Facts and Fancies About Reincarnation, Part 1(2)
Viewed from the physical plane, we now see that the good consists of material and objective advantages, but that viewed from the plane of spirit the good consists of such subjective and spiritual advantages as are usually found in deadly conflict with advantages material. These two ideas of good antagonize. One cannot at the same time worship God and Mammon. They are just as opposite as the sun viewed from the earth, and the earth viewed from the sun. As a consequence of this dual viewpoint, the spiritual philosopher might accuse the Creator of injustice if he were born in easy circumstances, while the materialist might bewail his fate if born in humble surroundings. From this it must be plain that the popular conception of Karmic Law—reward and punishment meted out in terms ofmaterial advantages—is purely and completely a materialistic doctrine.
Returning now to a logical standpoint: All must admit that viewing it from the angle of soul progression we are unable to say, in any particular case, which are the good events and which the evil; for an event that is utilized by one soul may prove a hindrance to another. An event at one period of life may produce an opposite effect than if experienced at a different time. It will be seen, then, that any just system of reward must be based upon the momentary needs of the soul. And who shall say, at any given time, what experiences will advance the soul furthest in the long run and help it evolve its latent attributes? The experiences of life meet the transitory and constantly shifting requirements of the soul, but the apparent inequalities of this life—which of itself is but the tick of the second hand on the watch timing the soul’s infinite flight—these inequalities, I affirm, are indeterminate.
Another purely materialistic conception is the idea that nowhere in the vastness of the boundless universe can justice be meted out except on this speck of dust called earth. Millions of worlds crowd space, larger and grander than ours; electromagnetic, astral, and spiritual worlds, as well as those material. Planes interpenetrate planes, all swarming with intelligent life. The world of matter is concrete to our physical senses, but not so in reality. The electrons of matter are comparable—relative to their size in proportion to their distances—to the planets of our solar system. Electromagnetic, astral, and spiritual worlds are as real and tangible to the senses of their denizens as is the earth to man. In fact, as is the testimony of the many exalted souls who temporarily freed from the body have visited that glorious realm, the spiritual world is a world of increased consciousness. So, too, the astral spheres surrounding the earth are fully as actual as the material world. There the sensations of pleasure and pain are far more intense than those in the physical. Then why should the physical world be the only place where man can expiate his errors? The experiences of seers, prophets, and initiates testify that in the spheres interior to the physical man has every opportunity for atonement and purification, and every facility for progress. That the doctrine of Karma as taught finds a following at all seems tome to be due to the difficulty many have, even as they cannot imagine a country with different customs, of conceiving any reality beyond their immediate experience.
Then again, a system of morals based upon doing good for reward, either in this life or the next, is at heart a system of selfishness. And to hold that the earth is the only place where divine justice can be administered is materialistic. Yes! It is worse than materialistic; for materialism at least offers the encouragement of oblivion after death. But human reincarnation blights all hope by dooming to innumerable lives—with all their agonies and heartaches, amid worldly conditions that already have become to the pure in heart a hell of avarice, selfishness, sensuality, and carnal desire—in human form.
What, then, may we consider the cause of the apparent inequalities of life? They are the result of the quality and nature of each soul harmonizing with or antagonizing its environment. It attracts to itself an environment corresponding in vibratory rate to the thought-cells present in the astral body with which it has clothed itself. These thought-cells have been organized by its various experiences in lower forms of life. Experiences of a certain type impress their influence upon the sensitive astral form as a definite organization of energy. This organization of energy persists in the astral form when it is attracted to and becomes incarnated in a higher species of life and tends to attract it to experiences of a similar type. If the experiences have been inharmonious, it tends by vibratory affinity to attract other discordant experiences; but if the experiences were harmonious, it tends to attract other harmonious experiences of the same type.
