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Arguments Against Reincarnation








The honest consideration of any subject necessitates the examination of
"the other side of the case," as well as the affirmative side. We have
given much space to the presentation and consideration of the arguments
advanced by those convinced of the truth of Reincarnation, and before
closing our work we think it well to give at least a little glimpse of
"the other side" as it is presented by the opponents of the doctrine,
together with the reply to the same usually made by the
Reincarnationists.

The first adverse argument usually presented is that the advocates of
Reincarnation have not established the existence of a "soul" which may
reincarnate; nor have they proven its nature, if it does exist. The
natural reply to this is that the doctrine of Reincarnation is not
called upon to establish the proof of the existence of a "soul," as the
idea of existence of the soul practically is universal, and, therefore,
"axiomic"--that is, it is a truth that may be considered as an "axiom,"
or self-evident truth, worthy of being assumed as a principle, necessary
to thought on the subject, a proposition which it is necessary to take
for granted, an established principle of thought on the subject.
Strictly speaking, perhaps the fact of the existence of the soul is
incapable of material proof, except to those who accept the fact of
proven "spirit return," either in the shape of unmistakable
manifestation of the disincarnate soul by materialization, or by equally
unmistakable manifestation in the shape of communications of some sort
from such discarnate soul. Science does not admit that there are any
real "proofs" of the existence of a "soul" which persists after the
death of the body--but all religious, and at least the older
philosophical thought, generally agrees that the existence of such a
soul is a self-evident fact, needing no proofs. Many regard the
statement of Descartes: "I think, therefore I am," as a logical proof
of the existence of an immaterial soul, and others hold that the
self-consciousness of every human being is sufficient proof that the
Ego, or "I," is a something immaterial, ruling the material body which
it inhabits. And so the Reincarnationists claim that this demand upon
them for proof of the existence of the soul is not a fair one, because
such discussion belongs to the more general field of thought; that they
are justified in starting with the idea that the soul does exist, as an
axiomic truth; and that their real task is to establish, not that the
soul exists, but that it reincarnates after the death of the body. As
Figuier says, "The difficulty is not to prove that there is a spiritual
principle in us that resists death, for to question the existence of
this principle we must doubt thought. The true problem is to ascertain
if the spiritual and immortal principle within us is going to live again
after death, in ourselves or somebody else. The question is, Will the
immortal soul be born again in the same individual, physically
transformed--into the same person?" As to the other objection, that the
Reincarnationists have not proven the nature of the soul, to which many
of the advocates of the doctrine feel it necessary to reply at great
length and with much subtle reasoning, we feel that the objection is not
well taken. So far as Reincarnation is concerned, if it be taken as an
axiom that the soul really exists, that is sufficient as a beginning for
the argument in favor of the doctrine, and the proof or disproof of any
special theory regarding the nature of the soul is outside of the main
question, so we shall not consider it here. It is possible to think of
the soul as a reincarnating entity, whether it be a monad, duad, triad,
or septenary being.

The second objection usually made is that Reincarnation cannot be true,
else we would remember the incidents of our past lives, clearly and
distinctly, the fact that the majority of persons have no such
recollection, being held to be a disproof of the doctrine. The reply to
this objection is (1) that it is not true that people do not remember
the events of their past lives, the instances quoted by us, and similar
ones happening to others, together with the fact that nearly every one
remembers something of the past, showing that the objection is not
correctly stated. And (2) that the fact that we have but a very cloudy
and imperfect recollection is not an objection at all, for have we a
clear recollection of the events of our infancy and childhood in this
life? Have we a clear recollection of the events of twenty years ago,
outside of a few scattered instances, of which the majority are only
recalled when some associated fact is mentioned? Are not the great
majority of the events of our present life completely forgotten? How
many can recall the events of the youthful life? Old companions and
friends are completely forgotten or only recalled after much thought and
assistance in the way of suggested associations. Then again, do we not
witness a complete forgetfulness in cases of very old people who relapse
into a state of "second childhood," and who then live entirely in the
present, the past having vanished for them. There are cases of people
having grown old, and while retaining their reasoning faculties, were as
children, so far as the past was concerned. A well-known writer, when in
this state, was wont to read the books that he had written, enjoying
them very much and not dreaming that he was their author. Professor
Knight says of this matter: "Memory of the details of the past is
absolutely impossible."

