Other Lives?


Countless people today have, through one means or another, heard of reincarnation. Some laugh at it — ridiculous that we'll be born again as a mouse, or a cow! Others, while aware of the stupidity of this perversion, put the idea aside as some mystic notion unworthy of a second thought. Still others find the idea entirely logical.

How can one know that reincarnation is so, what proof is there?

Well, that depends upon what is considered as proof. What may bring conviction to one does not always convince another. In fact, the kind of proof that you can wrap up in a neat package and carry is difficult to come by. But after considering the preponderance of evidence for reincarnation, even a skeptic would be mightily persuaded that here at least is something to reckon with, something that explains, something that puts a little heart in living.

How can the short span of one earth-life provide any meaning for all the experiences, pleasant and unpleasant, that we go through right here on this globe of ours? How meaningless to feel that after we die, it's all over, and that's that.

It is impossible to see reason in the idea of reincarnation without some basis of belief in the principle behind the fact that if we stand out in the rain, we'll get wet. Emerson's "Compensation," in other words. Or St. Paul's teaching that "God is not mocked, for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." The scientists in their laboratories verify that no energy is ever lost, and that something is never created out of nothing.

Why in the name of logic can we think that the results of our own thoughts and actions can be avoided, overlooked — or forgiven? When we were children, we found out that simple truth when we touched the hot stove. Yes, it burned, and there was no getting away from that burn. As we grew up we seemed to see people doing and saying things, and much of the time we couldn't see the other end of the equation working out. Sometimes we did, but often not, and so we forgot the implication of those hurt fingers. If this law of cause and effect was not a universal principle, then the only alternative would be a helter-skelter vastness, the stars pursuing uncharted courses, everything "just happening," all without rhyme or reason. Even a casual study of nature reveals purpose and plan, pattern and orderliness. Humanity is not some isolated department of the universe where these universal rules are inapplicable.

Thus we come to the thought that nobody can reap all the results of the causes set in motion in one 70-odd year period. More time is needed to develop the pattern, and the gradual evolving through successive lives is a never-ending process. Does this at first seem frustrating because so infinite? Well, most of us have had the experience of wanting to achieve one thing or another, but when we got to that point, were we satisfied to stop there? After a brief respite we usually want to go on further, and still further. With each lesson learned, each thing accomplished, our vision widens. We see more to be done, and set about doing it. It is right here on this earth that we have set these causes in motion. How or why expect to reap the results in any other place? And we won't do so as a mouse, either, or even an elephant or horse, but always as human beings until we graduate from the human school of experience.

Perhaps the rigidity of this concept makes us shudder, momentarily. But we soon see ourselves as responsible agents, consciously doing our respective duties with an increased understanding, with conviction of the utter justice of life in every phase of being.

Poets and philosophers down the ages have glimpsed the truth of the future life and have attempted to express this in varying ways. The words of Victor Hugo tell their own story:

I feel in myself the future life. I am like a forest which has been more than once cut down. The new shoots are stronger than ever. I am rising, I know, toward the sky. The sunshine is on my head. The earth gives me its generous sap, but heaven lights me with the reflections of unknown worlds.
You say the soul is nothing but the resultant of bodily powers. Why, then, is my soul more luminous when my bodily powers begin to fail? Winter is on my head and eternal spring is in my heart. Then I breathe at this hour the fragrance of the lilacs, the violets and the roses as at twenty years. The nearer I approach the end, the plainer I hear around me the immortal symphonies of the worlds which invite me. It is marvelous, yet simple. It is a fairy tale and it is history.
For half a century I have been writing my thoughts in prose, verse, history, philosophy, drama, romance, tradition, satire, ode, song. I have tried all. But I feel that I have not said the thousandth part of what is in me. When I go down to my grave I can say like so many others, "I have finished my day's work," but I cannot say, "I have finished my life." My day's work will begin again the next morning. The tomb is not a blind alley: it is a thoroughfare. It closes in the twilight to open with the dawn. I improve every hour, because I love this world as my fatherland. My work is only beginning. My monument is hardly above its foundation. I will be glad to see it mounting and mounting forever. The thirst for the infinite proves infinity.

Perhaps it is Man who is the greatest proof that he has lived before?

(From Sunrise magazine, November 1951; copyright © 1951 Theosophical University Press)


God, though this life is but a wraith,
    Although we know not what we use,
Although we grope with little faith,
    Give me the heart to fight — and lose.

Ever insurgent let me be,
    Make me more daring than devout;
From sleek contentment keep me free,
    And fill me with a buoyant doubt.

Open my eyes to visions girt
    With beauty, and with wonder lit —
But let me always see the dirt,
    And all that spawn and die in it.

Open my ears to music; let
    Me thrill with Spring's first flutes and drums —
But never let me dare forget
    The bitter ballads of the slums.

From compromise and things half-done,
    Keep me, with stern and stubborn pride;
And when, at last, the fight is won
    God, keep me still unsatisfied.

— Louis Untermeyer

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