The Soul in Reincarnation

The Concept of Reincarnation

Reincarnation means the repeated incarnation or embodiment in flesh of the soul, the immaterial part of man’s nature. The concept is an admission of the plurality of human existence and it refers to the continual passage of the same soul through several bodies on a never-ending journey.

Unfortunately, reincarnation is sometimes confused with the phrase transmigration of souls, which is also used to mean the passing from one body to another. More specifically, the term transmigration is applied in connection with the belief that the souls of men sometimes passed into the bodies of the lower animals as a punishment for their sins committed during their human life. However, this belief is held in disrepute by the reincarnationists since it has no connection with their philosophy or beliefs, the idea having sprung from an entirely different source.

Nature of Soul Journey

Here are three categories of views being entertained by those who believe in the existence of the soul:

    View 1: That the soul is specially created by the Supreme Power at the time of birth and that its position on earth, circumstances and degree of intelligence are fixed arbitrarily by that power for some inscrutable reason of its own.

This view of the plan of creation lacks a manifestation of divine justice, and therefore unacceptable to many people. To the human mind, the thrusting of inequality and injustice into the positions of human beings on earth would seem that no amount of future reward could possibly nullify or explain these conditions. Of course, one may argue that the idea of justice has nothing to do with the universal processes, but all of us who think of a Divine Being filled with love and justice would be compelled to think that such qualities must manifest themselves in the creations of such a Being; otherwise, the scheme of justice manifested is most faulty. Orthodox theology would argue that in our finite human understanding, we cannot pretend to understand God’s plans, purposes and designs, nor criticize His form of justice. However, the tendency of modern theological thought is to deviate from this concept.

    View 2: That the soul existed before conception in some higher state not understood by us, from whence it was thrust into human form and birth, its position on earth, circumstances and degree of intelligence were determined by causes unknown to us.

This view does not help to straighten out the question of justice and equality at all. Regardless of whether the soul is pre-existent in a higher state or whether it is freshly created, the fact remains that, as souls, they must be equal in the sense of being made by the same process and from the same material. Also, up to the point of their embodiment they had neither sinned nor merited any reward or punishment, nor have they earned anything one way or another. Yet according to this theory, some of these equally innocent and inexperienced souls are born in environments conducive to advancement while others are born into surroundings that are devoid of many natural advantages.

    View 3: That the soul is one of countless others which emanated from the Source of Being at some period in the past. All souls are equal in power intelligence and opportunity and have worked their way up by spiritual evolution from lowly forms of expression and life to their present state. From the present state they are destined to continuously move on to higher forms and states of existence. In the end, after millions of Ȇons of existence in the highest planes of expressed life, these souls will again return to their Source of Being from which they emanated. Then they become one with the Divine in a condition of universal consciousness with All. 

This view holds that the present condition of each soul is due to its own progress, development, advancement, unfoldment, or lack of the same under the Law of Karma. As such, our presence on Earth is no longer the effect of a caprice of fate, or of chance. Rather, it is a station in the long journey that we make through the world. Before our birth, we have already lived, and this life is the sequel and result of previous ones. We have a soul that we must purify, improve and ennoble during our stay on Earth. Having already completed an imperfect life previously, we now begin a new one and strive to rise to the level of those who has passed on to higher planes. The idea of justice is fully carried out in this view of life. In as much as what we are now is determined by what we have been, what we shall be is determined by what we are now. Furthermore, we are constantly urged on by our unfolding spirit and attracted by the Divine. We are given an incentive toward making the best of our opportunities now in order to pass on to higher and more satisfactory conditions in future lives.

Further Reading

William Walker Atkinson. Reincarnation and the Law of Karma: A Study of the Old-New World-Doctrine of Rebirth and Spiritual Cause and Effect. YOGeBooks by Roger L. Cole. 2010.