Reincarnation in popular culture

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The Golden Bough, by Jeroen van Valkenburg, illustrates the artist's idea of reincarnation

Reincarnation is regularly mentioned in feature films, books, and popular music. The similar concept of transmigration has been used frequently to the point of cliché in the sense of people "switching bodies," in which the identity of a character transfers to another's body, either unilaterally or by exchange (e.g. Vice Versa), or to an animal (e.g. The Once and Future King) or object (e.g. The Picture of Dorian Gray). This concept has been used many times in various films, particularly in Indian cinema and television.


Metempsychosis is the title of a work by the metaphysical poet John Donne, written in 1601.[1] The poem, also known as the Infinitati Sacrum,[2] consists of two parts, the "Epistle" and "The Progress of the Soule". In the first line of the latter part, Donne writes that he "sing[s] of the progresse of a deathlesse soule".[2]

During the classical period of German literature metempsychosis attracted much attention: Goethe played with the idea, and it was taken up more seriously by Lessing, who borrowed it from Charles Bonnet, and by Herder.

Reincarnation is a key plot device in Edgar Allan Poe's 1832 short story "Metzengerstein',[3] in his "Morella" (1835)[4] and "The Oval Portrait" (1842).[5] Mark Twain mentions this concept in "A Word of Explanation" at the beginning of his "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court." He comes across a "curious stranger" at Warwick Castle in England who shows him ancient armor that supposedly once belonged to the knights of the Round Table. He interrupts his musings by saying: "You know about transmigration of souls; do you know about transposition of epochs -- and bodies?" He later claims to have killed one of the knights himself ... with a bullet!

Metempsychosis recurs as a theme in James Joyce's modernist novel, Ulysses (1920).[6] In Joycean fashion, the word famously appears, mispronounced by Molly Bloom, as "met him pike hoses."[7]

J.D. Salinger's short story "Teddy" (Nine Stories 1953) concerns reincarnation. An examination of transmigration in the arts is Philip K. Dick's novel The Transmigration of Timothy Archer.

The bestselling suspense reincarnation series of M. J. Rose inspired the FOX TV series Past Life Chuck Palahniuk's book Diary centers around an artist whose reincarnated soul is repeatedly used in order to keep the residents of an island rich. American author Suzanne Weyn's 2008 romance novel, Reincarnation, follows two lovers who keep searching for one another as they progress through the centuries. The Power of Five series by Anthony Horowitz involves children from 8000 B.C. returning as ordinary 21st century children.

In the fiction novel "Donations to Clarity" by Noah Baird, the town sheriff is Elvis Presley incarnate.

Books on reincarnation[edit]

The belief in past lives and the use of perceptions and knowledge of these to help with one's current life is central to the New Age movement.[8][unreliable source?] Individuals within this movement who have spoken about reincarnation include Jane Roberts and Walter Semkiw, M.D.[9][10] Patricia-Rochelle Diegel, Ph.D. (1924-2005) was one of the most profound Reincarnationists in the 20th Century having personally numbered and given over 50,000 past life readings. She taught people to open, clear and refine a creative channel to enable those students to 'read' past lives for clients for the purpose of clearing problems in the present life and to help those individuals pull forward talents and abilities from those past and quickly integrate them into present. Her books: "Reincarnation Now" are scheduled for re-release in 2015. Thousands of testimonials of uncanny (profound) synchronicity were reported as a result of her 'tens of thousands of readings. [(Master Subramunyia)] (1927–2001), leader of Saivite Hinduism (19once said to his students and temple devotees, "If you want to work with someone who is the real deal, go work with Patricia-Rochelle Diegel." She is one of a handful of illumined teachers who would empower students through her "Trinity Process" to enable them to raise their vibrations through small activated groups where all three people would instantly see & sense the same images about a person's past lives, as opposed to the more traditional methods of past life recall being: 1) Meditation insights 2) Dreams recall 3) Recall being trigarred through travel, 4) Memory of past lives being activated through reading books 5) meeting people from past 6) most traditional in western culture - hypnotic regression (warning: work with professionals, whether real or imagined, these 'storylines' could be a catalyst for psychological challenges; or be a precursor to physically manifested challenges. Dr. Diegel's work goes into explaining this phenomenon in detail. Many books have made reference to reincarnation. Recent books include several books by Vicki Mackenzie and Carol Bowman.

Vicki Mackenzie's primary interest is to make Buddhist philosophy accessible to the general public.[11] Her books on Buddhism and Reincarnation include: Reincarnation: The Boy Lama, Reborn in the West, Cave in the Snow, and Why Buddhism?[12] In 1988, Brian Weiss, an American psychiatrist, started using past life regression using hypnosis on his patient, later published, best-selling Many Lives, Many Masters.[13][14][15]

Carol Bowman is an author, and the maintainer of a web site dealing with Children's Past Lives, also the title of one of her books. In her books and on her web site, she writes about cases of children who seem to recall past lives.

Other notable books and authors are:


Many feature films have made reference to reincarnation, including;[16][unreliable source?]

Indian film[edit]

Reincarnation is a common theme in contemporary Indian popular culture, particularly in Hindi cinema.[17] The concept has appeared as a main theme in Indian films including:

Video games[edit]


Popular songs or albums which refer to reincarnation include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Collins, Siobhán (2005) "Bodily Formations and Reading Strategies in John Donne's Metempsychosis" Critical Studies 26: pp. 191—208, page 191
  2. ^ a b full text of Metempsychosis or Infinitati Sacrum from Luminarium Editions
  3. ^ Bonaparte, Marie (1949) The life and works of Edgar Allan Poe: a psycho-analytic interpretation Imago, London, page 273, OCLC 1398764
  4. ^ Roderick, Phillip L. (2006) The Fall of the House of Poe: And Other Essays iUniverse, New York, page 22, ISBN 0-595-39567-8
  5. ^ Quinn, Patrick F. (1971) The French face of Edgar Poe (2nd edition) Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, Illinois, page 272, ISBN 0-8093-0500-3
  6. ^ "List of occurrences of Metempsychosis in Ulysses". Retrieved 2012-02-23.
  7. ^ Cf. Joyce, Ulysses, §8 Lestrygonians
  8. ^ Reincarnation and NDE Research (WebCite archive)
  9. ^ "Institute for the Integration of Science, Intuition and Spirit "" website".
  10. ^ Regarding Patricia-Rochelle Diegel: Noted author Brad Steiger stated on Page 86 wrote/published on page Medium Patricia Rochelle-Diegels of Sedona, Arizona, who wears six giant gemstone rings on her fingers, often "sees UFOs" in people's minds during their "immortality consultations." At a November 1987 New Age workshop in San Francisco, she said she had performed more than 35,000 of the readings at $144 each — a lot of $ightings.
  11. ^ "Mind and its potential speakers". Retrieved 2012-02-23.
  12. ^ Chris Hill. "Wisdom Books". Wisdom Books. Retrieved 2012-02-23.
  13. ^ Miller, Lisa (June 3, 2013). "Remembrances of Lives Past". The New York Times.
  14. ^ Breakfast with Brian Weiss, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 5, 2002, Accessed June 3, 2013.
  15. ^ "Woman relives the spooky experience with past-life regression". Daily Mail. 5 June 2013. Retrieved 2014-06-25.
  16. ^ IMDb Keyword: Reincarnation
  17. ^ Doniger, Wendy (2005). "Chapter 6: Reincarnation". The woman who pretended to be who she was: myths of self-imitation. Oxford University Press. pp. 112–136 [128–31 & 133–5]. ISBN 0-19-516016-9.

External links[edit]