Friday, September 16, 2022

Reincarnation: A Different Perspective

 In high school, I dismissed the concept of reincarnation. Hindu belief systems seemed far from my understanding of the world. I did not discriminate in dismissing other belief systems. I also felt the belief in any afterlife, heaven, or hell, or Valhalla, among others, were driven by a human need to explain the purpose of life, given death.

More recently, I have become interested in the functions of collections of humans. In particular, I think of these "human-lifespan-independent" processes, like education, religion, culture, and more recently, business and economics, the scientific method, as forms of memetic transmission. Memes, or the passing of ideas from one person to another, versus genes (see Richard Dawkins' book, The Selfish Gene) has been a hotbed of ideas for me. In another post, I talk about the meta-conflicts going on in our societies between memetic and genetic processes.

What struck me as interesting, and has always struck me as interesting, is the appreciation of "the old ways" in the context of "the new ways". Towards this end, I propose that the concept of reincarnation is analogous to species survival, where the reincarnation (or life-after-death) represents the impact of the past and present on to the future. My reincarnation, based on my present behavior, actually represents my memetic impact on future generations. The belief that my reincarnation is dependent on my present life will (hopefully) lead me to better behavior, which (again, hopefully) leads to a better chance of the survival of our species, similar to the suspected altruism effect.

In this sense, the ancient cultures that talk about reincarnation might be a better way for me to look at my own death, as opposed to the challenges of my Western-European atheistic individualism culture.