The Metempsychosis

Sec. II.

The metempsychosis1 is the doctrine commonly, although not always, associated closely with that of pre-existence, which we have already passingly referred to in Div. I. Sec. I. We should not here recur to it, if it had a history only external to Judaism and Christianity. But it has found advocates of a decided character as well in the synagogue as in the church. The Pharisees, according to the testimony of Josephus, taught that the souls of the wicked continue in everlasting punishment; but the souls of the good, on the contrary, pass into other bodies.2 This sounds as if the Pharisees had taught the transmigration of souls; but, in fact, it is only the biblical doctrine of resurrection maintained by the Pharisees in opposition to the Sadducees, on which Josephus, that it might not be used to put him to shame before the Romans, puts this PythagoreanPlatonic garment.3 How frequently we hear in the Talmuds the Pharisees contending with the Sadducees about the resurrection (Q^en Jvnn) 5 but about transmigration of souls nothing is whispered, beyond that here and there appears to be supposed that one and the same man may emerge at several times under different names in the current history of this world,4—an idea which, at the time of Jesus, appears to have been a popular superstition: for Herod the tetrarch thinks that Jesus is only another incarnation of the soul of John, who was beheaded (Matt. xiv. 1, comp. Mark vi. 16, Luke ix. 9); and as well John

1 Instead of fittifi^vxpnig, it is called also fintnufixtooi;, fttrtnhai;, i.e. reuniting of the soul from one body to the other; fimvyyiofii;, i.e. transfusing from one vessel into the other; in the later fathers, animarum transmigratio, translatio, revolutio, reciprocatio, etc.

2 Bell.jud. ii. viii. 14 (comp. iii. viii. 5), Ant. xviii. 1, 3. The chief passage runs, ^,vxV' iraaou £Qixpron, fivrxfitttnu» li tl; hipov oufitx ni»

3 See Bottcher, de inferis, sec. 518, p. 552; Winer, R. W. ii. 247.

4 e.g. b. Sanhedrin 1056, according to which Beor (the father of Balaam, not Balaam himself, as Bottcher supposes, sec. 552), Cushan Kishathaim, and Laban the Aramaean, are one person.

the Baptist (John i. 21) as Jesus (Matt. xvi. 14; Luke be 19], are taken by the people for great personages of the past days, appearing again. It has been thought also, that the question of the disciples (John ix. 2) must be explained of a presumed transmigration of souls, or at least, as De Wette, with Bruckner's consent, supposes, of a presumed pre-existence; but it is not at all necessary to suppose that the disciples regard the one of the two cases suggested as possible, as being just as conceivable as the other. The question is the expression of the embarrassment into which they were thrown by the false premiss, that bodily suffering of the individual is always the punishment of sin. The Zohar first of all teaches not only, as the Talmud, the pre-existence of souls, but also the transmigration of sonls from one form of temporal life into the other, till they finally become worthy to return into the palace of the heavenly King.1 In the ancient church, Origen awakened the suspicion of a similar view, by declaring himself often expressly against the transmigration of souls; and a continued embodiment of the soul in this world is, moreover, actually foreign to his system/ which teaches for it a continual new creation of material worlds, destined for places of purification of spirits, and thus prides itself on establishing, in the place of the doctrine of the transmigration of souls, a far more exalted theory. None the less Jerome accuses him of unmistakeably defending the transmigration of souls,8 in the sense of Plato and Pythagoras; and laments that the serpent's poison, so nearly allied to this of the doctrine of pre-existence held by Origen, still always was secretly entailed upon the church from Egypt and the East.*

1 See Franck. Cabbala, p. 177. The transmigration of souls is called KnetSol &6uba (revolutio animarum), probably to distinguish it from ^ihi in another eschatological meaning. See Buxtorf, Lex. Chald. c. 438, 446.

2 Observe; a metensomatosis Of .this World. See his disputing this at the beginning of vol. xiii. tn Matthxum.

3 In the Epistle 59, adAvitum (Opp. ed. Vallarsi, i. c. 923); and equally the Emperor Justinian, in his writings in respect of the fifth Council of Constantinople (550), in vol. ix. of the Collectio of Mansi. In Photios ire read also that Origen was responsible for the view, that the soul of the Redeemer was the soul of Adam.

4 In the Ep. ad Demetriadem (Opp. i. c. 992); comp. Epitaphiua Paul* (ib. c. 715-719).

The Gnosticism as well of the Jewish as of the Gentile Christians, adopted the erroneous doctrine thus favoured by philosophy and the Cabbala, and nurtured it up.

