Contrary to popular thought, reincarnation is very much a Christian belief–first having been an orthodox Jewish belief.
Why Is There Reincarnation?
But what is the purpose of reincarnation? The purpose of reincarnation is for us to grow and evolve spiritually until we return to the Godhead from whence we originally came. Each life is the result of the ones preceding it and is shaped accordingly–not in the sense of reward or punishment, but as precise mathematical reaction to our actions in those previous lives. We reap what we sowed in them through the exercise of our free wills. Though we may forget it, we are at all times masters of our destiny and not being swept along blindly by karma–which is really our own creation.
Before a soul reincarnates it is made aware of the sum total of its previous lives: what debts remain to be paid, and what credits may be collected. It then chooses which of the vast array it will deal with in the next life and accordingly selects the parents, location, race, sex, religion, etc., that will allow it to accomplish all it has decided with maximum efficiency and benefit. We reach the end of the rebirth cycle on this earth plane when all our karmic debts have been paid and we have evolved to that state of perfection in Christ where we no longer need to return to earth.
I have mentioned karma, so we should consider just what is meant by that term in the Christian context. In Christianity we speak of karma as the Law of Compensation, or Retribution. Saint Paul warns, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). It might be more appropriate for a Christian to use the term “sowing and reaping,” but karma is much shorter!
The Nature of Karma
Many hold that karma is a “payment” in general, rather than an exact “payment in kind.” For instance, the karmic repayment of physically injuring another may manifest as an illness or a negative mental state such as depression. Or that a serious illness, accident, or misfortune may occur to clear up many karmic debts of varying causes. The esoteric Christian view, however, is that he who harms another will in the future have the exact thing done to him in the same degree–in a veritable mirror image of his past action. For example, if he broke a friend’s leg and made him a cripple, a friend will break his leg in the future, resulting in his being crippled. And his mental and physical suffering will be exactly like that which he caused to the one he previously harmed. Karma is not lumped together and paid off by some blanket event or experience, as we can do with our debts through finance companies. The supreme Tribunal demands that retribution be exactly “in the same coin” as that of the original debt. There is no evasion of this rule. This is why it can take a chain of lives to repay our karmic debts. Someone who commits twenty murders will have to live twenty lives and be murdered exactly as he had murdered others.
If we sow wheat of one variety, will we reap wheat of another variety? No. “Sowing” is the sending forth of the energy of the act, and “reaping” is our experiencing of its return. Therefore it is identical in form. If we send forth theft, it is theft that “comes home to roost”–nothing else. The Jews of the Old Testament knew this well, for one tenet of the Mosaic Law states: “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth…” (Leviticus 24:20).
The Golden Rule is usually thought of as a poetic ideal, but it is Jesus’ very practical teaching on karma: “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matthew 7:12). In other words, Jesus is showing us how to create our future by the use of the Law of Sowing and Reaping.
A Christian Fundamental
“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (I Corinthians 15:22). The Law of Sowing and Reaping is very important for Christians, as it is the basis for our very existence as a religion. Since Adam brought about the physical and psychic death of the human race (“for as in Adam all die”), as Jesus the Christ he had to pay his karmic debt by opening for us the way back to life (“even so in Christ shall all be made alive”). This is explained fully in Robe of Light.
The Past Lives Of Jesus Christ
He who was Jesus of Nazareth was the first man, Adam. When Adam “fell,” he was in Paradise, that plane immediately above the physical creation. But the alteration in consciousness which resulted from his transgression rendered him unable to function in that subtle world, so he sank back down into the physical plane, through which he had already evolved before entering Paradise. In Genesis we read: “And for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them” (Genesis 4:21). Although many now take this to mean that they were given clothes as the cavemen are depicted wearing, the Church originally taught that the real meaning of this verse was that God created physical bodies–the human organism–for them to inhabit, and thus they continued in the cycle of life, death, and rebirth upon the earth.
But how could Adam have become Jesus? Adam evolved through life after life. Ascending to and evolving beyond higher and higher worlds, at last he broke through the final barrier of even the highest, Seraphic plane and attained perfect union with the Father/Son masculine aspect of God. From this point, the soul normally passes into total union with the pure, transcendent Being of the Father, ending the evolutionary cycle–but not so for Adam. He was in debt: a cosmic debt owed to all of humanity.
