How man has come to be the complex being that he is and why, are questions that neither Science nor Religion makes conclusive answer to. This immortal thinker having such vast powers and possibilities, all his because of his intimate connection with every secret part of Nature from which he has been built up, stands at the top of an immense and silent evolution. He asks why Nature exists, what the drama of life has for its aim, how that aim may be attained. But Science and Religion both fail to give a reasonable reply. Science does not pretend to be able to give the solution, saying that the examination of things as they are is enough of a task; religion offers an explanation both illogical and unmeaning and acceptable but to the bigot, as it requires us to consider the whole of Nature as a mystery and to seek for the meaning and purpose of life with all its sorrow in the pleasure of a God who cannot be found out. The educated and enquiring mind knows that dogmatic religion can only give an answer invented by man while it pretends to be from God.
What then is the universe for, and for what final purpose is man the immortal thinker here in evolution? It is all for the experience and emancipation of the soul, for the purpose of raising the entire mass of manifested matter up to the stature, nature, and dignity of conscious god-hood. The great aim is to reach self-consciousness; not through a race or a tribe or some favored nation, but by and through the perfecting, after transformation, of the whole mass of matter as well as what we now call soul. Nothing is or is to be left out. The aim for present man is his initiation into complete knowledge, and for the other kingdoms below him that they may be raised up gradually from stage to stage to be in time initiated also. This is evolution carried to its highest power; it is a magnificent prospect; it makes of man a god, and gives to every part of nature the possibility of being one day the same; there is strength and nobility in it, for by this no man is dwarfed and belittled, for no one is so originally sinful that he cannot rise above all sin. Treated from the materialistic position of Science, evolution takes in but half of life; while the religious conception of it is a mixture of nonsense and fear. Present religions keep the element of fear, and at the same time imagine that an Almighty being can think of no other earth but this and has to govern this one very imperfectly. But the old theosophical view makes the universe a vast, complete, and perfect whole.
Now the moment we postulate a double evolution, physical and spiritual, we have at the same time to admit that it can only be carried on by reincarnation. This is, in fact, demonstrated by science. It is shown that the matter of the earth and of all things physical upon it was at one time either gaseous or molten; that it cooled; that it altered; that from its alterations and evolutions at last were produced all the great variety of things and beings. This, on the physical plane, is transformation or change from one form to another. The total mass of matter is about the same as in the beginning of this globe, with a very minute allowance for some star dust. Hence it must have been changed over and over again, and thus been physically reformed and reimbodied. Of course, to be strictly accurate, we cannot use the word reincarnation, because "incarnate" refers to flesh. Let us say "reimbodied," and then we see that both for matter and for man there has been a constant change of form and this is, broadly speaking, "reincarnation." As to the whole mass of matter, the doctrine is that it will all be raised to man's estate when man has gone further on himself. There is no residuum left after man's final salvation which in a mysterious way is to be disposed of or done away with in some remote dust-heap of nature. The true doctrine allows for nothing like that, and at the same time is not afraid to give the true disposition of what would seem to be a residuum. It is all worked up into other states, for as the philosophy declares there is no inorganic matter whatever but that every atom is alive and has the germ of self-consciousness, it must follow that one day it will all have been changed. Thus what is now called human flesh is so much matter that one day was wholly mineral, later on vegetable, and now refined into human atoms. At a point of time very far from now the present vegetable matter will have been raised to the animal stage and what we now use as our organic or fleshy matter will have changed by transformation through evolution into self-conscious thinkers, and so on up the whole scale until the time shall come when what is now known as mineral matter will have passed on to the human stage and out into that of thinker. Then at the coming on of another great period of evolution the mineral matter of that time will be some which is now passing through its lower transformations on other planets and in other systems of worlds. This is perhaps a "fanciful" scheme for the men of the present day, who are so accustomed to being called bad, sinful, weak, and utterly foolish from their birth that they fear to believe the truth about themselves, but for the disciples of the ancient theosophists it is not impossible or fanciful, but is logical and vast. And no doubt it will one day be admitted by everyone when the mind of the western race has broken away from Mosaic chronology and Mosaic ideas of men and nature. Therefore as to reincarnation and metempsychosis we say that they are first to be applied to the whole cosmos and not alone to man. But as man is the most interesting object to himself, we will consider in detail its application to him.
This is the most ancient of doctrines and is believed in now by more human minds than the number of those who do not hold it. The millions in the East almost all accept it; it was taught by the Greeks; a large number of the Chinese now believe it as their forefathers did before them; the Jews thought it was true, and it has not disappeared from their religion; and Jesus, who is called the founder of Christianity, also believed and taught it. In the early Christian church it was known and taught, and the very best of the fathers of the church believed and promulgated it.
