|This chapter is reproduced by permission from the book Wicca: Satan's Little White Lie ©1990 by William Schnoebelen|
SATAN'S LITTLE WHITE LIE
. . . by William Schnoebelen
One of the pivotal beliefs of most witches is the concept of Reincarnation. Where this belief first became grafted onto witchcraft is probably impossible to determine. However, it is now an integral part of the dogma of most Wiccan groups.
Reincarnation is best known for being part of the ancient and pagan religion of Hinduism. Today, it is also believed by many outside either formal witchcraft or Hinduism, such as "spiritualists" and New Agers. However, in its purest form, it comes to us from the Hindu religion.
Most witches do not buy into the entire Hindu package, but only a Westernized version which does not allow for the transmigration of souls or "retrograde" Reincarnation. This classic Hindu version of the doctrine is that if you do evil in your life, you could devolve into a lower form of life in your next incarnation. Thus, a particularly vile man could be "reborn" next time as a rat, or even a bug.
However, witches and most Western believers in Reincarnation take a more positive view, and do not believe that a person can ever be sent back to an animal form, just into a less pleasant form of human life. This is called "Progressive" Reincarnation.
This brings us to karma, the key concept of Reincarnation, whatever variety. Karma is a Sanskrit word that basically means whatever you do comes back at you. Thus, if the nasty person mentioned above was a rich person who kicked beggars on the street and never shared his wealth with those less fortunate, he would be reborn as a wretchedly poor beggar.
A man who abused his wife might be reborn as a wife married to an abusive husband with no chance of escape. A person who killed or robbed might very well be reborn as an ultimate victim of murder or theft. In this way, the eternal scales of karma are kept in balance.
Of course the converse is also true. A good, noble person will be reborn in a better station next time around.
The ultimate goal of this concept varies considerably from culture to culture. Some Eastern versions see the goal of this as a gradual move through lives toward perfection. When perfection is arrived at, the person moves off the "wheel of karma" altogether and escapes this treadmill-like existence and either merges with the divine (in some versions) or melts into the universe as a whole and ceases to exist at all. In other words, the soul's goal is annihilation.
In the West, and with most witches, there are subtle variations on this theme, designed to better appeal to our culture. Most witches believe that through your lifetimes you will gradually perfect and ultimately transcend the "earth plane" or this here-and-now existence. You will then become a sort of super-human being or "Master". Many witches believe you can ultimately become a god!
Even within this westernized framework of Reincarnation, there are different nuances. Some Pagans, unsatisfied with the open-ended quality of going through an indeterminate number of lives down through the centuries, try to systematize the concept by fusing it with another occult system, astrology.
These people believe that you must incarnate at least once in each sign of the zodiac, thus a minimum of twelve lifetimes. However, if you blow it in your "Virgo" lifetime, you'll have to come back and be a Virgo again, until you get the "lessons" of that zodiacal sign mastered. This seems more manageable to folks. After all, you're only talking two or three dozen lifetimes.
A further variation gets into gender-bending. The witch, usually a feminist, often adds to this equation the idea that you must experience a lifetime in each zodiac sign for each sex! You must go around once as a male "Aries," then once as a female "Aries". This just doubled the requisite number of lifetimes to perfection.
Of course, we cannot be racist; so some socially conscious witches believe that you must also experience the major racial types as well. You must be a Caucasian, a Black, an Asian and a Native American. Somehow this has gotten rather daunting! We are now talking about at least twenty four dozen lifetimes (288!)
Assuming you go immediately from one death to your next life (and there is by no means agreement on this!) and figuring an average of forty years per life, that means you're talking over 11,000 years to get it right! Even with the basic "plan" mentioned first, it would still take at least 1,440 years to perfect yourself. That means someone who is near perfection now has been at it at least since the sixth century A.D.!
Before we look more closely at what the Bible says about this,
let us look at this plan from simple common sense. Are there
any problems with this program? Basically, four red flags go
up at once:
Most witches and Pagans are so attracted to the romantic elements in Reincarnation that they often do not bother to think through some of these problems in a rational way. I was this way myself.
