And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement. - Hebrews 9:27
But religious beliefs aside, is there any evidence of reincarnation? There actually may be. Some hypnotists have regressed people far enough back into their past that they remember a life prior to being born. Some skeptics have dismissed these claims, saying that the hypnotists have lead them on. But in another type of phenomena, there is no hypnotist to lead anyone on. There are numerous documented cases of children remembering a past life. I remember one particular instance documented on TV years ago where a small child living somewhere in the East (I think it was India, but I can't remember for sure) where belief in reincarnation is the norm remembered details of another man's life. His memories were spontaneous and were not prompted by anyone. He was able to tell his parents who he had been, where he was from, and how he died. They went to meet the family of the man he claimed to remember being, and even the dead man's family were convinced the boy was the reincarnation of their family member. What really made it interesting was that the boy had two birthmarks on his head that corresponded with the entry and exit wounds of the bullet that went through the head of the man he remembered being.
The case of that boy isn't an isolated incident though. Dr. Ian Stevenson, a biochemist and professor of psychiatry investigated the phenomena of children spontaneously remembering past lives for 40 years and documented thousands of such cases. If you search the Internet, you can probably find numerous examples of such phenomena. Here is one I came across yesterday that a Fox affiliate reported about:
What I thought was unusual about that case was how old the kid was. Typically children who spontaneously remember a past life remember it when they are very young and just learning to talk. Once they get older, they tend to forget about it. So are these cases documented proof of reincarnation? It's hard to say.
Perhaps the lives these children remember aren't literally lives that they have previously lived. Maybe the souls of these dead people have merely formed a close bond with a living person and the living person catches glimpses of the dead person's life because of it. Perhaps the phenomena is similar to a demonic possession, except it is not a demon doing the possessing. Some Christians who believe in reincarnation despite the Bible's relative silence on the subject (besides that one passage in Hebrews I mentioned earlier) have attempted to validate the belief using the case of John the Baptist. In the book of Luke, John's father Zechariah is visited by an angel of the Lord who tells him that his son (John the Baptist) would go before the Lord in the "spirit and power of Elijah". Elijah was an Old Testament prophet who was prophesied to return before the great and terrible day of the Lord (Malachi 4:5). Jesus even said that John the Baptist could have been the prophesied return of Elijah if the people were willing to accept it (the people weren't willing to accept it though). But I don't really think these particular passages are pointing to the literal reincarnation of Elijah. For one, Elijah never died in scripture. He was carried away into heaven in a chariot of fire. I suppose it's possible he could have died at some point after being carried into heaven, but we are never told that if that is the case. I think the passage in Luke about John going before the Lord in the "spirit and power of Elijah" probably just means that John the Baptist would be following the same role Elijah would have followed. But, on the other hand, maybe the passage indicates what I have theorized in this article; maybe the spirit of Elijah formed a bond with John the Baptist and guided John in his work.
Now someone may say I'm just being biased and trying to make the evidence supporting reincarnation fit what I already believe about it. And maybe I am. But what if I'm right? Maybe the Buddhists and Hindus have merely misinterpreted the soul of a dead person bonding with a living person as being a reincarnation of that dead person. Assuming for a moment I am right, it would be easy to see how people could misinterpret the evidence and form a belief that people are reincarnated into new lives based on that misinterpreted evidence. Perhaps one day we'll all know what the answer to this mystery is though.