“May you never bear fruit again.” (Matthew 21:19)

Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, "May you never bear fruit again!" Immediately the tree withered. (Matthew 21:18-19)

Was the fig tree alive?

Since Jesus was communicating directly to the tree, we know that Jesus accepted that the tree was alive, and contained an individual who could be communicated to.

It also means the tree had some capacity to control its production of figs. In this case, we see that Jesus understood the tree was not producing figs. Jesus chastised the tree for this.

We must accept this conclusion unless we want to propose that Jesus was irrational or crazy. Would he have been speaking to someone who was not there, and speaking as if the tree could control its production of figs?

But since Jesus was addressing the tree directly, and not happy the tree did not produce figs, we know Jesus accepted that the tree contained consciousness - and thus a living spirit.

We can know by extension that every living organism in the physical world must be inhabited and operated by some sort of spirit.

What is the difference between a tree and a human?

Subsequently, each living being is at a particular state of spiritual evolution. After each physical body dies, the spiritual individual will move on according to its consciousness and past activities.

This teaching spans the ancient teachings of the Prophets and Jesus alike. This teaching was also common among early Christian fathers as illustrated by Origen as we'll discuss below.

If the spirit or soul does not have successive incarnations, then we find - as did the Christian fathers - a significant cruelty apparent in the physical world. That is, children who are born into situations of suffering. Why would some people be born into lives of luxury and wealth while others are born into suffering and squalor? Is that fair? If we lived only one life, that would mean there is no justice or fairness in this world.

That would also mean that either God is cruel, or God doesn't exist and it is all an accident. This of course is the premise of many who propose atheistic opinions.

That said, certainly there is a great difference between a tree and a human. The human form of life is a physical form of higher consciousness. It is the form from which the spirit-person can utilize to think rationally and grow spiritually. Namely, a person in the human form can have a change of heart. We can decide to abandon the path of self-centeredness and try to develop our spiritual connection with God.

But what about those who do not want to develop spiritually? What about those who condemn the existence of God during their human lifetimes?

And what about those who choose to live out lives of anger and violence - not much different than animals?

In fact, we find many people who will say they envy the life of a dog. Some even say they wish they could come back as a dog. Do these souls get their chance to live in the bodies of dogs, cats or other forms, and thus get to experience the ignorance of spiritual values that some seek while in human form?

Do souls transmigrate?

Despite many books of scripture being banned and burned in the centuries after Jesus, and scriptures being purged of verses or translations that contradicted the prevailing sectarian institutions, beginning with the Roman Catholic Church, there are still a few verses left in the Bible that confirm the fact that Jesus indeed taught the transmigration of the spirit-person (or soul) - in addition to the implication of Jesus' discussion with the fig tree here:

For example, we find that Jesus’ disciples asked him this question about a blind man they came upon:
"Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (John 9:1)
Let’s consider the question carefully. Why did Jesus’ disciples ask this question? First we should consider that multiple disciples asked this question and not just one ‘rogue’ disciple. This means that it was a question that arose from an understanding between Jesus and his disciples from Jesus’ teachings.

In other words, it was assumed that before the man was born, he had the ability to sin. In other to have the ability to sin, the man must have had a previous physical body.

Why? Because as Jesus taught previously, sinning was an action brought upon by the flesh. In other words, the person must have had a prior physical body in order to have sinned before he was born.

Note also that Jesus did not ridicule or criticize this question. He took it in stride. He did not say, “what a preposterous question.” What he said was:
"Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of Him who sent me.” (John 9:2)
Because Jesus accepted that the man could have sinned, he admitted that the man must have lived prior to his being born into that body. While he is saying that the activities of his previous life did not cause his blindness, Jesus is acknowledging that they could have.  Jesus in fact is saying that there was another purpose to his blindness other than as a consequence of his previous activities—previous to being born blind.

Jesus also admitted that the spirit-person of John the Baptist had reincarnated from Elijah:
The disciples asked him, "Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?" Jesus replied, "To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands." Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist. (Matthew 17:10-13)
We also see that Jesus accepted the fact that a demoniac spirit-person could occupy (or possess) the body of another. Jesus drove out several demons who possessed the bodies of others. Jesus even had a discussion with a couple of demoniac spirit-persons who were occupying the bodies of two men. At the demons' request, Jesus ordered them to transmigrate from the bodies of the two possessed men into the bodies of pigs (Matt. 8:31-32). 

Was transmigration taught in early Christianity?

This teaching of transmigration was actually taught in the early Christian church. We find many remnants of this teaching among the early fathers of the Christian Church, including Origen Adamantius, St. Clement, Plotinus, and St. Augustine.

Origen, for example, was considered the Church’s first great theologian. He was approved by the Pope and Bishop Demetrius of Alexandra. He was by far one of the most productive and prolific teachers of the second and third centuries. He was so respected for his knowledge and interpretations of scripture that he was at one time given eight scribes to write his directions.

