, etc.), it still doesn’t serve Di Muzio’s argument as a whole.
The problem is that the requirement of using the same body seems to prohibit the full realization of “a large amount of experiences” that Di Muzio’s overall argument is based on. So, for instance, if the particular body to be reused is of a male biological gender, how will that person in question ever be able to experience, say, the wonderful feeling of falling in love with some particularly charming and handsome Romeo, or, the subsequent painful circumstances around giving birth to Romeo’s son from her female womb?
Nevertheless, since the Christian story of bodily resurrection is so unlikely anyway, and because the requirements of the “pairing” of a particular soul and body are so strict (which set of atoms and molecules should God choose, since they are replaced every second?), this objection cannot really be considered a very strong one. [note 4]
In other words, although this objection seemingly has SOME power, I still do not regard it a serious “rational” threat to Di Muzio’s otherwise so excellent reincarnation scenario.
However, “irrational” threats, of course, still are looming in the background in the form of outdated Christian beliefs about a literal interpretation of a physical bodily resurrection — beliefs that neither Jesus nor Paul ever confirmed, and where even the Synoptic Gospels are not really synoptic. [notes 5-6]
Objection 3: Reincarnation and Negative Dispositions
The third objection (“reincarnation and negative dispositions”) is, in my opinion, the weakest. It essentially boils down to a “temptation” argument, claiming that the introduction of a very large number of lives would also invite a very large number of temptations to perform sinful activities, and would basically guarantee the development of a sinful character, destined for eternal damnation.
Di Muzio’s reply is, in general, fitting, in that it clearly highlights the idea that each person would not merely experience circumstances that would weaken one’s moral status, but also would be exposed to situations that might be used to strengthen that status.
Nevertheless, I would have liked Di Muzio’s examples to be more explicit in a particular way, to disable the objection more effectively. That might be done by focusing on the idea presented in the objection, which basically argues that if one’s starting character is sinful, then the next life will also be sinful, since the principle of “continuity of character” guarantees it.
In order to reply to such an objection, we must, I think, talk about “sequences” of lives and a particular set of “one life” and “next life”. Thus, if, at the end of life A, the person’s character is more sinful than not, life B must be designed (by God or some higher authority) in such a way that it is radically different than life A.
The special remark to be made is about causality. For it is not, as the objection seems to imply, the “continuity of character” that is the (main) causal component for the generation of the circumstances and situations that are to be experienced in Life B. Rather, the potentially “corrective” events of Life B will have to be inserted “in spite of” that person’s developed character. Thus, the idea of “cementing” an already somewhat sinful character will not be as easily accomplished as the objection suggests.
Consequently, the “temptation” objection is no threat to Di Muzio’s main argument.
PART 4: THE WORLDVIEW OF ALA
Since my site is not mainly about Christian theology or philosophy of religion, I am in this part taking the opportunity to present a short account of some relevant aspects of the worldview of the authorized version of Law of Attraction (ALA). For ALA is a good example of a spiritual worldview in which there is only a fraction of internally conflicting philosophical problems, compared to the situation in contemporary Christian theology and philosophy of religion.
As I have stated above, many Christians are now also students of the Law of Attraction. And because many of them may not be aware of the full philosophical scope of ALA, this short survey might help them to at least get a quick sense of the general ideas. For more comprehensive overviews, see You and the Universe and also Religion and the Law of Attraction: The Ultimate Guide.
“Ego” and Body
Each individual energy being “ego” (or “mind” or “consciousness”) that is reincarnating into this physical time-space reality has consciously and enthusiastically decided to temporarily depart from its “home environment” in the spiritual universe, in order to be able to experience the thrill of letting new desires come forth and become physically manifested in an exciting taste-it-touch-it-smell-it virtual reality called planet Earth.
All humans are in their “essence” individual energy beings from the spiritual dimension, who, with their psychic energy (thoughts, beliefs, and emotions), have created (“manifested”) their own physical bodies, and continually do so, moment by moment. The body is therefore just as spiritual as their own energy being “ego” is.
Manifestation and Physical Reality
All human beings are also continuously manifesting, in concert with their Inner Being, everything they see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. This is done with each individual’s own thoughts, beliefs, and emotions. Because the physical world is not a world of solid, impenetrable objects, but a type of advanced holographic projection from our Inner Being (who continually monitors our thoughts, beliefs, and emotions to know what to project), we all have the power to create a wonderful future for ourselves by learning to “control” or “steer” our own thoughts, beliefs, and emotions.
