REINCARNATION IN THE BIBLE
Chapter 3 - History relating to Reincarnation
Chapter 4 - "Who Sinned, This Man or His Parents?"
HAVE I LIVED BEFORE?
Excerpts from A New Christian: My Spiritual Journey
Nancy B. Detweiler
…. Often first impressions and initial experiences upon meeting an individual are based in past life memories. We can choose how we want to respond to these initial reactions. An instant dislike of the person can indicate a soul memory that needs to be resolved. The two of you may have come together—according to perfect timing—to heal a former relationship. On the other hand, an immediate gut-level feeling, like "don’t trust this person," may be your soul’s warning to "be watchful as you deal with him." It is up to you to discern the difference, perhaps by simply withholding judgment until the two of you are better acquainted.
Two excellent introductory books are the story of Edgar Cayce’s life, There Is A River and Gina Cerminara’s book entitled Many Mansions. Cayce’s carefully documented clairvoyant readings number in the thousands. They are housed in the library of the Association for Research and Enlightenment in Virginia Beach, Virginia. After twenty-two years of giving readings for medical diagnosis, Cayce surprises himself by tapping into a past life of his subject.46 From then on the readings are filled with the accounts of past life influences upon the medical and life conditions of his subjects.
As depicted in the Cayce readings, reincarnation is a means by which humanity evolves spiritually. The Bible teaches us, in the allegorical story of Adam and Eve, that humanity chose to turn away from God.47 In doing so, we began our descent into materiality and corruption. Soon we forgot our true identities as children of God, created in the image and likeness of God. The Christian narrative introduces the man Jesus as the Saviour, the one who can show us the way out of our spiritual darkness into the divine light of God. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus commands us, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."48 In an effort to fulfill this commandment, the individual soul repeatedly incarnates into a physical body. In the spiritual gospel of John, Jesus explains, "The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father."49 No one need point out to us that we, at this stage in our spiritual evolution, are unable to perform the works of Jesus.
Reincarnation is the means by which the soul evolves into the perfected state and acquires the knowledge of universal law necessary to "do the works" Jesus does. Reincarnation is God’s grace manifesting in our lives. God’s grace giving us a second chance throughout eternity. Eternal life is just that: eternal, everlasting, without beginning or ending. Our souls move back and forth between the world of spirit and the world of physical matter. Once we evolve past the need to incarnate into physical bodies, we continue our spiritual evolution on higher dimensions of existence.
According to the Cayce readings, our physical body, emotions, and mental attitudes often reflect past life thought and behavioral patterns. The universal law of cause and effect rules all of life, including humanity’s. The apostle Paul explains this law: "Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit."50 What we sow in the present life will be what we reap in the following incarnations. My friend and I allowed unforgiven anger to be sown in our former life’s relationship. When we meet in this present life, we immediately tap into the residual emotions from the previous life; we reap the harvest of anger we sowed. This "reaping" need not be a permanent condition. The grace of forgiveness is always available. My friend and I can, through our freewill choice to do so, transform the initial anger into resumption of a lasting friendship.
Cayce’s readings are filled with examples of reaping what has been sown in previous lives. An individual suffering from severe asthma is told, "You cannot press the life out of others without seeming at times to have it pressed out of oneself." A deaf person hears this admonition: "Then do not close your ears again to those who plead for aid." This subject was a nobleman at the time of the French Revolution.51 The universal law of cause and effect can manifest itself in any number of ways.
The word karma is closely associated with the concept of reincarnation. Karma is what we sown and are now reaping. As long as we incarnate on Earth, each of us is both sowing and reaping karma. Karma is a neutral word. Our behavioral choices determine whether we reap positive or negative karma. At this stage in human spiritual evolution, the majority of us are reaping both negative and positive. A word of caution is needed. We cannot outwardly observe the life conditions of another person and think we know what they are reaping.
While still in spirit, our souls prepare for the next physical incarnation by determining the best way for us to learn the lessons set aside for the particular sojourn on Earth. For example, a soul may choose to be born blind, not because it has been blind to the needs of others in a previous life, but in order to ensure the development of the intuitive self. In this case, blindness is not the harvest of past negative behavior. It is the freewill choice of a soul intent on advancing to a higher level of spiritual wisdom. Jesus gives us excellent advice when he urges, "Do not judge, and you will not be judged."52
As part of the preparation process, a soul chooses to incarnate into the family with whom it feels its purposes can best be met. A soul desiring a profession in music may choose a family attuned to the benefits of a musical education. Two or more souls may plan to assist each other in accomplishing their soul purposes. One soul may incarnate as a mentally challenged child in order to facilitate the parents’ lesson in loving unselfishly. Once more we see the need to withhold judgment. The mentally challenged child is not reaping a negative effect. Neither are the parents reaping the results of sinful behavior. Instead, the child is participating in an act of selfless service. The parents chose the lesson of unselfish love for the present incarnation; the child volunteered to tutor the parents. In so doing, the child’s soul is also benefiting. The list of possibilities or purposes behind physical incarnation is endless. "Do not judge, and you will not be judged."
Negative karma very often appears within the arena of close personal relationships. The Cayce readings seem to infer that a soul’s indifference to human suffering in one lifetime will bring suffering to the individual in a future life. One of his readings illustrates this fact. A father places his little girl in a Catholic home. The baby was born premature and hydrocephalic. His wife died a few days after giving birth. Wanting to know his previous relationship with his daughter, the father requests a reading from Cayce. He is told, "In the experience before this you could have helped and you didn’t. You’d better help in the present."53
"Why don’t we remember our past lives?" I wonder.
Actually we do. The fact of reincarnation reveals itself throughout our everyday lives. We simply must be open to seeing and accepting it. The child prodigy, love at first sight, immediate antagonism, a compelling sexual attraction, the "I feel like I have known you all my life" sensation, déjà vu experiences, phobias, and seemingly unfounded fears—all can be signals of reincarnation.
Continuity of consciousness, while in the physical body, would be overwhelming for the majority of humanity. As we are born into the physical plane, we mercifully forget much of what we know. Our soul decides upon specific goals for the particular incarnation. To have our minds filled to overflowing with memories of all past lives would be to defeat ourselves before we get started.
A light flashes on in my mind.
"Astrology speaks to the soul’s purpose. Why can it not be interpreted to reveal the lessons our soul would like for us to learn in the present incarnation? Can I see indications of past life memories now affecting the individual?"
My quest for spiritual understanding is becoming even more exhilarating.
The science of astrology is practiced on a variety of levels. Mundane astrology speaks to the everyday affairs of humanity with little or no attention being paid to the deeper significance of our daily lives. Most often mundane astrology is interpreted for the future in the form of predictions.
