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The Argument For Reincarnation

In addition to the consideration of Justice, there are many other

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 in

this chapter, that you may acquaint yourself with the several points of

the argument.

It is argued that the principle of analogy r
nders 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 this chapter, 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 law

for man, because they are the conditions of his progress, which is also

a law, 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."

In this chapter we have given you a number of the arguments favorable to

the doctrine of Reincarnation, from a number of sources. Some of these

arguments do not specially appeal to us, personally, for the reason that

they are rather more theological than scientific, but we have included

them that the argument may appear as generally presented, and because we

feel that in a work of this kind we must not omit an argument which is

used by many of the best authorities, simply because it may not appeal

to our particular temperament or habit of thought. To some, the

theological argument may appeal more strongly than would the scientific,

and it very properly is given here. The proper way to present any

subject is to give it in its many aspects, and as it may appear from

varied viewpoints.