The Magic Of Golden Dawn

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The Controversy

    During the period from A.D. 250 to 553 controversy raged, at least intermittently, around the name of Origen, and from this controversy emerged the major objections that orthodox Christianity raises against reincarnation.  Origen of Alexandria, one of Christianity's greatest systematic theologians, was a believer in reincarnation.

    Origen was a person devoted to scriptural authority, a scourge to the enemies of the church, and a martyr for the faith.   He was the spiritual teacher of a large and grateful posterity and yet his teachings were declared heresy in 553.  The debates and controversies that flared up around his teachings are in fact the record of reincarnation in the church.

    The case against Origen grew by fits and starts from about A.D. 300 (fifty years after his death) until 553.  There were writers of great eminence among his critics as well as some rather obscure ecclesiasts.  They included Methodius of Olympus, Eppiphanius of Salamis, Theophilus, Bishop of Jerusalem, Jerome, and the Emperor Justinian.  The first of these, Methodius of Olympus, was a bishop in Greece and died a martyr's death in the year 311.  He and Peter of Alexandria, whose works are almost entirely lost, represent the first wave of anti-Origenism.   They were concerned chiefly with the preexistence of souls and Origen's notions about the resurrection of the dead.  Another more powerful current against Origenism arose about a century later.  The principals were Ephiphanius of Salamis, Theophilus of Alexandria, and Jerome.  

    From about 395 to 403 Origen became the subject of heated debate throughout Christendom.  These three ecclesiats applied much energy and thought in search of questionable doctrine in Origen.  Again the controversy flared up around 535, and in the wake of this the Emperor Justinian composed a tract against Origen in 543, proposing nine anathemas against "On First Principles", Origen's chief theological work.  Origen was finally officially condemned in the Second Council of Constantinople in 553, when fifteen anathemas were charged against him.

    The critics of Origen attacked him on individual points, and thus did not create a systematic theology to oppose him.  Nonetheless, one can glean from their writings five major points that Christianity has raised against reincarnation:

(1)   It seems to minimize Christian salvation.

This is a groundless premise.  All Christians await the return of Christ.  Is this not a form of reincarnation?  All of Christianity is based on the premise that Christ lives inside each believer.  This being the case there is no difference and no distinction can be made between the believer and Christ.

(2)   It is in conflict with the resurrection of the body.

This is only true if you accept the bible literally word for word instead of the metaphor it was intended to be.  For example the bible states that Christ ascended into heaven from Mount Olivet.  If this is literally what happened, and Christ traveled there at the speed of light, he wouldn't have even left the Milky Way Galaxy by now.  Obviously the literal method doesn't work here.

(3)   It creates an unnatural separation between body and soul.

At what time has there ever been a connection between body and soul?  The body always dies, the soul or consciousness continues, similar in a manner to taking off dirty clothes to put on clean ones.  In fact it is the misconception that there is a connection between body and soul that is one of reasons why people continue to reincarnate.

(4)   It is built on a much too speculative use of Christian scriptures.

While it may be based on a speculative use of Christian scriptures, this is not the case regarding the Hebrew scriptures.  The Hebrew word for reincarnation is Gilgul.  If the Hebrews have no problem with reincarnation then why should the Christians considering that their religion arose out of Judaism and that God to them is a Jew?

(5)   There is no recollection of previous lives.

This is not so.  There are many people who can recollect portions or all of their past lives. It's just that not ALL of us have that ability.  In a similar way, not all of us can remember what we ate for lunch on Tuesday last week.  Are we to assume that because EVERYONE can't remember what we ate for lunch on Tuesday last week, that nobody on planet Earth ate anything at all?

    The reason why these points of contention exist is due to the fact that Christianity has failed in providing a clear in-depth definition of what soul actually is, and has shunned the study of the functioning of the mind practically from the beginning, out of the fear of creating independent thinkers.

    Any discussion of these points will be greatly clarified by a preliminary look at Origen's system.  Although it is of course impossible to do justice in a few pages to a thinker as subtle and profound as Origen, some of the distinctive aspects of his thought can be summarized.   

    As a footnote I would like to add that out of all the worlds religions that I have studied or been exposed to only two of them, Christianity and Islam have rejected reincarnation.            



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