I was told fairly early on in my occult career that I had been a medieval monk who had been walled up alive in his cell for practicing the esoteric arts (i.e. magic). I was so fond of this notion that I actually got an asthma attack while visiting a nearby monastery! Naturally this was attributed to past-life memories of suffocating within my cell!
Since most witches have a rather romanticized view of medieval or pre-Christian times, Reincarnation plays right into this world view! The fact that they feel somewhat "out of it" or alienated from their modern culture is explained by the fact that they are resonating to their past lives and are, in fact, quite "old souls." This is much more flattering than admitting that they might just be maladjusted or immature.
Let's step back and look at these issues objectively and see
if the doctrine of Reincarnation will stand up to close scrutiny.
This is probably the thorniest problem in the batch. Since witches and other Pagans do not like to deal with the problem of sin, they need to confront the issue of what is to be done with negative or "bad" karma. Basically, bad karma is just another word for sin, although the key difference is that your own "higher self" judges your "lower" or everyday self, rather than having some exterior being like God judge you. Thus, bad karma is anything which is contrary to your intended "evolutionary path."
Granting that the general concept of progressive Reincarnation is valid for a moment, let's look at what happens to bad karma. Progressive Reincarnation assumes that you start your first human life as a low-life, an "entry-level" human.
Let's say your first lifetime is as a bandit in some indeterminate land before the time of the Roman empire. You're running around raping, robbing and pillaging, building up scads of negative karma. You finally get an axe buried in your skull at the ripe old age of 30 and die.
You're reborn (for some reason or other) a notch higher on the moral scale next time around. However, you have all this negative karma built up from before. Let's say that instead of being a bandit, you're the wife of a shepherd. To help work off your bad karma, your husband gets beaten to a pulp by bandits. He's totally paralyzed and you have to support him by working in the sheep meadows while trying to raise five screaming kids.
Being a typical karmic low-life, a "young soul", you get really ticked off and spend the rest of your life a bitter woman, kicking your kids and sheep every time you have a bad moment; and building up still more bad karma like a festering sore. Now you've got two lifetimes' worth of bad karma! You see where this is going?
Rather than carry this dreary example any further, let us "cut to the chase." The bottom line for karma is another Sanskrit term, Ahimsa. Ahimsa is the Reincamationist's only hope! It translates freely as "karma-free" or as "harm-lessness." The key thing that you have to do is practice harmlessness.
What exactly does this mean? It means getting through your entire life without harming anyone or anything! (Remember witches are usually pantheists, which means that plants, rocks and animals are just as deserving of respect as people.) Can this be done? What does it entail?
Let us look at a Reincarnationist sect in India, the Jains. Jain monks try their best to practice ahimsa I'll give them that! Wherever they walk, they carry a little broom and sweep the ground in front of them, lest they step on an ant. Of course, in sweeping the ant aside, they could terrify it or damage its legs, but this is the chance you have to take when you're dealing with karma.
These monks wear masks like surgical masks over their mouths, lest they breath in a microbe or germ and injure it. They are (needless to say) the strictest of vegetarians, living only on nuts and fruits which, they say, are freely given by their trees and bushes, and thus can be received freely. When they bathe, which is as seldom as possible, they move very slowly and delicately in their bath water to avoid accidentally damaging one of the millions of microscopic organisms which live in water.
Since they will not kill insects, those who are wealthy enough pay a servant to spend an hour in their bed to draw all the parasites to their own bodies so the bed is relatively free of parasites by the time they finally take over for the night.
Obviously, this sort of life sounds utterly absurd to most of us, although we must grudgingly admire these folks' consistency. If anyone is going to make it in the karma game, they are! But even with these monks, there can be no guarantees. These poor people spend their lives in terror of accidentally damaging something.
Even if they make it to the end of their life without damaging anything, which is impossible, since the human body attacks and kills germs and microbes by the millions every day with its immune system, that can only guarantee that current lifetime. There is still karma from earlier lifetimes to deal with.
It would be like spending money on a credit card every month for years and being borrowed up to the maximum, then finally getting to a month where you didn't spend a cent on credit! It would be good, but you'd still have the hundreds of months' past debt to pay off.
