Reincarnation, the belief that (re)rises

Researchers wonder about the cases of “reincarnated” children. Therapies aiming to explore our past lives are multiplying… Superstition, or parade against the anxiety of the end of the self?

It is no more surprising to be born twice than once, Voltaire already said… Why in our “modern” world, the question of reincarnation, one of the oldest beliefs on our planet, is she still on? The fashion of Buddhism with its procession of Eastern philosophies? The expression of disarray in an increasingly fragmented society? Faced with a less bright future than we were promised, a way to reassure ourselves in the long term?

The children remember

Reincarnation is a concept so far removed from Western civilization that, for science, it is just “pure superstition”. However, events would suggest that, beyond personal or cultural convictions, there is perhaps a part of truth, which comes from the mouths of children! The most famous of them is undoubtedly the current Dalai Lama. In 1936, on the death of the thirteenth of the name, the monks went to a lost province on the indications provided by the augurs. They met a boy who immediately recognized them and started speaking their language, although no one in his village used it. The child bore the eight physical distinctions of the great religious leaders and knew how to recognize the objects which would have belonged to him in his previous life…

In India, it’s almost a tradition: between the ages of 2 and 4, a child begins to talk to his parents about a life he has led in another place. He is very attracted to the events of this past and insists on returning to the family where he claims to have lived. Ian Stevenson, professor of psychiatry at the University of Virginia and world expert in “reincarnated children”, identified some 14,000 curious cases and published investigation reports on hundreds of them. “A 4-year-old boy lived in a village near Beirut,” he says. He had managed to give, among other things, the name of his previous family, a list of seventy exact details concerning him and… the last words of the deceased! “Proof of reincarnation? “Not necessarily, replies Ian Stevenson. For me, even such a strong case is not perfect. I prefer to say that my work suggests the existence of past lives rather than proving it. »

The psychiatrist has published the result of thirty years of research on “birthmarks” – the general public version has just been published in French under the title Reincarnation and biology (Dervy). He describes, for example, the case of a young Indian born with a malformation of the hand, spontaneously recounting that, during his previous life, an agricultural machine had cut off his fingers, giving the place, the time. An investigation found traces of the event.

Only Asian cases? No. On the Internet, Wendi, a young American who did not believe in reincarnation, said that her 3-year-old son was afraid of the waves. On vacation in Hawaii, he refused to swim but loved to play on the sand. “One day, we went to the beach of the surfers, she explained. He said to me: “When I was growing up, I surfed here, I fell in the water, I turned into a bird of God and flew away. Then I came back.” From that moment, he was no longer afraid of the waves and bathed. »

A belief that has become a therapeutic tool

Could rediscovering fragments of past lives have a healing power? This is what therapists who use sophrology or active relaxation to explore the traumatic episodes of our past lives. In the United States, “karma therapy” has risen to third place among alternative therapies, after anti-smoking treatments and weight-loss treatments…

The practice is not new, but it has often been derided by the media, which have made fun of the “return to life” of hundreds of Napoleons or Marie-Antoinettes… “In the thousands of cases that I have treated, I never had Napoleon, Marie-Antoinette, or even Cleopatra! explains Gilles Guattari, psychotherapist. They are simple people who come to mind: a merchant, a soldier, a child, a priest…”

The therapist has totaled more than eight thousand sessions and trained a few dozen practitioners in his own “consciousness expansion” technique.

“When there is healing, the symptoms do not reappear elsewhere and the rebalancing is lasting,” he says. To assert that they reproduce here or there is a baseless idea. But the healing capacity of this technique is disturbing. “And to tell the case of Alain, journalist. Following a serious car accident, he was in the grip of acute anxiety and suffered from polyarthritis which prevented any movement of his arms. During a session, he finds himself in the shoes of a medieval peasant. The provost comes to claim his tax. In anger, he revolts, knocks him down and kills him. Condemned, he suffered the torture of the wheel. “We worked on this sequence, explains Gilles Guattari. When this man managed to understand the links between the past and the present, the anxiety disappeared. And polyarthritis too…”

Can we really talk about past lives? “Impossible to say,” replies the psychotherapist. All shrinks know that there can be an inner vision larger than nature without there ever having been the slightest physical reality. What we are sure of is that, in addition to the results, this process opens the consciousness to a global vision of life, a vision of unification. This is called consistency. And that’s probably one of the qualities we need most today. »

The rise of individualism

The story of reincarnation corresponds to a major change: the rise of individualism, of the person as a psychologically autonomous unit, contained within watertight and stable limits. Previously, the individual was essentially perceived as a focal point in a network of psychic energies linked vertically to the ancestors and horizontally to the community. He was just one manifestation of a collective psyche. Over time, it acquired its own autonomy, its own identity. A process that has accelerated over the past twenty years. This push for individualization is accompanied by an existential anguish in the face of death, the disappearance of the self…

The resolution of this enigma seems to elude us. Do we lead one or several lives? Everything probably depends on whether we are situated in time or outside of it. Our greater part is carried away by the irresistible chronological river. Wisdom suggests to us not to be too moved by it and to contemplate the spectacle, with compassion and… humor.


Of humanity
If the term “reincarnation” was created in 1857 by Allan Kardec, the founder of spiritualism, this hypothesis dates back to the dawn of humanity. It crosses animist, shamanic or primitive religions in the form of “transmigration of souls”: one must lead a pure life in order not to be reborn in an animal body. It is found in various cultures – the “metempsychosis” (animation in succession) for the Greeks. It appears in most Eastern religions, with differences. For Buddhists, we have no personal soul: the self is a pure illusion.
Officially, Islam rejects this idea. According to some religious leaders, it would be more accurate to say that it leaves free will to the readers of the sacred texts. In Judaism, the Kabbalah texts speak of “gilgul” (transmigration) and “teshuva” (return), a new chance given by God. For Christians, metempsychosis was condemned in 553, at the Ecumenical Council of Constantinople, to defend the originality of the resurrection.

The specialist’s opinion

Marc de Smedt: “Believing in reincarnation helps to fight against the anguish of the death of the self”
Marc de Smedt, magazine director New Keys and director of the collection Key trials with Albin Michel, published Reincarnation Investigation”(Albin Michel, 2001), a collective work.

What did you learn from this survey?
I was amazed to discover that the idea of ​​reincarnation is prevalent in so many traditions. Even for Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, a world-renowned kabbalist, there is the possibility of the return of souls. And I concede that some cases – notably the “reincarnated children” – are troubling. There are strange phenomena there even if one tries to explain the “memories of past lives” by genetics, or a very fine perception. That said, you have to keep your feet on the ground.

How can this interest in reincarnation be explained?
By the fear of getting lost in the unknown, to fight against the fear of death, especially that of the self. The weight of the dogmas of the Catholic Church has almost disappeared, and the mixing of cultures gives access to the beliefs that are part of the heritage of humanity. It’s a story of ego: believing that our self can be perpetuated from one life to another is a trap for the ego.

For further

==> They explore their past lives

What if the key to our current difficulties lies in our past existences? This is the disturbing hypothesis of “karmatherapy”, which is attracting more and more patients and shrinks. Travel through time.

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Reincarnation, the belief that (re)rises

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