Question: Why, with a few exceptions, are we reincarnated, without having the slightest knowledge of any previous existence, to suffer blindly in this life for transgressions committed in some former life of which we are now entirely ignorant? Could we not advance better and quicker spiritually if we knew where we had erred before and what acts we must correct before we can progress?
Answer: It is one of the greatest blessings to man that he does not know his previous experiences until he has attained considerable spiritual advancement, because there are in our past lives (when we were much more ignorant than we are now) dark deeds that call for retribution, and this fate is being gradually liquidated, so that did we know our past lives, did we know how and when the law of cause and effect will bring to us retribution for past misdeeds, we would see this impending calamity hovering over us, and fear of our fate would then be apt to rob us of the strength wherewith to battle against it, and at the time of its arrival we should stand appalled and helpless.
On the other hand, not knowing what is behind us, we escape knowing what is before us, and, therefore, we learn the lessons without being deprived of our strength by fear. Besides, for those who wish to know, there are certain means of knowing what lessons we are to learn and how best to learn them. For instance, our conscience tells what we are to do or not to do. If we care to study the science of astrology the horoscope tells us our tendencies and the lines of least resistance, so that by working with these laws of nature we may advance quickly, and the more we follow the dictates of our conscience the more we study the laws of nature as revealed by astronomy, the quicker we shall be ready for first-hand knowledge.
In "Zanoni," Bulwer Lytton speaks of a fearsome specter which met Glyndon as he was attempting to enter a step in unfoldment not hitherto attained by him, and that is called in esotericism the "Dweller on the Threshold." Between the time of death and a new birth, this Dweller on the Threshold is not seen by man, but it is the embodiment of all our past evil deeds, that must first be passed by one who wishes to enter the inner worlds consciously and attain to a full knowledge of conditions there; but there is also another Dweller which is the embodiment of all our good deeds, and that one may be said to be our Guardian Angel.
If we have the courage to pass the hideous one, which is perceived first because formed of coarse desire matter, we shall soon obtain the conscious help of the other and then we shall have the strength to stand fearless in the storms of vilification that come to all who attempt the path of unselfishness. But before we have passed this specter we are not fitted for knowledge of our previous lives; we must rest content with the ordinary view given to mankind.
Question: Are all the human beings that people the Earth at the present time souls that have gone through earth life before, or are new souls being created all the time?
Answer: The ingress of the spirits into the human bodies, as constituted at the present time, commenced in the stage of the world's solidification known as the Lemurian Epoch, and was not fully completed until the middle of the Atlantean Epoch, a period of time occupying, perhaps, millions of years. But since that time, there has been no farther ingress; the door is definitely closed because we have now evolved so far that those who had not reached the stage where they could manipulate a human body at that time would be too far behind us to catch up with our further development. Since that time, the spirits which were embodied in human shapes have been evolving by repeated embodiments so that, without exception, every one of the human beings now on earth has been embodied at different times and in different environments.
Question: How do we know beyond a doubt that rebirth is a fact? Is it not possible that those who so state may be suffering from hallucination?
Answer: The trained clairvoyant who is able to read in the memory of nature may follow the lives of people from their present state backward, through the years of childhood. He will then see them in infancy, follow them through the gestatory period to the time when the spirit entered the womb of the mother. He may go back through their heaven life, their life in Purgatory, arriving at the time of death in the previous life, then follow them backward and see the whole life. But in the case of an adult, the time involved is usually a thousand years or more, and of course, it is possible, were there no other means of verification, that this might be hallucination. In the cases of children, however, who have not reached puberty there is a comparatively short interval between incarnations. In such a case it is easy to verify a re-embodiment among one's own acquaintances, and that is in fact part of the education of a pupil of the Elder Brothers. He is shown a child which is about to die and is told to watch that child in the invisible world for perhaps one or two years, following it step by step until it takes a new embodiment — perhaps with the same and possibly with other parents. When the pupil has thus followed an Ego through the invisible worlds from one death to the next birth, he knows absolutely that the law of rebirth is a fact in nature, and he often has occasion on account of his other investigations, to pursue such studies of the past lives of many individuals.
