Reincarnation or metempsychosis?

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I have been attending the “new age” for years. One of the topics that interests me most is the metempsychosis. I would like to know if it is another way of calling “reincarnation” or if they are two different things and how they differ. Also I would like to know if according to your tradition you can also reincarnate in animals, because for example in the tradition of the Original Christians (Christians who believe in reincarnation, are vegetarians and follow the same four regulatory principles as you Hare Krishna; their group is called “Universal Life” and are very widespread in Germany but now also in Italy and other countries) it is explained that this was possible but in previous eras. If your answer is “yes, you can also reincarnate in animals”, I would like to know why between various spiritual groups there are such important differences on such an important topic: your point of view is that one of the two is wrong and lies? Or is it as if everyone was a little wrong, as the good Gandhi explains?

I greet you and remain to read you.


May 14, 2002


Dear Elisa,

Thank you for these questions that allow us to spend time in a pleasant way talking about instructive and spiritually productive topics.

Some thinkers throughout human history have believed that the spiritual soul that dwells within the body is improving itself more and more, occupying increasingly evolved material bodies up to the human one. The latter is the highest living form, not in an absolute sense as regards the material dimension (there are living forms even higher than human ones), but certainly the most suitable for spiritual realization. Once in the human form, until one is free, one continues to reincarnate, but only in the human form. In fact, they believe it is impossible for the soul that has reached a certain maturity to descend into the lower forms. This theory is called metempsychosis.


Reincarnation (at least in the Vedic version, which we represent) instead starts from the assumption that evolution or in any case the change of bodies is not mechanical or does not follow a totally rigid universal law but depends on the individual’s maturation.

The Vedas agree that, in general, the soul ascends the evolutionary ladder almost automatically as regards the lower species (minerals, vegetables, animals), as their capacity for discrimination is limited and linked to the instinctive sphere. But the human form possesses the full capacity for reasoning and therefore full responsibility for its choices. From there the possibility of developing karmic chain mechanisms can lead the author of the acts to return to lower species. In fact, on reflection, the material body is the result of a state of consciousness, that is, of an inner way of being. And what causes this way of being if not by the actions that are performed during human life?

Ultimately, what we do in human form will build us into a “state of consciousness”, which will be the cause of our next body: animal if our consciousness is animal, human if it is human, divine if it is divine.

To those who argue that it is not possible to descend from the human form to the lower ones, we point out that many human beings have in fact already descended into the lower forms by behaving like animals. If it were not possible to become more degraded than men, why do so many behave like animals or worse?

As for the diversified opinions of the many spiritual movements, there are differences because – thank God – there is freedom of thought and research. Everyone chooses the method that seems best to him. Ours is to learn theorems of Truth from the Revealed Scriptures (the Vedas), from the realized sages (Guru and Sadhu) and through direct realization, which can be obtained through the practice of Yoga disciplines.

The judgment of what is right or wrong rests with the scholar, and everyone takes responsibility for their own conclusions. But to say that if there are so many different and even opposing opinions, it means that they are all automatically wrong seems to me to be not very serious. It would be enough to say that we disagree with this idea to make that theory wrong too, and we would thus fall into the dangerous vortex of agnosticism (ajnana-vada).




This is a section of the book “On a Silver Platter”.

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