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There once was a time when very few Christians believed in reincarnation, but things are different now. I continually encounter writers and spiritual directees very sympathetic with the idea of rebirth. They don't consider this to be the resurrection, but part of God's plan for their ongoing growth, and part of the way they work things out in special relationships through their various lives.

Some of the factors that have influenced this openness to reincarnation are as follows:

1. Our growing encounter with Eastern religions, most of whom accept reincarnation as a "given" in their way of understanding how things work.

2. The growing number of psychics who offer their services (sometimes via phone or the Internet). Most seem to accept reincarnation.

3. People reporting "past life experiences" through clinical hypnotic regressions, holotropic breathing, dreams, and even what is called "past life therapy."

4. Near death experiences and out-of-body experiences have also been studied, and some have reported gaining information about themselves and past lives (and even future ones!!!) through such experiences.

5. Dissatisfaction by many with the Church's unimaginative treatment of what happens when one dies. Views of the afterlife (even heaven) as somewhat boring and stagnant.

6. Scholarly re-examination of the reasons why the Church once condemned reincarnation, and whether it could be philosophically and theologically tenable to accept the idea of rebirth without confusing it with the general resurrection on the last day.

------------

I've been caught in the middle of some of this for years, not wanting to impose my views upon spiritual directees, but feeling an obligation to say something when it seems to me that they're taking this much too seriously and that it's determining some of their decisions.

But I'm open to listening and dialoguing, and invite others to share their ideas, opinions and even experiences relevant to this topic.

What do you believe? Can a Christian believe in reincarnation? Why? Why not? What difference does it make?

Phil
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Report This Post
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What do you believe? Can a Christian believe in reincarnation? Why? Why not? What difference does it make?

To facilitate discussions (and for those who would be cursorily dismissive), I refer you to the esteemed University of Virginia where some compelling evidence for reincarnation has been uncovered by Ian Stevenson, M.D.,
Carlson Professor of Psychiatry and
Director, Division of Personality Studies
at the University of Virginia Health System,
Department of Psychiatric Medicine,
Division of Personality Studies, url =
Ian Stevenson, M.D.

I think a Christian, who studies these issues carefully and conscientiously and who, for reasons of conscience, responsibly dissents from orthodox positions, can believe in reincarnation without compromising their relationship to Jesus or their denomination. Personally, I'm agnostic on this issue but very curious Roll Eyes

respectfully,
KiKi
 
Posts: 2881 | Registered: 25 August 2001Report This Post
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Personally, I'm agnostic on this issue but very curious

That's pretty much where I am, too.

I've been aware of Ian Stevenson's work for some time and am impressed with his scholarship.

There are many, many books on reincarnation out there. A brief search at Amazon.com yielded 907 results, with titles like, Adventures Beyond the Body: Exploring Your Past Lives, and Many Lives, Many Masters.

The scientist in me must acknowledge the reality of this empirical data called past life reports. But one thing I wonder about is if reincarnation is the only way to account for this data. Might there not be other explanations? How might one be able to differentiate between, say, a past life that was really lived by an individual, and a disembodied spirit projecting its memory of its past life into an individual's psyche?

Your thoughts, KiKi and others?

Phil
 
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How might one be able to differentiate between, say, a past life that was really lived by an individual, and a disembodied spirit projecting its memory of its past life into an individual's psyche?

methinks you've stumped the panel but i'll let you know if anything's channelled this way Cool
QuiQui
 
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How might one be able to differentiate between, say, a past life that was really lived by an individual, and a disembodied spirit projecting its memory of its past life into an individual's psyche?

Okay - it has come to me now Wink as I resonated morphically in my bed ---->

Arraj (there he is again) has a book Mystery of Matter in which he discusses Aquinas and Aristotle (them again) and the theoretical physicist, Bohm, and his views on indeterminacy and nonlocality; and also the bilogist, Sheldrake, and his views on morphic resonance and formative causation (what Haught calls non-energetic causation)---

SO, anyway, long story short, I think I would lean toward a theory of reincarnation that suggests one could experience via "morphic fields" (a la Sheldrake) the associated memories of another person.