And how is it proved from Holy Scripture? How Basilides attempted it, we are informed by Origen on Rom. vii. 9: " I died, says the apostle, for sin began to be attributed to me. But Basilides, without considering that this is to be understood of the natural law, refers the apostolic word to absurd and ungodly fables, to the Pythagorean dogma, seeking to prove from this assertion of the apostle, that souls are continually transfused into other bodies. When the apostle says, I lived once without law, he means, according to Basilides: Before I came into this my present body, I lived in the bodily form of a being that was not under the law,—namely, of a four-footed beast or of a bird. Basilides therein shuts his eyes to what follows: but when the commandment came, sin revived again (revixit)."1 Carpocrates taught that the world is a work of world-spirits, whose place is far beneath the true and highest God; and that the soul, passing through the region of the world-spirits, and emancipated from their trammels, has to take its way upwards to the eternal uncreated Father. In this manner he interpreted the parabolic saying of Jesus, "When thou art in the way with thine adversary, give diligence that thou mayest be delivered from him, that he may not hale thee perchance to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and the officer cast thee into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt not depart thence till thou hast paid the very last mite" (Luke xii. 58; Matt. v. 25). The adversary, he said, is the devil, one of the world-spirits who brings the departed souls before the judge the chief of the world-spirits, who delivers them to the officer another of the world-spirits, in order to enclose them in other bodies; for the body, say they, is a dungeon from which the soul does not depart until it has lived through and experienced all that belongs to this world, and has therein approved its freedom, in order to soar upwards to the God who is exalted above the worldforming angels.2

Such a mode of scriptural argument needs no refutation. 1 Stier's Ausg. des Irenaos, i. 903.

1 Irenseus, c. hser. i. 25; Tertullian, de anima, c. 85; Epiphanius, User. xxvii. {Opp. ed. Petav. i. 106).

It is still more absurd than if any one, as Augustine observes, were to quote Ps. xlix. 12, 20, lxxiv. 19, on behalf of the transmigration of souls, or than when Juda b. Aser, Abarbanel and other Jewish religious philosophers, find in it the reason of the Levirate law (DU'n DVB), and appeal to Job xxxiii. 29 as a proof text.1 Scripture contains no intimation which even remotely favours it. For even Matt. xi. 14 (comp. xvii. 12) is not such an intimation. John himself denies that he is Elias (John i. 21); he is therefore not Elias in the sense of the Jews, but he is so nevertheless in a certain sense: for he is the second Elias, who, according to scriptural prophecy, precedes the Lord; and it was of great importance that he should be so regarded, that the day of redemption which was then breaking, the heavenly kingdom of the second David that was appearing, should not be mistaken. For the rest, Elias was already, according to Scripture, bodily taken into heaven. That his soul should be clothed upon with a new temporal body in the womb of Elisabeth, would be a contradiction of Scripture by itself.

The metempsychosis has therefore no biblical testimony to adduce for itself; it only abases the word of God, as all false wisdom does, to paint itself up withal. It is, on the contrary, thoroughly contradictory to Scripture. For (1) it deranges, contrary to reason and experience, the limits established by creation, as the Holy Scripture testifies, between natural class and class (r?), according to which it is impossible that one nature should pass over into the other, which is substantially the same as that the soul of one being should become the soul of another. That the souls of those men whose god is their belly, and whom their own greediness has stricken with stupidity and sluggishness, pass into swine, asses, and similar brutes; the souls of those who loved unrighteousness, exercised tyranny, and were given to robbery, into wolves, hawks, and other creatures of prey; that the souls of those, on the other hand, who lived morally and peaceably should pass, not essentially but habitually, into bees or ants; and that these degraded souls should ever, according to their conduct, be changed from brute souls back into human souls, as we read in Plato, whether it be regarded physieally or ethically, is alike an absurdity. It is

1 See the two Hebrew treatises on the transmigration of souls in the collection D,3pt Dj?B, Frankfort-on-Maine 1854.

absurd in a physical view; for "every body," says Aristotle with absolute truth,1 "has its peculiar internal form and external formation; and that every soul can without distinction enter into every body, is therefore a fiction just as romantic as if it were said that an architect can accomplish his work by playing on the flute. In the same way that every art must have its appropriate tools, the soul also needs a body corresponding to it." It is absurd in an ethical view; for a state of punishment, without consciousness of the foregone sins to be expiated, cannot possibly serve for man's moral purification; and a human soul that has become the soul of a brute, is absolutely no longer a being capable of moral accountableness and improvement. The proof of this twofold (physical and ethical) absurdity of the Pythagorean-Platonic dogma, is found as early as the writings of Justin Martyr.*

Now it cannot indeed be said of the metempsychosis, if it abandons that change of men into brutes, any more than of the doctrine of pre-existence (Div. I. Sec. I.), that it is contrary to reason. But it is contrary to revelation and contrary to Scripture in all forms. For, (2) according to Scripture, death

