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The Proofs Of Reincarnation

To many minds the "proof" of a doctrine is its reasonableness and its

adaptability as an answer to existing problems. And, accordingly, to

such, the many arguments advanced in favor of the doctrine, of which we

have given a few in the preceding chapters, together with the almost

universal acceptance of the fundamental ideas on the part of the race,

in at least some period of its development, would be considered as a

y good "proof" of the doctrine, at least so far as it might be

considered as the "most available working theory" of the soul's

existence, past and future, and as better meeting the requirements of a

doctrine or theory than any other idea advanced by metaphysical,

theological, or philosophical thinkers.

But to the scientific mind, or the minds of those who demand something

in the nature of actual experience of facts, no amount of reasonable

abstract theorizing and speculation is acceptable even in the way of a

"working hypothesis," unless based upon some tangible "facts" or

knowledge gained through human experience. While people possessing such

minds will usually admit freely that the doctrine of Reincarnation is

more logical than the opposing theories, and that it fits better the

requirements of the case, still they will maintain that all theories

regarding the soul must be based upon premises that cannot be

established by actual experience in human consciousness. They hold that

in absence of proof in experience--actual "facts"--these premises are

not established, and that all structures of reasoning based upon them

must partake of their insecurity. These people are like the slangy "man

from Missouri" who "wants to be shown"--nay, more, they are like the

companion of the above man--the Man from Texas, who not only says:

"You've got to show me," but who also demands that the thing be "placed

in my hand." And, after all, one has no right to criticize these

people--they are but manifesting the scientific spirit of the age which

demands facts as a basis for theories, rather than theories that need

facts to prove them. And, unless Reincarnation is able to satisfy the

demands of this class of thinkers, the advocates of the doctrine need

not complain if the scientific mind dismisses the doctrine as "not


After all, the best proof along the above mentioned lines--in fact,

about the only possible strict proof--is the fragmentary recollections

of former lives, which many people possess at times--these recollections

often flashing across the mind, bringing with it a conviction that the

place or thing "has been experienced before." Nearly every person has

had glimpses of something that appeared to be a recollection from the

past life of the individual. We see places that we have never known, and

they seem perfectly familiar; we meet strangers, and we are convinced

that we have known them in the past; we read an old book and feel that

we have seen it before, often so much so that we can anticipate the

story or argument of the writer; we hear some strange philosophical

doctrine, and we recognize it as an old friend. Many people have had

this experience in the matter of Occultism--in the very matter of the

doctrine of Reincarnation itself--when they first heard it, although it

struck them as strange and unusual, yet they felt an inner conviction

that it was an old story to them--that they "had heard it all before."

These experiences are by far too common to be dismissed as mere fancy or

coincidence. Nearly every living person has had some experience along

this line.