Note: Isn't it interesting that Bohm, a former associate of Einstein and theoretical physicist, was also a close friend of Krishnamurti?

good day,
QuiQui
 
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Yes, KiKi, I think morphogenetic fields might be one way to account for an objective foundation for such memories. Perhaps the various fields and "belts" that some psychics like Edgar Cayce were able to access might be understood as such.

Very interesting!

Only . . . we should recognize the fact that some people with past lives claim to have a very definite sense of a self that was continuous throughout these lives. For them, it's not simply a memory, but their memory, as my memories of my life are of a different and ineffable quality than other kinds. This is the part that strongly suggests reincarnation, and I'm not sure how else to explain it.

Of course, we should recognize that even within this life, where we're all sure about what we've done and said Wink , there is room for doubt. Recall the young man who accused Cardinal Bernadin of molesting him as a result of memories jogged in therapy, only to later deny the whole thing?

Memory is a tricky business, is it not?

Phil

(very busy day; will read your other posts and reply tonight or tomorrow)
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Report This Post
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Seeing that this is a Christian board, I find it hard to believe that no one has addressed one of the most common possibilities with this issue: Satan.

But then again, some, even Christians, have dismissed Satan and how much power he is capable of.

If you believe in the existence of Satan and his power, ESPECIALLY as the "Deceiver", is it not possible that Satan can show reincarnation as being true. I, personally, would not put it past Satan to make someone believe they have psychic powers, or an out of body experience, or even past life experiences.

Does Satan have the power to do this? He is the "Deceiver". Yes, I believe so.

Again this is only a possibility. I am not trying to dismiss Phil's or anyone else's comments.
 
Posts: 3 | Registered: 29 August 2001Report This Post
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You're right, Neo.

While we're considering possibilities for explaining the phenomenon of past life recalls, Satanic deception is one item that should not be omitted from consideration. Satan might see this as a way to make people think that THEY and not their Redeemer need to right the karmaic strikes against them. Satan could also see this as an opportunity to distract people from the business of this life by making them too preoccupied with past lives.

Not that I'm necessarily a proponent of this theory, but it does have as much merit as other explanations--except, perhaps, reincarnation itself.

One interesting note, folks, is that all the major religions that believe in reincarnation don't seem to place much stress on finding out what your past lives actually were. Hinduism and Buddhism, for example, accept reincarnation as a way to work out karmaic consequences, but they don't really advocate that one get involved with all that. They actually discourage it, and Buddha believed you could go all the way to enlightenment in this very lifetime.

FWIW.

Phil
 
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One major problem I have with reincarnation is that it seems to assume that you can have more than one body with one soul. This view of the body as a somewhat accidental vehicle of the soul would seem to contradict at least the Catholic teaching, which views a person as an integrated union between body and soul. The soul is embodied, and the body is the physical expression of the soul. I don't see how reincarnation can ever be compatible with that. Besides, it's already been formally condemned by a number of Church councils.

Chris
 
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Chris and Neo raise good points here.

Chris re: body-soul relationship and Neo re: Satanic influence. I often think of Ignatian discernment of spirits as applying to these types of discussions.

Also, even if phenomena akin to morphogenetic resonance and associated memory fields come into play, it would seem that the sharing of one's thoughts must remain volitional, part of an individual's integrity of body-soul. IOW, any sharing of thoughts or memories should require channeling, telepathy or some energetic projection (a purposeful transmitting) by said individual and not one's mere grasping of another's thoughts and memories that happen to be floating around in some morphogenetic reality.

Phil's point about the Eastern traditions suggesting that such phenomena be left alone seems to match the counsel in our tradition where St. John of the Cross, Ignatius and others caution against experience-seeking, precisely because discernment is difficult.

