How does reincarnation work? Some thoughts and theories on past lives and the past life phenomena
During the 12 years it took to write The Man Who Sent the SOS, a memoir that chronicles my past life experience as one of Titanic’s radio officers, I've had ample time to ponder reincarnation and how the phenomenon potentially works. From 2004 to 2006, I kept a near-daily journal that I filled with information gleaned from my past life regressions, as well as random thoughts and musings on the subject, as they occurred to me. A few entries expound on theories of reincarnation and past lives, and I’d like to share one of these now.
I wrote it in 2004, after deadly tsunamis swept across the Indian Ocean, killing hundreds of thousands of people in a matter of hours. According to Wikipedia, the death toll from the disaster eventually climbed to between 227,000 and 280,000 people. However, despite these staggering numbers, I think my thoughts on the matter are still relevant:
I’m still in shock about the unbelievable number of deaths in Southeast Asia as a result of last weekend’s deadly tsunamis. The latest estimate is something like 58,000. Those figures are absolutely unbelievable! I did have a passing thought—with all the obsessing I’ve done over Titanic—the 1,500 Titanic deaths don’t even come close to matching the number of lives lost to those tidal waves. It’s just staggering.
Also—in the wake of this mind-numbing tragedy, I did have a passing thought re: reincarnation. In doing some research for the book a couple of months ago (I was fact-checking my information about the Bridey Murphy case, I came across an unusual Bridey “debunker.” Of course, several skeptics have taken potshots at the case over the years, but this one was different. It was written by a Buddhist priest who took issue with “Bridey’s” claim that a hundred-plus? year gap had taken place between the day that Bridey had died and the day she (Virginia Tighe, referred to, in the book, under the pseudonym, Ruth Simmons) was born. (Note: I later learned the gap was only 59 years, since Bridey supposedly died in 1864, and Tighe was born in 1923.) This person wrote that Bridey’s claim was false because, according to Buddhism, a person’s soul is energy and it cannot remain in the spirit world between lives—unless of course that person has finally reached “Nirvana.” Reaching Nirvana essentially means joining with God, and, according to Buddhist doctrine, once a soul achieves this state, it’s no longer possible for it to return to human form. So, based on his spiritual beliefs, the guy was saying that the case was crap. At the time, I found this interesting because my case is similar to Bridey’s; a fifty-year gap exists between Jack’s life and mine. (Although I haven’t actively explored the possibility that there were other lives in between.) However, what strikes me as interesting is that, if Buddhist doctrine were in fact true, then all 58,000 people (and counting) killed last weekend would have had to have been immediately reborn. I’ll have to double check, but I don’t believe that 58,000 people are even born in a single day!
Boy was I wrong. I just checked online, and apparently, US Census projections indicate that, this year, some 353,000 people will be born every day across the planet. But this information brings with it another problem. According to the same projections, the number of people dying each day is less than 50% of the birthrate. Therefore, each day, there’s a 200,000-person discrepancy! This, of course, is another argument used by skeptics to debunk reincarnation. I wonder how the Buddhists would respond to that one? Of course, it’s possible that animal souls graduate to human. I’m sure that at least 200,000 animals die (or are killed) each day—especially given what we’re doing to the environment…
In thinking more about the birth/death discrepancy I wrote about in yesterday’s entry, I realized that I was also wrong about another basic assumption. If 77,000 people were killed in Southeast Asia in the space of two hours last weekend (the death toll in the South Sea unfortunately continues to mount), it’s an erroneous assumption that they would all have to have been immediately reborn. Since a baby gestates for 9 months before birth, an “incoming” soul could conceivably enter at any point during that process. The million-dollar question is when does the “soul” enter the fetus? This is a point that theologians will probably argue until the end of time. Catholics and pro-lifers believe that “life” begins at conception—but is consciousness (what we call the soul) really present when a fetus exists as merely one or two cells? I don’t think so…
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In the years since I wrote this, I’ve learned of other reincarnation theories that conflict with my basic premise (one of them is that souls can inhabit multiple bodies, in any given lifetime), but still, I think it’s an interesting riddle to ponder! What do you think?
Paul Amirault is a television producer, writer and photographer. His first book, The Man Who Sent the SOS: A Memoir of Reincarnation and the Titanic, chronicles a 12-year search he undertook after seeing images from the sinking of the famed White Star liner during a past-life regression.
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