Rosicrucian Writings Online
The Rationalism of ReincarnationSOME INTERESTING POINTS REGARDING A
VERY ANCIENT DOCTRINE
By The Imperator
[H. Spencer Lewis]
[From The Rosicrucian Digest February 1930]
SOONER or later the seeker for mystical truth and a rational solution of some of life's problems comes face to face with the very old doctrine of reincarnation. Usually it is at this point in his search that he either becomes initiated into the more secret doctrines of the mystic philosophers of all lands or ends his quest and forever closes the book of mystical revelation. In other words, it is the one bridge, the crossing of which with confidence and trust brings illumination and convincing evidence of many higher principles or the hesitancy of crossing brings an abrupt ending to the search for greater light.
Truly, it is not necessary for the seeker for higher knowledge to accept the doctrine of reincarnation and make it a part of his beliefs or convictions in order to prosper in his search and attain higher knowledge. The true seeker may reject with logic and rational sentiment the doctrine in its entirety and proceed to great heights, but he must reject the doctrine not with a bias conclusion that it is false and untrue but rather with that open mind that says: "I do not understand; I cannot comprehend, so I will pass it by and wait until I am convinced of its truthfulness or of its falsity." It is seldom, however, that he who refuses to accept the doctrine does so with such an attitude, and, therefore, it brings the sudden close to his future enlightenment.
After all, what is there about the doctrine of reincarnation in its true principles that is so difficult for the minds of the western world to accept? We may get to the answer to this question if we ask another: "What is there about the religious training and convictions of the minds of the western world that leaves no place for the acceptance of the doctrine of reincarnation?" Nearly three-fourths of the earth's population have accepted the doctrine for many centuries, and a careful analysis shows that practically only the modern Jewish religion and the Christian religion are devoid of principles that permit of the acceptance of the true doctrine of reincarnation, and strange to say, both of these religions originally contained the acceptance of reincarnation as is proved by the early scriptural writings of these religions still accessible and even still accepted. Before touching further on this point, let us examine the rationalism of the doctrine of reincarnation.
Is it inconsistent with every other manifestation in life with which we are familiar to say that nothing dies, but simply changes, and is reborn again in a similar though slightly higher form? Science tells us that both matter and energy are indestructible and that no matter how we change the nature of matter, it still remains an element in its gross domain and reveals itself progressively again in other forms. If we believe that the human personality or soul or spiritual character within each human body ceases to exist at the end of its cycle of expression on this earth plane and never again manifests itself in a similar physical form or in a similar earthly expression, we have then the only exception to a great universal law. To the minds of even the ancient philosophers and to the minds of every student of natural and spiritual law, such an exception seems incongruous and impossible.
I am not unmindful of the fact that there is a very serious and general misunderstanding of the doctrine of reincarnation in the western world. For some unexplainable reason, even enlightened minds in the western world have confused reincarnation with an ancient superstitious doctrine called metempsychosis. That doctrine was itself a misconception of the doctrine of reincarnation held by the illiterate, impious, and non-inquiring minds of ancient times, which were given to all sorts of superstitious and mythological beliefs. These persons were prone to believe and, in fact, found some form of satisfaction in believing that not only was rebirth on earth a law of the human soul, but that the rebirth would occur in lower forms of physical expression such as dogs, donkeys, reptiles, birds, and other animals, many of which were esteemed as holy beasts in their heathen religions. To find thinking men and women of today, and especially physicians and clergymen scoffing at the idea of reincarnation on the basis that they did not "believe that the human soul would be born again in a dog or cat" is one of the astonishing things of our present day understanding of natural and spiritual laws.