A recent writer along the lines of Oriental Philosophy has said

regarding this common experience of the race: "Many people have had

'peculiar experiences' that are accountable only upon the hypothesis of

Metempsychosis. Who has not experienced the consciousness of having felt

the thing before--having thought it some time in the dim past? Who has

not witnessed new scenes that appear old, very old? Who has not met

persons for the first time, whose presence awakened memories of a past

lying far back in the misty ages of long ago? Who has not been seized at

times with the consciousness of a mighty 'oldness' of soul? Who has not

heard music, often entirely new compositions, which somehow awakened

memories of similar strains, scenes, places, faces, voices, lands,

associations, and events, sounding dimly on the strings of memory as the

breezes of the harmony floats over them? Who has not gazed at some old

painting, or piece of statuary, with the sense of having seen it all

before? Who has not lived through events which brought with them a

certainty of being merely a repetition of some shadowy occurrences away

back in lives lived long ago? Who has not felt the influence of the

mountain, the sea, the desert, coming to them when they are far from

such scenes--coming so vividly as to cause the actual scene of the

present to fade into comparative unreality? Who has not had these


We have been informed by Hindus well advanced in the occult theory and

practice that it is quite a common thing for people of their country to

awaken to an almost complete recollection of their former lives; in some

cases they have related details of former lives that have been fully

verified by investigation in parts of the land very remote from their

present residence. In one case, a Hindu sage related to us an instance

where a poor Hindu, who had worked steadily in the village in which he

had been born, without leaving it, ever since his childhood days. This

man one day cried out that he had awakened to a recollection of having

been a man of such and such a village, in a province hundreds of miles

from his home. Some wealthy people became interested in the matter, and

after having taken down his statements in writing, and after careful

examination and questioning, they took him to the town in question. Upon

entering the village the man seemed dazed, and cried out: "Everything is

changed--it is the same and yet not the same!" Finally, however, he

began to recognize some of the old landmarks of the place, and to call

the places and roads by their names. Then, coming to a familiar corner,

he cried: "Down there is my old home," and, rushing down the road for

several hundred yards, he finally stopped before the ruins of an old

cottage, and burst into tears, saying that the roof of his home had

fallen in, and the walls were crumbling to pieces. Inquiry among the

oldest men of the place brought to light the fact that when these aged

men were boys, the house had been occupied by an old man, bearing the

same name first mentioned by the Hindu as having been his own in his

previous life. Other facts about the former location of places in the

village were verified by the old men. Finally, while walking around the

ruins, the man said: "There should be a pot of silver buried there--I

hid it there when I lived here." The people rapidly uncovered the ground

indicated, and brought to light an old pot containing a few pieces of

silver coin of a date corresponding to the lifetime of the former

occupant of the house. Our informant told us that he had personal

knowledge of a number of similar cases, none of which, however, were

quite as complete in detail as the one mentioned. He also informed us

that he himself, and a number of his acquaintances who had attained

certain degrees of occult unfoldment, were fully aware of their past

lives for several incarnations back.

Another instance came under our personal observation, in which an

American who had never been to India, when taken into a room in which a

Hindu priest who was visiting America had erected a shrine or altar

before which he performed his religious services, readily recognized the

arrangement of the details of worship, ritual, ceremony, etc., and was

conscious of having seen, or at least dreamed of seeing, a similar

shrine at some time in the past, and as having had some connection with

the same. The Hindu priest, upon hearing the American's remarks, stated

that his knowledge of the details of the shrine, as then expressed,

indicated a knowledge possible only to one who had served at a Hindu

altar in some capacity.

We know of another case in which an acquaintance, a prominent attorney

in the West, told us that when undergoing his initiation in the Masonic

order he had a full recollection of having undergone the same before,

and he actually anticipated each successive step. This knowledge,

however, ceased after he had passed beyond the first three degrees which

took him to the place where he was a full Master Mason, the higher

degrees being entirely new to him, and having been apparently not

experienced before. This man was not a believer in any doctrine of

Reincarnation, and related the incident merely as "one of those things

that no man can explain."

We know of another case, in which a student of Hindu Philosophy and

Oriental Occultism found that he could anticipate each step of the

teaching and doctrine, and each bit of knowledge gained by him seemed

merely a recollection of something known long since. So true was this

that he was able to supply the "missing links" of the teaching, where

he had not access to the proper sources of information at the time, and

in each case he afterward found that he had stated the same correctly.

And this included many points of the Inner Teachings not generally

taught to the general public, but reserved for the few. Subsequent

contact with native Hindu teachers brought to light the fact that he had

already unraveled many tangled skeins of doctrine deemed possible only

to the "elect."

Many of these recollections of the past come as if they were memories of

something experienced in dreams, but sometimes after the loose end of

the thought is firmly grasped and mentally drawn out, other bits of

recollection will follow. Sir Walter Scott wrote in his diary in 1828:

"I was strangely haunted by what I would call the sense of

pre-existence, viz., a confused idea that nothing that passed was said

for the first time; that the same topics had been discussed, and the

same persons had stated the same opinions on them." William Home, an

English writer, was instantly converted from materialism to a belief in

a spiritual existence by an incident that occurred to him in a part of

London utterly strange to him. He entered a waiting room, and to his

surprise everything seemed familiar to him. As he says: "I seemed to

recognize every object. I said to myself, what is this? I have never

been here before, and yet I have seen all this, and if so, there is a

very peculiar knot in that shutter." He then crossed the room, and

opened the shutter, and after examination he saw the identical peculiar

knot that he had felt sure was there. Pythagoras is said to have

distinctly remembered a number of his previous incarnations, and at one

time pointed out a shield in a Grecian temple as having been carried by

him in a previous incarnation at the siege of Troy. A well-known ancient

Hindu sage is said to have transcribed a lost sacred book of doctrine

from memory of its study in a previous life. Children often talk

strangely of former lives, which ideas, however, are generally

frightened out of them by reproof on the part of parents, and often

punishment for untruthfulness and romancing. As they grow older these

memories fade away.

