Return to Home Page

Origin and Evolution of a Concept
of Continuing Life

David Kantor

This document should merely serve as a guide for your own study or a framework from which a study group on the topic might be prepared. Please edit and develop this as you see fit. All references are to the English Edition of The Urantia Book.

Introduction to the idea of reincarnation

  • Studying ideas about reality as contrasted with studying reality itself
    • Page 69; 4th indented paragraph, "The experience of God . . ."
  • Metaphysics -- "above physics"
    • Originated with Aristotle
    • The attempted extension of laws and patterns of observed reality to explain those aspects of reality which are not open to direct observation.
  • Cosmology -- "the study of the cosmos"
    • Used in contemporary culture primarily to refer to studies of astronomy and the physical cosmos.
    • The Urantia Book uses it to refer to the attempted philosophic integration of ideas derived from revelation with observations of the world.
  • A study of the topic of reincarnation must also include consideration of the following:
    • The nature of the soul
      • Is there a part of the human being which exists in either time or space separately from the material body?
      • Does the soul exist prior to birth into a material body?
      • Does the soul exist after the death of the material body?
      • Is there one soul in the universe or many?
      • What is the nature of the soul?
      • Are identity and selfhood real or are they conceptual illusions?
    • The nature of karma
      • Is the soul bound by natural law to the material universe?
      • How can the soul be freed from this bondage?
    • The cosmological context in which the soul exists
      • Is the universe a static existential reality, or is it dynamically evolving toward some goal?
      • How is the destiny of the soul related to the destiny of the universe?
    • The idea of reincarnation provides a viable solution to the problem of evil and inequality in the world.
  • The Cosmological Context -- Cycles of renewal vs. linear development -- See Eliade's "Myth of the Eternal Return"
    • Reality as static
    • Reality as cyclical, with an unending rise and fall of civilizations
    • Reality as an unending sequence of related events
    • Reality as a progressive sequence of events
  • Origin of consciousness of the Spirit world -- page 952, section 4 thru section 5 on page 953, thru 2nd indented paragraph on page 954.
  • A Brief History of the idea of Reincarnation
    • Hinduism (Hinduism itself can be considered an invention of European scholars attempting to make sense out of the greatly varied religious traditions of the Indian region.)
      • The Vedic religions, the Brahmanic religions, the Upanishads
  • The Vedas
    • In the Vedas, which predate the Upanishads by centuries, there is no doctrine of reincarnation; in the Vedic religion, the next life involves an ascent to the heavenly world, or to the depths of an underworld as a result of the actions one takes in the material life. Hope of spiritual advancement in death.
  • Brahmanic religion
    • Developed as a priesthood attempting to empower itself. Earlier concepts of salvation by trust and faith in God were replaced with sacrifice and ritual. Page 1028, 2nd & 3rd indented paragraphs
    • Transmigration of souls -- an endless round of non-progressive perpetuation of selfhood as incarnation in human, animal or vegetable forms.
    • One soul in the cosmos; individual existence is an illusion and salvation lies in eliminating the illusion of individual existence and becoming absorbed in the Atman (the all-soul).
    • The Urantia Book -- page 1030, section 3
  • The Upanishads develop the concept of reincarnation of individual existences while retaining a single-soul concept. (In the Upanishads, the illusion of individuality is more permanent than the fleeting manifestations of individuality known to Brahmanism.)
  • Jainism -- belief in multiple souls -- freeing the soul from the bondage of continuous rebirth into material existence -- important conceptual advance from transmigration to reincarnation.
    • Goal of existence is to transcend attachment to the world of matter -- self-mortification to learn how to transcend attachment to matter. The laws of karma are a part of the material universe -- the problems of karma are material problems and relate to one's actions. Injuring other living beings has deleterious effects on one's karma. Esoteric knowledge and gaining favor with the Gods is important. Morality is seen as a means of progressing toward liberation.
  • Buddhism -- for the Buddha, karma was a psychological force (rather than the material force of the Jains and Brahmans) which was maintained by desire.
    • The laws of karma are a psychological problem and relate to one's thoughts. Therefore the psychological elimination of desire would free the individual from the cycle of rebirth. Some branches of Buddhism, notably Tibetan Buddhism, introduce a concept of reincarnation expanded to include a sequence of celestial worlds.
    • Page 1035; 2nd indented paragraph thru last complete paragraph on the page.
    • The Amitabha Scripture (4th century AD) -- salvation can be had by simply calling upon the name of Buddha Amitabha. (Buddha Amitabha is a Bodhisatva)

