Reincarnation is Not Meant
You will realize from what I’ve said that according to the New Church teaching, rebirth does not imply reincarnation. We are born on earth just once. After our earth life we continue as spiritual beings, with bodies made of spiritual substance, in the spiritual world. There is no need for us to return to the earth to gain further experience and undergo further discipline. Everything necessary for our eternal well-being is provided in the eternal living place of humanity. The idea of reincarnation flourishes in the East, and has invaded Western thought. Stated briefly, it says that the soul of a person now living on earth is not a new creation. It may have existed here before in different bodies and circumstances, and will probably exist here in many future incarnations.
According to the reincarnationist, a newborn baby is a reincarnation of a soul which has had many incarnations, and between incarnate existences has lived in a disembodied state in a nebulous astral realm. While it was in that realm it supposedly assimilated past experience and developed characteristics whose good or bad effects will appear in the next incarnation. In each incarnation the bill is paid for past error, and reward is given for past good. The soul must continue to be incarnated at intervals for a longer or shorter time until it is purged of evil and no longer needs the discipline of earth.
As to its final destiny, there seems to be a difference of opinion among teachers of the theory. Hindu reincarnationists, millions in number, seem to hold that the soul finally finds Nirvana, which, as I understand it, means mergence into the Divine. As we’ve already seen, this involves loss of individuality. Others teach that individuality survives, but the form in which it survives is mostly left to the imagination.
There are some reincarnationists who say that the end result is not mergence with the Divine, but the attainment of a Divine status in which, to use my own term, the purified individual becomes a kind of demigod. With the Buddhists this means the attainment of Buddha-hood. While for his own development the purified individual needs no more incarnations, he may decide to take on a body once more as a great world teacher.
It was probably a reincarnationist teaching that started the idea that the Lord Jesus Christ would make a second personal advent in the flesh, no longer to be despised and rejected by men, but to be accepted as a great world leader. If this surmise is true, we can see that the teaching of reincarnation is responsible for a serious misunderstanding which deceives millions of Christians. We should not look forward to a new physical appearance of the Man of Nazareth, but realize that now and always the Kingdom of the Lord in his Divine Humanity is spiritual. He is always with us spiritually in His Word, and in the goodness and truth He puts into the human soul. The Lord’s Second Advent is spiritual, and a person sees it with his spiritual understanding, not his physical eyes. The theory of reincarnation implies the existence of a limited number of souls. And if, as the Hindus believe, the end of the individual is mergence in deity, unless by some device new souls are created, the human family will gradually get less numerous until at last only deity exists.