I never knew a witch who came close to living the kind of "harmless" life it would take to improve. Yet if those witches don't live like the Jains, they will keep digging themselves a deeper hole of bad karma from life to life (they think). Honestly, friends, can this really be done? If you're really thinking this through, you'll admit it cannot!
This won't take nearly as long to deal with, although it also entails a logical absurdity. A central question which the Remcarnationist must answer is, "if we all lived before, why do we not remember our prior lives?" There are various mystical answers to this, but they all boil down to the doctrine that going through the death/rebirth process wipes out our memories of past lives. Some call this "The Veil of Forgetfulness."
It is only through occult mediumship or mediation (both demanding practices which can take years to achieve) that one can supposedly learn about one's past lives. In my personal case, I had prominent medium (or channeller) tell me a couple of my past lives, which she allegedly discerned through reading the akashic records.(1)
However, it must be granted by even the most diligent students of Reincarnation that the vast majority of people live and die without knowing or caring whether they had previous lives. As a result, most people stumble through their life with no idea what they are supposed to be learning or "paying back."
Is this sensible or logical? How can we learn if we are never told our mistakes? It is like taking a test and never learning our grade, yet being expected to do better the next time around.
A more mundane example shows the fallacy here. Suppose you have a dog that makes a mess on the living room rug. You let good old Fido go his merry way for a couple of weeks, then one day you smack him smartly on the nose with a rolled up newspaper and say "BAD DOG!"
Will Fido know the crime for which he is being punished? Of
course not. He will be bewildered and utterly mystified as to
why his master is chastising him. The simplest book on dog obedience
makes it clear that you must immediately confront and firmly
punish a dog for his offense. Yet we are asked to believe that
the awesome universal force of karma doesn't have the good sense
of a dog trainer.
Often, Christians and other non-believers in Reincarnation are accused of being "de-evolutionary" because we foster ignorance of the doctrine. Many psychics have taught that ignorance of Reincarnation is de-evolutionary and is a hindrance to spiritual growth. But this raises another paradox.
If it is contrary to the cosmic laws of growth to be ignorant of Reincarnation, why does the cosmos (or whatever) make the person forget about Reincarnation when they are born? This makes no sense at all. It is as if the "gods" or whatever are playing cruel tricks on man. They are deliberately withholding from him the very knowledge he needs most to mature.
He has no way of knowing what, if anything, he needs to do to make the pain and punishment stop! Is this justice? Is this good disciplinary practice? Sadly, the answer is no. If parents treated their child in this fashion, we would call them fiendish or at best, stupid. Yet we are asked to believe that this is the way the universe works. It is nonsense!
As cruel as the last dilemma appears, this one is even more demanding. The logical end of karma is the ultimate version of the Que sera, sera! attitude - whatever will be will be.
There is a striking scene in leading Reincarnationist/New Age spokesperson Shirley MacLaine's book and miniseries, Out on a Limb. In the Andes mountains, Shirley and her "guru" or mentor in New Age paganism encountered an accident in which a busload of school children have gone over a steep cliff and been smashed to bits on the rocks below.
Shirley, naturally, expresses dismay at this tragedy and her guru gently chides her for her unevolved attitude. All those children wanted to die, needed to die, he explains. They all had "higher selves" which knew best - that it was good for their karma to be smashed to pieces at such a tender age. Besides, he smiles, there really is no death, only transitions. Thus whatever happens to people is intended to happen to them either by the blind machinery of karma or their own "higher self" or "god self."
This has led to some of the most wretched conditions in the world in the nation which has had the longest commitment to Reincarnation, India. If you see a beggar wallowing in the gutter in Calcutta, don't you dare help him! He is working out karma. If you take him in and give him a hot meal, new clothes and a good job; he will just have to come back in another lifetime and be a beggar all over again. It is better that he get it over with!
This is why the idea of charity or kindness is so foreign to India, and why there were no hospitals or charitable institutions there until the advent of Christianity and the coming of Christian missionaries.
Might this be why there are no witch hospitals or orphanages? Because at the heart of their Reincarnationist beliefs is the idea of fatalism. That whatever is, is - and there is not a thing you can or should do about it!