"Beyond a trillion Buddha lands west of here there is a world called Most Happy Land. Sentient beings in that land have no pain of any kind but enjoy all kinds of pleasure only. There are seven rows of balustrades and seven rows of trees. They are all of four kinds of gems and surround the land. There are lakes of seven gems filled with water. The bottoms of the ponds are completely covered with gold dust, and the paths and steps on the four sides are made of gold, silver, beryl, and crystal.

"Heavenly music always goes on. It showers mystical flowers from heaven. There are always all kinds of wonderful birds of mixed colors.

"If there is a good man or a good woman, who, upon hearing of Buddha Amitabha, recites the Buddha's name for one, two, three, four, five, six, or seven days with a single and undisturbed mind, when he or she approaches death, Buddha Amitabha and the many other holy beings will appear before him, and when death comes, he, with his mind not at all upset, will be immediately born into Buddha Amitabha's Most Happy Land."

  • Once the concept of the cycle of births and deaths came to permeate Indian culture, many religious movements distinguished themselves by providing particular ways of escaping from this determinism.
  • The Conquests of Alexander and Greek Philosophy
    • Aristotle -- cyclical view of time with an increase in knowledge
    • Hasid -- Inverse progressive movement from the Age of Gold to those of Silver, Bronze and Iron, ending with the destruction of the world.
    • Soul was material and co-existent with the body.
    • Plato and Pythagoras -- transmigration of the soul
    • Page 1078, section 2; "Greek Philosophic Thought"
  • Egyptian Religion
    • Page 1044, 4th indented paragraph thru end of section on 1045
  • Hebrew religion and a belief in a linear movement of time
    • Early views of cyclical time, gradual accumulation of evil and a periodic cleansing by God -- soul is material and co-existent with the body
    • Messianic redemption in historic time
    • Christianity
      • Augustine "The City of God" (426 AD)
        • 7 periods of world history -- we're in the 6th and the next one will be the final epoch with the return of Christ
      • Is soul separate from or identical with the body -- i.e. belief in a literal resurrection of the body
  • 18th and 19th century -- Syncretism in times of great cultural pluralism
    • Communications and travel again bring a mixture of East and West -- Freemasonry, Theosophy, the teachings of Alice Bailey and other metaphysical systems mix eastern ideas with western.
    • Late 19th thru mid 20th century metaphysics led to movements such as the Self Realization Fellowship in Southern California. Added to this were psychological approaches such as that of Abraham Maslow which led to the Esalan Institute seminars of the 1960s. These movements, as well as the followers of a variety of Indian teachers whose movements developed in the 1970s provided the foundations for the many popular metaphysical and spiritual movements active today.
  • Urantia Book viewpoint on salvation begins with Melchizedek -- Trust and Faith
    • Page 1020, last paragraph thru top of next page

The Cosmic Journey of the Soul as Developed in The Urantia Book

  • The Nature of the Soul and its origin
    • Page 8, the five primary realities of human existence
    • Page 26, first paragraph, "In the inner experience . . ."
    • Page 71; first 3 indented paragraphs, "Capacity for divine personality . . ."
    • Page 315; number 3: "The Import of Time"
    • Page 69; last paragraph, "Eternal survival . . ."
    • Page 1478, middle of page to end of section; Jesus' discourse on the soul
    • Karma
      • Morality, Page 1131; paragraphs 2 & 3
      • Service, Page 1951, first indented paragraph
  • The Cosmic Career of the Soul
    • Overview of the Soul's Journey through the Cosmos
      • Page 340, section 4: "The Ascending Mortals"
    • Some Highlights of the Journey
      • Page 517, number 7: "The Melchizedek Schools"
      • Page 532, number 3: "The First Mansion World" thru bottom of page 533
      • Page 159, middle of page, "There is a refreshing originality . . ." through the top of page 160.