ONTOLOGICAL AND METAPHYSICAL PROBLEMS OF REINCARNATION

Yes and No!
Between the yes and the no
spirits fly from their matter
and heads from their bodies…
Ibn Arabi
First let me state I do not desire to antagonize, but enlighten. Neither I have the pretension to bring every piece of evidence against reincarnation, there is too many issues at hand to be able to discuss each one of them in an extended fashion, so I will make a short outline, that will serve as a base for those interested in the subject to explore and deepen as they please.
To those whose materialistic Cosmology dictates a Universe without God, there is no need of debunking reincarnation from an Ontological, and Theological point of view, if you belong to that category, I will not make you desist to read this piece, however would be useful if you read first my entry entitled: Eternal or Cyclical Time Vs the Big Bang or Linear Time.
In my opinion the belief in reincarnation so common now days in the contemporary world it is based in the discarded old ideas of the Church about Heaven and Hell, since our belief in a simplistic Patriarchal God that is wrathful, and ready to send the sinner to eternal fire, strike us now as naive and out of steps with our  postmodern views. However embracing reincarnation is to ignore the most serious advances in Philosophy, and Theological studies in the past 2000 thousand years!
Reincarnation it is an easy answer to the perceived injustice, and disparity so evident to the naked eye, and provide an explanation if not a solution to this problem of inequality so prevalent in Human and World affairs. It is easy to presuppose there is people, or Nations that are in better condition than other ones.
A brief and simple answer is that the condition, position, estate of life we may uphold bears no relation to the degree of knowledge, happiness, wisdom, spiritual awareness an individual may posses, since all this characteristics are subjective, conditioned to an individual appreciation that can’t be measured, or quantify, it is common  knowledge the unhappiness of very rich people, as well as some humble people happiness, in other words satisfaction, happiness, well being, are all estates of being with no relation to external circumstances, you can be miserable in the best of external circumstances, you can be very happy with very little.
The Wisdom of God extend to all His creatures, judging between who is happier it is not only fruitless, but a lack of insight and spiritual maturity, but of arrogance before God, stating that we know better than Him what is good for His creatures!
But reincarnation also posses tremendous Ontological, and Theological problems that can’t be dismissed apriori, we will not talk about the modern History of reincarnation itself, plagued with individuals in the 19Th Century who used fraud, and deceiving in order to advance their ideas. A bland, and simplistic collage of ideas borrowed, and invented freely from here and there, to suit our modern taste, after rejecting the idea of a Medieval Hell, and God as an Evil doer.
As a matter of fact there has never being, and there is no such a thing as “Doctrine of reincarnation” what exist is a multitude of isolated ideas, and opinions, varying between the ancient cult of ancestors, to New Age ideas of reincarnation as a evolutionary school for the Soul, based in fact of all things in Darwin’s Natural Selection! If you doubt me, just check Rene Guenon book titled: Theosophy History of a Pseudo-Religion.
Ancient Greeks, Druids, and Hindus share the idea of the Transmigration of Souls, however it is the details that are radically different. Take Hinduism who as it is, never has being a set of Doctrines, but an amalgam of an almost too numerous to be counted, of  regional cults that interweave mysteriously in to the Sanata Dharma, the proper name of Hinduism, since this late term Hinduism, come in to existence thanks to European Scholarly ignorance in their intent of classifying the multitude of beliefs in India! The study of all this if fascinating will be too long for this short essay but those interested can check it elsewhere, let’s just say that the Vedas the first, and supreme Sacred books of India do not mention Reincarnation at all!
It is not until the Bhramasutras  that vague reference is given for a transmigration of the Soul, where the death goes in to a Lunar realm and rains in to Earth and absorbed by the plants is eaten by men, and male animals and subsequently they impregnate females . Detractors of this ideas ironically comment what happen when the soul is eaten by females, or the plants just dry and die?
Some contemporary Advaita philosophers are rejecting the standpoint of Idealistic Ontology/Metaphysics, and furthermore an independent soul or atman from individual consciousness, and as a consequence they are discarding reincarnation as well!

Now lets examine the idea of Karma, and Reincarnation,  from a practical standpoint, imagine the Reincarnation of Hitler, or Stalin, mass murderers in a colossal scale, this imply their rebirth in many bodies of Hitler and Stalin who by karma theywould have to experience assassinations at the hand of somebody, I got no problem with them getting what they deserve, however my problem is with their eventual killer who by murdering Hitler, or Stalin reincarnation, they bought themselves a ticket to be killed, as well as their killer, and  his killer! This will impose a compulsory chain of killings exponentially to infinity, then what about free will? Where this Karmic determinism would end?

CHRISTIAN REBUTTAL

Vivekananda states, “The murderer too is God.”

