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Title: Reincarnation - A Study in Human Evolution
Author: Pascal, Th.
Language: English
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                    [Illustration: Docteur Pascal]


                      A STUDY IN HUMAN EVOLUTION

                     THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY




                            DR. TH. PASCAL

                     TRANSLATED BY FRED ROTHWELL

    "Were an Asiatic to ask me for a definition of Europe, I
    should be forced to answer him:--It is that part of the world
    which is haunted by the incredible delusion that man was
    created out of nothing, and that his present birth is his
    first entrance into life."--SCHOPENHAUER.

                          (_Parerga and Paralipomena_, Vol. 2, Chap. 15)


                 The Theosophical Publishing Society

                       161 NEW BOND STREET, W.


       *       *       *       *       *










       *       *       *       *       *


Théophile Pascal was born on the 11th of May, 1860, at Villecroze, a
village in the South of France. His childhood was spent amid the
pleasant surroundings of a country life. Shortly after his sixteenth
birthday, a relative of his, a Catholic priest ministering in Toulon,
seeing that the youth showed considerable ability, sent for him and
presided over his studies in this large maritime centre. Before many
years elapsed, he entered the Naval Medical School of the town, which
he left at the age of twenty-two, with first-class honours. In his
professional capacity, he took several trips on vessels belonging to
the Mediterranean squadron. Four years afterwards he married, resigned
active naval service, and devoted himself to building up a practice on
land, becoming a homoeopathic physician in the great seaport itself.
It was about this time that the young doctor became interested in
Theosophy, owing to the kindly services of a former patient,
Commander Courmes. The closest friendship and sympathetic interest in
theosophic thought thus began, and continued during their common
labours subsequently in Paris, Dr. Pascal entered the Theosophical
Society in 1891, and during the course of the following year wrote a
series of articles for the _Revue Théosophique Française_. These were
continued year after year, and dealt with the most varied subjects:
Psychic Powers; The Fall of the Angels; Kâma-Manasic Elementals;
Thought Forms; Christianity, Prehistoric Races, and many others.

The young doctor had previously made a deep study of human magnetism,
which proved a most fertile ground for the sowing of the seed of the
Ancient Wisdom.

In 1898 attacks of serious nervous depression became frequent, forcing
him to cease work of every kind. Mrs. Besant persuaded him to
accompany her to India, where his general health was gradually
restored, and he was enabled to return to France in the following

He decided to leave Toulon, where he had built up a considerable
practice, and to settle in Paris, hoping to provide for the needs of
himself and his family--his wife and only daughter--by the exercise of
his profession, and at the same time to fight the good fight for
Theosophy in the capital itself.

The French Section of the Theosophical Society was founded in 1900,
and Dr. Pascal was elected General Secretary. Throughout the next two
years a number of thoughtful articles and publications appeared from
his pen. The incessant labour and attention, however, which he
bestowed on the spreading of theosophic instruction began to have its
effect on a naturally delicate constitution, and in July, 1902, when
attending the meetings of the British Convention in London, he was
prostrated by an attack of congestion of the brain. The most devoted
care was lavished on him, both in London and in Paris, the result
being that a rapid, though only temporary, recovery took place. Had he
relaxed his efforts somewhat, the cure might have been a permanent
one, but Dr. Pascal, with the penetrating vision of the mystic, saw
how pressing were the needs of the age, and how few the pioneers of
this new presentation of the Truth, so that, at whatever cost of
personal sacrifice, he plunged once more into the midst of his arduous

In 1903 a series of very fine articles on the Laws of Destiny appeared
in the _Revue Théosophique_, to be followed immediately by publication
in volume form. Two years afterwards appeared the present
the most complete of any that have so far appeared in France on this
subject, and the most popular of Dr. Pascal's publications.

In 1906 some of the nerve centres controlling the organs of speech
became affected, but not sufficiently to compel him to remain absent
from the International Theosophical Congress held that year in Paris
under the presidency of Colonel Olcott. It was on this occasion that
Dr. Pascal received from the hands of the President-Founder the Subba
Rao medal, awarded to members of the society whose literary labours in
the promulgation of the truths of Theosophy have proved eminently

Twelve months afterwards he attended the Congress at Munich, under the
presidency of Mrs. Besant, but was obliged to leave before the
termination of the meetings. This may be regarded as Dr. Pascal's last
public appearance as an active theosophist, for his subsequent
prolonged stay in the South of France effected no radical improvement
in the state of his health.

Returning to Paris in March, 1908, and realising how impossible it was
for him to fulfil the duties incumbent on a General Secretary, he
decided to resign his post. His colleagues, however, insisted on his
continuing as Honorary General Secretary. From this time onward his
health became gradually worse, and his physical life terminated on the
18th of April, 1909, his body being cremated three days afterwards at
the Cemetery of Père Lachaise.

What was most striking about Dr. Pascal, in both public and private
life, was his intense earnestness--the index of a well-grounded habit
of concentration--and the calm strength of his convictions. It was
impossible to be in his presence for any length of time without
feeling the power that emanated from him, and recognising that here
was a mighty soul struggling for expression.

Other characteristics were his extreme modesty, and his continual
endeavour to accord praise and merit to those working for the cause so
dear to his own heart. When questioned on many of the intricate points
raised in a lecture or in conversation on some abstruse theosophical
subject, he made no pretence at knowledge he did not possess; on such
occasions his confession of ignorance would be charming, even touching
in its _naïveté_.

But the qualities he seemed to feel it his special object to awaken in
the minds of others--as will be acknowledged, I think, by those who
knew him best--may be inferred from his continual insistence on the
double duty, incumbent on students of Theosophy, of practising on all
occasions the utmost tolerance, refusing not only to condemn but even
to judge harshly the opinions or actions of others, and of seizing
every opportunity to help another because of the recognition of the
One Life throughout the world, May we who read the following pages
catch somewhat of the deep earnestness and enthusiastic spirit
breathing through them, and may the joy of service dissipate all
meaner, motives, taking as our watchword also the only key to true
growth, the very heart of altruism, that exhortation he never wearied
of repeating: _Aidez! Aidez toujours!_

F. R.


It will soon be: 1500 years since the decision of the Council of 543
A.D.[1] condemned to oblivion sublime teachings which ought to have
been carefully preserved and handed down to future generations as a
beacon amid social reefs; teachings that would have uprooted that
frightful egoism which threatens to annihilate the world, and
instilled patience into the hearts of such as were being crushed
beneath the wheel of the cosmic law, by showing them the scales of
Justice inclining to the side filled with their iniquities of bygone
times; teachings which would have been welcomed by the masses, and the
understanding of which would not have called for any lofty
intellectual culture.

It was one of the greatest misfortunes that could have befallen the
races of the West, more especially the European, that they were thus
deprived for centuries of this indispensable knowledge. We look upon
it as a duty, following on so many others, to offer it anew, this time
in the clear, logical, illuminating form presented in theosophic
teachings. The necessity thereof is all the more imperative when we
consider the growth of scepticism and materialism amongst the more
intellectual classes, whilst the mass of the people have forsaken
their blind faith only to succumb to religious indifference.

To every awakened soul the question comes:

Why does evil exist?

So long as the enigma remains unsolved, Suffering remains a
threatening sphinx, opposing God and ready to devour mankind.

The key to the secret lies in Evolution, which can be accomplished
only by means of the continual return of souls to earth.

When once man learns that suffering is the necessary result of divine
manifestation; that inequalities of conditions are due to the
different stages which beings have reached and the changeable action
of their will; that the painful phase lasts only a moment in Eternity,
and that we have it in our power to hasten its disappearance; that
though slaves of the past, we are masters of the future; that,
finally, the same glorious goal awaits all beings--then, despair will
be at an end; hatred, envy, and rebellion will have fled away, and
peace will reign over a humanity made wise by knowledge.

Were this modest work to hasten forward this time by a few years, we
should feel sufficiently rewarded.

The subject will be divided into four chapters:

 (1)  The Soul and the bodies.

 (2)  Reincarnation and the moral law.

 (3)  Reincarnation and science.

 (4)  Reincarnation and the religious and philosophical
concensus of the ages.


[Footnote 1: This Council came to the following decision:--_Whosoever
shall teach the pre-existence of the soul and the strange opinion of
its returns to earth, let him be anathema!_]





In a book dealing with the resurrection of bodies and the
reincarnations of the Soul, a chapter must be devoted to the
fundamental elements of the question.

We will give the name of _Soul_ to abstract Being, to the Unknown,
that unmanifested Principle which cannot be defined, for it is above
all definition.

It is the Absolute of Western philosophers, the _Parabrahm_ of the
Hindus, the _Tao_ of the ancient sages of China, the causeless Cause
of all that has been or ever will be manifested in concrete time and

Some feeble idea of it may perhaps be obtained by comparing it with
electricity, which, though the cause of various phenomena: heat,
movement, chemical action, light, is not, _per se_, any one of these
phenomena, undergoes no modification from their existence, and
survives them when the apparatus through which they manifest

We shall set up no distinction between this Soul, which may be called
the universal Soul, and the individual soul, which has often been
defined as a ray, a particle of the total Soul, for logically one
cannot imply parts to the Absolute; it is illusion, limitation on our
part, which shows us souls in the Soul.

_Bodies_ are "aspects" of the Soul, results of its activity--if,
indeed, the Infinite can be said to be either active or passive; words
fail when we attempt to express the Inexpressible. These bodies, or,
more precisely, the varied forms assumed by force-matter[2] are
aspects of the Soul, just as light or chemical action are aspects of
electricity, for one cannot suppose anything outside of infinite
Being, nor can anything be imagined which is not a manifestation of
the abstract Whole.

Let us also define _Consciousness_.

Taken absolutely, it is Being, the Soul, God; the uncaused Cause of
all the states which, in beings, we call states of consciousness.

This limited consciousness may be defined as the faculty a "centre of
life" possesses of receiving vibrations from its surroundings. When,
in the course of evolution, a being is sufficiently developed to
become conscious of a separation between its "I" and the object which
sends it vibrations, consciousness becomes self-consciousness. This
_self_-consciousness constitutes the _human_ stage; it appears in the
higher animals, but as it descends the scale of being, gradually
disappears in non-individualised consciousness.

In a word, absolute Consciousness is one, though, as in the above
example, it is manifested differently, according to the differences in
the vehicles which express it in the concrete world in which we live.

The Soul, _per se_, is beyond the reach of beings who have not
finished the pilgrimage of evolution. To know it, one must have
attained to the eternal Centre, the unmanifested Logos. Up to that
point, one can only, in proportion as one ascends, feel it in oneself,
or acknowledge it by means of the logic which perceives it through all
its manifestations as the universal Mover of forms, the Cause of all
things, the Unity that produces diversity by means of the various
vehicles which serve it as methods of expression.

Science says that intelligence, or, to be more generic, consciousness,
results from the action of matter. This is a mistake.

Consciousness does not change in proportion as the cells of the body
are renewed; rather it increases with physical unconsciousness, as in

Thought is not the fruit of the brain; it offers itself to the latter,
ready made, so to speak; the loftiest intellectual or artistic
inspirations are flashes which strike down into the awaiting brain,
when maintaining that passive expectant attitude which is the
condition in which a higher message may be received.

The senses are not the thinking-principle. They need to be controlled
by consciousness; thus, people blind from birth, when suddenly made to
see, cannot judge either distance or perspective; like animals and
primitive men, they see nothing but colours on a surface.