Origen had thousands of students, and his school was by far the largest Christian school in Alexandria. While much of Origen's writings were later destroyed, we still find clear evidence in remnants of his statements that he supported transmigration:
"Or is it not more in conformity with reason, that every soul, for certain mysterious reasons  is introduced into a body, and introduced according to its deserts and former actions? It is probable, therefore, that this soul also, which conferred more benefit by its former residence in the flesh than that of many men (to avoid prejudice, I do not say "all"), stood in need of a body not only superior to others, but invested with all excellent qualities." (Against Celsus, I.32)
Following the Councils of Nicene (325 AD and later) and the subsequent enforcement of the Roman Catholic Church teachings by the Roman empire, the Roman-ruled Church banned Origen's teachings. And his some 6,000 writings - once revered by many devoted Christians - were destroyed.

Is there scientific evidence for transmigration?

We also find there is scientific evidence for transmigration. A number of scientific studies by respected medical researchers over the past four decades in Clinical Death and Near Death Experiences (NDE) has shown that the living individual separates from the body at the time of death.

Tens of thousands of patients have confirmed that the living being leaves and rises above the body at the time of death, and is able to observe activities in the hospital that could have otherwise not been seen while the patient's body lay unconscious on the bed.

The accuracy of these out of body NDEs has been verified thousands of times by cases studied by teams of researchers led by Raymond Moody, M.D., Kenneth Ring, Ph.D., Michael Sabom, M.D. and Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, M.D. Each of these doctors and researchers led their own studies that independently confirmed the out of body NDE experience.

The reality that we can take on another body after death has been scientifically confirmed by a vast amount of research performed over the past twenty years by eminent scientists. Research by Dr. Ian Stevenson, a medical doctor and professor of research at the University of Virginia, Department of Psychiatric Medicine illustrated that a child can often recall their previous lifetime with exquisite detail.

Dr. Sevenson's research documented hundreds of subjects who detailed previous lifetimes as historical persons, describing events with a clarity and experience only possible from having lived personally in that situation. Dr. Stevenson and other scientists meticulously corroborated the accuracy of these details, and gradually developed a mountain of practical evidence for the transmigration of the self.

Though undoubtedly controversial, the research has been thoroughly peer-reviewed and corroborated. Over thirty scientific books and hundreds of scientific papers have been written to document studies by hypnotherapists, many of whom are M.D.s and/or licensed psychiatrists. Dr. Stevenson’s research spanned over thirty-seven years, and documented hundreds of cases of previous life recognition by children who remembered their past lives. His corroborated research indicated that past life recollection fades by about age seven.

Before that age, children will often speak spontaneously about their previous lives as historical individuals, recalling historical details decades old and otherwise unknowable. Dr. Stevenson and his various associates meticulously documented these recollections along with the confirmations of their historical accuracy. Dr. Stevenson wrote several books on the subject, presenting the evidence in a clinically rigorous and scientific manner (Stevenson 1997; Tucker 2005).

A number of other scientists have confirmed Dr. Stevenson's work, by regressing patients into verifiable past lives using hypnosis, and subsequently confirming the accuracy of the past life. These doctors have included Dr. Helen Wambach (1978), Dr. Morris Netheron (1978), Dr. Edit Fiore (1978), Dr. Bruce Goldberg (1982), Dr. Joel Whitton (1986), Dr. Brian Weiss (1988), Dr. Christopher Bache (1994), Dr. Winafred Lucas (1993), Dr. Marge Rieder (1995; 1999) along with a number of others.

Is transmigration of the soul theological?

Eventually, the Church banned all discussion of the soul’s transmigration. But this wasn't because it is inconsistent with the existence of God.

Why did they ban it? Because this teaching threatened the exclusivity and power of the Church. It took away the primary weapon of power: The threat of going to hell.

In other words, transmigration gives the living being a possible second chance if we fail in this lifetime to perfect our relationship with God.

It also gave the living being freedom of choice. The emperors that sought to control the Church, and those who ruled the Church, saw this teaching as undermining the Church’s power. They didn't like freedom of choice. In other words, the Church utilized fear as its best recruiting tactic.

Furthermore, transmigration illustrates that God is fair. Many ask the Christian church why, if God is so loving, are people born into suffering? Why are children born with AIDS or into starvation? The answer is that the individual born into that body has some specific lessons to learn, based on their prior activities and consciousness. The physical body is simply a vehicle for learning.

It is like an automobile. The driver can get out of the car when it breaks down. While the car might not run well, or might break down, the driver is unaffected (outside of the driver's learning experience). The driver can simply open the car door and walk away. In the same way, the bodies we wear are temporary vehicles. They are not us. We get a particular type of physical body to operate according to our consciousness and our past behavior. The body is only temporary. It decomposes after we leave it.

Each body is designed to impart a collection of lessons upon the spiritual individual operating it. These lessons are determined by what we need to learn. It might be compared to a computer software program that creates a virtual identity for the operator so the operator can go through the learning program. This "machinery" of the physical world is perfect. And it is fair. The body we get is determined by our past activities and consciousness.

The body also allows us to forget God. This takes place as we mistakenly identify with our temporary physical body. We are confusing ourselves - an eternal spiritual child of God - with a temporary vehicle or vessel: the physical body.

This is why Paul, reflecting the teachings of Jesus, stated:
"I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable." (1 Cor 15:50)
and
"Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.... So we make it our goal to please Him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it." (2 Cor 5:6 and 5:9)