Rajneesh exclaims in expounding on the Bhagavad-Gita : “Even if you kill someone consciously, while fully conscious it is meditative. That is what Krishna was saying to Arjuna…Kill, murder, fully conscious, knowing fully that no one is murdered and no one is killed….Just become the instrument of Divine hands and know well that no one is killed, no one can be killed.”

Rajneesh also states, that you are ignorant of your alleged deity: “This is the sin–not that you have murdered somebody or stolen; that is nothing. Those are minor sins.”

In his commentary on the Bhagavad-Gita, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of Transcendental Meditation, writes regarding Arjuna, that he should attain “a state of consciousness which will justify any action of his and will allow him even to kill in love in support of the purpose of evolution.”

From a related idea we read in the Kaushitaki Upanishad (3:1,2): “The man who know me as I am loses nothing whatever he does. Even if he kills his mother or father, even if he steals or procures an abortion, whatever evil he does, he does not blanch if he knows me as I am.”

Furthermore, there are other significant philosophical (e.g., metaphysical/ontological) critiques that need to be considered relative to reincarnation and transmigration (e.g., relative to the worldviews in which these views generally occur, i.e., polytheism, pantheism, and panentheism). For instance, the worldviews in which most reincarnationists’ and transmigrationist’s views are found do not allow for an ethically justifiable or adequate answer to the problems posed in this paper. That is, the views of reincarnationists and of transmigrationists are not consistent with, nor do they logically or ontologically follow from the worldviews most commonly held by reincarnationists: polytheism, pantheism and panentheism.

For example, in a pantheistic or panentheistic universe, reincarnationists (all of us for that matter) must realize that, ontologically, evil emanates or flows naturally and necessarily from the very nature of the deity or the One.Creation flows from the will or very nature of the deity. Creation and the existence of evil are synonymous and simultaneous.This entails that death, destruction, evil, suffering, and so forth are part of the divinity’s or ultimate Beings very essence or nature. Good and evil are both aspects or facets of the One. All is contained in, arises out of, or is a manifestation of the absolute universal Reality or divinity or principle–the One. Evil is ultimately and necessarily part of the One which is all. Therefore, in one sense or another, the divinity (or whatever term is used) is responsible for all the pain, suffering, and evil that has, does, or ever will exist.

In a pantheistic or panentheistic world good and evil are so to speak just different sides of the same coin. Moreover, since the divinity manifests itself in polarities or dualities, such as light-dark, positive-negative, or good-evil, evil is a necessary part of the universe. Thus, who or what brought evil into existence? Evil must ultimately derive from the divinity that many reincarnationists and transmigrationists say they worship.

Eternal Evil

 

Whether in a polytheistic, pantheistic, or panentheistic universe, we can have no assurance that the deity(ies) or divinity can or wants to defeat evil. Nor can we be sure that this is even an appropriate question, since in the latter two worlds evil is always part of the deity’s or One’s very nature. Likewise, many if not all reincarnationists who are simple polytheist (i.e., not pantheist or panentheist as well) also view the gods and goddesses as possessing evil in their nature. Therefore, evil will no more cease to exist than these entities or the deity itself. In other words, evil is eternal. It will always be with us–always exist!Evil is eternal because :

(1) it is either an aspect of the very nature of the divinity which creates and composes all (pantheism, panentheism),

(2) these deities also contain evil in their nature, and/or

(3) are too limited or inept to permanently accomplish the task (polytheism). Only an infinite (e.g., omniscient, omnipotent) and benevolent personal God could and will banish evil from the universe.

Given the nature of reality in a pantheistic or panentheistic universe, theoretically speaking, even if evil were to be eradicated or silenced for a period of time, it would only inevitability return again with a shrill scream.

In summation, there are only so many options regarding the future of evil given the reincarnationists’ worldviews:

1) The gods and goddesses cannot and/or will not bring an end to evil (polytheism).

2) The gods and goddesses or divinity cannot and will not stop evil because evil is part of their or its very nature, therefore, also the part of the very fabric from which the universe it cut (pantheism, panentheism). Hence, since evil is part of the very nature of the deity it is also inherent to creation. Therefore, evil is eternal.

Thus, reincarnationists and transmigrationists have no justified hope or expectation that evil in its multitude of manifestations will ever be banished. They have no grounds to believe that the divinity can or ever will put an end to the misery and suffering that pervasively invades our world, nor that they could ever ultimately escaped from samsara.

Evil: No Exit

 

The problem of evil is an acute dilemma, indeed, an Achilles’ heel for reincarnationists and transmigrationists given their worldviews. There is no way for them to get around it.

Nor will it do for them to say that the divine is “beyond good and evil,” or neither “good nor evil.”