"The power of the conservative faculty, though relatively great, is
extremely limited. We forget the larger portion of experience soon after
we have passed through it, and we should be able to recall the
particulars of our past years, filling all the missing links of
consciousness since we entered on the present life, before we were in a
position to remember our ante-natal experience. Birth must necessarily
be preceded by crossing the river of oblivion, while the capacity for
fresh acquisition survives, and the garnered wealth of old experience
determines the amount and characters of the new." Loss of memory is not
loss of being--or even loss of individuality or character.

In this connection, we must mention the various instances of Double
Personality, or Lost Personality, noted in the recent books on
Psychology. There are a number of well authenticated cases in which
people, from severe mental strain, overwork, etc., have lost the thread
of Personality and forgotten even their own names and who have taken up
life anew under new circumstances, which they would continue until
something would occur to bring about a restoration of memory, when the
past in all of its details would come back in a flash. The annals of the
English Society for Psychical Research contain quite a number of such
cases, which are recognized as typical. Now, would one be justified in
asserting that such a person, while living in the secondary personality
and consequently in entire ignorance of his past life, had really
experienced no previous life? The same "I" was there--the same Ego--and
yet, the personality was entirely different! Is it not perfectly fair
and reasonable to consider these cases as similar to the absence of
memory in cases of Reincarnation?

Let the reader lay down this book, and then endeavor to remember what
happened in his twelfth year. He will not remember more than one or two,
or a half dozen, events in that year--perhaps not one, in the absence of
a diary, or perhaps even with the aid of one. The majority of the
happenings of the three hundred and sixty-five days of that year are as
a blank--as if they never had happened, so far as the memory is
concerned. And yet, the same "I," or Ego, persists, and the person's
character has certainly been affected and influenced by the experiences
and lessons of that year. Perhaps in that year, the person may have
acquired certain knowledge that he uses in his everyday life. And so, in
this case, as with Reincarnation, the "essence" of the experiences are
preserved, while the details are forgotten. For that is the
Reincarnationist contention. As a matter of fact, advanced occultists,
and other Reincarnationists, claim that nothing is really forgotten, but
that every event is stored away in some of the recesses of the mind,
below the level of consciousness--which idea agrees with that of modern
psychologists. And Reincarnationists claim that when man unfolds
sufficiently on some higher plane, he will have a full recollection of
his past experiences in all of his incarnations. Some Reincarnationists
claim that as the soul passes from the body all the events of that
particular life pass rapidly before its mind, in review, before the
waters of Lethe, or oblivion, causes forgetfulness.

Closely allied to the last mentioned argument against Reincarnation is
the one that as the memory of the past life is absent, or nearly so, the
new personality is practically a new soul, instead of the old one
reincarnated, and that it is unreasonable and unjust to have it enjoy or
suffer by reasons of its experiences and acts in the previous life. We
think that the answers to the last mentioned objection are answers to
this one also. The "I," Ego, or Individuality, being the same, it
matters not if the details of the old Personality be forgotten. You are
the same "I" that lived fifty years ago in the same body--or even ten
years ago--and you are enjoying certain things, or suffering from
certain things, done or left undone at the previous time, although you
have forgotten the incidents. The impress of the thing is on your
Character, and you are today largely what you are by reason of what you
have been in past years, though those years are forgotten by you. This
you will readily admit, and yet the argument of the Reincarnationists is
merely an extension of the same idea. As Figuier says: "The soul, in
spite of its journeys, in the midst of its incarnations and divers
metamorphoses remains always identical with itself; only at each
metempsychosis, each metamorphosis of the external being, improving and
purifying itself, growing in power and intellectual grasp."

