Reincarnation is a concept regarding the rebirth of a soul in another body. Reincarnation is present as a central principle in the Druze religion, in which the human soul can only be reborn in another human body. The purpose of reincarnation is presented in the Druze belief system as the spiritual progression of a human being and that eventually the escape of reincarnation is through achieving enlightenment which involves the soul gaining knowledge through experience. It can be looked at as an actor moving from role to role taking the knowledge gained from acting each role with him along his progression to becoming the best actor he can be. David Cokburn discusses the concept of Reincarnation in “The Evidence for Reincarnation” while referring to work by psychiatrist Ian Stevenson and Bernard Williams, and with said references being made throughout this piece of work, the idea of whether or not one can establish that the person they are in their present life (P2) could be the person they once were in their previous life (P1) is conceivable or not. If it’s possible to reincarnate are you still considered the same person?
To be able to consider reincarnation as an idea, one must first establish what is being reincarnated and to do so the distinction between the two main aspects considered in this process of rebirth has to be made: the non-physical essence and the physical body. If we were to take the non-physical essence to be the soul which is in linkage with our conscious – which is what gives us the ability to be aware of our surroundings – and to identify this entity as being separate from the physical reality, we can then deduce that there is no need for it to be depending on the brain for survival and thus can survive after the physical body dies. Therefore, with this being taken into consideration we can safely say that the soul is the entity that does the reincarnation after the body dies leaving a soulless vessel to be buried. The transfer of souls from one physical body to another allows the soul to gain knowledge and thus makes it one step closer to self-fulfillment, therefore the physical body can be seen as nothing more than a portal for the soul on its journey to achieve its purpose of being the most spiritually advanced and thus the only death being that of the body.
Memory is the only aspect of evidence there is concerning the validity of reincarnation since those who claim to remember their past lives have nothing but memories to support their claims. Cokburn says that “except in cases of deliberate deception, we only find such similarities of the first-person memories when we are dealing with the same person” with this being said Cokburn makes to conclusion that without deception being involved, P2 and P1 are two stages in the life of the same person. But if the soul being connected to the conscious is what allows it to gain knowledge, and the soul is reborn in multiple bodies across lifetimes, then the more appropriate word would be the same “soul”. It is through the memories of those who claim to remember their previous lives that we are able to establish that one could have been someone else in a previous life, but this does not mean that people who don’t remember their previous lives have not been reincarnated because everyone has a soul and every soul is on a journey to self-enlightenment and to say otherwise would suggest that there are new souls. It wouldn’t be fair if there were new souls since that would put them at a disadvantage to the souls who have been gaining knowledge for many years. Simply because one doesn’t remember an event doesn’t mean said event never happened, it just means that one was not conscious about it which is a blessing in disguise considering people have a hard time coping with the issues of their current lives imagine if they were forced to cope with the issues of all the previous lives they had. During toddler years one can barely remember anything, this doesn’t mean said years never happened it just means one wasn’t as conscious. Unlike Cokburn, Williams believes that memories are not enough to establish that P2 is P1 and thinks that bodily continuity is necessary to establish identity. However, memories are enough and there is no need for bodily continuity because what is continued from one life to another is something unique to us to our souls and memories are unique to each person even if several people witnessed the same event, they wouldn’t recall the event the same, this is due to how we perceive information. Hence, the uniqueness of one’s memories could be compared to the uniqueness of one’s fingerprint in the sense that no two fingerprints are the same even in the case of twins which is as similar as people can get.
Though this concept has been questioned in terms of legitimacy by many scholars, evidence of reincarnation cases prevents it from being overlooked as a concept. Most cases of remembering past lives occur in children during the ages of two and three when the mind is still spontaneous rather than being influenced by any events in the current family they are in and it is observed that most of the deaths that these people had were unnatural ways of dying such as drowning or being violently killed. Because they occur in children at such a young age whether they are evidence of reincarnation or imagination is debated. The reason why they couldn’t be imagination is because the statements being made by said children are extremely specific to one person and they almost always are proved to match people who had died. Another reason that leans more towards the possibility of it being evidence of reincarnation is that the claims being made by people about their past lives are not ego related so for example they are not based on them being the richest person in the world they are more emotionally oriented as a result of memories and emotions being manifested.
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