This all sounds bad enough in the abstract, but let's apply this monstrous doctrine to our own lives. Suppose Mr.Witch comes home after a hard day at the organic farm and finds his dear wife, Mrs.Witch, being raped by a hoodlum. If he stops the attack, he is interfering with his wife's higher self. She has decreed for herself that this day she will be humiliated and abused. If her husband beats the crook off, she will just have to go through it again. Plus she will have incurred the further negative karma of having injured the poor rapist, who was, after all, only obeying both her higher self and his higher self, since higher selves always move in concord.
Hitler might have been brought into being by the higher selves of all those Jews! Perhaps we messed up the karma of Europe by interfering. Perhaps Jim Jones might have been caused by the 900 some people he drove to suicide down in the jungles of Guyana.
The logical end of the doctrine of karma is that one should never interfere in anything - never do anything. In the eastern countries from which this doctrine springs, the holiest men are those who literally do nothing - the gurus and siddhis who sit in "lotus" pose for weeks in their own filth and watch the weeds grow up around their legs!
Is this really a sane belief? I think not!
By this time, our friends who are sincere witches and believers in Reincarnation may be saying: "That might be true of India and their approach, but that is not what I believe!" That might be true, but does it change the reality?
Isn't this an essential part of the whole Reincarnationist process? Aren't the unmanageable mountains of bad karma and the fatalism all integral parts of the whole concept? How can you honestly have Reincarnation without them? You may not believe in this kind of severity and fatalism, but are you being internally consistent and honest with yourself if you deny these elements?
Aren't you just picking the parts of it that appeal to you and discarding the parts that challenge or offend you, or seem impossible to you? Can you do that and be true to both logic and history? I tried, my friend, and I finally had to admit that the whole system is an organic whole. It would be like saying, "I want a human body, but leave off the armpits because I don't like them."
You'd have a pretty silly body without armpits, and you'd have torn out the very warp and woof of Reincarnation by denying the doctrines of Ahimsa and fatalism. You're stuck with them, unless you want to try something better!
Finally, we have the problem of whether this belief has any concrete physical proof. If we are going to hold such a strange and illogical doctrine, we had better have some solid, empirical proof for it.
This proof could come in two forms: 1) actual testimonies of people who remember past lives and can validate those memories; and 2) anthropological evidence that the world is indeed "evolving."
There are books full of supposed testimonies of people who claim to have remembered past lives. Some of these accounts are quite extraordinary. Perhaps the classic work in this field, TWENTY CASES SUGGESTIVE OF REINCARNATION (2) has several such case studies of people who have apparent memories of existences in previous lifetimes in locales foreign to their current environment. These memories are often amazingly accurate and there does not seem to be any way in which the person could have acquired the information which they possess except by having actually lived the past life.
However, a true scientific and empirical experiment must eliminate all other variables except the control. Even the quite scholarly author of the above mentioned book admits that he has not been able to do this. There is one other place these persons could have acquired this information - from demon spirits who have existed for thousands of years. He admits that this is a viable alternative theory to explain these memories.(3)
In true scientific method, if such a variable cannot be tested for, controlled or otherwise ruled out, then the experimental data is totally invalid. This is just common sense! Therefore, these memories, however impressive, cannot be considered empirical proof of Reincarnation. Since the possibility of demonic input of memories cannot be eliminated conclusively, we shall have to look elsewhere for evidence.
As far as looking at the world-wide anthropological data, there is even less support for Reincarnation as a viable hypothesis. There are a couple of serious problems here. First is the fact that the world population is growing at a geometric pace. If we are all being recycled, where are all the new babies coming from?
Say there were around 100 million people in the world in the
time of Christ. Today there are five billion! That is fifty times
more people. How did the fifty people today emerge from the one
corresponding soul of a couple of millennia ago?
In other words, pantheism is, by definition, a closed system. There can be no God "outside" of it, or it would be theism and take a giant step toward Biblical belief. Pantheism presupposes a cyclical birth-death-rebirth circle, which cannot be broken into by an outside force.
The other theory to explain population growth moves into science fiction's domain by proposing that the rebirth "pool" is interplanetary or even interstellar! As our planet grows in population, souls from Venus or Mars planet-hop over to us as those worlds die out and ours flourishes. This makes a certain strange kind of sense, if it weren't for the more serious anthropological argument against Reincarnation, which we will now look at.
