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May a Christian Believe in Reincarnation? Paperback – February 5, 2016
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"An amazing amount of research and information in a slim volume, with the huge benefit of Annie Bessant's lecture on the subject appended. I read, re-read and read again in quick succession, learning more each time." -Wordsmith, Amazon UK
"a common-sense, methodical investigation of the historical theme of reincarnation in Christianity, full of well-documented evidence and quotes that bring out the lyrical, comforting nature of authentically-translated scripture and other sacred texts." -Reverend Gerry Nangle
"This is a most helpful book in explaining [how] a Christian can believe in reincarnation and resurrection at the same time." -Rodney Rickard
"This is an astonishingly clear and useful reference for anybody interested in exploring this most important subject." -Tachira
About the Author
Abbot George Burke (Swami Nirmalananda Giri) is the founder and director of the Light of the Spirit Monastery (Atma Jyoti Ashram) in Cedar Crest, New Mexico, USA. In his many pilgrimages to India, he had the opportunity of meeting some of India's greatest spiritual figures, including Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh and Anandamayi Ma. During his first trip to India he was made a member of the ancient Swami Order by Swami Vidyananda Giri, a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda, who had himself been given sannyas by the Shankaracharya of Puri, Jagadguru Bharati Krishna Tirtha. In the United States he also encountered various Christian saints, including Saint John Maximovich of San Francisco and Saint Philaret Voznesensky of New York. He was ordained in the Liberal Catholic Church (International) to the priesthood on January 25, 1974, and consecrated a bishop on August 23, 1975. For many years Abbot George has researched the identity of Jesus Christ and his teachings with India and Sanatana Dharma, including Yoga. It is his conclusion that Jesus lived in India for most of his life, and was a yogi and Sanatana Dharma missionary to the West. After his resurrection he returned to India and lived the rest of his life in the Himalayas. Abbot George is also author of The Dhammapada for Awakening, The Gospel of Thomas for Awakening, A Brief Sanskrit Glossary, and other titles. He has written extensively on these and other topics, many of which are posted at www.OCOY.org/
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Negatives: Job 1:21 - Most interpretations consider this to mean that we come into the world with nothing and leave the same way, not as proof of reincarnation.
Numbers 14:18 - Refers to visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children. In this case, the author tries to interpret "fathers" as our previous lives and bodies, and "children" are the successive incarnations. Most view this verse as discussing what we would call a generational curse, not reincarnation.
Matthew 17:10, 12, 13 -- Refers to John the Baptist as Elijah. Most people see this as a comparison of Elijah and John the Baptist, not as evidence of reincarnation.
Hebrews 9:27 - "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement." The author interprets this to mean that we die once (many times - we die once in each life) and are judged each time we die. To say that "once" means "many times" seems quite a stretch.
The author relates the stories of Ahab/Jezebel and Herod/Herodias, which are similar, and believes this proves reincarnation. All it really proves is that history tends to repeat itself, not that the people do.
When Jesus gives us the "Golden Rule," the author takes this to be something other than a direction on how we should treat others, but rather proof of reincarnation, as we may have to reincarnate in order to receive what we have dished out to others.
John 6:30-32 - When the crowd wants some visible sign of Christ's authority, he tells them that "Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven." Because Jesus referred to them as "you," the author takes it to mean that these are the very same people, reincarnated, who were with Moses in the desert. This really seems like reaching to me. I think Jesus is just referring to the Jews.
The second part of the book was originally published as a pamphlet by Annie Besant in 1920, which also seeks to convince the reader of her views. Unfortunately, this text may not be appreciated by those who are more culturally sensitive today. In her discussion, she discusses trying to teach higher morality to the children of "savages," and declares that you can look at a child born in poor circumstances and, just by his appearance, know that he will likely become a habitual offender. If I am reading this correctly, she believes that the difference is that some souls have not yet evolved to the point that they are born into better circumstances. Interesting reading, and presumably well-meant, but not politically correct these days. Otherwise, this is a good summary of why to believe in the subject.
Positives: The author points out that some books considered spiritually relevant and mentioned in the Bible have since been lost. These books were undoubtedly well-respected and known at some point, and I have always wondered what was in them, and why no copies now exist, as far as we know. He makes mention of some scriptures that can conceivably be seen as proof
that early Jews believed in reincarnation, rightly or wrongly: Matthew 16:13, 14; and John: 9:1-3. The author does make a reasonably good argument to this effect, and I can understand his views on this. He discusses at length early church fathers (Augustine, Jerome, Gregory of Nyssa, etc), among others, who professed some belief in reincarnation, and documents them.
The author seems to be sincerely trying to convey evidence for his beliefs, and I genuinely enjoyed reading his work, even though I did not necessarily agree with all his points. Unlike others I have read in the past, he doesn't seem to be force-feeding his audience, but rather trying to gently convince, and I appreciated his approach. I am giving the book three stars, because, while I enjoyed the book and its purpose overall, he did lose me on some of the examples he chose to support his ideas.