Reincarnation: What Is It and Is It Real?


After death, the soul is reborn into a new body and a new life– or is it? With centuries of speculation around reincarnation, the age long question is entirely unanswerable and is simply up to belief and faith. (Photo courtesy of Photos for Class)

What is Reincarnation?

Reincarnation is the belief that after death, the soul is reborn into a new body. The nonphysical essence of a human lives on even when their body is no longer able to host life. The word is derived from Latin, meaning “to take on the flesh again”.

History of Reincarnation

The idea of reincarnation dates back to India and Greece around 1100 BC. In India, the practice of different religions like Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism were widespread; a major focus of these religions is the afterlife. Even with beliefs in different gods and spirits, both religions followed the path towards enlightenment and keeping good karma. 

Leading a good life while on Earth in your current body would mean even better things for the next chapter of your soul’s life cycle. In death, you would be reborn into a desirable life. If you led a bad life on Earth, they believed your next life would be unfavorable and tough. This scenario applied to all the realms of heaven, hell, and Earth; your soul could enter a higher or lower form in any plane of existence. 

The texts of these religions discuss different aspects of the afterlife and rebirth. Buddhist texts highlight that an enlightened person will become aware of their previous lives. The entire purpose of the religion is to work towards taking a higher form in your next life.

Soon enough, these teachings spread from India to Greece and Greek philosophers began sharing their thoughts on the subject. In one of Plato’s dialogues, he instructed his teacher Socrates to say “I am confident that there truly is such a thing as living again, and that the living spring from the dead.” 

Over time, the ideas of reincarnation and rebirth worked its way into other religions and beliefs. Early practitioners of Judaism had a universal belief of an immortal soul. When one was converting to Judaism, they were told it was because they were a Jew in a past life.

Real Life Reincarnation?

There are hundreds of known occasions where people claim that they discovered part of a past life. People may come into contact with people they knew in a past life and become aware of that part of themselves. Some even remember things happening to them and specific incidents that never occured in their lifetime. It’s especially shocking when a child who has no knowledge on the subject of reincarnation recalls these events. Click here to read about some of the most shocking reincarnation stories.

It is hard to know if these stories are real or not. There is no doubt that people will go to crazy lengths for five seconds of fame or a paycheck from the local news channel. Either way, it sparks up curiosity around the world; people want to know what happens when we die. 

33% of Americans believe in reincarnation; almost one third of them have some recollection or connection to what seems to be a past life. There is no scientific way to determine what happens after death. The question can only be answered in the act of death and even then there is no way to relay it to the living.

For now, all we know of reincarnation is what other people seem to recall. It’s our choice if we want to believe in it or not. 


  1. Young boy, 9/11, reincarnation of a firefighter. Fire in the Soul: Reincarnation from Antietam to Ground Zero. Recounts the boys story as given by the mother on a reincarnation forum.

  2. A nice summary on reincarnation especially the early religions. Knew of a few but not the others. Thank your sharing a good intro.


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