So Adam returned, of necessity, to our earth plane as Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ (Messiah)–not only paying the debt, but showing and opening the way to the Father which had hitherto been closed to humanity. When Saint Paul speaks of Christ as being the “second man [Adam]…from heaven” (I Corinthians 15:47), he speaks quite literally, and not figuratively. He also speaks literally about Adam paying his debt: “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (I Corinthians 15:21, 22).
Is Jesus Man Or God?
Does this mean, then, that Jesus Christ is only a man, and not the Son of God? No. Jesus positively is the Son of God. And so shall we all be. But first he was a man–the foreparent of our human race, as we have said. Then he ascended to divinity, attaining union with God in His aspect known as the Only-begotten Son.
The real “good news” (which is what “gospel” means) is that as Adam passed from fallen ignorance and sin unto perfect divinity, so shall we do the same through him. Jesus affirmed this when he told the Apostles: “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Later, to his Beloved Apostle John, he said: “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” Revelation 3:21).
As it was with Christ, so shall it be with us. The passage from humanity to divinity–to Christhood–is the real essence of Christianity, the very appellation “Christian” meaning “another Christ.” The life of Christ as given in the Gospels is also a symbolic mystery drama showing how the soul of each person becomes a Christ–an “anointed” of the Lord. But by holding this view are we saying that Jesus is just a human being, like us? No. We are saying that Jesus Christ was once a human being just like us, but is now in the status of God, just as we shall be.
Saint John wrote: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (I John 3:2). The “he” referred to, Who will appear to us, is the Father, not the Son. Now, it is specifically stated in the Gospel of Saint John (1:18) that no one has seen, or can see, the Father, except the Only-Begotten Son of God, Who makes Him known. So how will we be able to see Him, as Saint John assures us we shall, except that we, too, like Jesus, will attain union with the Only-Begotten Son and in some mysterious way become the Son while still remaining ourselves? This is the very thing that happened to Adam/Jesus, which is why he is called “the first-fruits of them that slept” (I Corinthians 15:20).
Did Christ Die For Our Sins?
We have said that Christ died to pay the great debt he incurred while he was Adam, and so he did. But did he “die for our sins”? Yes, but not in the manner in which many Christians believe. Had Adam remained in Paradise and continued to evolve, the souls that had finished their earth plane evolution would have been channeled through him and Eve into Paradise. He would then have had no debt to pay, as there would be no sin in the world at all. But by his “falling” he brought humanity down to the subnormal level where sin was not only possible, but inevitable. Thus mankind from Cain and Abel on were “born beneath themselves,” and more capable of sin than their parents. That is what the fall of Adam/Jesus did for everybody.
What the death of Adam/Jesus on Golgotha two thousand years ago accomplished was twofold: (1) he expiated his own guilt for having plunged the human race into the negative state–thereby sharing in the guilt of every evil deed that was subsequently committed, and (2) he opened the possibility for “remission of sins”–that is, release from the darkening effects of sin in our consciousness and the compelling bonds of having to reap the negative reactions of our sowing of sin through thought and deed. He also imparted the ability for his human children to break through the binding cycle of continual birth and death in this world, and to evolve back again to the Paradise level–and even beyond that to ultimately attain reunion with the Father, just as Adam/Jesus had done before his returning to set us free. To accomplish this, he established in the world the Christian Church by means of which his own power could be used by men perpetually.
Why Did We Need Christ?
If by reincarnating we keep growing spiritually, then what was the purpose of Christ? Wouldn’t we all get back to God eventually just by being born over and over and evolving?
As has been said, the purpose of Christ was to clear the way for man’s return to God, to reforge the link broken by Adam’s transgression and consequent expulsion from Paradise. That is why he said to the Wise Thief: “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). This entry is still possible through Christ, his words “because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19), holding a deeper and farther-reaching import than is usually thought.
