- A significant minority of Westerners believe in reincarnation1, even though they do not belong to religions that teach it. What is the relationship of their belief to personal identity?
- In areas of the world where reincarnation2 is accepted, one can identify three forms of pre-natal and/or post-mortem identity: the continuing self/soul, the dissolution of the self, and family identity. Comparable concepts within the contemporary West might be labelled modern, postmodern and kin-based.
- The article considers three forms of evidence from Britain: everyday conversation, the personal stories to be found in Reincarnation3 International magazine, and an interview study of thirty adults and twenty children.
- It is concluded that
- the understanding of A as the reincarnation4 of close family member B, found in several American and African tribes and in popular Hinduism, may be unusual in Britain;
- in so far as people play with past identities, this cannot easily be squared with postmodern theories of the self;
- the past identities constructed bear strong resemblance to current identities, and may be considered part of the modernist project of the self.
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