Christians should remember that Jesus was a Jew who thought his mission was to Jews, for he says in St. Matthew, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel." He must have well known the doctrines held by them. They all believed in reincarnation. For them Moses, Adam, Noah, Seth, and others had returned to earth, and at the time of Jesus it was currently believed that the old prophet Elias was yet to return. So we find, first, that Jesus never denied the doctrine, and on various occasions assented to it, as when he said that John the Baptist was actually the Elias of old whom the people were expecting. All this can be seen by consulting St. Matthew in chapters xvii, xi, and others.
In these it is very clear that Jesus is shown as approving the doctrine of reincarnation. And following Jesus we find St. Paul, in Romans ix, speaking of Esau and Jacob being actually in existence before they were born, and later such great Christian fathers as Origen, Synesius, and others believing and teaching the theory. In Proverbs viii, 22, we have Solomon saying that when the earth was made he was present, and that, long before he could have been born as Solomon, his delights were in the habitable parts of the earth with the sons of men. St. John the Revelator says in Revs. iii, 12, he was told in a vision which refers to the voice of God or the voice of one speaking for God, that whosoever should overcome would not be under the necessity of "going out" any more, that is, would not need to be reincarnated. For five hundred years after Jesus the doctrine was taught in the church until the council of Constantinople. Then a condemnation was passed upon a phase of the question which has been regarded by many as against reincarnation, but if that condemnation goes against the words of Jesus it is of no effect. It does go against him, and thus the church is in the position of saying in effect that Jesus did not know enough to curse, as it did, a doctrine known and taught in his day and which was brought to his notice prominently and never condemned but in fact approved by him. Christianity is a Jewish religion, and this doctrine of reincarnation belongs to it historically by succession from the Jews, and also by reason of its having been taught by Jesus and the early fathers of the church. If there be any truthful or logical way for the Christian church to get out of this position -- excluding, of course, dogmas of the church -- the theosophist would like to be shown it. Indeed, the theosophist holds that whenever a professed Christian denies the theory he thereby sets up his judgment against that of Jesus, who must have known more about the matter than those who follow him. It is the anathema hurled by the church council and the absence of the doctrine from the teaching now that have damaged Christianity and made of all the Christian nations people who pretend to be followers of Jesus and the law of love, but who really as nations are followers of the Mosaic law of retaliation. For alone in reincarnation is the answer to all the problems of life, and in it and Karma is the force that will make men pursue in fact the ethics they have in theory. It is the aim of the old philosophy to restore this doctrine to whatsoever religion has lost it; and hence we call it the "lost chord of Christianity."
But who or what is it that reincarnates? It is not the body, for that dies and disintegrates; and but few of us would like to be chained forever to such bodies as we now have, admitted to be infected with disease except in the case of the savage. It is not the astral body, for, as shown, that also has its term and must go to pieces after the physical has gone. Nor is it the passions and desires. They, to be sure, have a very long term, because they have the power to reproduce themselves in each life so long as we do not eradicate them. And reincarnation provides for that, since we are given by it many opportunities of slowly, one by one, killing off the desires and passions which mar the heavenly picture of the spiritual man.
It has been shown how the passional part of us coalesces with the astral after death and makes a seeming being that has a short life to live while it is disintegrating. When the separation is complete between the body that has died, the astral body, and the passions and desires -- life having begun to busy itself with other forms -- the Higher Triad, Manas, Buddhi, and Atma, who are the real man, immediately go into another state, and when that state, which is called Devachan, or heaven, is over, they are attracted back to earth for reincarnation. They are the immortal part of us; they, in fact, and no other are we. This should be firmly grasped by the mind, for upon its clear understanding depends the comprehension of the entire doctrine. What stands in the way of the modern western man's seeing this clearly is the long training we have all had in materialistic science and materializing religion, both of which have made the mere physical body too prominent. The one has taught of matter alone and the other has preached the resurrection of the body, a doctrine against common sense, fact, logic, and testimony. But there is no doubt that the theory of the bodily resurrection has arisen from the corruption of the older and true teaching. Resurrection is founded on what Job says about seeing his redeemer in his flesh, and on St. Paul's remark that the body was raised incorruptible. But Job was an Egyptian who spoke of seeing his teacher or initiator, who was the redeemer, and Jesus and Paul referred to the spiritual body only.
