THE MYTH OF REINCARNATION.
In my earlier blog , I had written about my intention of writing my second novel on the theme of reincarnation. I had mentioned that , in my forthcoming blogs , I would be discussing various aspects of the idea of reincarnation. In this blog , I would try to deconstruct reasons for the popularity of this idea. I think there are two different aspects to this popularity. First aspect is that there is something inherently appealing about this idea. This intuitive appeal needs to be looked into. The second aspect of this popularity is that this idea somehow reinforces our religious beliefs. This compatibility between religions and reincarnation also needs to be looked into.
In this blog , I would discuss the psychological implications of our acceptance of idea of reincarnation. In my next blog , I would discuss religious implications of this idea of reincarnation. Ever since , I decided to write a novel on reincarnation , I have been thinking about it. As mentioned in my earlier blog , I was surprised to realize that , at some subconscious level , even I wanted to believe in this idea. Considering the fact that I profess to be a rationalist , I was rather taken aback by this realization. The only explanation that I can think of this internal contradiction in my thinking is that the idea of reincarnation appeals to me because it , in some sense , embodies in itself , some of my subconscious beliefs. I am going to take up these beliefs and try to understand , how they get transformed into this idea of reincarnation.
First belief that tempts me to believe in this idea , is that of notion of self. I am sure that readers would agree with my observation that each one us have this notion of permanent self. All our thinking revolves around the belief that self is permanent. We can not think about anything without any reference to our own selves. All our concepts and all our thoughts are defined in the context of our own selves. If we , each one of us , did not have this notion of self , we would not be able to formulate any thoughts. A thought exists because a self exists. To our subconscious mind , self is always present. It is this permanence of psychological self that is responsible for the appeal of the idea of reincarnation. To our subconscious mind , self is permanent and therefore eternal. It is this misguided notion of eternal nature of our psychological self that finds its expression in this idea of reincarnation. If self can not die then it must persist in some indestructible form. Therefore our subconscious mind weaves this narrative of soul and it’s reincarnation.
The second reason , why the idea of reincarnation appeals to me , is that it offers some escape route to my unfulfilled wishes. A human mind can be rightly described as collection of all kinds of wishes. In terms of psychology , one can say that the self expresses itself in the form of wishes. A fulfillment of our wishes is the engine which drives our life. In view of this primacy of wishes in defining self , it is natural that unfulfilled wishes could play havoc with our mental health. Therefore a human mind has to create some explanation which can make its unfulfilled wishes bearable. This , I think , is the reason why the idea of reincarnation appeals to all of us. Through the the belief in reincarnation , our subconscious mind finds solace that all our unfulfilled wishes may be fulfilled in some unspecified future of reincarnated self.
The third reason ,why the idea of reincarnation appeals to me , is that it fulfills our sense of justice. All of us have an inbuilt sense of justice. Though , it’s articulation and it’s practice varies from person to person and culture to culture, the fact is that we ,as a species , have an inborn sense of justice. However , this instinct is in direct conflict with not only the way this world runs , but it is also in direct conflict with our own wish fulfillment driven behavior. Each one of us comes across all kinds of inequities and inequalities. Of course , each one of us has a simple way of allowing our inborn sense of justice to find its expression. That way consists of fighting all these inequities and inequalities. However , our mind seeks an easier way to deal with this. It justifies its inaction and acceptance of these inequities and inequalities by invoking this comforting idea of reincarnation. This operates at two levels. Firstly ,it allows us to focus instead on our attempts to fulfill our wishes. Secondly , it absolves us from responsibility of letting justice prevail. If the reincarnation is really true then law of Karma would prevail eventually. Justice delayed , according to this philosophy , is not justice denied. Rather justice delayed , according to this philosophy , is a poetic justice.
Thus there are three very deep rooted reasons why the idea of reincarnation finds itself so popular. I would like to clarify that I am not suggesting that the idea of reincarnation is wrong. Our scientific knowledge has not reached a level where it can either prove or disprove the notion of immortal soul and it’s reincarnation. All I am suggesting is that all of us , including myself , would want to believe in this idea and that too for wrong reasons. How do I reconcile my rational mind with my subconscious mind ? I think I will find the answer only after I finish this novel.
In my next blog , I would discuss how our religious beliefs have influenced this idea of reincarnation.