Among the various forms of the religions of India we find some of the before mentioned forms of philosophy believed and taught among the educated people—often an eclectic policy of choosing and selecting being observed, a most liberal policy being observed, the liberty of choice and selection being freely accorded. But, there is always the belief in Reincarnation and Karma, no matter what the form of worship, or the name of the religion. There are two things that the Hindu mind always accepts as fundamental truth, needing no proof—axiomic, in fact. And these two are (1) The belief in a Soul that survives the death of the body—the Hindu mind seeming unable to differentiate between the consciousness of "I Am," and "I always Have Been, and always Shall Be"—the knowledge of the present existence being accepted as a proof of past and future existence; and (2) the doctrine of Reincarnation and Karma, which are accepted as fundamental and axiomic truths beyond the need of proof, and beyond doubt—as a writer has said: "The idea of Reincarnation has become so firmly fixed and rooted in the Hindu mind as a part of belief that it amounts to the dignity and force of a moral conviction." No matter what may be the theories regarding the nature of the universe—the character of the soul—or the conception concerning Deity or the Supreme Being—you will always find the differing sects, schools, and individuals accepting Reincarnation and Karma as they accept the fact that they themselves are existent, or that twice one makes two. Hindu Philosophy cannot be divorced from Reincarnation. To the Hindu the only escape from the doctrine of Reincarnation seems to be along the road of the Materialism of the West. From the above statement we may except the Hindu Mohammedans and the native Hindu Christians, partially, although careful observers say that even these do not escape entirely the current belief of their country, and secretly entertain a "mental reservation" in their heterodox creeds. So, you see, we are justified in considering India as the Mother Land of Reincarnation at the present time.
THE MODERN WEST.
In the modern thought of the Western world, we find Reincarnation attracting much attention. The Western philosophies for the past hundred years have been approaching the subject with a new degree of attention and consideration, and during the past twenty years there has been a marvellous awakening of Western public interest in the doctrine. At the present time the American and European magazines contain poems and stories based upon Reincarnation, and many novels have been written around it, and plays even have been based upon the general doctrine, and have received marked attention on the part of the public. The idea seems to have caught the public fancy, and the people are eager to know more of it.
This present revival of attention has been brought about largely by the renewed interest on the part of the Western world toward the general subject of occultism, mysticism, comparative religion, oriental philosophy, etc., in their many phases and forms. The World's Parliament of Religions, held at the World's Fair in Chicago, in 1893, did much to attract the attention of the American public to the subject of the Oriental Philosophies in which Reincarnation plays such a prominent part. But, perhaps, the prime factor in this reawakened Western interest in the subject is the work and teachings of the Theosophical Society, founded by Madame Blavatsky some thirty years ago, and which has since been continued by her followers and several successors. But, whatever may be the cause, the idea of Reincarnation seems destined to play an important part in the religious and philosophical thought of the West for some time to come. Signs of it appear on every side—the subject cannot be ignored by the modern student of religion and philosophy. Whether accepted or not, it must be recognized and examined.
But the forms of the doctrine, or theory, regarding Reincarnation, vary almost as much in the Modern West as in the various Eastern countries at present, and in the past. We find all phases of the subject attracting attention and drawing followers to its support. Here we find the influence of the Hindu thought, principally through the medium or channel of Theosophy, or of the Yogi Philosophy—and there we find the influence of the Grecian or Egyptian philosophical conceptions manifesting principally through the medium of a number of occult orders and organizations, whose work is performed quietly and with little recognition on the part of the general public, the policy being to attract the "elect few" rather than the curious crowd—and again we find quite a number of persons in America and Europe, believing in Reincarnation because they are attracted by the philosophy of the Neo-Platonists, or the Gnostics of the Early Christian Church, and favoring Reincarnation as a proper part of the Christian Religion, and who while remaining in the bosom of the Church interpret the teachings by the light of the doctrine of Rebirth, as did many of the early Christians, as we have seen.
The Theosophical conception and interpretation appeals to a great number of the Western Reincarnationists, by reason of its wide circulation and dissemination, as well as by the fact that it has formulated a detailed theory and doctrine, and besides claims the benefit of authoritative instruction on the doctrine from Adepts and Masters who have passed to a higher plane of existence. We think it proper to give in some little detail an account of the general teachings of Theosophy on this point, the reader being referred to the general Theosophical literature for more extended information regarding this special teaching.
Theosophy teaches that the human soul is a composite entity, consisting of several principles, sheaths of vehicles, similar to those mentioned by us in our account of Hindu Reincarnation. The Theosophical books state these principles as follows: (1) The Body, or Rupa; (2) Vitality, or Prana-Jiva; (3) Astral Body, or Linga-Sharira; (4) Animal Soul, or Kama-Rupa; (5) Human Soul, Manas; (6) Spiritual Soul, or Buddhi; and (7) Spirit, or Atma. Of these seven principles, the last or higher Three, namely, the Atma, Buddhi, and Manas, compose the higher Trinity of the Soul—the part of man which persists; while the lower Four principles, namely, Rupa, Prana-Jiva, Linga-Sharira, and Kama-Rupa, respectively, are the lower principles, which perish after the passing out of the higher principles at death. At Death the higher principles, or Triad, lives on, while the lower principles of Quarternary dissolve and separate from each other and finally disintegrate, along the lines of a process resembling chemical action.
Theosophy teaches that there is a great stream of Egos, or Monads, which originally emanated from a Source of Being, and which are pursuing a spiral journey around a chain of seven globes, including the earth, called the Planetary Chain. The Life Wave of Monads reaches Globe A, and goes through a series of evolutionary life on it, and then passes on to Globe B, and so on until Globe G is reached, when after a continued life there the Life Wave returns to Globe A, but not in a circle, but rather in a spiral, that is, on a higher plane of activity, and the round begins once more. There are seven Races to be lived through on each globe, many incarnations in each—each Race having seven sub-races, and each sub-race having seven branches. The progress of the Life Wave is illustrated by the symbol of a seven-coil spiral, sweeping with a wider curve at each coil, each coil, however, being divided into a minor seven-coil spiral, and so on. It is taught that the human soul is now on its fourth great round-visit to the Earth, and is in about the middle of the fifth Race of that round. The total number of incarnations necessary for each round is quite large, and the teaching is that none can escape them except by special merit and development. Between each incarnation there is a period of rest in the Heaven World, or Devachan, where the soul reaps the experiences of the past life, and prepares for the next step. The period of rest varies with the degree of attainment gained by the soul, the higher the degree the longer the rest. The average time between incarnations is estimated at about fifteen hundred years. Devachan is thus a kind of temporary Heaven, from whence the soul must again pass in time for a rebirth, according to its merits or demerits. Thus, accordingly, each soul has lived in a variety of bodies, even during the present round—having successively incarnated as a savage, a barbarian, a semi-civilized man, a native of India, Egypt, Chaldea, Rome, Greece, and many other lands, in different ages, filling all kinds of positions and places in life, tasting of poverty and riches, of pleasure and pain—all ever leading toward higher things. The doctrine enunciated by Theosophy is complicated and intricate, and we can do no more than to barely mention the same at this place.
Another Western form of the Oriental Teachings, known as the "Yogi Philosophy," numbers quite a large number of earnest students in this country and in Europe, and has a large circle of influence, although it has never crystallized into an organization, the work being done quietly and the teachings spread by the sale of popular books on the subject issued at nominal prices. It is based on the Inner Teachings of the Hindu Philosophy and is Eclectic in nature, deriving its inspiration from the several great teachers, philosophies and schools, rather than implicitly following any one of them. Briefly stated this Western school of Yogi Philosophy teaches that the Universe is an emanation from, or mental creation of, the Absolute whose Creative Will flows out in an outpouring of mental energy, descending from a condition above Mind, downward through Mind, Physical Energy, and Matter, in a grand Involution or "infolding" of the divine energy into material forms and states. This Involution is followed by an Evolution, or unfoldment, the material forms advancing in the scale of evolution, accompanied by a corresponding Spiritual Evolution, or Unfoldment of the Individual Centres or Units of Being, created or emanated as above stated. The course of Evolution, or rather, that phase of it with which the present human race on earth is concerned, has now reached a point about midway in the scale of Spiritual Evolution, and the future will lead the race on, and on, to higher and still higher planes and states of being, on this earth and on other spheres, until it reaches a point incomprehensible to the mind of man of today, and then still on and on, until finally the souls will pass into the plane of the Absolute, there to exist in a state impossible of present comprehension, and transcending not only the understanding but also the imagination of the mind of man as we know him.