Although reincarnation is the law of nature, the complete trinity of Atma-Buddhi-Manas does not yet fully incarnate in this race. They use and occupy the body by means of the entrance of Manas, the lowest of the three, and the other two shine upon it from above, constituting the God in Heaven. This was symbolized in the old Jewish teaching about the Heavenly Man who stands with his head in heaven and his feet in hell. That is, the head Atma and Buddhi are yet in heaven, and the feet, Manas, walk in hell, which is the body and physical life. For that reason man is not yet fully conscious, and reincarnations are needed to at last complete the incarnation of the whole trinity in the body. When that has been accomplished the race will have become as gods, and the godlike trinity being in full possession the entire mass of matter will be perfected and raised up for the next step. This is the real meaning of "the word made flesh." It was so grand a thing in the case of any single person, such as Jesus or Buddha, as to be looked upon as a divine incarnation. And out of this, too, comes the idea of the crucifixion, for Manas is thus crucified for the purpose of raising up the thief to paradise.
It is because the trinity is not yet incarnate in the race that life has so many mysteries, some of which are showing themselves from day to day in all the various experiments made on and in man.
The physician knows not what life is nor why the body moves as it does, because the spiritual portion is yet enshrouded in the clouds of heaven; the scientist is wandering in the dark, confounded and confused by all that hypnotism and other strange things bring before him, because the conscious man is out of sight on the very top of the divine mountain, thus compelling the learned to speak of the "subconscious mind," the "latent personality," and the like; and the priest can give us no light at all because he denies man's god-like nature, reduces all to the level of original sin, and puts upon our conception of God the black mark of inability to control or manage the creation without invention of expedients to cure supposed errors. But this old truth solves the riddle and paints God and Nature in harmonious colors.
Reincarnation does not mean that we go into animal forms after death, as is believed by some Eastern peoples. "Once a man always a man" is the saying in the Great Lodge. But it would not be too much punishment for some men were it possible to condemn them to rebirth in brute bodies; however nature does not go by sentiment but by law, and we, not being able to see all, cannot say that the brutal man is brute all through his nature. And evolution having brought Manas the Thinker and Immortal Person on to this plane, cannot send him back to the brute which has not Manas.
By looking into two explanations for the literal acceptation by some people in the East of those laws of Manu which seem to teach the transmigrating into brutes, insects, and so on, we can see how the true student of this doctrine will not fall into the same error.
The first is, that the various verses and books teaching such transmigration have to do with the actual method of reincarnation, that is, with the explanation of the actual physical processes which have to be undergone by the Ego in passing from the unembodied to the embodied state, and also with the roads, ways, or means of descent from the invisible to the visible plane. This has not yet been plainly explained in Theosophical books, because on the one hand it is a delicate matter, and on the other the details would not as yet be received even by Theosophists with credence, although one day they will be. And as these details are not of the greatest importance they are not now expounded. But as we know that no human body is formed without the union of the sexes, and that the germs for such production are locked up in the sexes and must come from food which is taken into the body, it is obvious that foods have something to do with the reincarnating of the Ego. Now if the road to reincarnation leads through certain food and none other, it may be possible that if the Ego gets entangled in food which will not lead to the germ of physical reproduction, a punishment is indicated where Manu says that such and such practices will lead to transmigration, which is then a "hindrance." I throw this out so far for the benefit of certain theosophists who read these and whose theories on this subject are now rather vague and in some instances based on quite other hypotheses.
The second explanation is, that inasmuch as nature intends us to use the matter which comes into our body and astral body for the purpose, among others, of benefiting the matter by the impress it gets from association with the human Ego, if we use it so as to give it only a brutal impression it must fly back to the animal kingdom to be absorbed there instead of being refined and kept on the human plane. And as all the matter which the human Ego gathered to it retains the stamp or photographic impression of the human being, the matter transmigrates to the lower level when given an animal impress by the Ego. This actual fact in the great chemical laboratory of nature could easily be misconstrued by the ignorant. But the present-day students know that once Manas the Thinker has arrived on the scene he does not return to baser forms; first, because he does not wish to, and second, because he cannot. For just as the blood in the body is prevented by valves from rushing back and engorging the heart, so in this greater system of universal circulation the door is shut behind the Thinker and prevents his retrocession. Reincarnation as a doctrine applying to the real man does not teach transmigration into kingdoms of nature below the human.
In the West, where the object of life is commercial, financial, social, or scientific success, that is, personal profit, aggrandizement, and power, the real life of man receives but little attention, and we, unlike the Orientals, give scant prominence to the doctrine of preexistence and reincarnation. That the church denies it is enough for many, with whom no argument is of any use. Relying on the church, they do not wish to disturb the serenity of their faith in dogmas that may be illogical; and as they have been taught that the church can bind them in hell, a blind fear of the anathema hurled at reincarnation in the Constantinople council about 500 AD would alone debar them from accepting the accursed theory. And the church in arguing on the doctrine urges the objection that if men are convinced that they will live many lives, the temptation to accept the present and do evil without check will be too strong. Absurd as this seems, it is put forward by learned Jesuits, who say men will rather have the present chance than wait for others. If there were no retribution at all this would be a good objection, but as Nature has also a Nemesis for every evil doer, and as each, under the law of Karma -- which is that of cause and effect and perfect justice -- must receive the exact consequences himself in every life for what good or bad deeds and thoughts he did and had in other lives, the basis for moral conduct is secure. It is safe under this system, since no man can by any possibility, or favor, or edict, or belief escape the consequences, and each one who grasps this doctrine will be moved by conscience and the whole power of nature to do well in order that he may receive good and become happy.