The soul, in its involution through higher worlds, and its evolution through life-forms from mineral to man, attracted to itself experiences of a given kind because of its original polarity—its original quality of vibration. This original attractive and repellent quality arose at the differentiation of the soul as the result of cosmic need. That is, there was the need for a soul of definite qualities in the universal scheme of things, and this universal need, this void to be filled, through the agency of its angelic parents, gave the soul its basic trend. The influence of the thought-cells organized by experience is beautifully illustrated in astrology. The planets are not the cause of a person’s condition in life. They merely correspond to the thought-cells in his astral form. These thought-cells, and their organization within his finer bodies, are his character. His character, therefore, because of the strong and weak, harmonious and discordant desires of its thought-cells, attracts to him the conditions and events of his life. To be sure, these conditions and events are shown in the astrological birth chart, but only because a child is not born until its vibrations correspond with the vibratory rates received upon the earth from the planets. After birth the planets send him
energies that have an influence upon his actions, just as the weather and other factors of his physical environment also have an influence upon his actions. But it is really the activities of thought-cells within his astral form that attract conditions and events, the positions of the planets, by their stations and aspects, mapping these activities in the astral body. If they are harmonious, they denote prosperity, but if discordant, they signify adversity.
The fortune of a person, then, is the affect of the environment thus attracted reacting upon the character. And a character that is amartyr in one age, in another might be an object of adoration. A tyrant born at an opportune time and place might rise to the throne, while in a different environment might as quickly mount the scaffold. Human reincarnation would have us believe the martyr suffered torture because of sins in some past life, and the successful tyrant was given the power to scourge him to the flames because of good done in some remote incarnation. But the very good fortune of the tyrant in this life leads to actions, as material fortune often does, that will make him an object of commiseration in the future. I am loath to think the spiritual giants who have left their footprints on the sands of time have endured the suffering which has been their common heritage in expiation of past misdeeds; or that wealthy parasites, living in luxury upon the very heart’s blood of the poor, are thus being rewarded for beneficence in ages gone. Instead, I must adopt the old Hermetic teaching that, even as children on earth have physical parents, so do souls at their differentiation, before their descent into matter, have angelic parents. These angelic parents are not the creators of souls; but by their parenthood offer the conditions for souls to enter the grand cycle of necessity.
Souls, then, are differentiated by angelic parents in response to a definite universal need, and each is sent out to be educated to perform a required function in universal affairs. Its inherent character, persisting potentially from the moment of its differentiated existence as an entity, and determined by the universal need that called it into differentiated existence, endows it with definite attractive and repulsive qualities. Because of this basic polarity which it acquired at the moment of differentiation, during its cyclic journey down through spiritual and astral realms, and then evolving up through various forms from mineral to man, it is attracted more strongly to certain phases of life than to others. It is the qualities thus developed in lower impersonal forms, persisting as thought-cells within the astral body, that tend to attract events and environment of corresponding quality, harmony or discord, when the soul finally incarnates as man.
Now, a little observation will show that the object of Nature in life is diversity of expression, not identical expression. The requirements of universal life need souls of various qualities, even as civilization requires men and women adapted to many trades and professions. All men are not fitted to be artists, or musicians; and it is well that they are not, for the world needs those skilled in mechanics and those who produce food. Neither have souls the same destiny. All are essential in the cosmic scheme, and find their greatest joy in doing their appointed tasks. Blessed are they when they have found their work! And who shall say what is great and what is small in this universal scheme of things, or whom are the important ones? Should the hand criticize the foot for lack of equal dexterity, or the eye be envious of the ear, or the heart feel it has been unjustly treated because it is not given the work of the lungs? Souls differ as do the trees in the forest, not alone in magnitude, but as to their ultimate goal. Mature trees represent the kind of seed planted plus the environment since planting. A human represents the inherent nature of the soul plus its experiences while involving and while ascending through various forms from mineral up to man. But no environment will make a fir tree grow from an acorn, nor a soul springing from the planetary family of Saturn into an aggressive warrior. Oaks, firs, cedars, and fruit trees, each have an economic value. It would be difficult to say which is of most importance. Each species also differs in the size and quality of individuals. So also souls springing from the same family, state of spiritual life, and degree of emanation, differ one from another. Not only may they have different angelic parents, but their experiences previous to human incarnation may widely differ. Consequently, when they arrive at the human stage of their pilgrimage their educational needs, in order to round out their latent qualifications for universal usefulness, are very different.
