HOME

 WRITE TO ME NEIL'S WEBSITE AJIT'S WEB SITE
 

CHAPTER EIGHT

RELIGIOUS  BELIEFS ON DEATH AND AFTERWARDS

A

Jewish beliefs on Death

http://www.zianet.com/maxey/torah3.jpg

Traditional Judaism firmly believes that death is not the end of human existence. However, because Judaism is primarily focused on life here and now rather than on the afterlife, Judaism does not have much dogma about the afterlife, and leaves a great deal of room for personal opinion.  Orthodox Jewish belief covers a wide range of possibilities:

·        the souls of the righteous dead go to heaven, or souls of the wicked are tormented by demons of their own creation

·        they are reincarnated through many lifetimes, or

·        they simply wait until the coming of the messiah, when they will be resurrected.

·        souls of the wicked ceases to exist.

The Torah indicates in several places that the righteous will be reunited with their loved ones after death, while the wicked will be excluded from this reunion.

Gen. 25:8 (Abraham), 25:17 (Ishmael), 35:29 (Isaac), 49:33 (Jacob), Deut. 32:50 (Moses and Aaron) II Kings 22:20 (King Josiah). are spoken as   "gathered to their people." This gathering is described as a separate event from the physical death of the body or the burial, indicative of a divine realm where the righteous are united together.  For those who are anti-social and commits unforgivable sin are said to be "cut off from his people." Gen. 17:14 (uncircumcised man) and Ex. 31:14 (who violates sabbath). This punishment is referred to as kareit (kah-REHYT) which literally means, "cutting off,"  translated as "spiritual excision", and it means that the soul loses its portion in the World to Come.

The philosophical implication of life after death evolved only after the return from exile. Before the Exile, the Hebrews believed that the soul after death went to a house of dust which they called "Sheol," to abide for a brief time before fading completely from existence. This belief was identical to all other Semitic versions of the afterlife. Therefore, Hebraism was primarily a this-world religion before the Exile.  It was the exile period that formed the later concepts of Judaism.

The Persians where the Jews lived during the exile assimilated many of the Zoroatrian beliefs.  contact with Zoroastrian monotheism influenced Jewish monotheism. They believed that the souls of the good would reunite with the principle of good in eternal bliss; the souls of the evil would reunite with the principle evil to suffer until the final defeat of evil. This was necessary to explain the cosmic justice. One of the words for "heaven" in the Bible is Paradise - and this word, from the ancient Iranian words pairi-daeza, "enclosed garden," is one of the very few definite Persian loan-words in the Bible.

A clear statement of resurrection and after life can be seen in Dan. 12:2

Dan 12:1-2 But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered.  Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.

thing

After the return from exile by the time of Jesus there were essentially two differing groups of Jewish sects : the Pharisees and the Saducces

 

Pharisaic views were non-creedal and non-dogmatic, and heterogeneous. No single tractate of the key Rabbinic texts, the Mishnah and the Talmud, is devoted to theological issues; these texts are concerned primarily with interpretations of Jewish law, and anecdotes about the sages and their values. Only one chapter of the Mishnah deals with theological issues; it asserts that three kinds of people will have no share in "the world to come:"

·        those who deny the resurrection of the dead,

·        those who deny the divinity of the Torah, and

·        Epicureans who deny divine supervision of human affairs

 

The Pharisees believed in immortal souls, resurrection and reincarnation. "but that the souls of good men only are removed into other bodies" and a form of heaven and hell "and that under the earth there will be rewards or punishments", only good souls can reincarnate "but that the former shall have power to revive and live again;"

 

The Sadducees on the other hand rejected the Oral Law as proposed by the Pharisees. They saw the Torah as the sole source of divine authority. According to Josephus, the Sadducees believed that:

·                    There is no fate

·                    God does not commit evil

·                    man has free will; “man has the free choice of good or evil”

·                    the soul is not immortal; there is no afterlife, and

·                    there are no rewards or penalties after death

The Sadducees rejected the belief in resurrection of the dead, which was a central tenet believed by Pharisees and by Early Christians. The Sadducees supposedly believed in the traditional Jewish concept of Sheol for those who had died.. The Sadducees did not believe in the immortality of the soul or a heaven or hell following death.

 

Josephus describes the Essene view of an afterlife as similar to the Greeks in that "the body is corruptible... but ...the soul is immortal."  The "virtuous souls" go to a pleasant "abode beyond the ocean", while the "base souls" go to a "murkey and tempestuous dungeon."


 

B

OLAM HABA AND GILGUL

 

In Judaism in general the afterlife is called olam habah, or the World to Come. This is the place where the righteous souls go to after death - the World of Souls.  It's a place where souls exist in a disembodied state, enjoying the pleasures of closeness to God. The World of Resurrection, by contrast is a world, where the body and soul are reunited to live eternally in a truly perfected state. That world will only first come into being after the Messiah and will be initiated by an event known as the "Great Day of Judgment,"(Yom HaDin HaGadol) 

http://www.kab.co.il/media/maamarim/C_kabbalah_gilgul.jpg

However by providing a body which may be non-material or even material will lead to the concept of reincarnation. Later Jewish thought did include this possibility as a Babylonian influence in Kabbalah where it is called Gilgul/Gilgul neshamot/Gilgulei Ha Neshamot ( גלגול הנשמות,).   

 

"As long as a person is unsuccessful in his purpose in this world, the Holy One, blessed be He, uproots him and replants him over and over again." (Zohar I 186)

 

gil·gul  [Sephardic Hebrew: geel-gool; Ashkenazic Hebrew: gil-gool] 
the soul of a dead person that passes into another living body to assume a new existence and atone for past sins.
literally: transmigration, metamorphosis rolling, revolving

It comes from the words galgal (circle/round) and Gilgal (places of stone circles mentioned in the Bible). It actually refers to mystical rounds of ascent of the souls in the spiritual life/world.

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_tR4bYTcAqeQ/Sz9o8khghzI/AAAAAAAACFk/QbyG5ybltQE/s400/GilgalRefaim.jpg
Gilgal Refaim- Ancient Stone Circle in Israel

The notion of reincarnation, is not an essential tenet of traditional Judaism.
It is not mentioned

·         in traditional classical sources such as the Tanakh ("Hebrew Bible"),

·        In the classical rabbinic works (Mishnah and Talmud), or

·        In the Maimonides' 13 Principles of Faith. 

In the Zohar, on the other hand, in Parashat Mishpatim, under the title Saba deMishpatim (the Old Man or the Grandfather of Parashat Mishpatim), the secrets of reincarnation are discussed at length.

