I asked my team of dear readers to opine on the question of reincarnation. Do you believe that we are born again, or is it once and done?
From B I received this pious and tender missive:
Hello Rabbi Gellman: What do I think? Nobody knows for sure what occurs after death. Although many people preach about it, they don't really know. It's a matter of belief, and we can believe anything we want to believe. All we can do is live a good life according to whatever faith we decide to believe in. We do know that there is something, an energy, a life force that animates us for a while, which we usually call the soul. Since we don't know exactly what happens to this soul, we should give ourselves the best chance to make it a good outcome. Thanks for asking. Your column is great.
From Dr. B, I have a rather spooky but sincere affirmation of past lives:
Dear Rabbi: No coincidences. I have just had a book published titled "Three Men Six Lives."
It tells true stories, including my past life experience portrayed by three characters I created, one of which is me and a surgeon as I am today. To make a long story short, it's our consciousness which recycles and affects us and our lives. Like the 5-year-old who plays a violin or my becoming a surgeon to heal with a knife and not kill with a sword as in my past life.
I woke up to this when a friend asked me: Why are you living this life? When she heard how busy I was, I went into a trance due to her words and saw the truth about my past life and the fact that I did not have faith in my Lord on earth or true Lord and thus did many destructive things.
Note from MG: Dr. B raises a very interesting and perplexing question about reincarnation. If we are reborn into new lives, why don't we remember our past lives? Sorry, Dr. B, but the number of 5-year-olds who can play the violin is in the zero range. And if our memories of past lives are wiped out in the spiritual car wash that cleanses us between lives, what is the purpose of being reborn?
Both Aristotle and the Jewish mystical tradition taught that just before a baby is born an angel tweaks the baby on the upper lip and causes an indentation (called the philtrum). This mark erases all memories and prevents the baby from asking for a martini right after birth. As I said in my column, I believe in reincarnation, but I am not oblivious to the many logistical and spiritual problems caused by this belief. It just seems to me that is simple fairness (why should babies who die at birth or before be deprived of the opportunity to experience life?) and mercy (why should a few bad choices that ruin one's life spoil everything forever?). I just believe that God wants to give us a do over in life.
From S, we have a reference to Dr. Brian Weiss:
Dear Rabbi Gellman: This morning's column prompts me to ask if you have read a book "Many Lives, Many Masters," by Brian L. Weiss, M.D.? I recently listened to it on Audible on recommendation of a friend, who thought it might provide me with a different life perspective. It has. Before listening to Weiss' book, I frankly dismissed reincarnation as an interesting, but foreign belief system. I'm not so sure anymore.
MG responds: My wife, Betty, dragged me to one of Dr. Weiss' lectures and it reinforced my belief in reincarnation, but not for any of the reasons Weiss adduces. His three books, including the second two, "Through Time Into Healing" and "Only Love Is Real," have brought to millions not only the hope of reincarnation but the hope that the people we love in our life journey keep appearing in every one of our lifetimes. The problem is that Weiss is a Yale-trained psychiatrist and people may be falsely led to believe his claims as if they were scientific truths. They are not! They are beliefs that the spiritually needy among us (including me) affirm because of our beliefs in the fairness and mercy of God. Weiss' so-called proof comes from hypnosis of patients, and that is not a scientific methodology for proving how God loves us over and over again.
In this life there are problems we can solve and mysteries we can only encounter — and to which we can only respond in love and humility. Whether we are born again or go to God forever after death is one of the great mysteries.
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