Incarnation and Reincarnation part 1

Loehr-Daniels Study Course of Basic Teachings

 

Part 1

By Franklin Loehr

 

          Have you ever lived before as a cow, a tree, an ant, a person, or a fish? Answers: No, No, No, Yes, and No. We find no evidence in our extensive research that the soul is ever less than human when it incarnates (takes on a flesh body). But we do find conclusive evidence that the soul does come to Earth in a number of different bodies, at different times, as different per-sons, for different experiences and purposes.

 

        The chemicals in the body come from the mineral kingdom. Some of the organs of the body, including generative organs, bear strong resemblance to aspects and manifestations of the plant kingdom. The physical body of each of us is animal in nature and function. Thus in our bodies we find represented all three of the recognized “kingdoms” of Earth. When we watch the body of the human evolve from fetus to maturity, we find it going through many of the steps recognized in evolution.

 

          Definitely, the human body is a product of the causative and evolutionary processes of Nature on Earth. In our bodies we symbolically -- and to some extent actually – “partake of all that is” on Earth. But the body is but half the human being. The very word incarnation, which means “in flesh” (from the Latin in meaning “in”and carnus meaning “flesh”), means that there is something not of the flesh which is for now in the flesh.

 

        Let us take a quick look now at a scientific finding that has generated more heat than light among many religionists. It is called the theory of evolution. That is a misnomer. It began as a theory, but it quickly became, not theory, but established, proved fact. Religionists fought it because religionists are incarnationists, and at first thought that evolution challenged incarnation. The major teaching about man in every major religion is that there is a spirit – something non-material, non-physical – in, around, connected to, or somehow vitally associated with every human being. Christian theologians speak of “The Incarnation,” meaning that God Himself was present in the flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

 

But Jesus consistently refused to make of His nature, His earth-beingness, anything fundamentally different from all human beings.  Jesus insisted that all of us are incarnations of spirit, Children of God. Even His advanced spiritual accomplish-ments, he proclaimed are within the range of possibility of all of us as we progress in character and in learning: “The things that I do ye shall do, and greater things shall ye do.” Incarnation means there is a spirit, a non-material soul, associated with the physical body of every human being, past, present, and future. All of man’s religions teach this as the basic truth of our human beingness.

 

Evolution, as first presented and understood, seemed to challenge this basic religious teaching of incarnation. Evolution definitely has found that forms of life can change. These changes occur in several natural ways going on all the time. First, occasionally a cosmic ray will strike the nucleus of a generative cell – a sperm, an ovum. This can change a molecule of linkup of the DNA code of genes and chromo-somes, or some other factor of that cell, and thus cause a mutation in the offspring produced by that cell (if it produces any).

 

This offspring is different – usually worse, sometimes better, but different from the parent(s). Strictly speaking this is not an evolutionary process, but a process by which change from outside does occasionally come into earth plants and animals. Evolutionary changes are those brought about slowly, over the course of many generations, by the greater adaptability to environment of some individuals or traits within a species, leading to an enlarged percentage of offspring for those better individuals. The horse of ancient times, whose bones are occasionally found by archaelogists today, was about the size of our small ponies today. How did it double its stature, in the course of millions of years? Because the bigger, stronger, fiercer stallions could drive away their less able male rivals, and thus sire more offspring. Or a butterfly may have different wing markings, making it less noticeable to predators in its native environment – and more of these survive to produce offspring. By these natural processes of selection, most of the various life forms now found on Earth have made some progress over the millions of years they have been here.

 

This is sometimes called “the survival of the fittest” – and if you will permit me, I’d like to tell a wonderfully silly little story that may help set this in your mind. It concerns three little kittens. One had a fit, and died. The second had two fits, and also died. The children to whom these kittens belonged watched the lone survivor anxiously, hoping it would escape the fate of its siblings. But soon that third kitten had a fit (This was before the days of distemper shots.) And a second fit. And still a third fit. Then it got well! And the point of this story? – the survival of the fittest!

 

Survival of the fittest is precisely what scientific research has found true of the evolutionary development within species. But this is not the whole of the story of evolution. If this were all, if life itself spontaneously evolved out of matter and into all the forms we find today to finally produce man, the incarnationists (relig-ionists who hold that Man is an incarnate soul) would find themselves threatened by the evolutionists. But the scientific view of evolution is known as emergent evolution. It finds four great emergents, four great new things that it is not able to ascribe to development from that which came before. The pre-existent did not even contain the possibilities, in itself, for producing these new emergents.