People traveling in strange places often experience emotion when viewing

some particular scene, and memory seems to painfully struggle to bring

into the field of consciousness the former connection between the scene

and the individual. Many persons have testified to these occurrences,

many of them being matter-of-fact, unimaginative people, who had never

even heard of the doctrine of Reincarnation. Charles Dickens, in one of

his books of foreign travel, tells of a bridge in Italy which produced a

peculiar effect upon him. He says: "If I had been murdered there in some

former life, I could not have seemed to remember the place more

thoroughly, or with more emphatic chilling of the blood; and the real

remembrance of it acquired in that minute is so strengthened by the

imaginary recollection that I hardly think I could forget it." Another

recorded instance is that of a person entering a foreign library for the

first time. Passing to the department of ancient books, he said that he

had a dim idea that a certain rare book was to be found on such a shelf,

in such a corner, describing at the same time certain peculiarities of

the volume. A search failed to discover the volume in the stated place,

but investigation showed that it was in another place in the library,

and an old assistant stated that a generation back it had been moved

from its former place (as stated by the visitor), where it had been

previously located for very many years. An examination of the volume

showed a perfect correspondence in every detail with the description of

the strange visitor.

And so the story proceeds. Reference to the many works written on the

subject of the future life of the soul will supply many more instances

of the glimpses of recollection of past incarnations. But why spread

these instances over more pages? The experience of other people, while

of scientific interest and value as affording a basis for a theory or

doctrine, will never supply the experience that the close and rigid

investigator demands. Only his own experiences will satisfy him--and

perhaps not even those, for he may consider them delusions. These

experiences of others have their principal value as corroborative proofs

of one's own experiences, and thus serve to prove that the individual

experience was not abnormal, unusual, or a delusion. To those who have

not had these glimpses of recollection, the only proof that can be

offered is the usual arguments in favor of the doctrine, and the account

of the experiences of others--this may satisfy, and may not. But to

those who have had these glimpses--particularly in a marked

degree--there will come a feeling of certainty and conviction that in

some cases is as real as the certainty and conviction of the present

existence, and which will be proof against all argument to the contrary.

To such people the knowledge of previous existences is as much a matter

of consciousness as the fact of the existence of last year--yesterday--a

moment ago--or even the present moment, which slips away while we

attempt to consider it. And those who have this consciousness of past

lives, even though the details may be vague, intuitively accept the

teachings regarding the future lives of the soul. The soul that

recognizes its "oldness" also feels its certainty of survival--not as a

mere matter of faith, but as an item of consciousness, the boundaries of

time being transcended.

But there are other arguments advanced in favor of Reincarnation, which

its advocates consider so strong as to entitle them to be classed as

"proofs." Among these may be mentioned the difference in tastes,

talents, predispositions, etc., noticeable among children and adults,

and which can scarcely be attributed to heredity. This same idea carries

one to the consideration of the question of "youthful genius,"

"prodigies," etc.

It is a part of this argument to assume that if all souls were freshly

created, by the same Creator, and from the same material, they would

resemble each other very closely, and in fact would be practically

identical. And, it is urged, the fact that every child is different in

tastes, temperament, qualities, nature, etc., independent of heredity

and environment, then it must follow that the difference must be sought

for further back. Children of the same parents differ very materially in

nature, disposition, etc.; in fact, strangers are often more alike than

children of the same parents, born within a few years of each other, and

reared in the same environment. Those having much experience with young

babies know that each infant has its own nature and disposition, and in

which it differs from every other infant, although they may be classed

into groups, of course. The infant a few hours born shows a gentleness,

or a lack of it--a yielding or a struggle, a disposition to adjust

itself, or a stubbornness, etc. And as the child grows, these traits

show more plainly, and the nature of the individual asserts itself,

subject, of course, to a moulding and shaping, but always asserting its

original character in some way.

Not only in the matter of disposition but in the matter of tastes,

tendencies, moral inclinations, etc., do the children differ. Some like

this, and dislike that, and the reverse; some are attracted toward this

and repelled by that, and the reverse; some are kind while others are

cruel; some manifest an innate sense of refinement, while others show

coarseness and lack of delicate feeling. This among children of the same

family, remember. And, when the child enters school, we find this one

takes to mathematics as the duck does to water, while its brother

loathes the subject; the anti-arithmetic child may excel in history or

geography, or else grammar, which is the despair of others. Some are at

once attracted to music, and others to drawing, while both of these

branches are most distasteful to others. And it will be noticed that in

the studies to which the child is attracted, it seems to learn almost

without effort, as if it were merely re-learning some favorite study,

momentarily forgotten. And in the case of the disliked study, every step

is attended with toil. In some cases the child seems to learn every

branch with the minimum effort, and with practically no effort; while in

other cases the child has to plod wearily over every branch, as if

breaking entirely new ground. And this continues into after life, when

the adult finds this thing or that thing into which he naturally fits as

if it were made for him, the knowledge concerning it coming to him like

the lesson of yesterday.

