I worry sometimes that if I admit that I’m an Episcopalian and a great admirer and follower of Jesus, that I will lose readers who might think I am, therefore, unscientific in my approach to the survival of consciousness issue or some kind of religious fanatic that has closed her mind to other faiths, beliefs or theories. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, I am Christian, but I am completely open to all alternative interpretations of life after death, reincarnation or existence in multiple dimensions or worlds. Some family members of mine are atheists, some follow Eastern religions, some are spiritualists, and some are fundamentalists of various stripes. I appreciate what they all contribute to my understanding of the world.
My mentor is Saint Christopher. He guides people over a tumultuous river. I strive to do the same in my life, leading my students and my loved ones to calmer shores when the storms of emotion cause the river to rise to dangerous levels. I don’t always succeed. In fact, there are many occasions where I feel that I have lost my charges to the currents and couldn’t help them. I do the best that I can within this human body.
Church for me is an experience of questioning and wondering. Sometimes–often, actually–there is church doctrine that confounds me, and I wonder what code the writers are using to make a point. This is the issue that vexes me at the moment: “Et íterum ventúrus est cum glória, Iudicáre vivos et mórtuos,
Cuius regni non erit finis.” Translated from the Latin, “And He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his reign will have no end.”
For Christianity, there is this time period between death and the Second Coming where the souls of the dead are hanging out and waiting for Judgement Day, when bodies shall be raised up and restored to their original state. There are so many problems with this notion, that I can’t imagine that it was designed to be taken literally. Bodies will not LITERALLY be raised from the grave on that day, because that is something out of everyone’s nightmare, and it simply doesn’t fit with Jesus’ metaphorical and symbolic teachings.
This is a great site for this interested in pursuing the debate:
For what’s it’s worth, from a non-theologian’s point of view, this is what I think as a researcher into the paranormal and survival of consciousness:
You can’t convince people to give up everything to follow Jesus if they don’t understand what the reward is. Jesus often spoke in parables and metaphors so that his followers could readily understand complex ideas. It makes no sense to tell people that they will go to Heaven with Jesus if they have no body. We experience this life through our bodies, and we simply cannot fathom what life would feel like without one. The “resurrection of the dead” allows us to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, since He too was resurrected in bodily form after three days of physical death.
If you accept that Jesus performed miracles, then of course he could appear as a fully-formed human being three days after his death. Christians who do not believe in miracles are missing the experience of joy and hope that Christianity provides for so many people (this same joy and hope is present in most major religions). However, the Bible seems curiously silent on the issue of soul/body after death. Does the soul separate from the body after death, awaiting the resurrection of its body? Where does the soul go? Do all souls go to the same place after death, or are they categorized according to their worthiness to be with God?
I think that this is where reincarnation comes into the picture. Physical death occurs for everybody. The soul needs a new body, unless it is to go straight to God, which I think is for only the rarest and most enlightened of human beings. For the majority of us, we must find our way to God through through another lifetime to work our way towards God. When our journey to God is complete, then we will be completely resurrected, in a new body–a transcendent, holy body that encapsulates our enlightened soul, now with God. Until that moment, we are “dead,” in the sense that we are not with God.
The “resurrection of the dead” refers, then, to the whole integration of our spirits, souls and bodies with God. Until then, we cycle through lifetimes of experiences seeking to learn, to perfect, and to purify our emotions, intentions, beliefs and actions so that we are ready for our personal resurrection. There is not ONE single resurrection; our time comes when we are ready. Time means nothing in the Bible; only the contaminated life of earth is bound by time. There is no date, no time, no future, no present, no past for God. That is why the Bible states that we must always be ready for the coming of the Lord, for there is no way to know when we will be called (see the parable of the Bridesmaids awaiting their Groom).
Although reincarnation is not official Church doctrine, it was at one time before Church fathers and scholars purged all references to it in an attempt to differentiate Christianity from Eastern religions. A quick Google search of “Reincarnation and Early Church Doctrine” reveals much interesting information. It makes sense to me that the one area of survival of consciousness that has been most rigorously studied, researched and authenticated–reincarnation–dovetails nicely with the Biblical notion of a ‘waiting room’ before the Second Coming. The reason that the Bible is so vague on the destiny of souls after physical death, I think, has to do with editing and expunging references to reincarnation in the first few centuries A.D.
I am prepared for all comments, positive and negative, and I will listen to anyone who would like to correct, modify or argue against what I have said here, as long as you’re nice about it.
A fellow traveler,
Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD