8: Reincarnation: do you believe in it?
The question is a simple matter of yes, you believe in it or no, you don’t believe in it but I’ve just spend the last hour looking at quantum theory videos and now my head hurts.
My parents raised my brother and I to be good old fashioned God fearing Christians. Growing up we went to church every Sunday and were taught to believe in God and the after life. Now that I am an adult I find myself to no longer live in a state of certainty concerning these beliefs but instead my own concept of faith, religion, and spirituality are constantly changing. I never thought seriously about reincarnation until maybe two years ago.
I always kind of viewed reincarnation as the sort of thing parents tell their kids in order to make sure they behave. “Be good or you will come back in your next life as a fly!” Which of course is no different from the Christian parent telling their kid, “Be a good person so you don’t spend eternity in hell.” The idea that there is something after death has always striked me as slightly presumptuous, but despite this I still cling to the hope that it is true.
When I started reading the Bhagavad-Gita and the Upanishads in college I began to think of the cycle of rebirth as a constant state of flowing energies. The idea that what makes you you is not kept inside your body upon death but rather it continues on. Energy is a word that since that class has stuck with me when I think of spirituality. I like to think that when my physical body is gone the energy that makes me who I am will return to wherever it came from, be it God or any other cosmic force in the universe. Do I think that energy will manifest itself in another physical form? That I’m not sure of.
Or at least I wasn’t sure until I tried to think of reincarnation as an idea of scientific study. Due to the fact that I often use the term, “energy” when thinking about spirituality my brain went back to one of the only pieces of science that I remember, the conservation law of energy. This law stating that energy cannot be created nor destroyed. Sounds a lot like reincarnation? As I started my googling I quickly found that concept debunked by people who are much smarter than me and have a much better comprehension of science.
Basically that doesn’t work because the scientific definition of energy is not synonymous with the idea of energy being linked to a soul. However energy and the idea of human consciousness are strikingly similar, but a majority of scientists believe that consciousness can only exist with a living body. I say majority because when I googled reincarnation an article came up about Dr. Jim Tucker. He is a child psychiatrist who has been studying children who claim they have had a past life. Even though reincarnation is strictly a religious belief he proposes the following hypothesis on how reincarnation could potentially be explained by science.
Tucker believes that consciousness can be separated from physical reality, and if it can be separated from reality whose to say it can’t be attached to a new physical form. Now for obvious reasons people don’t completely dig that idea. Consciousness is something that cannot be measured or really something that we fully understand but it’s interesting none the less. What we understand could fit in a thimble compared to the mysteries of how the universe works, but until we know for sure you will have to just go on faith.
Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be. As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from childhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change. Bhagavad Gita (2:12–13)
*There were a ton of other pieces about quantum physics that were really interesting but I thought to adequately talk about them and incorporate them into this post would have made it very long.
Here is one on Live Sciene