Last night on Midnight in the Desert, I had a fun time talking with Dave Schrader about reincarnation and I recommended a number of books that may be of interest to people looking for new ways to think about it.
Reincarnation: The Missing Link in Christianity (1997) has some good historical information but it is tinged with misperceptions about the way Christianity truly developed. It also relies on outdated scholarship that leans on Theosophical narratives to describe the development of early Christianity. It also eventually turns into a promotion of the Elizabeth Clare Prophet’s religious teachings, which may not be for everyone. The “missing link” is the notion that some Christians believed salvation is achieved through personal approaches to God, through more than one life if necessary, and not a religious or institutional hierarchy.
Anyone who is interested in learning more about how Christianity actually developed and why the reincarnationist views died out may be interested in April DeConick’s The Gnostic New Age or Bart Ehrmann’s Lost Christianities
Many anomalous events suggesting reincarnation as an explanation have been reported. However, as I pointed out, these cases do not have ethical systems attached to them but rather are often associated with traumatic death and imply the need for empathy rather than judgment. Research is still ongoing at the University of Virginia’s Division of Perceptual Studies, and a number of books have been published by Ian Stevenson and later Jim Tucker. Explanations for these cases remain one of those unsolvable problems.
I also talked about the interplay between religious experience and culture, and recommended Jeffrey Kripal’s Authors of the Impossible.
Past-life therapy gets a lot of ridicule, but Roger Woolger makes a good case for its healing possibilities, whether the past lives are taken as realistic, symbolic or archetypal, in Other Lives, Other Selves.
My conclusions called for tolerance towards all types of religious belief and practice and for a non-dogmatic approach to various ethical systems of karma and reincarnation.