If Reincarnation was true, and we all are evolving gradually through many lifetimes, then the logical thing to look for would be a demonstrable improvement in human nature over the centuries. Are we seeing this?
Humanists were very hopeful about this around the turn of the century. Progress in science and technology was pressing forward and war seemed about to be eliminated. However, the past eighty years have been an ugly reminder of how nasty (dare I say sinful) human beings are.
We have had two world wars of unparalleled human destruction; the genocide of Hitler and Stalin; and the organized enslavement of billions of people under communism in a fashion which would put the Roman emperors to shame. A case could be made for this being one of the worst centuries in recorded history. If we are so "evolved" why are we fighting wars with ever more dreadful weapons of destruction? Why has this century produced people like Adolph Hitler and Charles Manson (both devout believers in Reincarnation)?
Actually, war in the Middle Ages was more "civilized." There were certain days upon which you couldn't fight; and there were certain people who were protected (non-combatants). Today, with terrorism, babies and women are blown up wholesale. All we have done is become more indiscriminate and efficient in our war.
Can anyone say that our cities are more "evolved" today than they were fifty years ago? Of course not! The sad truth is that there is no evidence that we are perfecting in anyway, except perhaps in the technological arena.
Even there, SIN enters the arena. We split the atom and promptly use it to blow up two Japanese cities. We create amazing computers and before long, "viruses" and "tapeworms" are showing up in software maliciously destroying data and productivity. We have amazing medical breakthroughs, and more people are sick today than ever! We have immensely productive farms and yet people all over the world are starving by the millions.
If this is Reincarnation's salvation, it is a particularly lamentable effort.
We have mentioned the country which is the cradle of Reincarnation, India. Surely, with all the gurus and holy men, and the hallowed traditions of thousands of years of effort to achieve ahimsa, India should be the most evolved country on earth. Empirically, it should be a veritable textbook case of human progress and spirituality.
Anyone with even a passing acquaintance with India's history and current condition knows that such is the farthest thing from reality! India is probably one of the world's most woeful nations. Though it has almost as much fertile land as America, large portions of its people starve and live in utter poverty. Its caste system (rooted in Reincarnation) has led to centuries of bloodshed and bigotry.
The prime minister of India was cut down in a religious war between two rival Reincarnationist sects! India is said to be building thermonuclear weapons. Its city streets are awash with human and cattle waste, and lined with starving beggars! Cows and rats eat their fill while humans starve because these animals are considered sacred in Hindu theology! If India were an advertisement for Reincarnation, it wouldn't earn many converts.
So, we must ask, where is the empirical proof for Reincarnation? There appears to be precious little, either in the world at large, or in its most solid doctrinal citadel, India.
Having looked at Reincarnation from a secular, logical point of view and found it wanting; let us now look at what another source of information has to say, God's Word, the Bible.
In my pilgrimage through the various forms of paganism, I finally came to the conclusion that I needed something solid to trust in. Although I had been, told by my teachers in the occult all sorts of things about the Bible, when I checked them out for myself, I found that they were not telling me the truth.
I found that the Bible has a much better track record than any of the occult or mystical authors in whom I had put my trust. A thorough defense of the Bible is beyond the scope of this book, but suffice it to say that in my case, after reading literally hundreds of books on witchcraft, magic and esoteric philosophy; I finally found that only the Bible had real, solid answers to my questions! Every other author's work seemed to dissolve into a bland, metaphysical nonsense compared with the Bible.
So what does this Bible offer as its opinion on Reincarnation? And what concept of the afterlife does it actually teach?