There is no objective reality in the way most people (including scientists) are thinking of it. Each person perceives his or her own private projections in a plane that no-one else has access to. Therefore, no-one sees the exact same thing. Nevertheless, the projections typically are created in a somewhat similar way. Because telepathy is also always at play, the appearance of objects and the timing of events are “negotiated”, and can thus be “shared” and discussed.
Inner Being (“God”)
Each reincarnating energy being “ego” is part of, and in constant (non-verbal) communication with, its own unique “family cluster” of thinking, feeling, and loving energy beings, usually called “Inner Being” (i.e., “God”). At the time of death, each reincarnated energy being returns to, and joins with, their own Inner Being in the spiritual sky.
Each “ego” that consciously decides to reincarnate into this physical space-time dimension retains this quality of unadulterated love in their core. However, because this earthly world is innately infused with the quality of “contrast”, the individual is continually confronted with various challenging circumstances that make it psychologically difficult to retain that love (hence, the problem of evil in Christian theology). [note 7]
But the more adept each student becomes in the art of managing his or her own emotional energy and focus only, or mostly, on positive subject matters, the less impact such “challenging circumstances” will have on his or her psychic balance. For such students, there is indeed “heaven on Earth”. [note 8]
Purpose of Life and Spiritual Growth
The purpose of life is spiritual growth. But unlike many religions, ALA teaches that spiritual growth is not so much centered around the idea of “morality” or “ethics”. It is rather about “value fulfillment” and about the eternal proliferation of happiness, love, and well-being. And, of course, it is also about the art of the continuous controlling and manipulating of our own psychic energy, toward more love.
By voluntarily accepting to reincarnate as a human being (as we all do before we take birth), one automatically contributes to the cosmic evolution of happiness and wonderfulness. By grace of the superhuman intelligence of Inner Being (“God”), All-That-Is is set up in such a way that “service to God” is automatically performed, regardless of how morally perfect or imperfect our lives on Earth is. In other words, whether we “sin” or not, or whether we work hard or do nothing, we all contribute equally to the welfare of all energy beings in all universes.
Another way to understand our purpose is this. We are on an educational discovery expedition that normally takes many reincarnation cycles to perfect, to realize that this physical world is a world where there are no “chance circumstances” or “innocent victims” or any lack of “cosmic fairness” (cf. Di Muzio 2013, p. 168; Filice 2006, p. 47). Earth is a sort of “Materialization School” for us energy beings, where we are supposed to practice our energetic manifestation powers. We must learn that we, in a very literal sense, are very powerful beings, who are creating our own reality around us. And we do that with the electromagnetic energy that we always are broadcasting, in the form of beliefs, thoughts, and emotions. So if we focus our attention on “sin” or “hate” or “problems”, we will manifest sin, hate, and problems into our own lives. Thus, we must learn to instead always focus on “love”, “happiness”, and “solutions”, which will create a completely different type of result.
A third perspective is this. Since every individual life on Earth is always followed by a return to our Inner Being in Source-Heaven (see Law of Attraction Glossary), one does not have to fear “eternal damnation in hell” (for there is no hell); and one does not have to worry too much about following any particular moral standards (for there is no judgmental God, only judgmental humans who have not yet learned to be loving). Therefore, because “behavior” and “respectability” and “moral virtue” are more or less irrelevant in terms of our spiritual future, the only thing that really matters (besides learning how to master Law of Attraction) is the purity of our own thoughts, beliefs, and emotions.
The prudent student of Law of Attraction always prioritizes an internal environment of happiness, joy, and love. For we are constitutionally and eternally loving and happy energy beings in our core, and we cannot stand misery and negative emotion.
Karma and Reincarnation
According to ALA, the idea of karma is just an erroneous human philosophical speculation that has no correspondence to the real state of universal affairs. Because the individual always returns to Source-Heaven after each human life, and thereby releases all negativity and misconceptions at that time, he does not accumulate any so-called “bad karma”. And since Inner Being is an ocean of love and positivity, there is no punishment on the horizon for anyone, either after each life or in the upcoming lives. [note 9]
The idea of karma is also incorrect in its proposed application within one lifetime. For the universe is set up in such a way as NOT to react simply to words or to deeds. The only way the universe will “react” is with the ever-operating principle of Law of Attraction, which only responds to the energetic offering of each energy being. In other words, our thoughts, beliefs, and emotions are the true causal factors that determine what our future will look like, not our speeches or actions (although, of course, speeches and actions often are the result of our particular energetic offering at the time).