Nonsense. These types of statements have no ultimate meaning or significance. More deplorable yet, this statement can result in diabolical consequences. For instance, imagine burning a reincarnationist’s house to the ground. If they said that what was done was wrong (evil even?), one could reply that like the deity these concepts did not apply to them because they were beyond right or wrong, good or evil. Rightly, we do not believe the that the reincarnationist would accept their reply. But, once again the glaring inconsistency between avowed view and practice. The only thing that is beyond anything here is that it is beyond my understanding how reincarnationists can actually make these nonsensical statements. The deity is not beyond evil, it is evil!

BUDDHISM

Some schools of Buddhism recognize the Ontological problems of Reincarnation, and at least are very circumspect about it, since they do not concern themselves with concepts of God, or Self, and therefore neither Reincarnation!
“The Master said to me: All the Buddhas and all sentient beings are nothing but the One Mind, beside which nothing exists.
This Mind, which is without beginning, is unborn and indestructible.
It is not green nor yellow, and has neither form nor appearance.
It does not belong to the categories of things which exist or do not exist, nor can it be thought of in terms of new or old.
It is neither long nor short, big nor small, for it transcends all limits, measures, names, traces, and comparisons.
It is that which you see before you — begin to reason about it and you at once fall into error.
It is like the boundless void which cannot be fathomed or measured.
The One Mind alone is the Buddha, and there is no distinction between the Buddha and the sentient things, but that sentient beings are attached to forms and so seek externally for Buddhahood.
By their very seeking they lose it, for that is using the Buddha to seek for the Buddha and using mind to grasp Mind.
Even though they do their utmost for a full eon, they will not be able to attain to it.
They do not know that, if they put a stop to conceptual thought and forget their anxiety, the Buddha will appear before them, for this Mind is the Buddha and the Buddha is all living beings.
It is not the less for being manifested in ordinary beings, nor is it greater for being manifested in the Buddhas.”

Huang Po

ADVAITA VEDANTA

Advaita Vedanta is the philosophy of Monism, or Oneness. In this philosophy, the only reality in the world is said to Brahman, the ‘Oneness’. All the world that we see around us is said to have relative reality only, and it is Brahman alone at the base of the world which has absolute reality. Even our own individual consciousness is only a relative reality, and it is Brhaman which lies at the root of our consciousness which is our true identity. This means that we are, right at this moment, Brahman itself, and we can rejoice in the supreme bliss of being Brahman if we can break out of our individual identity. This is to be done through Yoga. We can then achieve Spiritual Awakening and realize the Truth of our existence.

‘Advaita’ means ‘non–dual’, that there is only one. Dvaita means two, and hence Advaita means not–two.

Advaita philosophy is based on the Upanishads or ’Vedantas‘, which are a part of the Vedas, the main religious scriptures of Hinduism.

Vedanta philosophy or Upanishadic philosophy has three main schools, Dvaita, Vishista–dvaita and A–dvaita.

All these three schools are based on the same sriptures, the Upanishads, and derive their difference because they interpret the sutras of the Upanishads differently. The Upanishadic sutras are short, terse passages, and lend themselves to different interpretations, and hence we have these three schools of Vedanta philosophy, all of which claim that their philosophy is the true philosophy of the Upanishads and the others are misinterpretations.

Dvaita means dualism. Here there are two separate existences, God and the world. God has created the world, and the two are completely separate existences, with God being the higher perfect existence and the material world, including all humans, being a lower existence. There is thus no commonality between us and God.

Vishista–dvaita is the path of qualified monism. Here also God has created the world but he has created it out of his own substance. Hence the world, including us, are not an entirely separate substance from God, we also have the Divine within us. But we are imperfect parts of the divine and it is only God who is wholly perfect, and we have but a ’spark‘ of this divinity within us.

The third school of Vedanta philosophy is the school of Advaita Vedanta. In this, the only reality that exists is Brahman. This does not mean that the world does not exist, but that it has a lower level of reality. In Advaita Vedanta philosophy, the world exists, but it exists with only ambiguous reality, and it exists with Brahman at its root. Hence the true reality of the world is Brahman and the reality that we see around us is a false reality, an ambiguous reality. So the world is really Brahman, that which is not Brahman has only relative reality and is to be disregarded.

1. Interpretating Advaita as starting from a realistic ontology/metaphysics as opposed to an idealist ontology/metaphysics

2. Rejection of a soul or Atman as an independent entity apart from our individual consciousness

3. Rejection of the Reincarnation theory

4. Rejection of the law of Karma as a deciding factor in what happens on death ( if Moksha is promised on liberation, it must be for all or for nobody, there cannot be any law or mechanism to choose at the time of death).