It is maintained that the idea of rebirth is uncongenial and unpleasant because on the one hand it is cold, allowing no sentiment to interfere, prohibiting us from renouncing at will a life which we have found to be sorrowful; and on the other, that there appears to be no chance under it for us to see our loved ones who have passed away before us. But whether we like it or not Nature's laws go forward unerringly, and sentiment or feeling can in no way avert the consequence that must follow a cause. If we eat bad food bad results must come. The glutton would have Nature permit him to gorge himself without the indigestion which will come, but Nature's laws are not to be thus put aside. Now, the objection to reincarnation that we will not see our loved ones in heaven as promised in dogmatic religion, presupposes a complete stoppage of the evolution and development of those who leave earth before ourselves, and also assumes that recognition is dependent on physical appearance. But as we progress in this life, so also must we progress upon leaving it, and it would be unfair to compel the others to await our arrival in order that we may recognize them. And if one reflects on the natural consequences of arising to heaven where all trammels are cast off, it must be apparent that those who have been there, say, twenty of mortal years before us must, in the nature of things mental and spiritual, have made a progress equal to many hundreds of years here under varied and very favorable circumstances. How then could we, arriving later and still imperfect, be able to recognize those who had been perfecting themselves in heaven with such advantages? And as we know that the body is left behind to disintegrate, so, it is evident, recognition cannot depend, in the spiritual and mental life, on physical appearance. For not only is this thus plain, but since we are aware that an unhandsome or deformed body often enshrines a glorious mind and pure soul, and that a beautifully formed exterior -- such as in the case of the Borgias -- may hide an incarnate devil in character, the physical form gives no guarantee of recognition in that world where the body is absent. And the mother who has lost a child who had grown to maturity must know that she loved the child when a baby as much as afterwards when the great alteration to later life had completely swept away the form and features of early youth. The Theosophists see that this objection can have no existence in the face of the eternal and pure life of the soul. And Theosophy also teaches that those who are like unto each other and love each other will be reincarnated together whenever the conditions permit. Whenever one of us has gone farther on the road to perfection, he will always be moved to help and comfort those who belong to the same family. But when one has become gross and selfish and wicked, no one would want his companionship in any life. Recognition depends on the inner sight and not on outward appearance; hence there is no force in this objection. And the other phase of it relating to loss of parent, child, or relative is based on the erroneous notion that as the parents give the child its body so also is given its soul. But soul is immortal and parentless; hence this objection is without a root.
Some urge that Heredity invalidates Reincarnation. We urge it as proof. Heredity in giving us a body in any family provides the appropriate environment for the Ego. The Ego only goes into the family which either completely answers to its whole nature, or which gives an opportunity for the working out of its evolution, and which is also connected with it by reason of past incarnations or causes mutually set up. Thus the evil child may come to the presently good family because parents and child are indissolubly connected by past actions. It is a chance for redemption to the child and the occasion of punishment to the parents. This points to bodily heredity as a natural rule governing the bodies we must inhabit, just as the houses in a city will show the mind of the builders. And as we as well as our parents were the makers and influencers of bodies, took part in and are responsible for states of society in which the development of physical body and brain was either retarded or helped on, debased or the contrary, so we are in this life responsible for the civilization in which we now appear. But when we look at the characters in human bodies, great inherent differences are seen. This is due to the soul inside, who is suffering or enjoying in the family, nation, and race his own thoughts and acts in the past lives have made it inevitable he should incarnate with.
Heredity provides the tenement and also imposes those limitations of capacity of brain or body which are often a punishment and sometimes a help, but it does not affect the real Ego. The transmission of traits is a physical matter, and nothing more than the coming out into a nation of the consequences of the prior lives of all Egos who are to be in that race. The limitations imposed on the Ego by any family heredity are exact consequences of that Ego's prior lives. The fact that such physical traits and mental peculiarities are transmitted does not confute reincarnation, since we know that the guiding mind and real character of each are not the result of a body and brain but are peculiar to the Ego in its essential life. Transmission of trait and tendency by means of parent and body is exactly the mode selected by nature for providing the incarnating Ego with the proper tenement in which to carry on its work. Another mode would be impossible and subversive of order.
