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Did Jesus Teach Reincarnation?

The Case for Reincarnation

There are no known limits to personal expression. Whatever you believe you can be, you can be.

Yet, all that we accomplish must unfold according to spiritual principle. Even the most elaborate dream finds expression through the timeless formula of

thought —> feeling —> word —> action —> reaction

We may experience rapid growth at one point in life and mind-numbing inertia at another point in life. But whether you move through experience swiftly or slowly, you still move from thought to feeling to word to action to reaction.

Sometimes you may move so slowly that you wonder whether you will have time to accomplish all that lies in your heart. Are we not meant to express all that lies within our hearts to do? Or, could there be another possible explanation for how we are the release the treasure that has been housed in these earthen vessels?

Reincarnation may provide a plausible explanation for how it is that we may become perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect.

Does Jesus Say Anything About Reincarnation?

Jesus never explicitly taught reincarnation. However, our Gospels contain several instances where Jesus appears to allow for the belief in reincarnation. Let’s look at those instances:

Matthew 11:13-14 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John came; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.

Speaking of John the Baptist, Jesus calls him the reincarnation of Elijah. Now, one may argue that Jesus spoke metaphorically. But what evidence do we have that his statement should be considered metaphor and not explicit declaration?

Mark 9:11-13 Then they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” He said to them, “Elijah is indeed coming first to restore all things. How then is it written about the Son of Man, that he is to go through many sufferings and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written about him.”

In this passage, Jesus makes the claim about John the Baptist even more explicit. “It would be hard to state any more clearly that John the Baptist was the reincarnation of Elijah” (Butterworth).

Before we consider what to do with these two verses, let us consider a few more.

Matthew 16:13-15 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Emphasis for this passage has always been placed on Peter’s response to Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” Let us back up and notice that Jesus does not confirm or reject this obvious belief in reincarnation.

For someone who easily denounced that which he felt passionately against, Jesus remains curiously quiet on reincarnation. Instead, he presses for an understanding of how his disciples see him.

John 9:1-3 As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.

Jesus does not reject the idea of reincarnation, which may mean that he accepted it or at least was open-minded about it. Let us keep in mind that Jesus is not a character who refuses to speak against that which he does not believe or support. We have plenty of instances where he speaks against a teaching or a belief. But on the subject of reincarnation, when it is presented to him, Jesus remains silent.

Scholars tell us that we can consider his relative silence in a couple of ways:

  1. Even though reincarnation is a widely held belief in his lifetime, Jesus never takes a position on reincarnation; or,
  2. The belief in reincarnation was so common and widely accepted that Jesus had no reason to comment for or against it.

Do My Past Lives Matter?

I agree with Eric Butterworth, the only thing that impacts your future is the seed you sow today. Launching into an in-depth search for who you may have been in a past life may reveal some interesting facts. But none of what you uncover will make your life better today. The only thing to improve your present condition will be a positive action taken in the present moment.

You may have been a queen and held land in multiple countries but unless you act in a queenly way right now, you can be certain that you shall not lay claim to any kingdom.

“The life you once lived can only be found in the life you now express. You could conceivably find a long chain of tombstones and possessions and niches in history, but the wave has moved…Launching into an ‘age-regression’ search into our past could conceivably produce evidence of a past life or lives, but it could not really tell me anything about the moving projection of life into visibility that passed through each point and is now manifest as me” (Butterworth).

So, do your past lives matter? In my opinion, they do not. What matters is the same thing that has always mattered: What thought are you thinking right now? What action are you taking right now? What feeling is most dominant in your soul right now?

Everything turns on this present moment.

So, Why Talk About Reincarnation If My Past Life Does Not Matter?

Perhaps we should not think of reincarnation as this big thing that one must understand; but rather we should consider it the process by which we fulfill Jesus’ command that we be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.

In Matthew 5:48, Jesus reveals the purpose of life: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” When you consider the way life flows, the often snail-like pace at which consciousness unfolds, how else would we be able to fulfill this daunting edict?