Reincarnation, on the other hand, is another matter entirely. It is very much a true representation of what is actually happening in the universe. But one should not assume that a temporally linear “one-reincarnation-then-another-reincarnation” scenario is the best way to explain it. This, however, is a very big topic, with many parameters to consider. So there is no scope for an elaborate discussion of it in this short survey. [note 10]
Di Muzio’s “Reincarnation and Infinite Punishment in Hell” paper is an excellent contribution to Christian philosophy of religion. Di Muzio has, in my opinion, succeeded in giving a very nice account of how reincarnation could be compatible with a Christian framework.
And it is therefore, in my view, important that the different denominations of Christianity (Catholics, Protestants, etc.) really consider such an updated version. For “eternal damnation in hell”, in its current one-life scenario, is a tremendously implausible doctrine.
The “realistic” expectation, however, is that few church councils will adopt this recommendation, at least in the foreseeable future. That, fortunately, does not preclude the emotionally intelligent Christian to personally add reincarnation to his or her own updated version of Christian teachings. [note 11]
Apart from the enormous benefit in the form of a more pleasing philosophical aesthetics, the proposed reincarnation scenario also benefits “ordinary” practicing Christians (assuming that eternal damnation after just one life is false). Since immediate eternal damnation is off the table, Christians can minimize their fear of death compared to before, and be more likely to experience a much happier life, even in old age.
Another point to appreciate is that, according to the worldview of ALA, there is little to fear at the time of death in terms of “punishment”. Nevertheless, there is always a “transition period” in between the physical world and Source-Heaven that has to be experienced.
The rules of the game is that the more “true” beliefs and attitudes about the afterlife one has, the easier the transition will be. So a belief in reincarnation (and a belief in the return to Source-Heaven in between lifetimes) will make that transition less of a bumpy ride than it otherwise would be.
This is because the same principles apply to the after-death experience as to the ordinary physical space-time reality experience: we form our personal reality around us with our psychic energy (thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and expectations).
substantial rise in knowledge  This increase in knowledge is not merely a result of discoveries made by human researchers. It is also the result of that representatives from the spiritual world have been speaking freely, through human channelers, about what actually happened in the Holy Land: “Christ was not crucified — therefore he did not resurrect, coming out of the tomb, nor did he then ascend into heaven. . . . Now in the facts of history, there was no crucifixion, resurrection, or ascension. In the terms of history there was no biblical Christ (pause), whose life followed the details given” (The Magical Approach, pp. 93-94). Instead, as Seth explains elsewhere, the story of Jesus actually is a composite of selected experiences of several men: “Christ, the historical Christ, was not crucified. . . . He had no intention of dying in that manner; but others felt that to fulfill the prophecies in all ways, a crucifixion was a necessity. [So the historical] Christ did not take part in it. (Pause.) There was a conspiracy in which Judas played a role, an attempt to make a martyr out of Christ. The man chosen was drugged — hence the necessity of helping him carry the cross (see Luke 23) — and he was told that he was the Christ. [And] he believed that he was. He was one of those deluded, but he also himself believed that he, not the historical Christ, was to fulfill the prophecies” (Seth Speaks, pp. 366-367).
how diverse the beliefs of the early Christians were  Paula Fredriksen describes the many “Christianities” of the second century: “Gnosticism, Montanism, the radical Paulinism of Marcion, the communities that formed around such men as Irenaeus in Lyons or Tertullian in North Africa. Each viewed the others as heretical and each authenticated its own view by an appeal to various criteria of legitimacy: possession of the true interpretation of the Septuagint; or of the true Christian scriptures, once they had come into existence; or of the authentic oral tradition; or of the Holy Spirit . . .” (1988, p. 7); and Bart Ehrman describes the variety of beliefs like this: “Christians who believe that there are 2 different gods, or 30, or 365, Christians who claim that the Old Testament is an evil book inspired by an evil deity, Christians who say that God did not create the world and has never had any involvement with it, Christians who maintain that Jesus did not have a human body, or that he did not have a human soul, or that he was never born, or that he never died” (2004, pp. 1b-2a).