The character at birth is the result of the soul’s past experiences reacting on its inherent quality, just as the character of a horse or a dog is likewise the result of past incarnations in still lower forms. That a man must have had innumerable human incarnations because he has a brilliant intellect is tantamount to saying a race horse must have had innumerable incarnations as a horse—at times being a wild horse, a farm horse, a dray horse, a buggy horse,—etc. in order to be a race horse. Or must we say that a setter must have passed incarnations as a mongrel, a terrier, a hound, a coach dog, etc.? Not so! The soul never incarnates in the same species twice. It is ever drawn to a species higher in the scale of evolution. It is a dog but once, and whether a cur or a life-saving New Foundland depends upon its transitory need for experience. A horse will be a horse but once, but whether a plug or a driver will depend upon its incidental polarity, and has nothing whatever to do with its sins or good deeds to other horses in past lives.
Likewise, the soul inhabits the physical form of man but once; and whether as a Bushman or a college professor depends upon its transitory need for expression. Then it passes to a higher form in the scale of evolution, which in this case is a spiritual form. To say that each man needs all possible experiences and all kinds of human lives is to assume that Nature’s aim is identity of expression. But Nature’s aim, as a glance around must assure us, is specialization. This principle of division of labor and specialization of parts, as well as the development of individualism, is glaringly apparent in all her work.
Nor is the disparity between races of mankind so great as was formerly thought. The science of language has in later years made this plain. Even the Australian Bushman, when given the same educational advantages, is found to rival his European brother in attainment; although, of course, following the law of specialization, each race more readily becomes proficient in certain lines. But among human beings there are not, as among animals and birds and plants, different families, different genera, and different species. All belong to a single species—Homo Sapiens—the various sub-species, or races, being due, as sub-species usually are, to the affect of local
environment. Certainly, the savagery practiced in modern warfare by civilized nations cannot be
surpassed by the aborigines of any land. The love of pillage is just as strong in the breasts of our millionaires as in those of the lowly savage. To be sure, the average savage follows a stricter code of morals than that to be found in our populous centers of civilization. And it should be remembered that intellect is no mark of spirituality; for the intellectual geniuses have all too often been the scourges of mankind.
At first glance it would seem that the savage labored under a great disadvantage; but when we consider that responsibility can only be measured by opportunity, and that the savage usually makes as much of his opportunities as the civilized man, if not more, it alters our conception. For karma, if just, must deal lightly with those who err through ignorance, while punishing severely those who know the right and deliberately forsake it for the wrong. Yet where knowledge of spiritual things is concerned, the savage usually has the best of it; for living close to Nature he draws from her the knowledge of a spiritual life and frequently communes with the dead, while civilized man, having his inner senses blunted by artificial living, scoffs at all his dollars cannot buy.
The savage, therefore, when he passes to the life after physical death will have but a few foolish notions and fetishes to forget. But the civilized man will be encumbered by a thousand false scientific and religious teachings, as well as the fetish of his egotism. He usually is so sure nothing can lie beyond his preconceptions that he will free himself from them only with great difficulty.
But what narrow vision is it that would single out from the illimitable chain of existences that forms the cycle of the soul, this particular link of destiny as the only one needing consideration in the light of divine justice? Is the horse that is whipped, or the dog that is starved and beaten, or the deer wounded in the chase, so tortured because of sins committed in the past? If we look about us we find that suffering is Nature’s means of furthering evolution; for suffering is the common heritage of life as we observe it. The rose grows thorns and the cactus develops spines to escape the pain inflicted by foraging beasts. Man builds a new machine to escape the suffering of arduous toil.Weall have suffered in the lower kingdoms. To single out what a man suffers here, or what he gains here, from what he has gained in the past, and what lies before him in the superb vistas of the future, is to try to judge the size and splendor of a mountain range by looking at a single pebble.
Those who die young grow to maturity and are given all the opportunities for progress in the astral world. The mission of external life is to develop self-consciousness, and that once attained there is ample opportunity in higher spheres for further development. Whatever is necessary for the development and culture of man can be found there. A savage or a child can be taught there quite as readily as here. It may be asked, then, of what use is external life if its lessons can be learned elsewhere. It is a necessary experience for the realization of self-consciousness. But even as an animal species is one link in the evolutionary chain, and the soul incarnating in it passes at death to the next higher form regardless of whether it lived in Africa or America, whether it lived a few days, or for years, or whether it was permitted all the experiences common to the species or not; so man at death passes on in his evolution, even though on earth much restricted. And he will find, to recompense him for loss of opportunity on earth, other advantages on the next plane.