Again, those who dwell on the objection from heredity forget that they are accentuating similarities and overlooking divergencies. For while investigations on the line of heredity have recorded many transmitted traits, they have not done so in respect to divergencies from heredity vastly greater in number. Every mother knows that the children of a family are as different in character as the fingers on one hand -- they are all from the same parents, but all vary in character and capacity.
But heredity as the great rule and as a complete explanation is absolutely overthrown by history, which shows no constant transmission of learning, power, and capacity. For instance, in the case of the ancient Egyptians long gone and their line of transmission shattered, we have no transmission to their descendants. If physical heredity settles the question of character, how has the great Egyptian character been lost? The same question holds in respect to other ancient and extinct nations. And taking an individual illustration we have the great musician Bach, whose direct descendants showed a decrease in musical ability leading to its final disappearance from the family stock. But Theosophy teaches that in both of these instances -- as in all like them -- the real capacity and ability have only disappeared from a family and national body, but are retained in the Egos who once exhibited them, being now incarnated in some other nation and family of the present time.
Suffering comes to nearly all men, and a great many live lives of sorrow from the cradle to the grave, so it is objected that reincarnation is unjust because we suffer for the wrong done by some other person in another life. This objection is based on the false notion that the person in the other life was some one else. But in every life it is the same person. When we come again we do not take up the body of some one else, nor another's deeds, but are like an actor who plays many parts, the same actor inside though the costumes and the lines recited differ in each new play. Shakespeare was right in saying that life is a play, for the great life of the soul is a drama, and each new life and rebirth another act in which we assume another part and put on a new dress, but all through it we are the self-same person. So instead of its being unjust, it is perfect justice, and in no other manner could justice be preserved.
But, it is said, if we reincarnate how is it that we do not remember the other life; and further, as we cannot remember the deeds for which we suffer is it not unjust for that reason? Those who ask this always ignore the fact that they also have enjoyment and reward in life and are content to accept them without question. For if it is unjust to be punished for deeds we do not remember, then it is also inequitable to be rewarded for other acts which have been forgotten. Mere entry into life is no fit foundation for any reward or punishment. Reward and punishment must be the just desert for prior conduct. Nature's law of justice is not imperfect, and it is only the imperfection of human justice that requires the offender to know and remember in this life a deed to which a penalty is annexed. In the prior life the doer was then quite aware of what he did, and nature affixes consequences to his acts, being thus just. We well know that she will make the effect follow the cause whatever we wish and whether we remember or forget what we did. If a baby is hurt in its first years by the nurse so as to lay the ground for a crippling disease in after life, as is often the case, the crippling disease will come although the child neither brought on the present cause nor remembered aught about it. But reincarnation, with its companion doctrine of Karma, rightly understood, shows how perfectly just the whole scheme of nature is.
Memory of a prior life is not needed to prove that we passed through that existence, nor is the fact of not remembering a good objection. We forget the greater part of the occurrences of the years and days of this life, but no one would say for that reason we did not go through these years. They were lived, and we retain but little of the details in the brain, but the entire effect of them on the character is kept and made a part of ourselves. The whole mass of detail of a life is preserved in the inner man to be one day fully brought back to the conscious memory in some other life when we are perfected. And even now, imperfect as we are and little as we know, the experiments in hypnotism show that all the smallest details are registered in what is for the present known as the sub-conscious mind. The theosophical doctrine is that not a single one of these happenings is forgotten in fact, and at the end of life when the eyes are closed and those about say we are dead every thought and circumstance of life flash vividly into and across the mind.
Many persons do, however, remember that they have lived before. Poets have sung of this, children know it well, until the constant living in an atmosphere of unbelief drives the recollection from their minds for the present, but all are subject to the limitations imposed upon the Ego by the new brain in each life. This is why we are not able to keep the pictures of the past, whether of this life or the preceding ones. The brain is the instrument for the memory of the soul, and, being new in each life with but a certain capacity, the Ego is only able to use it for the new life up to its capacity. That capacity will be fully availed of or the contrary, just according to the Ego's own desire and prior conduct, because such past living will have increased or diminished its power to overcome the forces of material existence.
By living according to the dictates of the soul the brain may at least be made porous to the soul's recollections; if the contrary sort of a life is led, then more and more will clouds obscure that reminiscence. But as the brain had no part in the life last lived, it is in general unable to remember. And this is a wise law, for we should be very miserable if the deeds and scenes of our former lives were not hidden from our view until by discipline we become able to bear a knowledge of them.