Another argument against Reincarnation is that it is not necessary, for
the reason that Heredity accounts for all of the facts claimed as
corroborative of Reincarnation. Answering this the advocates of the
doctrine insist that Heredity does not account for all the facts,
inasmuch as children are born with marked talents and genius, while
none of their family for generations back have displayed any such
tendencies. They also claim that if Heredity were the only factor in the
case, there would be no advance in the races, as the children would be
precisely like their ancestors, no variety or improvement being
possible. But it must be remembered that Reincarnationists do not deny
certain effects of Heredity, particularly along physical lines, and to
an extent along mental lines, in the way of perpetuating "tendencies,"
which, however, are and may be overcome by the individuality of the
child. Moreover, the doctrine holds that one of the laws of Rebirth is
that the reincarnating soul is attracted to parents harmonious to
itself, and likely to afford the environments and association desirable
to the soul. So in this way the characteristics likely to be transmitted
to the offspring are those which are sought for and desired by the
reincarnating soul. The law of Rebirth is held to be as exact and
certain as the laws of mathematics or chemistry, the parents, as well
as the child, forming the combination which brings forth the rebirth.
Rebirth is held to be above the mere wish of the reincarnating soul--it
is in accordance with an invariable natural law, which has Justice and
Advancement as its basis.

Another argument against Reincarnation is that it holds that human souls
are reborn as animals, in some cases. This objection we shall not
discuss, for the reason that the advanced ideas of Reincarnation
expressly forbid any such interpretation, and distinctly deny its
legitimate place in the doctrine. Among some of the primitive people
this idea of transmigration in the bodies of animals has been held, but
never among advanced occultists, or the leaders in philosophical thought
favoring Reincarnation. Reincarnation teaches the Evolution of the soul
from lowly forms to higher, but never the Devolution or going back into
animal forms. A study of the doctrine of Reincarnation will dispel this
erroneous idea from the mind of an intelligent person.

Another favorite argument is that it is repulsive to the mind and soul
of the average person. Analysis of this objection will show that what is
repugnant to the person is usually the fear that he will be born again
without a memory of the present, which seems like a loss of the self. A
moment's consideration will show that this objection is ill founded. No
one objects to the idea of living in the same body for, say, ten years
or twenty years more, in health. But at the end of that ten or twenty
years he will be practically a different person, by reason of the new
experiences he has undergone. Persons change very much in twenty years,
and yet they are the same individuals--the same "I" is there with them.
And at the end of the twenty years they will have forgotten the majority
of the events of the present year, but they do not object to that. When
one realizes that the Individual, or "I," is the Real Self instead of
the Personality, or the "John Smith, grocer, aged 36," part of
them--then will they cease to fear the loss of the personality of the
day or year. They will know that the "I" is the "Self"--the same
yesterday, today and tomorrow. Be the doctrine of Reincarnation true or
false, the fact remains that so long as YOU exist, it will be the same
"I" in you that you will know that "I am." It will always be "I
AM--HERE--NOW," with you, be it this moment, or a hundred years, or a
million years hence. YOU can never be SOMEONE ELSE, no matter what form
you wear, nor by what name you are known, nor what personality you may
be acting through, nor in what place you may have your abode, nor on
what plane of existence you may be. You will always be YOURSELF--and, as
we have just said, it will always be "I AM--HERE--NOW" with You. The
body, and even the Personality, are things akin to garments which you
wear and take off without affecting your Real Self.

Then we must note another objection often made by people in discussing
Reincarnation. They say, "But I do not WANT to come back!" To this the
Reincarnationists answer that, if one has reached a stage in which he
really has no desire for anything that the earth can offer him, then
such a soul will not likely have to reincarnate again on earth, for it
has passed beyond the need of earthly experiences, and has worn out its
earth Karma. But they hold that but few people really have reached this
stage. What one really means is that he does not want any more of
Earth--life similar to that which he has been undergoing. But if he
thought that he could have certain things--riches, position, fame,
beauty, influence, and the rest of it, he would be perfectly willing to
"come back." Or else he might be so bound by links of Karma, acting by
reason of Love or Hate, Attachment or Repulsion, or by duties
unperformed, or moral debts unpaid, that he might be brought back to
work out the old problems until he had solved them. But even this is
explained by those Reincarnationists who hold to the idea of Desire as
the great motive power of Karma, and who hold that if one has risen
above all earthly desire or dislike, that soul is freed from the
attraction of earth-life, and is prepared to go on higher at once, or
else wait in realms of bliss until the race is ready to pass on,
according to the various theories held by the various advocates of the
doctrine. A little self-examination will show one whether he is free
from all desire to "come back," or not. But, after all, if there is
Ultimate Justice in the plan, working ever and ever for our good and
advancements, as the Reincarnationists claim--then it must follow that
each of us is in just the best place for his own good at the present
moment, and will always be in a like advantageous position and
condition. And if that be so, then there is no cause for complaint or
objection on our part, and our sole concern should be in the words of
the Persian sage, to "So live, that that which must come and will come,
may come well," living on one day at a time, doing the best you know
how, living always in the belief that "it is well with us now and
evermore," and that "the Power which has us in charge Here will have us
in charge There." There is a good philosophy for Living and Dying. And,
this being true, though you may have to "come back," you will not have
to "go back," or fall behind in the Scale of Advancement or Spiritual
Evolution--for it must always be Onward and Upward on the Ladder of
Life! Such is the Law!

