Excerpt from Existential Meditation


Immortality and Reincarnation

I had a very rewarding conversation with an acquaintance of mine in regards to his belief in the continuation of human essence after the physical death. This person cited a scientific study which proved the escape of a certain form of energy from the body upon death. It was his belief this energy continues to exist, hence there is immortality. This shouldn’t come as a surprise since in section one of this book I already examined the release of energy particles upon death.

My surprise came when he shared his belief that this energy constituted one’s essence. He proposed the idea of reincarnation as a way for the essence to gain and retain knowledge, which closely resembled the Buddhist and Hindu teachings on the subject. I decided to reason with him.

I found out that the never ending recycling of infinite human essences is a widespread belief among Americans today (according to some estimates, 27% of the US population, or over 70,000,000 Americans alone, believe in reincarnation).

I asked my opponent why did chose to believe that the meaning of human existence rests with the infinite recycling of emotions, fears, and experiences?

His explanation was unclear, however. It appeared that he lacked clear perspective of the consequences of such a state of immortality.

What is the reasoning behind this endless reincarnation of existences, reader? Is it really to learn something new and to experience something different from one’s previous life? Is it to suffer something new, or repay a debt which one owed? If yes, then why doesn’t one remember his previous experiences so he can learn from his mistakes, or build upon the errors, joys, miseries, or fears?

Imagine you lost someone very special in your previous life: a wife, a husband, or a child, and those memories plagued you in your next life. Would you be able to cope? Would you be able to learn from those experiences or look for an easier way out – a suicide, addiction to drugs, alcohol, or something else that can numb the pain and help you forget? Can one become accustomed to this state of existence?

Consider the following example, before you attempt to answer this question.  This is one of millions of stories of human survival and adaptation in the face of tremendous losses.

Many of you are familiar with the atrocities committed by the Nazis in the concentration camps during the Second World War. One only needs to look at the terribly gaunt faces staring from the pictures taken at some of the camps to shudder at the thought of the horrific experiences of these unfortunate people. For the lucky few who survived, only to discover their entire families were exterminated, existence most certainly seemed meaningless.

By all accounts, Victor Frankel should have easily succumbed to a destructive behavior immediately after his liberation from a camp in Bohemia. Surviving some of the most horrific encounters of those times, including overcoming a deadly case of typhoid fever, he was informed that his wife, his father, mother, and brother were all killed in various camps.

Rather than commit suicide, he struggled to find meaning in his survival. It was this search for meaning that shaped the idea for a new brand in psychotherapy called Logotherapy. Through this therapy, which literary means “healing through reason,” he helped numerous patients focus on the challenges of their personal search for meaning in life. It would do justice to mention that he found a way to cope with his losses, marry, have a daughter, two grandchildren, and a great granddaughter. He taught at the University of Vienna until he was 85, wrote over 30 books, and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.