Last month, Anon asked: “What do you feel about reincarnation?” Shortly thereafter, another Anon wrote, “What do you feel about reincarnation? I think the whole idea is kind of cool coming back again and again according to what you did in your lives times.” While I appreciate the question and comment, please keep in mind that reincarnation is not a Christian doctrine. Christ uses another word in talking about what happens to us after we die; it, too, starts with “re” an ends with “tion” – RESURRECTION.
My thoughts on reincarnation are the same as the Church’s thoughts: “There is no ‘reincarnation’ after death” (CCC, # 1013). If we have lived in Christ, there is resurrection after death. We don’t keep coming back to this life in different forms or as different people.
Reincarnation is not based in Scripture or Tradition. In fact, we read in the Letter to the Hebrews, “It is appointed for men to die once" (9:27). The Catechism explains further, “Death is the end of man's earthly pilgrimage, of the time of grace and mercy which God offers him so as to work out his earthly life in keeping with the divine plan, and to decide his ultimate destiny. When ‘the single course of our earthly life’ (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium #48) is completed, we shall not return to other earthly lives” (# 1013).
There have been statements made by different groups or individuals, especially those in the New Age movement like Shirley MacLaine, that the Bible as well as early Christians taught the doctrine of reincarnation. An online article that is pretty good debunks this; to view it, please click on the title of this post. It also includes teachings from some of the more prominent early Christians. I have included a few of my favorites below which show how nonsensical the doctrine of reincarnation is.
Gregory of Nyssa
"[I]f one should search carefully, he will find that their doctrine is of necessity brought down to this. They tell us that one of their sages said that he, being one and the same person, was born a man, and afterward assumed the form of a woman, and flew about with the birds, and grew as a bush, and obtained the life of an aquatic creature—and he who said these things of himself did not, so far as I can judge, go far from the truth, for such doctrines as this—of saying that one should pass through many changes—are really fitting for the chatter of frogs or jackdaws or the stupidity of fishes or the insensibility of trees" (The Making of Man 28:3 [A.D. 379]).
Ambrose of Milan
"It is a cause for wonder that though they [the heathen] . . . say that souls pass and migrate into other bodies. . . . But let those who have not been taught doubt [the resurrection]. For us who have read the law, the prophets, the apostles, and the gospel, it is not lawful to doubt" (Belief in the Resurrection 65–66 [A.D. 380]).
Basil the Great
"[A]void the nonsense of those arrogant philosophers who do not blush to liken their soul to that of a dog, who say that they have themselves formerly been women, shrubs, or fish. Have they ever been fish? I do not know, but I do not fear to affirm that in their writings they show less sense than fish" (The Six Days’ Work 8:2 [A.D. 393]).