The Yogi Philosophy teaches that the soul will reincarnate on earth until it is fitted to pass on to higher planes of being, and that many people are now entering into a stage which will terminate the unconscious reincarnation, and which enables them to incarnate consciously in the future without loss of memory. It teaches that instead of a retributive Karma, there is a Law of Spiritual Cause and Effect, operating largely along the lines of Desire and what has been called the "Law of Attraction," by which "like attracts like," in persons, environments, conditions, etc. As we have stated, the Yogi Philosophy follows closely the lines of certain phases of the Hindu philosophies from which it is derived, it being, however, rather an "eclectic" system rather than an exact reproduction of that branch of philosophy favored by certain schools of Hindus and known by a similar name, as mentioned in our chapter on "The Hindus"—that is to say, instead of accepting the teachings of any particular Hindu school in their entirety, the Western school of the Yogi Philosophy has adopted the policy of "Eclecticism," that is, a system following the policy of selection, choosing from several sources or systems, rather than a blind following of some particular school, cult or teacher.
The Yogi Philosophy teaches that man is a seven-fold entity, consisting of the following principles, or divisions: 1. The Physical Body. 2. The Astral Body. 3. Prana, or Vital Force. 4. The Instinctive Mind. 5. The Intellect. 6. The Spiritual Mind. 7. Spirit. Of these, the first four principles belong to the lower part of the being, while the latter three are the higher principles which persist and Reincarnate. Man, however, is gradually evolving on to the plane of the Spiritual Mind, and will in time pass beyond the plane of Intellect, which he will then class along with Instinct as a lower form of mentality, he then using his Intuition habitually and ordinarily, just as the intelligent man now uses his Intellect, and the ignorant man his Instinct-Intellect, and the animal its Instinct alone. In many points the Yogi Philosophy resembles the Vedanta, and in others it agrees with Theosophy, although it departs from the latter in some of the details of doctrine regarding the process of Reincarnation, and particularly in its conception of the meaning and operation of the Law of Karma.
There are many persons in the West who hold firmly to Reincarnation, to whom the Hindu conceptions, even in the Western form of their presentation, do not appeal, and who naturally incline toward the Greek conception and form of the doctrine. A large number of these people are generally classed among the "Spiritualists," although strictly speaking they do not fit into that classification, for they hold that the so-called "Spirit World" is not a place of permanent abode, but rather a resting place between incarnations. These people prefer the name "Spiritists," for they hold that man is essentially a spiritual being—that the Spirit is the Real Man—and that that which we call Man is but a temporary stage in the development and evolution of the individual Spirit. The Spiritists hold that the individual Spirit emanated from the Great Spirit of the Universe (called by one name or another) at some distant period in the past, and has risen to its present state of Man, through and by a series of repeated incarnations, first in the form of the lowly forms of life, and then through the higher forms of animal life, until now it has reached the stage of human life, from whence it will pass on, and on, to higher and still higher planes—to forms and states as much higher than the human state than man is above the earthworm. The Spiritists hold that man will reincarnate in earthly human bodies, only until the Spirit learns its lessons and develops sufficiently to pass on to the next plane higher. They hold that the planets and the countless fixed stars or suns, are but stages of abode for the evolving Spirit, and that beyond the Universe as we know it there are millions of others—in fact, that the number of Universes is infinite. The keynote of this doctrine may be stated as "Eternal Progression" toward the Divine Spirit. The Spirits do not insist upon any particular theory regarding the constitution of the soul—some of them speak merely of "soul and body," while others hold to the seven-fold being—the general idea being that this is unimportant, as the essential Spirit is after all the Real Self, and it matters little about the number or names of its temporary garments or vehicles of expression.
Still another class of Reincarnationists in the Western World incline rather more toward the Grecian and Egyptian forms of the doctrine, than the Hindu—the ideas of the Neo-Platonists which had such a powerful effect upon the early Christian Church, or rather among the "elect few" among the early Fathers of the Church, seeming to have sprung into renewed activity among this class. These people, as we have said in the beginning of this chapter, are rather inclined to group themselves into small organizations or secret orders, rather than to form popular cults. They follow the examples of the ancients in this respect, preferring the "few elect" to the curious general public who merely wish to "taste or nibble" at the Truth. Many of these organizations are not known to the public, as they studiously avoid publicity or advertisement, and trust to the Law of Attraction to "bring their own to them—and them to their own." The teachings of this class vary in interpretation, and as many of them maintain secrecy by pledges or oaths, it is not possible to give their teachings in detail.
But, generally speaking, they base their doctrines on the general principle that Man's present condition is due to the "Descent of Spirit," in the nature of "The Fall of Man," occurring some time in the far distant past. They hold that Man was originally "Spirit Pure and Free," from which blissful state he was enticed by the glamour of Material Life, and he accordingly fell from his higher state, lower and lower until he was sunken deep into the mire of Matter. From this lowly state he then began to work up, or evolve, having in the dim recesses of his soul a glimmer of remembrance of his former state, which dim light is constantly urging him on and on, toward his former estate, in spite of his frequent stumbling into the mire in his attempts to rise above it. This teaching holds to a theory and doctrine very similar to that of the "Spiritists" just mentioned, except that while the latter, in common with the majority of Reincarnationists, hold that the evolution of the Soul is in the direction of advancement and greater expression, similar to the growth of a child, these "secret order" people hold forcibly and earnestly to the idea that the evolution is merely a "Returning of the Prodigal" to his "Father's Mansion"—the parable of the Prodigal Son, and that of the Expulsion from Eden, being held as veiled allegories of their teaching.
In the above view, the present state of existence—this Earthly Life—is one of a series of Hells, in the great Hell of Matter, from which Man is creeping up slowly but surely. According to this idea, the Earth is but midway in the scale, there being depths of Materiality almost impossible of belief, and on the other hand, heights of heavenly bliss equally incapable of understanding. This is about all that we can say regarding this form of the doctrine, without violating certain confidences that have been reposed in us. We fear that we have said too much as it is, but inasmuch as one would have to be able to "read between the lines" to understand fully, we trust that those who have favored us with these confidences will pardon us.
There is still another class of believers in Reincarnation, of which even the general public is not fully aware, for this class does not have much to say regarding its beliefs. I allude to those in the ranks of the orthodox Christian Church, who have outgrown the ordinary doctrines, and who, while adhering firmly to the fundamental Christian Doctrines, and while clinging closely to the Teachings of Jesus the Christ, still find in the idea of Rebirth a doctrine that appeals to their souls and minds as closer to their "highest conceptions of immortality" than the ordinary teachings of "the resurrection of the body," or the vague doctrines that are taking its place. These Christian Reincarnationists find nothing in the doctrine of Reincarnation antagonistic to their Faith, and nothing in their Faith antagonistic to the doctrine of Reincarnation. They do not use the term Reincarnation usually, but prefer the term "Rebirth" as more closely expressing their thought; besides which the former term has a suggestion of "pagan and heathen" origin which is distasteful to them. These people are inclined toward Rebirth for the reason that it "gives the soul Another Chance to Redeem Itself"—other chances to perfect itself to enter the Heavenly Realms. They do not hold to an idea of endless reincarnation, or even of continued earthly incarnation for all, their idea being that the soul that is prepared to enter heaven passes on there at once, having learned enough and earned enough merit in the few lives it has lived on earth—while the unprepared, undeveloped, and unfit, are bound to come back and back again until they have attained Perfection sufficient to enable them to advance to the Heaven World.
A large number of the Christian Reincarnationists, if I may call them by that name, hold that Heaven is a place or state of Eternal Progression, rather than a fixed state or place—that there is no standing still in Heaven or Earth—that "In my Father's House are Many Mansions." To the majority, this idea of Progression in the Higher Planes seems to be a natural accompaniment to the Spiritual Progression that leads to the Higher Planes, or Heaven. At any rate, the two ideas seem always to have run together in the human mind when the general subject has been under consideration, whether in past time or present; whether among Christians or "pagans and heathen." There seems to be an intuitive recognition of the connection of the two ideas. And on the other hand, there seems to be a close connection between the several views of "special creation" of the soul before both—the single earth-life—and the eternity of reward or punishment in a state or place lacking progression or change. Human thought on the subject seems to divide itself into two distinct and opposing groups.