 

(1) Matter. The first great emergent is matter. As far as man has been able to ascertain, by scientific observation and by logical deduction, non-matter just simply cannot of itself produce matter. That which is in nature on earth must come from that which was. But something existed before nature, to produce nature.

 

(2) Life. The second emergent is life. The chemical kingdom in itself, which is what we mean by matter, holds all the matter used in the bodies of living things on earth. But by itself the chemical world does not produce life. Life emerges – comes from somewhere else.

 

(3) Animal Life. The third emergent was that form of ambulatory life we call animal. Here is a capacity for choosing one’s environment that is not found among plants. Plants are rooted, animals move around. This means an animal can move away to escape an enemy, and can seek its food far from where it was born. A greater degree of intelligence, even the appearance of a definite brain to direct the individual, is concomitant with this difference between animals and plants.

Along with this conscious control of place and reaction to situations there appears a more expressive consciousness in animals, even though controlled by instinct more than by thought, a group consciousness more than an individual consciousness. Dr. Cleve Backster made one of the truly great history-making discoveries of the 1960s, a polygraph (lie detector) teacher in New York City. Hooking up his polygraph to a plant in his office, he discovered, to his amazement, that plants have emotional reactions that can be measurably, repeatably, scientifically shown on the polygraph. But an animal can show security or fear, love or anger, in open behavior, without being hooked up to a lie detector. An animal can consciously and of itself express itself more fully than can a plant.

 

        (4) Human Life. The fourth emergent, the fourth great something-new-that-has been-added, is that which marks off the human being from the lower animals. There is a quantitative enlargement of intelligence and consciousness that amounts to a qualitative change, and a spiritual element which religion calls the soul. Not all emergent evolutionists accept the concept of  “soul,” but they will speak of finding in the human such qualities as appreciation of beauty, the holding of values, commitment which can lead the individual to submerge his own welfare and even lose his life for something he believes in, even an abstract cause – all indicating a component within the human being very closely akin to what religion calls the soul.

 

        Along with the human being’s vastly increased intelligence and conscious expression, a difference in such degree as to be a difference in kind, and with it a self-consciousness which becomes dominant over the group consciousness, there is also this non-material “something else.” A great symphony, a great painting, a great philosophy, a great idea – a human being can enjoy these, produce these, devote his life to these. Truly, in man something new has been added to earth. This is the fourth emergent recognized by evolutionists – and it ties in directly with the incarnational concept of man held by religionists, that man is an embodied soul. Science and religion – if you pursue them far enough – come together.

 

        Remember – always remember – that science and scientists are not the same. Even as 99+% of churchgoers do not live up to the religion they profess (but thank God they have a religion; what might we be like without it?), so also very few scientists live up to the teachings and standards of science. Scientists, as people, are not a special pure or better breed, set apart from the rest of us. The scientist often presumes and acts as though he were superior, but he is only another human being, a man or woman made even as we are, subject to all the frailties and temptations of life in the flesh with which we are all too well acquainted. They who call themselves “scientists” are just plain human beings, like unto you and me. They are subject to the same habits and temptations as we. They get in habits of thinking in certain patterns, and these habits work against their whole-heartedly seeking and being open to new truth. They consider their professional standing, their position, their livelihood, and they – most of them – oppose or suppress or turn from certain new truth which might threaten their present personal wellbeing. (Emanuel Velikovsky bears eloquent witness to this opposition to new truth.) They fall into the pitfall of pride – indeed, perhaps a higher percentage of the scientists of our day are trapped in pride than any other profession. For example: So many scientists consider themselves so intellectually superior to those of us who believe in God!

 

        There were times during my seventeen years as an active pastor that I came away from meetings of ministers and church officials shaking my head, wondering how God could ever get much done through such a limited group as we. Then as I was invited to meetings of other groups -–doctors, attorneys, car salesmen, management, labor, garden clubs, seed growers, chemists, nuclear physicists, undertakers, you name it – I came to the conclusion that ministers are about the same, really, and the trouble with all of us is simply that we are human beings. “If you were  perfect you wouldn’t even be here,” as friends have so often said.