Science says also: the organ is created for the function it has to
perform; again a mistake. The eyes of the foetus are constructed in
the darkness of the womb. The human germ, notwithstanding its
unconsciousness and its simplicity of structure, develops a body that
is complex and capable of a considerable degree of consciousness;
though itself unintelligent, it produces prodigies of intelligence in
this body; here, consequently, the effect would be greatly superior to
the cause, which is absurd. Outside of the body and the germ is a
supreme Intelligence which creates the models of forms and carries out
their construction. This Intelligence is the Soul of the world.

If Consciousness _per se_, or the Soul, is above all direct proof at
the present stage of human evolution, the vehicles through which it
functions are more or less apparent to us provided they are capable of
affecting the brain. At the present stage of human evolution, this is
the case only with the astral body; the other bodies are too fine to
manifest through the nervous system such characteristics as are
calculated to furnish scientists with a proof of their existence; they
can only be felt and proved in and by _Yoga_.[3]

It is not without importance, however, to set forth the proofs of the
existence of a vehicle of consciousness immediately above the
physical, for it affords us a wider horizon and throws far more light
on the rest of the subject.


Certain normal and abnormal or morbid phenomena in man have proved the
existence of this vehicle, which we will call the _higher_
consciousness, for it is far greater than normal, waking
consciousness, that of the brain. In the somewhat rare cases in which
this consciousness is expressed in the physical world, it is forced to
make use of the brain. Now, in the majority of men, the latter is
still incapable of vibrating harmoniously with the matter which forms
the astral vehicle; this is because the density of the atoms of the
brain cells which preside over thought is incapable of reproducing the
rapid vibrations of the finer matter belonging to the body immediately
above it. By special training (the _yoga_ of the Hindus), by a
particular constitution of body (_sensitiveness_), by certain special
methods (_hypnotism_), or in certain maladies (_somnambulism_), the
brain may become receptive to these vibrations, and receive from them
an impression, though always an imperfect one. The rarity of this
impression, its imperfection, and especially the necessity for the
vibration of the physical brain that it may be manifested in our
environment; all these have made it very difficult to prove the
existence of this higher vehicle; still, there are certain
considerations which show that it exists, and that it alone is capable
of explaining the most characteristic phenomena of the higher

Let us first define these two states of consciousness rather more
completely, and fix their limits.

Normal consciousness is that which functions during waking hours, when
the brain is in full physiological activity, freely and completely
related to the outer physical world. This consciousness is more or
less developed according to the individual, but its component
parts--sensation, emotion, sentiment, reason, intelligence, will,
intuition--do not exceed known limits; for instance, we do not find
clairvoyance, the prophetic faculty, and certain other abnormal
faculties, which we shall class under the higher consciousness.

The higher consciousness works in the astral body, whether
externalised or not; it seldom manifests itself, and then
incompletely; it is accompanied by the more or less complete
inhibition of the senses, and by a kind of sleep in which the
relations of the subject with the physical world are wholly or
partially suspended. The characteristics of this state are greater
keenness of the normal faculties, and the appearance of new ones,
which are often inexplicable and extraordinary and the more remarkable
in proportion as sleep is more profound, the brain calmer, or the
physiological state more abnormal.

How can we explain the paradox that faculties shown by a brain in a
state of inactivity cover an extent of ground which the brain in a
state of activity cannot approach? The reason is that the brain, in
this case, is not an instrument moved directly by the cause of
consciousness, _the soul_, but a simple recipient, which the soul,
then centred in the astral body, impresses _on returning to the
physical body_ (if it has been far away) or impresses directly when,
whilst acting in the finer vehicle, the latter has not left the

In other words, the brain, by reason of its functional inactivity,
vibrates little or not at all in its higher centres; it plays the part
of a sounding-board at rest, capable of vibrating sympathetically
under the influence of a similar board placed by its side.

The necessity of cerebral quiet, if the higher consciousness is to
make an impression, is now easy to understand; the finer vibration of
the astral body cannot be impressed upon the brain when the latter is
already strongly vibrating under the action of normal consciousness.
For this reason also, the deeper the sleep of the physical body the
better the higher consciousness manifests itself.

In ordinary man, organic quiet is scarcely ever complete during sleep;
the brain, as we shall see shortly, automatically repeats the
vibrations which normal consciousness has called forth during the
waking state; this, together with an habitual density of the nervous
elements, too great to respond to the higher vibration, explains the
rarity and the confused state of the impression of astral
consciousness on the brain.

The facts relating to the higher consciousness are as numerous as they
are varied. We shall not enter into full details, but choose only a
few phenomena quoted in well-known works.


_Normal dream._ During normal sleep there exists a special
consciousness which must not be confounded either with waking
consciousness or with that of the astral body. It is due to the
automatic, cerebral vibration which continues during sleep, and which
the soul examines on its return to the body--when awake. This dream is
generally an absurd one, and the reason the dreamer notices it only on
awaking is that he is absent from the visible body during sleep.

The proof of the departure of the astral body during sleep has been
ascertained by a certain number of seers, but the absurdity of the
commonplace dream is a rational proof thereof, one which must here be
mentioned. As another rational proof of the existence of a second
vehicle of consciousness, we must also notice the regular registering
of the commonplace dream, because it takes place in the brain, and the
habitual non-registering of the true dream experience, because this
latter takes place in the externalised astral body.

Why does the astral body leave the physical during sleep? This
question is beyond our power to answer, though a few considerations on
this point may be advanced.

Sleep is characterised by the transfer of consciousness from the
physical to the astral body; this transfer seems to take place
normally under the influence of bodily fatigue. After the day's
activity, the senses no longer afford keen sensations, and as it is
the energy of these sensations that keeps the consciousness "centred"
in the brain[5]; this consciousness, when the senses are lulled to
sleep, centres in the finer body, which then leaves the physical body
with a slight shock.

