RESURRECTION AND REINCARNATION
4. Reincarnation was part of the Jewish dogmas, being taught under the name of resurrection. Only the Sadducees, who believed that everything ended with death, did not accept the idea of reincarnation. Jewish ideas on this point, as on many others, were not clearly defined because they had only vague and incomplete notions with regard to the soul and its connection with the body.
They believed that man could live again without knowing exactly the manner by which this could happen. They used the name resurrection for what Spiritism more correctly calls reincarnation, Resurrection presupposes a return to the same physical body, whereas science demonstrates that this is materially impossible, especially when that same body has decomposed and long since been dispersed and reabsorbed. Reincarnation is the return of a soul, or Spirit, to physical life in another body which has been newly formed for it, and which has nothing to do with the previous one. The word 'resurrection' can be applied to Lazarus but not to Elias, nor to the other prophets. If, according to their belief, John the Baptist was Elias, then the body of John could not have been the body of Elias because John was seen as a child and his parents were known. John then could be Elias reincarnated but not resurrected.
5. There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: the same came to Jesus by night, and said unto Him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God.' for no man can do these miracles that Thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto Him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof but canst not tell whence it cometh, and wither it goeth; so is everyone that is born of the Spirit Nicodemus answered and said unto Him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto you, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen.' and ye receive not our witness. If I have to Id you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? (John, 3:1-12).
6. The idea that John had been Elias and that the prophets could relive again on Earth is to be found in many passages of the New Testament, but is most notedly quoted in the above extract. (See verses 1, 2, & 3.) If this was an erroneous belief, Jesus would have combated it as He did many others. But from this He gave it complete sanction and authority by making it a basic principle and necessary condition by saying: 'No one may reach the Kingdom of God if he is not born again,' and further insisted when He added: 'Do not be surprised when I say it is necessary to be born again.'
7. The words: If man is not born again of water and of Spirit, have been interpreted in the sense of regeneration by means of the water of Baptism. But in the original text it was said simply: not born of water and of Spirit, whereas in some translations the words of spirit have been substituted by Holy Spirit, which does not correspond to the original meaning. This capital point stands out from the first comments which the Gospels raised and will one day be confirmed beyond all possible doubt. *
* The translation by Osterwald is according to the original text. It says: NOT BORN OF THE WATER AND OF THE SPIRIT. That of Sacy says: OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, that of Lamennais: OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
8. To enable the real meaning of these words to be reached it is also necessary to pay attention to the significance of the word water which is not used here in its usual sense.
The knowledge of physics was very imperfect in ancient times when it was believed that the Earth had risen out of the water. Therefore water was considered to be the exclusive primitive generating substance. This is why we read in the book of Genesis: '...the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters; it floated above the waters; .. . Let there be firmament in the midst of the waters; ... Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear; ... Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the Earth in the open firmament of heaven.'
According then to this belief, water represented the nature of matter, just as the Spirit represented the nature of intelligence. The words: 'If man is not reborn of the waters and of the Spirit, or in water and in Spirit', thus signify -'if man is not born with his body and his soul'. This is the manner in which these words were originally understood.
This interpretation is wholly justified by these other words: What is born of the flesh is flesh and what is born of Spirit is Spirit. Here Jesus established a clear distinction between body and Spirit. What is born of the flesh clearly indicates that only the body generates from the body and that the Spirit is independent.
9. The words: 'The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound but know' not from whence it comes nor whence it goes' are referring to the Spirit of God, who gives life to whom He wishes, or rather to the soul of man. The words you know not where it comes from nor where it goes', signifies that we do not know who the Spirit had been previously or who it will be in the future. If the Spirit or soul was created at the same time as the body we would know where it came from because we would know its beginning. Whichever way you look at this passage, it confirms the principle of the pre-existence of the soul and subsequently the plurality of existences.
10. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear (Matthew, 11: 12-15).