 

        Science is a noble thing, as noble as religion. Science is a method of getting information that insists that that information be true, and objectively proved true. Science persists in its quest for truth until it has the truth; however, many scientists may be surpassed in the final achievement. Science venerates its high priests but does not allow itself to be confined by them. Einstein’s discovery of general relativity refined even the great Isaac Newton’s discovery, cornerstone of the scientific understanding of the universe, of gravity.

 

        Science succeeds in getting more and better information than any of the other methods man has used (authority, tradition, speculation, personal experience, intuition, special revelation – remember our second lesson). Why? Because science is a more humble, God-fearing, devout method than any other. (Not scientists, remember – but science.) Science says to the thing it is studying, “Tell me what you are, in and of your own true self.” This is the same as saying “Tell me what God made you to be” – but thank goodness the scientist, if he happens to be not religiously oriented, can use this approach without using the religious terminology!

 

        “Tell me what you are, in your own terms,” says the scientist to the thing or process he is studying. “You don’t have to learn my language. I will learn your language, that you may speak to me.” For this is precisely what the scientist does in his experiments to determine the native qualities and characteristics, the real nature, of the thing he is studying.

 

        “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free,” said Jesus. It has taken science to enable us to know the truth about the elements of nature. Science says to whatever it studies, “Tell me what you really are, in your own being. Not what people have thought you were, not even what past (and present) authorities teach about you, but what you truly are, in your own beingness.” This is in essence science humbly asking of everything it studies, “What hath God wrought here?” Science succeeds above all the other methods by which man gets information because in essence Science is the most humble, the most devout, the most God-respecting method, the method which asks “What is the truth – God’s truth, the Creator’s doing – in this object or process before me.”

 

        Now back to evolution: The facts of life observed by science do show a growth-characteristic in most forms of life. A few, like the shark, are so well adapted to their particular environment that they have not changed for perhaps 200 million years, but these few are the exceptions. Horses have gotten larger because the strongest, fiercest, wiliest, most successful stallions sired the most offspring. Man himself uses this evolutionary principle of choosing breeding stock with characteristics wanted in the offspring to “upgrade the breed” of racehorses, milk cows, beef cattle, chickens, hybrid corn, potatoes, the new rice, and almost every plant and animal he uses. The English bulldog, for example, was bred to have forward jaws and a pushed back nose, for it was used to “bait” bulls in a sports ring. The dog would clamp onto the bull’s nose or lip and hang on while the bull threshed him against any object available to shake him loose in that vicious “sport.” The protruding jaw and receding nose gave the dog a better grip.

 

        The human body has evolved, in recent centuries probably mostly from better nutrition and health. I remember visiting the John Knox house in Edinburgh, Scotland. Here that great reformer, political power, and early Presbyterian lived. I had to stoop as I walked through the rooms, to keep from hitting my head against the roof beams. That made me realize that John Knox – and most of the men of his day – must have been several inches shorter than men today. That towering historical figure, John Knox, had a body smaller than mine.

 

        The “raw idea” of evolution, holding that man simply developed from monkeys and there is nothing about man essentially new or different, did threaten religion. Religionists of that period, when scientific processes were not well understood even by scientists, felt the issue was, “Does man come from God or from monkeys?” Defending not only historical religion but also their own true, deep down, “gut feeling,” they chose – and chose aright – for God. As one orator put it, “If I go back far enough in my ancestry I may find someone hanging from a tree, yes. But he’ll be hanging by his neck, thank God, and not by a tail!”

 

        I think God appreciated that defense, but breathes more easily so to speak as the truth of evolution was refined. Emergent Evolution is the form accepted today, and seems to be well established. (Evolution as a scientific inquiry is not attracting much new inquiry.) Emergent evolution recognizes that there is some-thing different about man. This is exactly what the religious teaching of incarnation says. Man has a body, yes. But the essence of man is not that earth-animal body. There is something not of the body which for a time is enfleshed, embodied, in it. As Kirby Page said years ago in a chapel service while I was in college, “Man is a spirit, he has a body.”

         

        That’s the essence of incarnation. Science’s “fourth emergent” of evolution and Religion’s “soul” are one and the same.

 

 

 

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