It is, however, of the real dream--which is at times so intelligent
that it has been called lucid, and at all events is reasonable,
logical, and co-ordinate--that we wish to speak. In most cases this
dream consists of a series of thoughts due to the soul in action in
the astral body; it is sometimes the result of seeing mental pictures
of the future[6] or else it represents quite another form of animistic
activity, as circumstances and the degree of the dreamer's development

It is in the lucid dream--whether belonging to normal or to abnormal
sleep--that occur those numerous and well-known cases of visions past
or future to be found in so many of the books dealing with this
special subject.

To these same states of higher consciousness are due such productions
as Walter Scott's _Ivanhoe_. The author, suffering from fever, wrote
this work whilst in a kind of delirious condition; _Ivanhoe_ was
printed before the recovery of the author, who, on reading it at a
later date, had not the slightest recollection that it was his own
production. (Ribot's _Maladies de la Mémoire_, p. 41.)

Walter Scott remembered nothing, because _Ivanhoe_ was the fruit of
the astral consciousness impressed upon a brain which fever had
rendered temporarily receptive to the higher vibrations.

There are certain peculiarities of the real dream which prove almost
mathematically the superior nature of the vehicle which gives
expression to it. This dream, for instance, is never of a fatiguing
nature, however long it may appear to last, because it is only an
instantaneous impression made upon the brain by the astral body, when
the latter returns to the physical body, on awaking. On the other
hand, the cerebral ideation of the waking state is fatiguing if
intense or prolonged, or if the nervous system of the thinker is
deprived of its normal power of resistance (_in neurasthenia_); the
commonplace (_brain_) dream is also fatiguing if prolonged or at all

Another peculiarity is that a dream--the real dream--which would
require several years of life on earth for its realisation, can take
place in a second. The dream of Maury (_Le Sommeil et le Rève_, p.
161), who in half a second lived through three years of the French
Revolution, and many other dreams of the same nature, are instances of
this. Now, Fechner has proved, in his _Elemente der Psychophysik_,
first, that a fraction of a second is needed for the sensorial contact
to cause the brain to vibrate--this prevents our perceiving the growth
of a plant and enables us to see a circle of fire when a piece of
glowing coal is rapidly whirled round; secondly, that another fraction
of a second is needed for the cerebral vibration to be transformed
into sensation. We might add that a third fraction of a second is
needed for sensation to be transformed into ideation, proving that in
these special dreams there can have been no more than an
instantaneous, mass impression of all the elements of the dream upon
the brain,[7] and that the dream itself has been produced by the
imaginative action of the soul in the astral body, an extremely subtle
one, whose vibratory power is such as to transform altogether our
ordinary notions of time and space.

_The death-bed dream._ In dying people, the bodily senses gradually
lose their vitality, and by degrees the soul concentrates itself
within the finer vehicle. From that time signs of the higher
consciousness appear, time is inordinately prolonged, visions present
themselves, the prophetic faculty is sometimes manifested, and
verified cases are related of removal to a distance, like that of the
Alsatian woman dying on board ship. During the final coma she went to
Rio de Janeiro and commended her child to the keeping of a
fellow-countryman. (D'Assier's _L'humanité posthume_, p. 47) Similar
instances are found in _The Night Side of Nature_, by C. Crowe, as
well as in other works of the same kind.

_The dream of intoxication._ Under the influence of soporifics the
same transfer of consciousness is produced, and we meet with more or
less remarkable phenomena due to the higher consciousness. Opium
smokers and eaters of hashish are able to form ideas with such
rapidity that minutes seem to them to be years, and a few moments in
dreamland delude them into the idea that they have lived through a
whole life. (Hervey's _Les rêves et les moyens de les diriger_.)

_The dream of asphyxia._ During asphyxia by submersion the higher
consciousness enters into a minute study of the life now running to
its close. In a few moments it sees the whole of it again in its
smallest details. Carl du Prel (_Philos. der Mystik_) gives several
instances of this; Haddock (_Somnolism and Psychism_, p. 213) quotes,
among other cases, that of Admiral Beaufort. During two minutes' loss
of consciousness in a drowning condition, he saw again every detail of
his life, all his actions, including their causes, collateral
circumstances, their effects, and the reflections of the victim on the
good and evil that had resulted therefrom.

Perty's account (_Die Mystischen Erscheinungen der Menschlichen
Natur_) of Catherine Emmerich, the somnambulist nun, who, when dying,
saw again the whole of her past life, would incline one to think that
this strange phenomenon, which traditional Catholicism appears to have
called the "Private Judgment," and which theosophy defines with
greater preciseness, is not limited to asphyxia by submersion, but is
the regular accompaniment of life's ending.


A rather large number of people born blind have images in dreams, and
can see with the higher consciousness, when placed in a state of
somnambulism. This proves that the higher consciousness possesses the
power of vision on its own plane, and can impress images thereof on
the brain.

That this impression may be translated into the language of the
physical plane,[8] it must evidently take place in one of the physical
centres of vision which make possible three-dimensional sight; these
centres may be intact even when the external visual apparatus does not
exist or is incapable of functioning.

A deaf and dumb idiot became intelligent and spoke during spontaneous
somnambulism (Steinbach's _Der Dichter ein Seher_). This is a case
which appears to us difficult to explain fully; indeed, if the
impression of the higher vibration on that portion of the brain which
presides over intelligence and thought can be understood, it is not
easy to see how tongue and lips could suddenly utter precise sounds
which they had never produced before. Another factor must have
intervened here, as was the case with the child prophets of the
Camisards. (V. Figuier's _Hist. du merveilleux_, _etc._)

Young Hébert, who had gone mad as the result of a wound, regained full
consciousness, the higher consciousness, during somnambulism.
(Puysegur's _Journal du traitement du jeune Hébert_.)