Another objection brought up is that under the doctrine of reincarnation it is not possible to account for the increase of the world's population. This assumes that we know surely that its population has increased and are keeping informed of its fluctuations. But it is not certain that the inhabitants of the globe have increased, and, further, vast numbers of people are annually destroyed of whom we know nothing. In China year after year many thousands have been carried off by flood. Statistics of famine have not been made. We do not know by how many thousands the deaths in Africa exceed the births in any year. The objection is based on imperfect tables which only have to do with western lands. It also assumes that there are fewer Egos out of incarnation and waiting to come in than the number of those inhabiting bodies, and this is incorrect. Annie Besant has put this well in her "Reincarnation" by saying that the inhabited globe resembles a hall in a town which is filled from the much greater population of the town outside; the number in the hall may vary, but there is a constant source of supply from the town. It is true that so far as concerns this globe the number of Egos belonging to it is definite; but no one knows what that quantity is nor what is the total capacity of the earth for sustaining them. The statisticians of the day are chiefly in the West, and their tables embrace but a small section of the history of man. They cannot say how many persons were incarnated on the earth at any prior date when the globe was full in all parts, hence the quantity of egos willing or waiting to be reborn is unknown to the men of today. The Masters of theosophical knowledge say that the total number of such egos is vast, and for that reason the supply of those for the occupation of bodies to be born over and above the number that die is sufficient. Then too it must be borne in mind that each ego for itself varies the length of stay in the post-mortem states. They do not reincarnate at the same interval, but come out of the state after death at different rates, and whenever there occurs a great number of deaths by war, pestilence, or famine, there is at once a rush of souls to incarnation, either in the same place or in some other place or race. The earth is so small a globe in the vast assemblage of inhabitable planets there is a sufficient supply of Egos for incarnation here. But with due respect to those who put this objection, I do not see that it has the slightest force or any relation to the truth of the doctrine of reincarnation.
Unless we deny the immortality of man and the existence of soul, there are no sound arguments against the doctrine of preexistence and re-birth save such as rest on the dictum of the church that each soul is a new creation. This dictum can be supported only by blind dogmatism, for given a soul we must sooner or later arrive at the theory of re-birth, because even if each soul is new on this earth it must keep on living somewhere after passing away, and in view of the known order of nature will have other bodies in other planets or spheres. Theosophy applies to the self -- the thinker -- the same laws which are seen everywhere in operation throughout nature, and those are all varieties of the great law that effects follow causes and no effect is without a cause. The soul's immortality -- believed in by the mass of humanity -- demands embodiment here or elsewhere, and to be embodied means reincarnation. If we come to this earth for but a few years and then go to some other, the soul must be reimbodied there as well as here, and if we have travelled from some other world we must have had there too our proper vesture. The powers of mind and the laws governing its motion, its attachment, and its detachment as given in theosophical philosophy show that its reimbodiment must be here, where it moved and worked, until such time as the mind is able to overcome the forces which chain it to this globe. To permit the involved entity to transfer itself to another scene of action before it had overcome all the causes drawing it here and without its having worked out its responsibilities to other entities in the same stream of evolution would be unjust and contrary to the powerful occult laws and forces which continually operate upon it. The early Christian Fathers saw this, and taught that the soul had fallen into matter and was obliged by the law of its nature to toil upward again to the place from which it came. They used an old Greek hymn which ran:
Eternal Mind, thy seedling spark,
Through this thin vase of clay,
Athwart the waves of chaos dark
Emits a timorous ray.
This mind enfolding soul is sown,
Incarnate germ in earth:
In pity, blessed Lord, then own
What claims in Thee its birth.
Far forth from Thee, thou central fire,
To earth's sad bondage cast,
Let not the trembling spark expire;
Absorb thine own at last!
Each human being has a definite character different from every other human being, and masses of beings aggregated into nations show as wholes that the national force and distinguishing peculiarities go to make up a definite and separate national character. These differences, both individual and national, are due to essential character and not to education. Even the doctrine of the survival of the fittest should show this, for the fitness can not come from nothing but must at last show itself from the coming to the surface of the actual inner character. And as both individuals and nations among those who are ahead in the struggle with nature exhibit an immense force in their character, we must find a place and time where the force was evolved. These, Theosophy says, are this earth and the whole period during which the human race has been on the planet.
So, then, while heredity has something to do with the difference in character as to force and morale, swaying the soul and mind a little and furnishing also the appropriate place for receiving reward and punishment, it is not the cause for the essential nature shown by every one.
