Rebirth and Personal identity: Is Reincarnation an Intrinsically Impersonal Concept?

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Rebirth and Personal identity: Is Reincarnation an Intrinsically Impersonal Concept?

Titus Rivas


Quote:Some Westerners associate the concept of reincarnation with the loss of personal identity. This is an oversimplification resulting from a strong influence of the Buddhist anatta-doctrine on contemporary Western spirituality. The notion of reincarnation can indeed be reconciled with a personalist philosophy. Spiritual personalists may benefit a lot from reincarnation research. Rather than giving up on their personalism, they could extend it to the notion of a truly personal evolution over several lives on earth.



Quote:Within Indian philosophy, this position, which may be termed spiritual personalism, is supported by the Dvaita interpretation of Vedanta and other pluralistic currents such as Jainism or the logical realism of Nyaya-philosophy. Within European or more generally Western thought it is defended in the Monadology of Leibniz and in Athanasia by Bernhard Bolzano, and also by major Christian and modern thinkers such as Augustine, Descartes, Oesterreich (1910), John Foster (1991), the Jewish mystical movements of Kabbalah and Hassidism (Morse, 2000) (and the present author) (Rivas, 2003a, 2005). Don Morse (2000) even traces it back to Socrates and Plato; 'Socrates stated that the soul was substance and could not vanish but merely changed form. He stated that all substances are indestructible, but their forms can change.'(p. 200) and "Plato said that the soul is neither created nor destroyed. Every soul has been here forever and will exist for eternity." (p. 202).



Quote:The main empirical evidence for reincarnation consists of cases of young children who claim to recall their previous lives (Stevenson, 1987; Rivas, 2003b). It is sometimes assumed that this type of cases shows the validity of the anatta-theory of rebirth. The children involved would never completely retain their previous personality, which would demonstrate that only fragments of a personality are reborn and integrated into a whole new psychophysical 'person' as defined by Buddhism. On the other hand, personalists may point out that the children themselves clearly claim to be spiritually identical to the persons whose lives they seem to remember. It would seem far-fetched to believe they are correct about the accuracy of their imaged memories and at the same time radically misinterpret their origin. Similarly, memories of an intermission period between two incarnations suggest that there is a continuity of individual consciousness ranging from one physical life to another (Rawat & Rivas, 2005).
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


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I must admit, philosophy is not my thing! However, I have thought quite a bit about what reincarnation really means. I think there is close analogy between ordinary dreaming and becoming incarnated.

In a dream, we forget most of who we are, and we seem to lose contact with most of our memories, but as we wake up we regain all our former memories, but can easily forget the dream. Also, we sometimes feel a particular dream was teaching us something.

Notably, we never feel that the fact that we 'were someone else' in the dream meant that our personality had been destroyed.
(This post was last modified: 2022-04-04, 09:28 AM by David001. Edited 1 time in total.)
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