Reincarnation may be defined as the idea that a person consists of a material body and a non-material or mental component; the mental component can survive the death of the material body and later become associated with a new physical body.
The belief is held (with variations in details) by adherents of almost all major religions except Christianity and Islam. In addition, members of many Shi'ite Muslim groups believe in reincarnation, and between 20 and 30 per cent of persons in western countries who may be nominal Christians also believe in reincarnation. Although reincarnation is not a feature of orthodox Judaism, the branch of Hasidic Jews believe in it. Ethnologists have documented the belief among nearly all the traditional religions of ethnic groups in Africa, North and South America, and Australia/Oceania. The tribes of north-west North America continue to believe in reincarnation despite negative attitudes towards it on the part of Christian missionaries and churches. The nineteenth-century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer offered a definition of Europe as that part of the world where the inhabitants did not believe in reincarnation.
A wide variety of phenomena has been adduced in support of the belief in reincarnation.
Some sensitives claim to 'read' the previous lives of their clients, but what they say is nearly always banal, vague, and unverifiable. The same can be said of nearly all claims to regress persons with hypnosis to previous lives. In most reported instances of this procedure the 'previous personality' is a