Another objection very often urged against the doctrine of Reincarnation
is that "it is un-Christian, and derived from pagan and heathen sources,
and is not in accord with the highest conceptions of the immortality of
the soul." Answering this objection, it may be said that, insofar as
Reincarnation is not a generally accepted doctrine in the orthodox
Christian Churches of today, it may be said to be non-Christian (rather
than un-Christian), but when it is seen that Pre-existence and Rebirth
was held as Truth by many of the Early Fathers of the Church, and that
the doctrine was finally condemned by the dominant majority in Church
Councils only by means of the most severe methods and the exercise of
the most arbitrary authority, it may be seen that in the opinion of many
of the most eminent early authorities there was nothing "un-Christian"
about it, but that it was a proper doctrine of the Church. The doctrine
was simply "voted down," just as were many important doctrines revered
by some of the great minds of the early church, in some cases the
decision being made by a majority of one vote. And, again, there have
been many bright minds in the Christian Church who persisted in the
belief that the doctrine was far more consistent with the Inner
Teachings of Christianity than the prevailing conception, and based upon
quite as good authority.

So far as the charge that it is "derived from pagan and heathen sources"
is concerned, it must be answered that certainly the doctrine was
accepted by the "pagan and heathen" world centuries before the dawn of
Christianity, but, for that matter, so was the doctrine regarding the
soul's future generally accepted by orthodox Christianity--in fact,
nearly every doctrine or theory regarding the survival of the soul was
"derived from pagan and heathen sources." The "pagan and heathen" mind
had thought long and earnestly upon this great problem, and the field of
thought had been pretty well covered before the advent of Christianity.
In fact, Christianity added no new doctrine--invented no new theory--and
is far from being clear and explicit in its teachings on the subject,
the result being that the early Christians were divided among themselves
on the matter, different sects and schools favoring different doctrines,
each and all of which had been "derived from pagan and heathen sources."
If all the doctrines regarding the immortality of the soul are to be
judged by the test of their having been, or not been, "derived from
pagan and heathen sources," then the entire body of doctrine and thought
on the subject must be thrown out of the Christian mind, which must then
endeavor to create or invent an entirely new doctrine which has never
been thought of by a "pagan or heathen"--a very difficult task, by the
way, considering the activity of the pagan and heathen mind in that
respect. It must be remembered that there is no authoritative teaching
on this subject--none coming direct from Jesus. The Christian Doctrines
on the subject come from the Theologians, and represent simply the views
of the "majority" of some Church Council--or of the most powerful
faction.

While the objection that Reincarnation "is not in accord with the
highest conceptions of the immortality of the soul" is one that must
depend almost entirely upon the personal bias or opinion of the
individual as to what constitutes "the highest conceptions," still a
comparison of the conceptions is not out of the way at this place. Do
you know what was the doctrine favored by the dominant majority in the
Church Councils, and for which Pre-Existence and Re-Birth finally was
discarded? Do you know the dogma of the Church and the belief of masses
of the orthodox Christians of the early centuries? Well, it was this:
That at the death of the body, the person passes into a state of "coma,"
or unconsciousness, in which state he rests today, awaiting the sound of
the trumpet of the great Day of Judgment, when the dead shall be raised
and the righteous given eternal life IN THEIR FORMER BODIES, while the
wicked in their bodies may pass into eternal torment. That is the
doctrine. You doubt it? Then look over the authorities and examine even
the current creeds of today, many of which state practically the same
thing. This belief passed into one of the Christian Creed, in the words:
"I believe in the Resurrection of the Body."