Successive ensoulments, on the other hand, might not be so very different ontologically than what we'll experience in the resurrection which will include a glorified human body. One can see where this wouldn't cause the Hindu any ontological fits as pantheism wouldn't admit to such a problem? Roll Eyes

shalom,
QuiQui
 
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quote:
Originally posted by QuiEst:
[qb]Successive ensoulments, on the other hand, might not be so very different ontologically than what we'll experience in the resurrection which will include a glorified human body. One can see where this wouldn't cause the Hindu any ontological fits as pantheism wouldn't admit to such a problem? Roll Eyes [/qb]


Qui, I don't think resurrection is quite the same as re-ensoulment, which would be another way of saying re-incarnation. Resurrection is more than regaining a different physical body, as I'm sure you know. As we can see from the resurrection of Jesus, the resurrected body is not a new one, but a divinization of the body one possessed before. Jesus still has his wounds!

What this says to me is that the there is something about life in a body that "shapes" a soul, so that if the soul is to be re-clothed in matter, it will assume something of the form it developed during its earthly sojourn. In the unique case of Jesus, his resurrected body still has the marks of the wounds made on his physical body: wounds which were not merely physical, but which also touched his soul. When his soul is raised up in the Spirit and given the capacity again for interaction in the physical realm (among many others), the "body" in which he appears bears the marks of these wounds, only they are channels now through which the energy of Spirit flows.

This is not, by the way, too very different from what some of the proponents of reincarnation say, only they are talking about re-ensoulment rather than divinized transformation. But they do say, for example, that if one died tragically--from a gunshot wound, say--the scar of that wound will show up on the next body. There are "past-life" accounts of people who reported being shot in the center of the forehead and a slight scar was found there; when the head was shaved, the scar of the exit wound was found as well. Some believe birthmarks might be the result of such tragic endings. I myself has a huge birthmark on my abdomen, and have had innumerable dreams of battling the Nazis as a French soldier in WW II--complete with all the fear and terror! I've also had dreams of explosions all around us as we moved in a caravan to a new area. Are there other explanations for the dream besides past-life? Of course, and I'm not short on those. But, given this scar, my birth date just a few years after the war . . . I've wondered.

Chris' point about one body, one soul needs to be explored more deeply, for it has always been the great stumbling block in Christianity. More on this one later. Anyone have any ideas?

Phil
 
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Phil wrote: there is something about life in a body that "shapes" a soul, so that if the soul is to be re-clothed in matter, it will assume something of the form it developed during its earthly sojourn

I really liked the way you expressed that idea above.

The extrapolations of the post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus are very problematical to me, once considering some of the hideous ways human beings' bodies have been destroyed in the past century --- at various distances from ground zero, for instance, near Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Whatever literally happens to body-soul, the great metanarratives all seem to give us some consolation of a progression toward wholeness --- I do prefer the idea of wholeness in a highly differentiated manner, where our personhoods remain intact, to alternative ideas which seem to suggest some type of highly undifferentiated nirvana.

I take great consolation in the Creator's interest in MY particular created form - including my origin, ground, support and destiny in Eternity and I like, again, your re-clothing metaphor a la St. Paul and our robe of resplendent glory. It is indeed a great mystery but we can believe that scars and all we will show forth His glory!

Thanks,
QuiKi
 
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I had written Also, even if phenomena akin to morphogenetic resonance and associated memory fields come into play, it would seem that the sharing of one's thoughts must remain volitional, part of an individual's integrity of body-soul. IOW, any sharing of thoughts or memories should require channeling, telepathy or some energetic projection (a purposeful transmitting) by said individual and not one's mere grasping of another's thoughts and memories that happen to be floating around in some morphogenetic reality.

I was not totally comfortable with what I wrote above because it seemed to run counter to other intuitions about morphogenetic fields and the implicate/explicate order of things. So, I dug deeper.