1 In the three books, vtpl \^vxv;, i. 3.

-' At the beginning of the dialogue, c. Tryphon: comp. Irenseus, c. hser. ii. 33, which takes its counter proof from the want of all recollection of the earlier condition; Thcodoret, Grsecarum affeclionum curatio, c. xi. (p. 431, s. ed. Gaisford), which, in connection with the migration into wasps, bees, and ants, wittily remarks, that, according to Plato, the reward of those who in their life have done wrong to no one, is to wound and injure others; Augustine (civ. x. 30), who with satisfaction appeals to the fact, that even Porphyry limited the doctrine of Plato and Plotinus his own master, to a migration into human bodies: Puduit scilicet illud credero ne mater fortasse filium in mulum revoluta vectaret, et non puduit hoc credere, ubi revoluta mater in puellam filio forsitans nuberet. Unsurpassed in this kind of contest is Tertullian, who, in his apologeticus, c. 48, and especially de anima, c. 32-35, heaps upon the philosophico-guostic metempsychosis s. metensomatosis, in the mocking designation of which he is inexhaustibly inventive, the most biting sarcasm of the coarsest wit. .Eneas of Gaza is the only one besides the above-named that embarks in a searching refutation, in his dialogue Theophrastos; Hermias scoffs not without wit; Lactantius and Chrysostom lose themselves in empty tirades. What elsewhere is found in the fathers, consists partly of insignificant historical notices (among the apologists, Clemens Alexandrinus, Epiphanius, Eusebius), partly of insufficient attempts at refutation (Cyril of Alexandria, Isidorus Peleusianus, 1. iv. ep. 163). Besides Porphyry, Jamblichus and

is the absolute end of the temporal history of every individual man, and the parousia of Christ is the absolute end of the temporal history of the whole of humanity. A general judgment decides finally upon the destiny of all men, and of all the beings that have been involved in the history of humanity; and when the present world shall have passed away, whose characteristic is the mingling of wrath and love, there is no further world beyond the new one which proceeds from the destruction of the old world. The essence of eternity that has been immanent in temporality has come to its breaking forth: the two principles are for ever unmingled, and there remains still only a kingdom of love or of lights-heaven; and a kingdom of wrath or of darkness and fire—hell.

In the scriptural doctrine of the last things, therefore, there is absolutely no place for a gradually progressive embodiment of the separate souls, whether it be in the present world or in another future one. Even Origen is compelled to allow this, although his exegetical method permitted him to twist the Scripture like a kaleidoscope. But if, among the great thinkers of modern days, Lessing1 so lightly spoke in behalf of the

Hierocles (according to the information in Photius) limited the human metempsychosis to a transition into human bodies. Proclus and Syrianus made another wonderful attempt to vindicate the Platonic dogma. They said that the brute kept its own soul, but that the human soul, which passed into the brute body, was bound in sympathy to the brute souL '0 oi dentiv; *-oyoi, says Proclus in the sixth book to Timseus, tiaxpimaixt f/f hiptx Qwi Ti)» dvDpuxlintf ixfivrx. 3s Tij» o/xe/se» %uri», x<ii iiri

rxvrri ryv floxpiDuaoui ypvxyn o'o» iiroyfiviikvut xci tri irptiq «vr4» avfixxhis hfofiitv». We recall therein the cabbalistic doctrine of 1121!, i.e. of the impregnation of a soul by another married in union with it. jEneas banters the new device of his contemporary Proclus in a very successful manner.

1 In The Education of the Human Race (1780), where, in sec. 95, it runs: "Is this hypothesis so ridiculous for the reason that it is the oldest— because the human understanding chanced upon it before the sophistry of the schools had dissipated and weakened it?" That the oldest view of futurity is that of metempsychosis, is false. It was first developed among the Egyptians as well as the Indians, from the-notion of Hades and its twofold state. In Israel no step was made beyond the revealed fundamental view, either in the mythologic or in the speculative direction. Zschokke has represented the faith of the transmigration of souls in a sentimental novel entitled Harmonius: "I knew three beings," says Harmonius there, "with which I was associated in a wondrous involuntary manner, as I was

transmigration of souls, it is explained from the fact that he wholly lost the idea of a positive although progressive revelation, and was only groping in the dark according to a position that was spiritually just as free, as it was restrained to the divinehuman canon of Scripture. Both these things are true in a more limited degree of Herder also, who closes his confutation of Lessing with the words: " Purification of heart, improvement of the soul, with all its impulses and desires: this, it seems to me, is the true palingenesia of this life; after which assuredly a more joyous, a loftier metempsychosis, but which is unknown to us, awaits us."1

This "unknown" metempsychosis — the only one that Scripture teaches—is the resurrection. As there their Godresembling nature comes to manifestation in the bodies of the righteous—the nature in which Christ's blood has effaced every stain—so, through the not less humanly formed bodies of the ungodly, will break through their nature, on the one hand devilish, on the other brutal, and make them a dreadful and loathsome reverse of glorification. This, but nothing further than this, is the truth of the metempsychosis. The scriptural revelation leaves unabolished the dualism of hell and heaven, which the metempsychosis has it in view to cancel.