Esoteric astrology deals with the spiritual implications of the predominant thought and emotional patterns of an individual. Esoteric astrology offers answers to many of our "why?" questions in terms of the spiritual growth needing to take place during this incarnation. Our role in the cosmic plan can be seen through esoteric astrology.
The Wise Men, depicted in the second chapter of the gospel of Matthew, are cosmic astrologers. Cosmic astrology is a reading of the heavens in order to predict major cosmic events. We can see examples of cosmic astrology in the Bible. The birth of Jesus is one such event. "In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage."54 Near the end of Jesus’ incarnation, he makes reference to cosmic astrology. In response to his disciples’ questions about his return to Earth, Jesus explains, "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars."55
Reincarnation is the foundation upon which esoteric astrology is interpreted. As I state earlier, reincarnation is the means by which humanity evolves into the perfected state of a child of God. In our brief look at the readings of Edgar Cayce, we see how our behaviors in one lifetime have impact upon a future lifetime. Esoteric astrology reveals the ways in which past lives influence the present one. For example, a client states to me, "Even as a small child, I have always felt I had to be the parent instead of the child." Her present life is filled with resentment over this fact. An esoteric interpretation of this client’s birth chart reveals Saturn in the fourth house. Saturn often assumes the role of a good parent in our lives. It insists that we learn a particular soul lesson, just as a good parent requires the child to do homework for school. The individual’s Saturn is retrograde indicating the tendency to bring an emotional overload from past lives into the present. It also reveals the likelihood of responsibilities within the childhood home. The fourth house reveals our psychological constitution and the relationship with mother. With Saturn retrograde in the fourth house and ruling her Capricorn Ascendant, my client will assume the role of parent from the birth process on, with motivational factors based in past lives. Even though the mother’s psychological makeup plays into this behavior, tremendous emotional release results from knowing the basis for her parental feelings comes from past lives. Forgiveness in the present is made easier, thereby transcending the need to reap the results of her resentment in a future life. She can now choose to sow the seeds of forgiveness. With this new insight, my client may also choose whether or not to continue assuming the parental role in personal relationships.
Once more questions plague my mind.
"Why does our Western culture choose to ignore the valuable contributions the concept of reincarnation can make in our understanding of life?"
"Why is the Church so hesitant to give credence to a belief in reincarnation?"
One reason is that Christian historians have failed to give reincarnation its rightful place in Church history. As in the case of astrology, Western Christian historians have simply not reported the role of reincarnation. With the dawn of the New Age of Aquarius, ancient books are being translated into English. The layperson can now catch glimpses into what really happened.
The Encyclopedia of Religion concludes an article on reincarnation by affirming that the concepts of reincarnation and karma have done more to shape the whole of Asian thought than any other.56 Ancient Greece, India, and Egypt have well developed belief systems centering around reincarnation. Pythagoras, Empedocles, Plato, Plotinus, and their followers teach reincarnation.57 Pythagoras, Empedocles, and Plato predate the Christian era. Plotinus lives and teaches between 205-270 C.E., as a contemporary of the Christian Church Fathers. He is not alone in his beliefs concerning reincarnation.
The vast majority of Christians dismiss the above information with a question for which they seek no answer. What do ancient Greek, Indian, and Egyptian philosophies have to do with Christianity? A brief study of the world map provides an answer. Palestine is in close proximity to each of these countries. Trade routes between Palestine, Greece, India, and Egypt are numerous, allowing a constant exchange of products and ideas with these nations. Most of us know the Old Testament account of the Hebrew sojourn in Egypt and of the apostle Paul’s journey to Athens, Greece.58 Are we also aware that India, as a part of the Persian Empire under whose rule Palestine lived, is mentioned in the Old Testament book of Esther?59 Archaeological digs have unearthed vases, carnelian beads, and seals that attest to the trade with India dated as far back as 2500-2200 B.C.E. An Aramaic (the language of Jesus) inscription from the third century B.C.E. illustrates the contact between India and the biblical lands.60
Christianity originates in the Middle East. It grows out of the Jewish religion based in Palestine. The milieu of both the Old and New Testaments is this intermingling of Greek, Egyptian, and Indian beliefs and customs. To these, we can add the influence of Persia, Syria, and Italy (all of which periodically rule Palestine during biblical times). Reincarnation is a widely accepted belief throughout the thousands of years represented in the Bible. It is naïve to believe the concepts of karma and reincarnation, which "have done more than any other belief to shape the whole of Asian thought" are not known and accepted among the people of the Bible.
Josephus, the first century Jewish historian and contemporary of the apostle Paul (37-100 C.E.), verifies the presence of a belief in reincarnation within the Jewish community. He describes three philosophical sects among the Jews of the first century C.E.: the Sadducees, Pharisees, and Essenes. The Pharisees teach reincarnation for the good souls only: "They say that all souls are incorruptible; but that the souls of good men are only removed into other bodies, but that the souls of bad men are subject to eternal punishment."61 The Essenes teach pre-existence of the soul: "For their doctrine is this: ‘That bodies are corruptible, and that the matter they are made of is not permanent; but that the souls are immortal, and continue for ever; and that they come out of the most subtile air, and are united to their bodies as in prisons, into which they are drawn by a certain natural enticement; but that when they are set free from the bonds of the flesh, they then, are released from a long bondage, rejoice and mount upward.’"62 A belief in the pre-existence of souls is the foundation of reincarnation. Many scholars are convinced, for three reasons, that the Essenes accept reincarnation. First, they have high regard for the Jewish Kabala, in which reincarnation is taught as a basic belief. The earliest known Jews to call themselves Kabalists are the Tanaiim who reside in Jerusalem during the early third century B.C.E. Second, the Essenes come under the influence of Buddhist monks who travel, in great numbers, throughout the Middle East during the centuries before Jesus’ birth. Reincarnation is basic to Buddhism. Third, the Essenes’ doctrines and communal practices reflect a knowledge of the Pythagoreans, who are reincarnationists.63 Thus we find two of the three Jewish sects with which Jesus is familiar accept reincarnation. We also know that the apostle Paul is a Pharisee, and thus a believer in reincarnation.64
"So why does the Western Church consider a belief in reincarnation heretical?
My frustration with the church is growing. Daily, in my rehabilitation counseling career, I confront the need to provide meaningful services to my clients. I watch as they persist in self-destructive behavior, partly because their church cannot assist them in putting together the tangled pieces of life’s puzzle. The belief in reincarnation is like removing the lid from a pot of boiling water—it lets the steam out. No longer is the steam screaming to be released from the small confines of one lifetime. Knowing that we have lived before and will live again releases a tremendous amount of bottled up emotional energy.
