“The acceptance or interest in things like reincarnation, omen, telepathy, communication with deceased relatives, etc., is big. While several of the beliefs and phenomena addressed in these surveys overlap with what is commonly called superstition and should have been able to coexist with the long-dominant religion, reincarnation is, for example, a comparatively exotic notion in a Christian cultural circle. In the studies mentioned above, the idea that the individual should be reborn in a new physical body is supported by about one in four respondents. Hammer (2004) writes that “in only forty years, reincarnation has gone from being a belief held by members of some Theosophical and occultist circles to becoming one of the most widely embraced religious conceptions of our time.”
This is something I’ve been amazed by for quite some time. Within New Age Spirituality, etc., being reborn into a new body is seen as self-evident. So, it’s not that the belief is so strong within these circles, that is remarkable, I think, because there it is needed, so that the thought system should be kept together. But by people in general? I tried to capture it in the intro to my degree project (above). With the quote by Olav Hammer. It has been twenty years since then. (I guess one count hippie culture, the late 60ies, early 70ies, as the starting point). It’s been a while since I’ve looked at surveys, but it’s hard to think the numbers have gone backwards. About 25% of people in the Western world, slightly higher in younger people, usually state that they believe or at least do not want to rule out rebirth, in a new body, in the physical ordinary world. Reincarnation, that is. (Here are some statistics that have 10-15 years on the neck.)
Or has it become a straw man for me while the world around has moved on? That the numbers has in fact fallen? That in 2022 people on general believe more in an extinction, a finito, true death? (Faith in the Kingdom of Heaven, somewhere where you come and stay forever, i.e., I don’t think has grown?) Or has the belief become more Buddhist, “Nirvanian”, that you die and is sucked up or transformed into something bigger?
I tried to google the subject. In the US there is PEW Research wich does huge attitude surveys, including of what people believe in. This one is from 2021. Whether the result can be transferred to Sweden is perhaps unclear. Data on more traditional religiosity, faith in Heaven, God, how many people identify as religious, etc., is probably very different between our two countries. But perhaps a notion of reincarnation doesn’t differ so much between Americans and Swedes though?
How to understand this? That reincarnation is a fact, and when mainstream Christian theology has loosen its grip, secularization that is, then this idea of reincarnation comes to the surface, as something one always has deeply felts is true? Or is the change an effect of increased individualization, one’s personal project? That it would be so unthinkable, almost a mockery, if it all just ended? Or a mix? Or something else?
(Then there’s the possible clinical implication, of course. But it’s a completely different track… In some alternative psychological theories & therapies, it is thought that symptoms and disorders are in fact due to the traumas of such past existences, which must be sorted out.)