The Path – July 1887


A few words about what are called the "artificial" reincarnations of Mahatmas may be of service in clearing up some quite general misapprehensions on the subject. Of course it is hardly possible for us, under our present circumstances, to gain an understanding of the conditions governing these reincarnations, but some idea of the general principle involved may be of material aid to us in our studies. Perhaps continuous reincarnations might be the better term, since the word "artificial" is apt to convey the impression of something unnatural, whereas they must be quite as much within the order of Nature as those of ordinary humanity. But they are distinguished from the latter by the fact that the course of physical existence is uninterrupted; that when one garment of flesh has served its purpose it is cast aside and another is straightway assumed, until the Mission of the Great Soul is accomplished; whereas with ordinary humanity there is a long subjective existence in the Devachanic state intervening between the periods of physical life.

But a consideration of the lives of the great teachers of the world will bring us to the conclusion that the reincarnated Mahatma does not at once demonstrate that he is what is called an Adept; that is, a person gifted with extraordinary attributes and with powers over the forces of nature. It is necessary that the new personality should be developed; that it should be aroused to a consciousness of the Great Soul which animates it. The personality is that collection of attributes and experiences amassed during a single life in the physical. Through the right use made of these experiences, this personality, the Inner Self, raises itself to a recognition of the Higher Self and thereby unites its consciousness with that of the latter. This union once brought about, the higher consciousness is never lost.

This exalted state attained, the entity, — that which constitutes the feeling of individuality — never departs from it. But each time the reincarnation takes place the process has to be repeated for the outer personality. This, at first sight, will be apt to be regarded as an affliction, constituting a continuous series of struggles appalling in their long array, particularly when we are told in The Idyll of the White Lotus that to attain the union with the Highest Self may mean to "retain life upon this planet so long as it may last." Many might at once be inclined to doubt whether a boon were involved in such a prospect.

On reflection, however, it will he seen that the real state of the case is quite the contrary. The struggle can occur but once for each personality. The Higher Self, "the proud, indifferent god who sits in the sanctuary," remains undisturbed all the while, viewing the whole series of incarnations calmly and unmoved, and unaffected by anything that may happen. It is a process of educating a long series of various personalities into a consciousness of the Eternal, and each, on attainment, becomes one with the Higher Self, sharing with all who have gone before, the lofty standpoint from which the work is thenceforth carried on. Thus each personality of a Mahatma, until its spiritual rebirth is accomplished, may have to endure to a greater or less degree, according to circumstances, that which we call sin and suffering, and all this sin and suffering is essential to its work in the world. So it must have been with the personalities of all the great Masters who have had their work to do in the world.

The Mahatma, however, can neither sin nor suffer, whatever the personality may do, for he well knows that there is no final distinction between good and evil, between pleasure and pain, and that each and all work alike to the same end. The nature of any particular personality of a series varies, of course, according to the work on earth for which it is the chosen instrument, and so the period of the spiritual rebirth — or the recognition of, and union with, the Higher Self — may come at various points, sooner or later, in the earthly career. There may be, and perhaps generally is, an intuitive perception of one's true Self in early childhood, as Browning has so beautifully depicted in his Paracelsus, in the passage beginning:

"From childhood I have been possessed
By a fire — by a true fire, or faint or fierce,
As from without some master, so it seemed,
Repressed or urged its current."

The final consummation may come to pass either in youth, in early manhood, or in full maturity. When this time comes, one then recognizes that all sin and suffering have been mere illusion; that they were but means to a given end.

This may throw some light on what are called the shortcomings of persons who may be far advanced in mystical development; shortcomings which the world cannot comprehend as consistent with their connection with grand spiritual teaching's. The fact, however, affords no pretext to any person for self-excuse of their own shortcomings; a point in which lies a great danger. By thus endeavoring to excuse themselves, and seeking a pretext for selfish indulgences, they commit the profanition of attempting to exalt the finite consciousness of their lower Self, to the place of the infinite consciousness of the Higher Self, which alone can rightly judge in such contingencies.

While the personality of the incarnated Master is a human being. with all the attributes which make any other human being, its constitution is naturally of a finer order, so as to make it an instrument adapted to the work for which it has been brought into the world. Much may be learned in this respect from the following extract from a letter from a Master concerning the reincarnations of Buddha:

"As in the legend of the miraculous conception, which came into the Christian religion from the Eastern source, the Buddha spirit overshadows the mother, and so prepares a pure and perfect home for its incarnated self. The mother must be virgin in soul and thought."

The difference between the reincarnations of Mahatmas and those of ordinary humanity is, after all probably only one of degree. The same experiences must be passed through by each and all. The great end must finally be attained by the latter "even though it take billions of centuries," as Kernning, the German mystic, powerfully puts it. And. with the former, it must be the consummation also of billions of centuries. Time, however, is one of the illusions of the physical.

The process and course of the reincarnations of an individuality may be symbolized by a string of beads, each new personality being the formation of a new bead and adding it to the series. Each bead seems to have an individual consciousness which, however, in reality is the consciousness of the whole. The circumstances of the physical life are what obscure the knowledge of this fact, a knowledge which is attained by clearing away the clouds that dim the light which is always there. On reaching this state, the consciousness becomes transferred from that of the single bead to that of the whole, but its continuity is not thereby interrupted, any more than an interruption is necessitated by becoming familiar with all the rooms in a house after leaving some particular room in which one's infancy has been spent, or by passing out of the house into the open air. The knowledge of the greater includes that of the less; the less is by no means lost, — it has been indispensable, but after its lesson has been learned its relative importance is diminished. It would be well for us to strive to bear in mind that all our past personalities really exist to-day as much as they ever did, and that they now are as much ourselves as is this particular present personality which we call ourselves.

The following passage in Through the Gates of Gold is a powerful and glorious picture of the state which consummates the union with the Highest Self and which transcend pleasure and pain, sin and suffering: "In that inmost sanctuary all is to be found: God and his creatures, the fiends who prey on them, those among men who have been loved, those who have been hated. Difference between them exists no longer. Then the soul of man laughs in its fearlessness, and goes forth into the world in which its actions are needed, and causes these actions to take place without apprehension, alarm, fear, regret or joy."

The Path