The belief in only one physical life does more to distort our perceptions concerning life, God, and each other than any other concept. Failure in a career means failure for life: "There will be no other opportunity." Failure to meet a suitable mate cuts deeply into the self-esteem of the individual: "No one has loved me enough to marry me." The loss of a mate through divorce or death can be devastating: "I’ll never be happy again." The brilliant young person killed in an automobile accident: "His only chance at life is cut short." The person born with a debilitating physical condition has no other alternative than to believe, "God made me like this." Homosexual and transvestite persons are faced with the same conclusion. Consider what this says about God to the afflicted one. God is a God who loves some people and hates others. Think about what this says to the individual about herself. "God has to hate me; otherwise, why would God create me this way?"
These tragic conclusions are the result of believing in only one physical lifetime. We are forced to blame God. No other choice exists. We may try to come up with options, but buried in the depths of our being is an ugly demon who continually whispers, "God hates you; God created you different, requiring you to suffer." God as Creator is the bottom line for the majority of humanity. Thus, God is to blame.
The church has thus far been unable to provide therapeutic alternatives to these disastrous life experiences and deductions. Openness to the science of astrology and the natural laws of reincarnation will allow the church to truly spread the gospel of God’s love. The church can then offer the healing balm of questions satisfactorily answered.
"Why? Why? Why? Why put band-aids on our sores when the church can offer healing?" The answer can be found, at least in part, through a study of the early church ecumenical councils.
Jesus incarnates into a very cosmopolitan environment. His public teachings are simple and straightforward. However, after his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, his followers find themselves in a defensive position.
The disciples face a multitude of questions from the diverse peoples living within the Roman empire. "Why choose to follow a common criminal? After all, the Roman government put Jesus to death." Their answers vary, according to their understanding of Jesus. As the years go by, various teachers develop their own explanations and groups of followers.
Jesus’ good news, "the Kingdom of God is within you,"65 is quickly shoved backstage and replaced with theories concerning the identity of Jesus. Listen to the apostle Paul’s reaction when some of his followers turn to another teacher: "I am astonished that you are so quick deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ."66
Paul’s reaction to differences is the exact opposite we see in Jesus’ response. "John said to him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.’ But Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterwards to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us.’"67 Within the sphere of God’s love, there is room for variation.
Many of the Church Fathers follow the example of Paul, instead of Jesus. They disagree vehemently. All sorts of human motives cloud the issues. Their ultimate goal, according to Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, is "the real Church has one and the same faith everywhere in the world."68 Found in Irenaeus’ Selections from the Work Against Heresies, this quote and the book’s title speak volumes.
Church historians and I can only surmise why Paul and the Church Fathers are so insistent upon one and the same faith. Actually the word faith is misleading. The controversies and heresies concern doctrines. The above quote sheds more light on the Ecumenical Councils if translated, "the real Church has one and the same doctrine everywhere in the world." Whatever the reason, the negative results have been numerous.
One of the most negative repercussions of attempting to have one and the same doctrine everywhere in the world is the church’s declaration of heresy whenever a scholar, minister, or teacher disagrees with the standard doctrine. To be judged a heretic is a sentence of excommunication from the church, loss of teaching position in a church affiliated institution, or loss of job as a minister or priest. For hundreds of years, the sentence for heresy can also be death by burning at the stake. Thousands of writings are burned, or otherwise destroyed, when the author is declared a heretic. Remember the word heresy simply means a point of view that differs from "the one and same doctrine."
The early Church Fathers are particularly vigilant in their search for heresies. As they strive to create a worldwide church with one and the same doctrine, persons with differing beliefs are ruthlessly condemned. Among those groups declared heretics are the Christian Gnostics, all of whom are reincarnationists.69 Some scholars are convinced that the Christian Gnostics are the descendants from the original followers of Jesus and the inheritors of Jesus’ secret teachings.70 In Mark 4:11, Jesus confirms a secret message given only to his closest disciples. When the disciples ask Jesus why he speaks to the crowds of people in parables, he answers, "To you has been given the secret [or mystery] of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables." All open display of Christian Gnosticism is suppressed by both popes and emperors, often by inflicting the death penalty. Gnosticism is forced underground.71 Of the thousands of actual writings by the early Gnostic Christians, few survive the destructive zeal of those who condemn them as heresy.72
Individuals are also included in the relentless search for heretics. Origen (185-254 C.E.) is a most influential Christian thinker. Saint Jerome declares Origen to be "the greatest teacher of the Church after the apostles." Saint Gregory of Nyssa calls him, "the prince of Christian learning in the third century."73 Origen teaches pre-existence of souls and reincarnation. In 553 C.E., the Fifth Ecumenical Council condemns Origen and his teachings as heretical:
"If anyone does not anathematize Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, Apollinarius, Nestorius, Eutyches, and Origen, as well as their heretical books, and also all other heretics who have already been condemned and anathematized by the holy, catholic, and apostolic church and by the four holy synods which have already been mentioned, and also all those who have thought or now think in the same way as the aforesaid heretics and who persist in their error even to death: let him be anathema."74
Anathemam, as defined by Webster, is a "curse solemnly pronounced by ecclesiastical authority and accompanied by excommunication."
In this way (and I give only two examples) the church stifles belief in reincarnation, just as it condemns the use of astrology during the late 15th century. Though believers in both reincarnation and astrology continue throughout history, only as the New Aquarian Age dawns does this ageless wisdom gain open recognition.
Will the traditional church re-consider? Will the traditional layperson permit and encourage its ministers to recognize these valuable explanations of a God of love?
These are questions only time can answer. Meanwhile I encourage those of you who are restless and seeking deeper meaning in life to read for yourselves. Do not take my word or anyone else’s word. Search out the original text for yourselves. Listen to your heart. Allow your intuitive mind to lead you into Truth. Prove for yourself that God truly is love.
Have I lived before? For me the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of "yes."
"Who Sinned, This Man or His Parents?"
-- John 9:2
Excerpts from A New Age Christian: My Spiritual Journey
Nancy B. Detweiler
"What does the Bible have to say about reincarnation?" Nothing, if we expect to find the word reincarnation.
A lot, if we read the Bible through the lens of belief in reincarnation. In the previous chapter, I discuss the early Church Fathers’ efforts to establish a worldwide church subscribing to one and the same doctrine. A very serious repercussion has been heresy trials resulting in excommunication, burning of books, even death for expounding a different doctrine.
A second devastating consequence has been the forced reading of and interpretation of the Bible according to the established church creeds. Any portion of the Scriptures that is contrary to the established creed (or, for those churches not subscribing to a creed, the traditional facets of the Christian doctrines) are ignored. Much within the gospel of John, which many scholars believe to be based in Gnosticism, is an excellent example. Another illustration is Jesus’ statement, found twice in the gospel of Matthew, that John the Baptist is Elijah.
