The Catholic Church can never truly speak for Jesus until it faces why it chose to persecute those who believe in reincarnation.
Jesus believed in reincarnation. This was obvious to some of the Early Church fathers like Origen, who not only believed in it himself, but considered it part of Jesus' belief. When the secular authorities in Constantinople hijacked Christianity and made it a state religion they banned reincarnation. You could be killed for espousing a belief in it, and many people were. Reincarnation was excised from church writings at the behest of the Emperor Justinian and the Empress Theodora in 553 BC These were two cruel individuals who enjoyed torturing people to death. They instilled fear in the people around them and in the Christian bishops. Justinian and Theodora did not like the idea of reincarnation because they wanted to think of themselves only as royalty for all time. Theodora had been born the daughter of a bear trainer and would have not had any standing in society had she not been able to enthrall Justinian. Accepting reincarnation meant they must face a likely decline in social standing in the next life. Therefore, they determined it was a false belief and must be banned. Writings that made reference to it were burned and many that professed to believe it killed.
Relatively few of Origen's writings survived the purge. Although he wrote some twothousand pieces, only a handful still remain. Writing on the question of why Jacob was held in high esteem by God and Esau was not in On First Principles Origen says it is only possible to believe God is just if you accept that Jacob was held in high esteem due to "merits in some previous life." Later he asks, "If souls did not preexist, why is it some are born with nothing wrong with them? It is clear that certain sins existed before the souls [were born] and as a result of these sins each soul receives recompense in proportion to its deserts." Origen was attacked and demoted for his beliefs and later on subjected to torture that led to his death.
Some evidence that Jesus believed in reincarnation is contained in the Bible itself, in spite of attempts to expunge it. Read the following passage. What would the literal meaning of it be?
In Matthew 17:10-13 the disciples ask:' ”Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”
Jesus answered them saying, "Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things.
“But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not knot know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands.”
Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist.'
The least convoluted meaning of this passage is that John the Baptist was another lifetime of Elijah.
Then in Matthew 11:14-15 Jesus says of John the Baptist, “And if you will receive it, this is Elijah which was for to come. He that hath ears let him hear.”
The meaning of these passages is very clear unless you have a mindset already dismissing the possibility. Yet reincarnation is rejected because it does not mesh with accepted theologies of our time or of the past 1500 years, in spite of the known fact it was widely accepted during Jesus' time. Why is there a willful decision to avoid reincarnation or even to discredit it entirely?
One trouble with modern Catholicism is that it has not made a move to correct this error. Mention reincarnation and the church leaders will try to portray it a “fringe” belief not worthy of serious consideration. Yet it was the Catholic Church that was largely responsible for relegating reincarnation to that status in the first place. Writings from Jesus’ time discovered at Nag Hammadji in Egypt and in caves near the Dead Sea show that reincarnation was assumed to be true by many and certainly not discounted. It was only several centuries after Jesus’ death that church leaders, principally Iranaeus, declared there were only four true gospels (what came to be known as the “canon”). All others were labeled “heresy”. He feared Christians with mystical leanings were undermining the orthodox church he was trying to lead and bringing increased persecution to Christianity as a whole. Iranaeus had good reason to be concerned. Some of his closet friends and teachers had died violent deaths at the hands of people who viewed Christianity with scorn and suspicion. Some of the mystics (known as Gnostics) spoke wisdom and truth, but others no doubt did not have a high enough commitment to truth or sufficient experience. Although they wished to emulate Jesus, they did not realize how much they had yet to learn to act wisely. They fell into the trap that many who discover a little bit of truth: they thought they had found all of it and wanted to proclaim it to everyone when they only vaguely understood what they were learning. Jesus had attempted to move his small circle of followers in the direction of searching and questioning the religious assumptions of his day and applying standards to the self (“And why do you look at the speck your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” Matt7:3) He also cautioned his followers not to “cast your pearls before swine lest they trample them under your feet.” (Matt 7:6), but this warning went unheeded. The result was these followers of Jesus set back the cause of truth as much as they advanced it.
While some of the mystics acted foolishly, bringing the wrath of an unsympathetic portion of the population down upon all Christians, Iranaeus and others like-minded did worse by trying to ruthlessly control it. They transformed it into a religion in many ways more intolerant and rigid than Pharisaic Judaism. The Apostle Paul planted the seeds for this by effectively hijacking Jesus’ challenge to look within the self and transforming Christianity into a religion based upon a deified Jesus. Paul’s attempt to “package” Jesus’ teaching was a slap in the face to what Jesus was trying to do and has been confusing Christians ever since. Jesus did not want to be deified. He wanted people to start trying the way he was so Earth could be saved. He wanted people to do greater than he did. He was trying to get key people (the disciples) to question themselves, for he knew religion is dead when it becomes a religion of rules and traditions. Proclaiming the “gospel” was never his intent, but Paul’s, who sought to take advantage of the genuine interest being shown in true religion and diffuse the threat he thought it posed to society. Paul’s’ Christianity was an evil compromise, for it laid the groundwork for a church that would eventually become more evil than the one it had proposed to replace.