ISLAM

Not so different of the Tawhid  of Islam (God is One) , this is not only  to express the non existence of other Gods, but as Wahdat al Wujud; (Oneness of Being) God as the Real, the only Existent, meaning this you, he, they, me, are all but His Manifest presence, with no real Ontological individuality, being ourselves the vehicle of God, our sense of individual self the veil that separate us from Himself!

Reincarnation presuppose an autonomous Real existence, a Soul that is immortal, separated from God, and therefore in contra-position to Him, and of course this Ontologically, or Theologically is impossible since the contingent can’t be independent from the Necessary Being, a dualistic position that split the Unity of God setting men not as part of but independent from! This put forward a whole old set of Philosophical problems some mentioned above, the dualistic, polytheistic weltanschauung (Cosmology, or world view) that are intrinsically part, and at fault of our general  poor understanding in a mass level of Ontology. In other words the soul or whatever other entity, vehicle or aggregate remain after death, can’t posses and independent existence from God, or any other name  you may choose to give to the Divine. By necessity  the soul or aggregates have to come from the only source of Existence, or Being, if this wouldn’t be  so, automatically you Deny the Unity of God (Tawhid ) and this would strip the Divine of his Attributes, like the Everlasting, The Creator, the Almighty, the Infinite, the All Powerful, The Omnipotent, the Incomparable, etc. Since this would confer the soul, or aggregate with similar attributes, and this would negate the aforementioned Attributes of God, it will split the Divine conferring the soul, or aggregates with self existence, nullifying God’s Attributes. And how you could explain an absorption to the Divine if the soul, or aggregate posses an existence of it’s own, non dependent of  God? And if the soul or aggregate come from the Divine, and therefore dependent of the Divine for existence what need it has for existence after death? Reincarnation as a school of the soul for perfection sound nice, but what need God, or Divinity has of perfecting Itself? Again if God or Divinity wouldn’t be perfect it wouldn’t be God…so reincarnation demands autonomy, and independence from the source, and that it is just Illusion!

Of course, for those who have no knowledge of this Ontological, and Theological problems reincarnation seem to provide an easy answer, ignoring that on the contrary, brings forward a host of new, and more fundamental problems to this fallible Cosmological view, as most Human beings, we yearn for answers to the Mysteries of Existence, each Religion on their own way try to give us an answer to this riddle, however God wouldn’t be God, neither he would posses the Attribute of Incomparability if we could answer this Mysteries so easy!

All this problems that had been dealt all along by some of our great Philosophers through the ages like the Prophets of Israel, the Old fathers of the Christian Church, the great Muslims  Mystics and Theologians, Western philosophers like Fitche, and Hegel, all we got to do is read them. Alas!

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About theburningheart

Blog: KoneKrusosKronos.wordpress.com
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13 Responses to ONTOLOGICAL AND METAPHYSICAL PROBLEMS OF REINCARNATION

  1. Bobby says:

    We need to hang out. Reading all this just makes me want to talk about it with you.

  2. jay says:

    Hi,
    Interesting article. There is just a point I don’t agree with.

    “For example, in a pantheistic or panentheistic universe, reincarnationists (all of us for that matter) must realize that, ontologically, evil emanates or flows naturally and necessarily from the very nature of the deity or the One. Creation flows from the will or very nature of the deity. ”

    Not necessarily. When referring to pantheism, there is no need for a creative deity. Divinity or the One is equated with equilibrium rather than as a creative force – whilst evil is a manifestation of man’s unbalance i.e. the breaking away from the harmonious unity.

    • First let me express to you that those views about Christianity vs reincarnation are not mine, I simply took the views of a Christian Theologian, Professor Craig S. Hawkins to expose one of the many problems of reincarnation from the point of view of a particular Christian, I could have included many other points of view, but this would make the small article way too long!

      I respect your point of view, however you need to understand that those who see God as Immanent, regardless of the existence of a Transcendental point of view, (we may talk about this two positions in a future article) can’t agree with a vision of God as a neutral force in Existence, specially most of Christianity that is based in a vision of a God made man in the figure of Christ, that intervene Universally in every affair, specially Human ones. Regardless of your, or my thoughts about it, is their vision, I just presented it here, like I did a Buddhist, Vedanta, and a Muslim view, or I could have used a Hebrew view, (ask for forgiveness for the sake of briefness) views that by the way can’t be Universal since all Religions are divided in different denominations, regarding their particular beliefs due to Theological, and Ontological differences.

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  4. Deactlele says:

    That was an excellently written essay, thank you so much.

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    • theburningheart says:

      Sorry, as far as I know my blog it is accessible through rss-Feed. You may have problems at your end.

  6. kethuprofumo says:

    Dear Mr. Brigido, thank you for this Uranic post ))) Great!

  7. macalder02 says:

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