For seventeen hundred years, the church continues to read the Bible through the lens of the established creeds. In so doing, our eyes are blinded to the opportunities for new insights. Even when a minister or layperson recognizes new truth within its pages, the establishment reacts with the statement that has stifled spiritual insight throughout Christian history: "That interpretation is not according to Christianity." Christianity becomes an idol of stone hindering the unfolding of new understandings via the Bible.
Let’s try on a different set of eyeglasses. You can always choose to return to your old ones. For now, let’s embark on a sightseeing adventure through the pages of the Bible. The fee for this quest is an open mind. Our destination is to find those places in the Bible where the concept of reincarnation deepens our understanding and offers new insights.
On our first stop, we will view the case study of John the Baptist. In the closing verses of the Old Testament (in the Christian arrangement of books), we find the prophet Malachi predicting the return to Earth of Elijah: "Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse."75
The Israelite prophet, Elijah, lives during the first half of the ninth century B.C.E. He is a nomad who lives in desert caves and dresses in animal skins.76 According to II Kings 2:11, Elijah does not die. Instead, he ascends to heaven in a chariot of fire drawn by horses of fire. Elijah is one of three Old Testament characters who ascend to heaven without experiencing physical death. The other two are Enoch and Melchizedek.77
Scholars are confident in dating the writing of Malachi in the first half of the fifth century B.C.E.78 Thus for at least five hundred years before the birth of John the Baptist, the Jewish people look forward to the return of Elijah as heralding a time of healing, blessings, and peace. Knowing this prophecy will aid in the understanding of the New Testament text and why the Jewish people question whether or not John the Baptist and Jesus are Elijah.
Near the end of the first century B.C.E., as Zechariah administers his priestly duties, an angel appears with a message. Elizabeth, his barren wife, will conceive a son whose name is to be "John." In the words of the angel, "You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink: even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents of their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."79 Luke’s gospel reveals to us, "The child grew and become strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel." Though his parents reside in "a Judean town in the hill country,"80 John the Baptist, like Elijah, lives in the wilderness. Both the Old Testament Hebrew word midbar and the New Testament Greek word eremos can be translated desert or wilderness. Matthew’s gospel describes John, "Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist."81 John dresses like Elijah. During John the Baptist’s wilderness ministry, the Jewish people and Levites come from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you? Are you Elijah? John answers, "No."82
If John the Baptist is the reincarnation of Elijah, would he not be the first to know? Think back to the discussion of continuity of consciousness in the third chapter. It is not surprising that John does not remember his incarnation as Elijah. The lack of memory is a safeguard to ensure John completes his soul’s work this lifetime. If we read the stories of Elijah, we learn he orders the people to kill 450 Baal priests. The soul of Elijah has negative karma to confront while in the physical body of John the Baptist. John can accomplish his ministry of preparing the way for the Lord much better if he does not consciously remember that he has a debt to pay. Continuity of consciousness is readily available to us only after we have cleared away enough of our negative karma for the memories not to overwhelm and render us immobile with guilt and dread. The negative karma Elijah sows by having the priests murdered is reaped by the soul while in John’s body. John is beheaded for what appears on the surface to be a whimsical gift to Herodias’ daughter.83 Underneath the obvious is the reaping of the soul’s past life negative karma.
Jesus recognizes John the Baptist’s identity. The gospel of Matthew twice records his identification of John as Elijah returned to earth.84 In Matthew 11, Jesus speaks to the crowds concerning John the Baptist: "For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John came; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come." Jesus reaffirms this fact following his transfiguration as recorded in Matthew 17: "He replied, ‘Elijah is indeed coming and will restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man is about to suffer at their hands.’ Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them about John the Baptist."
By the time of the transfiguration, John the Baptist has been beheaded. The soul that occupied the physical bodies of Elijah and John is here seen appearing as Elijah in spirit, accompanied by Moses. From the world of spirit, Elijah and Moses assist Jesus with the completion of his earthly mission.85 Our souls move back and forth from the world of spirit to the world of matter. Wherever we are, we reside in a community of spiritual and embodied souls. The case study of John the Baptist takes us through an entire scenario of the concept of reincarnation.
We move on to the second step on our sightseeing tour of the Bible. The presence of an underlying belief in reincarnation can be seen in the story of a man born blind, found in John 9. Jesus and his disciples are walking when they notice a man, blind from birth. The disciples question Jesus: "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answers, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him." Looking back to chapter three, you can find examples of souls planning, while in spirit, to incarnate with particular handicaps for specific purposes. This man’s soul agreed to be born blind "so that God’s works might be revealed in him." Notice how the disciples, like us, immediately assume the negative: blindness is a result of sin. Jesus refutes this pessimistic judgment. In doing so, he reveals just how seriously we may err, when we choose to be judgmental.
The story of Nicodemus, found in John 3, will be our third stop. As a Pharisee, Nicodemus would believe in reincarnation for the good souls.86 He has been observing Jesus and is impressed: "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God." Jesus intuitively knows that Nicodemus’ statement is really a question. He answers the question he perceives. "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he is not able to see the kingdom of God." The Greek word used here is gennethe in the passive voice, indicating the subject is acted upon by someone else. In the passive, gennethe means to be born of a woman. The Greek work translated here as again is anothen. It means both again and from above. I choose to translate anothen as born again based on the passive voice of gennethe. Read through the lens of reincarnation, Jesus explains to Nicodemus that he must re-incarnate; he must be born of woman again. Nicodemus responds on the level of another physical birth with his questions: "How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?" Jesus proceeds with an explanation that relates the reason for reincarnation. "No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit."
Water symbolizes many things in the Bible, so we cannot be sure what Jesus or the gospel writer means. We can find clues by observing how water is used throughout John’s gospel. Jesus turns the water into wine at the wedding feast. Jesus walks on water. Jesus heals the lame man beside the waters of the Bethzatha Pool. In John 7:37-38, the Father within Jesus speaks, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink … out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water." Each of John’s usages of water relates to a level of spirituality that manifests the Father within. To know and manifest the Father within self is the goal of reincarnation. The majority of us take many lifetimes to evolve back to our original state as a being of spirit, manifesting according to God’s image. Thus, in order to be born of water and the spirit, we must reincarnate. [As of 2006, Earth humans have the opportunity to speed up their ascension process with concentrated effort. As the Ascended Masters and our Galactic Family become visibly present with us, they will teach us the Pathway to Ascension in an accelerated form that will eliminate the need for our souls to reincarnate into the 3rd dimensional plane of duality, where we tend to learn through suffering. Earth humans are scheduled to ascend into the 5th dimensional consciousness where all is love and unity. Ascension is not, however, completed for us—we must evolve spiritually as the individual child god that we are. In John 10:34, Jesus quotes Psalm 82:6, "Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods?’"]