There are quite a number of Christian preachers, and members of orthodox churches, who are taking an earnest interest in this doctrine of Rebirth, and Eternal Progression here and hereafter. It is being considered by many whose church associates do not suspect them of being other than strictly orthodox in their views. Some day there will be a "breaking out" of this idea in the churches, when the believers in the doctrine grow in numbers and influence. It will not surprise careful observers to see the Church once more accepting the doctrine of Rebirth and reinstating the doctrine of Pre-existence—returning to two of its original truths, long since discarded by order of the Councils. Prof. Bowen has said: "It seems to me that a firm and well-grounded faith in the doctrine of Christian Metempsychosis might help to regenerate the world. For it would be a faith not hedged round with many of the difficulties and objections which beset other forms of doctrine, and it offers distinct and pungent motives for trying to lead a more Christian life, and for loving and helping our brother-man." And as James Freeman Clarke has said: "It would be curious if we should find science and philosophy taking up again the old theory of metempsychosis, remodelling it to suit our present modes of religious and scientific thought, and launching it again on the wide ocean of human belief. But stranger things have happened in the history of human opinion."
So, as we have said, there is a great variety of shades of belief in the Western world regarding Reincarnation today, and the student will have no difficulty in finding just the shade of opinion best suited to his taste, temperament and training or experience. Vary as they do in detail, and theory, there is still the same fundamental and basic truth of the One Source—the One Life—and Reincarnation, reaching ever toward perfection and divinity. It seems impossible to disguise the doctrine so as to change its basic qualities—it will always show its original shape. And, so it is with the varying opinions of the Western thought regarding it—the various cults advocating some form of its doctrine—the original doctrine may be learned and understood in spite of the fanciful dressings bestowed upon it. "The Truth is One—Men call it by many names."
It may be of interest to Western readers to mention that some of the teachers of Occultism and Reincarnation hold that the present revival of interest on the subject in the Western world is due to the fact that in Europe and America, more particularly the latter, there is occurring a reincarnating of the souls of many persons who lived from fifteen hundred to two thousand years ago, and who were then believers in the doctrine. According to this view, those who are now attracted toward the Hindu forms of the doctrine formerly lived as natives of India; those who favor the Grecian idea, lived in Ancient Greece; others favor the Egyptian idea, from similar reasons; while the revival of Neo-Platonism, Gnosticism and general Mysticism, among the present-day Christians is accounted for by the fact that the early Christians are now reincarnating in the Western world, having been reborn as Christians according to the Law of Karmic Attraction. In this manner the advocates of the doctrine offer the present revival as another proof of their teachings.
BETWEEN AND BEYOND INCARNATIONS.
One of the first questions usually asked by students of the subject of Reincarnation is: "Where does the soul dwell between incarnations; does it incarnate immediately after death; and what is its final abode or state?" This question, or questions, have been asked from the beginning, and probably will be asked so long as the human mind dwells upon the subject. And many are the answers that have been given to the questioners by the teachers and "authorities" upon the subject. Let us consider some of the leading and more "authoritative" answers.
In the first place, let us consider that phase of the question which asks: "Does the soul incarnate immediately after death?" Some of the earlier Reincarnationists believed and taught that the soul reincarnated shortly after death, the short period between incarnations being used by the soul in adjusting itself, striking a balance of character, and preparing for a new birth. Others held that there was a period of waiting and rest between incarnations, in which the soul 'mentally digested' the experiences of the last life just completed, and then considered and meditated over the mistakes it had made, and determined to rectify the mistakes in the next life—it being held that when the soul was relieved of the necessities of material existence, it could think more clearly of the moral nature of its acts, and would be able to realize the spiritual side of itself more distinctly, in addition to having the benefit of the spiritual perspective occasioned by its distance from the active scenes of life, and thus being able to better gauge the respective "worth-whileness" of the things of material life.
At the present time, the most advanced students of the subject hold that the average period of rest between incarnations is about fifteen hundred years, the less advanced souls hastening back to earth in a very short time, the more advanced preferring a long period of rest, meditation and preparation for a new life. It is held that the soul of a gross, material, animal-like person will incarnate very shortly after death, the period of rest and meditation being very short, for the reason that there is very little about which such a soul could meditate, as all of its attractions and desires are connected with material life. Many souls are so "earth-bound" that they rush back at once into material embodiment if the conditions for rebirth are favorable, and they are generally favorable for there seems to be always an abundant supply of new bodies suitable for such souls in the families of people of the same character and nature, which afford congenial opportunities for such a soul to reincarnate. Other souls which have progressed a little further along the path of attainment, have cultivated the higher part of themselves somewhat, and enjoy to a greater extent the period of meditation and spiritual life afforded them. And so, as the scale advances—as the attraction for material life grows less, the period of purely spiritual existence between incarnations grows longer, and it is said that the souls of persons who are highly developed spiritually sometimes dwell in the state of rest for ten thousand years or more, unless they voluntarily return sooner in order to take part in the work of uplifting the world. It must be remembered, in this connection, that the best teaching is to the effect that the advanced souls are rapidly unfolding into the state in which they are enabled to preserve consciousness in future births, instead of losing it as is the usual case, and thus they take a conscious part in the selection of the conditions for rebirth, which is wisely denied persons of a more material nature and less spiritual development.
The next phase of the question: "Where does the soul dwell between incarnations?" is one still more difficult of answer, owing to the various shades of opinion on the subject. Still there is a fundamental agreement between the different schools, and we shall try to give you the essence or cream of the thought on the subject. In the first place, all occultists set aside any idea of there being a "place" in which the souls dwell—the existence of "states" or "planes of existence" being deemed sufficient for the purpose. It is held that there are many planes of existence in any and every portion of space, which planes interpenetrate each other, so that entities dwelling on one plane usually are not conscious of the presence of those on another plane. Thus, an inhabitant of a high plane of being, in which the vibrations of substance are much higher than that which we occupy, would be able to pass through our material world without the slightest knowledge of its existence, just as the "X rays" pass through the most solid object, or as light passes through the air. It is held that there are many planes of existence much higher than the one we occupy, and upon which the disembodied souls dwell. There are many details regarding these planes, taught by the different schools of occultism, or spiritualism, but we have neither the time nor space to consider them at length, and must content ourselves with mentioning but a few leading or typical beliefs or teachings on the subject.
The Theosophists teach that just when the soul leaves the body, there occurs a process of psychic photography in which the past life, in all of its details, is indelibly imprinted on the inner substance of the soul, thus preserving a record independent of the brain, the latter being left behind in the physical body. Then the Astral Body, or Etheric Double, detaches itself from the body, from which the Vital Force, or Prana-Jiva also departs at the same time, the Astral Body enfolding also the four other principles, and together the Five Surviving Principles pass on to the plane of Kama Loka, or the Astral Plane of Desire. Kama Loka is that part of the Astral Plane nearest to the material plane, and is very closely connected with the latter. If the soul is filled with hot and earnest desire for earth life, it may proceed no further, but may hasten back to material embodiment, as we said a moment ago. But if the soul has higher aspirations, and has developed the higher part of itself, it presses on further, in which case the Astral Body, and the Animal Soul which is the seat of the passions and grosser desires, disintegrate, and thus release the Triad, or three-fold higher nature of the soul, namely the higher human soul, the spiritual soul, and the spirit—or as some term them, the intellect, the spiritual mind, and the spirit. The Triad then passes on to what is known as the plane of Devachan, where it rests divested of the lower parts of its nature, and in a state of bliss and in a condition in which it may make great progress by reason of meditation, reflection, etc. Kama Loka has been compared to the Purgatory of the Catholics, which it resembles in more ways than one, according to the Theosophists. Devachan is sometimes called the Heaven World by Theosophists, the word meaning "the state or plane of the gods."
Theosophy teaches that the Soul Triad dwells in Devachan "for a period proportionate to the merit of the being," and from whence in the proper time "the being is drawn down again to be reborn in the world of mortals." The Law of Karma which rules the earth-life of man, and which regulates the details of his rebirth, is said to operate on the Devachnic Plane as well, thus deciding the time of his abode on that plane, and the time when the soul shall proceed to rebirth. The state of existence in Devachan is described at length in the Theosophical writings, but is too complex for full consideration here. Briefly stated, it may be said that it is taught that the life on Devachan is in the nature of a Dream of the Best that is In Us—that is, a condition in which the highest that is in us is given a chance for expression and growth, and development. The state of the soul in Devachan is said to be one of Bliss, the degree depending upon the degree of spiritual development of the soul, as the Bliss is of an entirely spiritual nature. It may be compared to a state of people listening to some beautiful music—the greater the musical development of the person, the greater will be his degree of enjoyment. It is also taught that just as the soul leaves Devachan to be reincarnated, it is given a glimpse of its past lives, and its present character, that it may realize the Karmic relations between the cause and effect, to the end that its new life may be improved upon—then it sinks into a state of unconsciousness and passes on to rebirth.
