Anatta and Reincarnation

Let us, as a postulate, embrace the “illusion of self” that is central to Buddhism. There are  powerful intellectual supporters for that statement. David Hume and neuroscientists for example.

Why then, and on what basis, do Buddhists need to claim re-incarnation. What is being re-incarnated? No soul, no self – what then keeps coming back? This seems to me to be a fundamental inconsistency.

Surely, if our self is an illusion – then this is a release from self. Indeed a release from death. What is not there in the first place cannot presumably cease thereafter?

Teilhard de Chardin would have it that all of matter is evolving toward consciousness. Separately he has it that there will be an “Omega Point” where each realises that we are all-in-all to each other – and that all energy is Love and God.

In that case surely our “self” is an illusion. We are already part of what Martin Buber would call the “eternal Thou”. We only have to realise it. Put another way, for Buber our “I” does not exist except in relation to “Thou” – with a reality of “I-Thou” that opens us to our relationship with the “eternal Thou” (I think I have that right?). In that case our “self” doesn’t exist. Indeed ignoring the “Thou” only gets you to a kind of Freudian thinking – “I-It” materialism –  the self-reflective dead end of narcissism.

So. I am attracted to Buddhism, but don’t buy their take on reincarnation. Anatta yes, but only because we’re already all-in-all.

(This by the way is I believe a fundamentally Christian viewpoint).






7 thoughts on “Anatta and Reincarnation

  1. I have tangled with Buddhism and Hinduism via my engagement with yoga.

    Illusion of self – no problem with that, sounds very much like modern scientific ideas of consciousness.

    Soul, reincarnation – absolutely no basis in anything for such ideas, other than wishful thinking.

    • I think consciousness is fascinating. I’ve seen the standard neuroscience.. No such thing.. Illusion etc. I don’t think it’s built from evidence though . In “the illusion of self” by Hood for instance he quotes Libets research as proof that it doesn’t exist. Problem is that digging back to Libet himself – his conclusion is that his data supports free will and consciousness as separate from brain. Matter of taste and premise I think rather than proof. As it happens my preference runs with inductive rather than deductive logic since I don’t accept that anything can be proven therefore the theorem you reach with deductive logic depends on your axioms. So. ..on that basis how about this .. Wilfred Bion – psychoanalyst and philosopher claims that ideas are primary and that mind and brain are an apparatus evolved with the purpose of thinking them. Apparantly good logic to support the conclusion !?

      • Well, I find myself veering away from Platonic ideas, so for me ideas are information or patterns. They arise naturally through structure in the material world. Minds process information or patterns into ideas and have clearly evolved to do so.

        Primary, secondary, … minds and ideas evolved together. They transmute the material world into something akin to magic. But don’t read anything dualistic or spiritual into this. It’s all just mechanical. Computers work on the same principle, but at a much less interesting level.

      • With you in avoiding dualism – panipat gain is more logical ? Reality is more akin to emergent patterns as structures evolve in complexity . Step back from all this – I don’t buy (belief not proof) that all is material and without purpose..

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