The Path – June 1895


Before taking up the subject of Reincarnation, it will perhaps be well to dwell for a few moments on Incarnation. That is to say, we ought to establish the premise that the human soul is incarnated in a body before we deal with the question as to whether or not it reincarnates. In attempting this, it is necessary to enter somewhat deeply into the domain of philosophy, to establish a basis for our conceptions as to the nature and origin of the human soul, and to determine its relation to that body in which we assert it incarnates. Without however attempting to explain the nature, functions or powers of the Absolute, it is certain that this presents itself to our conception as a Triad of aspects, or hypostases which we recognize as Consciousness, Force and Matter. These hypostases are eternal, and eternally associated. There can be no consciousness isolated from matter and force, nor matter nor force apart from consciousness, nor from each other. Evolution can only consist in the changes in the relations between these hypostases, for all its vast processes which constitutes and IS the Manifested Universe must leave the Absolute untouched and unchanged by their infinite correlations and permutations.

There must be evidently an infinite gradation in the relative amounts, so to speak, of consciousness, force and matter associated in and as the Universe. The rock for example will have less consciousness and force, and a great preponderance of matter. The human soul will have more consciousness and force, and very much less matter — understanding in each instance potent as opposed to latent states. The latent potentialities in every instance are equally infinite for each of these hypostases, and this is the philosophical basis for attributing all the infinite diversity of the Manifested Universe to an Absolute Unity for its origin. Infinite Potentialities can only arise in an Infinite Unity — an axiom.

If, then, we can prove the human soul to be an entity independent of and superior to its body, we at once obtain a very important clue to guide us in the study of those infinite correlations among the three hypostases of the Absolute. It becomes evident that entities occupying superior states can clothe themselves with matter already ensouled by entities less advanced, which at once throws a great light upon the philosophical reason for evolution as enabling entities more advanced to associate themselves with those less so, and thus because of their common origin and essence to emulate or bestow a portion of their own power upon these. If we are inclined to shy at this construction of emanation, then let us simply say that the very presence of the higher entity quickens into activity the dormant potentialities of the lower — a fact we constantly observe in nature, and which is at the basis of all attempts to educate and expand the minds of the masses. So that the scheme of evolution, apparently heartless when viewed from the purely materialistic aspect of the survival of the fittest, becomes the very embodiment of Supreme Love and Divine Compassion when illumined by the Wisdom of Theosophy.

Is, then, materialism correct in assuming that the consciousness displayed by the human soul is but a mode of force; a form of molecular vibration; a production of the chemical and molecular activities of the body, arising because and out of these activities, and ceasing with the death of the body? In other words, has man a soul?

Let us briefly examine this question. If the soul were the production of the activities going on in the body, then it ought to present the same conscious phenomena at every period of its existence. But we find, strangely and unaccountably from any scientific standpoint, the fact that life is broken entirely in twain by the mysterious phenomenon of sleep. The very familiarity of this process renders us unable to appreciate its exceeding mystery. One-third of man's entire existence is passed in a condition which would be utterly impossible were his soul the product of the molecular activities of his body, because during sleep all of these go on unchanged. The heart beats as strongly, and respiration goes on even more regularly. In fact, it is well known that sleep refreshes and restores the body; puts it in a better condition to perform its functions than before it had this necessary rest. Then, if all the functions proceed, and many of them even better, during sleep, why is that consciousness or intellection alone suspended? There can be but one answer — that man's soul is not his body, but is an independent, thinking being, using that body until it (so to speak) wears out its power to respond to thought; and then, without ceasing to be, with no possibility of perishing, the soul retires to those, to us, subjective realms which lie beyond the molecular side of nature and permits its body to rest. This theory, and this alone, explains why we sleep. Certain so-called abnormal conditions of consciousness also establish — and fully establish, to any reasonable mind — the further fact that the soul is not, and cannot be, the body. Some of these are trance, hypnotism, and allied conditions. Hypnotism in particular entirely demolishes the materialistic theory. For it is a fact that if a person is hypnotized his soul is freed to such an extent that it becomes very greatly superior to its condition before this was done. Hypnotize an ignorant boor, and, if the hypnotizer does his work properly, there will arise out of that chaos of ignorance, which represents the boor in his ordinary condition of mentality, a magnificently philosophical Ego, an Ego possessed of a thousand times more knowledge than the boor is able to express; thus proving that even the lowest and most ignorant have behind them a comparatively infinite amount of wisdom and knowledge. Theosophy asserts that evil acts and thoughts in former lives have caused them to create for themselves, or incarnate in, such bodies that they are unable to display those traits or make use of that wisdom which is their heritage by right of having won it in former ages. Hypnotism, then, proves that there is an Ego, a higher, almost infinitely wiser Ego, buried in the most ignorant breast, which would be utterly impossible were the soul merely a sort of conscious steam given off because of the molecular activities of the body.