The Western school of the Yogi Philosophy gives an idea of the state between incarnations, somewhat eclectic in its origin, agreeing with the Theosophical teaching in some respects, and differing from it in others. Let us take a hasty glance at it. In the first place it does not use the terms "Kama Loca" and "Devachan" respectively, but instead treats the whole series of planes as the great "Astral World" containing many planes, divisions, and subdivisions—many sub-planes, and divisions of the same. The teaching is that the soul passes out of the body, leaving behind its physical form, together with its Prana or Vital Energy, and taking with it the Astral Body, the Instructive Mind, and the higher principles. The "last vision" of the past life, in which the events of that life are impressed upon the soul just as it leaves the body, is held to be a fact—the soul sees the past life as a whole, and in all of its minutest details at the moment of death, and it is urged that the dying person should be left undisturbed in his last moments for this reason, and that the soul may become calm and peaceful when starting on its journey. On one of the Astral Planes the soul gradually discards its Astral Body and its Instinctive Mind, but retains its higher vehicles or sheaths. But it is taught that this discarding of the lower sheaths occurs after the soul has passed into a "soul-slumber" on a sub-plane of the Astral World, from which it awakens to find itself clothed only in its higher mental and spiritual garments of being, and free from the grosser coverings and burdens. The teachings say: "When the soul has cast off the confining sheaths, and has reached the state for which it is prepared, it passes to the plane in the Astral World for which it is fitted, and to which it is drawn by the Law of Attraction. The planes of the Astral World interpenetrate, and souls dwelling on one plane are not conscious of those dwelling on another, nor can they pass from one plane to another, with this exception—that those dwelling on a higher plane are able to see (if they so desire) the planes below them in the order of development, and are also able to visit these lower planes if they so desire. But those on the lower planes are not able to either see or visit the planes above them—not that there is a 'watchman at the gate' to prevent them, but for the same reason that a fish is not able to pass from the water to the plane of air above that water." The same teachings tell us that the souls on the higher planes often visit friends and relatives on the lower, so that there is always the opportunity for loved ones, relatives and friends meeting in this way; and also many souls on the higher planes pass to the lower planes in order to instruct and advise those dwelling on the latter, the result that in some cases there may be a progression from a lower to a higher plane of the Astral World by promotion earned by this instruction. Regarding Rebirth, from the Astral World, the teachings say:
"But sooner or later, the souls feel a desire to gain new experiences, and to manifest in earth-life some of the advancement which has come to them since 'death,' and for these reasons, and from the attraction of desires which have been smoldering there, not lived out or cast off, or, possibly influenced by the fact that some loved soul, on a lower plane, is ready to incarnate and wishing to be incarnated at the same time in order to be with it (which is also a desire) the souls fall into the current sweeping toward rebirth, and the selection of proper parents and advantageous circumstances and surrounding, and in consequence again fall into a soul-slumber, gradually, and so when their time comes they 'die' to the plane upon which they have been existing and are 'born' into a new physical life and body. A soul does not fully awaken from its sleep immediately at birth, but exists in a dream-like state during the days of infancy, its gradual awakening being evidenced by the growing intelligence of the babe, the brain of the child keeping pace with the demands made upon it. In some cases the awakening is premature, and we see cases of prodigies, child-genius, etc., but such cases are more or less abnormal, and unhealthy. Occasionally the dreaming soul in the child half-wakes, and startles us by some profound observation, or mature remark or conduct."
The third phase of the question: "What is the final state or abode of the soul?" is one that reaches to the very center or heart of philosophical and religious thought and teaching. Each philosophy and religion has its own explanation, or interpretation of the Truth, and it is not for us to attempt to select one teaching from the many in this work. The reader will find many references to these various explanations and teachings as he reads the several chapters of this book, and he may use his own discrimination and judgment in selecting that which appeals to him the most strongly. But he will notice that there is a fundamental agreement between all of the teachings and beliefs—the principle that the movement of the soul is ever upward and onward, and that there is no standing still in spiritual development and unfoldment. Whether the end—if end there be—is the reaching of a state of Bliss in the presence of the Divine One—or whether the weary soul finds rest "in the Bosom of the Father," by what has been called "Union with God"—the vital point for the evolving soul is that there is "a better day coming"—a haven of rest around the turn of the road. And whatever may be the details of the Truth, the fact remains that whatever state awaits the soul finally, it must be Good, and in accordance with Divine Wisdom and Ultimate Justice and Universal Love.
The majority of occultists look forward to an end in the sense of being absorbed in the Divine Being, not in the sense of annihilation, but in the sense of reaching a consciousness "of the Whole in the Whole"—this is the true meaning of "Nirvana." But whether this be true, or whether there is a place of final rest in the highest spiritual realms other than in the sense of absorption in the Divine, or whether there is a state of Eternal Progression from plane to plane, from realm to realm, on and on forever Godward, and more and more God-like—the End must be Good, and there is nothing to Fear, for "the Power that rules Here, rules There, and Everywhere. And remember this, ye seekers after ultimate truths—the highest authorities inform us that even the few stages or planes just ahead of us in the journey are so far beyond our present powers of conception, that they are practically unknowable to us—this being so, it will be seen that states very much nearer to us than the End must be utterly beyond the powers not only of our understanding but also of our imagination, even when strained to its utmost. This being so, why should we attempt to speculate about The End? Instead, why not say with Newman:
"I do not ask to see the distant scene. One step enough for me— Lead Thou me on!"
It is said that when Thoreau was dying, a friend leaned over and taking him by the hand, said: "Henry, you are so near to the border now, can you see anything on the other side?" And the dying Thoreau replied: "One world at a time, Parker!" And this seems to be the great lesson of Life—One Plane at a Time! But though the Veil of Isis is impossible of being lifted entirely, still there is a Something that enables one to see at least dimly the features of the Goddess behind the veil. And that Something is that Intelligent Faith that "knows," although it is unable to explain even to itself. And the voice of that Something Within informs him who has that Faith: All Is Well, Brother! For beyond planes, and states, and universes, and time, and space, and name, and form, and Things—there must be THAT which transcends them all, and from which they all proceed. Though we may not know what THAT is—the fact that It must exist—that It IS, is a sufficient guarantee that the LAW is in constant operation on all planes, from the lowest to the highest, and that THE COSMOS IS GOVERNED BY LAW! And this being so, not even an atom may be destroyed, nor misplaced, nor suffer Injustice; and all will attain the End rightly, and know the "Sat-chit-ananda" of the Hindus—the Being-Wisdom-Bliss Absolute that all philosophies and religions agree upon is the Final State of the Blessed. And to the occultist All are Blessed, even to the last soul in the scale of life. And over all the tumult and strife of Life there is always that Something—THAT—silently brooding, and watching, and waiting—the Life, Light, and Love of the All. Such is the message of the Illumined of all ages, races, and lands. Is it not worthy of our attention and consideration?
THE JUSTICE OF REINCARNATION.
There are three views entertained by men who believe in the existence of the soul—there are many shades of belief and opinion on the subject, but they may be divided into three classes. These three views, respectively, are as follows: (1) That the soul is specially created by the Supreme Power at the time of conception, or birth, and that its position on earth, its circumstances, its degree of intelligence, etc., are fixed arbitrarily by that power, for some inscrutable reason of its own; (2) That the soul was pre-existent, that is, that it existed before conception and birth, in some higher state not understood by us, from whence it was thrust into human form and birth, its position on earth, its circumstances, its degree of intelligence, etc., being determined by causes unknown to us; (3) That the soul is one of countless others which emanated from the Source of Being at some period in the past, and which souls were equal in power, intelligence, opportunity, etc., and which worked its way up by spiritual evolution from lowly forms of expression and life to its present state, from whence it is destined to move on and on, to higher and still higher forms and states of existence, until in the end, after millions of aeons of existence in the highest planes of expressed life it will again return to the Source of Being from which it emanated, and becomes "one with the Father," not in a state of annihilated consciousness, but in a condition of universal consciousness with All. This view holds that the present condition of each soul is due to its own progress, development, advancement, unfoldment, or the lack of the same—the soul being its own Fate and Destiny—the enforcer of the Law upon itself, under the Law of Karma.
Considering the first named view, namely that the soul is newly created, and that its condition has been arbitrarily fixed by the Divine Power, the student free from prejudice or fear finds it difficult to escape the conclusion that under this plan of creation there is lacking a manifestation of Divine Justice. Even admitting the inability of the finite mind to fully grasp infinite principles, man is still forced to the realization of the manifest inequality and injustice of the relative positions of human beings on earth, providing that the same is thrust arbitrarily upon them; and it would seem that no amount of future reward could possibly equalize or explain these conditions. Unless there be "something back of it all," it would certainly seem that Injustice was manifested. Of course, many argue that the idea of Justice has nothing to do with the universal processes, but all who think of a Divine Being, filled with Love, and Justice, are compelled to think that such qualities must manifest themselves in the creations of such a Being. And, if there be nothing "back of it all," then the candid observer must confess that the scheme of Justice manifested is most faulty according even to the human imperfect idea of Justice.