The Zohar (Hebrew: זֹהַר, lit Splendor or Radiance) is the foundational work in the literature of Jewish mystical thought known as Kabbalah. It is a group of books including commentary on the mystical aspects of the Torah (the five books of Moses) and scriptural interpretations as well as material on Mysticism, mythical cosmogony, and mystical psychology. The Zohar contains a discussion of the nature of God, the origin and structure of the universe, the nature of souls, redemption, the relationship of Ego to Darkness and "true self" to "The Light of God," and the relationship between the "universal energy" and man. Its scriptural exegesis can be considered an esoteric form of the Rabbinic literature known as Midrash, which elaborates on the Torah.

The Zohar is mostly written in what has been described as an exalted, eccentric style of Aramaic. Aramaic was the day-to-day language of Israel in the Second Temple period (539 BCE – 70 CE), was the original language of large sections of the biblical books of Daniel and Ezra, and is the main language of the Talmud.

The Zohar first appeared in Spain in the 13th century, and was published by a Jewish writer named Moses de Leon. De Leon ascribed the work to Shimon bar Yochai ("Rashbi"), a rabbi of the 2nd century during the Roman persecution who, according to Jewish legend, hid in a cave for thirteen years studying the Torah and was inspired by the Prophet Elijah to write the Zohar. This accords with the traditional claim by adherents that Kabbalah is the concealed part of the Oral Torah

 

The Zohar was censured by many rabbis because it propagated many superstitious beliefs, and produced a host of mystical dreamers, whose over-heated imaginations peopled the world with spirits, demons, and all kinds of good and bad influences. Many classical rabbis, especially Maimonides, viewed all such beliefs as a violation of Judaism's principles of faith..

 

The teachings of the Zohar contains some aspects of Christian dogmas, such as the fall and redemption of man, and the dogma of the Trinity.

 

They are then further expanded upon by the Ari HaKadosh, Rabbi Yitzhak Luria, in a book dedicated to this subject, Shaar HaGilgulim, The Gate of Reincarnations. 16th-century Lurianic doctrine was the first time that Kabbalah focused on gilgul,

 Isaac (ben Solomon) Luria Ashkenazi (1534 – 1572), commonly known as "Ha'ARI"  (meaning "The Lion"), "Ha'ARI Hakadosh" [the holy ARI] or "ARIZaL" [the ARI, Of Blessed Memory (Zikhrono Livrakha)], was a foremost rabbi and Jewish mystic in the community of Safed in the Galilee region of Ottoman Palestine. He is considered the father of contemporary Kabbalah, his teachings being referred to as Lurianic Kabbalah. While his direct literary contribution to the Kabbalistic school of Safed was extremely minute (he wrote only a few poems), his spiritual fame led to their veneration and the acceptance of his authority. The works of his disciples compiled his oral teachings into writing. Every custom of the Ari was scrutinized, and many were accepted, even against previous practice. Hence these traditions should be taken with a pinch of salt. Ari HaKadosh, Rabbi Yitzhak Luria

The belief is universal in Hasidic Judaism, which regards the Kabbalah as sacred and authoritative.

 

It is concerned with the process of individual Tikkun (Rectification) of the soul. In Kabbalistic interpretation, each Jewish soul is reincarnated enough times only in order to fulfil each of the 613 Mitzvot.

 According the historian Josephus in The Antiquities of the Jews we read that, among the Jews, there were three different opinions: (1) Essens, (2) Pharisees, (3) Sadducees.

The Antiquities of the Jews. Book 18, Chapter 1

2. "The Jews had for a great while had three sects of philosophy peculiar to themselves; the sect of the Essens, and the sect of the Sadducees, and the third sort of opinions was that of those called Pharisees;… (Pharisees) also believe that souls have an immortal rigor in them, and that under the earth there will be rewards or punishments, according as they have lived virtuously or viciously in this life; and the latter are to be detained in an everlasting prison, but that the former shall have power to revive and live again;…..

 

4. But the doctrine of the Sadducees is this: That souls die with the bodies;

 

5. The doctrine of the Essens is this: That all things are best ascribed to God. They teach the immortality of souls, and esteem that the rewards of righteousness are to be earnestly striven for; and when they send what they have dedicated to God into the temple,"

 

The Wars of the Jews, Book 2, Chapter 8

2. "For there are three philosophical sects among the Jews. The followers of the first of which are the Pharisees; of the second, the Sadducees; and the third sect, which pretends to a severer discipline, are called Essens…..

 

11. For (Essens) doctrine is this: That bodies are corruptible, and that the matter they are made of is not permanent; but that the souls are immortal, and continue forever; and that they come out of the most subtile air, and are united to their bodies as to prisons, into which they are drawn by a certain natural enticement; but that when they are set free from the bonds of the flesh, they then, as released from a long bondage, rejoice and mount upward. And this is like the opinions of the Greeks, that good souls have their habitations beyond the ocean, in a region that is neither oppressed with storms of rain or snow, or with intense heat, but that this place is such as is refreshed by the gentle breathing of a west wind, that is perpetually blowing from the ocean; while they allot to bad souls a dark and tempestuous den, full of never-ceasing punishments. And indeed the Greeks seem to me to have followed the same notion, when they allot the islands of the blessed to their brave men, whom they call heroes and demi-gods; and to the souls of the wicked, the region of the ungodly, in Hades, where their fables relate that certain persons, such as Sisyphus, and Tantalus, and Ixion, and Tityus, are punished; which is built on this first supposition, that souls are immortal; and thence are those exhortations to virtue and dehortations from wickedness collected; whereby good men are bettered in the conduct of their life by the hope they have of reward after their death; and whereby the vehement inclinations of bad men to vice are restrained, by the fear and expectation they are in, that although they should lie concealed in this life, they should suffer immortal punishment after their death. These are the Divine doctrines of the Essens about the soul, which lay an unavoidable bait for such as have once had a taste of their philosophy.

 

14. But then as to the two other orders at first mentioned, the Pharisees .... They say that all souls are incorruptible, but that the souls of good men only are removed into other bodies, - but that the souls of bad men are subject to eternal punishment.

But the Sadducees are those that compose the second order, ...... They also take away the belief of the immortal duration of the soul, and the punishments and rewards in Hades."

 

There is no definite proof of the existence of the doctrine of gilgul in Judaism during the Second Temple period. There is no reference to reincarnation in the Talmud or any prior writings which is dated around 5th century AD.  In the post-talmudic period Anan b. David, the founder of Karaism, upheld this doctrine.  The doctrine of transmigration was prevalent from the second century onward among some Gnostic sects and especially among Manicheans and was maintained in several circles in the Christian Church. It is certainly through the Manichaen, the detailed re-incarnation theory became the dogma of the Indian Hinduism.  Among the Jews, the idea of reincarnation, called gilgul became popular in folk belief, and is found in much Yiddish literature among Ashkenazi Jews.