First, the Bible clearly teaches that we have but one life in which to live. Hebrews 9:27 says:
Jesus Christ, Who is often mentioned by witches and New Agers as a man with many past lives in which He prepared Himself for His important work is actually said in Bible teaching to have incarnated only once (Hebrews 9:25-28). Not only that, but Jesus will never have to die again! (Romans 6:9)
Also, the key concept behind Reincarnation, that we can somehow
perfect ourselves through our own effort, is vigorously denied
by the Bible. The Bible teaches that:
Elsewhere, the same inspired writer, Paul, says:
Deeds of the law are basically good deeds, works which would be considered "good karma" in the Reincarnationist view. Nor is this the view of just the New Testament. Even in the Hebrew scriptures, or Old Testament, we are taught by the prophet Isaiah that:
Note another important factor here, though. The above passage from Ephesians also teaches that salvation is a "gift of God." Do you have to pay for a gift? Of course not! This tells us that God's gift of eternal life is free of charge; we do not have to earn it. Romans 6:23 says:
Doesn't that sound a lot easier than spending dozens of lifetimes on the not-so-merry-go-round of karma, trying to keep from stepping on a bug? Ironically, the very principle of ahimsa which we have mentioned is quite similar to the Old Testament Law in that it presents an almost impossible system of rules to keep which basically ends up confronting people with their own inability to make it themselves. However, in the Law, at least, there was provision for mercy and cleansing before God. There is no such provision in the merciless engine of karma.
Since God is perfectly willing to give this gift of eternal life to anyone who asks Him for it in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, it pretty well shoots down in flames the whole complicated works-system of karma and Reincarnation.
The question will doubtless come up, "How can we determine if this is really the true answer? What makes this any more believable than Reincarnation?" The fact that Jesus Christ, the source of our salvation, rose from the dead to demonstrate His power to save us.
You cannot believe in both the concepts of Resurrection and Reincarnation at the same time, although some New Age groups try.(4) The Christian doctrine of the Resurrection teaches that because of Jesus' bodily Resurrection from the grave, all the dead will one day rise from the dead with "resurrection bodies." Those made righteous by Jesus' sacrifice on the cross will rise with glorified bodies of incredible beauty and power.
Those who reject Jesus will have to wait about a thousand years and then will rise in resurrected bodies which will not be any picnic to live in, especially since those bodies will be eternally confined to the lake of fire.
If you keep being reborn in different bodies, how are you going to shoehorn a resurrection in there? And if you did, which of the hundreds of bodies would you be resurrected in? Would you be a man or a woman?
Most witches and other Pagans have been led to believe that the resurrection of Jesus is just a myth. This is what I was taught as a witch. Some witches say that Jesus did rise, but it was just another version of the ancient Pagan "slain and risen god" archtype, like Osiris or Attis.
The problem with that concept is that Jesus is more than a myth, and His resurrection is much more than a myth! It is testified to directly by at least three eyewitnesses in the New Testament; John, Matthew and Peter, all of whom testified to seeing the risen Lord! On top of that, over 500 people saw Jesus after His resurrection, including the other eight apostles, Mary Magdalene and the disciples on the road to Emmaus! (1 Corinthians 15:6).
That is quite a lot of witnesses! It is more than enough to convict someone of murder! If you had a trial and four eyewitnesses testified to seeing you murder someone, plus over 500 second-hand accounts, you'd be on death row! Please understand that there is no such evidence to support the supposed resurrection of Osiris. These various "god" stories happened in a mythic setting. Jesus' life, death and resurrection happened in a real place and time. His tomb is empty today! You can go see it!
The tombs of the great exponents of Reincarnation are filled with rottenness and bones - Gautama or Bodhiharma - all are dust. But Jesus is still alive today! There is a tremendous body of evidence to prove the reality of His Resurrection, and it would be beyond the scope of this book to get further into that issue.(5)
The bottom line is that there is valid, physical evidence to believe in what Jesus has to offer you; whereas all these mystical systems can offer to you is metaphysical twaddle.
Besides, isn't the prospect of living in resurrected glory with Jesus more appealing than spending a few more hundred lifetimes running around the wheel of karma like a gerbil? He makes it so easy for you. All you have to do is lay aside your pride and belief in all those Pagan gods and admit that they cannot save you. Ask Jesus to forgive your sins and save you from hell and be the Lord of your life. (Romans 10:9-13)
He is real, and will be delighted to meet you right where you are!
* This chapter was used by permission from William Schnoebelen's book Wicca: Satan's Little White Lie". For information on how to obtain this excellent book see: With One Accord Ministries: http://www.withoneaccord.org
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