Many naturally assume that growing Western world belief in reincarnation is primarily based on a simultaneous increasing influence of Eastern religion and thought. This assumption is due, in part, that (many) Eastern religions have long known spiritual traditions that incorporate the concept of reincarnation.Paying close attention, the current Western World “rebirth” of a belief in reincarnation (pun intended) owes much or most of the credit to the ancient classical Greeks and their fascinating views on the afterlife and reincarnation. In particular, we owe many of our ideas to the musings and discourses of the ancient classical Greek philosopher Plato (428/427 BC – 348/347 BC).
Plato’s critique of democracy is that democracy does not place a premium on wisdom and knowledge seeking as an inherent good, much like timocracy and oligarchy. Instead, democracy suffers from the failures of the aforementioned systems insofar as it prioritizes wealth and property accumulation as the highest good. Even worse, democracy embraces total freedom (which Plato calls “anarchy”) and unnecessary “appetites,” which crowd out the ruler’s responsibilities of virtuous governance, control the democratic soul. According to Plato, democracy is the worst form of government since no measures guarantee a rightfully elected leader has the virtues that articulate best interests of the masses.
Until the eighteenth century, it was assumed that human beings are unequal by nature — i.e., that there was a natural human hierarchy. This postulate collapsed with the advent of the idea of natural right and its assumption of an equality of natural order among all human beings. The classical formula for justice according to which an action is just when it offers each individual his or her due took on a substantively egalitarian meaning in the course of time, viz. everyone deserved the same dignity and the same respect.
The ancient warrior culture of Japan produced a sophisticated martial philosophy that we know today as Bushido—the Way of the Warrior. There are eight virtues of Bushido, the code of the samurai: justice, courage, benevolence, politeness, sincerity, honor, loyalty, and self-control. These virtues comprise the essence of Japanese cultural beliefs, which are still present today.
Each of us human beings has an invisible friend and guide to accompany us on our journey through life and death. Whether it manifests as a still-small voice, an innate urge, vivid intuition or an actual entity, each one of us has a teleos, or purpose, particular to our own soul’s journey, negotiating the relationship between Self and ego according to our uniqueness.
At the dawn of history, God was a she—or so it appears. Our paleolithic forebears, thirty or more millennia ago, conceived of Nature or the Divine as a cosmic female. They delighted in immortalizing her image on cave walls and in the form of statuettes carved out of stone, bone, ivory, or coal. Undoubtedly, they also used more perishable materials to depict the Great Mother, though these did not survive the ravages of time. The belief in the universal Female was deeply ingrained and vital. However, it underwent a significant transformation during the neolithic age. For, as human experience and conceptual capacities leaped forward, the Great Mother became increasingly personified.
Maybe the departure of ideals from our lives is all to the good. Surely ideals are dangerous: those who commit their lives to ideals sometimes find untimely ends; they can die violent deaths. When they do survive they often do so in poverty and neglect. And perhaps what the past called ideals are substantially based upon illusions. Perhaps there are no authentic ideals, only idealizations. Maybe the quest for perfection in thought, in art, in war, and in the exercise of loving-kindness only leads to trouble. It’s possible that ideals are what Freud (all the time) and Nietzsche (most of the time) said they are: sources of delusion. But then again, maybe they are not.