By Rajeev Dalvi

Part V – The Modern Age
As we enter the twentieth century, we find the idea of reincarnation attracting the mind of one of the West’s most influential artists, Paul Gauguin, who during his final years in Tahiti wrote that when the physical organism breaks up, “the soul survives.” It then takes on another body, Gauguin wrote, “degrading or elevating according to merit or demerit.” The artist believed that the idea of continued rebirth had first been taught in the West by Pythagoras, who learned it from the sages of ancient India.

U. S. auto magnate Henry Ford once told a newspaper interviewer, “I adopted the theory of reincarnation when I was twenty-six.” Ford said, “Genius is experience. Some seem to think that it is a gift or talent, but it is the fruit of long experience in many lives.” In a similar fashion, U. S. general George S. Patton believed that he had acquired his military skills on ancient battlefields.

Reincarnation is a recurring theme in Ulysses, by Irish novelist and poet James Joyce. In one famous passage in this novel, Joyce’s hero, Mr. Bloom, tells his wife, “Some people believe that we go on living in another body after death, that we lived before. They call it reincarnation. That we all lived before on the earth thousands of years ago or on some other planet. They say we have forgotten it. Some say they remember their past lives.”

Jack London made reincarnation the major theme of his novel The Star Rover, in which the central character says, “I did not begin when I was born, nor when I was conceived. I have been growing, developing through incalculable myriads of millenniums… All my previous selves have their voices, echoes, promptings in me… Oh, incalculable times again shall I be born, and yet the stupid dolts about me think that by stretching my neck with a rope they will make me cease.”

In his classic novel of the search for spiritual truth, Siddhartha, Nobel laureate Herman Hesse wrote, “He saw all these forms and faces in a thousand relationships to each other… None of them died, they only changed, were always reborn, continually had a new face: only time stood between one face and another.” Numerous scientists and psychologists have believed in reincarnation as well. One of the greatest modern psychologists, Carl Jung, used the concept of an eternal self that undergoes many births as a tool in his attempts to understand the deepest mysteries of the self and consciousness. “I could well imagine that I might have lived in former centuries and there encountered questions I was not yet able to answer; that I had to be born again because I had not fulfilled the task that was given to me”, Jung said.

British biologist Thomas Huxley noted that “the doctrine of transmigration” was a “means of constructing a plausible vindication of the ways of the cosmos to man,” and warned that “none but very hasty thinkers will reject it on the grounds of inherent absurdity.

One of the leading figures in the field of psychoanalysis and human development, American psychoanalyst Erik Erikson, is convinced that reincarnation goes to the very core of every man’s belief system. “Let us face it: ‘deep down’ nobody in his right mind can visualize his own existence without assuming that he has always lived and will live hereafter”, the author wrote.

This new and fresh ideology was now creeping in as the twentieth century progressed; in other words during the Modern Age. But this isn’t it all. There’s much more. There were many more thinkers who positively supported this concept of reincarnation. Read on to find out for yourself.

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