Thursday, January 28, 2010

Another life?

I've just finished reading a book by Liz Hodgkinson called "Reincarnation - The Evidence". It was published in 1989, though I suppose that's pretty irrelevant.

It was given to me for free, so I didn't have to suffer the pain of spending any money.

Now, if you've been following this blog you will know that I am an atheist. Even so, I've always had a feeling that I have lived before - just a feeling mind, and that proves nothing. Anyway, I had high hopes for this book that it might be quite revelatory, but it wasn't. Much of the book was about what different religions believe about reincarnation. That is no evidence at all. Just because someone believes something does not make it true. She looks at hypnotic regression and there are some interesting cases there. However, she admits that there are so many problems with this that it is somewhat doubtful that people really are seeing into a previous life. More tantalizing is the evidence provided by young children who talk about a previous life. Many of these cases are from the Far East where belief in reincarnation is much more prevalent than in the west, and so is much more readily accepted.

She claims that a belief in reincarnation can explain many things in life, like why, for instance some people are born into very rich families while others live their lives in squalor. Why some people are hugely talented and others not .... etc ....etc. This is to do with Karma, a kind of cause and effect whereby the way we live one life affects the next. Personally I think this is highly unlikely, although I suppose its a nice idea. The trouble is she kind of spoils it for me by suggesting at the end that souls are eternal in that they have always existed and are therefore immortal. The trouble with this is that it is very close to trying to believe in God, and to me that is just not tenable. She suggests that humans have always existed and that we have always been this way, distinct from the animals. That really spoiled it even more for me as it completely ignores all our discoveries in evolution, both biological and cosmological. I came to the conclusion that while she obviously gets a lot of comfort from her own belief in evolution, she loads it down with so much spiritual baggage that I just couldn't swallow it.

Speaking for myself, I am not completely averse to the idea of reincarnation, but I would take a more objective approach to the idea. Given that there was a time just over 60 years ago when I did not exist, there will in the future be another time when I again return to the same state. As I came out of that state and am here now, then why not again in the future? Of course, there has to be a soul or spirit which passes from one body to another for "me" to exist again. This is getting into the supernatural though, and I am very cautious as to how far I can take this. As I am a convinced believer in science and evolution, I try not to sway too far away into the supernatural. I cannot conceive of an eternal soul because the universe is a finite age. I can only surmise that if we do have a soul it appeared at some point during our evolution, and I would guess that would most likely have been when we became conscious and self-aware. It could be that once a soul has come into existence it might have an indefinite life span, but what happens when there is no more humanity, or no more habitable universe??? Maybe it time expires.... One final thought, and that is if we (for the most part) don't remember our previous lives then is it meaningful to believe in such a thing? I guess the "Karma" idea is a way of trying to bring meaning into the concept, otherwise, the belief while bringing some kind of comfort in that death is not the end, fails to completely satisfy our desire for immortality because if you have no knowledge of the previous life, then in what sense can you say you have lived it??

Answers on a postcard please to...............

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