By Luther W. Martin
Reincarnation: “A rebirth of the soul in successive bodies; specifically, in Vedic religions, the becoming of an avatar again; one of the series in the transmigration of souls.”
Transmigration: “The act of transmigrating; especially, the assumed passing of the soul from one body, after death, to another; metempsychosis.”
Avatar: “In Hindu mythology, an incarnation; manifestation.”
Veda (noun), Vedic (adjective): “Literally, knowledge; the oldest sacred literature of the Hindus, especially one of the four holy books of the Hindus of which the Rig-Veda is the most important.”
Vedanta: “The Hindu orthodox school of philosophy based on the Vedic literature and teaching that pantheism must eventually result in skepticism.”
Metempsychosis: “Transmigration of souls from body to body.”
(1) The Oriental Religion that considers that the soul of the deceased person may return to earth again, and inhabit the body of a lower animal, such as the “sacred cows” of India. It is because these bovines may be “Uncle Ed” reincarnated, that they are not killed for food.
Upanishad: “Literally, a philosophical treatise; one of the treaties forming the third division of the Vedas, dealing with the nature of man and the universe.” (Each of the above definitions come from the Britannica World Language Dictionary).
There are at least two basically different false doctrines involved with the subject of reincarnation.
All of which reminds me of a lady in a Missouri town, whose husband had passed away. But, since, this lady believed in the “transmigration” of her former husband’s soul into the body of an animal, she always kept the overhead garage door (attached to the residence) raised some six inches from the garage floor, in case her husband came back in the form of a dog (canine), and needed shelter. I don’t know why she expected him to return as a dog, but that was her expectation.
(2) The other Oriental belief consists of the idea that the soul’s existence is manifested in a series of cycles or episodes, wherein my soul (let us suppose) once inhabited some other body or bodies in previous centuries; and, I very well may expect that my soul will continue these cycles in yet different bodies in the future. Thus, according to this (and I emphasize false) doctrine, the soul participates in any number of deaths or departures, as it blends with first one body and then another.
Back in the 1950s a popular novel was published, entitled The Search For Bridey Murphy, authored by Morey Bernstein. The fiction had to do with a Pueblo, Colorado housewife, who had supposedly lived previously in Ireland, in the early 1800s. She reportedly had knowledge of both the people and geography of Ireland, that she would not have possessed if she had not indeed, been “Bridey Murphy” and actually lived in that time and place, in Ireland.
However, there are numerous ways in which she could have acquired such knowledge and information, and thus in no way did this fictional work prove reincarnation!
A New Testament Passage That Stops Reincarnation Abruptly
“And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment”(Heb, 9:27). Mankind is limited to the separation of soul and body, once! Then, next in sequence is the judgment!
An Example of False Evidence For Reincarnation
One believer in reincarnation, refers us to Joshua 24:3 “and I took your father Abraham from the other side of the flood, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his seed, and gave him Isaac” (KJV). In this version, the word “flood” is used, and the reincarnationist jumps on it, and proclaims: “See, Abraham lived before the flood, and then lived again, after the flood!
However, if some other translation is consulted, one will learn that in both the 2nd and 3rd verses, of this passage, the Euphrates River is under consideration. That God led Abraham from his former home, Ur of the Chaldees (Gen. 15:7; Neh. 9:7), on the eastern side of the Euphrates, westward to the land of Canaan. Seasonally, the Euphrates rose to “flood-stage” and the King James Translators used the term “flood” not in reference to the Great Flood, but in reference to the annual Euphrates flooding. Thus, a correct understanding of the passage, totally removes any thought of Abraham’s having lived once before the Great Flood, and then a second time after the flood.
According to Herodotus, “The Egyptians were the first to assert the immortality of the soul, and that it passes on the death of the body into another animal; and when it has gone the round of all forms of life on land, in water, and in air, then it once more enters a human body born for it; and this cycle of the soul takes place in three thousand years” (ii. 123).
There were numerous and varied theories on this subject among the ancient peoples. It is thought that Egypt’s ability and skill in preserving the bodies of their death, was accomplished in order to retain the body of the deceased for the re-entry of the soul.
Bruhmanism and Buddhism In India
The doctrine of transmigration is not found in the oldest books of India, but in both the Brahman and Buddhist religions, it has become a basic ingredient.
Traditions of the Jewish Rabbins
The Rabbins held to two ideas of transmigration: (1) That the soul was restricted to a life-tenancy in a single body. (2) That souls may temporarily inhabit or “possess” a body, without going through the processes of birth and death.
During the time of miracles, when Christ was upon the earth, both the servants of God and the agents of Satan were empowered to accomplish supernatural actions, such as Christ healing the sick and raising the dead; and Satan being able to enter into the being of a person, causing the person to be “demon-possessed.”
This supernatural ability which prevailed for a forty-year period (30 A.D. to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. see Micah 7:15), contributed to the Jewish Rabbin’s acceptance of theories of transmigration of souls, as they rejected Christ!
Metempsychosis In the Middle Ages
The Manichaeans combined the ideas of the “wandering of souls” with their concept of eternal punishment. They concluded that the sinner was placed in a place of punishment, like “limbo” or “purgatory,” until a partial cleansing had occurred. The sinner was then reclaimed to the light and allowed another trial in the present world. The sinner was supposedly afforded ten such opportunities for reclamation, but if he was still unworthy or unfit for heaven’s bliss, he was then condemned forever.
Witchcraft and Transmigration
The departed soul was thought to stay around in the vicinity of the body’s burial, for some time after death. In many instances, the souls of persons who died a particularly violent death, were said to remain active on earth, until such time that the “death was avenged” (murder, in particular). Then, the soul of the deceased might “find peace,” and its earthly activities (particularly nocturnal) would cease. This has led to the superstitions about walking through or near a cemetery after dark. “Witches” and “sorcerers” supposedly have the ability or power to “possess” the bodies of animals.
Holy Scriptures and Witchcraft
At a time in the history of mankind, when most nations actively engaged in the acceptance of witchcraft, sorcery, enchanting, soothsaying, and the like, the Jews were being instructed to destroy witches and sorcerers; and have nothing to do with such practices.
“You shall not permit a sorcerer (witch) to live” (Exod. 22:18).
“There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord” (Deyt. 18:10-12).
“Also he (Manasseh) caused his sons to pass through the fire in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom; he practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft and sorcery, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger” (2 Chron. 33:6). Manasseh was a king of Judah.
Witches, warlocks, fortune-tellers, and the like are condemned in the Bible, Reincarnation, transmigration, and such like, are subjects that are foreign to Holy Scripture. Fictional works that may speculate on such ideas may entertain the imagination, but have no place in the belief and conviction of Christians.
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 17, pp. 528-529
September 6, 1990