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Metempsychosis (or Transmigration of Souls)

Metempsychosis (or Transmigration of Souls)

From the Greek meta, "after," and empsychos, "to animate," the belief that after death, the soul passes into another body, either human or animal. In ancient Greece it was roughly equivalent to the idea of reincarnation.

The idea seems to have originated in Egypt but to have first been advocated by Pythagoras around 455 B.C.E. Diogenes Laertius noted that Pythagoras once recognized the soul of a departed friend in a dog that was being beaten. Plato picked up on the idea and expounded it in several of his Dialogues, most notably the Phaedo and Republic. According to the vision of truth that one attains, one will be born in the next life in a body suitable to that attainment, Plato said. The most enlightened will be reborn as a philosopher, musician, artist, or lover. At the lowest level, he placed tyrants. Once a soul has beheld true being, it will pass from animal into human form, he said. Plato also put forth the idea that a person chooses his next life, the very choice being a sign of his character.

The idea of metempsychosis was also held by some of the Gnostics, and it became a source of disagreement between them and the leaders of the Christian church. Irenaeus, the second century bishop of Lyons, wrote at length against the Gnostics in his pacesetting Contra Heresies and singled out metem-psychosis as an idea that was incompatible with Christianity. The church has essentially followed Irenaeus's lead in its consideration of metempsychosis and reincarnation. Origen, a Christian theologian of the third century with a platonic background, tried to defend some aspects of the metempsychosis doctrine, primarily the prior existence of the soul, but soon gave up, having found the idea contrary to the New Testament teachings.

Metempsychosis found its last great philosophical defender in Plotinus (205-270 C.E.), the Neoplatonic philosopher. He saw repeated births of the soul as a means for its education. By being in the body, the soul learns how desirable is the nonphysical existence, Plotinus taught.

The idea of reincarnation lingered in the West, passing through a succession of Gnostic groups, but experienced a re-birth in the twentieth century. It's current spread, however, has a basis in Indian and Oriental ideas of reincarnation, usually attached to the additional notion of karma.

Sources:

Crombie, I. M. Plato: The Midwife's Apprentice. London: Rout-ledge & Kegan Paul, 1964.

Ducasse, C. J. A Critical Examination of the Belief in a Life after Death. Springfield, Ill.: Charles C. Thomas, 1961.

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Metempsychosis

Metempsychosis. The passing of some quintessential part or consequence of a person (e.g. soul or spirit) from one body to another through the process of death. It is frequently known as ‘rebirth’, especially in Indian religions, but in Buddhism there is no ‘self’ being reborn, only the process of caused and causal change.

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metempsychosis

metempsychosis the supposed transmigration at death of the soul of a human being or animal into a new body of the same or a different species, chiefly in Pythagoreanism and certain Eastern religions.

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metempsychosis

metempsychosis transmigration of the soul. XVI. — late L. — Gr. metempsū́khōsis, f. metá META- + en IN1 + psūkhḗ soul (see PSYCHIC).

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metempsychosis

metempsychosis: see transmigration of souls.

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metempsychosis

metempsychosisglacis, Onassis •abscess •anaphylaxis, axis, praxis, taxis •Chalcis • Jancis • synapsis • catharsis •Frances, Francis •thesis • Alexis • amanuensis •prolepsis, sepsis, syllepsis •basis, oasis, stasis •amniocentesis, anamnesis, ascesis, catechesis, exegesis, mimesis, prosthesis, psychokinesis, telekinesis •ellipsis, paralipsis •Lachesis •analysis, catalysis, dialysis, paralysis, psychoanalysis •electrolysis • nemesis •genesis, parthenogenesis, pathogenesis •diaeresis (US dieresis) • metathesis •parenthesis •photosynthesis, synthesis •hypothesis, prothesis •crisis, Isis •proboscis • synopsis •apotheosis, chlorosis, cirrhosis, diagnosis, halitosis, hypnosis, kenosis, meiosis, metempsychosis, misdiagnosis, mononucleosis, myxomatosis, necrosis, neurosis, osmosis, osteoporosis, prognosis, psittacosis, psychosis, sclerosis, symbiosis, thrombosis, toxoplasmosis, trichinosis, tuberculosis •archdiocese, diocese, elephantiasis, psoriasis •anabasis • apodosis •emphasis, underemphasis •anamorphosis, metamorphosis •periphrasis • entasis • protasis •hypostasis, iconostasis

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