Immortality, Pre-Existence, Reincarnation
In the Christian Community, organized exoteric Christianity takes its first step into freedom of teaching and freedom of belief. It is the first time since the Romanization of Christianity under Constantine that Christians are permitted to think the idea of reincarnation. Permitted, not required.
Do I simply identify myself with my body? The “I” who says yes to this will certainly cease to exist at death! Or do I shun my body? Or can I make use of it as an instrument? Our experiences with regard to these questions will determine our relation to the question of immortality, and not only theoretically.
The question of immortality is closely connected with the question of existence before conception and birth. What gifts and individual character does a child bring along, and not merely receive from parents and environment? Why is this child born to these particular parents?
And if we then realize that an individual’s special gifts and character show an affinity for certain aspects of life on earth, the question arises as to their possible origin in a previous existence on earth. This can lead to the idea of reincarnation. For a rigorous development of this idea, see Theosophy, by Rudolf Steiner.
It is with special tact that the Bible touches on pre-existence and reincarnation:
Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. (Jeremiah 1:5)
And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah, who is to come. He who has ears, hear. (Matthew 11:14-15)
Master, who sinned, he or his parents, that he was born blind? (John 9:2)
You will be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
Yes, dear Christian, and just how many lives did you think it would take for you to become perfect? For a fuller exploration of the compatibility, indeed intrinsic interrelationship, of Christianity and reincarnation, see Christianity and Reincarnation, by Rudolf Frieling.
Likewise, our rituals only hint delicately at these great truths. They speak for those who have ears to hear.
In the Last Anointing, at the threshold of death, we speak of the strength with which Christ leads from existence to existence in feeble bodies.
In the Baptism, we speak of the child as a soul sent down from the community of spirit into the earthly community. Sent! The community of angels and still higher beings of spirit has helped the child to choose the right parents. And has done so despite the chaos we cause with our manipulations around the portal of birth. In this sense, the Baptism says Yes to the destiny of the child.
In the Act of Consecration of Man, we collaborate expressly with the dead. Likewise the early Christians made their altars at the graves of those who had imbued themselves with Christ. When in the course of life on earth we find the being of Christ, something in us is activated for which the boundaries of birth and death are irrelevant. “He who in faith enters into my being will live, even though he dies” (John 11:25).
In the Christian Community, esoteric Christianity has begun to open to the world in the form of free thinking and ritual deeds. This includes a growing awareness of the realities lying beyond birth and death.
By Daniel Hafner