 

In recent centuries this concept of gilgul has come to mean reincarnation under the influence of New Age and Eastern religions.  To interpret gilgul in terms of transmigration or reincarnation in material body over and over again is a gross misrepresentation of the initial concept of gilgul as seen in Judaism.

 

In Judaism Gilgul was interpreted as a necessity for further opportunity for the souls to repair themselves a necessary Cosmic Tikkun (Messianic rectification).   It was probably  Ari, who pushed it to the extent that most of the babies that are born, are Gilgulim of “old” souls. (The Gates of Reincarnation).  Ari says:

“דע, כי כמעט אין אדם בארץ אשר ימלט מגלגולים אלו”
“Know, that no person on earth can escape from these Gilgulim”

The Ari also claims that if a purified soul has neglected some religious duties on earth, it must return to the earthly life, and attaching itself to the soul of a living man, unite with it in order to make good such neglect.

See http://www.gospeloutreach.net/soul_sleep_error.html

Because of its importance of this subject I quote several articles which I believe provide additional insight below:

Jewish authorities such as Saadia Gaon condemned such beliefs.

 

Saʻadiah ben Yosef Gaon (882-942 AD) of the tribe of Judah born in Egypt in the village of the ancient Pithom,was a prominent rabbi, Jewish philosopher, and exegete of the Geonic period. The first important rabbinic figure to write extensively in Arabic, he is considered the founder of Judeo-Arabic literature.  He translated the Torah into Arabic.

 

The great Sage Saadia Gaon writes on Reincarnation in Emunoth veDeoth:

"Yet, I must say that I have found certain people, who call themselves Jews, professing the doctrine of metempsychosis (reincarnation) which is designated by them as the theory of “transmigration” of souls. What they mean thereby is that the spirit of Ruben is transferred to Simon and afterwards to Levi and after that to Judah. Many of them would go so far as to assert that the spirit of a human being might enter into the body of a beast or that of a beast into the body of a human being, and other such nonsense and stupidities. This in itself, however, indicates how very foolish they are.

 

For they take it for granted that the body of a man is capable of transforming the essence of the soul so as to make of it a human soul, after having been the soul of a beast.

 

They assume, furthermore, that the soul itself is capable of transforming the essence of a human body to the point of endowing it with the traits of the beasts, even though its form be that of men. It was not sufficient for them, then, that they attributed to the soul a variable nature by not assigning to it an intrinsic essence, but they contradicted themselves when they declared the soul capable of transforming and changing the body, and the body capable of transforming and changing the soul. But such reasoning is a deviation from logic.

 

The third [argument they present] is in the form of a logical argument. They say, namely: “Inasmuch as the Creator is just, it is inconceivable that he should occasion suffering to little children, unless it be for sins committed by their souls during the time that they were lodged in their former bodies.” This view is, however, subject to numerous refutations.

 

The first is that they have forgotten what we have mentioned on the subject of compensation in the hereafter for misfortunes experienced in this world. Furthermore we should like to ask them what they conceive the original status of the soul to be – we mean its status when it is first created. Is it charged by its Master with any obligation to obey Him or not? If they allege that it is not so charged, then there can be no punishments for it either, since it was not charged with any obligations to begin with. If, on the other hand, they acknowledge the imposition of such a charge, in which case obedience and disobedience did not apply before, they thereby admit that God charges His servants with obligations on account of the future and not at all on account of the past. But then they return to our theory and are forced to give up their insistence on the view that man’s suffering in this world is due solely to his conduct in a previous existence."



                                       Reincarnation and Judaism

http://aronbengilad.blogspot.com/2010/01/reincarnation-and-judaism.html

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_tR4bYTcAqeQ/Sz8ONb4jqgI/AAAAAAAACFM/tv3ftnVTi_w/s400/nefesh-ruach-neshamah.jpg

One of the greatest and most secret and hidden concepts in Jewish Mysticism is the concepts of the World of Galgalim (Rounds/spheres). Perverted concepts of Gilgul which in English is translated as reincarnation has come to dominate in certain branches of Judaism eventhough Jewish authorities such as Saadia Gaon condemned such beliefs. In recent centuries this concept of gilgul has come to mean reincarnation in Jewish circles. It comes from the words galgal (circle/round) and Gilgal (places of stone circles mentioned in the Bible). It actually refers to mystical rounds of ascent of the souls in the spiritual life/world. It is linked to the wheel (or Galgal ) in Ezekiel. This has been linked to the Buddhist and Hindu concepts of reincarnation and the Wheel of Life etc. but this is a perversion of the original concept. These modern developments are then read back into old Jewish texts such as the Bahir and the Zohar confusing the issue even more. The problem occurs when those not so mystically advanced misinterpret the mystical insights of the great mystics whether they be Jewish or Christian. Perle Besserman a descendant of the Baal Shem Tov in her book "Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism" discusses how those references in the Jewish mystical texts that have been interpreted as referring to reincarnation are actually texts revealing the stages of meditation in the mystics practice of prayer.

 

In Judaism there are different levels to the soul called nefesh, ruach, neshamah and coverings of the soul chayah and yechidah. The nefesh is the soul we are born with- or the vessel of the soul. The concept of Gilgul refers especially to the level of neshamah and Gilgul is also called Gilgul Neshamot. The four higher levels according to some are states the soul merits or attains to. It is also connected to the universal soul of Adam (Adam Klalit) in which all mankind shared but with Adam's sin it broke into many individual neshamot. So we see the idea of the soul as Neshamah is not what most of us think about when we use the term soul. Just as John the Baptist and Elisha shared in the spirit/soul of Elijah in some mystical way- this does not mean reincarnation in the sense of the person/nefesh of Elijah being reincarnated. We see that Elisha received the double portion of the spirit of Elijah and Elisha was alive at the same time as Elijah. This concept reminds one of the Catholic idea of entering into the charism of certain saints and founders of spirtitual works. The concept of Gilgal and rounds is alluded to in the life of Samuel the Prophet: "And he went every year and made rounds of Beit El, Gilgal and Mitzpeh"(1 Samuel 7:16)

 

Rav Avraham Brandwein writes: "There is another kind of gilgul that can take place while a person is still alive. The Ari calls this form of reincarnation, Ibur. It is usually thought that gilgul takes place after a person passes from this world, after the death of the body, at which time or soon after the soul transmigrates into another body. Ibur does not work like this. It involves receiving a new (higher) soul sometime during one's lifetime. That is, a new soul comes into a person's heart while he is still alive. The reason this is called Ibur, gestation or pregnancy, is because this person becomes "pregnant" with this new soul while he is still alive. This phenomenon is the deeper explanation behind certain people going through drastic changes in their lives. They either undergo a change of mind about certain things or change their lifestyle, and thereby ascend to the next spiritual level. This is also included under the general heading of gilgul-incarnation because they are now hosting a new soul [or an aspect of their own soul or a higher soul of which they are a part] in order to be a vehicle for that soul's rectification. This is what occurs when a person is ready to advance in his soul evolution. This is why the soul has five names, each higher than the other, nefesh, ruach, neshamah, chayah and yechidah. [According to the Zohar, the four higher levels of the soul usually enter a person during his lifetime in Ibur: First, a person receives nefesh when he or she is born; then, when they merit it, they receive ruach; when they merit it, they receive neshamah; when they merit it, they receive chayah. The higher the level, the rarer its occurrence. Very few have ever merited to neshamah, let alone chayah. Nobody has ever received the highest level, yechidah. Adam would have received it had he not sinned. " We thus see that the terms gilgul and gilgulim (which mean cycle and cycles rather then reincarnation)is referring more to spiritual states and graces that the soul attains to in the spiritual realm of the galgalim.