11. Even if the doctrine of reincarnation as expressed re John might be interpreted in principle in a purely mystic sense, the same could not happen with this passage from Matthew, which does not permit any ambiguity: He is Elias, who was to come. Here there is nothing figurative, nothing allegorical, only a complete affirmation. 'Since the time of John the Baptist till today the Kingdom of Heaven is seized by violence.' What do these words mean when John the Baptist was still alive at that moment? Jesus explains them to us when He says: 'If you wish to understand what I am saying, this is Elias who was to come. Therefore, if John was Elias, Jesus alluded to the time when John was living under the name of Elias. 'Till the present time the kingdom is seized by violence,' is another allusion to the violence of the Mosaic laws, which ordered the extermination of infidels so that the rest might attain the Promised Land, the Paradise of the Hebrews, whereas according to the new law Heaven was to be won by charity and mildness.
Jesus then added: He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. These words are frequently uttered by Him, telling us that not everyone was in a condition to understand certain truths.
12. Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake, and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead (Isaiah, 26:19).
13. This passage from Isaiah is also explicit: 'Thy dead men shall live again.' If the prophet had wished to speak of a spiritual life, if he had intended to say that those who had been executed were not dead spiritually speaking, he would have said: 'They are still alive,' and not 'They will live again.’ In the spiritual sense these words would be a contradiction, because they imply an interruption in the life of the soul. In the sense of moral regeneration they would be a denial of eternal suffering because they establish in principle that all those who are dead will one day come back to life.
14. But when a man hath died once, when his body, separated from his spirit, has been consumed, what happens to him? Having died once can a man live again? In the war in which l find myself each day of my life, l await my mutation. (Job, 14: 10 & 14. Translation taken from Le Maistre de Sacy).
When a man dies, he loses all his strength, expires, afterwards, where is he? If a man dies, will he live again? Will I wait all the days of my combat, until there comes some mutation? (Taken from the Protestant translation of Osterwald.)
When a man is dead, he lives forever: when my days of existence on Earth have finished, I will wait, seeing that I shall return again. (Taken from the Greek translation.)
15. In these three translations the principle of the plurality of existences is clearly expressed. Nobody can imagine that Job was referring to regeneration from baptismal water, which for sure he had never heard of. 'Man having died once, can he live again? The idea of dying once and reliving implies dying and living many times. The Greek version is even more explicit, if that is possible. 'When my days of existence on Earth are finished, I will wait, for I will return again' or return again to Earth. This is so clear, as if someone were saying: I leave my house, but I will return.
'In the war in which I find myself each day of my life, I await my mutation.' Here Job evidently was referring to his struggles against the miseries of life, 'I await my mutation' meaning he was resigned. In the Greek version, I will wait, seems to apply more preferably to a new existence: 'When my existence has ended, I will wait, seeing that I shall return again.' It is as if Job, after death, places himself in the interval which separates one life from another and says that it is there he will await till the moment of return.
16. So there is no doubt that under the name of resurrection, the principle of reincarnation was a fundamental belief of the Jews. A point which Jesus and the prophets in general confirm, and from which it follows that to deny reincarnation is also to deny the words of Christ One day, however, when they have been well meditated upon, without preconceived ideas, His words will be recognised as an authority on this point, as well as on many others.
17. From the religious point of view we add to this authority the philosophical view point of the proofs resulting from the observance of the facts. When we try to discover from the effects what the causes might be, reincarnation becomes an absolute necessity, an inherent part of humanity, in a word: a Law of Nature, By its very results it becomes evident in a material manner, so to speak, in the same way that a hidden motor reveals itself by its movement, It is the only way Man can find out where he came from, where he is going and why he is here on Earth and still be able to justify the many abnormalities and all the apparent injustices which present themselves during life. *
Without the principle of the pre-existence of the soul and the plurality of existences, the maxims of the Gospel in the most part become unintelligible, which is the reason why they have given rise to so many contradictory interpretations, This is the only principle which will restore them to their true and original meaning.
* See THE SPIRITS' BOOK, chapters 4 & 5; WHAT IS SPIRITISM, chapter 2, by Allan Kardec and also LA PLURALITÉ DES EXISTENCES by Pezzani, for further information on reincarnation.