I am pleased to share the following from Peter Kreeft's Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Heaven:
quote:
Everything that has ever happenned, every thought and deed of every person, must be known, open, available to everyone in Heaven.


He goes on to explain why no one need feel threatened by this fact as he explores both the epistemology and ethics of heaven. Kreeft is no lightweight. His philosophical, metaphysical and theological speculations are sound (he's a Philosophy professor at Boston College).

At any rate, there are metaphysical implications regarding the deep structure of matter and an implicate order at quantum levels of reality that would help to explain some reincarnation experiences, telepathy, psychic experiences, etc that would seem to hang together pretty well if what Kreeft says is true. All of this is especially true once combining Kreefts speculations (from an entirely different context) with those of biologists like Sheldrake, physicists like Bohm, Thomists like Arraj, etc

Well, I just had to leave this footnote. I feel like it recovers some metaphysical ground which I had lost with my under-informed speculation.

Pretty Cool if you are in to this stuff, which I appreciate is a tad esoteric Eeker

shalom,
KiKi
 
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You're quite right, KiKi. Peter Kreeft is no lightweight, and his book on heaven has a lot more meat in it that that catchy title lets on.

I know you weren't recruiting Kreeft's theology to open a door to reincarnation, but let me just say that I'm sure he wouldn't go for it. I don't know how he would explain the kinds of phenomena that seem to point to reincarnation, and you and Phil still haven't replied to my earlier objection that it seems incompatible with the Catholic view of one body/one soul.

I think the explanation of channeling/demonic projections is a promising explanation, as is a deeper investigation into the phenomena of memory. If it can be shown that not all psychic contents are "personal" (as indeed Jung and others have demonstrated), then maybe there's a deep level where the unconscious opens into a kind of racial memory which includes highly charged memories of other individuals' lives. Maybe there's nothing especially "personal" about memory anyway?

Don't know how to account for bullet-hole scars showing up in a next life, but it would seem that a powerful memory could affect physiological development. That's a pretty amazing story, however.

When reality comes into conflict with doctrine, then doctrine must adjust to deal with this new situation. I'm not sure we've come to that point yet with regard to Christian doctrine and reincarnation (although it wouldn't sadden me if the perpetrators of those terrible acts of violence in New York and Washington were reincarnated as untouchables in India).

Chris
 
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Chris wrote: "You're quite right, KiKi. Peter Kreeft is no lightweight, and his book on heaven has a lot more meat in it that that catchy title lets on. I know you weren't recruiting Kreeft's theology to open a door to reincarnation, but let me just say that I'm sure he wouldn't go for it. I don't know how he would explain the kinds of phenomena that seem to point to reincarnation, and you and Phil still haven't replied to my earlier objection that it seems incompatible with the Catholic view of one body/one soul.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Hi, Chris. Yes, Peter Kreeft only rescued, for me, an alternative explanation to phenomena that get reported as being reincarnational. Even at that, that explanation would be purely speculative, you know, the one regarding morphogenetic fields and morphic resonance, and not provable pre-eschatologically. It pretty much dispensed with much of the reincarnational phenomena for me but, as Phil points out, there is still a body of incredibly compelling evidence.

Phil also pointed out, if my recollection is correct (and maybe not in this forum), that reincarnation is not compatible with Church doctrine. How it would theoretically work with the one body/one soul doctrine, I haven't given any thought to. My first blush is that someone could confabulate something using one of the many modern day monisms (but highly nuanced, at that) and that they might could shoehorn something into existing philosophical/metaphysical frameworks. That is out of my league Frowner

Be well!
KiKi
 
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Reincarnation - the ultimate Earth-friendly form of recycling? But seriously...

If our soul is already eternal then it could certainly be dipped into earthly form by the Creator more than once in order to further the lessons we are to learn, particularly if you believe our existence is a form of learning in the first place.
 
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- double post -

sorry!
 
