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Reincarnation Book Recommendations

Erin Prophet

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 It also relies on outdated scholarship that leans on Theosophical narratives to describe the development of early Christianity.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.

Revisiting Reincarnation

Erin Prophet

This August 1, I will be appearing on the Midnight in the Desert radio show for two hours to talk about reincarnation, beginning with a book, Reincarnation: The Missing Link in Christianity, which I co-authored with my mother more than twenty years ago. Details here: Calendar

Working on that book was the beginning, but certainly not the end, of my research on reincarnation. The book presents a history of reincarnation in Christianity and argues that it was the linchpin of a more personal and just form of salvation as promoted by ancient gnostics. My own views have changed quite a bit since 1997 as I have gained a much deeper understanding of both gnosticism and the context of early Christianity. I have a more nuanced view of how reincarnation operated in the ancient world and its widely varied modern formulations.

I no longer believe that it's possible to prove that Jesus taught reincarnation, or that it's necessarily the "missing link" in Christianity. I'll have two hours this Thursday to explain why, and why I continue to be fascinated by the role that reincarnation beliefs play in Western thought and how people think of themselves in relationship to the divine. In the past two centuries, reincarnation has played an important role in the transformation of religion and especially the attitudes of people who consider themselves spiritual but not religious. It can affect how people think about almost every area of life--food, child rearing, psychology, marriage, love, death, and the afterlife. I'll also be talking about some of the many ways that people today think about reincarnation.

In addition, I'll be going into some of the differences between common Western approaches to reincarnation and those of Hindu and Buddhist traditions. How does reincarnation function in New Age and Wiccan belief systems? What is the meaning and implication of research into past-life memories, for example Ian Stevenson's cases of children who remember previous lives.

Please tune in if you can or listen to the broadcast online.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Erin