As Figuier, a French writer said about forty years ago: "If there are a few men well organized, of good constitution and robust health, how many are infirm, idiotic, deaf-mute, blind from birth, maimed, foolish and insane? My brother is handsome and well-shaped: I am ugly, weakly, rickety, and a hunchback. Yet we are sons of the same mother. Some are born into opulence, others into the most dreadful want. Why am I not a prince and a great lord, instead of a poor pilgrim on the earth, ungrateful and rebellious? Why was I born in Europe and at Paris, whereby civilization and art life is rendered supportable and easy, instead of seeing the light under the burning skies of the tropics, where, dressed out in a beastly muzzle, a skin black and oily, and locks of wool, I should have been exposed to the double torments of a deadly climate and a barbarous society? Why is not a wretched African negro in my place in Paris, in conditions of comfort? We have, either of us, done nothing to entitle us to our assigned places: we have invited neither this favor nor that disgrace. Why is the unequal distribution of the terrible evils that fall upon some men, and spare others? How have those deserved the partiality of fortune, who live in happy lands, while many of their brethren suffer and weep in other parts of the world?"
Figuier continues: "Some men are endowed with all benefits of mind; others, on the contrary, are devoid of intelligence, penetration and memory. They stumble at every step in their rough life-paths. Their limited intelligence and their imperfect faculties expose them to all possible mortifications and disasters. They can succeed in nothing, and Fate seems to have chosen them for the constant objects of its most deadly blows. There are beings who, from the moment of their birth to the hour of their death, utter only cries of suffering and despair. What crime have they committed? Why are they here on earth? They have not petitioned to be here; and if they could, they would have begged that this fatal cup might be taken from their lips. They are here in spite of themselves, against their will. God would be unjust and wicked if he imposed so miserable an existence upon beings who have done nothing to incur it, and have not asked for it. But God is not unjust or wicked: the opposite qualities belong to his perfect essence. Therefore the presence of man on such or such parts of the earth, and the unequal distribution of evil on our globe, must remain unexplained. If you know a doctrine, a philosophy, or a religion that solves these difficulties, I will destroy this book, and confess myself vanquished."
The orthodox theology answers Figuier's question by the argument that "in our finite understanding, we cannot pretend to understand God's plans, purposes and designs, nor to criticize his form of justice." It holds that we must look beyond that mortal life for the evidence of God's love, and not attempt to judge it according to what we see here on earth of men's miseries and inequalities. It holds that the suffering and misery come to us as an inheritance from Adam, and as a result of the sins of our first parents; but that if we are "good" it will all be evened up and recompensed in the next world. Of course the extremists who hold to Predestination have held that some were happy and some miserable, simply because God in the exercise of His will had elected and predestined them to those conditions, but it would scarcely be fair to quote this as the position of current theology, because the tendency of modern theological thought is away from that conception. We mention it merely as showing what some have thought of the subject. Others have sought refuge in the idea that we suffer for the sins of our parents, according to the old doctrine that "the sins of the parents shall be visited upon the children," but even this is not in accordance with man's highest idea of justice and love.
Passing on to the second view, namely that the soul was pre-existent, that is, existed in some higher state not understood by us, from whence it was thrust into human form, etc., we note that the questions as to the cause of inequality, misery, etc., considered a moment ago, are still actively with us—this view does not straighten out the question at all. For whether the soul was pre-existent in a higher state, or whether it was freshly created, the fact remains that as souls they must be equal in the sense of being made by the same process, and from the same material, and that up to the point of their embodiment they had not sinned or merited any reward or punishment, nor had they earned anything one way or another. And yet, according to the theory, these equally innocent and inexperienced souls are born, some being thrust into the bodies of children to be born in environments conducive to advancement, development, etc., and gifted with natural advantages, while others are thrust into bodies of children to be born into the most wretched environments and surroundings, and devoid of many natural advantages—not to speak of the crippled, deformed, and pain-ridden ones in all walks of life. There is no more explanation of the problem in this view than there was in the first mentioned one.
Passing on to the third view, namely, that the soul is one of countless others which emanated from the Source of Being aeons ago, equal in power, opportunities, etc., and which individual soul has worked its way up to its present position through many rebirths and lives, in which it has gained many experiences and lessons, which determine its present condition, and which in turn will profit by the experiences and lessons of the present life by which the next stage of its life will be determined—we find what many have considered to be the only logical and possible explanation of the problem of life's inequalities, providing there is an "answer" at all, and that there is any such thing as a "soul," and a loving, just God. Figuier, the French writer, from whom we quoted that remarkable passage breathing the pessimism of the old view of life, a few moments ago, admitted that in rebirth was to be found a just explanation of the matter. He says: "If, on the contrary, we admit the plurality of human existences and reincarnation—that is, the passage of the same soul through several bodies—all this is made wonderfully clear. Our presence on such or such a part of the earth is no longer the effect of a caprice of Fate, or the result of chance; it is merely a station in the long journey that we make through the world. Before our birth, we have already lived, and this life is the sequel and result of previous ones. We have a soul that we must purify, improve and ennoble during our stay upon earth; or having already completed an imperfect and wicked life, we are compelled to begin a new one, and thus strive to rise to the level of those who have passed on to higher planes."
The advocates of Reincarnation point out that the idea of Justice is fully carried out in that view of life, inasmuch as what we are is determined by what we have been; and what we shall be is determined by what we are now; and that we are constantly urged on by the pressure of the unfolding spirit, and attracted upward by the Divine One. Under this conception there is no such thing as Chance—all is according to Law. As an ancient Grecian philosopher once said: "Without the doctrine of metempsychosis, it is not possible to justify the ways of God," and many other philosophers and theologians have followed him in this thought. If we enjoy, we have earned it; if we suffer, we have earned it; in both cases through our own endeavors and efforts, and not by "chance," nor by reason of the merits or demerits of our forefathers, nor because of "predestination" nor "election" to that fate. If this be true, then one is given the understanding to stoically bear the pains and miseries of this life without cursing Fate or imputing injustice to the Divine. And likewise he is given an incentive toward making the best of his opportunities now, in order to pass on to higher and more satisfactory conditions in future lives. Reincarnationists claim that rewards and punishments are properly awarded only on the plane in which the deed, good or bad, was committed, "else their nature is changed, their effects impaired, and their collateral bearings lost." A writer on the subject has pointed out this fact in the following words: "Physical outrage has to be checked by the infliction of physical pain, and not merely by the arousing of internal regret. Honest lives find appropriate consequence in visible honor. But one career is too short for the precise balancing of accounts, and many are needed that every good or evil done in each may be requited on the earth where it took place." In reference to this mention of rewards and penalties, we would say that very many advanced Reincarnationists do not regard the conditions of life as "rewards and punishments," but, on the contrary, look upon them as forming part of the Lessons in the Kindergarten of Life, to be learned and profited by in future lives. We shall speak of this further in our consideration of the question of "Karma"—the difference is vital, and should be closely observed in considering the subject.
Before we pass from the consideration of the question of Justice, as exemplified by Reincarnation, we would call your attention to the difference in the views of life and its rewards and punishments held by the orthodox theologians and the Reincarnationists, respectively. On the one hand, the orthodox theologians hold that for the deeds, good or evil, performed by a man during his short lifetime of a few years, and then performed under conditions arbitrarily imposed upon him at birth by his Creator, man is rewarded or punished by an eternity of happiness or misery—heaven or hell. Perhaps the man has lived but one or two years of reasonable understanding—or full three-score and ten—and has violated certain moral, ethical or even religious laws, perhaps only to the extent of refusing to believe something that his reason absolutely refused to accept—for this he is doomed to an everlasting sojourn in a place of pain, misery or punishment, or a state equivalent thereto. Or, on the other hand, he has done the things that he ought to have done, and left undone the things that he ought not to have done—even though this doing and not-doing was made very easy for him by reason of his environment and surroundings—and to crown his beautiful life he had accepted the orthodox creeds and beliefs of his fathers, as a matter of course—then this man is rewarded by an eternity of bliss, happiness and joy—without end. Try to think of what ETERNITY means—think of the aeons upon aeons of time, on and on, and on, forever—and the poor sinner is suffering exquisite torture all that time, and in all time to come, without limit, respite, without mercy! And all the same time, the "good" man is enjoying his blissful state, without limit, or end, or satiety! And the time of probation, during which the two worked out their future fate, was as a grain of sand as compared with the countless universes in space in all eternity—a relation which reduces the span of man's lifetime to almost absolutely NOTHING, mathematically considered. Think of this—is this Justice?