 

Eli Dahan writes:"..."Know, that no person on earth can escape from these Gilgulim". The Ari claims that if a purified soul has neglected some religious duties on earth, it must return to the earthly life, and attaching itself to the soul of a living man, unite with it in order to make good such neglect. Further, the departed soul of a man freed from sin appears again on earth to support a weak soul which feels unequal to its task..." Here the Ari (or rather his disciple Chayyim Vidal) is not speaking about reincarnation in the Eastern sense but of souls coming back and attaching themselves in some mystical way as a form of purgatorial penance (tikun). Many similar accounts are found in Catholic writings of souls who cling to the living or who come spiritually to people or places connected to their lives in order to do reparation in order to purify the soul before the ascent to Heaven. Catholics also believe that the souls of purgatory can visit and assist the living. Luisa Piccaretta's concepts of doing rounds in the Divine Will clarify what the Jewish mystics glimpsed by 'running and returning' of these mysteries of galgalim or gilgulim.

Saadia Gaon refers to the eastern concept of reincarnation of souls returning into physical bodies as coming from avodah zara (foreign or alien worship). Many have read the Sava de Mishpatim in the Zohar as speaking of reincarnation in this sense but in fact the Zohar is condemning such concepts using the analogy of the soul as a Daughter of Abraham-Bat Kohen who has united with a alien or foreign man (ish zar). The Zohar confirms that the Eastern concept of reincarnation is connected to avodah zara. However it goes on to state that some of the Goyim and others who believe such errors may be more holy and sincere than the Jewish High Priest who is insincere and ignorant. This part of the Zohar is highly mystical and speaks of spiritual states and mysteries. However when one interprets them in a literal way great mistakes occur. The Zohar here speaks about tormented souls and new born babies however one should not necessarily interpret this as literal babies but as referring to those who are entering into a new spiritual state. However God foresees that they will be corrupted by the evil side (represented by Lilith)so he takes them out of this world while they are still suckling on their mother's breast (still connected to goodness). In the same way Luisa is referred to as the new born in the Divine Will and she speaks of mystically bringing to birth divine lives. It would be easy for one to misunderstand her teachings and think they referred to some kind of reincarnation if one read her in a literalistic manner. Sadly the words of the old donkey driver (Elijah who is connected to the mystery of Gilgal)are still misunderstood and mistaken for those of the impure foreskin which is the teachings of Lilith on the demonic,reincarnation etc. It was near the stone circle of Gilgal that the Israelites of Joshua's generation were circumcised and rested at Gibeath Haaraloth (the Hill of Foreskins)before entering the Holy Land. Gilgal from this origin was also associated with a spiritual place of rest……

 

The great Sage Saadia Gaon writes on Reincarnation in Emunoth veDeoth:"Yet, I must say that I have found certain people, who call themselves Jews, professing the doctrine of metempsychosis (reincarnation) which is designated by them as the theory of “transmigration” of souls. What they mean thereby is that the spirit of Ruben is transferred to Simon and afterwards to Levi and after that to Judah. Many of them would go so far as to assert that the spirit of a human being might enter into the body of a beast or that of a beast into the body of a human being, and other such nonsense and stupidities. This in itself, however, indicates how very foolish they are. For they take it for granted that the body of a man is capable of transforming the essence of the soul so as to make of it a human soul, after having been the soul of a beast. They assume, furthermore, that the soul itself is capable of transforming the essence of a human body to the point of endowing it with the traits of the beasts, even though its form be that of men. It was not sufficient for them, then, that they attributed to the soul a variable nature by not assigning to it an intrinsic essence, but they contradicted themselves when they declared the soul capable of transforming and changing the body, and the body capable of transforming and changing the soul. But such reasoning is a deviation from logic. The third [argument they present] is in the form of a logical argument. They say, namely: “Inasmuch as the Creator is just, it is inconceivable that he should occasion suffering to little children, unless it be for sins committed by their souls during the time that they were lodged in their former bodies.” This view is, however, subject to numerous refutations. The first is that they have forgotten what we have mentioned on the subject of compensation in the hereafter for misfortunes experienced in this world. Furthermore we should like to ask them what they conceive the original status of the soul to be – we mean its status when it is first created. Is it charged by its Master with any obligation to obey Him or not? If they allege that it is not so charged, then there can be no punishments for it either, since it was not charged with any obligations to begin with. If, on the other hand, they acknowledge the imposition of such a charge, in which case obedience and disobedience did not apply before, they thereby admit that God charges His servants with obligations on account of the future and not at all on account of the past. But then they return to our theory and are forced to give up their insistence on the view that man’s suffering in this world is due solely to his conduct in a previous existence."

Posted by Catholic Jew


http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/6676-gilgul-neshamoth

The passing of souls into successive bodily forms, either human or animal. According to Pythagoras, who probably learned the doctrine in Egypt, the rational mind (ψρήν), after having been freed from the chains of the body, assumes an ethereal vehicle, and passes into the region of the dead, where it remains till it is sent back to this world to inhabit some other body, human or animal. After undergoing successive purgations, and when it is sufficiently purified, it is received among the gods, and returns to the eternal source from which it first proceeded. This doctrine was foreign to Judaism until about the eighth century,when, under the influence of the Mohammedan mystics, it was adopted by the Karaites and other Jewish dissenters. It is first mentioned in Jewish literature by Saadia, who protested against this belief, which at his time was shared by the Yudghanites, or whomsoever he contemptuously designated as "so-called Jews" (V12p232001.jpg; see Schmiedl, "Studien," p. 166;idem, in "Monatsschrift," x. 177; Rapoport, in "Bikkure ha-'Ittim," ix. 23; idem, introduction to Abraham bar Ḥiyya's "Hegyon ha-Nefesh," p. lii.; Jellinek, in "Orient, Lit." 1851, p. 410; Fürst, "Gesch. des Karäert." i. 81). According to Saadia, the reasons given by the adherents of metempsychosis for their belief are partly intellectual and partly Scriptural. The former are as follows: (1) Observation shows that many men possess attributes of animals, as, for instance, the gentleness of a lamb, the rage of a wild beast, the gluttony of a dog, the lightness of a bird, etc. These peculiarities, they assert, prove that their possessors have in part the souls of the respective animals. (2) It would be contrary to the justice of God to inflict pain upon children in punishment for sins committed by their souls in a previous state. The Scriptural reasons are conclusions drawn from certain Biblical verses, such as: "Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath; but with him that standeth here with us this day before the Lord our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day" (Deut. xxix. 14, 15); "Blessed be the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly," etc. (Ps. i. 1). Both sets of reasons are refuted by Saadia, who says that he would not consider it worth while to show the foolishness and the low-mindedness of the believers in metempsychosis, were he not afraid lest they might exercise a pernicious influence upon others ("Emunot we-De'ot," vi.).