Dr. Teste (_Manuel pratiq. du magnét. anim._) came across madmen who
became sane just before death, _i.e._, when consciousness was passing
into the astral body. He also mentions a servant girl, quite
uneducated and of ordinary intelligence, who nevertheless became a
veritable philosopher during mesmeric somnambulism and delivered
learned discourses on lofty problems dealing with cosmogony.

This proves that the vibratory scale of the finer vehicle extends far
beyond that of the physical, and that the soul cannot impress on this
latter vehicle all that it knows when functioning in the former. By
this we do not mean that it is omniscient as soon as it has left the
visible body; this opinion, a current one, is contrary to the law of
evolution, and will not bear examination.


The memory that is lost by the brain is preserved in its entirety by
the finer vehicle.

A musician, a friend of Hervey's, once heard a remarkable piece of
music; he remembered it on awaking, and wrote it down, regarding it as
his own inspiration. Many years afterwards, he found it in an old
parcel of music where he knew it had been long before; he had totally
forgotten it in his normal consciousness. (Hervey's _Dreams_.)

Coleridge tells of a servant girl who, when in a state of delirium,
would recite long passages of Hebrew which she had formerly heard from
the lips of a priest in whose service she had been. In the same way,
she would repeat passages from Latin and Greek theological books,
which she had heard under the same circumstances; in her normal state,
she had no recollection whatever of all this. (Dr. Carpenter's _Mental
Physiology_, p. 437, 1881 edition.)

Ricard (_Physiol. et Hygiène du Magnét._, p. 183) relates the case of
a young man, possessed of an ordinary memory, but who, in
somnambulism, could repeat almost word for word a sermon he had heard
or a book he had read.

Mayo, the physiologist, states that an ignorant young girl, in a state
of somnambulism, wrote whole pages of a treatise on astronomy,
including figures and calculations, which she had probably read in the
_Encyclopædia Britannica_, for the treatise was afterwards found in
that work. (_Truths in Popular Superstitions._)

Ladame (_La Névrose hypnotique_, p. 105) mentions a woman who, having
only on one occasion been to the theatre, was able, during
somnambulism, to sing the whole of the second act of Meyerbeer's
_L'Africaine_, an opera of which she knew nothing whatever in her
waking state.

During experiments with the inhaling of protoxyde of azote, H. Davy
said that normal consciousness disappeared, and was followed by a
wonderful power of recalling past events. (Hibbert's _Philosophy of
Apparitions_, p. 162.)


The "strata of memory" met with in many cases also prove the existence
of the second vehicle of consciousness which we are trying to

Certain dreams continue night after night, beginning again just where
they stopped the previous night; this is noticed in the case of those
who talk in their sleep and in spontaneous or forced somnambulism.

The memory of one intoxicated, or in a state of fever delirium is lost
when consciousness returns from the astral to the physical body; it
comes back on the return of the delirium or the intoxication.

The same thing takes place in madness; at the termination of a crisis,
the patients take up the past just where they left it. (Wienholt's
_Heilkraft_.) Kerner relates that one of these unfortunate persons,
after an illness lasting several years, remembered the last thing he
did before the crisis happened, his first question being whether the
tools with which he had been cutting up wood had been put away. During
the whole of the interval he had been living in his higher

Ribot (_Maladies de la Mémoire_ p. 63) has noted the fact that the
same thing happens with those who fall into a state of coma after
having received a hurt or wound.


The Soul functioning in the finer body sees the physical body in a
state of coma. Dr. Abercrombie relates the case of a child aged four,
who was trepanned as the result of fracture of the skull, and whilst
in a stale of coma. He never knew what happened. At the age of
fifteen, during an attack of fever, the higher consciousness impressed
itself upon the brain, and he remembered every detail of the accident;
he described to his mother where he had felt the pain, the operation,
the people present, their number, functions, the clothes they wore,
the instruments used, etc. (Kerner, _Magikon_, vol. 3, p. 364.)

The Soul, in the finer body, during somnambulism, is separated both
from the physical body and from normal consciousness, it calmly
foresees the illness or the death of the denser body on which it
sometimes imposes serious operations. Such facts were numerous in the
case of magnetisers in olden days.

Deleuze (_Hist. crit. du magn. animal_, vol. 2, p. 173) had a patient
who, in a state of somnambulism, held moral, philosophical, and
religious opinions quite contrary to those of his waking state.

Charpignon (_Physiol., médecine et métaphys. du magnétisme_, p. 341)
tells of a patient who, when awake, wished to go to the theatre, but
during somnambulism refused to do so, saying: "_She_ wants to go, but
_I_ don't want." On Charpignon recommending that she should try to
turn _her_ aside from her purpose, she replied: "What can I do? _She_
is mad!"

Deleuze (_Inst. pratiq. s. le magét. anim._, p. 121) says that many
somnambulists look into their body when the latter is ill; that they
are often indifferent to its sufferings, and sometimes are not even
willing to prescribe remedies to cure it.

Chardel (_Esquisse de la nat. humaine expliq. p. le magn. anim._, p.
282) relates that many somnambulists are unwilling to be awakened so
as not to return to a body which is a hindrance to them.

There are many madmen who speak of their body in the third person.
(Ladame, _La Névrose_, p. 43). They function in the non-externalised
finer vehicle. Some explain their use of the third person as
follows:--"_It_ is the body; it is _I_ who am the spirit."


In these strange phenomena, not only manifestations of the higher
consciousness, analogous with or similar to those just cited, have
been noted, but also a number of facts which prove, to some extent,
the casual presence in a normal human body or in materialised abnormal
forms, of beings other than that which constitutes the personality of
the one possessed, or of the medium who conditions these
materialisations. On this point, we would mention the well-known
investigations of Sir W. Crookes (_Katie King_), those of Colonel de
Rochas (Vincent, _Un cas de changement de personnalité, Lotus Bleu_
1896), and similar experiments of other savants.

