Reincarnation ~ Part II
Strong impressions made on the consciousness in a past life often appear in the present in some curious mood or feeling. Sometimes, fears of creeping things, fires, cutting implements, etc., are thus to be accounted for, though sometimes these “phobias” may only be sub-conscious reminders of this life. In the cases where we have no sub-consciousness of the present body appearing, there is sure to have been some shock, resulting it may be, in a violent death, in a past life. The after effects appear now in some uncontrollable fear, or in discomfort in the presence of the object which caused the shock. More strange is the attitude of one individual towards another which is brought over from a past life. Sometimes one sees the strange sight of a girl of ten or twelve taking care of her mother in a maternal way, as though the positions were reversed, and almost as if she had the onerous duty of bringing up her mother in the way she should go. Of a deeper psychological nature is it when, as sometimes happens, a wife mated to a husband who causes her suffering, finds charity towards him possible only when she looks on him not as her husband but as her son. Here we have a reminiscence of a life when he was indeed her child, and his better nature came out towards her in the relation which he bore to her then.
A rather humorous instance of a past recollection is found when there has been between the last life and this a change of sex of the body. In the West especially, where there is a more marked differentiation temperamentally between the sexes than in the East, not infrequently the girl who dislikes playing with dolls, who delights in boy’s games, and is a pronounced tomboy, is really an ego who has just taken up a body of the sex opposite to that with which he has been familiar for many lives. Many a girl has resented her skirts, and it takes such a girl several years before she finally resigns herself to them. Some women there are, on whose face and mode of carriage the last male incarnation seems still fairly visibly portrayed. A similar thing is to be seen in some men, who bring into this life traces of their habits of thought and feeling when last they had women’s bodies.
A consideration of the many psychological puzzles I have enumerated will show us that, as a matter of fact, people do remember something of their past lives. Truly the memory is indirect, only as a habit or a mood, but it is nevertheless memory of the past. Now most people who are willing to accept reincarnation as a fact in life naturally ask the question: “But why don’t we remember fully ?” To this there are two answers, the first of which is: “It is best for us not to remember directly or fully, till we are ready for the memories”.
We are not ready for remembrance so long as we are influenced by the memories of the past. Where for instance, the memory is of a painful event, up to a certain point the past not only influences our present but also our future, and both in a harmful way; and therefore, so long as we have not gone beyond the sphere of influence of the past, our characters are weakened and not strengthened by remembrance. Let us take an extreme case, but one typical nevertheless. Suppose that in the last life a man has committed suicide as the easiest way out of his difficulties. As he dies, there will be in his mind much mental suffering, and especially he will lack confidence in his ability to weather the storm. The suicide does not put an end to his suffering, for after death it will continue for some time more acutely still, till it slowly exhausts itself. There will be a purification through his great suffering, and when it ends there will be in him a keener vision and a fuller response to the promptings of his higher nature. When, then, he is reborn, he will be born with a stronger conscience, as the result of his sufferings. But he will still retain the lack of confidence in his ability, because nothing has happened after his death to alter that.
Confidence can be gained only by mastering circumstance, and it is for that very purpose that he has returned. Now sooner or later, he will be confronted with a situation similar to that before he failed in the last life. As difficulties crowd around him in the new life, once more there will be the old struggle. The fact of committing suicide will now come as a tendency to suicide once again, as a resignation to suicide as the easiest way. But on the other hand, the memory of the suffering after the last suicide will also return in a stronger urge of conscience that this time the solution must not be through suicide. In this condition of mental strain, when the man is being pulled on one side by his past and on the other by his future, if he were to know, with vivid memory, how he had committed suicide in the past in a like situation, the probabilities are that he would be influenced by his past action, and that his lack of confidence would be intensified, with suicide as a result once again. Forgetfulness of the nerve-racking details of the past enables him to fight now more manfully. We little realize how we are being domineered over by our past. It is indeed a blessing for most of us that the kindly Gods draw a veil over a record which, at our present stage of evolution, cannot be anything but deplorable in many ways.
