Western belief in reincarnation on the increase

A recent New York Times article on the growing Western belief in reincarnation is causing a bit of a stir.

The article is called Remembrance of Lives Past and it originally appeared in the NYT on 27 August. It has since ‘reincarnated’ (sorry) in the San Fransisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

The author is Lisa Miller (left), the religion editor for Newsweek and author of the book Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife.

Miller cites several indicators, both statistical and cultural, of a growing interest in reincarnation among Westerners (but primarily Americans):

  • According to data released last year by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, a quarter of Americans now believe in reincarnation.
  • The actress Julia Roberts recently told Elle magazine that in a recent past life, she was, she believes,  a peasant revolutionary.
  • Past-life regression is being practised as a  treatment by an increasing number of professional psychiatrists. The psychiatrists themselves are finding it much easier to ‘come out’ and talk about this openly.
  • At Cannes in May, the highest prize was awarded to a Thai film about reincarnation, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.

The Catholic church appears to be particularly troubled by this trend. A Spanish bishop said recently that the growing number of Catholics adopting the belief in reincarnation (currently 28% of US Catholics) should seek the ‘antidote’ in the Assumption of Mary…

The Pew Forum data, and Miller’s article, have been welcomed by the President of Universal Society of Hinduism, Rajan Zed (described as a Hindu chaplain from Reno, Nevada).

I’m not sure that many Westerners really care what the Baghavad-Gita teaches about reincarnation, however. In contrast to a recent article in Newsweek (We are all Hindus now), the surge in Western interest in reincarnation derives, I believe,  from an accumulation of personal experience and anecdotal evidence, and owes little to any particular teaching.

Of course, a growing belief in reincarnation does not mean that reincarnation itself is real. Widespread belief has never proved a thing. The reality or non-reality of reincarnation has nothing to do with how many people believe in it. Though I happen to firmly believe in it myself, and I rejoice at the news that more people are open to it, I don’t think I’ll be saying ‘Told you so’ to my sceptical friends any time soon.

6 thoughts on “Western belief in reincarnation on the increase

  1. Thank you for finding this article. Indeed, as western society unravels and people seek greater meaning, many of us begin to look deeply at ourselves. Little did I dream I too would come face-to-face with reincarnation. For 30 years I’ve said “If there is a creator God who makes every snowflake different, every blade of grass unique, why would He bother recycling souls?”

    I thought (through a conservative Christian lens) that all this reincarnation stuff was demonic, a lie formulated by evil forces who tricked folks into believing we are given innumerable chances to ‘get it right’. I also had a mistaken intrepretation of karma, that it’s a reward/punishment system meted out by forces beyond our control.

    Thanks to Dr. Brian Weiss, Roger Woolger, Carol Bowman, Michael Newton and many others, we can put together a much clearer picture directly from the depths of the human psyche. Nonjudgemental observation of people claiming past lives (especially children), combined with hypnotic regressions has fleshed-out an entirely different world than the one we think we inhabit– one where love and compassion are the values most highly sought, just as each religion teaches, but where the human soul has far more support, far more worth (and an infinite number of chances and choices)than any of them acknowledge.

    I look forward to my first hypnotic regression appointment in a few weeks. Audio CDs and downloadable mp3s have taken me somewhat into this realm, but I need a thorough investigation of who I am, who I’ve been, and who the significant others in my life are. I feel utterly stuck in a paradigm of conflicting choices and I know deep down that having this information will solve my dilemma in the proper way. It’s as though I cannot move on in my life without this knowledge.

    I found a therapist 3 hours away through Michael Newton’s website spiritualregression-dot-org. It’s taken several months to do enough research and test these theories on my own before I found the help I needed.

    Like you said, there’s no ‘told-you-so’ attitude necessary. Everything in this life is completely voluntary. We signed up for the lives we are presently leading, and we can change them at any time! The control we wield over our circumstances is truly infinite. If only we could recognise this and see ourselves from the perspective which our own souls offer us at every turn!

  2. Very interesting article. Indeed, more and more people are awakening to the reality of our existence as eternal, evolving souls. The fact that a growing number of people believe in reincarnation reflects the spiritual awakening that is happening as not only we, human spirits, but as our planet Earth, as well, progess in a fascinating evolutionary process.

    Fortunately, more people are also coming to know about Spiritism, as well, which offers us a wealth of knowledge, not only about reincarnation, but about many aspects of our spirit life. Through its teachings, many have found comfort, resolution, and a renewed faith.

    We invite anyone who would like to take a look at what Spiritism has to say about reincarnation and a whole lot more, to visit this website:


    Thank you and many blessings to all.

  3. If the soul is meant to evolve and grow, how can it always do so under the conditions that it is given in a certain lifetime? What about the aborted fetus? It gets maybe a few weeks of life in the womb and then nothing? Not even a chance at a life? What about people living in poverty stricken third world countries? The only life experience they are permitted to experience is one of much suffering? What about the child who dies of leukemia? Their only experience of life is to not be able to grow up, fall in love, marry or have kids of their own? What if in order for the soul to evolve, it takes many lifetimes and many kinds of lifetimes to learn? Maybe once is not enough.

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