My reading (and occasionally hearing first-hand accounts) about NDE’s exposed me to the idea of reincarnation. Time-wise we’re talking about the nineties now. Not very many NDE’s broached the subject of reincarnation, but enough to cause me to sit up and take notice.
My initial response was that there’s got to be a way to explain this that does not necessitate a belief in reincarnation, or past lives. I wasn’t sure how, but I felt sure there was an answer there somewhere. After all, scripture says we are, “. . . appointed . . . to die once, and after that comes judgment . . .” (Heb 9.27).
There were too many questions about reincarnation. For one thing, the logistics don’t make sense! Given the population explosion in the last century, there do not seem to be enough people having lived in the past for everyone alive today to come from a previous life.
Furthermore, if we die, and then are reborn, what’s to say we don’t go back and forth in time? Like maybe when I die as Dennis in this life, I might go back to live a life in prehistoric China or something! And if that’s so, then what’s to prevent me from believing that all of our individual lives, all the people living today, are just one being, having lived over and over and over, going back and forth in time, and each time living a different life? It was too complicated. My little brain just could not comprehend all this! There had to be another answer!
As we moved into the 21st century, I sort of kept this concept on the back burner. But I found myself gradually becoming more and more used to the idea that we quite possibly have lived lives in the past. One day, I ran across some research done at a U.S. university which studied reports of children who would talk, at very young ages, about previous lives they had lived.
The researchers found such reports from many cultures and from many belief systems. Although these children’s stories were more prevalent in places where reincarnation was an accepted part of life and faith, accounts came from a wide spectrum of cultures. In places where reincarnation was a belief, this could easily be explained by the fact that children’s stories of having lived other lives would be listened to seriously in that culture and not be dismissed as childish fantasies.
But more telling was the fact that many of these children’s stories came from the U.S. and other cultures where reincarnation was definitely not part of the prevailing belief system. Fascinating stuff, and in a form not easy to ignore.
Then one day my brother Wesley, my dear, conservative-minded brother, not naturally given to exploration of the spirit, generally content to live life without much questioning, sent me the name of a book I should read. “You cannot read this book without believing in reincarnation,” he said. And it was this book that pushed me over the edge. Another way to put this: God pulled me kicking and screaming into believing in past lives!
The book which became the final answer for me was Soul Survivor, by Bruce and Andrea Leininger. It is an account of their son, James, who, at age two, began having nightmares where he would wake up kicking and screaming about being burned. Upon advice from their doctor, the parents began allowing him to go through these nightmares–while standing by, watching and listening, not waking him up. At times during the day Andrea would ask her son what he was playing, and he came up with things he had no previous experience of in this life. He named names of companions which were not typical childhood names. He named a ship he had flown an airplane off of. He named the type of airplane he had flown.
Andrea came very quickly to the conclusion that her son was experiencing a life he had lived in the past. Bruce was more difficult to convince. I could readily identify! The Leiningers were conservative, fundamentalist Christians, and Bruce just could not reconcile his beliefs with the idea that his son was the reincarnation of someone else. Soul Survivor is essentially the story of a father’s struggle to explain his son’s visions in some way other than reincarnation.
Bruce began compiling information on the bits and pieces coming from his son’s dreams. The family’s entire house became an archive of material. Since the material from James’ recollections was not in any sort of logical or chronological order, Bruce’s research took a lot of time. But after several years Bruce came to the conclusion that there just was no other explanation for his son’s knowledge than that James had lived the life of a U.S. World War II pilot in the Pacific who had been shot down.
Bruce and Andrea were able to contact surviving members of this former pilot’s military group, and took their son to a reunion. He was able to tell others at this reunion details of his previous life which no one could have known. The Leiningers were able to contact a surviving sister of the downed pilot. She also, after visiting with James, unreservedly accepted the idea that this child (now around eight years old or so) was her brother reincarnated. The family went to the island where James had been shot down, and he could remember some of the geography of the area. They dropped a rose into the water at the very spot where his plane, in a previous life, had gone down in flames.
Well, what could I do? I either had to accept that this boy was a reincarnated World War II pilot, or I had to dismiss the father’s story as so much baloney. Given my predilection toward respect for others, acceptance, and so on, I could not do that sort of violence to these people. Their story was entirely credible from every angle. They were not seeking fame or reward for this incredible story. They just wanted to help their child through these dreams, help him come to terms with who he had been in another life. In this way, they were like any other parent. They loved their son so much that they wanted to help him understand. I could not dismiss their story without seriously disrespecting them as people.
So, there I was. I now believed in the truth of reincarnation. What next? The first result of crossing this hurdle was that so much of what I read took on new meaning. And this included scripture. I was able to view scriptures I had known all my life with new eyes. And that, as any spiritual seeker knows, is an exhilarating place to be! I no longer had to be uptight about how my new understanding of truth fit into my old understanding of truth. I was at a place where I did not know how this reconciled. But I was also at a place where it didn’t matter much that it didn’t reconcile. True, I continued, and continue to this day, to mull all this over, and wonder how it fits, but I realize that it is not up to me to make sure it fits. Somehow, God’s truth, in all its forms, will be consistent in the end. It is not my duty to force it into consistency!
I will come back to where this thread has led me in more recent times. But I want to deal with another significant thread in my life which was occurring about this same time. As alluded to in the previous paragraph, I was beginning to trust God more and more as he was leading me into truth and not worrying my poor little head about the details. In other words, I was learning to trust that God knew what he was doing, and that he knew where he was leading me.