I do not ask that you accept or reject reincarnation.

Your ability to manifest does not rest in your willingness to accept this concept as a belief. As Charles Fillmore says, “The study of reincarnation is not profitable to the study of higher thought…Not what you have been but what you now are is the issue.”

What Fascinates Me About Reincarnation

Before I close this post, I will share with you what helped me develop an ease with this topic.

I first began studying New Thought in 1997. At that time, I had no openness to the topic of reincarnation and was quite pleased to discover that no one asked me to accept reincarnation as a tenet of the faith.

In fact, I was told quite the opposite through books and teachers: “Do not believe simply because you heard me say it. Believe only because it is true for you.”

So, for years, I taught over and around reincarnation. I only addressed it if it came up in a chapter for a book that I was teaching. Other than that, I left the topic alone.

A few years ago, Rev. Della used to host a class on Wednesday nights in her home. One night she read to the class from a book (that she never identified and refused to share) about the topic of reincarnation. What she read created the first opening in my heart for this topic and I have since come to believe that we just may reincarnate.

What I Heard That Changed My Mind About Reincarnation

I should mention that, at this point in my spiritual journey, I have an unshakable belief in spiritual principle and universal law. I know that God is unchanging, that you reap what you sow, and that everything in the 3-dimensional world has its opposite. So, up has down; left has right; in has outmale has female.

Because God is unchanging, this thing of opposites repeats across all of life. Everything in the 3-dimensional world works on this ebb and flow cycle. So, for death to be the final expression of experience would mean that it would be the one outlier in all of experience.

Essentially, the question the book posed is whether there could be in a perfectly balanced universe, organized by an unchanging Universal Presence, a circumstance where you would have one thing — life — that did not have its corresponding counterpart — in this case, death.

For life and death not to move in the same way that in and out, up and down, left and right move, it would mean that it was the only outlier in this infallible, unchanging, consistent kingdom. That was the first time I heard something that made me say, “Hmmm…”

So, I opened my mind to reincarnation. I won’t say that I believe in reincarnation but I no longer hold the rigid position against reincarnation that I once held.

 

The Resurrection Revisited: An Alternative Point of View

Rethinking Jesus’ Resurrection

Last week I asked you to consider Judas in a new light. This week I ask you to consider Jesus’ resurrection in a new light. You don’t have to put away your understanding of the resurrection and what it represents for you. Instead, I will ask as my spiritual mother, Rev. Della always does: “Have you thought about it this way?”

(The backdrop for this conversation will be Chapter 16 in Discover the Power Within You by Eric Butterworth: “The Great Demonstration.”)

Whether or not you believe in the resurrection, we can probably agree that something happened. More than 2,000 years have passed and we are still talking about that something. Whatever happened, it was powerful enough to keep the conversation going for centuries.

Today, I want to explore that something beyond the traditional ways we have been taught to think of Jesus’ resurrection. I want to play in a new spiritual dimension.

Thinking in a New Spiritual Dimension

The resurrection does not make sense to the mind that sees only in three dimensions. We overreach when we consider Jesus’ last moments in a corporeal body according to the laws of our physical universe.

Just as “we wouldn’t expect to understand calculus until we had learned to add two plus two and multiply three times three” (Butterworth), let us consider that the resurrection represents spiritual law working at a much higher level of consciousness than we now operate.

The real question to be asked is not whether the resurrection happened but rather how we should think about this reported event.

Here’s the thing: No one can say with certainty that any of the reported events in our Bible happened as written.

But we can look at the fruit and draw some reasonable conclusions. Whatever happened 2,000 years ago, it resonated so deeply within the collective human consciousness that we shifted our entire dating system. We now speak of time according to the era before Jesus was born and the era after his birth.

Clearly, something happened.

Seeing In a New Spiritual Dimension

To be “born again” is an interesting phenomenon because “when we are ‘born again,’ nothing really happens to us in a three-dimensional sense. Everything is really the same, but we see it differently, we see in a new spiritual dimension” (Butterworth).

