Appeared in Fall 1996, Vol. XXII, No. 3

In both the West and the East the notion of reincarnatior has exercised its fascination over the minds of men since ancient times. According to ancient hindu writings:

Worn-out garments
are shed by the body: Worn-out bodies
are shed by the dweller.1

And Plato’s Phaedo expresses a similar view:

If at its release the soul is pure and carries with it no contamination of the body … in other words, if it has pursued philosophy … it departs to that place which is, like itself, invisible, divine, immortal, and wise … [and] spends the rest of time with God…. [the souls] of the wicked are compelled to wander about graveyards as a punishment, wandering until at last through craving for the corporeal which unceasingly pursues them, they are imprisoned once more in a body. and as you might expect, they are attached to the same sort of character or nature which they have developed during life…. Those who have cultivated gluttony or selfishness or drunkenness … are likely to assume the form of donkeys and other perverse animals.2

Although belief in some versions of reincarnation is rooted in truths which the Catholic faith upholds-namely, that a human person is more than a body, and that the human soul is immortal3-such a teaching is clearly contrary to the faith, for belief in reincarnation is incompatible with belief in the resurrection of the body.

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