The Case For Reincarnation
There are many advantages claimed by the advocates of Reincarnation which are worthy of the careful consideration of students of the problem of the soul. We shall give to each of these principal points a brief consideration, that you may acquaint yourself with several points to this argument for the case of reincarnation.
It is argued that the principle of analogy renders it more reasonable to believe that the present life of the soul is but one link in a great chain of existences, which chain stretches far back into the past on one side, and far out into the future on the other, than to suppose that it has been specially created for this petty term of a few years of earth life, and then projected for weal or woe into an eternity of spiritual existence. It is argued that the principle of Evolution on the Physical Plane points to an analogy of Evolution of the Spiritual Plane. It is reasoned that just as birth on the next plane of life follows death on the present one, so analogy would indicate that a death on past planes preceded birth on this, and so on. It is argued that every form of life that we know of has arisen from lower forms, which in turn arose from still lower forms, and so on; and that following the same analogy the soul has risen from lower to higher, and will mount on to still higher forms and planes. It is argued that “special creation” is unknown in the universe, and that it is far more reasonable to apply the principle of evolution to the soul than to consider it as an exception and violation of the universal law.
It is also claimed by some thinkers that the idea of future-existence presupposes past-existence, for everything that is “begun” must “end” some time, and therefore if we are to suppose that the soul is to continue its existence in the future, we must think of it as having an existence in the past—being eternal at both ends of the earth-life, as it were. Opponents of the idea of immortality are fond of arguing that there was no more reason for supposing that a soul would continue to exist after the death of the body, than there was for supposing that it had existed previously. A well-known man once was asked the question: “What becomes of a man’s soul after death?” when he evaded the question by answering: “It goes back to where it came from.” And to many this idea has seemed sufficient to make them doubt the idea of immortality. The ancient Greek philosophers felt it logically necessary for them to assert the eternal pre-existence of the soul in order to justify their claim of future existence for it. They argued that if the soul is immortal, it must have always existed, for an immortal thing could not have been created—if it was not immortal by nature, it could never be made so, and if it was immortal by nature, then it had always existed. The argument usually employed is this: A thing is either mortal or immortal, one or the other; if it is mortal it has been born and must die; if it is immortal, it cannot have been born, neither can it die; mortality means subject to life and death—immortality means immunity from both. The Greeks devoted much time and care to this argument, and attached great importance to it. They reasoned that nothing that possessed Reality could have emerged from nothingness, nor could it pass into nothingness. If it were Real it was Eternal; if it was not Eternal it was not Real, and would pass away even as it was born. They also claimed that the sense of immortality possessed by the Ego, was an indication of its having experienced life in the past, as well as anticipating life in the future—there is a sense of “oldness” pervading every thought of the soul regarding its own nature. It is claimed as an illogical assumption to hold that back of the present there extends an eternity of non-existence for the soul, while ahead of it there extends an eternity of being—it is held that it is far more logical to regard the present life as merely a single point in an eternity of existence.
It is argued, further, that Reincarnation fits in with the known scientific principle of conservation of energy—that is, that no energy is ever created or is lost, but that all energy is but a form of the universal energy, which flows on from form to form, from manifestation to manifestation, ever the same, and yet manifesting in myriad forms—never born, never dying, but always moving on, and on, and on to new manifestations. Therefore it is thought that it is reasonable to suppose that the soul follows the same law of re-embodiment, rising higher and higher, throughout time, until finally it re-enters the Universal Spirit from which it emerged, and in which it will continue to exist, as it existed before it emerged for the cycle of manifestation. It is also argued that Reincarnation brings Life within the Law of Cause and Effect, just as is everything else in the universe. The law of re-birth, according to the causes generated during past lives, would bring the existence of the soul within and in harmony with natural laws, instead of without and contrary to them.
It is further argued that the feeling of “original sin” of which so many people assert a consciousness, may be explained better by the theory of Reincarnation than by any theological doctrine. The orthodox doctrine is that “original sin” was something inherited from Adam by reason of our forefather’s transgression, but this jars upon the thought of today, as well it might, for what has the “soul” to do with Adam—it did not descend from him, or from aught else but the Source of Being—there is no line of descent for souls, though there may be for bodies. What has Adam to do with your soul, if it came fresh from the mint of the Maker, pure and unsullied—how could his sin taint your new soul? Theology here asserts either arrant nonsense, or else grave injustice. But if for “Adam” we substitute our past existences and the thoughts and deeds thereof, we may understand that feeling of conscious recognition of past wrong-doing and remorse, which so many testify to, though they be reasonably free from the same in the present life. The butterfly dimly remembers its worm state, and although it now soars, it feels the slime of the mud in which it once crawled.