Jesus grows impatient with Nicodemus’ lack of understanding: "Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?" Pharisees believe in reincarnation. Why are you, Nicodemus, having so much difficulty with the concept?
Our fourth sightseeing location is in Caesarea. Jesus and his disciples have just arrived. Curious as to who the crowds think he is, Jesus asks, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" With the ease of those who accept reincarnation, the disciples answer him: "Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."87 Elijah, Jeremiah, and the other prophets lived hundreds of years before Jesus. Neither the disciples nor Jesus find it odd that the people are speculating that Jesus is a reincarnation of one of the prophets. A belief in reincarnation is an integrated part of the culture in which they live.
The last stop on our sightseeing trip will be Matthew 26:52. Jesus and his disciples are in the Garden of Gethsemane. The chief priests and elders of the people, armed with swords and clubs, arrive to arrest Jesus. As they grab Jesus, one of his disciples draws his sword, cutting off the ear of one of the high priest’s slaves. Jesus reacts immediately: "Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword." We all know that murderers do not necessarily die violently in the present life. Jesus is teaching his disciples that violent behavior in this life will eventually be met with violence, in this life or a future one. Violent actions create negative karma. [However, all souls have the opportunity to transmute this violent karma—before it manifests—through loving service to others. Negative karma stored within our energy field is temporary and can be transformed by exercising forgiveness and loving service. Only positive karma is stored eternally. Positive karma becomes "the stars in our crown" celebrated in an old gospel hymn.]
We end our tour with these five examples.88
With the above evidence, and more, of the presence of reincarnation within the Bible, why does traditional Christianity choose to ignore this powerful avenue of God’s grace?
AN ANALYSIS OF THE NICENE CREED
"Is reincarnation cheap grace?"
"Does reincarnation take away from the role of Jesus in God’s plan of salvation?"
In order to answer these questions, we must consider traditional Christianity’s doctrines relating to Jesus, grace, and the human condition.
In 325 C.E., the ecumenical council of Church Fathers, meeting in Nicaea, adopt the Nicene Creed89 as the means by which the worldwide church maintains one and the same doctrine. With the advent of the Protestant Reformation, numerous creeds are developed by the various "break-away" Christian groups. However, the powerful influence of the Nicene Creed persists, even within those denominations that profess to have no creed. The beliefs set forth in the Nicene Creed permeate our Christian psyche. Christians have read the Bible through the lens of the Nicene Creed for seventeen hundred years. Today, it is the creed often used during Services of Communion.90 (This endnote includes the Nicene Creed in its entirety.)
"Who is Jesus according to the Nicene Creed?"
"We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven … for our sake he was crucified … he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father … with the Father and the Son he [the Holy Spirit] is worshiped and glorified."
On the basis of this description of Jesus rests our misconceptions of his true identity, his role in the salvation of humanity, and humanity’s condition. Fierce controversies over Jesus’ divinity versus his humanity, or combination thereof, are raged by Christians for hundreds of years. Ruthless debates over humanity’s original sin, humanity’s deprived state, and God’s need for a blood sacrifice fill the pages of numerous theological treatises. With the concept of reincarnation deemed heresy, the horrendous doctrine of double predestination is devised as a means to explain the presence of unmitigated evil in the world.91 (Endnote contains added information.) Theologians are forced to talk around their elbows and back in an effort not to punch holes in the above creed.
Ponder the above words from the Nicene Creed. What do they tell you about Jesus? Jesus is said to be God. Jesus is to be worshipped as the sacrificial lamb, thus the vicarious atonement for our sins. By implication, God is a God who cannot bring himself to forgive humanity without a blood sacrifice of his beloved Son. Seldom expressed verbally, the grasping fingers of subliminal fear paralyze Christians into obeying when the church hierarchy commands, "Do not question God’s actions. You will lose your faith if you do."
The assumed truth in the Nicene Creed is that humanity is down below God and Jesus, separate from them. By default, humanity is of a different nature—a nature that so angers God a blood sacrifice is required. God’s unconditional love and unlimited grace, as displayed in the opportunity to reincarnate, has no place in the creedal theology. Though Christians have tried to have faith in a God of love, fear prevails. How often have I heard, "I know God loves me because he gave his only Son to die for me." In the search for security in a world ruled by an angry God, Christians regularly ignore their nagging intuitive hunches: "Requiring the death of one son, so that others might live, cannot be right."
Fear is rarely admitted. I hear it when a bereaved person comforts himself with the words, "I’m sure she went to heaven. She was so good." Though not a conscious part of his daily life, the belief in hell rises to the surface when the individual is confronted with death. The human psyche is deeply scarred with the church’s teaching of a physical place called hell, created by a God who intends to punish some individuals for eternity. As long as the church ignores the fact of reincarnation, hell remains the only method for God’s justice to work itself out.
Yet hell, as a place for some to spend eternity, is not biblical. Rocco Errico offers a word study. The English term hell comes from the Anglo-Saxon hel, meaning a hidden place. Hel comes from the verb form helan meaning to hide. Thus the English root word for hell, helan, has nothing to do with hell-fire. Biblical translators used the word hell to translate two different Semitic words: gehenna or gehenna dnoora in Aramaic (the language of Jesus) and sheol in Hebrew.
Sheol comes from the Hebrew root word shalal meaning to be still, quiet. The ancient Hebrews believe sheol to be a place beneath the earth’s surface where those who die, both good and bad, are inactive and quiet. They await judgment or resurrection day. It is a temporary resting place in the underworld.
The Aramaic gehenna dnoora refers to the "Valley of Hinnom." During the first century C.E., Gehenna Dnoora is the garbage dump for Jerusalem. Located outside the city, people bring garbage to Gehenna Dnoora and burn it. The Judean king, Ahaz (735-715 B.C.E.), uses this valley to offer sacrifices to idols. Here, in the Valley of Hinnom, King Ahaz sends his son to the flames as a human sacrifice to the gods. As a result of these sacrifices, the valley Gei Hinnom becomes a Semitic term for hell.92 The Old Testament sheol and the New Testament gehenna dnoora in no way refer to a place established by God for eternal punishment.
Revelation 21:8 is another verse that seems, on the surface, to verify the Christian concept of hell: "But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death." Throughout Revelation, sulfur appears in relationship to the eternal fires.93 On the mundane level, sulfur is a natural element found in protein. Protein is essential to the well-being of our physical bodies. Hidden wisdom uses sulfur as an alchemical symbol.94 Alchemy, as defined by Webster, is the "power or process of transforming something common into something special." Thus sulfur in combination with the eternal fire is the means by which souls are transformed "from something common into something special." The second death is therefore death to the lower self (or something common) so that the something special can be resurrected. Revelation is speaking of the astral plane where all negativity is eventually transmuted and resurrected into something special.