The average orthodox Christian is perhaps the most strenuous objector to the acceptance of the doctrine of reincarnation on the basis that it refutes or contradicts the doctrines of the Christian belief. I wonder how many of these who may read this article of mine will be tolerant enough for a few minutes to analytically examine their own thoughts in this regard and permit a few questions to reach their unbiased reasoning. Do these Christian persons realize that there is nothing in the Bible in either the standard or revised versions that actually contradicts the doctrine of reincarnation or makes that doctrine inconsistent with the religious principles revealed in the scriptures? I will admit that the doctrine of reincarnation appears to be inconsistent with certain creeds and certain theological principles sponsored by the Christian churches, but may I call attention to the fact that these creeds and doctrines are elements composed by church councils and church fathers in years more recent than the writing of the Holy Bible. Such creeds and doctrines are, therefore, theological postulations and not fundamental Christian principles either revealed by Jesus or taught by His disciples. From a purely orthodox and dialectical point of view, therefore, it is not the doctrine of reincarnation that stands at a disadvantage, but those church creeds and doctrines, which do not have their exact counterpart in anything established by or revealed through the statements of Jesus or His disciples. In other words, if the devout Christian wishes to argue his faith on a basis of strict orthodoxy, he will find that it is more easy to accept the doctrine of reincarnation on the basis of scriptural authority than it is to reject the doctrine of reincarnation on the basis of theological doctrine.
The same remarks apply to the devout Jew in regard to the modern form of his religion.
For the sake of those who may ask where one may find any intimation in the Holy Bible to support the statement that the early Christians and the Jews preceding the Christian era believed in the doctrine of reincarnation, I would call attention to just a few salient points and quotations for that same careful consideration and analytical study that both Jew and Christian give to their theological doctrines when they attempt to interpret them as being inconsistent with the doctrine of reincarnation. In other words, if the Jew and Christian will be as tolerant and as analytical in his study of the few following scriptural quotations as he is in his attempts to contradict the doctrine of reincarnation, he will find that nothing but the doctrine of reincarnation can explain the Biblical quotations given here with a correct interpretation of the veiled mystical meaning.
Take for instance in the pre-Christian writings, we find in the book of Job, chapter 14, a number of proverbs or comments upon man's life, his birth, his living, and his passing away. We find in the twelfth verse of that chapter a very definite statement regarding the physical body of man and the fact that at so-called death the body goes into the grave and lies there until "the heavens be no more," and that this body shall never awake from its sleep. But we find in the fourteenth verse another definite statement regarding the real man, the part of man that actually lives, and here the statement is made that the real man waits for the days of his appointed time after transition until his change comes. That entire chapter of Job must be studied carefully and read analytically, as are so many of the Christian scriptures, in order to sense the divine message that is contained in it, and most certainly, the twelfth verse does not permit of any interpretation that would be consistent with the theological doctrine of the resurrection of the body from the grave and life on earth again in the same body. And verse fourteen permits of no other interpretation than that the soul of man awaits its appointed time for the change that will come. Now let us progress to the thirty-third chapter of Job. The whole chapter is extremely illuminating, especially in the latter half. In verse twenty-eight, we read that God will deliver the soul of man from the pit of the grave and his life, his soul shall see light again, and in the twenty-ninth verse we read that these things God worketh oftentimes with man. In what sense other than in the sense of reincarnation can these verses be interpreted? If the soul of man leaves the pit and comes back into the light of the living again and this happens often, surely we need search for no other definite statement to support the fundamental doctrines of reincarnation.
Bear in mind that these passages are taken from the Jewish writings and no elaborate emphasis is given to them and no attempt is made to make them appear to be outstanding religious doctrines, for they are quoted and referred to as casually as any other of the complex incidents of life, simply because the doctrine of reincarnation was so universally held and understood and was a scientific, a biological, a natural, physical law of the universe separated from religious creeds.
