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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 renders 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.

Next: The Proofs Of Reincarnation

Previous: The Justice Of Reincarnation

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