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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
very 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
proven."

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
experiences?"

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.





Next: Arguments Against Reincarnation

Previous: The Argument For Reincarnation



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