Still, it may be urged, is not this clairvoyance of which he speaks as his means of investigation in itself a hallucination? May he not be, although perfectly honest, the victim of a chimerical vision? It may be stated in answer to that suggestion, that he has every day at his disposal the means for verifying his observations. When a man has visited the city of New York and has seen the city he will never be tempted to say, I wonder if I could have been mistaken? He has been there and knows it. So it is with the clairvoyant. At times when he leaves his body he meets and works with people whom he does not know in ordinary life. Later he may be invited to visit these friends from the invisible world; he may travel by their clairvoyant direction to a city where he is a stranger; he may find them in the street and house seen clairvoyantly, recognize them and be himself recognized. He may then converse with these friends of the things they did and the places they visited in their invisible bodies, and if he ever had any doubt of the reality of his life outside the dense physical world, he is then once and for all time convinced of the reality of his experiences while out of the body. He knows that they are not strange, he knows that he cannot have been glamoured, but that his life there, his work there and his experiences there are as real as his life, his work and his experiences here.
Question: Do the souls that have passed into Purgatory and through the First, Second and Third Heavens come back here and reincarnate in this Earth, or do they go to other spheres?
Answer: They come back to this earth again until they have learned the lessons that can be learned here. It is essentially the same principle as when we send a child to school. We do not send it to kindergarten one day, to grammar school the next, and to college the third day, but we send it to kindergarten day after day for a long time, until it has learned all the lessons that are to be learned there. The knowledge it has gained in kindergarten forms the basis for what it is to learn in the grammar school; that again is the foundation for the lessons of the high school and the college. By a similar process we have learned lessons under different conditions in the past, and in the future, when we have learned all that can be learned from our present earth environment, we shall also find the tasks of higher evolutions awaiting us. There is endless progress, for we are divine as our Father in heaven, and limitations are impossible.
Question: Do we come in contact with the friends of one life when we are born again into a new earth life?
Answer: The law of rebirth has for its companion law the law of causation. It will be manifestly apparent that there are many causes set going by all of us which do not bring about effects in this life. For instance, a husband is sick and the wife cares for him with great self-sacrifice. There is obviously a debt there, and if the sickness continues until the end of the husband's life, there is in that life no opportunity for a return of the favor. But if we know what the laws of nature are and how they operate, we shall understand that they are not set aside by such small matters as cessation of life in a certain body. If we break a limb it is not healed the next day, although we may have slept at night unconscious of our hurt; but when we awaken the limb is in about the same condition as on the previous day. So it is with the deeds done in the body in one life. Although we pass through the life between death and a new birth, and are now unconscious of former lives, nevertheless, when we enter upon a new life, the law of association, the causes generated in a former life, will bring us into a new environment where we shall find our old friends and our old foes. We know them, too, although perhaps we do not directly recognize them. Sometimes, however, we meet a person for the first time and are drawn to that person; we feel as if we had known that person all our lives, and that we could trust him or her with everything we have. That is because the spirit within sees an old friend and recognizes him, though unable to impress the recognition upon the brain it now possesses. Or perhaps we may meet a person and feel that we would not care to be in his company; we instinctively dislike him though we have no reason from ordinary points of view; but there also it is the recognition of the spirit which bridges the past and sees an old-time enemy. Thus our instinctive likes and dislikes are guides, dictated by former experiences, and they will usually be found to be reliable in the light of subsequent experience.
Question: Is the experience gained in each incarnation recorded separately and added to the previous ones, so that in the end the spirit will be entirely conscious of the complete sum of its experiences, or is the experience of one life more or less unconsciously absorbed by the next succeeding incarnation, so that only a general effect is obtained?
Answer: When we were children we learned to write and we went through many awkward motions before we had finally cultivated the faculty. In the years that have gone by we have forgotten all about the experiences we went through while learning, but our faculty remains ready for our use at any time required.
In a similar manner, experiences we have had in different lives are usually forgotten by the man, but the faculties he has cultivated remain and ready for his use at any time. Thus we sometimes see a man who has never had a lesson in painting who is nevertheless an artist to the very tips of his finger ends, able to paint the most wonderful pictures. He has brought over from past lives a faculty which he is now able to use. When we hear of a Mozart composing at three years of age, that also shows the accumulation of the sense of harmony in the past. Thus it may be said that, although we do not remember, we always have the faculties cultivated in our past lives for use in the present. It is that which makes the difference between man and man; between the dune and the sage.
