I have sometimes met people who embrace the idea of reincarnation with enthusiasm. Moreover, it’s fair to note that the research of psychiatrists like Ian Stevenson and Jim Tucker, and others, do make a case for the reality of reincarnation. It may not be altogether compelling evidence, but, as Stevenson said, it is suggestive, often strongly so.
Equally suggestive, and often strongly so, is the evidence from the near-death experience and deathbed visions; from mediumship, apparitions of the deceased, ghosts and hauntings, and in some types of poltergeist case. In these forms of evidence, the surviving consciousness carries on in some kind of afterworld and is continuous with one’s earthly personality.
The continuity of consciousness, which certifies who and what we are, is shattered by being reincarnated. My inner self is inserted into a new body and my memories will be buried under the new memory deposits of a new little person in a new body. Suppose I am the reincarnation of somebody who died and whose soul became the basis of my soul. Unfortunately, I’m totally clueless about this. As far as I can make out, the soul and consciousness of my predecessor is extinct. So I’m not sure what’s to be enthusiastic about. What is the difference between there being no life after death and being reincarnated? In other words, smothered out of existence by another person.
I can, however, see why reincarnation might appeal to some people. Christians are taught to believe that after death bad people go to hell and suffer ineffable torture forever. Such cruel doctrines might turn a few people off. It’s easier to embrace the idea that a very bad person (I can think of a few) could reincarnate in a rat or a wild dog. Even the worst of us would at least have a chance to try to work our way back up the ladder of evolution.
I see the attraction of believing we have plenty of time to carry on the adventure of our evolution. We need time to become enlightened beings. It might take eons for some us to finally achieve enlightenment. But better late than never. The tone of this scenario is a whole lot gentler than having one life shot at heaven or hell. But there’s a problem.
There is no evidence whatsoever that our species, or even some segments of the human population, are in any way uniformly evolving toward enlightenment. There have been high moments and great principles declared and sometimes lived in human history. But who really lives by the Golden Rule? Or by any of the high ideals proclaimed by our spiritual geniuses? Look around the world today. There is every reason to believe the same proportions of good, great, average, and outstandingly vile human beings are exactly the same today as they were in any epoch of human history. You would think that if the dead keep coming back, presumably learning something along the way, by now we might see some signs of collective advance.
On the contrary, what we see is a humanity that created a climate crisis that promises to bring world civilization down, while destroying a million species of living creatures. While all of this is beginning to happen, the great powers are beefing up their world-destroying nuclear armaments, real wars are raging everywhere, while poverty, homelessness, and starvation are spreading all over the planet. I prefer not to be reincarnated on a planet being destroyed by the morally insane “leaders” of the world.
Think of it this way. A man or a woman struggles to learn some skills in the art of living, some wisdom humbly garnered through a life of pains and challenges, some knowledge of the heart ripe for giving in a heartless world—and then dies. Suppose such a person is reincarnated. All that wealth of soul is forgotten, swallowed up in oblivion in some loveable baby who causes great joy when it is finally coaxed into saying da or, if he’s a genius, daddy, or mama, or possibly pooh pooh.