Influence of Cabala.

The doctrine counted so few adherents among the Jews that, with the exception of Abraham ibn Daud ("Emunah Ramah," i. 7), no Jewish philosopher until Ḥasdai Crescas even deemed it necessary to refute it. Only with the spread of the Cabala did it begin to take root in Judaism, and then it gained believers even among men who were little inclined toward mysticism. Thus one sees a man like Judah ben Asher (Asheri) discussing the doctrine in a letter to his father, and endeavoring to place it upon a philosophical basis ("Ṭa'am Zeḳenim," vii.). The cabalists eagerly adopted the doctrine on account of the vast field it offered to mystic speculations. Moreover, it was almost a necessary corollary of their psychological system. The absolute condition of the soul is, according to them, its return, after developing all those perfections the germs of which are eternally implanted in it, to the Infinite Source from which it emanated. Another term of life must therefore be vouchsafed to those souls which have not fufilled their destiny here below and have not been sufficiently purified for the state of reunion with the Primordial Cause. Hence if the soul, on its first assumption of a human body and sojourn on earth, fails to acquire that experience for which it descended from heaven, and becomes contaminated by that which is polluting, it must reinhabit a body till it is able to ascend in a purified state through repeated trials. This is the theory of the Zohar, which says: "All souls are subject to transmigration; and men do not know the ways of the Holy One, blessed be He! They do not know that they are brought before the tribunal both before they enter into this world and after they leave it; they are ignorant of the many transmigrations and secret probations which they have to undergo, and of the number of souls and spirits which enter into this world and which do not return to the palace of the Heavenly King. Men do not know how the souls revolve like a stone which is thrown from a sling. But the time is at hand when these mysteries will be disclosed" (Zohar, ii. 99b). Like Origen and other Church Fathers, the cabalists used as their main argument in favor of the doctrine of metempsychosis the justice of God. But for the belief in metempsychosis, they maintained, the question why God often permits the wicked to lead a happy life while many righteous are miserable, would be unanswerable. Then, too, the infliction of pain upon children would be an act of cruelty unless it is imposed in punishment for sin committed by the soul in a previous state.

Opposition to the View.

Although raised by the Cabala to the rank of a dogma, the doctrine of metempsychosis still found great opposition among the leaders of Judaism in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. In his "Iggeret Hitnaẓẓelut," addressed to Solomon ben Adret in defense of philosophy, Jedaiah Bedersi praises the philosophers for having opposed the belief in metempsychosis. Ḥasdai Crescas ("Or Adonai," iv. 7), and after him his pupil Joseph Albo ("'Iḳḳarim," iv. 29), attacked this belief on philosophical grounds, considering it to be a heathen superstition, opposed to the spirit of Judaism. The opposition, however, gradually ceased; and the belief began to be shared even by men who were imbued with Aristotelian philosophy. Thus Isaac Abravanel sees in the commandment of the levirate a proof of the doctrine of metempsychosis, for which he gives the following reasons: (1) God in His mercy willed that another trial should be given to the soul which, having yielded to the sanguine temperament of the body, had committed a capital sin, such as murder, adultery, etc.; (2) it is only just that when a man dies young a chance should be given to his soul to execute in another body the good deeds which it had not time to perform in the first body; (3) the soul of the wicked sometimes passes into another body in order to receive its deserved punishment here below instead of in the other world, where it would be much more severe (commentary on Deut. xxv. 5). These arguments were wittily refuted by the skeptical Leon of Modena in his pamphlet against metempsychosis, entitled "Ben Dawid." He says: "It is not God, but the planets, that determine the temperament of the body; why then subject the soul to the risk of entering into a body with a temperament as bad as, if not worse than, that of the one it has left? Would it not be more in keeping with God's mercy to take into consideration the weakness of the body and to pardonthe soul at once? To send the soul of a man who died young into another body would be to make it run the risk of losing the advantages it had acquired in its former body. Why send the soul of the wicked to another body in order to punish it here below? Was there anything to prevent God from punishing it while it was in its first body?"

The School of Luria.

Upon the doctrine of metempsychosis was based the psychological system of the practical Cabala, inaugurated by the cabalists of the school of Luria. According to them, all the souls destined for the human race were created together with the various organs of Adam. As there are superior and inferior organs, so there are superior and inferior souls, according to the organs with which they are respectively coupled. Thus there are souls of the brain, of the eye, of the head, etc. Each human soul is a spark ("niẓaẓ") from Adam. The first sin of the first man caused confusion among the various classes of souls; so that even the purest soul received an admixture of evil. This state of confusion, which gives a continual impulse toward evil, will cease with the arrival of the Messiah, who will establish the moral system of the world on a new basis. Until that time man's soul, because of its deficiencies, can not return to its source, and has to wander not only through the bodies of men, but even through inanimate things. If a man's good deeds outweigh his evil ones, his soul passes into a human body; otherwise, into that of an animal. Incest causes the soul to pass into the body of an unclean animal; adultery, into that of an ass; pride in a leader of a community, into that of a bee; forgery of amulets, into that of a cat; cruelty toward the poor, into that of a crow; denunciation, into that of a barking cur; causing a Jew to eat unclean flesh, into a leaf of a tree which endures great suffering when shaken by the wind; neglect to wash the hands before meals, into a river.

The main difference between the passing of the soul into a human body and its transmigration into an animal or an inanimate object consists in the fact that in the former case the soul ignores its transmigration, while in the latter it is fully aware of its degradation, and suffers cruelly therefrom. With regard to the transmigration of the soul into a crow Moses Galante, rabbi at Safed, relates that once he accompanied Isaac Luria to 'Ain Zaitun to pray at the tomb of Judah ben Ilai. On approaching the place he noticed on an olive-tree which grew near the tomb a crow which croaked incessantly. "Were you acquainted," asked Luria, "with Shabbethai, the tax-farmer of Safed?" "I knew him," answered Galante: "he was a very bad man and displayed great cruelty toward the poor, who were not able to pay the taxes." "This crow," said Luria, "contains his soul" ("Shibḥe ha-Ari," p. 29).