Today there is a pervasive resistance to believing in reincarnation because much of the past has been ugly, and for most a reminder of terrible failure. Most people would rather forget the past and go on. But this is NOT a wise idea. There is nothing good in forgetting the past. Sure, setting aside traumatic experiences temporarily until you are strong enough to deal with them may be necessary at times, but we suffer more today because we refuse to remember. How can you learn from the past if you refuse to remember it? You can't. You are a blank slate with nothing to learn from. Memory is the cornerstone of wisdom. If you deliberately push it away you won't learn the things you need to learn in this life. You won't see the problems, so you won't be looking for the answers.
It would be better if more of us would anguish about our pasts than telling ourselves we are blameless and bear no responsibility. We all have problems buried in the past we are making very little effort to solve. A civilization that buries its past cannot last long. The weight of accumulated sins become too great. Something inside each person demands that the scales be balanced, but when society as a whole won't work on it, something has to give. The sins we don't see or remember will destroy us and we won't really understand why.
Many people today are depressed. They turn to drugs to try to alleviate this depression, but the root cause goes far deeper. Many of these people accept their depression and wallow in it. They accept it as a chemical imbalance or some other excuse (even if there is a chemical imbalance, it probably has a spiritual cause. EVERYTHING has a spiritual cause). I would venture to say that most depression is the result of realizing you are not fulfilling your true -life purposes on Earth. You are not balancing your scales. You are not doing what you planned to do prior to being born. You are failing, and you know it. Nothing anyone can say or do for you can change this fact. But since most of us in Western culture don't take reincarnation seriously, what can we do? Take more pills?
The hope of America for many people has been freedom from the heavy karma of Europe. It was a New World in more than one way. It was a land where new and better ideas could take root. Europe was too entrenched in its traditions to find the right answers, but in America there was hope. Those of us who have the good fortune to live here should take every opportunity to improve while we have the chance. This is our chance to get free from our karma enough that we can straighten it out. If we throw away that opportunity what hope is there for us? What chance do we have?
Here is a small sampling of the problems that could be addressed in society if reincarnation were taken seriously:
1.Gender, racial, cultural and religious bias. If you accept reincarnation you know you will not always be in the same gender, culture, race or religion. If you are Christian this lifetime you may be Muslim next. If you are a man now you may be a woman next time. You could be white now and black in your next life. Knowing that we are not defined by race, gender, culture or religion changes our outlook towards others. If you find yourself feeling superior to another group you may be humbled in the realization that you might be part of the group you view as inferior next time.
2.Psychological and mental problems. People would be able to draw connections between the things they feel and their pasts. If you feel depressed there could be a karmic cause. You could be remembering something from another lifetime that you need to resolve.
3.Morality and justice. What goes around comes around. You never really get away with anything, even when you think you do. Sooner or later you will pay for your mistakes, so be right! Don't deliberately do wrong. You reap what you sow.
4.Education. The role of education should be to wisely awaken the memory to the lessons the person has already learned. As a society we are failing to instill values in our children, because most adults are severely cut off from their wisdom. An acceptance of reincarnation would mean an acceptance of our broader wisdom, which would lead to great genuine personal morality.
5.True self esteem. No, not the pretend kind. Many people resist reincarnation out of fear of how bad they have been. There are some that have been quite terrible but many more that have said and done things for which they can be rightly proud. Belief in reincarnation brings a greater sense of self and capability. Many people have seen children suddenly start acting like adults in stressful situations. They have memory and in such cases they are using it the way they should.
6.The preoccupation with materialism in modern day Christianity. Most Christians would be shocked to realize they are amongst the most materialistic people on the planet. Many believe this life on Earth is all there is for them, just like the atheists. Many claim to be very spiritual people like Jesus was, but how many Christians you know believe in casting out demons as Jesus did and try to follow his example, as He expected? Most Christians will automatically run to a doctor. They would look at you strangely if you suggested they try to learn from Jesus how to cast out the demons causing the illness.
Reincarnation permits us to think as spiritual beings, beyond this present body. This body is not who we are. It is only an instrument for learning in this present time. When it is no longer of use it will die, but the spirit will keep learning.
7.Responsibility for the future. If you realize you may have to return to this planet again as a baby your attitude towards everything changes. You have a stake in the survival of this country and this planet. You do not want to return to a planet in chaos. This gives you impetus to do all you can to make the world better for the future. The present day conditions of the world are partly of your making and you may one-day return as a child and have to face again what you helped create in previous lives.
This is a short list that only hints at the possibilities.
Jesus believed in reincarnation for a reason: he knew it was the key to each person rediscovering his wisdom. When he came to Earth he knew our planet could not survive long. He wanted to awaken the wisdom of the people. They were caught in rigid beliefs and destroying one another in the name of religion. Every one of us has lifetimes that comprehend things we in this life don't very well. We are castaways on a deserted island with very little awareness of who we are where we came from and why we are here. We each need to reconnect with our reservoir of learning of life's lessons, which is the foundation of all that we are including our morality. Certainly church doctrines are not the foundation of our morality. When push comes to shove we live by what we have learned from experience. May we have the guts to remember what we have learned. If we do we will have raised our moral consciousness and ability to save our planet many thousand fold.