The question of pre-existence has come to the fore throughout
Western history. Some people adhere to the Hebraic and
Christian notions that the individual is created during the period
between conception and birth and other people believe the
human soul is somehow immortal, neither created nor destined
for destruction. For example, according to Christianity, God
creates the person for life in this world and prepares a person
for a life extended beyond death. A variety of positions arrayed
themselves against Christianity.
The question of pre-existence is often tied to the religious
issue of reincarnation, a belief that individuals now living on
earth have had a series of previous human lives as they have
moved from body to body, a position found in the Hindu text,
the Bhagavad-Gita. Traditional Spiritualism believes a new soul
is created at birth and goes on to other levels of existence. However,
French Spiritism and Theosophy argue for reincarnation.
It is rare to believe in pre-existence without reincarnation.
One person who articulated such a belief was Sir Oliver Lodge.
In Phantom Walls (1929), he wrote
‘‘When the question of pre-existence arises I should say that
the individual as we know him is a fresh apparition, a new individualisation
of something preexisting. . . . We can imagine
that, every now and then, an opportunity arises for spirit to
enter into relation with matter, and to become gradually an individual,
and develop a character and personality which will
persist; so that there is almost a kind of ‘choice’ whether we
enter into life or what sort of life we enter into. In that sense
we may be said—with apparent absurdity, but possibly with
some kind of truth—to select our parentage; and thus may
some facts of heredity be accounted for.’’