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Wow! This thread and this forum are really taking off! Much nicer than the old forum, which I used to lurk around from time to time. Congratulations, Phil! You've got a winner here.

If our soul is already eternal then it could certainly be dipped into earthly form by the Creator more than once in order to further the lessons we are to learn, particularly if you believe our existence is a form of learning in the first place.

This is an appealing idea, Brad, only there are a few objections from the "Christian perspective" (not that I'm the spokesperson for or anything Smiler )

First, in Christianity, the soul is not eternal. Only God is eternal. The soul is immortal; it has a beginning, but will live forever because it is a spirit and not subject to the laws of the material universe (like entropy, for example). An immortal soul could be reincarnated, however, so your point in that regard stands.

Secondly, the purpose of reincarnation in the East is not to learn lessons, but to eventually become freed from cycle of birth, karma, suffering, etc. So the "lessons" here have to be qualified as "in the service of enlightenment, nirvana," or whatever term is used. Once this liberation is realized, there is no more need for reincarnation, although the bodhidarma chooses to return to help others.

In Christianity, it is held that the karmaic debt has been paid by Christ. To join oneself to him in faith is to receive the grace of liberation/resurrection won by him even in this life, and continuing in the next and forever more. No need for reincarnation--not even by Hindus, as He paid the debt for them as well.

There there is the issue of the body/soul union in Christianity. Our philosophers have so emphasized that body is an integral part of person and not an accidental manifestation of soul that it's 'pert near impossible to say, "one soul, many bodies." Such an affirmation would be tantamount to someone saying that a butterfly that doesn't emerge can have another larval stage until they get it right. One egg=one larvae=one chrysalis stage=one butterfly (if it gets that far).

So what happens to all these trillions of people who live pretty uninteresting lives and don't seem to learn much from it if they aren't re-incarnated?

My guess is that there are other levels of being in the universe where learning and growing can continue. Perhaps our life on earth is just the first stage of a rocket, and some people don't get off the ground very far, but the fact that they are born and live and die DOES get them off the ground into something like a "chrysalis stage." Where it goes from there is a great mystery. Should be interesting.

Chris
 
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What a fascinating discussion! I am such a novice at all of this that I am almost afraid to add anything. Perhaps some of this could be explained by the words from John 14:20 "In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you." Perhaps through Christ we are all united to each other, perhaps in a more experiential way than we consciously realize.
 
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What a fascinating discussion! I am such a novice at all of this that I am almost afraid to add anything.

And yet your comments were very good indeed, Wanda. I believe we are all united in Christ in the depth of our being. This is what philosophers might call the "ontological situation." Whether it is consciously experienced or acknowledged is another matter.

Chris, I concede all the points you make about Christ "paying the karmaic debt" and the Christian Tradition's insistence on "one body, one soul." I think those points need to be emphasized in a discussion on this issue, and that there is probably no getting around them. Only, I still do wonder how one might account for past life recall and other phenomena that advocates of reincarnation use to make their case. That's all.

Phil
 
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- from Anne -
Transferred from another thread in another forum.


The teachings of the Catholic Church do not support the idea of reincarnation. But some
of the stories you hear about people and their past lives can be pretty convincing.
I think about this from time to time. Suppose I really did have some past lives? Suppose I really did believe in reincarnation? How would information about my past lives change how I would live my life? What would be the advantage of knowing about my past lives? What good would it do me??

Also.....doesn't the Catholic Church teach that people who are psychics are in partnership with the devil? Still, there are some psychics who seem to be using their "gifts" in order to help people. So
how can you label them all as "evil."

I know....I know......I've seen too many
episodes of "Unsolved Mysteries"....right?
I'm not really hung up on either of these issues.....I just wonder about them sometimes. It's hard for me to totally rule out the possibility of such things, even though I know that these ideas go very much against the teachings of my Church.

Anne
 
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Hi again, Anne.

I think you'll find all kinds of good sharing on this thread in the posts above relevant to some of the points you're making.