But all these differences, such as those shown by babes from birth, by adults as character comes forth more and more, and by nations in their history, are due to long experience gained during many lives on earth, are the outcome of the soul's own evolution. A survey of one short human life gives no ground for the production of his inner nature. It is needful that each soul should have all possible experience, and one life cannot give this even under the best conditions. It would be folly for the Almighty to put us here for such a short time, only to remove us just when we had begun to see the object of life and the possibilities in it. The mere selfish desire of a person to escape the trials and discipline of life is not enough to set nature's laws aside, so the soul must be reborn until it has ceased to set in motion the cause of rebirth, after having developed character up to its possible limit as indicated by all the varieties of human nature, when every experience has been passed through, and not until all of truth that can be known has been acquired. The vast disparity among men in respect to capacity compels us, if we wish to ascribe justice to Nature or to God, to admit reincarnation and to trace the origin of the disparity back to the past lives of the Ego. For people are as much hindered and handicapped, abused and made the victims of seeming injustice because of limited capacity, as they are by reason of circumstances of birth or education. We see the uneducated rising above circumstances of family and training, and often those born in good families have very small capacity; but the troubles of nations and families arise from want of capacity more than from any other cause. And if we consider savage races only, there the seeming injustice is enormous. For many savages have good actual brain capacity but still are savage. This is because the Ego in that body is still savage and undeveloped, for in contrast to the savage there are many civilized men with small actual brain force who are not savage in nature because the indwelling Ego has had long experience in civilization during other lives, and being a more developed soul has power to use the brain instrument to its highest limit.
Each man feels and knows that he has an individuality of his own, a personal identity which bridges over not only the gaps made by sleep but also those sometimes supervening on temporary lesions in the brain. This identity never breaks from beginning to end of life in the normal person, and only the persistence and eternal character of the soul will account for it.
So, ever since we began to remember, we know that our personal identity has not failed us, no matter how bad may be our memory. This disposes of the argument that identity depends on recollection, for the reason that if it did depend alone on recollection we should each day have to begin over again, as we cannot remember the events of the past in detail, and some minds remember but little yet feel their personal identity. And as it is often seen that some who remember the least insist as strongly as the others on their personal identity, that persistence of feeling must come from the old and immortal soul.
Viewing life and its probable object, with all the varied experience possible for man, one must be forced to the conclusion that a single life is not enough for carrying out all that is intended by Nature, to say nothing of what man himself desires to do. The scale of variety in experience is enormous. There is a vast range of powers latent in man which we see may be developed if opportunity be given. Knowledge infinite in scope and diversity lies before us, and especially in these days when special investigation is the rule. We perceive that we have high aspirations with no time to reach up to their measure, while the great troop of passions and desires, selfish motives and ambitions, war with us and among themselves, pursuing us even to the door of death. All these have to be tried, conquered, used, subdued. One life is not enough for all this. To say that we have but one life here with such possibilities put before us and impossible of development is to make the universe and life a huge and cruel joke perpetrated by a powerful God who is thus accused, by those who believe in a special creation of souls, of triumphing and playing with puny man just because that man is small and the creature of the Almighty. A human life at most is seventy years; statistics reduce this to about forty; and out of that little remainder a large part is spent in sleep and another part in childhood. Thus in one life it is perfectly impossible to attain to the merest fraction of what Nature evidently has in view. We see many truths vaguely which a life gives us no time to grasp, and especially is this so when men have to make such a struggle to live at all. Our faculties are small or dwarfed or weak; one life gives no opportunity to alter this; we perceive other powers latent in us that cannot possibly be brought out in such a small space of time; and we have much more than a suspicion that the extent of the field of truth is vastly greater than the narrow circle we are confined to. It is not reasonable to suppose that either God or nature projects us into a body simply to fill us with bitterness because we can have no other opportunity here, but rather we must conclude that a series of incarnations has led to the present condition, and that the process of coming here again and again must go on for the purpose of affording us the opportunity needed.
The mere fact of dying is not of itself enough to bring about development of faculties or the elimination of wrong tendency and inclination. If we assume that upon entering heaven we at once acquire all knowledge and purity, then that state after death is reduced to a dead level and life itself with all its discipline is shorn of every meaning. Some of the churches teach of a school of discipline after death where it is impudently stated that the Apostles themselves, well known to be ignorant men, are to be the teachers. This is absurd and devoid of any basis or reason in the natural order. Besides, if there is to be such subsequent discipline, why were we projected into life at all? And why after the suffering and the error committed are we taken from the place where we did our acts? The only solution left is in reincarnation. We come back to earth because on it and with the beings upon it our deeds were performed; because it is the only proper place where punishment and reward can be justly meted out; because here is the only natural spot in which to continue the struggle toward perfection, toward the development of the faculties we have and the destruction of the wickedness in us. Justice to ourselves and to all other beings demands it, for we cannot live for ourselves, and it would be unjust to permit some of us to escape, leaving those who were participants with us to remain or to be plunged into a hell of eternal duration.