Impregnation of Souls.

A quite new development of the doctrine of metempsychosis was the theory of the impregnation of souls, propounded by the cabalists of the Luria school. According to this theory, a purified soul that has neglected some religious duties on earth must return to the earthly life and unite with the soul of a living man, in order to make good such neglect. Further, the soul of a man freed from sin appears again on earth to support a weak soul unequal to its task. Thus, for instance, the soul of Samuel was supported by those of Moses and Aaron; the soul of Phinehas, by those of Nadab and Abihu. However, this union, which may extend to three souls at one time, can take place only between souls of a homogeneous character, that is, between those which are sparks from the same Adamite organs. As the impregnated soul comes either to make good a neglect or to support a weak soul, it enters into the body only after the man has completed his thirteenth year, when he reaches the age of religious duty and responsibility.

The dispersion of Israel has for its purpose the salvation of man; and the purified souls of Israelites unite with the souls of other races in order to free them from demoniacal influences. Each man, according to the practical Cabala, bears on his forehead a mark by which one may recognize the nature of the soul: to which degree and class it belongs; the relation existing between it and the superior world; the transmigrations it has already accomplished; the means by which it may contribute to the establishment of the new moral system of the world; how it may be freed from demoniacal influences; and to which soul it should be united in order to become purified. He who wishes to ascertain to which of the four worlds his soul belongs must close his eyes and fix his thought on the four letters of the Ineffable Name. If the color he then beholds is a very bright, sparkling white, his soul has proceeded from the world of emanation (V12p233001.jpg V12p233002.jpg); if an ordinary white, from that of creative ideas (V12p233003.jpg); if red, from that of creative formation (V12p233004.jpg); and if green, from that of creative matter (V12p233005.jpg).

Special Instances.

The cabalists of the Luria school pretended to know the origins and transmigrations of all the souls of the human race since Adam; and in their works accounts are given concerning Biblical personages and the great teachers of Judaism. Thus, for instance, the soul of Aaron is said to have been derived from the good part of that of Cain. It entered into the body of the high priest Eli, who, in expiation of the sin committed by Aaron in making the golden calf—a sin punishable with lapidation—broke his neck in falling from his seat. From Eli it transmigrated into the body of Ezra; and it then became purified. The name "Adam" contains the initials of David and Messiah, into whose bodies the soul of the first man successively entered. The name "Laban" contains the initials of Balaam and Nabal, who successively received Laban's soul. Jacob's soul passed into Mordecai; and because the former had sinned in prostrating himself before Esau, Mordecai obstinately refused to prostrate himself before Haman, even at the risk of endangering the safety of the Persian Jews. Interesting is the account given in the "Sefer ha-Gilgulim" of the souls of some contemporaries of Isaac Luria. The soul of Isaac de Lattes is said there to have been a spark from that of a pious man of the olden times (V12p233006.jpg); that of Joseph Vital, one from the soul of Ezra; that of Moses Minz, one from the soulof Seth, the son of Adam. To the soul of Moses Alshech was united that of the amora Samuel ben Naḥmani; hence the former's talent for preaching. Both Moses Cordovero and Elijah de Vidas partook of the soul of Zechariah ben Jehoiada; hence the great friendship that existed between them. Because of some sin his soul had committed in a previous state Moses Vital was unable to acquire a perfect knowledge of the Cabala. The soul of Joseph Delpino entered into a black dog. Ḥayyim Vital possessed, according to Isaac Luria, a soul which had not been soiled by Adam's sin. Luria himself possessed the soul of Moses, which had previously been in the bodies of Simeon ben Yoḥai and Hamnuna Saba.

Generally the souls of men transmigrate into the bodies of  men, and those of women into the bodies of women; but there are exceptions. The soul of Judah, the son of Jacob, was in part that of a woman; while Tamar had the soul of a man. Tamar's soul passed into Ruth; and therefore the latter could not bear children until God had imparted to her sparks from a female soul. The transmigration of a man's soul into the body of a woman is considered by some cabalists to be a punishment for the commission of heinous sins, as when a man refuses to give alms or to communicate his wisdom to others.

Gilgul.

The theory of impregnation gave birth to the superstitious belief in "dibbuḳ" or "gilgul," which prevailed, and still prevails, among the Oriental Jews and  those of eastern Europe. This belief assumes that there are souls which are condemned to wander for a time in this world, where they are tormented by evil spirits which watch and accompany them everywhere. To escape their tormentors such souls sometimes take refuge in the bodies of living pious men and women, over whom the evil spirits have no power. The person to whom such a soul clings endures great suffering and loses his own individuality; he acts as though he were quite another man, and loses all moral sense. He can be cured only by a miracle-working rabbi ("ba'al shem") who is able to cast out the soul from his body by exorcisms and amulets. The usual exorcism in such cases consisted in the rabbi's reciting, in the presence of ten men (See Minyan), the 91st Psalm, and adjuring the soul in the name of God to leave the body of the afflicted one. In case of refusal on the part of the soul to yield to this simple injunction, the ban and the blowing of the shofar are resorted to. In order that it may cause the least possible amount of damage to the body, the soul is always directed to pass out through the small toe.

The belief that migrant souls seek refuge in the bodies of living persons became more and more deeply rooted; and regular methods for expelling them are given in the cabalistic works of the seventeenth century. This superstition is still widely spread, especially in Ḥasidic circles. Curtiss relates ("Primitive Semitic Religions of To-Day," p. 152) that a few years ago a woman was exorcised in Palestine, and that the spirit when questioned replied that it was the soul of a Jew who had been murdered in Nablus twelve years before. The migrant soul was generally believed to belong to a wicked or murdered person; but it may happen that that of a righteous man is condemned, for a slight offense committed by it, to wander for a while in this world. Such a soul is, however, free from demoniacal influences, and it enters the body of a living person not to avoid evil spirits (who have no power over it), but to atone for the fault it has committed. As soon as this has been accomplished it leaves the body of its own free will. Ḥayyim Vital records that while sojourning at Damascus in 1699 he was called upon to entertain himself with the soul of a pious man which had entered the body of the daughter of Raphael Anaw. The soul informed him that it was exiled from heaven for having slighted the virtue of repentance. For a time it dwelt in a fish, but this fish was caught and sold to Raphael for the Sabbath meal; the soul then entered the body of the daughter of the house. In proclaiming before Vital the great importance of repentance it became free to return to its heavenly abode ("Shibḥe Ḥayyim Wiṭal," ed. Lemberg, p. 11). Narratives of this sort abound in the cabalistic writings of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and many of them are reproduced in the "Nishmat Ḥayyim" of Manasseh ben Israel, who showed himself a firm believer in all kinds of gilgulim and dibbuḳim. He even went so far as to endeavor to demonstrate that references to them are to be found in the Bible. It is noteworthy that most of the cases of exorcism occurred at Safed or in its neighborhood; that is, in localities where mysticism was flourishing. A curious case is cited by Moses Prager in his "Zera' Ḳodesh": it is interesting from the fact that David Oppenheim, the collector of Hebrew books and manuscripts, who was the rabbi of Nikolsburg, Moravia, was one of the signatories of the narrative. See Dibbuḳim

