I wasn’t brought up believing in “reincarnation,” or even knowing much about it.

But when, in the course of doing yoga and meditation, the idea was introduced to me, I thought it made a lot of sense. Also, I was hearing it from teachers who didn’t just accept the idea casually. They believed it with depth and sincerity. Their conviction helped convince me.

For me, it answered the question: “Why do good people suffer and bad people thrive?”

The answer: It only seems that way. Ultimately, we all receive the consequences — good or bad — of our actions. If not in this world, in this life, then in another world or another life. We’re never unaccountable.

I internalized this rather deeply. Once, for example, I was mugged in New York City. Afterwards, I accepted it as my “karma,” not wanting even to have angry thoughts about the young man who had mugged me, because our thoughts have consequences as much as our actions do.

Of course, there was a period where I was very curious about who I had been in a past life. I didn’t feel as if I’d been anyone famous (as if “feeling” would be any indication). I didn’t have any unusual “memories.”

But I noticed that I had an inexplicable feeling of attachment to England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Still do.

When I was a young boy, there was a TV show (I can’t remember the name) that used to give away Scottish bagpipes (not the smaller Uillean pipes from Ireland)! I clearly remember adoring the sound of them as they were played on TV. It didn’t feel as if I was enjoying a sound that was “new” to me; it felt like I was hearing a sound I was fond of, that I hadn’t heard in a long time. The rest is the same: the British isles feel like “home” to me, in a way that Poland or Romania (where my grandparents came from) never have.

I have no “Bridey Murphy”-like memories. Of course, I’ve never been hypnotized or gone through a “past life regression” session, so who knows what’s in there?

Nor have I ever been anywhere in or on the British isles. I’m well aware that each of the above countries represents a distinct culture and language (or dialect thereof). While I feel drawn to the sound of Middle English, I don’t feel a connection with Gaelic or Welsh.

Whatever that means.

I once told a friend that I thought I might have had multiple past-lives in the British isles and been a “serial serf.”

One friend went through a period of “seeing” people’s past lives, after he went on a prolonged meditation course. He told me that I’d been an unsavory character in England who had exploited children. My “karma” for that was therefore to help children in this life.

Of course, he’d worked in a summer camp with me, with 8-10 year olds. So, this wasn’t coming out of “nowhere.”

He also said that I’d once been a galley-slave for the Romans and that, through hard work, I’d advanced to being the guy who sits at the back of the boat beating a drum to keep the tempo and rhythm for the poor guys who were still rowing.

Sounds like I had an easier job than the rowers. I hope I felt compassion for them, rather than thinking, “Better you than me, baby.”

I also hope I didn’t beat the drum too fast.

But when my son was born, I began to question my own belief about reincarnation. Like all babies, I saw him struggle with learning how to use his limbs; most of all, he struggled to learn to speak. I thought to myself: If he had a past life, even if in a different country, speaking a different language, wouldn’t learning language itself be familiar to him? Not in detail, but in the general concept of it?

Also, a belief in reincarnation isn’t found universally in other locales and traditions. I’d think that if it was a reality, it could be confirmed by being a universal experience. The lack of that experience doesn’t absolutely negate the reality of reincarnation, but it could raise a doubt.

It isn’t mentioned in Biblical or Talmudic Judaism, although it does appear in Kaballah, where it’s called “Gilgul.” The word means “rolling,” as if describing the “rolling” of the soul from one body to another. It’s also taught in Hasidut.

It was debated within Christianity but rejected as a mainstream belief. What’s more, there really seems to be no manifest mention of it in the received texts of the Gospels, Epistles or Revelations, Origen’s teachings notwithstanding. [1]

At this time, I wouldn’t say that I either believe or disbelieve it. It simply hasn’t maintained a place of central import in my thinking.

[1] see: http://reluctant-messenger.com/origen1.html