The Path – July 1895


(Continued from June, p. 88)

The formal proofs of reincarnation may be classified as phenomenal, philosophical and ethical; each of which will be briefly presented in its proper connection. Beginning with the phenomenal proofs, the greatest phenomenon, and the one to which, because of its familiarity, we pay the least attention, is the infinite diversity of human character. There is no possible explanation, no reasonable hypothesis, which can account for the fact that in a humanity amounting to over a billion souls, now upon this earth, there are no two alike. If man be but his body, or if he has been on earth but once, all must have entered matter subject to similar forces. Then how is it possible for such infinite divergences to exist? All live in similar environments, eat similar food, are subject to similar variations, and yet, from the very first moment of life, each diverges from the others. Is there anything in matter, or material processes, to account for this? And, further, are there any innate powers in the human mind itself to explain it, unless we accept the hypothesis of reincarnation, and declare that souls starting out innocent, ignorant and inexperienced have, by an infinite number of differing experiences, responded by diverging into these infinitely variant by-paths of character? And this is a true explanation. Reincarnation — the return of the same entity plus the sum of the effects of the experiences — is the only method by which the conservation of mental energy, or force, is possible, and if there be law and order, and not chaos and chance, in the Cosmos, mental energy is as truly conserved as are the forces on the molecular planes of nature. Under the action of this conservation, each man brings over the character which he himself made, and which, for the reasons above, must be infinitely variant. And character is the one thing which changes little from the cradle to the grave, although the whole object and aim of evolution is its modification. The child who comes into the world grasping and selfish — do we not know that he will go through life grasping all within his reach? The infant born with a generous, loving disposition — is not this the promise and prophecy of the maintenance of those traits throughout its subsequent life? Is not the truism that the child is the father of the man born of universal experience? Character lies deep; it is profound, eternal; it is very, very slowly modified. It is the task of eternity to make it symmetrical; to round out and develop divine, noble, godlike characters. Only by a supreme effort of the human will, maintained throughout years of conscious struggling, can it in one life be materially changed. So true is this that physiognomy, phrenology and chieromancy — half sciences, it is true — and all of the means by which man's physical form depicts his inner nature, depend upon the fact that our characters do not change. It is this fact, also, which proves so strongly that this stubborn, unbending element of our nature comes over life after life, following like an avenging or rewarding Nemesis throughout all our incarnations.

As illustrating the importance of character, let us study for a moment its aspects of genius and idiocy — the light and the dark possibilities of our nature. There is no fact — no hypothesis, even — which accounts for genius, or which explains why from the very moment of birth a soul should display these wonderful faculties which constitute genius, except the one fact which does completely and entirely explain it — reincarnation. Materialism seeks to do so by "antenatal influence": saying that a combination of entirely fortuitous circumstances happening during the brief months of inter-uterine life are sufficient to produce results affecting and entirely changing the subsequent life. The explanation is so impotent as scarcely to need refutation. Napoleon was an instance. Here was a man, born in the humblest possible condition of life, rising until he dominated empires and sent kings from their thrones at a single word; rising from obscurity to the very pinnacle of human power; a man who, in those strange, abnormal conditions into which he sometimes passed, would cry out to his Marshals, "I am Charlemagne. Do you know who I am? I am Charlemagne." The military genius of this man, materialism declares, was entirely due to the fact that his father was a soldier and his mother was a camp follower! Can absurd reasoning be carried farther? Napoleon, no doubt, as he himself declared, was Charlemagne reincarnated, and before that was, perhaps, Hannibal, as one of his biographers has shown how profoundly his character resembles that of the great Carthaginian. Genius can only arise through reincarnation or chance. Is this world governed by chance? If it is, then genius, like everything else, must arise by chance, but not otherwise. But, if there be law dominating this universe, if fire burn, if gravitation attract, if there be any guarantee of stability in the universe whatever; then we must rule out chance: for if it operate in one instance, it must in all. Either this world is governed by law or it is governed by chance; they cannot be co-rulers, and when the operation of so many immutable laws is demonstrable we may safely relegate chance to the realms of superstition. That source of the power which enables the child musician to compose harmonies with musical laws which it has never learned; which renders the mathematical child able to solve problems which baffle the powers of adult minds; which makes the child poets, child artists, child philosophers and so on, can only be fully and entirely explained by the fact that such souls have evolved and brought over those powers from former lives. The soul which builds wisely brings over from its past; the soul which was an idler brings over from its past; and herein is the explanation of genius and of its obverse, idiocy. A soul which draws down veil after veil of matter over its spiritual perceptions, which dwells in infamy, lives only for the material and sensual, is again descending into matter; and it can descend so far as to entirely lose its hold upon its own divine nature. Such a one will finally reappear on earth an idiot just as surely as the man who constantly adds to his faculties by work and study will return in time a genius. Genius represents the fruition of work along a particular line. It is the promise and prophecy of the glorious powers which are possible to every man. When a soul comes to earth a perfected musician, it means that that soul has rounded out the musical side of its nature. When another comes a philosopher, it means that that soul has struggled in philosophical directions. And for one who has rounded out certain faculties, the possibilities of rounding out opens in an infinite number of directions; and herein we have the possibility of advancement throughout infinite eternities. The musician can later become a philosopher; the philosopher, a musician; and so on. Each one, when he has completed a certain line, is then ready to follow some other. Herein is the true explanation why as a child one will show himself to be a mathematical prodigy, and in after life care nothing for it, but work in some other direction. It is because the necessities of that soul are requiring it to seek another line of action, to so eternally endeavor to complete a character which has in it infinite possibilities.