 


C


Islam, the other semitic religion of Abrahamic origin holds a very linear view.  Death is the end of the Physical life when those who die will remain in a state of "soul sleep" until the time of final Judgment day.  The dead will have a continued and conscious existence in the grave.

Here are the stages of death, according to some scholars’ understandings of verses from the Quran and from the words of Prophet Muhammad. “Every soul shall have a taste of death: and only on the Day of Judgment shall you be paid your full recompense. Only he who is saved far from the Fire and admitted to the Garden will have attained the object (of life): for the life of this world is but goods and chattels of deception.” [Al-Qur’an 3:185]

1.      The stupors of death: The angel of death either extracts the soul painfully from the wrongdoers or gently from the pious ones, and then transfers the soul into a ghostlike body.

2.      Misguiding of the devil: The last temptation of the devil is to deceive a dying person with his trickery. The good ones will not fall into temptation.

3.      Entering the grave: When the body is buried, the soul stays beside the body and sees the horrifying unseen world.

4.      Squeezing or pressure of the grave: When people leave the gravesite, angels come to squeeze the soul fiercely, making it scream loudly. Few souls are exempted from this punishment.

5.      Munkar and Nakeer: These two angels come after the squeezing and question the soul about the beliefs of his faith. If the soul does not answer properly and was a wrongdoer in life, then he will be punished in the hellfire of the unseen world until the Day of Judgment or until his sins are purged. If the person was a pious true believer, then he will answer the questions properly and two angels of glad tidings will come to escort him to the Paradise of the unseen world.

6.      The first blow of the trumpet: Both the seen and unseen worlds will exist until the first blow of the trumpet on the last day, when all living things, including angels and souls, will die. Nothing will be left except the living God.

7.      The second blow of the trumpet and the resurrection: When the second blow occurs, God will re-create everything and the souls will return to their physical bodies for the Day of Judgment.

8.      Accounting: Every person will be given his book of deeds and will be asked to judge himself. If a person tries to deny a bad deed, his body’s organs will witness against him. Accounting will be only for those who have both good and bad deeds. The pious ones who have only good deeds will be taken to Paradise without accounting, and the evil ones who have only bad deeds will be taken to the hellfire without accounting.

9.      Bridge over the hellfire. Everyone must cross the bridge over hell fire, which is said to be sharper than a blade and thinner than a strand of hair. The more good deeds a person has, the faster he will cross over. Some will cross over like a flash of light. Some might take years to cross. Others might fall into the hellfire below.

10. The intercession: While the people with only a few sins are taken for their punishment, the prophets and their true successors will intercede for them with the permission of God. By this, God shows His great appreciation to His beloved servants.

11. Eternal hellfire and eternal Paradise: On the Day of Judgment, the evil ones will go to the hellfire. Some of the evil ones will be in the hellfire eternally and others might eventually come out of the hellfire after their sins have been purged. The good ones will be taken to Paradise to eternal enjoyment and fulfillment. In Paradise, there are bounties and blessings beyond our imagination and thought. As mentioned in the Quran, the greatest bliss is God’s pleasure.

This is from Safdar Razi  Imam of the Islamic  Ahlul  Bayt Association Mosque
See also http://www.islamreligion.com/articles/38/

Within the mystical tradition of Islam known as Sufism after death the person himself judges where he ends up - heaven or hell. The Sufi tradition translates  Surah 2: 28 as:

"How can you reject faith in God?
Do you not recall that you were once without life,
and Allah gave you life;
then God will cause you to die,
and will again bring you to life;
and finally to Allah will you return."

Sufi poet, Rumi, wrote:

A stone I died and rose again a plant.

A plant I died and rose an animal;

I died an animal and was born a man.

Why should I fear? What have I lost by death?

 

As man, death sweeps me from this world of men

That I may wear an angel’s wings in heaven;

Yet e’en as angel may I not abide,

For nought abideth save the face of God.

 

Thus o’er the angels’ world I wing my way

Onwards and upwards, unto boundless lights;

Then let me be as nought, for in my heart

Rings as a harp-song that we must return to Him.

 

In his Masnavi, Rumi speaks about the "seventy-two forms I have worn".

 


D

INDIAN RELIGIONS

 


  http://www.angelfire.com/pro2/compare_religions222/reincarnation.jpg

 

VEDIC RELIGION

Vedic religion has their origin in the Aryan migrations into India.  The  early scriptures are Rig, Sama, Yajur, and Atharva . They were written in Persian language commonly referred by Indian Hindus as archaic Sanskrit. The philosophical reference to after death are found only the tenth mandala which were written close to first century AD.  It refers to  “…a new home among the Fathers in Heaven…” the kingdom of Yama, the King of the dead.

“Meet Yama [god of the dead], meet the Fathers, meet the merit of free or ordered acts, in highest heaven. Leave sin and evil, seek anew thy dwelling, and bright with glory wear another body.” (Rig Veda 10.14.8)

"Yama was the first to find us our abode, a place that can never be taken away, where our ancient fathers have departed; all who are born go there by that path, treading their own" (Rig Veda 10,14,2).

Divine justice was provided by the gods Yama, Soma and Indra, not by an impersonal law such as karma. One of their attributes was to cast the wicked into an eternal dark prison out of which they could never escape (Rig Veda 7,104,3-17).

There is no mention of earthy reincarnation in the Vedas. 

http://mysticalnumbers.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Dharmawheel1.png

BUDDHISM

In India Buddha had the concept which is difficult to call trans-migration.  The theory of Buddha was that all parts of man - the body, soul and spirit will re-turn to their elementary forms and new life forms will evolve out of that.  Thus soul in the sense the identity of a person will not be reborn. There is no eternal “soul,” “spirit” or “self” but only a “stream of consciousness” that links life with life. The actual process of change from one life to the next is called punarbhava (Sanskrit) or punabbhava (Pāli), literally “becoming again,” or more briefly bhava, “becoming.” The body will return to dust, the spirit will return to spirit realm as its dust. If soul has any parts and a substance that too will decompose and form dust of the soul dimension.  It can be compared to rebuilding a car from all the different parts of the cars from a junkyard.