Hell, as a place of eternal punishment, is not biblical. God truly is love.
Sadly the misconceptions of the church render Christians paralyzed with fear. Although many ministers and laypersons say they no longer believe in hell, no concentrated effort is made to correct this destructive doctrine. It is simply ignored. To ignore it does not alleviate fear. Instead, the fear is repressed, giving it power far beyond our recognition.
Why, when the minister who attempts to present new insights is silenced, does she acquiesce? Why is the layperson hesitant to ask the questions that really concern him. For the minister, loss of the particular pulpit may lead to a more open congregation. For the parishioner, loss of status within the church community is far less restricting than repressing questions springing from the soul. The healing of subliminal fear of an unpredictable God awaits the church’s awakening to and proclamation of Truth.
As I continue to share the story of my search for Truth, I pray you will have the courage to explore with me and recognize for yourself, God is Absolute Love.
"What does Jesus teach?"
Throughout the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus refers to himself as the Son of Man, thus emphasizing his prototype human role. This prototype human concept of himself is reinforced throughout his teachings.
Jesus repeatedly shifts the attention from himself to "his Father in heaven." In Matthew 8, an individual suffering from leprosy approaches Jesus, asking to be healed. Jesus touches the man’s scaly skin, saying, "Be made clean." As the man is healed, Jesus commands him to go to the temple and offer a gift of thanksgiving to God. Jesus deflects the credit for the healing from himself to God.
Mark 10:17-22 relates the story of a rich man running up to Jesus. "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus corrects him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone." Then Jesus answers the man’s question according to his individual soul’s needs. Jesus senses that this wealthy man is attached to his material possessions. His soul needs to learn at least three lessons this incarnation: 1) detachment from riches as his source of supply; 2) sharing his possessions with others; and 3) looking to God alone as his source of abundant supply. Grieving, the man turns away—he is not ready to learn.
That Jesus views himself as the prototype human is obvious in Luke 6:40. "A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher." Jesus expects his disciples to develop the same level of spiritual maturity he exhibits. He is frustrated with their failure to do so.
While the disciples are rowing across the Sea of Galilee, a storm splashes waves into the boat. Fearful for their lives, the disciples call to Jesus to wake up and save them. After calming the sea, Jesus questions his disciples, "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?"95 Jesus expects them to have the faith needed to calm the sea. Instead, they simply look at him in awe.
The disciples seem unable to comprehend Jesus’ expectations of them. On another occasion, Jesus is teaching a crowd of five thousand men in a deserted place. As dusk approaches, his disciples grow uneasy. They want Jesus to dismiss the crowd so they can go into the villages, find a place to spend the night, and purchase some food. Jesus expects the disciples to solve the problem: "You give them something to eat."96 Once more the disciples do not know what to do.
Jesus places himself on par with the disciples and the rest of humanity. He teaches us to address God as "our Father" when we pray.97 In his teachings, he refers to God as "your Father in heaven."98 Jesus indicates the familial relationship we share with him: "For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." Our Father, your Father, my Father—we and Jesus have the same relationship to God. Because Jesus, as prototype human, is so far beyond our present demonstrated abilities, we believe ourselves to be less than he in the eyes of God. In reality, Jesus, as prototype human, reveals the goal of reincarnation.
John’s gospel presents the most vivid display of Jesus’ knowledge that he is prototype man. The above portion of the Nicene Creed is based on the Church Fathers’ interpretation of John 1:1-18. Jesus is equated with the Word. The creed affirms Jesus as true God from true God. As a result, reading the gospel of John through the lens of the Nicene Creed can be a confusing experience.
In contrast to the Nicene Creed, Christian Gnosticism equates the Word with the spirit of God indwelling Jesus and every other human being. As I state in chapter three, the Gnostics are reincarnationists. Scholars, not bound by orthodoxy, believe Gnostics to be the descendants of the original Christians and the inheritors of the hidden wisdom Jesus gives only to his disciples.99 The Greek meaning of christos is the Christ, the anointed one, the Messiah. Gnostics teach that the Christ is the divine spirit in every being.100 Jesus is called the Christ because he has evolved spiritually to the point of being filled with the Spirit. In his prayer for all his followers, Jesus prayed, "As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us."101 Gnostics equate the Word with the Christ. Making this distinction between Jesus and the Christ Spirit indwelling all beings opens the door to the hidden wisdom teachings of Jesus, including reincarnation.
The goal of reincarnation is to become one with God—to become so filled with the Christ Spirit that we, like Jesus, are manifesting as the Christ. Reading the Bible with the lens of gnosticism is a thrilling adventure. The Bible, especially John’s gospel, comes alive with personal meaning. Through the lens of gnosticism, the Bible is your story and my story, the narrative of our souls’ journey back to God. Read through the lens of the Nicene Creed, the Bible is the story of a faraway God periodically intervening within the historical setting of a helpless humanity.
John’s gospel is filled with teachings of Jesus that are ignored by subscribers to the Nicene Creed. They fall on deaf ears because a Christianity based on the Creed presents Jesus as the God Man to be worshipped. To traditional Christians, relating to Jesus as an equal is a foreign concept.
Jesus makes the distinction between himself as the man and the indwelling Spirit of the Father: "Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise."102
"I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me."103
"My teaching is not mine but his who send me."104
"I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me … I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father."105
"Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in him who sent me … I have not spoken on my own, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment about what to say and what to speak … What I speak, therefore, I speak just as the Father has told me."106
"The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works."107
The climax of Jesus’ teaching regarding humanity’s status within the divine cosmic plan in found in John 14:12: "The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will go greater works than these, because I am going to the Father."
Jesus is the prototype man, the example we are to follow, not to worship. Believing Jesus to be a divinity we are to worship renders his teachings unfathomable.
Jesus’ metaphor of the vine beautifully illustrates the sameness of the Word or Christ spirit within Jesus and humanity. In John 15, Jesus teaches, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower … I am the vine, you are the branches." Remember, Jesus speaks the words of his Father or the Christ Spirit within him. When Jesus states, "I am the true vine," he is channeling the words of the Christ Spirit. In other words, the Christ Spirit (which dwells within each of us) informs us through Jesus, "I [the Christ Spirit] am the true vine." Jesus is the spokesperson for the Christ Spirit.