There is, however, also a record in nature of our past lives in their minutest detail. The trained clairvoyant who is able to read in the memory of nature can follow the past lives of a man backwards, as, for instance, the film of a moving picture is unrolled in reverse order. He will see the man's present life first, his birth, his previous sojourn in the invisible world, next the death of the previous life, which will then unroll itself in reverse order through old age, manhood, youth, childhood and infancy, back to that birth, and so on through the various lives.
Question: When the spirit, coming down to rebirth, has drawn to itself its mind stuff and sinks into the Desire World, is it not then in Purgatory again?
Answer: The difficulty of the inquirer is that he has not fully comprehended what constitutes Purgatory. Purgatory is in the lower regions of the Desire World, but these regions are not Purgatory to those who have nothing to be purged from. The low desires of man are formed of the desire stuff from this region, and as they cannot be gratified, the man suffers. Besides, there the force of repulsion is supreme, and when the Ego is passing outward to the Heaven World it has in its desire body pictures of the evil acts it has committed. These pictures are formed also of coarse desire stuff, because they were generated by the passions of the man at the time he committed the evil act which they depict, and the centrifugal force of repulsion seeks to expel them from his makeup. It is the process of tearing them out that causes the pain he feels. When, on the other hand, the Ego passes through this region on its way to rebirth, the centripetal force of attraction brings new desire matter into its makeup. Then it is not Purgatory at all; neither is it Purgatory for the Invisible Helpers who go among the spirits in prison endeavoring to aid them in learning the lessons that shall make them better men and women. It is only where evil has to be expurgated by a spirit that it feels this region as being purgative.
Question: How can you believe in the theory of reincarnation that we come back here in the body of an animal? Is it not much more beautiful to believe in the Christian doctrine that we go to heaven with God and the angels?
Answer: The writer has never advocated the views attributed to him by the inquirer, who, evidently, has not studied the question at all. There is a doctrine among some of the most ignorant tribes in the East teaching the theory of transmigration, that the human spirit may incarnate in the bodies of animals, but that is very different from the doctrine of reincarnation, which holds that man is an evolving being progressing through the school of life by means of repeated embodiments in bodies of gradually improving texture. The Christ said to his disciples, "Be ye therefore perfect, as the Father in heaven is perfect." That was a definite command, and the Christ would never have given it if it were unattainable; but we all know that we cannot reach that goal in one short life. Given time and the opportunities afforded by repeated embodiments and changed environments, however, we shall some time accomplish the work of perfecting ourselves.
There is no authority in any of the sacred writings of the East, even, for such a belief as transmigration. The only semblance to such an idea is found in the Kathopanishad, Chapter 5, Verse 9, which says that some of the souls, according to their deeds, return to the womb to be reborn, but others go into the motionless. Meaning, in the opinion of some, that they may reincarnate down even as low as the mineral kingdom. The Sanskrit word used in that place is sthanu, which also means a pillar, and read thus it gives the same idea as the passage in Revelation which says: "Him that overcometh, I will make a pillar in the house of my God, thence he shall no more go out." When humanity has reached perfection, there will come a time when they will no more be tied to the wheel of births and deaths, but will remain in the Invisible Worlds to work thence for the upliftment of other beings.
Besides, transmigration is an impossibility in nature, because there is in every human body an indwelling individual spirit, while each tribe of animals is ruled by a common, or group spirit, of which these animals all form a part, and no self-conscious Ego can enter into a body ruled by another.
The inquirer asks whether it is not much more beautiful to believe in a heaven with God and the angels? Perhaps it is, but we are not concerned so much with that which may be pleasing to our passing fancy as with finding the truth, and although this doctrine of reincarnation is sometimes derided by wiseacres as impossible and a heathen doctrine, it is really not a question of whether it is heathen or not either. When we deal with a mathematical problem, we do not care who first solved it; all we are concerned with is, has it been properly solved? Likewise with this doctrine, no matter who taught it first, it is the only one that will solve all the problems of life in a rational manner, whereas, the theory that a man who perhaps never cared about music and did not know the first thing about harmony, immediately after he has died develops an insatiable passion for music and will remain content to toot in a trumpet or strum on a harp for all eternity, is rather more ridiculous.