Only so long as we identify ourselves with our past, that past is hidden from us, except in indirect modes as faculties and dispositions. But the direct memory will come, if we learn to dissociate our present selves from our past selves. We are ever the Future, not the past: and when we can look at our past — of this life first, and after, of that of other lives — without heat, impersonally, in perspective as it were, like a judge who has no sense of identity with the facts before him for judgment, then we shall begin to remember, directly, the past in detail– but till then, as Tennyson truly says:
We ranging down this lower track
The path we came by, thorn and flower,
Is shadow’d by the growing hour.
Lest life should fail in looking back.
The second reason for our not directly remembering our past lives is this: – the “ I “ who asks the question, “Why don’t I remember?” has not lived in the past. It is the Soul who has lived, not this “ I “ with all its limitations. But is not this “ I “ that Soul? With most people not at all, and this fact will be evident if we think over the matter.
The average man or woman is scarcely so much a Soul as a bundle of attributes of sex, creed, and nationality. But the Soul is immortal, that is, it has no sense of diminution or death; it has no idea of time, which deludes it to think that it is young, wastes away, and grows old; it is neither man nor woman, because it is developing in itself the best qualities of both sexes; it is neither Hindu, nor Buddhist, nor Christian, nor Muslim, because it lives in One Divine Life and assimilates that Life according to its temperament; it is not Indian, nor English, nor American, for it belongs to no country, even though its outermost sheath, the physical body, belongs to a particular race; it has no caste nor class, for it knows that all partake of One Life, and that before God there is neither Brahmin nor Shudra, Jew nor Gentile, aristocrat nor plebeian.
It is this Soul which puts out a part of itself, a Personality, for the period of a life, “as a mere subject for grave experiment and experience”. Through a persona, a “mask” of a babe, child, youth or maid, man or woman, bachelor, spinster or householder, old man or old woman, it looks out into life, and, as it observes, eliminates the distorting bias which its outer sheath gives. Its personalities in the past have been Lemurian or Atlantean, Hindu or Roman or Greek, and it selects the best out of them all and discards the rest. All literatures, sciences, arts, religions and civilizations are its school and playground, its workshop and study. Its patriotism is for an indivisible Humanity, and its creed is to co-operate with by “God’s plan, which is Evolution.”
It is this Soul who has had past lives. How much of this Soul are we, the men and women who ask the question, “Why don’t we remember our past lives?” The questioner is but the personality. The body of that personality has a brain on whose cells the memories of a past life have not been impressed ; those memories are in the Divine Man who is of no time, of no creed, and of no land. To remember the Soul’s past lives, the brain of the personality must be made a mirror onto which can be reflected the memories of the Soul. But before those memories can come into the brain, one by one the various biases must be removed — of mortality, of time, of sex, of color, of caste.
So long as we are wrapped up in petty thoughts of an exclusive nationalism, and in narrow beliefs of creeds, so long do we retain the barriers which exist between our higher selves and our lower. An intellectual breadth and a larger sympathy, “without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or color,” must first be achieved, before there breaks, as through clouds, flashes of our true consciousness as Souls. There is no swifter way to discover what we are as Immortals out of time than by discovering what is our Work in time.
Let but a man or woman find that Work for whose sake sacrifice and immolation are serenest contentment, then slowly the larger consciousness of the Soul descends into the brain of the personality.With that descent begins the direct memory of past lives. As more and more the personality presses forward, desiring no light but what is sufficient for the next step on his path to his goal of work, slowly one bias after another is burnt away in the fire of purification. Like as the sun dissipates more clouds the higher it rises, so it is for the life of the personality; it knows then, with such conviction as the sun has about its own nature when it shines, that “the soul of man is immortal, and its future is the future of a thing whose growth and splendor have no limit.”
Then come back the memories of past lives. How they come those who live the life know. There are many kinds of knowledge useful for man, but none greater than the knowledge “that evolution is a fact, and that the method of evolution is the constant dipping down into matter under the law of adjustment.” This knowledge is for all who seek, if they will but seek rightly; and the right way is to be a Brother to all men, “without distinction of race creed, sex, caste or color.
Part I here.
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