And on the other hand, from the point of view of the Reincarnationist, is not the measure of cause and effect more equitably adjusted, even if we regard it as a matter of "reward and punishment"—a crude view by the way—when we see that every infraction of the law is followed by a corresponding effect, and an adherence to the law by a proportionate effect. Does not the "punishment fit the crime" better in this case—the rewards also. And looking at it from a reasonable point of view, devoid from theological bias, which plan seems to be the best exemplification of Justice and Natural Law, not to speak of the higher Divine Justice and Cosmic Law? Of course, we are not urging these ideas as "proofs" of Reincarnation, for strictly speaking "proof" must lie outside of speculation of "what ought to be"—proof belongs to the region of "what is" and "facts in experience." But, nevertheless, while one is considering the matter, it should be viewed from every possible aspect, in order to see "how it works out."
It is also urged along the lines of the Justice of Reincarnation, as opposed to the injustice of the contrary doctrine, that there are many cases of little infants who have only a few days, or minutes, of this life, before they pass out of the body in death. According to the anti-reincarnation doctrine, these little souls have been freshly created, and placed into physical bodies, and then without having had to taste of the experiences of life, are ushered into the higher planes, there to pass an eternal existence—while other souls have to live out their long lives of earth in order to reach the same higher states, and then, according to the prevailing doctrine, even then they may have earned eternal punishment instead of eternal bliss. According to this idea the happiest fate would be for all to die as infants (providing we were baptized, some good souls would add), and the death of an infant should be the occasion for the greatest rejoicing on the part of those who love it. But in spite of the doctrine, human nature does not so act. According to the doctrine of Reincarnation, the little babe's soul was but pursuing the same path as the rest of the race—it had its past, as well as its future, according to Law and Justice. While, if the ordinary view be correct, no one would begrudge the infant its happy fate, still one would have good cause for complaint as the Inequality and Injustice of others having to live out long lives of pain, discomfort and misery, for no cause, instead of being at once translated into a higher life as was the infant. If the ordinary view be true, then why the need of earth-life at all—why not create a soul and then place it in the heavenly realms at once; if it is possible and proper in some cases, why not in all; if the experience is not indispensable, then why impose it on certain souls, when all are freshly created and equal in merit and deserts? If earthly life has any virtue, then the infant's soul is robbed of its right. If earthly life has no virtue, the adult souls are forced to live a useless existence on earth, running the risk of damnation if they fail, while the infant souls escape this. Is this equality of opportunity and experience, or Justice? There would seem to be something wrong with either the facts, or the theory. Test the problem with the doctrine of Reincarnation, and see how it works out!
THE ARGUMENT FOR REINCARNATION.
In addition to the consideration of Justice, there are many other advantages claimed by the advocates of Reincarnation which are worthy of the careful consideration of students of the problem of the soul. We shall give to each of these principal points a brief consideration in this chapter, that you may acquaint yourself with the several points of the argument.
It is argued that the principle of analogy renders it more reasonable to believe that the present life of the soul is but one link in a great chain of existences, which chain stretches far back into the past on one side, and far out into the future on the other, than to suppose that it has been specially created for this petty term of a few years of earth life, and then projected for weal or woe into an eternity of spiritual existence. It is argued that the principle of Evolution on the Physical Plane points to an analogy of Evolution of the Spiritual Plane. It is reasoned that just as birth on the next plane of life follows death on the present one, so analogy would indicate that a death on past planes preceded birth on this, and so on. It is argued that every form of life that we know of has arisen from lower forms, which in turn arose from still lower forms, and so on; and that following the same analogy the soul has risen from lower to higher, and will mount on to still higher forms and planes. It is argued that "special creation" is unknown in the universe, and that it is far more reasonable to apply the principle of evolution to the soul than to consider it as an exception and violation of the universal law.
It is also claimed by some thinkers that the idea of future-existence presupposes past-existence, for everything that is "begun" must "end" some time, and therefore if we are to suppose that the soul is to continue its existence in the future, we must think of it as having an existence in the past—being eternal at both ends of the earth-life, as it were. Opponents of the idea of immortality are fond of arguing that there was no more reason for supposing that a soul would continue to exist after the death of the body, than there was for supposing that it had existed previously. A well-known man once was asked the question: "What becomes of a man's soul after death?" when he evaded the question by answering: "It goes back to where it came from." And to many this idea has seemed sufficient to make them doubt the idea of immortality. The ancient Greek philosophers felt it logically necessary for them to assert the eternal pre-existence of the soul in order to justify their claim of future existence for it. They argued that if the soul is immortal, it must have always existed, for an immortal thing could not have been created—if it was not immortal by nature, it could never be made so, and if it was immortal by nature, then it had always existed. The argument usually employed is this: A thing is either mortal or immortal, one or the other; if it is mortal it has been born and must die; if it is immortal, it cannot have been born, neither can it die; mortality means subject to life and death—immortality means immunity from both. The Greeks devoted much time and care to this argument, and attached great importance to it. They reasoned that nothing that possessed Reality could have emerged from nothingness, nor could it pass into nothingness. If it were Real it was Eternal; if it was not Eternal it was not Real, and would pass away even as it was born. They also claimed that the sense of immortality possessed by the Ego, was an indication of its having experienced life in the past, as well as anticipating life in the future—there is a sense of "oldness" pervading every thought of the soul regarding its own nature. It is claimed as an illogical assumption to hold that back of the present there extends an eternity of non-existence for the soul, while ahead of it there extends an eternity of being—it is held that it is far more logical to regard the present life as merely a single point in an eternity of existence.
It is argued, further, that Reincarnation fits in with the known scientific principle of conservation of energy—that is, that no energy is ever created or is lost, but that all energy is but a form of the universal energy, which flows on from form to form, from manifestation to manifestation, ever the same, and yet manifesting in myriad forms—never born, never dying, but always moving on, and on, and on to new manifestations. Therefore it is thought that it is reasonable to suppose that the soul follows the same law of re-embodiment, rising higher and higher, throughout time, until finally it re-enters the Universal Spirit from which it emerged, and in which it will continue to exist, as it existed before it emerged for the cycle of manifestation. It is also argued that Reincarnation brings Life within the Law of Cause and Effect, just as is everything else in the universe. The law of re-birth, according to the causes generated during past lives, would bring the existence of the soul within and in harmony with natural laws, instead of without and contrary to them.
It is further argued that the feeling of "original sin" of which so many people assert a consciousness, may be explained better by the theory of Reincarnation than by any theological doctrine. The orthodox doctrine is that "original sin" was something inherited from Adam by reason of our forefather's transgression, but this jars upon the thought of today, as well it might, for what has the "soul" to do with Adam—it did not descend from him, or from aught else but the Source of Being—there is no line of descent for souls, though there may be for bodies. What has Adam to do with your soul, if it came fresh from the mint of the Maker, pure and unsullied—how could his sin taint your new soul? Theology here asserts either arrant nonsense, or else grave injustice. But if for "Adam" we substitute our past existences and the thoughts and deeds thereof, we may understand that feeling of conscious recognition of past wrong-doing and remorse, which so many testify to, though they be reasonably free from the same in the present life. The butterfly dimly remembers its worm state, and although it now soars, it feels the slime of the mud in which it once crawled.
It is also argued that in one life the soul would fail to acquire the varied experience which is necessary to form a well rounded mentality of understanding. Dwarfed by its limited experience in the narrow sphere occupied by many human beings, it would be far from acquiring the knowledge which would seem to be necessary for a developed and advanced soul. Besides this there would be as great an inequality on the part of souls after death, as there is before death—some would pass into the future state as ignorant beings, while others would possess a full nature of understanding. As a leading authority has said: "A perfected man must have experienced every type of earthly relation and duty, every phase of desire, affection and passion, every form of temptation and every variety of conflict. No one life can possibly furnish the material for more than a minute section of such experience." Along this same line it is urged that the soul's development must come largely from contact and relationship with other souls, in a variety of phases and forms. It must experience pain and happiness, love, pity, failure, success—it must know the discipline of sympathy, toleration, patience, energy, fortitude, foresight, gratitude, pity, benevolence, and love in all of its phases. This, it is urged, is possible only through repeated incarnations, as the span of one life is too small and its limit too narrow to embrace but a small fraction of the necessary experiences of the soul on its journey toward development and attainment. One must feel the sorrows and joys of all forms of life before "understanding" may come. Narrowness, lack of tolerance, prejudice, and similar forms of undeveloped consciousness must be wiped out by the broad understanding and sympathy that come only from experience.