Further phenomenal proofs are the appearance of the form in response to the inner need, already dwelt upon. There is no power in external nature to cause the neck of the crane, for example, to extend itself two or three feet because this has become necessary to its existence. How can the winds, the sunshine, or any physical force cause this thing to happen? We must have the inner entity evolving, and the necessities of that inner entity in its changing environments causes the phenomenon. All modifications of form are so caused. They are the response to the inner necessity alone, and prove conclusively that it is an inner entity which is slowly winding its way up the eternal spiral of evolution. There is also no power in the seed, or the root, or the bulb, to reproduce the form of the old plant. Yet they do it. From whence comes this power? The fact that the molecules of the root or the bulb change and are renewed even more swiftly than those of the human body proves that there is, even in the vegetable and animal kingdoms, something which is evolving, something around which the form is built. Theosophy declares that at the base of every animal or vegetable form is an "elemental soul" — a potential soul, rather — which has not yet reached the state in which it is capable of expressing thought. These entities are all evolving; and herein is the reason, and the only reason, why the seed, affording the point of contact with this material plane, enables that entity to come back and rebuild for itself the old form. The tulip dies down completely at the end of the year, and the next summer grows up and reproduces the same flower to the most minute speck of color. What has preserved the form of the flower during this interval of apparent non-existence? This fact alone explains it, that its inner entity has rebuilt its old form. No scientist nor philosopher has put forward any tenable hypothesis to explain why two eggs, of almost precisely the same appearance, will develop the one into the mouse and the other into the elephant. There is no reason, no explanation, for any of these puzzles except we accept the fact that beneath the surface phenomena there is taking place the evolution of entities, and that each of these reincarnates, or reembodies itself, upon the completion of its own cycle. This is exemplified before our eyes, were we not too blind to see. For in the animal kingdom a portion of the cycle or reincarnation is actually carried on without leaving the physical plane, as in the metamorphosis of insects. The caterpillar goes into a subjective existence, remains there wholly unresponsive to external stimuli, entirely rearranges the matter of its body by the mysterious power of its inner entity, or soul, passing first into the chrysalis, and then into the soaring butterfly. What greater contrast can there be than the repulsive caterpillar transformed into the beautiful butterfly? Nature is always ready to prove herself a kind, loving, reasonable teacher, if we but study her methods. And here we have reincarnation shown us in its every detail, because the lower entity, swinging through its cycle, has not descended into subjective realms sufficiently to entirely conceal the process from our view.

There are other phenomena which are of the nature of testimony. Many sane, truthful people remember having lived before. I hold myself the written testimony of a lady who recalls the past of a little sister who died before she was born, and who on this account was supposed to be "crazy," and was laughed at because she would repeat incidents of a life that had ceased before her birth.

Direct knowledge of having lived before comes at times to all. Has not everyone had a strange feeling of having done this or that thing which he happens to be doing, before? It is simply the breaking through the brain of the consciousness of a previous existence which is confused, so feeble is that consciousness, with what one is now doing. The present act is intermingled with the consciousness of a previous existence, causing the uncanny, because unexplained, sensation.