It is also argued that in one life the soul would fail to acquire the varied experience which is necessary to form a well rounded mentality of understanding. Dwarfed by its limited experience in the narrow sphere occupied by many human beings, it would be far from acquiring the knowledge which would seem to be necessary for a developed and advanced soul. Besides this there would be as great an inequality on the part of souls after death, as there is before death—some would pass into the future state as ignorant beings, while others would possess a full nature of understanding. As a leading authority has said: “A perfected man must have experienced every type of earthly relation and duty, every phase of desire, affection and passion, every form of temptation and every variety of conflict. No one life can possibly furnish the material for more than a minute section of such experience.” Along this same line it is urged that the soul’s development must come largely from contact and relationship with other souls, in a variety of phases and forms. It must experience pain and happiness, love, pity, failure, success—it must know the discipline of sympathy, toleration, patience, energy, fortitude, foresight, gratitude, pity, benevolence, and love in all of its phases. This, it is urged, is possible only through repeated incarnations, as the span of one life is too small and its limit too narrow to embrace but a small fraction of the necessary experiences of the soul on its journey toward development and attainment. One must feel the sorrows and joys of all forms of life before “understanding” may come. Narrowness, lack of tolerance, prejudice, and similar forms of undeveloped consciousness must be wiped out by the broad understanding and sympathy that come only from experience.
It is argued that only by repeated incarnations the soul is able to realize the futility of the search for happiness and satisfaction in material things. One, while dissatisfied and disappointed at his own condition, is apt to imagine that in some other earthly condition he would find satisfaction and happiness now denied him, and dying carries with him the subsconcious desire to enjoy those conditions, which desire attracts him back to earth-life in search of those conditions. So long as the soul desires anything that earth can offer, it is earth-bound and drawn back into the vortex. But after repeated incarnations the soul learns well its lesson that only in itself may be found happiness—and that only when it learns its real nature, source, and destiny—and then it passes on to higher planes. As an authority says: “In time, the soul sees that a spiritual being cannot be nourished on inferior food, and that any joy short of union with the Divine must be illusionary.”
It is also argued that but few people, as we see them in earth-life, have realized the existence of a higher part of their being, and still fewer have asserted the supremacy of the higher, and subordinated the lower part of the self to that higher. Were they to pass on to a final state of being after death, they would carry with them all of their lower propensities and attributes, and would be utterly incapable of manifesting the spiritual part of their nature which alone would be satisfied and happy in the spiritual realms. Therefore, it needs repeated lives in order to evolve from the lower conditions and to develop and unfold the higher.
Touching upon the question of unextinguished desire, mentioned a moment ago, the following quotation from a writer on the subject, gives clearly and briefly the Reincarnationist argument regarding this point. The writer says: “Desire for other forms of earthly experience can only be extinguished by undergoing them. It is obvious that any one of us, if now translated to the unseen world, would feel regret that he had not tasted existence in some other situation or surroundings. He would wish to have known what it was to possess wealth and rank, or beauty, or to live in a different race or climate, or to see more of the world and society. No spiritual ascent could progress while earthly longings were dragging back the soul, and so it frees itself from them by successively securing them and dropping them. When the round of such knowledge has been traversed, regret for ignorance has died out.” This idea of “Living-Out and Out-Living” is urged by a number of writers and thinkers on the subject. J. Wm. Lloyd says, in his “Dawn Thought,” on this subject: “You rise and overcome simply by the natural process of living fully and thus outliving, as a child its milk-teeth, a serpent his slough. Living and Outliving, that expresses it. Until you have learned the one lesson fully you are never ready for a new one.” The same writer, in the same book, also says: “By sin, shame, joy, virtue and sorrow, action and reaction, attraction and repulsion, the soul, like a barbed arrow, ever goes on. It cannot go back, or return through the valves of its coming. But this must not be understood to be fulfilled in one and every earth-visit. It is true only of the whole circle-voyage of the soul. In one earth-trip, one ‘life,’ as we say, it may be that there would nothing be but a standing still or a turning back, nothing but sin. But the whole course of all is on.” But there is the danger of a misunderstanding of this doctrine, and some have misinterpreted it, and read it to advise a plunging into all kinds of sinful experience in order to “live-out and out-live,” which idea is wrong, and cannot be entertained by any true student of the subjects, however much it may be used by those who wish to avail themselves of an excuse for material dissipation. Mabel Collins, in her notes to “Light on the Path,” says on this subject: “Seek it by testing all experience, and remember that, when I say this, I do not say, ‘Yield to the seduction of sense, in order to know it.’ Before you have become an occultist, you may do this, but not afterwards. When you have chosen and entered the path, you cannot yield to these seductions without shame. Yet you can experience them without horror; can weigh, observe and test them, and wait with the patience of confidence for the hour when they shall affect you no longer. But do not condemn a man that yields; stretch out your hand to him as a brother pilgrim whose feet have become heavy with mire. Remember, O disciple! that great though the gulf may be between the good man and the sinner, it is greater between the good man and the man who has attained knowledge; it is immeasurable between the good man and the one on the threshold of divinity. Therefore, be wary, lest too soon you fancy yourself a thing apart from the mass.” And again, the same writer says: “Before you can attain knowledge you must have passed through all places, foul and clean alike. Therefore, remember that the soiled garment you shrink from touching may have been yours yesterday, may be yours tomorrow. And if you turn with horror from it when it is flung upon your shoulders, it will cling the more closely to you. The self-righteous man makes for himself a bed of mire. Abstain because it is right to abstain, not that yourself shall be kept clean.”
It is also argued that Reincarnation is necessary in order to give the evolving races a chance to perfect themselves—that is, not through their physical descendants, which would not affect the souls of those living in the bodies of the races to-day, but by perfection and growth of the souls themselves. It is pointed out that to usher a savage or barbarian to the spiritual planes after death, no matter how true to his duty and “his lights” the soul had been, would be to work an absurd translation. Such a soul would not be fitted for the higher spiritual planes, and would be most unhappy and miserable there. It will be seen that Reincarnationists make quite a distinction between “goodness” and “advancement”—while they recognize and urge the former, they regard it as only one side of the question, the other being “spiritual growth and unfoldment.” It will be seen that Reincarnation provides for a Spiritual Evolution with all of its advantages, as well as a material evolution such as science holds to be correct.
Concluding here, let us quote once more from the authority on the subject before mentioned, who writes anonymously in the pamphlet from which the quotation is taken. He says: “Nature does nothing by leaps. She does not, in this case, introduce into a region of spirit and spiritual life a being who has known little else than matter and material life, with small comprehension even of that. To do so would be analogous to transferring suddenly a ploughboy into a company of metaphysicians. The pursuit of any topic implies some preliminary acquaintance with its nature, aims, and mental requirements; and the more elevated the topic, the more copious the preparation for it. It is inevitable that a being who has before him an eternity of progress through zones of knowledge and spiritual experience ever nearing the Central Sun, should be fitted for it through long acquisition of the faculties which alone can deal with it. Their delicacy, their vigor, their penetrativeness, their unlikeness to those called for on the material plane, show the contrast of the earth-life to the spirit-life. And they show, too, the inconceivability of a sudden transition from one to the other, of a policy unknown in any other department of Nature’s workings, of a break in the law of uplifting through Evolution. A man, before he can become a ‘god,’ must first become a perfect man; and he can become a perfect man neither in seventy years of life on earth, nor in any number of years of life from which human conditions are absent. * * * Re-birth and re-life must go on till their purposes are accomplished. If, indeed, we were mere victims of an evolutionary law, helpless atoms on which the machinery of Nature pitilessly played, the prospect of a succession of incarnations, no one of which gave satisfaction, might drive us to mad despair. But we have thrust on us no such cheerless exposition. We are shown that Reincarnations are the school house for man, because they are the conditions of his progress, but he may mould them and better them and lessen them. He cannot rid himself of the machinery, but neither should wish to. Endowed with the power to guide it for the best, prompted with the motive to use that power, he may harmonize both his aspirations and his efforts with the system that expressed the infinite wisdom of the supreme, and through the journey from the temporal to the eternal tread the way with steady feet, braced with the consciousness that he is one of an innumerable multitude, and with the certainty that he and they alike, if they so will it, may attain finally to that sphere where birth and death are but memories of the past.”
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