The great masses of Christians today, in general thought on the subject,
speak as if the accepted doctrine of the Church was that the soul passed
to Judgment, and then eternal soul life in Heaven or Hell immediately
after the death of the body, thus ignoring the dogmas of the Church
Councils regarding the future Day of Judgment and the Resurrection of
the Body at that time. A little questioning of the religious teachers,
and a little examination of religious history, and the creeds and
doctrines of their respective churches, would astonish many good church
members who have been fondly thinking of their beloved ones, who have
passed on, as even now dwelling in Heaven as blessed angels. They would
be astonished to find that the "angels" of the churches are not the
souls of the good people who have been judged and awarded heavenly joys,
but, rather, a body of supernatural beings who never inhabited the
flesh; and that instead of their loved ones now enjoying the heavenly
realms, the dogmas hold that they are now in a state of "coma" or
unconsciousness, awaiting the great Day of Judgment, when their bodies
will be resurrected and life everlasting given them. Those who are
interested in the matter, and who may doubt the above statement, are
invited to examine the records for themselves. The doctrine of the
Resurrection of the Body, which is of undoubted "pagan and heathen"
origin, was a favorite theological dogma of the Church in the first
thousand years of its existence, and for many centuries after, and it
still occupies a most important place in the church doctrines today,
although it is not so often publicly preached or taught.

David Kay says: "The great distinguishing doctrine of Christianity is
not the Immortality of the Soul, but the Resurrection of the Body. That
the soul of man is immortal was a common belief among the Ancients, from
whom it found its way at an early period into the Christian Church, but
the most influential of the early Fathers were strenuously opposed to
it, holding that the human soul was not essentially immortal, but only,
like the body, capable of immortality." Vinet says: "The union of the
soul and body appears to me essential and indissoluble. Man without a
body is, in my opinion, man no longer; and God has thought and willed
him embodied, and not otherwise. According to passages in the
Scriptures, we can not doubt that the body, or a body, is essential to
human personality and to the very idea of man."

John Milton said: "That the spirit of man should be separate from the
body, so as to have a perfect and intelligent existence independent of
it, is nowhere said in Scripture, and the doctrine is evidently at
variance both with nature and reason." Masson, commenting on Milton's
conception, says: "Milton's conception is that at the last gasp of
breath the whole man dies, soul and body together, and that not until
the Resurrection, when the body is revived, does the soul live again,
does the man or woman live again, in any sense or way, whether for
happiness or misery.... Are the souls of the millions on millions of
human beings who have died since Adam, are those souls ready either with
God and the angels in Heaven, or down in the diabolic world waiting to
be rejoined to their bodies on the Resurrection Day? They are not, says
Milton; but soul and bodies together, he says, are dead alike, sleeping
alike, defunct alike, till that day comes." And many Christian
theologians have held firmly to this doctrine, as may be seen by
reference to any standard encyclopedia, or work on theology. Coleridge
said: "Some of the most influential of the early Christian writers were
materialists, not as holding the soul to be the mere result of bodily
organization, but as holding the soul itself to be material--corporeal.
It appears that in those days the vulgar held the soul to be
incorporeal, according to the views of Plato and others, but that the
orthodox Christian divines looked upon this as an impious, unscriptural
opinion." Dr. R. S. Candlish said: "You live again in the body--in the
very body, as to all essential properties, and to all practical intents
and purposes in which you live now. I am to live not a ghost, a spectre,
a spirit, I am to live then, as I live now, in the body." Dr. Arnold
says: "I think that the Christian doctrine of the Resurrection meets the
materialists so far as this--that it does imply that a body or an
organization of some sort is necessary to the full development of man's
nature."