What is more, Christ not only opened the way for us, he became the Way. Union with him is the way for us to evolve and return to the Father–not just by being reborn over and over, which usually causes us to become more and more entangled in ignorance and in the bonds of sowing and reaping.
The “Resurrection Of The Dead”
But if we reincarnate until we evolve beyond this world, what about the “resurrection of the dead” spoken of in the Bible? In truth, what we have just described–evolving through Christ beyond the need to be born again in this world–is the only resurrection of the dead there is.
The incredible mythology of the resurrection of the dead physical body into immortality is a product of the same type of literalistic ignorance that caused the Apostles to believe that when Jesus said: “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6), he was giving them advice about buying bread, or when he spoke of obtaining a “sword” (Luke 22:36, 38), he was speaking of going well-armed against thugs. Even worse, it springs from a belief that life is a state of body rather than a state of the soul. For it is the soul that gives life to the body–not the other way around. Consider the words of Saint Paul: “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed” (I Corinthians 15:50, 51).
We are told that we do not sleep, that is, we do not die. It is not our bodies that go to God, but our souls, glorified through the “refiner’s fire” of the Holy Spirit as we have evolved beyond earthly rebirth, and striven upward on the ladder of evolution through the paradisiacal, angelic, and archangelic planes and beyond. We must understand that when Saint Paul speaks of “death,” he refers to our state of soul (consciousness) in its earthly incarnations. The time when “…the dead shall be raised incorruptible…” (I Corinthians 15:52) is the time when we have truly come alive in perfect spiritual consciousness and no longer must return to the earth plane, no longer needing to put on this mortal physical form.
Why The Bible Says “Resurrection” Instead of “Reincarnation”
However, the Bible texts say “resurrection,” not “reincarnation”–why is that?
If we carefully look at the verses which speak of “resurrection,” especially in the Gospels, we will find that most of the time the Greek term anastasis (which literally means: “to stand up again”) is used in reference to belief in the immortality of the soul–not of a future state of body. When the Gospels say that the Sadducees did not believe in the “resurrection” (Matthew 22:23), it means they did not believe that at the death of the body there was a separation, a “standing up” of an immortal spirit which would depart to another world or another birth. As has been said, the literal meaning is: “stand up again,” that is, to once more in the chain of lives emerge from the last body and continue the quest of the soul for God through successive rebirths. So the very word translated “resurrection” implies reincarnation.
“Resurrection” [anastasis] as it is usually employed in the Bible outside the Gospels, however, refers to the breaking of the bonds of sowing and reaping and arising from the spiritual death state of sin and ignorance so there will be no more rebirths upon this earth. This is a condition of the soul, not the body. We must resurrect here and now, while in the body: our “dead” soul having come to life in Christ. This is what Jesus was referring to when he said, “Whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die” (John 11:26).
“This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). To “live” is to resurrect into the Life of Christ, to know him, and thus to never die. How much more glorious this is than mere physical immortality.
The End Of The World
Then what about the “end of the world” which so obsesses many Christians? It is amazing the number of people who are preaching: “Repent, for the end is near,” yet have no idea what is meant by either “end” or “near.” Most ideas about “the end” are based on the Book of Revelation, which probably has been misinterpreted more than any other book of the Bible. Revelation is not prophecy at all, but a recounting of Saint John’s mystical experiences. It is a book written by a mystic, for mystics, explaining the various states of consciousness the aspirant will go through, culminating in the true Second Coming of Christ which is a personal, individual mystical experience that comes at the very end of the individual’s cycle of spiritual evolution.
At the heart of most anxiety about the destiny of the world lie two fatal delusions: (1) the belief that the world is our true home where security and stability alone can be found, and (2) that God is not really in control of things at all. Otherwise, why worry?
The truth is, God does not create the world haphazardly, nor is its destiny the result of caprice. With his delusions of grandeur, Lucifer might try to frighten people into thinking that he and his minions can destroy the world, but that is a silly fable. God alone can create and God alone can destroy. This world will end when God wills, just as it came into being when he willed.
