The Path – November 1889



In the further discussion of this subject we need a few terms with definite meanings such as every one can understand. We are looking at the doctrine of re-incarnation from a single standpoint, and for this one view a comprehensive philosophy and exhaustive classification are not necessary. We need only to appeal to common experience and to logical deductions drawn therefrom. The self-conscious center in man we call the ego. Experience is the varied relations existing between the ego and all its surroundings or environment resulting in action. Action implies reaction. If the ego in man acts upon his environment, so environment re-acts upon the ego. This action and re-action constitute man's experience. The law of this action, that is, the direct relation between action and re-action, is that of all force, all attraction, all motion everywhere, viz., quantity and quality are both mathematical and rhythmical. Circular motion begets circular motion, like attracts like. For every given impulse sent out a like impulse is returned, both as to form and as to intensity or quantity. The self-conscious center in man, the ego, the "I," stands in the center of his "sphere of life," is the center of his environment, and it therefore actually stands between two worlds; the seen and the unseen; the world of action and the world of thought; the world of effects and the world of causes. Now the unseen world of causes, whence come our thoughts, our impulses, the "within" to all of man's outer world, or the center of his sphere, is also the noumenal or spiritual world, as contrasted with his phenomenal or physical world. Man's experience, therefore, whether he is aware of it or not, is drawn constantly from these two worlds, though seldom in equal degree. We say of one, "he is a man of action"; of another, "he is a man of thought." We say of one, "he is spiritually minded"; of another, "he is carnally minded." We say of one, "he lives on a low plane"; of another, "he is high-minded." It may thus be seen that both our observation and common experience have become stereotyped in forms of common expression. The logical deduction thus drawn from common experience and observation leads to the conception that man is a conscious center between an upper and a lower world, or, if you please, that the "sphere" of man's life, of which the ego is the conscious center, is composed of two semi-spheres. A perfect sphere is an ideal in nature. It is the design drawn by the Architect upon the phenomenal trestle-board of nature. In outer nature the sphere is always imperfect. Every fruit, like an apple, for example, has an actual center just as an ideal sphere which it represents has an ideal center. These ideals only are perfect. The core, or seed-pit of the apple, is its center of life, but the two halves made by cleavage through the core are neither equal nor symmetrical, hence they are imperfect. The design of nature is its ideal. Without this ideal there could be no persistence of form, no such thing as species, no correspondences, no harmony.

Now to return to the life of man, let us observe that, relatively independent of nature's ideals, he has also his own ideals, and that these ideals or aims more or less shape his life. Man's ideals are a compound derived from his appetites, passions, or desires, on the one hand, and his aspirations, hopes, and disappointments, on the other. All these make up the round of his experience, and constitute his sphere of life. As to symmetry man's sphere is thus distorted. With the ego as the center, if man's sphere of life is to be rounded to perfection, his experience should be so adjusted that it shall pertain equally to the two worlds of which his consciousness takes equal cognisance. His thought shall inspire his action, and his action shall again give rise to thought. He will thus act consciously and designedly, rather than impulsively or passionately. Man would thus have a rounded experience and a range of consciousness that would be both extended and clear, and by so adjusting his experience of the two worlds in which his ego abides, by checking one set of experiences with the other, he would have real knowledge of both.

As a matter of fact, there are individuals who in one short life have well-nigh exhausted physical sensuous experience. The aged Faust was exactly in this condition. But in such cases, the development being altogether one-sided and the experience pertaining so largely to the gross and material, the range of consciousness is really very narrow indeed. The vehicle of this experience, the physical body, is cast off at death, and the ego thus released and rounding up its experience on the higher or spiritual plane would find itself confined to very narrow dimensions. With little conscious experience in the higher realm which now constitutes the theatre of its being, and its familiar channels destroyed, with no organ of physical memory like the physical brain, there could remain but a confused precipitate in consciousness by which even the recent experiences of earth-life could be retained, and this must soon fade away. The ego now enters on a new phase of existence, in the world of causes, but where it has to work out, or "experience", the effects of its recent life on earth. When these have run their course and become exhausted, let us say that it returns to life on earth. Nothing remains of its former life save only precipitated results. The former body is destroyed, and the senses of its former life changed beyond recognition. In other words, nothing remains of the former personality. The precipitated results as impulses to new activities belong to the individual life, or to the real ego. Thus the personal and the individual memory differ as do the elements of a compound from the precipitated result in life's alembic.

The Path