It is argued that only by repeated incarnations the soul is able to realize the futility of the search for happiness and satisfaction in material things. One, while dissatisfied and disappointed at his own condition, is apt to imagine that in some other earthly condition he would find satisfaction and happiness now denied him, and dying carries with him the subsconcious desire to enjoy those conditions, which desire attracts him back to earth-life in search of those conditions. So long as the soul desires anything that earth can offer, it is earth-bound and drawn back into the vortex. But after repeated incarnations the soul learns well its lesson that only in itself may be found happiness—and that only when it learns its real nature, source, and destiny—and then it passes on to higher planes. As an authority says: "In time, the soul sees that a spiritual being cannot be nourished on inferior food, and that any joy short of union with the Divine must be illusionary."
It is also argued that but few people, as we see them in earth-life, have realized the existence of a higher part of their being, and still fewer have asserted the supremacy of the higher, and subordinated the lower part of the self to that higher. Were they to pass on to a final state of being after death, they would carry with them all of their lower propensities and attributes, and would be utterly incapable of manifesting the spiritual part of their nature which alone would be satisfied and happy in the spiritual realms. Therefore, it needs repeated lives in order to evolve from the lower conditions and to develop and unfold the higher.
Touching upon the question of unextinguished desire, mentioned a moment ago, the following quotation from a writer on the subject, gives clearly and briefly the Reincarnationist argument regarding this point. The writer says: "Desire for other forms of earthly experience can only be extinguished by undergoing them. It is obvious that any one of us, if now translated to the unseen world, would feel regret that he had not tasted existence in some other situation or surroundings. He would wish to have known what it was to possess wealth and rank, or beauty, or to live in a different race or climate, or to see more of the world and society. No spiritual ascent could progress while earthly longings were dragging back the soul, and so it frees itself from them by successively securing them and dropping them. When the round of such knowledge has been traversed, regret for ignorance has died out." This idea of "Living-Out and Out-Living" is urged by a number of writers and thinkers on the subject. J. Wm. Lloyd says, in his "Dawn Thought," on this subject: "You rise and overcome simply by the natural process of living fully and thus outliving, as a child its milk-teeth, a serpent his slough. Living and Outliving, that expresses it. Until you have learned the one lesson fully you are never ready for a new one." The same writer, in the same book, also says: "By sin, shame, joy, virtue and sorrow, action and reaction, attraction and repulsion, the soul, like a barbed arrow, ever goes on. It cannot go back, or return through the valves of its coming. But this must not be understood to be fulfilled in one and every earth-visit. It is true only of the whole circle-voyage of the soul. In one earth-trip, one 'life,' as we say, it may be that there would nothing be but a standing still or a turning back, nothing but sin. But the whole course of all is on." But there is the danger of a misunderstanding of this doctrine, and some have misinterpreted it, and read it to advise a plunging into all kinds of sinful experience in order to "live-out and out-live," which idea is wrong, and cannot be entertained by any true student of the subjects, however much it may be used by those who wish to avail themselves of an excuse for material dissipation. Mabel Collins, in her notes to "Light on the Path," says on this subject: "Seek it by testing all experience, and remember that, when I say this, I do not say, 'Yield to the seduction of sense, in order to know it.' Before you have become an occultist, you may do this, but not afterwards. When you have chosen and entered the path, you cannot yield to these seductions without shame. Yet you can experience them without horror; can weigh, observe and test them, and wait with the patience of confidence for the hour when they shall affect you no longer. But do not condemn a man that yields; stretch out your hand to him as a brother pilgrim whose feet have become heavy with mire. Remember, O disciple! that great though the gulf may be between the good man and the sinner, it is greater between the good man and the man who has attained knowledge; it is immeasurable between the good man and the one on the threshold of divinity. Therefore, be wary, lest too soon you fancy yourself a thing apart from the mass." And again, the same writer says: "Before you can attain knowledge you must have passed through all places, foul and clean alike. Therefore, remember that the soiled garment you shrink from touching may have been yours yesterday, may be yours tomorrow. And if you turn with horror from it when it is flung upon your shoulders, it will cling the more closely to you. The self-righteous man makes for himself a bed of mire. Abstain because it is right to abstain, not that yourself shall be kept clean."
It is also argued that Reincarnation is necessary in order to give the evolving races a chance to perfect themselves—that is, not through their physical descendants, which would not affect the souls of those living in the bodies of the races to-day, but by perfection and growth of the souls themselves. It is pointed out that to usher a savage or barbarian to the spiritual planes after death, no matter how true to his duty and "his lights" the soul had been, would be to work an absurd translation. Such a soul would not be fitted for the higher spiritual planes, and would be most unhappy and miserable there. It will be seen that Reincarnationists make quite a distinction between "goodness" and "advancement"—while they recognize and urge the former, they regard it as only one side of the question, the other being "spiritual growth and unfoldment." It will be seen that Reincarnation provides for a Spiritual Evolution with all of its advantages, as well as a material evolution such as science holds to be correct.
Concluding this chapter, let us quote once more from the authority on the subject before mentioned, who writes anonymously in the pamphlet from which the quotation is taken. He says: "Nature does nothing by leaps. She does not, in this case, introduce into a region of spirit and spiritual life a being who has known little else than matter and material life, with small comprehension even of that. To do so would be analogous to transferring suddenly a ploughboy into a company of metaphysicians. The pursuit of any topic implies some preliminary acquaintance with its nature, aims, and mental requirements; and the more elevated the topic, the more copious the preparation for it. It is inevitable that a being who has before him an eternity of progress through zones of knowledge and spiritual experience ever nearing the Central Sun, should be fitted for it through long acquisition of the faculties which alone can deal with it. Their delicacy, their vigor, their penetrativeness, their unlikeness to those called for on the material plane, show the contrast of the earth-life to the spirit-life. And they show, too, the inconceivability of a sudden transition from one to the other, of a policy unknown in any other department of Nature's workings, of a break in the law of uplifting through Evolution. A man, before he can become a 'god,' must first become a perfect man; and he can become a perfect man neither in seventy years of life on earth, nor in any number of years of life from which human conditions are absent. * * * Re-birth and re-life must go on till their purposes are accomplished. If, indeed, we were mere victims of an evolutionary law, helpless atoms on which the machinery of Nature pitilessly played, the prospect of a succession of incarnations, no one of which gave satisfaction, might drive us to mad despair. But we have thrust on us no such cheerless exposition. We are shown that Reincarnations are the law for man, because they are the conditions of his progress, which is also a law, but he may mould them and better them and lessen them. He cannot rid himself of the machinery, but neither should wish to. Endowed with the power to guide it for the best, prompted with the motive to use that power, he may harmonize both his aspirations and his efforts with the system that expressed the infinite wisdom of the supreme, and through the journey from the temporal to the eternal tread the way with steady feet, braced with the consciousness that he is one of an innumerable multitude, and with the certainty that he and they alike, if they so will it, may attain finally to that sphere where birth and death are but memories of the past."
In this chapter we have given you a number of the arguments favorable to the doctrine of Reincarnation, from a number of sources. Some of these arguments do not specially appeal to us, personally, for the reason that they are rather more theological than scientific, but we have included them that the argument may appear as generally presented, and because we feel that in a work of this kind we must not omit an argument which is used by many of the best authorities, simply because it may not appeal to our particular temperament or habit of thought. To some, the theological argument may appeal more strongly than would the scientific, and it very properly is given here. The proper way to present any subject is to give it in its many aspects, and as it may appear from varied viewpoints.
THE PROOFS OF REINCARNATION.
To many minds the "proof" of a doctrine is its reasonableness and its adaptability as an answer to existing problems. And, accordingly, to such, the many arguments advanced in favor of the doctrine, of which we have given a few in the preceding chapters, together with the almost universal acceptance of the fundamental ideas on the part of the race, in at least some period of its development, would be considered as a very good "proof" of the doctrine, at least so far as it might be considered as the "most available working theory" of the soul's existence, past and future, and as better meeting the requirements of a doctrine or theory than any other idea advanced by metaphysical, theological, or philosophical thinkers.
