[Note: page numbers cited for The Esoteric Tradition are to the 2-vol. Second Edition and do not correspond to the 1-vol. 3rd & Revised Edition.]
One of the most puzzling things to the majority of people is the seeming injustice in the world. We are taught that an all-wise, all-powerful, all-loving God is guiding our destinies. Then we see races of people less intelligent perhaps than we, living in the most primitive manner, without proper shelter, and in some cases having very little, sometimes no, food. They may be in their limited way well-meaning and living up to what to them are their highest ideals, but because their ways are not our ways they are ruled by the more advanced races, with little regard for their needs, and with no understanding of why they are occupying this particular station in life. We may be smugly grateful we are not in their condition, but we do not often wonder why, or do anything constructive to help them. In our own race there is the same apparent injustice. We see one person enjoying ease of living, excellent health, and all that makes for what we suppose to be the ultimate in happiness. With all these material advantages the same person may be utterly selfish, oppressing the less fortunate and neglecting to conform even to an approach to a decent moral life. On the other hand we find those fine, generous, loving individuals with a helping hand outstretched to all in need. True, they may not have money or other material things to bestow, but one can feel the heart-warming glow that their very presence brings to all who come in contact with them — and we wonder again if there is not much more than just this earth-life, where chance seems to play so large a part.
An elderly man once said that it seemed such a pity to die when he was just beginning to learn how to live. What a consolation an understanding of Reincarnation would have been to this man: to begin his next earth-life here where he left off the last one, with past lessons learned, new ones to work out, and with the knowledge that he would have a chance to correct the past mistakes, if not in the life just beginning, then in some future life, when conditions were right for the soul's growth.
Reincarnation and Karman, those twin doctrines, are two of the most profound and sublime in the Theosophical teachings. As we sow, so shall we reap; no one is to blame for our lot in life but ourselves; there is no trusting to blind chance or luck; it is we who have made the blunders and we, and no one else, who will have to correct them. In this cheering knowledge we take consolation and hope. The operation of absolute, immutable Law is so much more satisfying to the heart and the mind than the old idea of a deity subject to many of the faults of ordinary mortals. It teaches us to depend on ourselves, and to draw from those inner selves strength, and a love for and better understanding of all living things.
Reincarnation is not to be confused with Transmigration of Souls — that is, the belief that we may come back, especially if we have not been as good as we should have been, in some animal form. This probably originated in the real teaching being so veiled by those who really knew the truth that the masses understood it to mean this; just as so many Christian sects accept literally what is really allegorical or symbolic, and thus often pervert what Jesus really taught.
In all these perverted teachings there is perhaps a grain of truth. There is such a grain contained in the transmigration-of-souls theory, for originally we progressed from the mineral, vegetable, and animal to the human form. But after attaining the latter there is no return. "Once a man, always a man.'
It is often said by the unthinking that this teaching does not appeal to them because they do not remember their past lives, or their friends and loved ones; but after careful study it will be found that the parts of those lives worth remembering have been retained in our consciousness and we are constantly aware of them through our intuitions, our likes and our dislikes. A most beautiful statement appears in The Esoteric Tradition, by Dr. G. de Purucker:
Thus are hearts reunited on Earth which have formerly loved each other on Earth, and it is on Earth that minds which have genuinely understood each other meet again in sympathetic understanding and intercourse. For verily, those who have loved once will meet again. In fact they cannot do otherwise. Love is the most magnetic thing in the Universe; love attracts love; its whole essence implies and signifies union and reunion, reuniting, bringing together anew.
And on page 651 of the same work the subject is continued:
It is through and by means of reincarnation that human souls meet each other again, come together again, for their weal or for their woe, as the case may be. One looks into the eyes of a stranger, that is, a stranger to this body, in this life, and the eyes, intuitively as it were, see an old friend. Instant comprehension, quick understanding, and magnetic sympathy are there.
One could say that it was because the person met was worthy of our love; that he was of exceptionally fine character, and we recognised these qualities in him or her, but such may not be the case. It is possible that he may not be as admirable as others whom we meet and yet towards whom we feel indifference or even antipathy. For we bring over our dislikes as well as our likings for the persons we have lived close to in former lives.
Even now we are building our future karman, good or bad, or good and bad, and we shall have an accounting to give in the future; though this should not be regarded as reward or punishment, but as lessons to be learned. Some perhaps will be more difficult to learn than others, but the laws of nature are always kind, even when to our limited understanding they may seem harsh.
As stated in The Esoteric Tradition, three-quarters of the peoples of the earth believe in some form of reincarnation, and it seems that it is only in the Occident that we have lost sight, for a time, of the teaching. It is Theosophy that has again brought it, and its companion-doctrine Karman, into the West, where they are rapidly becoming familiar to a great many thoughtful men and women.
Not until the revival of Theosophy — it can be termed a revival, because the Master K. H. says in one of his letters: "Theosophy is no new candidate for the world's attention, but only the restatement of Principles which have been recognised from the very infancy of mankind" — and its teachings were placed where the inquiring mind could have access to them, has there been a satisfactory explanation of all the discords and ills of the human race, where chance has seemed to rule us against our wills.
Of course, the Guardians of this Wisdom have always in all ages preserved it, but not until the last few years has it been given out freely and generously. It has been stated that we are more intellectual than spiritual, but we are slowly arriving at a turning-point. This will not be a hindrance to us for any great length of time, because we are becoming intelligent enough to be dissatisfied with the old order, and are beginning to think a little more deeply and a little more seriously about ourselves and our relation to the Universe.
As we begin to reach out for something better, in answer to our questionings we shall find an abundance of knowledge waiting for us. Anyone having access to a public library can read the literature of the Theosophical Society, which contains truths that formerly were given only to a chosen few. In former times one earned the right to study these things, and the earning was not so simple a process as walking to a library and selecting a book.
We grow into Theosophy by degrees; it is like picking up scattered threads that have led back ages and ages to a time when we were not so material and knew these teachings well. We can fill our small parts in life cheerfully, hopefully, and unselfishly, leaving the future to take care of itself. We can use our energies for making the most of the present. This quotation from Tsiang Samdup, in Talbot Mundy's Om, expresses the idea perfectly:
We live in the Eternal Now, and it is Now that we create our destiny. It follows, that to grieve over the past is useless and to make plans for the future a waste of time. There is only one ambition that is good, and that is: so to live Now that none may weary of life's emptiness and none may have to do the task we leave undone.
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