Isn’t that what makes it so difficult to explain your awakening to friends and family? Outwardly, you are the same person. You live in the same house, you drive the same car, and you work the same job. So, to those who know you, you are the same person.

But you are not the same.

As you grow in your awakening, the way you see the world continues to change until one day you wake up and the people you believed were closest to you seem the farthest away. You still love them; they still love you. But, you’re different because you see differently.

It is at this point that you need the courage to keep walking your spiritual path without giving into the temptation toward self-righteousness. Most people turn back. They cannot see clearly where the road leads and the fear of walking alone causes them to withdraw their gaze from the spiritual realm and start looking at the world again.

Traveling in a New Spiritual Dimension

For most people — including so-called New Thought Christians — the resurrection represents a concept to think about during the Spring of each year. We go to church and spend an hour hearing about this exciting event from 2,000 years ago.

But nothing in us changes.

A modern equivalent might be “contemplating for one day the mysteries of calculus without ever having conditioned ourselves to understand the basic two plus two. We take out our calculus book and we read it over (with no real comprehension) and we say, ‘It is so beautiful.’ Then we return it to the high place on the bookshelf where it will remain for another year. We tell ourselves that it was a wonderful experience to think about it for a day” (Butterworth).

Most people stop when they find themselves worlds apart in consciousness from family and friends. Let me invite you to continue traveling in this new spiritual dimension. Do not be afraid to come up a little higher. Do not shy away from reaching for the greater part.

Understanding the Resurrection in a New Spiritual Dimension

While we are still mastering the basics of arithmetic, calculus looks hard, even impossible. While we master the mundane aspects of life, moving beyond death to our own resurrection looks hard, even impossible.

But that does not mean it cannot be done.

With the resurrection, Jesus proved the Divinity of Humankind. He proved that life neither begins nor ends in the body. “The keynote of the Great Demonstration of Easter is that you are divine. No matter what you have thought of yourself, no matter what you have done in your life or with it, no matter how limited your experience has seemed to be — you are divine…The divinity of you is that of you that is eternal, ageless, deathless, whole and complete” (Butterworth).

In this new spiritual dimension, Jesus’ resurrection does not represent the impossible becoming possible, it proves what you and I can do right now. Do not be swayed by the seeming impossibility of it. Keep your head down and do the spiritual work in front of you today.

Loving Jesus in a New Spiritual Dimension

When Jesus “returned from the dead,” he proved more than the overcoming in his own life. When he got up, he proved that you and I can get up. And, if we love him, then we will get up. We will get up from the limited thinking that has heretofore held us back. We will get up from the belief that we are only human.

What I know for sure is that when you love someone deeply, it shows up in your behavior. Everything about you changes. How has your love for Jesus shown up in your life? What has changed in you? Are you still gazing at the cross and thinking about the resurrection, talking about how wonderful it is?

Or, are you putting one foot in front of the other to follow Jesus into this new spiritual dimension beyond time and space? Have you accepted that what he proved with his life, you, too, can accomplish?

Before you reach a thing, you must come to know that it is possible for you. Without the belief that it can be so, you have nothing to pull you forward, nothing to make you reach beyond where you are. In the new spiritual dimension, loving Jesus means reaching for our own overcoming; it means doing the spiritual work that will take us through our own cross and beyond.

Living in the New Spiritual Dimension

“We downgrade Jesus and the Great Demonstration when we think of the Easter ‘happening’ as a miracle of God instead of the revelation of the depth-potential of [humankind]” (Butterworth).

Chances are that if you’re reading this blog post, you’ve already traveled spiritually beyond the limits of your family and peers. For you, there is more to Christianity and living the Christian life than thinking about Jesus as Lord and Savior.

The average person thinks of life as a series of actions — being born, experiencing emotions, eating, drinking, growing up, getting married, sleeping, worrying, hating, fighting, hoarding, getting disappointed and finally dying. But you know that life holds more for you. You believe with Butterworth that “life is God and life is boundless.”