To show how universal was the belief in reincarnation among the Jews even during the days of the mission of Jesus, the Christ, we may turn now to the Christian Gospels and find one of a number of incidents that reveal the very thorough understanding and belief in reincarnation, and call your attention to the incident where Jesus turned to His disciples and asked that question which would be very strange indeed if we knew nothing of the doctrine of reincarnation, "and whom do they say I am?" What was Jesus asking of His disciples in this case, just what was it that he wanted to know that could be of no importance to him unless it related to some point that would reveal the spiritual perception or understanding that he hoped to find developing in the populace of the country. Jesus did not ask this question to solicit words of compliment and praise. He did not intend to solicit an answer that was complimentary to His majesty, His healing power, His great wisdom, or His divine mission. His disciples understood well what he meant, and that Jesus wanted to determine whether the populace had rightly or wrongly related Him with the great work of the prophets who had preceded Him, and whether they realized that He, the Christ, spirit incarnate, was one of their former prophets come to earth again, as had been predicted and expected. That such was His intention in asking the question is plainly indicated by the answers given by the disciples. They said that the populace believed that He was this one or that one or another one that lived before. Then when He asked His disciples as to what they understood about Him, the answer given again shows that they understood the reason for His questioning and that Jesus was anxious to determine whether His intimate association with the disciples had revealed to them that He was not only the reincarnation of a past great prophet but now the ultimate, infinite spirit of the highest attainment in divine Sonship. By reading that one incident in the life of Jesus and associating it with the statements of John, the Baptist, and other prophets regarding the one who was yet to come and the one who was yet to be born, we realize, if we have an open mind, that nothing but the doctrine of reincarnation can make understandable these passages.
And what can be found in the true and exact statements of the Gospels or of the Christian scriptures which if spiritually true make impossible the doctrine of reincarnation? Some unthinking persons have argued with me that the Christian doctrines maintain that at the time of transition, one's soul passes into a period of suspended consciousness to await the ultimate judgment day when all of us shall reach the spiritual realm and dwell eternally in the consciousness and presence of God. They further maintain that this doctrine, this fundamental belief of the Christian creed contradicts the possibility of rebirth and the doctrine of reincarnation. But does it do so? Is there anything about that Christian doctrine, which by the way is not the precise doctrine taught by Jesus, that precludes what changes that might take place oftentimes, as referred to in the Book of Job referred to above? The true doctrine of reincarnation assures us that we shall have many changes of birth and many incarnations on earth, but that ultimately, after having had many opportunities to learn the lessons of life and to compensate for our evil acts and purge ourselves of our sinful natures, we shall ultimately and finally come to the judgment day when there shall be determined whether we have become pure of spirit and pure in heart, and Godlike and worthy of eternal dwelling in the consciousness and sight of God or be condemned to eternal suffering and pain; the time of birth and the time of transition. Each night when a day is done and we close the eyes in unconscious sleep, we close a period of life filled with opportunities for good or evil, and fraught with lessons that fill our souls and spirits with sin or purge us of our evil ways. And each awakening in the morning is like being born again into light, as stated in the twenty-eighth verse of the thirty-third chapter of Job, with a new period of incarnated existence in which to correct the evils and sins of the preceding period and redeem and save ourselves before the judgment comes. If, therefore, we compare each period of incarnation on this earth like unto a day of our lives, we will see that the fact that there is an ultimate and complete suspension of earthly life preceding the hour of judgment does not preclude the possibility of intervening incarnations and periods of preparation and purging in anticipation of the ultimate judgment day.
The doctrine of reincarnation teaches among many other wonderful things, too extensive and too numerous to itemize here, that the purpose of life and its various periods of incarnations is to enable us to work out our salvation and become redeemed and ready for the final judgment day, when, if we are worthy and sinless and have made compensation for all the evils we have committed, we shall at the sound of the trumpet which will be the clarion call to the soul of the good, we shall be absorbed into the consciousness of God and remain eternally there, never to incarnate again. Is this inconsistent with the true mystical and spiritual principles taught by Jesus and His disciples? Again I must admit that it may appear to be inconsistent with some theological doctrines added to the Christian teachings in later centuries and now a formidable part of the ritual and creeds of the Christian religion, but not essentially a part of what Jesus taught and revealed.
If our members desire to have more comments on the doctrines of reincarnation and will inform me, I shall be glad to write an article on this subject for a later issue of this magazine.
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