The Path – October 1889



In a previous paper certain relations of experience to memory were considered, and Karma was shown to be a resultant of action. These are elementary considerations, yet none the less important. They are derived from the commonest every-day experience, and hence everyone can test them for himself. It might be profitable to observe, in passing, that this deduction of knowledge from experience is the only way of learning. We have within ourselves the elements and conditions of superior knowledge and illumination, but so long as these elements are latent and inactive they are of no practical value. They make a grave, often a fatal, mistake who imagine that those possessed of supreme wisdom can bestow it upon the ignorant as a gratuity or a favor. They have not so received it, neither can they so impart it. The law never changes, and is the same for Adept and neophyte. Most truly says Hadji Erinn in the last PATH, "It may be a child's school, but it takes a man to go through it."

This digression seemed necessary in order to show the importance of the simpler primary propositions, and the manner in which they are to be received and tested. We are not dealing with Reincarnation as a dogma, but strictly as a scientific hypothesis. For any intelligent person now-a-days to accept the special-creation theory, with birth into the present life as the beginning of man, is to confess the whole problem of life to be incomprehensible and all its mysteries incapable of solution. With shaded eyes and bated breath all such continually ask, "What does it all mean?" The most salient point, the most common objection to the theory of reincarnation, is the lapse of memory. If we could remember distinctly any existence previous to this, the problem would at once be solved. It would then be a matter of common experience, and no one would doubt it. Therefore memory becomes the point of interest in examining the theory. If we are to estimate with any degree of certainty what memory may or may not do, what it may or may not have done, we must first determine by our own daily experience just what memory is now doing. Every reader, therefore, should pause after every statement, and inquire after every proposition — "Is this true? Is it in accordance with my own experience?" If he does this, and is careful as to the use and exact meaning of words, he will find the latent stores of knowledge beginning to unfold within his own soul, and the meaning of life will begin to appear. This knowledge of the true meaning of life will not depend on his acceptance of the theory of reincarnation as a dogma, though even in that way it is infinitely superior to any other, but the real benefit to the student will come from the fact that he is beginning to know himself, and to read correctly the lessons of his own experience. Those who oppose the reincarnation theory almost invariably show utter ignorance of these primary considerations, the very alphabet of the whole subject. The questions involved are so deep, so broad, and in their final application so abstruse, that an error in the beginning leads to endless complications and misconceptions further on. This is because human experience covers such a wide area, and human relations are so complicated; and any theory capable of meeting these experiences at every point must be equally potent and applicable. If, therefore, reincarnation be true, and be thus involved in human experience and capable of explaining the mysteries of life, it must be capable of logical deduction from these same experiences. Its ground of operation is our legitimate ground for investigation. Those who are unable or unwilling to study the subject in this way may accept the theory as a dogma, or deny it altogether, as they please; though at this point a great deal may be said as to motive and result on human action. From the stand-point of dogma the principle of Justice, both human and divine, overwhelmingly supports reincarnation; while every other theory known to modern times is horribly unjust; thus favoring priest-craft and king-craft, and rendering the essential Brotherhood of man impossible.

"Man's inhumanity to man
Makes countless millions mourn."

The essence of humanity is justice; the essence of all inhumanity is injustice. Wherever exact justice reigns, divine Charity glorifies life with the halo of Divinity.

These preliminary considerations may help to set our subject in its true light, and serve in divesting it of all prejudice. Only in this way can we examine any subject dispassionately, with any probability of arriving at the simple truth.

We may now return to our original inquiry: If the theory of reincarnation be true, why have we no recollection of any previous life? Passing by all those cases where such reminiscence is claimed by certain individuals like Apollonius of Tyana, and certain experiences difficult of explanation on any other ground in the life of many persons, passing by such considerations as favor belief in reincarnation on the ground of Justice, let us consider memory in relation to experience. From the known character of memory deduced from daily experience, is there any reason to expect it to bridge the chasm between two incarnations, provided more than the present incarnation has existed for the individual? If not, why not? Put in another form, our thesis may be stated in this way: Is the absence of memory of a previous life any bar to the acceptance and rational application of the theory of reincarnation?

The terms cause and effect are related to phenomena. The essence of phenomena is motion, or action. Every so-called cause is involved in its effect, and every so-called effect becomes in its turn a cause of further action to be involved in all succeeding effects. Man has sometimes been called "a creature of circumstance." This is a half-truth. Man is also a creator of circumstance. In other words, man bears the same general relation to cause and effect as does every object in nature. If we observe any object in nature we discover it giving rise to or the theatre of phenomena. If we find it acting, we may trace the so-called causes of its present activities. If we find it apparently quiescent, we may discover what activities it will presently give rise to. There is thus a period of activity followed by a period of repose, and this followed by renewed activity. All nature is thus instinct with life, for life is essential action. Thus "the out-breathing and in-breathing of Brahm" involves every atom and every object, no less than every organism.

Life's pulses quiver everywhere,
     A solemn rhythm reigns;
A measured tread is in the air,
     The ocean throbs with pain.
The solid earth its pulses keeps
     While shadows come and go;
Deeps answer always unto deeps,
     Glow answers unto glow.
Back of all action there is rest;
     Behind all rest the flame
Of life but smoulders in Brahm's breast,
     Ready to glow again.

The Path