One part that hasn't been said, however, is that psychics are not necessarily doing the devil's bidding. It seems that psychic gifts are part of our natural human endowment, only they're better developed in some people than in others. There's also an awful lot of fraud in this area, but we don't need the devil to explain that one either. Wink Unredeemed human nature will suffice!

And so you're right about some psychics using their gifts for good. That's true. But it's not always easy to tell who the "good guys" are in this field.

Hope this helps.

Phil
 
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- from Anne -
Transferred from another thread in another forum.[/b]

The teachings of the Catholic Church do not support the idea of reincarnation. But some
of the stories you hear about people and their past lives can be pretty convincing.
I think about this from time to time. Suppose I really did have some past lives? Suppose I really did believe in reincarnation? How would information about my past lives change how I would live my life? What would be the advantage of knowing about my past lives? What good would it do me??

Also.....doesn't the Catholic Church teach that people who are psychics are in partnership with the devil? Still, there are some psychics who seem to be using their "gifts" in order to help people. So
how can you label them all as "evil."

I know....I know......I've seen too many
episodes of "Unsolved Mysteries"....right?
I'm not really hung up on either of these issues.....I just wonder about them sometimes. It's hard for me to totally rule out the possibility of such things, even though I know that these ideas go very much against the teachings of my Church.

Anne[/QB][/QUOTE]


Anne,

I think, but I'm not sure, that Jeane Dixon is a devout Catholic and also a prophet and seer. Can anyone correct me on this one?

Edgar Cayce, the famous psychic healer, was a respected Sunday school teacher
(Presbyterian, I think) who read his Bible numerous times.

I've also known of psychics who use their gifts as psychic detectives to find missing children. Also, many Catholic saints have recorded psychic experiences along the way.
Levitation, visions, etc. are all part and parcel of the 'lights on' mystical experiences in the Church.

The key point is not to get caught up in the experiences or think they are the final destination in the spiritual journey. They are not. They can also take one on side trips that delay one's arrival at the final destination and inflate one's ego to no end.
They are gifts and should be seen as such and used with caution.

qt
 
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Thanks Phil, for referring me to this thread.
There was lots of good sharing. I'm relieved to know that others have also struggled with this issue. Some of the reincarnation stories are just too convincing to totally dismiss. However, like you, Phil, I considered the possibility that other human beings could possibly be sending their "memories" to another person's consciousness....ie telepathy or something.

Also, it was good to know that Hindus and Buddhists don't advocate digging around in past life stuff. This makes sense to me.
It may sound cool to be able to talk about your past lives.....but I don't really see how the information can be that beneficial in one's present life. It may explain things somewhat, but improve things?? I dunno.

And yes......the discussion about psychics was very helpful to me. I'm glad that we don't have to assume that they are all working with the devil. As you said Phil,
the problem is to know which ones can be trusted.

Anne
 
Posts: 172 | Location: Missouri | Registered: 10 August 2001Report This Post
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Hi folks, new to board. Upon reading an old bit I noticed something worth commenting. The old bit was:

One major problem I have with reincarnation is that it seems to assume that you can have more than one body with one soul. This view of the body as a somewhat accidental vehicle of the soul would seem to contradict at least the Catholic teaching, which views a person as an integrated union between body and soul. The soul is embodied, and the body is the physical expression of the soul. I don't see how reincarnation can ever be compatible with that. Besides, it's already been formally condemned by a number of Church councils.

In the Catholic Church, some more publicly-minded writers-Thomas Carlyle for example-referred to the manner of expression each age uses to explain itself through lanugage as a set of clothes. Using this anology, Carlyle went on to suggest that the church changes its clothes frequently. In that vein, I'd suggest that the appearance of a soul through a body is an existential set of clothes. It's the sort of thing where "the souls remain the same, although the bodies have been changed to protect the innocent." At any rate, the individual being can be changed without losing its essence; translation: a soul can use another body without becoming another soul.
 
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