In Palestine, grape vineyards are a common sight. Anyone hearing Jesus’ words will immediately know that the grapes are produced on the branches. His metaphor unveils the true relationship of humanity with the Christ Spirit and God. God, as the vinegrower, is the Creator God of John 1:1. The life force through which the vine comes into being is the Word, or Christ Spirit (the only begotten Son). This life force not only fills the vine, but also its branches—humanity. It is the life that is the light of all people. We, the branches, are to bear the fruit, to do all the works that Jesus did and more. As a member of the human race, Jesus is one of the branches.
Let us now read that most beloved verse of the New Testament, John 3:16: "For God so loved the world [or humanity] that he gave his only Son [the Christ Spirit within each of us], so that everyone who believes in him [the indwelling Christ Spirit] may not perish but may have eternal life."
The true source of eternal life is the Christ Spirit within humanity and all of creation. Continuing in John 3, we read,
"Indeed, God did not send the Son [the Christ Spirit] into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him [the Christ Spirit]. Those who believe in him [the Christ Spirit] are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God [the Christ Spirit dwelling within each of us]. And this is the judgment, that the light [the Christ Spirit as the life force of all creation] has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light [or recognize the Christ Spirit within], so [under the false assumption] that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light [come to know the Christ Spirit within themselves], so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God [as branches of the vine God implanted on Earth].108
Returning to the Nicene Creed, we find it states, "For our sake he was crucified." As stated in chapter three, the early followers of Jesus were compelled by the pressures of their cosmopolitan society to answer the question: "Why do you call ‘Teacher’ a man the Roman government sentenced to death for treason?" They answer the questions within the context of their religious experiences.
Christianity grows out of the Jewish religion. Throughout Old Testament times and into the first century C.E., the Jewish religion is sacrificial. Just as we have evidence of two levels within Jesus’ teachings (the parables for the crowds and the hidden wisdom for the disciples alone), 109 the Judaic sacrifice has two levels.
Rituals of worship within the Jewish religion include the sacrifice of animals up to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 C.E. John the Baptist (as depicted in John 1:29, 35) uses a metaphor, derived from his religious background110 to refer to Jesus: "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"111 Likewise the gospel writers tend to explain Jesus’ crucifixion within the mundane boundaries of the Jewish religion. However, an esoteric level of Judaism exists. This level is illustrated by the Old Testament prophet Isaiah: "Listen to the teaching of our God …. What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats." Instead of blood sacrifices, the Lord requests, "Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to go good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow."112 Words, incorporated into a Christian hymn as if they relate to Jesus’ sacrifice, are instead a part of the esoteric teachings of Judaism: "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool." Isaiah proclaims the requirement for this cleansing: "If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword."113 God freely offers cleansing and abundance to all who are willing and obedient. Sacrifices are not needed.
Circumcision is a Jewish ritual of dedication to the Lord, similar to the ritual of baptism in the Christian church. Deuteronomy, one of the books in the Jewish Torah (or Book of Law) unveils the esoteric level of circumcision. "The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live."114 Physical manifestations or rituals are simply a reminder of higher, spiritual Truth. They do not constitute the means of salvation.
How does Jesus answer when questioned, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" As we see in the example of the rich man, Jesus responds to this question according to the individual’s stage of spiritual maturity. For this particular rich man, Jesus prescribes, "Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor."115 He knows this man cannot enter the kingdom of heaven as long as he remains attached to his material possessions—in other words chained to the mundane level of spirituality. This answer causes problems for some Christians. Does Jesus mean being rich disqualifies us from entering heaven?
Zacchaeus is a wealthy tax collector living in Jericho. Tax collectors are uniformly hated because they cheat the people. Upon meeting and having Jesus in his home for a meal, Zacchaeus repents: "Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’" Jesus does not suggest to Zacchaeus that he sell his possessions. Zacchaeus offers to share his possessions, to balance his negative karmic debt by returning four times as much as he has unfairly taken from the people. Jesus’ response to Zacchaeus is totally different from his answer to the rich man cited above. Each of us has specific soul lessons to learn this incarnation. Jesus reinforces Zacchaeus’ decision: "Today salvation has come to this house."116 Zacchaeus continues to be a rich man. He can accomplish spiritual maturity, while remaining rich, because he willingly shares his abundance.
Jesus ends his praise of Zacchaeus with a curious statement if read through the lens of the Nicene Creed: "For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost."117 Traditional Christianity teaches that the only means of salvation is through the spilled blood of Jesus. This is not the teaching of Jesus. Zacchaeus is affirmed in his salvation on the basis of his own soul’s growth.
Since the goal of Jesus’ ministry is "to save the lost," we would expect him to explain his means of doing so. Jesus urges us to follow him, to lay down our lives in service to others, to take up our cross, to do the things he does and more. When asked, "What is the greatest commandment," Jesus turns all attention away from himself. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself."118
If Jesus makes no reference to himself when expounding upon the means of salvation, why does he allow himself to be crucified? Matthew, Mark, and Luke depict Jesus interpreting his forthcoming death within the religious milieu of his day—as the sacrificial lamb. He does this through the institution of the Lord’s Supper as he celebrates the Passover Feast with his disciples. In John’s gospel also, Jesus celebrates the Passover Feast with his disciples. He then washes their feet. He instructs them: "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So, if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you."119 Jesus presents himself as prototype man.
In John 10:17-18, Jesus sets forth the reason for his crucifixion: "For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have the power to lay it down, and I have the power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father."
What is Jesus saying?
Read through the lens of the Nicene Creed, he is sacrificing his life because God commands it in order to save us from our sins. Read through the lens of hidden wisdom, Jesus is laying down his life in order to resurrect his physical body. "I have the power to take it up again." God commands it because Jesus has attained a level of oneness with God, a level of divinity that enables him to resurrect his physical body as concrete proof that death does not exist. Jesus is the prototype man. He is a concrete revelation to humanity of the path that leads to eternal life.
He affirms his ability to resurrect himself earlier in John 2:19, 21: "Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up’ …. He was speaking of the temple of his body." Jesus is teaching on the level of hidden wisdom, but the people connect his words to the physical temple in Jerusalem. Orthodox Christianity also interprets his teachings on the physical level. Read through the lens of Gnosticism and reincarnation, the Bible overflows with the secret teachings of Jesus and his predecessors.
Salvation of human beings is found throughout the Bible and is not limited to or dependent upon the death of Jesus. The life-giving force of the Word, the only begotten Son of God, is within all of humanity. Jesus, as prototype man, precedes us in his re-union with God. He is the Wayshower, the man who saves us by demonstrating and revealing the Way back home. We may require numerous additional lifetimes on earth before we can add the Christ after our name. God’s grace is eternal, awaiting that day.