Rev. R. J. Campbell, the eminent English clergyman, in his recent work
entitled, "The New Theology," says, speaking of the popular evangelical
views: "But they are even more chaotic on the subject of death and
whatever follows death. It does not seem to be generally recognized that
Christian thought has never been really clear concerning the
Resurrection, especially in relation to future judgment. One view has
been that the deceased saint lies sleeping in the grave until the
archangel's trumpet shall sound and bid all mankind awake for the great
assize. Anyone who reads the New Testament without prejudice will see
that this was Paul's earlier view, although later on he changed it for
another. There is a good deal of our current, every-day religious
phaseology which presumes it still--'Father, in thy gracious keeping,
leave we now thy servant sleeping.' But alongside this view, another
which is a flagrant contradiction of it has come down to us, namely,
that immediately after death the soul goes straight to Heaven or Hell,
as the case may be, without waiting for the archangel's trumpet and the
grand assize. On the whole, this is the dominant theory of the situation
in the Protestant circles, and is much less reasonable than the Catholic
doctrine of purgatory, however much the latter may have been abused. But
under this view, what is the exact significance of the Judgment Day and
the Physical Resurrection? One might think they might be accounted
superfluous. What is the good of tormenting a soul in Hell for ages, and
then whirling it back to the body in order to rise again and receive a
solemn public condemnation? Better leave it in the Inferno and save
trouble, especially as the solemn trial is meaningless, seeing that a
part of the sentence has already been undergone and that there is no
hope that any portion of it will ever be remitted. Truly the tender
mercies with which the theologians have credited the Almighty are cruel
indeed!"

But, by the irony of progress, the orthodox churches are gradually
coming around to the one much-despised Platonic conception of the
naturally Immortal Immaterial Soul--the "pagan and heathen" idea, so
much at variance with the opposing doctrine of the Resurrection of the
Body, which doctrine really did not teach the "immortality of the soul"
at all. As Prof. Nathaniel Schmidt says, in an article in a standard
encyclopedia: "The doctrine of the natural immortality of the human
soul became so important a part of Christian thought that the
resurrection naturally lost its vital significance, and it has
practically held no place in the great systems of philosophy elaborated
by the Christian thinkers of modern times." But still, the letter of the
old doctrine persists on the books of the church and in its creeds,
although opposed to the enlightened spirit now manifesting in the
churches which is moving more and more toward the "pagan and heathen"
conception of a naturally Immaterial and Immortal Soul, rather than in a
Resurrection of the Body and an eternal life therein.

It is scarcely worth while here to contrast the two doctrines--the
Immortal Immaterial Soul on the one hand, and the Immortal Body on the
other. The latter conception is so primitively crude, and so foreign to
modern thought, that it scarcely needs an argument against it. The
thought of the necessity of the soul for a material body--the same old
material body that it once cast off like a worn out garment--a body
perhaps worn by disease, crippled by "accident" or "the slipping of the
hand of the Potter"--a body similar to those we see around us every
day--the Immortal Soul needing such a garment in order to exist! Better
accept plain Materialism, and say that there is no soul and that the
body perishes and all else with it, than such a gross doctrine which is
simply a materialistic Immortality. So far as this doctrine being "the
highest conception of the Immortality of the Soul," as contrasted with
the "pagan and heathen" doctrine of Reincarnation--it is not a
"conception of the Immortality of the Soul" at all, but a flat
contradiction of it. It is a doctrine of the "Immortality of the Body,"
which bears plain marks of a very lowly "pagan and heathen" origin. And
as to the "later" Christian conception, it may be seen that there is
nothing in the idea of Re-birth which is inconsistent therewith--in
fact, the two ideas naturally blend into each other.

In the above discussion our whole intent has been to answer the argument
against Reincarnation which charges that the latter is "derived from
pagan and heathen sources, and is not in accord with the highest
conceptions of the immortality of the soul." And in order to do this we
have found it necessary to examine the opposing theological dogmas as we
find them, and to show that they do not come up to the claims of being
"the highest conception," etc. We think that the strongest point against
the dogmas may be found in the claims of their advocates. That the
Church is now growing away from them only proves their unfitness as "the
highest conception." And Reincarnationists hold that as the Church grows
in favor of the Immaterial Immortal Soul, so will it find itself
inclining toward the companion-doctrine of Pre-existence and Re-birth,
in some of its varied forms, probably that of the Early Fathers of the
Church, such as Origen and his followers--that the Church will again
claim its own.





Next: The Law Of Karma

Previous: The Proofs Of Reincarnation



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