The persistence of savagery, the rise and decay of nations and civilizations, the total extinction of nations, all demand an explanation found nowhere but in reincarnation. Savagery remains because there are still Egos whose experience is so limited that they are still savage; they will come up into higher races when ready. Races die out because the Egos have had enough of the experience that sort of race gives. So we find the red Indian, the Hottentot, the Easter Islanders, and others as examples of races deserted by high Egos and as they are dying away other souls who have had no higher life in the past enter into the bodies of the race to go on using them for the purpose of gaining such experience as the race body will give. A race could not possibly arise and then suddenly go out. We see that such is not the case, but science has no explanation; it simply says that this is the fact, that nations decay. But in this explanation no account is taken of the inner man nor of the recondite subtle and occult laws that unite to make a race. Theosophy shows that the energy drawn together has to expend itself gradually, and therefore the reproduction of bodies of the character of that race will go on, though the Egos are not compelled to inhabit bodies of that sort any longer than while they are of the same development as the race. Hence a time comes when the whole mass of Egos which built up the race leaves it for another physical environment more like themselves. The economy of Nature will not permit the physical race to suddenly fade away, and so in the real order of evolution other and less progressed Egos come in and use the forms provided, keeping up the production of new bodies but less and less in number each century. These lower Egos are not able to keep up to the limit of the capacity of the congeries of energies left by the other Egos, and so while the new set gains as much experience as is possible the race in time dies out after passing through its decay. This is the explanation of what we may call descending savagery, and no other theory will meet the facts. It has been sometimes thought by ethnologists that the more civilized races kill off the other, but the fact is that in consequence of the great difference between the Egos inhabiting the old race body and the energy of that body itself, the females begin to be sterile, and thus slowly but surely the number of deaths exceeds the births. China itself is in process of decay, she being now in the almost stationary stage just before the rush downward. Great civilizations like those of Egypt and Babylon have gone because the souls who made them have long ago reincarnated in the great conquering nations of Europe and the present American continents. As nations and races they have been totally reincarnated and born again for greater and higher purposes than ever. Of all the old races the Aryan Indian alone yet remains as the preserver of the old doctrines. It will one day rise again to its old heights of glory.
The appearance of geniuses and great minds in families destitute of these qualities, as well as the extinction from a family of the genius shown by some ancestor, can only be met by the law of re-birth. Napoleon the First came in a family wholly unlike him in power and force. Nothing in his heredity will explain his character. He said himself, as told in the Memoirs of Prince Talleyrand, that he was Charlemagne. Only by assuming for him a long series of lives giving the right line of evolution or cause for his mind and nature and force to be brought out, can we have the slightest idea why he or any other great genius appeared at all. Mozart when an infant could compose orchestral score. This was not due to heredity, for such a score is not natural, but is forced, mechanical, and wholly conventional, yet he understood it without schooling. How? Because he was a musician reincarnated, with a musical brain furnished by his family and thus not impeded in his endeavors to show forth his musical knowledge. But stronger yet is the case of Blind Tom, a negro whose family could not by any possibility have a knowledge of the piano, a modern instrument, so as to transmit that knowledge to the atoms of his body, yet he had great musical power and knew the present mechanical musical scale on the piano. There are hundreds of examples like these among the many prodigies who have appeared to the world's astonishment. In India there are many histories of sages born with complete knowledge of philosophy and the like, and doubtless in all nations the same can be met with. This bringing back of knowledge also explains instinct, for that is no more than recollection divisible into physical and mental memory. It is seen in the child and the animal, and is no more than the result of previous experience. And whether we look at the new-born babe flinging out its arms for self-protection, or the animal with very strong instinctual power, or the bee building a cell on the rules of geometry, it is all the effect of reincarnation acting either in the mind or physical cell, for under what was first laid down no atom is devoid of life, consciousness, and intelligence of its own.
In the case of the musician Bach we have proof that heredity counts for nothing if the Ego is not advanced, for his genius was not borne down his family line; it gradually faded out, finally leaving the family stream entirely. So, too, the coming of idiots or vicious children to parents who are good, pure, or highly intellectual is explained in the same way. They are cases where heredity is set at nought by a wholly bad or deficient Ego.
And lastly, the fact that certain inherent ideas are common to the whole race is explained by the sages as due to recollection of such ideas, which were implanted in the human mind at the very beginning of its evolutionary career on this planet by those brothers and sages who learned their lessons and were perfected in former ages long before the development of this globe began. No explanation for inherent ideas is offered by science that will do more than say, "they exist." These were actually taught to the mass of Egos who are engaged in this earth's evolution; they were imprinted or burned into their natures, and always recollected; they follow the Ego through the long pilgrimage.
It has been often thought that the opposition to reincarnation has been solely based on prejudice, when not due to a dogma which can only stand when the mind is bound down and prevented from using its own powers. It is a doctrine the most noble of all, and with its companion one of Karma, next to be considered, it alone gives the basis for ethics. There is no doubt in my mind that the founder of Christianity took it for granted and that its present absence from that religion is the reason for the contradiction between the professed ethics of Christian nations and their actual practises which are so contrary to the morals given out by Jesus.