maximum number of opportunities  Di Muzio’s point about the “fundamental flaw” of various ingenious attempts to deal with the idea of eternal punishment in hell is well taken (2013, p. 170). And some of these seem to suffer also from other defects. For example, Cain’s strange ideas that “a fair amount of suffering may be compatible with happiness” (2002, p. 356) and his Zeno’s paradox-like idea of “diminishing suffering” (2002, p. 358) seem to have little to do with any realistic account of sensory experience, whether in the earthly realm, or, more importantly, in a hellish existence especially designed for eternal, non-diminishing suffering.
bodily resurrection is so unlikely  Cf. Caroline Bynum’s statement: “To twentieth-century non-Christians and Christians alike, no tenet of Christianity has seemed more improbable — indeed incredible — than the doctrine of the resurrection of the body” (1990, p. 51). Also see van Inwagen’s discussion about the philosophical difficulties surrounding the idea of a resurrection of the body (1998, pp. 295-296).
beliefs that neither Jesus nor Paul ever confirmed  As Grant points out, Jesus normally don’t talk about resurrection; but when he does, he says that those who rise “are like angels in heaven”, i.e. do NOT have a normal physical body (Mark 12:25; 1948, p. 122b). And as Pagels and King point out, Paul clearly opposes the idea of physical resurrection: “What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (I Corinthians 15:50; 2007, p. 82).
the Synoptic Gospels are not really synoptic  As Robert Grant’s paper makes plain, there is no coherent, detailed picture of the nature of the so-called bodily resurrection in the four Gospels (also cf. Ringgren 1987, p. 347b): In John the story seems to emphasize “the spiritual nature of the risen body of Christ” and the idea that “it is no ordinary flesh, for at the same time it is spirit” (1948, p. 127a); and in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) it seems that only Luke insists upon that “Jesus’s flesh is risen” (p. 126a); for in Mark no resurrection appearance is described (p. 125b), and in Matthew “nothing is explicitly said of the nature of the resurrected body” (p. 125b).
problem of evil  The subtle art of “mastering” Law of Attraction is about focusing on the right beliefs: “Quite simply, a belief in the good without a belief in the evil, may seem highly unrealistic to you. This belief, however, is the best kind of insurance that you can have, both during physical life and afterward” (Seth Speaks, p. 162). And Seth continues: “It may outrage your intellect, and the evidence of your physical senses may shout that it is untrue, yet a belief in good without a belief in evil is actually highly realistic, since in physical life it will keep your body healthier, keep you psychologically free of many fears and mental difficulties, and bring you a feeling of ease and spontaneity in which the development of your abilities can be better fulfilled. After death it will release you from the belief in demons and hell, and enforced punishment. You will be better prepared to understand the nature of reality as it is” (p. 162).
heaven on Earth  Seth raises an issue about Matthew 5:5 in his Nature of Personal Reality. The phrase “the meek shall inherit the earth” (makarioi hoi praeis, hoti autoi kleronomesousin ten gen; Nestle 1953, p. 9) has been misunderstood: “In Christ’s time, the phrase about the meek inheriting the earth implied the energetic use of affirmation, of love and peace” (p. 415). Seth also says the following: “Christ meant ‘You form your own reality. Those who think thoughts of peace will find themselves safe from war and dissension. They will be untouched by it. They will escape, and indeed inherit the earth’” (p. 414). But Seth also points out that to accomplish this is not entirely easy: “Thoughts of peace, particularly in the middle of chaos, take great energy. [But] people who can ignore the physical evidence of wars and purposely think thoughts of peace will triumph” (p. 414; my square brackets).
the idea of karma  Kaufman’s statement about karma as being “unsuccessful as a theodicy” seems correct (2005, p. 28). But the real reason for karma’s impotency as a theodicy, according to ALA, is that the idea of karma, understood as physical action, is false to begin with. For karma typically is conceived of as having to do with ordinary physical action, since this Sanskrit word’s root form (“kri”) stands for “to do” or “to make”. Thus, “karma” is typically used to convey ideas such as (physical) “deed”, “work”, “action”, and “act” (cf. Halbfass 1988, p. 210). It is important, though, to note that the interesting idea of “speech acts” seemingly is not merely about the physical action of uttering certain words or phrases, but also about certain mental attitudes in relation to each uttering (Austin 1977, Grice 1991). Thus, according to ALA, while any physical action and any raw uttering will have no causal power on their own in terms of invoking the Law of Attraction, there might be room for the idea that a speech act, in virtue of having such a “mental attitude” component, may be seen as a part of the individual’s total psychic energy offering.