Does the belief in reincarnation render God’s grace cheap? Orthodox Christians answer, "yes" because, for them, the only means of salvation is through the shed blood of Jesus—thus costly grace. Reincarnationists respond, "No." For them, costly grace is lazy grace. Orthodox Christianity teaches that Jesus "did it all"; Christians have only to believe. Reincarnationists know that many lifetimes are required in order to develop the self-discipline and to integrate the hidden wisdom sufficiently to fulfill Jesus’ command, "Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect."
Does acceptance of reincarnation take away from the status of Jesus as the central figure in Christianity? Orthodox Christianity once more responds "yes" for the same reason cited above. Reincarnationists rejoice in their reply "no." Jesus is the prototype man, the human being whose own triumph over lower self promises the same capacity to each of us. We are all to become Christed beings.
God is Love.
I encourage you to peruse the Endnotes where you will find additional information:46 Gina Cerminara, Many Mansions (New York: Signet, 1967) 7.
47 Genesis 3.
48 Matthew 5:48.
49 John 14:12.
50 Galatians 6:7.
51 Cerminara, 50.
52 Luke 6:37a.
53 Cerminara 166.
54 Matthew 2:1-2.
55 Luke 21:25.
56 J. Bruce Long, "Reincarnation." The Encyclopedia of Religion, 1987.
57 Long 268.
58 Exodus 3-14, Acts 17:15-34.
59 Esther 1:1, Esther 8:9.
60 David B. Weisburg, "India," Harper’s Bible Dictionary, 1985 ed.
61 Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, Book 3, Chapter 8, No. 14, trans. William Whiston (Grand Rapids, MI:
Kregel Publications, 1960) 478.
62 Josephus 478.
63 "The Religious View—East and West," Reincarnation: The Phoenix Fire Mystery, eds. Joseph Head and S.L. Cranston (New York: Julian Press/Crown Publishers, Inc., 1977) 125. (This book is available in this website’s bookstore, under the Discipleship category.)
64 Philippians 3:5.
Luke 17:21 The Greek preposition en can be translated in, within, by means of, with, on, among. The Christology of the translator determines the choice. I, therefore, translate en to mean within.
66 Galatians 1:6-7.
Mark 9:38-40. Verse 40 in Mark’s gospel reads: "Whoever is not against
us is for us." A verysimilar quote can be found in Luke 11:23, although the
change in wording renders the
69 Cranston 152.
70 Cranston 153.
71 Cranston 156.
72 Cranston 153.
73 Cranston 144.
74 Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, vol 1, ed Norman P. Tanner (Washington, D.C.:
Georgetown University Press, 1990) 119.
75 Malachi 4:5-6.
76 Alexander Rofe, "Elijah," Harper’s Bible Dictionary, 1985. Biblical passages concerning Elijah are I Kings 16:29 – 19:18, I Kings 21, II Kings 1:2 – 2:17, I Kings 19:19-21 in combination with II Kings 2:1-18.
77 Genesis 5:24, Hebrews 7:3.
78 Paul D. Hanson, "Malachi," Harper’s Bible Commentary, 1988.
79 Luke 1:14-17.
80 Luke 1:39.
81 Matthew 3:4.
82 John 1:19-21.
83 Matthew 14:1-12.
84 Matthew 11:13-14, Matthew 17:12-13.
85 Matthew 17:3, Mark 9:4, Luke 9:30-31.
86 Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, Book 3, Chapter 8, No. 14, trans. William Whiston (Grand Rapids,
MI: Kregel Publications, 1960) 478.
87 Matthew 16:13-14.
88 For additional information concerning the evidence of reincarnation in the Bible, read Herbert Bruce Puryear’s Why Jesus Taught Reincarnation. This book can be purchased through the bookstore on this website. A limited number of books is available.
89 Creeds of the Churches, ed. John H. Leith (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1982) 28.
90 THE NICENE CREED: We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten ,not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made human. For our sakes he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
91 DOUBLE PREDESTINATION states that God, at the time of creation, foreordains some souls to eternal bliss, some to eternal damnation. Augustine, one of the early Church Fathers, evolved a doctrine of predestination which stressed "it is God’s choice and action, taken without regard for human merit foreseen, which at once starts people on the road to salvation and enables them to persevere in it." [Williston Walker, A History of the Christian Church (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1985) 209.] Though Augustine did not go so far as to teach those souls not selected by God are foreordained to eternal damnation, his doctrine did so by implication. Acceptance of the extreme theory of double predestination waxed and waned throughout Christian history, with its culmination in John Calvin. Calvin goes beyond Augustine and explicitly asserts double predestination. His doctrine states that the reprobation of those not elected is a specific determination of God’s inscrutable will. [John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion trans. Ford Lewis Battles, ed. John T. McNeill (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press) 1viii.] Reprobation means foreordained to damnation. Calvin taught anxiety over whether or not one is among the elect is to be considered a temptation by Satan. [Calvin 1iz.] It is doctrines like double predestination that have permeated the Christian psyche with fear. Even when the doctrine is denied on the conscious level, the subconscious continues submerged in the fear "what if?" Imprisoned by fear of a capricious God, Christians have understandably been very hesitant to read the Bible with any other than the traditional lens. Such doctrines have deprived Christians of much joy.
92 Rocco Errico, "Why Hell Is A Rubbish Heap," Science of Mind Magazine Feb. 1996:103. Used with permission by Rocco Errico. Dr. Errico’s book entitled Let There Be Light presents seven keys for gleaning an understanding of the Bible. These keys are based upon his knowledge of the Hebrew and Aramaic languages (the original languages of the Old and New Testaments), plus the ancient Middle Eastern culture. His book is available in this website’s bookstore, listed under Biblical Studies.
93 Revelation 9:17, 14:10, 19:20, 20:10, and 21:8.
94 Manly P. Hall, An Encyclopedic Outline of Masonic, Hermetic, Qabbalistic, and Rosicrucian Symbolical Philosophy, (Los Angeles: The Philosophical Research Society, Inc., 1978) CXXXII.
95 Mark 4:35-41.
96 Luke 9:10-13.
97 Matthew 6:9.
98 Matthew 7:11.
99 Cranston 153. Matthew 13:11, Mark 4:11, Luke 8:9.
100 Cranston 155.
101 John 17:21.
102 John 5:19.
103 John 5:30.
104 John 7:16.
105 John 8:28, 38.
106 John 12:44, 49, 50b.
107 John 14:10b.
108 John 3:16-21.
109 Matthew 13:10-11, Mark 4:10-11, 33-34, Luke 8:10.
110 The Suffering Servant motif found in Isaiah 53: "Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter."
111 John 1:29.
112 Isaiah 1:10-11, 16-17.
113 Isaiah 1:18-20.
114 Deuteronomy 30:6.
115 Mark 10:21.
116 Luke 19:1-10.
117 Luke 19:10.
118 Matthew 22:37-39.
119 John 13:12b-15.