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The question of pre-existence has come to the fore throughout Western history. Some people adhere to the Hebraic and Christian notions that the individual is created during the period between conception and birth and other people believe the human soul is somehow immortal, neither created nor destined for destruction. For example, according to Christianity, God creates the person for life in this world and prepares a person for a life extended beyond death. A variety of positions arrayed themselves against Christianity.

The question of pre-existence is often tied to the religious issue of reincarnation, a belief that individuals now living on earth have had a series of previous human lives as they have moved from body to body, a position found in the Hindu text, the Bhagavad-Gita. Traditional Spiritualism believes a new soul is created at birth and goes on to other levels of existence. However, French Spiritism and Theosophy argue for reincarnation.

It is rare to believe in pre-existence without reincarnation. One person who articulated such a belief was Sir Oliver Lodge. In Phantom Walls (1929), he wrote:

"When the question of pre-existence arises I should say that the individual as we know him is a fresh apparition, a new individualisation of something preexisting. We can imagine that, every now and then, an opportunity arises for spirit to enter into relation with matter, and to become gradually an individual, and develop a character and personality which will persist; so that there is almost a kind of 'choice' whether we enter into life or what sort of life we enter into. In that sense we may be saidwith apparent absurdity, but possibly with some kind of truthto select our parentage; and thus may some facts of heredity be accounted for."

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