Well, then, you must also know that no one becomes a saint in his sleep.

Now is the appointed hour for you to do your spiritual work.

Recommit to your daily meditation and personal development. Re-establish your spiritual discipline if you have let it go. Take your eyes off the cross and do the work that will move you through your own cross.

Make your spiritual development your highest priority and let nothing forsake it.

Rethinking the Jesus/Judas Storyline

The Jesus/Judas storyline has been told and re-told so many times that it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction. The Gospel writers put so much emphasis on Judas’ betrayal that it can be difficult to discern the friendship that must have existed in order for them to come together so closely in the first place.

Imagine your closest friend — someone you’ve known forever. And, then think about a difficult period in your friendship. Maybe you said or did something that really hurt your friend. Or, maybe they did or said something that really hurt you. But you got past it. You moved beyond it.

Now imagine that someone retells the story of your deepest friendship. But they skip over all the lovely parts, all the ways you supported one another, all the ways you enjoyed life together and concentrated solely on the hurt that shifted the course of the friendship. Would that be a fair portrayal no matter how hurt you or your friend may be?

I want to rethink the Jesus/Judas storyline from a different point of view. Moving beyond the label of “murderer” or “betrayer,” I want to see if there’s something deeper for us to discern from their friendship that may not be obvious from the traditional approach to their friendship.

At the end, you do not have to accept my point of view. I only ask you what my spiritual teacher, Rev. Della, asked me: “Have you thought about it this way?”

Is There Another Way to See Judas?

Like all the disciples, Judas gave up everything to follow Jesus. When you study the verses that pertain to Judas, you grasp someone who had an obvious sophistication and intelligence. It is likely that he had to give up far more than the other disciples in order to follow Jesus. Yet, as John MacArthur points out in Twelve Ordinary Men, Judas is “the most notorious and universally scorned of all the disciples…His name appears last in every biblical list of apostles, except for the list in Acts 1, where it doesn’t appear at all. Every time Judas is mentioned in Scripture, we also find a notation about his being a traitor.”

Have you ever questioned this portrayal of Judas? What would happen if you moved beyond the narrator’s portrayal of Judas to see someone that Jesus felt comfortable enough to put in charge of the money? As a minister, I can tell you that I did not (and would not) choose someone I could not trust to be in charge of the money. And, I cannot name a minister who would knowingly put a thief and a traitor in charge of the money. My guess is that you won’t be able to come up with a name either.

Now, if we would not choose someone with questionable ethics to handle the money, why do we believe that Jesus — who had a superior understanding of human psychology — intentionally choose someone whose behavior might spell the end of his movement before it even began? If you want to change the world, you make choices that set you up for success, not failure.

Perhaps we need to look at Judas in a different light.

No One Knew Who Would Betray Jesus

None of the Gospels is an eyewitness account. Yet, our religious conditioning is so complete that we cannot hear the voice of the narrator walking us through the story. When we find the name Judas and the word “betrayer” always follows it, we accept it as a foregone conclusion as opposed to an opinion of the story’s narrator.

Consider this: “When Jesus, at that last supper in the upper room, said that one of the disciples would betray Him, instead of saying, “Who is it? Who would do such a thing?” they simply and meekly said, “Is it I, Lord? Is it I?” (Butterworth) If the other disciples considered Judas a potential betrayer, then Jesus’ announcement may have resulted in a Tyler Perry-esque moment where everyone turns to look in his direction.

But that is not what happened.

The people who lived with Judas while they studied with Jesus did not see him the way the narrator presents him. In fact, they each suspected themselves and worried that maybe one of them may have to play the role that none wanted to play.

Is it possible that Judas is not the despicable character we have been told he was? Is there room in your mind to see him as someone who made a poor choice that cost him everything — a choice that led to a series of consequences that he may not have intended?