"Incarnation mediums" have often lent their physical bodies to
disincarnated human entities, whose account of what happened or whose
identity it has been possible to verify. Here I will mention only one
case amongst several others, I heard it from my friend, D. A. Courmes,
a retired naval captain, a man who is well-informed in these matters,
thoroughly sincere, and of unquestioned veracity.

In 1895, he happened to be off Algiers, on a training vessel. A boat
had sunk in the harbour, and a man was drowned. His body had not been
recovered. On the evening of the accident, my friend, accompanied by a
doctor, a professor, and the vice-president of the Court of Algiers,
attended a spiritualistic meeting in the town. One of these
"incarnation mediums" happened to be present. M. Courmes suggested
that the drowned man should be called up. The latter answered to the
call, entered the medium, whose voice and attitude immediately
changed. He gave the following account of what had taken place: "When
the boat sank, I was on the ladder. I was hurled down, my right leg
passed between two bars, occasioning fracture of the leg, and
preventing me from releasing myself. My body will be found caught in
the ladder when the boat is brought to the surface. It is useless to
seek elsewhere."

This account was shortly afterwards confirmed.

These phenomena are more frequent than one would imagine; a sufficient
number might be given to show that, judging from the theory of
probabilities, serious consideration should be given to them.


A final group of phenomena to which I wish to call attention is the
one which goes under the name of apparitions. A considerable number of
these are to be found; we will confine ourselves, however, to
referring the reader to a volume entitled _Phantasms of the Living_,
due to the patient investigations of a distinguished body of foreign
savants. Here we find, first of all, proof of the transmission of
thought to a distance. An examination into the conditions under which
most of these cases took place has convinced several students of the
existence of the finer body which we are here endeavouring to
demonstrate, as well as of the possibility of its instantaneous
transference to a great distance. As the proofs afforded by
apparitions are not mathematical, _i.e._, indisputable, and as they
give room for a variety of opinions, we will make no attempt to detail
them, preferring to pass on to a final proof--the least important,
perhaps, from a general point of view, since it is limited to the
individual possessing it; the only absolute and mathematical one,
however, to the man who has obtained it:--the personal proof.

There are persons--few in number, true--who, under divers influences,
have been able to leave the physical body and see it sleeping on a
couch. They have freely moved in an environment--the astral
world--similar to our physical one in some respects, though different
in many others, and have returned again to the body, bringing back the
memory of their wanderings. These accounts have been given by persons
deserving of credence and not subject to hallucinations.

There are other individuals, though not so numerous--of whom we have
the pleasure of knowing some personally--who are able to leave their
physical bodies and return at will. They travel to great distances
with the utmost rapidity and bring back a complete memory of their
journeyings. D'Assier gives a typical case in his work. (_L'Humanité
posthume_, p. 59.)

Such is the proof we look upon as irrefutable, as complete and
perfect. The man who can thus travel freely in his finer body knows
that the physical body is only a vehicle adapted to the physical world
and necessary for life in this world; he knows that consciousness does
not cease to function, and that the universe by no means provides the
conditions for a state of nothingness, once this body of flesh is laid

At this stage of his evolution man can, in addition, make use of his
astral body at will, and obtain on the astral plane, first by reason
and intuition, afterwards by personal experience, proof of another
vehicle of consciousness--the mental body. At a further stage he
obtains the certainty of possession of the causal body, then of higher
bodies, and from that time he can no longer doubt the teachings of the
Elder Brothers, those who have entered the higher evolution, the
worlds that are divine. He knows, beyond all possibility of doubt,
that what the ordinary man expresses in such childish language
regarding these lofty problems, what he calls the Absolute and the
Manifested, God and the Universe, the soul and the body, are more
vitally true than he imagined; he sees that these words are dense
veils that conceal the supreme, ineffable, infinite Being, of whom
manifested beings are illusory "aspects," facets of the divine

With this introduction, we will plunge at once into the heart of the


[Footnote 2: Which is nothing but an unknown "aspect" of abstract

[Footnote 3: Present-day man possesses four bodies of increasing
fineness, the elements of which interpenetrate. Proceeding from the
most dense, these are: The physical, the astral, the mental, and the
causal body. In certain conditions they are capable of dissociation,
and they last for a longer or a shorter time. The astral body, also
called the body of desire, animal soul (Kâmarûpa, in Sanskrit) is the
seat of sensation. Evolution has in store for us higher bodies
stilt--the buddhic body, the atmic body, &c.... but these need only be
mentioned at this point.

_Yoga_--Sanskrit, _union_--is a training of the different bodies of
man by the will; its object is to make of those bodies complete and
perfect instruments, capable of responding to the vibrations of the
outer universe as well as to those of the individual soul. When this
process is accomplished, man can receive, consciously and at will, in
any one of his bodies, vibrations received by the soul primarily in
one of the others; for instance, he may feel in the physical brain the
direct action of his astral or higher bodies; he may also leave the
physical, and feel directly in his astral body the action of the
mental body, and so on.

_Yoga_ can be practised only under the guidance of a Master, _i.e._, a
highly developed being, capable of guiding the student safely through
the dangers incidental to this training.]

[Footnote 4: When the astral body is externalised, the subject cannot
speak; he must await its return; when only partially externalised or
not at all, and consciousness is centred in it, the subject can speak
and relate what he sees afar off, for astral vision is possible at
enormous distances. Such cases as these are frequently met with.]

[Footnote 5: In 1876, in a Leipzic hospital, there was a patient
possessed of neither sensibility nor muscular sense. He had only sight
in the right eye and hearing in the left ear. If this eye and ear were
closed, the patient immediately fell asleep. Neither by being touched
nor shaken could he be awakened; to effect this, it was necessary to
open his eye and unstop his ear. (_Archiv. für die ges. Physiologie_,
vol. 15, p. 573).]

[Footnote 6: These pictures are often visible in the astral world;
they explain the prophetic faculty of ordinary seers.]

