Question: I'd like to suggest that ever since Socrates in the West and the various religions of the East, wise and contemplative men have agreed that the soul is immortal though the body is ephemeral. However, they also have suggested that to achieve the kind of virtue one would expect to be the ultimate goal of life would require more than one lifetime.
Apparently, in our desire for instant gratification, we Westerners imagine that the perfect state is attainable after only one lifetime. Looking at the world today, I can't help but see enormous numbers of people who are still incompletely "virtuous" (myself included), going through various stages of life in their search for perfection. What are your views on reincarnation? — J., Jr., Gainesville, Fla., via firstname.lastname@example.org
Answer: There is something both frustrating and exhilarating about speculating on mysteries we can never unravel. Hinduism is the strongest advocate of reincarnation — the belief that our souls are reborn to life in new forms after death until we attain release (moksha) from the cycle of death and rebirth. Jewish mysticism has dabbled with this idea, as well.