At his death, still preaching incarnation, Is he wrong ? or the church ?
Even more of a surprise to many people, however, is the fact that reincarnationist concepts were also part of some of the more mystical branches of traditional Western religion, from the Sufis of Islam to the Gnostics of the early centuries of Christianity, and even within the Hasidic and Kabbalist traditions in Judaism. In fact, at times it virtually flourished and, especially in the case of Christianity, almost became the predominant belief system during the first few centuries of the Church’s existence until it was forced underground by the more traditional, non-reincarnationist branches of Christianity. Its proponent’s writings declared heretical and burned, the concept was so successfully suppressed by the Church of Rome that few Christians today even realise it was ever a part of their own faith.
Why was it suppressed? The obvious answer is because it threatened authority. Western religion is largely dependent upon the belief that man is destined to “die once and then be judged” to maintain control. In promising multiple rebirths, however, reincarnation renders the proclamations of the Pope or the Grand Mufti or whomever was the ruling head at the time transitory and, the truth be told, irrelevant. As such, reincarnation threatened the Church’s very livelihood, making it a very dangerous idea that had to be either suppressed or labelled as heretical in order for the Church to maintain its power base. As a result, the concept remained largely unknown outside of Asia for probably seventeen of the last twenty-one centuries.
Its revival in the West was imminent, however, with the arrival of the Age of Enlightenment in the eighteenth century. Once the long forgotten writings of the ancient Greeks again became available and one could hold to previously forbidden ideas without forfeiting their lives, such once forbidden concepts as reincarnation became increasingly popular, especially among the intellectual elite of the era. Amongst those who held to some form of multiple rebirths are such notables as Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Benjamin Franklin, Shakespeare, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Voltaire, among others.
Note: Charles Dickens in my bloodline