[Footnote 7: In such cases, by association of ideas or any other
influence, the soul dramatises the physical impression which calls
forth the dream, and creates the long phantasmagoria of this dream in
so short a time as to be scarcely appreciable. Between the sleeping
physical body and the externalised astral body there is so close a
degree of sympathy that the latter is conscious of everything that
takes place in the former. This explains why the astral body returns
so rapidly to the physical when a noise, light, or any other sensation
impresses this latter.]

[Footnote 8: We say "language of the physical plane" because the soul,
in the astral body, sees in four dimensions, _i.e._, all the parts of
an object at once, as though these parts were spread out on a
two-dimensional plane. Consequently, the higher vision needs
interpretation in order to be expressed on the physical plane.]

[Footnote 9: There are other proofs of the existence of the causal
body, the reincarnating vehicle; the principal one is given in the
middle of Chapter 3. It is there shown that the physical germs explain
only a very small portion of heredity, and that logic imperiously
demands the existence of an invisible, durable body, capable of
gathering up the germs which preserve the moral and intellectual
qualities of man.]



The Goodness, justice, and Omnipotence of God are the guarantees of

It is absolutely impossible that the faintest breath of injustice
should ever disturb the Universe. Every time the Law appears to be
violated, every time Justice seems outraged, we may be certain that it
is our ignorance alone that is at work, and that a deeper knowledge of
the net-work of evolution and of the lines of action created by human
free will, sooner or later, will dissipate our error.

For all that, the whole universe appears to be the very incarnation of
injustice. The constellations as they come into manifestation shatter
the heavens with their titanic combats; it is the vampirism of the
greatest among them that creates the suns, thus inaugurating egoism
from the very beginning. Everywhere on earth is heard the cry of pain,
a never-ending struggle; sacrifice is everywhere, whether voluntary or
forced, offered freely or taken unwillingly. The law of the strongest
is the universal tyranny. The vegetable kingdom feeds upon the
mineral, and in its turn forms nourishment for the animal; the giants
of the forests spread ruin in every direction, beneath their
destructive influence the spent, exhausted soil can nourish nothing
but weeds and shrubs of no importance. In the animal kingdom a war to
the death is ever being waged, a terrible destruction in which those
best armed for the fray pitilessly devour the weak and defenceless.
Man piles up every kind and method of destruction, cruelty and
barbarity of every sort; he tears away gold from the bowels of the
earth, mutilates the mighty forests, exhausts the soil by intensive
culture, harasses and tortures animals when unable to utilise their
muscular strength, and, in addition, kills them when their flesh is
eatable; his most careful calculations are the auxiliaries of his
insatiable egoism, and, by might or cunning, he crushes everything
that hinders or inconveniences him. Finally, from time to time, the
Elements mingle their awful voice in this concert of pain and despair,
and we find hurricanes and floods, fires and earthquakes pile up
colossal wreck and ruin in a few hours, on which scenes of destruction
the morrow's calm and glorious sun sheds his impassive beams.

And so, before reaching individual evil and apparent injustice, there
rises up before us at the very outset the threatening spectre of
universal evil and injustice. This problem is so closely bound up with
our subject that we are compelled to spend a short time in considering


To admit, as do certain ignorant fatalists, that the Universe was
created by the stroke of some magic wand, and that each planet,
kingdom, and being is condemned, so to speak, to a definite
crystallisation in the state in which it has pleased God to fix it; to
admit that the mineral will remain a mineral throughout eternity, that
the vegetable will ever reproduce the same types, that the animal will
definitely be confined to his instincts and impulses, without the
hope, some day, of developing the superior mentality of his torturers
in human form; to admit that man will never be anything but man,
_i.e._, a being in whom the passions have full play whereas the
virtues are scarcely born; to admit that there is no final
goal--perfection, the divine state--to crown man's labour; all this is
to refuse to recognise evolution, to deny the progress everywhere
apparent, to set divine below human justice; blasphemy, in a word.

It has been said by unthinking Christians that evidently God created
human suffering, so that those might gain Heaven who, but for this
suffering, would have no right to it. To speak thus is to represent
the Supreme Goodness in a very unworthy aspect and to attribute the
most gratuitous cruelty to Divine Justice. When, too, we see that this
absurd reasoning explains neither the sufferings of animals, which
have no right to enjoy the felicity of heaven, they say, nor the
fact[10] that "there are many called but few chosen," nor the saying
that "outside the Church there is no salvation," although for ages
past God has caused millions of men to be born in countries where the
Gospel has not been preached, we shall not be astonished to find that
those who arrogate to themselves a monopoly of Truth bring forward
none but arguments of childish folly in support of their claims.

Generally, however, it is original sin that is advanced as the cause
of suffering.

The absurdity of this doctrine is so apparent that it has lost all
credence by enlightened members of the Christian faith. First of all,
it does not explain the sufferings of animals, which have had no
participation in this sin, nor does it account for the unequal
distribution of pain amongst men themselves. This sin being the same
for all at birth,[11] punishment ought to have been equally severe for
all, and we ought not to see such frightful disproportions as are to
be found in the condition of children who have not attained to the age
of reason, _i.e._, of responsibility. Saint Augustine felt the weight
of this consideration; he reflected long on this torturing problem:

"When I come to consider the sufferings of children," he says,
"believe me, I am in a state of terrible perplexity. I have no wish
whatever to speak only of the punishment inflicted on them after this
life by eternal damnation to which they are of necessity condemned if
they have left their bodies without receiving the sacrament of Christ,
but of the pains they endure in this present life, under our very
eyes. Did I wish to examine these sufferings, time would fail me
rather than instances thereof; they languish in sickness, are torn by
pain, tortured by hunger and thirst, weakened in their organs,
deprived of their senses, and sometimes tormented by unclean beings. I
should have to show how they can with justice be subjected to such
things, at a time when they are yet without sin. It cannot be said
that they suffer unknown to God or that God can do nothing against
their tormentors, nor that He can create or allow unjust punishment.
When men suffer, we say they are being punished for their crimes, but
this can be applied only to adults. As children have in them no sin
capable of meriting so terrible a punishment, tell me what answer can
be given?"