 

https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTt3LfqDyGbI297FaJy3i0tsfYyhofvq0nrR7Vau7cHX9xxCUjRbQ

http://www.jainworld.com/education/juniors/junl20i1.gif

JAINISM

For both Buddhism and Jainism, the universe is eternal, matter and souls being equally uncreated. The universe contains gods who may be worshipped for various reasons, but there is no being outside it exercising control over it. The gods and other superhuman beings are all just as subject to karma and rebirth as human beings are. By their actions, souls accumulate karma, which is understood to be a kind of matter, and that accumulation draws them back into a body after death. Decay and death are eternal laws from which nothing can escape not even the gods unless someone can attain iso-entropic transform through "Nishkama Karma" - action without selfish purpose.  Release is achieved by purging the soul of all karma, good and bad.  Hence, all souls have undergone an infinite number of previous lives, and—with the exception of those who win release from the bondage of karma—will continue to reincarnate, each new life determined by the kind and amount of karma accumulated.

 

Mahavira (ca. 540-468 B.C.), taught that each living creature possesses a material soul jiva) which is originally pure and colorless, but through the activities of life becomes contaminated by karmic matter. Every act committed by man or beast is believed to produce karmic coloring on the soul-light colors for virtuous deeds, medium tones for minor offenses, with the darkest shades being reserved for serious transgressions. Since dark-colored stains are supposed to weigh down the soul, while lighter ones allow it to rise, the light-colored souls will be reborn correspondingly as gods or humans, the darker ones as animals or plants, or as inhabitants of Hell.

The Jain texts postulate four gatis, that is states-of-existence or birth-categories, within which the soul transmigrates. The four gatis are: Deva (demi-gods), manussya (humans), nāraki (hell beings), and tiryañca (animals, plants, and micro-organisms). The four gatis have four corresponding realms or habitation levels in the vertically tiered Jain universe: Demi-gods occupy the higher levels where the heavens are situated; humans, plants and animals occupy the middle levels; and hellish beings occupy the lower-levels, where seven hells are situated. Depending on its karma, a soul transmigrates and reincarnates within the scope of this cosmology of destinies. The four main destinies are further divided into sub-categories and still smaller sub-categories. In all, Jain texts speak of a cycle of 8.4 million birth destinies in which souls find themselves again and again as they cycle within samsara


Who or what reincarnates in Hinduism?
(REINCARNATION Its meaning and consequences by Ernest Vale)

"According to the Upanishads and Vedanta philosophy, the entity that reincarnates is the impersonal self (atman). Atman does not have a personal nature, and so the use of the reflexive pronoun "self" is not suitable. Atman can be defined only through negating any personal attributes. Although it constitutes the existential substrata of human existence, atman cannot be the carrier of one’s "spiritual progress," because it cannot record any data produced in the illusory domain of psycho-mental existence. The spiritual progress one accumulates toward realizing the atman-Brahman identity is recorded by karma, or rather by a minimal amount of karmic debt. The whole physical and mental complex a human being consists of is reconstructed at (re)birth according to one’s karma. At this level, the newly shaped person experiences the fruits of "his" or "her" actions from previous lives and has to do his best to stop the vicious cycle avidya-karma-samsara.


As a necessary aid in explaining the reincarnation mechanism, Vedanta adopted the concept of a subtle body (sukshma-sharira) which is attached to atman as long as its bondage lasts. This is the actual carrier of karmic debts. However, this "subtle body" cannot be a form of preserving one’s personal attributes, i.e., of any element of one's present conscious psycho-mental life. The facts recorded by the subtle body are a sum of hidden tendencies or impressions (samskara) imprinted by karma as seeds that will generate future behavior and personal character. They will materialize unconsciously in the life of the individual, without giving one any hint at understanding his or her actual condition. There can be no form of transmitting conscious memory from one life to another, since it belongs to the world of illusion and dissolves at death."

 

Hindus provide several reasons why the jiva takes on various physical bodies:
(Vivekjivandas, Sadhu. Hinduism: An Introduction – Part 1. (Swaminarayan Aksharpith: Ahmedabad, 2010) p. 46-47.)

1.    To experience the fruits of one's karmas: This is the main reason for .       rebirth. Sattvika (good or righteous) karmas reward one with the pleasures of Svarga. Rajas (pleasure-seeking) karmas reward one with mrutyuloka (mortal realm or earth). And Tamas karmas (actions related to inertia, laziness and evil) condemn one to patala-loka.

2.    To satisfy one's desires: When a person indulges in material pleasures, he or she subsequently develops a stronger desire to enjoy more of it (Vāsanā). This unending craving to satisfy one's desires causes the  (jiva) to assume new physical bodies.

3.    To complete one's unfinished sadhana: When an aspirant making spiritual efforts for liberation from maya dies without attaining his or her goal, the jiva gets as a natural cause-effect another human body to complete its sadhana.

4.    To fulfil a debt: When a jiva is indebted to another jiva, it gets a human birth to fulfil its debt and receive what is owed to it. The jiva comes in the form of a relative, friend or an enemy.

5.    To undergo sufferings because of a great soul's curse: A person's grave error or sin may incur the wrath or displeasure of God or a Rishi. This results in the jiva of that person getting another birth, not necessarily into a human body.

6.    To attain moksha: By the grace and compassion of God or a God-realized guru, a jiva gets a human body to purge itself of the layers of base instincts

 


E

GREECE

 

Possesion spirits and souls of dead men on animals and plants were common in all cultures around the world.  But The notion that spirits or souls of dead persons may inhabit or "possess" animals or plants is widespread among both ancient and modern peoples in many pans of the world. But the belief that the life-force or soul of the individual passes from life to life, inhabiting a different physical body in each existence, is a much rarer doctrine. Known as metempsychosis or transmigration of souls, it is found in developed form in the ancient world only in Greece.

 

In Greece it was a standard theology from as early as the 6th century B.C., and  in Orphism and Pythagoreanism. Plato in the early 4th century B.C. mentions it as "an ancient tradition."

The theory of transmigration as we have today developed in India only after the Greek invasion of India under Alexander the Great.  As far as we know the earliest reference to it appears in Bhadararanyaka upanishad which is considered to be a commentary of Purusha Suktham probably dating 1st- 7th century AD.

The major problem with the transmigration theory is the fact that the with the millions of people on on earth none is able to remember the past lives and those who present such memories has been statistically insignificant and objectively vague.  The only way out of keeping the theory to maintain the transmigration theory as a dogma is somehow explain away the why memory is lost in the process and souls cannot carry over the self.  Here is how the Hindu reincarnation explains this off.