PR for People Monthly December 2014 - Page 30

There has been much hoopla surrounding the construction and completion of Tower One at New York’s “Ground Zero.” It seems to me to be a modern analog to the recurring myths of reincarnation in a similar (or even identical) form.

Throughout the ages we, as a species, have been fascinated by the possibility of and the hope for rebirth. Almost every culture has believed that an immutable spirit or soul inhabits every person and has devised legends in which that soul or spirit returns in a new form once the body has died. Many world myths and legends include some form of reincarnation.

Egypt to Greece

The Greek historian Herodotus recorded ancient Egyptian ideas about reincarnation. The Egyptians, he wrote, believed that the soul passed through a variety of species – animals, marine life and birds – before once again becoming a human. The entire journey, from death of a human to rebirth as a human again, took 3,000 years. One ancient Egyptian source, the Book of Going Forth by Day, supports Herodotus' account. It states that the souls of important individuals can return to earth in the form of creatures such as the heron or crocodile.

In Greek mythology, subsequently adopted as a symbol by early Christians, the Phoenix is a long-lived bird that is cyclically regenerated from the ashes of its predecessor. This sense of rebirth carries over into the Greek myth of the creation of mankind. Prometheus was given the task of creating mankind by Zeus. The legend goes that he molded the first man from mud (seems fitting, doesn’t it?). He then gave him fire, which was contrary to Zeus’ instructions, so Prometheus was chained to a mountain where a giant eagle ate his liver every day and every night the liver grew back.

Aboriginal beliefs

In Australia, most Aborigines believe that human souls come from spirits left behind by ancestral beings who roamed the earth during a mythical period called “Dreamtime.” They believe that the birth of a child is caused by an ancestral spirit entering a woman's body. After death, the person's spirit then returns to the ancestral powers.

According to traditional African belief, the souls or spirits of the recently dead linger near the grave for a time, seeking other bodies – reptile, mammal, bird or human – to inhabit. Many African traditions link reincarnation to the worship of ancestors, who may be reborn as their own descendants or as animals associated with their clans or groups.

The Zulu people of southern Africa believe that a person’s soul is reborn many times in the bodies of different animals, ranging in size from tiny insects to large elephants, before being born as a human again. The Yoruba and Edo of western Africa share the widely held notion that people are the reincarnations of their ancestors. They refer to these people as “Father Has Returned” or “Mother Has Returned.”

Whose Ashes Are Theses, Anyway?

A brief history of rebirth, reincarnation and renewal

By Dave Bresler