This is still a rough draft as of Thu Jan 18 17:21:21 EST 1996.
Let's think a little bit about reincarnation.
Everyone is already familiar with the basic concepts. Each being has a soul. When the being dies, its soul somehow gets incorporated into a new life form; which life form depends on how the soul lived its life in the previous life. Most people assume that if you are good then you will have a better lot in your next life. If you are bad then you will pay for the sins you make in a current life sometime during a future life. Once a life is lived correctly, the soul can finish up and at last find rest.
I'd be surprised if there weren't a number of variations on that theme.
However, there are some details that don't quite seem complete to me. To find these I went back to the beginning. The very beginning.
There was a time when there was no life on this planet. Some miracle happened and there was life. Most would agree with these two assertions, although there is certainly wide disagreement on what the nature of that miracle was.
As time went on, more and more life came into existence, due mostly to reproduction but perhaps to additional miracles. At some point, lives came into existence that had "souls". Let's not define that point, let's just assume it happened. The total number of souls increased as well, being spontaneously generated by some other form of magic.
Now I can understand life spontaneously generating new life. Just like a chemical reaction, one life (or two lives) can generate others given enough of the proper materials. However, what about souls? If reincarnation allows for souls to travel from one body (upon its death) to another (upon its birth or conception), some new lives are receiving recycled souls and others are receiving brand new souls. This is way too inconsistent for my taste.
Under this model, the total number of souls is always increasing, at least faster than the other souls are coming to rest. New souls could have hundreds or thousands of lifetimes to go.
So how can this dilemma be solved? In search of an answer, I found myself looking at the problem from another perspective. Instead of starting from the beginning of time, I started from the end.
Going backwards from the end of time, maybe some miracle happened; perhaps an explosion or some other spectacular event that ended up in the existence of the set of all possible souls. There are still a few things to work out, but details clean up quite nicely by beginning with this assumption.
Suppose there is some event at the end of time (in our standard line of thinking) that causes all souls to "end". At this point, every soul jumps back in time, years before their own birth, to be born again as another life. All of the souls would jump back different amounts of time from each other. Each soul is born again, lives out his or her life, and then dies at some point before his or her previous life is about to begin. Then the soul goes back again, before that lifetime, and the pattern repeats itself in this way until the soul finally lives its life right. It finally comes to rest.
The population becomes lower and lower as time goes back, until there are no more souls left, and eventually no more lives left.
An additional ramification of this theory is that, unless the same soul can live in multiple bodies simultaneously, a soul must die before its previous life will begin. Each person's dying time is predetermined.
This line of thought expresses no real indication about my beliefs on the subject of life after death or reincarnation. Amy Ray and Emily Saliers just got me thinking about it, and this whole thing presented itself to me.