But the clearest and the most convincing proofs that reincarnation is true are those reasons which may be termed philosophical. Philosophy is the highest exercise of the human mind; the rationalising process of the human intellect. There can be no higher proof than philosophy; no higher Court of Appeal than this supreme function, this godlike attribute of the human soul. Therefore, if reincarnation can be shown to be reasonable, logical and philosophical, we have offered the very highest possible proof that it is true. The two grandest discoveries of modern science, by means of which it has made its greatest strides into the unknown, are its generalizations of the conservation of energy, and the indestructibility of matter. By these it proves that there is no such thing as the annihilation of either matter, force or consciousness, for science by no possible method can demonstrate that consciousness can be, or ever has been, separated from matter or force. The three, as pointed out, are eternally associated, and if the law of conservation of force be true, then this law applies to the conservation of conscious force; and there is no escape from that conclusion. If heat will change into electricity, and electricity into light; if it is impossible to destroy a certain mode of force so that it will not reappear in another state, then how absurd to assert, in a law-governed Cosmos, that the highest form of force, intellectual energy, can be annihilated? It is impossible, illogical, absurd. That conscious energy which the human soul displays, and the mode of which constitutes character, must be conserved, or the conservation of all force and energy is a chimera. That intellectual energy is conserved during life cannot be denied; that it is conserved life after life has been shown to be the only explanation of differing characters. It cannot be conserved except by this method. If death dissipates all the energies of the soul, if all that each has gained by experience perishes at death, then is the law of the conservation of force violated. There is no escape from this position. Either force is conserved or it is not. Science asserts that it is conserved, and proves it upon the material plane. Theosophical philosophy asserts that it is conserved upon the mental plane, and proves that this is true by the logical and philosophical proofs pertaining to this plane. It shows that character is plainly the conservation of the force generated by thought and act in the past; that man is under the same laws, dominated by the same divine energies, which guide and control the entire universe. We must not in our blind vanity dissociate ourselves from nature, nor fancy that we are governed by special laws or dispensations.

If force, then, is conserved, intellectual force is conserved; if matter is indestructible, then the material vestments of the soul are also indestructible. Theosophy declares that there is no consciousness which has not its material vehicle, of some degree, and that these thinking souls of ours are associated with a material form or vehicle which is equally eternal, and which must persist throughout eternity, if the soul persists.

Perhaps the highest and most unanswerable proofs that reincarnation is true are ethical. If there be justice in this Cosmos, or in human destiny, then must it be true; because by no other method is justice possible. Otherwise, from the cradle to the grave we are met by injustice, in a thousand ways and forms. One child is born an Australian Blackamoor; another, heir to the British throne; one soul comes to diseased, drunken, vicious parents, foredoomed to a life of infamy and misery; another to the purest, most intellectual, most loving and holy mother and father. If the soul comes to earth for the first time, and has had no part in creating the conditions that surround it at birth, then is this world a very chaos of injustice. But Theosophy teaches that each soul comes to its own; and the fact that these terrible injustices do surround men at birth can be explained only through accepting the fact that each one has so lived in the past as to have created that character which makes it impossible to come to other parents. We are Blackamoors, white, red, poor, degraded, generous, loving or whatever we may be, because we have created those characters in the past; and just as truly as that one acid poured into one hundred alkaline bases unerringly seeks that and that alone for which it has the greatest affinity, so will the human soul seek those parents who have for it the greatest sum of attractions, and to whom in most instances it is already bound by the karmic ties of past associations. Unless this is true, our mental powers, our thoughts, our conception of nature, our entire relation to this molecular plane of existence are modified by bodies to which we come by chance.

How can the Christian reconcile justice with the fact of God's sending an innocent soul — one which he created for this special occasion — to a mother whose husband is a drunkard or a criminal, or to one who has no husband? All such things are wickedly unjust if such a soul has no voice in the matter. Reincarnation reconciles these birth differences; throws a light upon the problems of life, and shows that all injustice is only apparent, and has originated within ourselves. No other hypothesis explains or reconciles life and the existence of evil. There is infinite injustice in the world unless we admit the fact that we have created those circumstances in the past which control our present lives, and are now suffering the just deserts of our past actions.

And at death we find the greatest of all injustices. Babies who die we are told go to heaven. They have done nothing to earn heaven, but by the mere chance of death, at a day, a month, or a year, go to an eternal happiness, while sisters or brothers, born of the same parents, under the same environments, having the same tendencies, yielding to temptations surrounding them, must go to an eternal hell. And either heaven or hell predicates an infinite result as the effect of a finite cause! How absurd, how illogical, to claim that it is possible in one brief, finite existence, to set up infinite causes! One short life determines everything; eternal destinies hang upon finite causes! This from the religious standpoint. From that of Materialism men live, love, suffer and die, to end in annihilation!

There is no hypothesis, then, which holds out any reasonable and logical hope for the human race except that of reincarnation. It teaches that energy generated in any life cannot be lost or destroyed; that a victory gained is forever won. It holds out to us the promise and prophecy of infinite potentialities. It sets no limit to the heights to which we can climb. And while thus giving to man a glorious hope in the future, it also throws the light of love, compassion and justice about his present, and so enables him to face his godlike destiny, unterrified by death and undismayed by life.

The Path