If a man’s miseries are due to karma resulting from sin, in his first incarnation when he had no evil karma he must have had all opportunities, all happiness, all blessings. It is surprising under such conditions that he should ever have sinned and brought the vengeance of suffering upon his head. Apparently everyone is sinking deeper in the mire of sin, for suffering is everywhere prevalent. And if we could not escape sin when we were free from malignant karma, how can we expect to live blameless lives with the weight of it now like millstones about our necks? If we explain human suffering and lack of opportunity by referring it to the just action if karma, we are then called upon to explain the justice of the equally great suffering and inequalities of the animal world. When man is born into human form the first time he has had no moral karma, for like the animals he has been previously irresponsible. But animals suffer in spite of their lack of karma, and animals of the same species have unequal opportunities. It is only when man attains self-consciousness and becomes morally responsible that he can make good or evil karma. Therefore, as in his first appearance on earth he had previously been an irresponsible agent, he could have had no evil karma. His condition then must have been determined by something besides karma. What this is that determined man’s condition in his first incarnation reincarnationists do not tell us. But certainly it is preposterous to suppose that all men in their first incarnation are born with the same or equal characters and opportunities, in equal environments, and undergo equal suffering. Nowhere in Nature do we observe any such equal condition. Is it not more probable then, that the same factors that determine an animal’s condition of life also determined man’s?
Even could it be shown that all people in their first incarnation had equal opportunities and equal happiness, there would yet remain to be explained the great injustice that gives to one person a character at his first human incarnation—before the intervention of karma—that enables him to triumph over evil and avoid generating much evil karma; while giving to another aweak and feeble character that has not the power to resist evil, and thus accumulates a terrific karmic burden. Before the intervention of this karma the individual could not have been responsible for the kind of character he possessed. But if characters were equal and opportunities were equal, experiences would be equal, and we would not witness the apparent inequalities that we daily observe. So, after all, that a soul is endowed with a weak character before attaining responsibility would seem as great an injustice as that of being given poor opportunities.
The justice of difference in character which, to account for the differences to be observed in lives, must be admitted if it be held that advantages are meted out justly, can only be explained by the obvious fact that there is need for various kinds of souls who undergo different experiences. Karma plays no part as amoral agent until moral responsibility is attained. Man is ushered into life once without such karma, then, and subject to the very inequalities karma was invented to explain. Numerous lives only increase the suffering, for suffering is common to physical life, none being entirely free from it. Karma serves no real purpose and removes the hope of being free from this suffering to a remote future. To justify the suffering of one life, reincarnationists have substituted equally unjust suffering through many hundred lives. Unjust, because in nearly all cases the one punished is entirely ignorant of why he is suffering. It is as if aman were to whip a grown dog for offenses committed when he was a puppy.
Karma has no power to force man back upon earth. Nature does not reverse her operations. The soul on the ascending arc of evolution cannot reincarnate in a lower form, nor can it thwart the purpose of the life-wave by repeatedly reincarnating in any one species of life. The life-wave carries man irresistibly to the next stage, which is above the physical. Karma really embraces the astral organizations which we have built into our astral bodies previous to and during earthly life. These, by the law of magnetic affinity, after death attract us to conditions corresponding to their vibratory rates and compel us to work out our redemption from evil face to face with the motive prompting every earthly deed, with conscience presiding as the judge.
The factors that determine man’s condition in life when born into human form, are the original polarity of the soul, plus the various thought-cells organized in the astral form through his experiences in the lower forms of life through which he has evolved. His condition at any time during human life is determined by the organizations of energy in his astral form at birth, plus those added by the various thoughts and deeds up to the time considered. Likewise, his condition immediately after death is determined by the thought-cells organized in his astral body up to the time of death. As morality or lack of it is most effective during human life in power to give these thought-cells special desires, atonement is not amatter of vengeance. It is a purification preparatory to a higher phase of life in which, if there is suffering, there is full knowledge of what caused it. We find, therefore, that human reincarnation as usually taught is illogical, unjust, purely speculative, hope destroying, and completely materialistic.
It is an orthodox teaching of the Orient; and orthodox beliefs of both East and West were formulated in a period when men knew almost nothing about how Nature operates. How Nature is actually observed to perform, the Universal Law of Compensation, and the true significance of pleasure and pain are explained in Course 19, Organic Alchemy.