Maybe Judas Intended a Different Result

You do not give up everything to follow someone unless that person awakens a zeal in your heart. In the Hebrew mind, there was a belief that God would soon intervene in the course of history and establish his kingdom on earth. When you get a charismatic teacher like Jesus who heals the sick, causes the blind to see, makes the lame to walk, compels the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak, it is not a far leap to see why someone with Judas’ sophistication would forsake everything to follow him.

Metaphysically, the “Satan” that enters Judas when the bread is passed to him by Jesus is the “ruling force of human consciousness” — what we might call the ego mind that can only think in material terms. Like the other disciples, Judas likely didn’t understand the spiritual nature of Jesus’ kingdom. Unfortunately, “the result was a materialistic and God-excluded plan, unwise, and completely inconsistent with Jesus’ goals” (Butterworth).

Have you ever made a choice, thinking that you were following or supporting the advice of your mentor, only to discover in the end that you misunderstood the mentor’s words entirely? I have.

Perhaps when Jesus told Judas, “You are the one,” he conceived his plan. “Sure — why not? I will simply betray Jesus to the Romans. This will force Him to use His powers in His own defense. I have seen evidence of that power used for others. This will spur Him to action, before it is too late.” That Jesus, even under the shadow of Roman torture and death, would refuse to invoke the wrath of God upon His persecutors, probably never occurred to the worldly-minded Judas” (Butterworth).

Judas Was Just Like Jesus

Most Christians carry the image of Judas as an evil and depraved man…beyond redemption.

Stop for a moment. Do not forget that “like attracts like.” Something in Judas had to match something in Jesus in order for them to be in the same space. Judas occupied a prominent role in Jesus’ inner circle.

We most resemble the people we keep closest to us. Perhaps Judas symbolizes us when we do not think our plans all the way through. Perhaps he didn’t calculate the possibility that his choice would spell the death of his beloved Master Teacher.

Have you ever made a choice that led to a set of unintended consequences?

We place so much attention on this one choice that Judas has borne the stigma of it throughout time. Does that seem reasonable to you? Would you want to be judged for your worst mistake without any consideration given to all the other choices you made in your life? Is that a theological position you believe you can hold in a spiritual practice steeped in compassion?

Something of Judas Lies In Each of Us

“There is something of Judas in you and me, and it is a very real influence in our lives. We believe in the things of the Spirit, but we desire the things of the flesh. Though we are all divine in potential, yet we often act the part of our  humanity. We frustrate our potentialities. We conceal our innate goodness. Thus we betray the Christ for the gratification of human desires” (Butterworth).

Consider the lesson of Jesus’ response to Judas. He never condemned Judas. The narrator of the story and the communities who studied Jesus’ life after his death may have condemned Judas. But you will never find a condemning word for Judas on the lips of Jesus.

That means something.

Consider also that Jesus did not attempt to circumvent the set of events Judas set in motion with his choice. He absolutely could have avoided capture as he had many times before. We find many passages in the Scripture that speak explicitly to Jesus’ ability to miss the evil others intend.

So, why allow himself to be “caught” this time? Perhaps there was a larger story unfolding and Judas only had a role to play — a role that no one in history would want to play, but only someone close to Jesus could play.

Metaphysically, Judas represented the sense consciousness, which must take itself out before the ultimate demonstration over circumstances can be made. Before you can ascend to higher heights, you must release your belief in and attachment to the lower level of life. You cannot have the greater and the lesser; you must choose.

In order for the Christ in you to manifest more fully, the Judas in you must fall away under the weight of its own false belief. This is not a one-time process but a cycle you move through every time you seek to come up a little higher.

My Call to Action for You

What part of you seeks the outer show of force? That’s the part of you that must “killed off.” That’s the part of you that must die under the weight of its own false belief. Anything that lasts must unfold according to spiritual law. Unless I AM builds the house, they labor in van.

There are circumstances in your life that you have the ability right now to rise above…to demonstrate over. But the Judas consciousness that believes in the material reality must die. Are you willing to let your closest held beliefs fall away in order to move into a higher level of living and being? If you’re ready, then say so!