We know of a case in which a man had proved a failure in everything he

had undertaken up to the age of forty, when his father-in-law, in

disgust, placed him at the head of an enterprise which he had had to

"take over" for a bad debt. The "failure" immediately took the keenest

interest in the work, and in a month knew more about it than many men

who had been in the concern for years. His mind found itself perfectly

at home, and he made improvement after improvement rapidly, and with

uniform success. He had found his work, and in a few years stepped to

the front rank in the country in that particular line of business.

"Blessed is he that hath found his work." Reincarnationists would hold

that that man had found his work in a line similar in its mental

demands with that of his former life or lives--not necessarily identical

in details, but similar in its mental requirement. Instances of this

thing are to be seen all around us. Heredity does not seem to account

for it--nor does environment answer the requirements. Some other factor

is there--is it Reincarnation?

Allied to this phenomena is that of "youthful genius"--in fact, genius

of any age, for that matter, for genius itself seems to be out of the

category of the ordinary cause of heredity and environment, and to have

its roots in some deeper, richer soil. It is a well-known fact that now

and then a child is born which at a very early age shows an acquaintance

with certain arts, or other branches of mental work, which is usually

looked for only from those of advanced years, and after years of

training. In many cases these children are born of parents and

grandparents deficient in the particular branches of knowledge evidenced

by the child. Babes scarcely able to sit on the piano stool, or to hold

the violin, have begun to play in a way that certainly indicated

previous knowledge and technique, often composing original productions

in an amazing manner. Other young children have begun to draw and design

without any instruction whatever. Others have shown wonderful

mathematical ability, there being several cases on record where such

children have performed feats in mathematics impossible to advanced

adults teaching the same lines. What are the cause of these phenomena?

Is it Reincarnation?

As Figuier said, years ago: "We hear it said every day that one child

has a mathematical, another a musical, another an artistic turn. In

others we notice savage, violent, even criminal instincts. After the

first years of life these dispositions break out. When these natural

aptitudes are pushed beyond the usual limit, we find famous examples

that history has cherished, and that we love to recall. There is Pascal,

mastering at the age of twelve years the greater part of Plane Geometry

without any instruction, and not a figment of Calculus, drawing on the

floor of his chamber all the figures in the first book of Euclid,

estimating accurately the mathematical relations of them all--that is,

reconstructing for himself a part of descriptive Geometry; the herdsman

Mangia Melo, manipulating figures, when five years old, as rapidly as a

calculating machine; Mozart, executing a sonata on the pianoforte with

four-years-old fingers, and composing an opera at the age of eight;

Theresa Milanollo, playing the violin at four years, with such eminent

skill that Baillot said she must have played it before she was born;

Rembrandt, drawing with masterly power before he could read." The same

authority says, in reference to the fact that some of these prodigies do

not become famous in their after years, and that their genius often

seems to flicker out, leaving them as ordinary children: "That is easily

understood. They come on earth with remarkable powers acquired in an

anterior existence, but they have done nothing to develop their

aptitudes; they have remained all their lives at the very point where

they were at the moment of their birth. The real man of genius is he

who cultivates and improves incessantly the great natural aptitudes that

he brought into the world."

There is an interesting field for study, thought and investigation,

along the lines of the early development of traits, tendencies, and

thought in young children. Here evidently will be found the answer to

many problems that have perplexed the race. It is true that heredity and

environment plays an important part, but nevertheless, there seems to be

another element working in the case, which science must have to reckon

with in making up its final conclusions. Is that "something" connected

with the "soul" rather than the mind of the child? Is that "something"

that which men call Metempsychosis--Re-Birth--Reincarnation?

Along the same lines, or thought, lie the great questions of instinctive

Like and Dislike--Loves and Hates--that we find among people meeting as

strangers. From whence come those strange, unaccountable attractions and

repulsions that many feel when meeting certain strangers, who could

never have occasioned such feelings in the present life, and which

heredity does not account for? Is it merely an absurd, irrational, fancy

or feeling; is it the result of natures inharmonious and discordant; is

it remnants of inherited ancestral feelings toward similar individuals

hated, loved or feared; is it a telepathic sensing of certain elements

in the other; or is it a manifestation of the feelings experienced in a

past existence? Is this phenomena to be included in the Proofs of

Reincarnation? Many people think that in Reincarnation the only answer

may be found.