Cycles Of Creation
The Christian Church has taught from the beginning that creation goes in cycles. That is, God creates the universe for a specified period of existence, and then dissolves it for another period, in alternating cycles. This is not the first of His creations, nor will it be His last. Rather, it is a perpetual cycle. It is not just you and I that reincarnate–so does the whole universe. Our recurring lives and deaths are just little wheels of rebirth within the great ones of entire creations.
Evolution Or Creation?
Considering this, do esoteric Christians believe in evolution or creationism? The answer is: both! Each tempers the other. The “scientific” and the creationist views are two extremes between which we find the truth.
All that exists is a manifestation of God the Mother, the Holy Spirit. Matter is a modification of Her Light, the “womb” in which She conceives and brings us to birth in progressively higher forms and worlds. Just as the human fetus passes through the various animal forms as it grows in the womb, so the individual soul passes in its evolutionary processes through the various life forms in the physical universe. Every organism that exists is the manifestation of a particular shade of evolution in consciousness. When we begin our evolution within the universal womb, we begin as the simplest of structures–an atom of hydrogen. From there we progress to mineral, then to plant, then to single-celled living forms.
In each creation cycle, as the souls advance up the scale of expanding consciousness, the corresponding physical organisms manifest for them to inhabit. All of this, of course, is done under the direct will of God. This divine expansion is the root impulse of all creation and evolution.
Knowing this, we interpret the Genesis account of creation in a truly literal manner. It is amusing that persons labeling themselves “literalists” deny evolution, for a literal reading of the relevant verses in the King James Version of Genesis leaves room for no other view. “And God said, Let the earth bring forth…and the earth brought forth…. And God said, Let the waters bring forth….And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature…and it was so” (Genesis 1:11-24). These verses cover the appearance of plants, sea life and land life, all saying that the earth itself and the sea itself brought forth the respective life forms. They also indicate that birds evolved from sea life. How? Because the earth and sea are (potentially) living entities, themselves manifestations of the Living God. The souls that inhabit the evolved forms come directly from the Bosom of the Father–but that is another subject altogether. Moreover, it is perfectly correct to say that God “made” all these living forms–as the King James Version expresses it–for it is indeed His will alone that causes anything to happen.
If all this is so, has man evolved from lower forms of life? The question of the origin of the human species is the one thing in the matter of evolution versus creationism that really puts “science” and many religious teachers at loggerheads. Did man evolve, or is he a special creation? Certainly scientists cannot prove the evolution of the human organism, however urgently they seek for evidence of the “missing link,” even faking up several over the last century. The esoteric Christian teaching–already stated–is that the souls now inhabiting human bodies originally came directly from the Divine Consciousness, but inhabited all the lesser forms that live upon the earth before becoming capable of human existence. Without that experience in lesser forms, the souls would not be able to guide the formation of their bodies within the womb–as mentioned before–passing through the various stages of evolution during the first months of pregnancy in a form of recall of the previous life forms inhabited.
It was the teaching of the Christian Church from the very beginning–and the teaching of esoteric Judaism before–that the human form was specifically created to house those souls which had evolved beyond the earth plane into Paradise and then fallen back into the earth plane. Caught between heaven and earth, so to say, they had no organism proper for their evolution. Therefore a special form capable of self-awareness was produced for them to inhabit and from thence to evolve back upward to Paradise. As mentioned before, this is indicated by the statement in Genesis that God made Adam and Eve clothes of animal skins.
The Summing Up
In summation: esoteric Christianity accepts both evolution and creation–each being accomplished at the command of God, for the upward evolution of souls as they pass from life to life and from form to form, according to a precise divine pattern. The human form, however, is not a product of evolution but a definite creation.
In point of fact, evolution is actually a matter of form only. The immortal entities that inhabit those forms are part and parcel of the Infinite Perfection: God. They never evolve, for they are ever perfect. It is only the organisms that evolve for the purpose of their temporary habitation.
We travel the long road only to find out that we never left home.
- May a Christian Believe in Reincarnation?
- Karma and Reincarnation: Fundamental Spiritual Laws
- The Necessity for Reincarnation — A remarkable article on various scientific, moral, and historical aspects of reincarnation by Annie Besant (1847 – 1933), a renowned speaker and writer, and president of the Madras Theosophical society.