Thursday, September 24, 2015

Reincarnation in the Bible and at the Movies

The term, "born again," for many people, means, "Born Again Christian," but for others, "born again" means "reincarnation," and for those who don't believe in reincarnation, the topic incites many heated debates.

Reincarnation, or transmigration of the soul, is a belief that the spirit or soul of an individual returns to a different body upon the death of a previous body.

According to Comparative Religion, "The concept of reincarnation seems to offer one of the most attractive explanations of humanity's origin and destiny." 

Well, not everybody agrees. Many people consider the concept of reincarnation to be blasphemous. Some religious leaders argue against the possibility that reincarnation exists, and others use the Bible to prove that it does, saying that Jesus spoke of reincarnation when he said that John the Baptist was Elijah (in the book of Matthew). "Matthew 11:11 states: 'I solemnly assure you, history has not known a man born of woman greater than John the Baptizer. …' Matthew 11:14-15, in continuing Christ's remarks about John the Baptist, states, 'If you are prepared to accept it, he is Elijah, the one who was certain to come. Heed carefully what you hear.'"

The argument is extremely controversial because some people take the Bible verbatim while others understand it metaphorically. But even those who take the Bible literally will debate the theory of reincarnation as it relates to those three sentences. 

If you ask a biblical scholar what the statements mean, you might discover that Jesus referred to John the Baptist as being LIKE Elijah. And others will tell you that Jesus speaks in parables – puzzles that, until we reach a certain level of understanding, are left for us to figure out. 

But even if Jesus spoke in parables, wouldn't he have said John the Baptist was LIKE Elijah instead of saying he IS Elijah if that's what he meant? How can you pick out one part of the Bible among others to argue that this statement is figurative and then be emphatic that the rest of the Bible is literal?

While Western religions frequently denounce reincarnation by claiming it is evil, reincarnation is a commonly accepted certainty in Eastern religions. Belief in reincarnation requires them to live their lives with the understanding that whatever they do in this life impacts their souls in their next life.

Some people seek explanations about their former lives using hypnotic regression. Hypnotic regression has been used to explain the relationship between circumstances they are experiencing in this life and events that occurred in a previous life. 

The story of Bridey Murphy, depicted in the movie, The Search for Bridey Murphy (1956), tells the tale of a housewife, Virginia Tighe, who, after having been hypnotically regressed, relates to the hypnotist, without previous knowledge of Ireland, her 19th century past life in that country.

Though much of what Virginia said while regressed proved to be false, many things she related proved to be accurate, neither proving nor disproving reincarnation.

The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (1975), starring Michael Sarrazin, Margot Kidder, Jennifer O'Neill, and Cornelia Sharpe, is a movie that provides a scenario that, if reincarnation truly existed and people were aware that it existed, might explain why people either don't want to believe in reincarnation or wouldn't want to believe in it.

Peter Proud experiences flashbacks to a previous incarnation and finds himself drawn to a place and to a woman he knew in a previous existence. Morals concerning the possibility of entering into relationships with one's own child become muddied in the world of reincarnation theory.

A haunting movie about what happens to a child who is regressed occurs in the movie, Audrey Rose (not to be confused with the 2005 horror film, The Exorcism of Emily Rose), that debuted in 1977. Starring Anthony Hopkins and Marsha Mason, the story involves a man who is convinced that his daughter has been reincarnated in Audrey Rose, a little girl who has been born to a different family. What happens in the movie, if it were ever to be true, is frightening.

Karz, a 1980 movie inspired by the Reincarnation of Peter Proud, tells the story of a man who is reborn into a situation in which he may have to remain silent unless he wants to suffer the same fate as he did in his past life. Starring Rishi Kapoor and Tina Munim, Karz also examines the repercussions of knowing about your past life.

Is reincarnation merely a theory or does it indeed exist? Is this one life all we have? In terms of eternity, if one life is merely one speck of dust on the timeline of infinity, what can you do to make your life count?

For a list of other movies about reincarnation, click HERE.

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