reincarnation . . . is another matter entirely  There is no doubt that some version of reincarnation is happening in the universe. Abraham-Hicks say: “You have lost your physical life on many occasions. You have lived thousands of lifetimes. We could not express to you in words the number of lifetimes that you have lived, let alone much detail from each of them; you have had so much experience that memory of all that experience would confuse and hinder you here” (Law of Attraction, p. 144); and Seth says: “At the end of the reincarnational cycle you understand quite thoroughly that you, the basic identity, the inner core of your being, is more than the sum of your [many different] reincarnational personalities” (Seth Speaks, p. 165; my square brackets).
few church councils will adopt this recommendation  Extensive revisions of the Christian teachings seem rare. The idea of bodily resurrection, for example, would need to be deleted or substantially reformulated. It was firmly established in Christianity by the fifth century C.E., and subsequently reaffirmed in 1215 by the Fourth Lateran Council, and then again in 1274 by the Second Council of Lyon (Bynum 1990, p. 52). But no-one has revised it yet, in any real way. In fact, it was once again reaffirmed as late as 1968 by Pope Paul VI (Choron 1973, 643b). Therefore, one might conclude that the Christian philosophical framework is more or less “cemented” by now, and that it is highly unlikely that any major revisions will be made anytime soon.
- Austin, J. L. (1977), How to Do Things with Words. Second Edition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. [Link to book]
- Bynum, Caroline Walker (1990), “Material Continuity, Personal Survival, and the Resurrection of the Body: A Scholastic Discussion it Its Medieval and Modern Contexts” in History of Religions. Volume 30, Number 1. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. [Link to article]
- Cain, James (2002), “On the Problem of Hell” in Religious Studies. Volume 38, Issue 3 (September). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [Link to article]
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- Fredriksen, Paula (1988), From Jesus to Christ: the Origins of the New Testament Images of Jesus. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. [Link to book]
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- Hicks, Esther and Jerry Hicks (2006), The Law of Attraction: The Basics of the Teachings of Abraham. Foreword by Neale Donald Walsch. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, Inc. [Link to book]
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- Nestle, Eberhard, and Erwin Nestle, eds. (1953), Novum Testamentum Graece. Editio photmechanice in maiorem formam producta [Photomechanically enlarged version of the Greek text, based on the 17th edition from 1941.] Stuttgart: Privileg. Wurtt. Bibelanstalt. [Link to book]
- Pagels, Elaine, and Karen L. King (2007), The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity. New York: Viking Penguin. [Link to book]
- Ringgren, Helmer (1986), “Resurrection” in Mircea Eliade, ed., Encyclopedia of Religion. 16 volumes. Volume 12: Procession — Saicho. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company; and London: Collier Macmillan Publishers. [Link to book]
- Roberts, Jane (1994), Seth Speaks: The Eternal Validity of the Soul. A Seth Book. Notes and cover art by Robert F. Butts. Reprint edition. San Rafael, CA: Amber-Allen Publishing; and Novato, CA: New World Library. [Link to book]
- Roberts, Jane (1994), The Nature of Personal Reality: Specific Practical Techniques for Solving Everyday Problems and Enriching the Life You Know. A Seth Book. Notes and cover art by Robert F. Butts. Reprint edition. San Rafael, CA: Amber-Allen Publishing; and San Rafael, CA: New World Library. [Link to book]
- Roberts, Jane (1995), The Magical Approach: Seth Speaks about the Art of Creative Living. A Seth Book. Foreword, notes, and cover art by Robert F. Butts. First edition. San Rafael, CA: Amber-Allen Publishing; and Novato, CA: New World Library. [Link to book]
- van Inwagen, Peter (1998), “Resurrection” in Edward Craig, ed., Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Volume 8: Questions to Sociobiology. London and New York: Routledge. [Link to book]
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