Further, if the soul were not independent of the body then would memory be impossible. It is a well-known, scientific fact that to its uttermost atom, the body completely changes within seven years. Many of the tissues change in a very much less time than this. The gray matter of the brain for instance will completely change and rebuild itself anew in a very few months. But, resting upon the proposition that the entire body changes only every seven years, then if the real soul, the Ego, were the product of the molecular activities of that body, beyond seven years no man could remember. It would be an impossible thing. Man in this case would be a simple center of consciousness having no hold upon the past and no conception of the future. This fact that his body completely and entirely changes at least every seven years is a most important one to bear in mind, when studying not only the phenomena of reincarnation, but all conscious phenomena. It has not been nor can it be explained by any materialistic hypothesis.

Without however needlessly wearying ourselves with the repetition of facts and logical deductions which may be found in every domain of scientific or philosophic investigation, we may rest here and declare that the human soul is an Ego, having its origin upon a higher plane of the differentiated Cosmos; a plane where thought is the key-note, and reason or ideation dominates all other forms of consciousness, and where consciousness itself dominates the matter and force aspects of the One Absolute. Its body is a synthesis of entities in whom these other aspects of the Absolute are dominant, and with whom the Ego is thus associated under the law of Divine Compassion. This association also affords the Ego opportunity to increase its own store of wisdom through its experiences upon those lower planes of consciousness which it is entitled to approach by means of its synthesising these lower entities with the sense organs which constitute its body.

Reincarnation, then, means the repeated return of the soul to earth, or to the molecular plane of existence, by rebirth in new physical bodies. This rebirth occurs under the law of Cause and Effect — the one absolute law which links the Infinite to the finite, and makes a finite possible. By some unexplained and perhaps unexplainable action of this law, all existence in the manifested universe proceeds under a further law of cycles. Every phenomenon of nature absolutely without exception obeys this latter law, although the majestic sweep of many of these renders verification difficult because of the brevity of human life. In consciousness its action is to produce alternate objective and subjective states; in matter alternating forms, and in force alternating correlations. Under it the human soul proceeds upon its evolutionary journey — for reincarnation or reembodiment is the very process and method of evolution, — occupies a body for a time, casts it off, retires to subjective realms, and reappears in due time in another body.

If then we find indisputable evidence that the human soul is an Ego, having its origin upon a higher plane of the Cosmos, and that it has incarnated in its present body, is it not logical to infer that it has done so before and may do so again? That which nature has done once can she not repeat? Is Incarnation such a strange, wonderful freak of nature that it may not be repeated except by creating a new soul each time? The fact that we find ourselves incarnated beings, using bodies to which we are infinitely superior, is proof positive to a reasonable, logical mind that reincarnation is possible. For through all the processes of evolution it is the soul which evolves. This is the key-note to the dispute between Theosophists and materialists. Materialism claims that it is the form which evolves; and Theosophists declare that it is the soul; and that as the soul, using thought as the expression of its force, evolves, creating the myriad forms which we see in nature, these appear in response to that inner force. What is there to guide evolution if there be not some permanent entity upon, or at least taking its origin in, a higher plane of nature? Upon this molecular plane there are certain molecular forces. These play among molecules, having neither the power to choose this direction nor that. If there were not something superior to these molecular forces, guiding, controlling them, and thus causing the production of the myriad forms in nature, there would be no nature. Would winds ever blow flowers into existence? Will the change of the seasons, the frost and the thaw, produce the fruit, the flying eagle, or the thinking man? What an absurdity! The designer, modeller and creator lies deeper in the heart of nature than any entity having its normal existence upon this molecular plane. And how can evolution proceed unless this same entity returns? Man may acquire all the wisdom and knowledge possible to his race under the particular environments in which he incarnates, but if he die never to return to earth again, how is his soul to evolve? His life may help others, but he himself profits no more by it. For him there is no further progress; the store of wisdom which he has gathered as the result of his experiences is lost forever, both to himself and to the race, unless he himself conserves it and returns to earth, for it is impossible to conserve that personal store by any other method. And this is true of every entity in nature. The slow change of form and modification of function is always in response to the necessities of a permanent, evolving, inner entity. They are due to causes which the entity brings over with it; things for which it has experienced the need in past lives and which find fruitage in the present one. And this not only applies to man, but to the insect, the vegetable, to the entities bound up in the rock. Because nature is but embodied consciousness; and every entity is a partaker and a worker in that grand scheme of evolution which does not single out, as the theology of today would teach us, man alone, and leave the rest of creation to an eternal annihilation. There is not an entity however humble but is a part of the throbbing heart of nature, working its way toward the divine state which man occupies; and no entity so low but that it may in the eternities of duration arrive at the highest stage of which the human mind can conceive.

(Concluded next month)

The Path