Reincarnation, literally “to be made flesh again”, is a doctrine or mystical belief that some essential part of a living being (in some variations only human beings) survives death to be reborn in a new body. This essential part is often referred to as the Spirit or Soul, the ‘Higher or True Self’, ‘Divine Spark’, ‘I’ or the ‘Ego’ (not to be confused with the ego as defined by psychology). According to such beliefs, a new personality is developed during each life in the physical world, but some part of the being remains constantly present throughout these successive lives as well.
Belief in reincarnation is an ancient phenomenon. This doctrine is a central tenet within the majority of Indian religious traditions, such as Hinduism (including Yoga, Vaishnavism, and Shaivism), Jainism, and Sikhism. The idea was also entertained by some Ancient Greek philosophers. Many modern Pagans also believe in reincarnation as do some New Age movements, along with followers of Spiritism, practitioners of certain African traditions, and students of esoteric philosophies such as Kabbalah, Sufism and Gnostic and Esoteric Christianity.
The Buddhist concept of Rebirth although often referred to as reincarnation differs significantly from the Hindu-based traditions and New Age movements in that there is no “self” (or eternal soul) to reincarnate.
During recent decades, the concept of reincarnation has captured the imagination of a significant minority of people in the West with films such as Kundun and Birth appearing in popular culture, alongside a great number of books exploring the subject – based largely on the research of Ian Stevenson
Some Christian denominations reject reincarnation mainly because they consider the theory to challenge a basic tenet of their interpretation of Christianity. Many churches do not directly address the issue and leave the matter open to individual interpretation due to the few biblical references which survived the purging of texts considered to be heretical in the founding years of Christianity as a church. Most of the philosophies associated with the theory of reincarnation focus on “working” or “learning” through various lifetimes to achieve some sort of higher understanding or state of “goodness” before salvation is granted or acquired. Basic to Roman Catholicism is the doctrine that humans can never achieve the perfection God requires and the only “way out” is total and complete forgiveness accomplished through the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross wherein He took the sins of mankind. There seems to be evidence however that some of the earliest Christian sects such as the Sethians and followers of the Gnostic Church of Valentinus believed in reincarnation, and they were persecuted by the Romans for this.
A number of Evangelical and (in the USA) Fundamentalist Christian groups have denounced any belief in reincarnation as heretical, and explained any phenomena suggestive of it as deceptions of the devil. Although the Bible never mentions the word reincarnation, there are several passages through New Testament that Orthodox Christians interpret as openly rejecting reincarnation or the possibility of any return or contact with this world for the souls in Heaven or Hell (see 9:27 and Luke 16:20-31)
The Bible contains passages in the New Testament that seem to refer to reincarnation. In Matthew 11:10-14and 17:10-13, Jesus says that John the Baptist is the prophet Elijah who had lived centuries before, and he does not appear to be speaking metaphorically.
There are various contemporary attempts to entwine Christianity and reincarnation. Geddes Macgregor, wrote a book called Reincarnation in Christianity : A New Vision of Rebirth in Christian Thought. And Rudolf Steiner wrote Christianity as Mystical Fact.
Several Christian denominations which support reincarnation include the Liberal Catholic Church, Unity Church, The Christian Spiritualist Movement, the Rosicrucian Fellowship and the Lectorium Rosicrucianum. The Medieval heretical sect known variously as the Cathars or Albigensians who flourished in the Languedoc believed in Reincarnation, seeing each soul as a fallen angel born again and again into the world of Matter created by Lucibel (Lucifer). Only through a Gnostic ‘Rebirth’ in the Holy Spirit through Christ could the soul escape this process of successive existences and return to God.
**All information was obtained from www.wikipedia.org**