But to the scientific mind, or the minds of those who demand something in the nature of actual experience of facts, no amount of reasonable abstract theorizing and speculation is acceptable even in the way of a "working hypothesis," unless based upon some tangible "facts" or knowledge gained through human experience. While people possessing such minds will usually admit freely that the doctrine of Reincarnation is more logical than the opposing theories, and that it fits better the requirements of the case, still they will maintain that all theories regarding the soul must be based upon premises that cannot be established by actual experience in human consciousness. They hold that in absence of proof in experience—actual "facts"—these premises are not established, and that all structures of reasoning based upon them must partake of their insecurity. These people are like the slangy "man from Missouri" who "wants to be shown"—nay, more, they are like the companion of the above man—the Man from Texas, who not only says: "You've got to show me," but who also demands that the thing be "placed in my hand." And, after all, one has no right to criticize these people—they are but manifesting the scientific spirit of the age which demands facts as a basis for theories, rather than theories that need facts to prove them. And, unless Reincarnation is able to satisfy the demands of this class of thinkers, the advocates of the doctrine need not complain if the scientific mind dismisses the doctrine as "not proven."
After all, the best proof along the above mentioned lines—in fact, about the only possible strict proof—is the fragmentary recollections of former lives, which many people possess at times—these recollections often flashing across the mind, bringing with it a conviction that the place or thing "has been experienced before." Nearly every person has had glimpses of something that appeared to be a recollection from the past life of the individual. We see places that we have never known, and they seem perfectly familiar; we meet strangers, and we are convinced that we have known them in the past; we read an old book and feel that we have seen it before, often so much so that we can anticipate the story or argument of the writer; we hear some strange philosophical doctrine, and we recognize it as an old friend. Many people have had this experience in the matter of Occultism—in the very matter of the doctrine of Reincarnation itself—when they first heard it, although it struck them as strange and unusual, yet they felt an inner conviction that it was an old story to them—that they "had heard it all before." These experiences are by far too common to be dismissed as mere fancy or coincidence. Nearly every living person has had some experience along this line.
A recent writer along the lines of Oriental Philosophy has said regarding this common experience of the race: "Many people have had 'peculiar experiences' that are accountable only upon the hypothesis of Metempsychosis. Who has not experienced the consciousness of having felt the thing before—having thought it some time in the dim past? Who has not witnessed new scenes that appear old, very old? Who has not met persons for the first time, whose presence awakened memories of a past lying far back in the misty ages of long ago? Who has not been seized at times with the consciousness of a mighty 'oldness' of soul? Who has not heard music, often entirely new compositions, which somehow awakened memories of similar strains, scenes, places, faces, voices, lands, associations, and events, sounding dimly on the strings of memory as the breezes of the harmony floats over them? Who has not gazed at some old painting, or piece of statuary, with the sense of having seen it all before? Who has not lived through events which brought with them a certainty of being merely a repetition of some shadowy occurrences away back in lives lived long ago? Who has not felt the influence of the mountain, the sea, the desert, coming to them when they are far from such scenes—coming so vividly as to cause the actual scene of the present to fade into comparative unreality? Who has not had these experiences?"
We have been informed by Hindus well advanced in the occult theory and practice that it is quite a common thing for people of their country to awaken to an almost complete recollection of their former lives; in some cases they have related details of former lives that have been fully verified by investigation in parts of the land very remote from their present residence. In one case, a Hindu sage related to us an instance where a poor Hindu, who had worked steadily in the village in which he had been born, without leaving it, ever since his childhood days. This man one day cried out that he had awakened to a recollection of having been a man of such and such a village, in a province hundreds of miles from his home. Some wealthy people became interested in the matter, and after having taken down his statements in writing, and after careful examination and questioning, they took him to the town in question. Upon entering the village the man seemed dazed, and cried out: "Everything is changed—it is the same and yet not the same!" Finally, however, he began to recognize some of the old landmarks of the place, and to call the places and roads by their names. Then, coming to a familiar corner, he cried: "Down there is my old home," and, rushing down the road for several hundred yards, he finally stopped before the ruins of an old cottage, and burst into tears, saying that the roof of his home had fallen in, and the walls were crumbling to pieces. Inquiry among the oldest men of the place brought to light the fact that when these aged men were boys, the house had been occupied by an old man, bearing the same name first mentioned by the Hindu as having been his own in his previous life. Other facts about the former location of places in the village were verified by the old men. Finally, while walking around the ruins, the man said: "There should be a pot of silver buried there—I hid it there when I lived here." The people rapidly uncovered the ground indicated, and brought to light an old pot containing a few pieces of silver coin of a date corresponding to the lifetime of the former occupant of the house. Our informant told us that he had personal knowledge of a number of similar cases, none of which, however, were quite as complete in detail as the one mentioned. He also informed us that he himself, and a number of his acquaintances who had attained certain degrees of occult unfoldment, were fully aware of their past lives for several incarnations back.
Another instance came under our personal observation, in which an American who had never been to India, when taken into a room in which a Hindu priest who was visiting America had erected a shrine or altar before which he performed his religious services, readily recognized the arrangement of the details of worship, ritual, ceremony, etc., and was conscious of having seen, or at least dreamed of seeing, a similar shrine at some time in the past, and as having had some connection with the same. The Hindu priest, upon hearing the American's remarks, stated that his knowledge of the details of the shrine, as then expressed, indicated a knowledge possible only to one who had served at a Hindu altar in some capacity.
We know of another case in which an acquaintance, a prominent attorney in the West, told us that when undergoing his initiation in the Masonic order he had a full recollection of having undergone the same before, and he actually anticipated each successive step. This knowledge, however, ceased after he had passed beyond the first three degrees which took him to the place where he was a full Master Mason, the higher degrees being entirely new to him, and having been apparently not experienced before. This man was not a believer in any doctrine of Reincarnation, and related the incident merely as "one of those things that no man can explain."
We know of another case, in which a student of Hindu Philosophy and Oriental Occultism found that he could anticipate each step of the teaching and doctrine, and each bit of knowledge gained by him seemed merely a recollection of something known long since. So true was this that he was able to supply the "missing links" of the teaching, where he had not access to the proper sources of information at the time, and in each case he afterward found that he had stated the same correctly. And this included many points of the Inner Teachings not generally taught to the general public, but reserved for the few. Subsequent contact with native Hindu teachers brought to light the fact that he had already unraveled many tangled skeins of doctrine deemed possible only to the "elect."
Many of these recollections of the past come as if they were memories of something experienced in dreams, but sometimes after the loose end of the thought is firmly grasped and mentally drawn out, other bits of recollection will follow. Sir Walter Scott wrote in his diary in 1828: "I was strangely haunted by what I would call the sense of pre-existence, viz., a confused idea that nothing that passed was said for the first time; that the same topics had been discussed, and the same persons had stated the same opinions on them." William Home, an English writer, was instantly converted from materialism to a belief in a spiritual existence by an incident that occurred to him in a part of London utterly strange to him. He entered a waiting room, and to his surprise everything seemed familiar to him. As he says: "I seemed to recognize every object. I said to myself, what is this? I have never been here before, and yet I have seen all this, and if so, there is a very peculiar knot in that shutter." He then crossed the room, and opened the shutter, and after examination he saw the identical peculiar knot that he had felt sure was there. Pythagoras is said to have distinctly remembered a number of his previous incarnations, and at one time pointed out a shield in a Grecian temple as having been carried by him in a previous incarnation at the siege of Troy. A well-known ancient Hindu sage is said to have transcribed a lost sacred book of doctrine from memory of its study in a previous life. Children often talk strangely of former lives, which ideas, however, are generally frightened out of them by reproof on the part of parents, and often punishment for untruthfulness and romancing. As they grow older these memories fade away.
People traveling in strange places often experience emotion when viewing some particular scene, and memory seems to painfully struggle to bring into the field of consciousness the former connection between the scene and the individual. Many persons have testified to these occurrences, many of them being matter-of-fact, unimaginative people, who had never even heard of the doctrine of Reincarnation. Charles Dickens, in one of his books of foreign travel, tells of a bridge in Italy which produced a peculiar effect upon him. He says: "If I had been murdered there in some former life, I could not have seemed to remember the place more thoroughly, or with more emphatic chilling of the blood; and the real remembrance of it acquired in that minute is so strengthened by the imaginary recollection that I hardly think I could forget it." Another recorded instance is that of a person entering a foreign library for the first time. Passing to the department of ancient books, he said that he had a dim idea that a certain rare book was to be found on such a shelf, in such a corner, describing at the same time certain peculiarities of the volume. A search failed to discover the volume in the stated place, but investigation showed that it was in another place in the library, and an old assistant stated that a generation back it had been moved from its former place (as stated by the visitor), where it had been previously located for very many years. An examination of the volume showed a perfect correspondence in every detail with the description of the strange visitor.