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It has been said that the Arabs believed in Reincarnation before
Mohammed forbade it. Some, however, think that the Koran was written
only after the death of the Prophet, and that the latter committed
nothing to writing, but taught by word of mouth. Besides, it is clear
that Mohammedanism is an offshoot of Zoroastrianism and Christianity.
Like these, it teaches the Unity of the Whole, the divine Presence in
all creatures and things (Ubiquity), Predestination, which is only
one form of Karma, and Resurrection, which expresses one phase of

Mohammed, like all great mystics, had discovered or learnt many of the
truths of esotericism. The verses of the Koran that refer to the
"Companions of the Cave"[218] indicate that he knew more than he
taught in public, and that there may be some ground for certain
Asiatic nations holding the exaggerated belief that he was an
Avatar,[219] the tenth incarnation of the Aum--the Amed, the
Nations' Desire.[220] He was a Disciple.

Had there not been in the heart of Islamism a strong germ of esoteric
teaching, Sufism could never have sprung from it. The Sufis are the
saints of Mohammedanism, they are those who aspire after the union of
the individual "I" with the cosmic "I," of man with God; they are
frequently endowed with wonderful powers, and their chiefs have almost
always been thaumaturgists.

The New Koran, a modern exposition of part of the secret doctrine of
Islam, shows the correctness of this view. In it we find the following
passages on the subject of Palingenesis:

"And when his body falleth off altogether, as an old fish-shell, his
soul doeth welt by the releasing, and formeth a new one instead.

"The disembodied spirits of man and beast return as the clouds to
renew the young streamlets of infancy....

"When a man dieth or leaveth his body, he wendeth through the gate of
oblivion and goeth to God, and when he is born again he cometh from
God and in a new body maketh his dwelling; hence is this saying:

"The body to the tomb and the spirit to the womb....

"This doctrine is none other than what God hath taught openly from the
very beginning....

"For truly the soul of a man goeth not to the body of a beast, as some

"But the soul of the lower beast goeth to the body of the higher, and
the soul of the higher beast to the body of the savage, and the soul
of the savage to the man....

"And so a man shall be immortal in one body and one garment that
neither can fade nor decay.

"Ye who now lament to go out of this body, wept also when ye were born
into it...."[221]

"The person of man is only a mask which the soul putteth on for a
season; it weareth its proper time and then is cast off, and another
is worn in its stead....

"I tell you, of a truth, that the spirits which now have affinity
shall be kindred together, although they all meet in new persons and

In Asiatic Researches, Colebrooke states that the present Mohammedan
sect of the Bohrahs believes in metempsychosis, as do the Hindus,
and, like the latter, abstains from flesh, for the same reason.

Thus we find the doctrine of Reincarnation at the heart of all the
great religions of antiquity. The reason it has remained in a germinal
state in recent religions--Christianity and Islamism--is that in the
latter Mohammed did not attain to the degree of a Hierophant, and in
all likelihood the race to which he brought light did not greatly need
to become acquainted with the law relating to the return to earth
life; whereas in the former the real teachings of the Christ were lost
when the Gnostics were exterminated, and Eusebius and Irenaeus, the
founders of exoteric Christianity, unable to grasp the spirit,
imposed the letter throughout the religion.

Next: The Doctrine Of Rebirth In Modern Philosophy

Previous: The Early Christian Church

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