The answer, indeed, cannot be made that original sin is capable of
explaining this unequal retribution; but then, ought not the very
absurdity of the consequences due to such sin to justify one in
refusing to examine this argument? What soul could admit that the
innocent should be punished for the guilty? Does human justice, in
spite of its imperfection, punish the offspring of criminals? Can the
millions of descendants of the mythical Adam have been chastised for a
crime in which they have had no share? And would this chastisement,
multiplied millions of times without the faintest reason, never have
stirred the conscience of the Church? Saint Augustine could not make
up his mind to accuse God of injustice; so, to avoid disputing the
truth of the Christian teaching in which he wholly believed, he
invented his famous theory of "generation," often called

Men suffer because of original sin, he says, but it would not be just
of God to punish them for this, had they not shared therein[12];
this, indeed, they have done, for the soul of a man was not created
directly, by God, at the moment of the birth of the body; it is a
branch taken from the soul of his father, as the latter's comes from
that of his parents; thus, ascending the genealogical chain, we see
that all souls issue from that of the common father of mankind:

So that Saint Augustine preferred to deny the creation of souls and to
derive them from the soul of Adam, through a successive progeny of
human vehicles, rather than to allow God to be charged with injustice.
We are not called upon to demonstrate the falsity of his hypothesis,
which the Church has been forced to condemn, though without replacing
it with a better theory; all the same, if human souls suffer from a
sin in which they have not individually and consciously
participated--and such is the case, for even granting that translation
be a fact, these souls existed in Adam only potentially, as
unconscious, undeveloped germs, when the sin took place--their
punishment is none the less arbitrary and revolting. Saint Augustine
believed he was justifying Providence; he succeeded only in deceiving
his own reason and revolted sense of justice, but he preferred by
suggestion to deceive himself to such an extent as to believe in the
reality of his desire rather than enrol himself against the Church.

In order to reconcile divine Justice with the injustice of punishing
all for the fault of one alone, the theologians also said: "Adam
sinned, his sin has been distributed over the whole of his race, but
God, by sending down his son, instituted baptism; and the waters of
the sacrament wash the stains of original sin from the souls of men."

This reply is as childish as the former. As a matter of fact,
according to the Church, about four thousand years intervened between
the sin of Adam and the coming of the Redeemer, and so only after that
interval did the souls of the just, who were waiting in the Life
Beyond for the coming of the Messiah, enter Paradise!

Would not this delay in itself be an injustice? Ought not baptism to
have been instituted immediately after the sin, and should it not have
been placed within the reach of all? Besides, do we not see that even
in our days, two thousand years after the coming of the Christ,
millions of human beings are born and die without ever having heard of
the existence of this sacrament. This part of the argument is too
puerile to dwell upon at length, but we will spend a few moments on it
to show definitely how powerless this theory is to explain evil.

Before teaching the doctrine of "Limbo," the Church accepted the idea
of the damnation of children who died without being baptised, as we
have just seen in the case of Saint Augustine.[14] Bossuet, with
incredible blindness, also accepted it; and, sad to relate, his reason
did not feel called upon to furnish an explanation which would justify
Providence, as was the case with Saint Augustine. He rejected
"translation," and discovered nothing with which to veil the

On this point the following is a faithful _résumé_ of his letter to
Pope Innocent XII.:

     The damnation of children who have died without being
     baptised must be firmly believed by the Church. They are
     guilty because they are born under the wrath of God and in
     the power of Darkness. Children of wrath by nature, objects
     of hatred and aversion, hurled into Hell with the rest of
     the damned, they will remain there for all eternity punished
     by the horrible vengeance of the Demon.

     Such also are the decisions of the learned Denis Pétau, the
     most eminent Bellarmin, the Councils of Lyons, of Florence,
     and of Trent; for these things are not decided by human
     considerations, but by the authority of tradition and of the

Such logic makes one really doubt human reason, and reminds one of the
spirit with which the courts of the Holy Inquisition were inspired.
Where in Nature can there be found such lack of proportion between
cause and effect, crime and punishment? Have such arguments ever been
justified by the voice of conscience?

Official Christianity remains powerless to explain suffering. Let us
see what we can learn from the philosophies and religions of the past
and the greatest of modern philosophers, as well as from the admirable
_résumés_ of Teachers of theosophy.

The problem of suffering is one with that of life, _i.e._, with that
of evolution in general. The object of the successive worlds is the
creation of millions of centres of consciousness in the germinal state
(_souls_) and the transformation of these germs into divinities
similar to their father, God. This is the divine multiplication,
creating innumerable "gods," in God.

To produce divine germs, homogeneous Unity must limit its immensity
and create within itself the diversity of matter, of form. This can
be obtained by the creation of "multiplicity" and by the "limitation"
of what might be called a portion of Divinity. Now, limitation implies
imperfection, both general and individual, _i.e._, suffering; and
multiplicity implies diversity of needs and interests, forced
submission to the general law _i.e._, suffering again. That the divine
germs may evolve, their potentialities must be awakened by their
surroundings; in other words, by the action of the "opposites," and
sensation must come into being; the action of the opposites on
sensation is also a cause of pain.

Outside of the unknown Being--which will be known at the end of
evolution--nothing can _be_. Everything is in Him. He is all; the
worlds, time and space are "aspects" which He assumes from time to
time[15]; for this reason it has been said that the Universe is an
illusion, which may be expressed more clearly by saying that it is an
illusion to believe that what exists is not one form of divine
activity, an "aspect" of God.

That anything may exist, or rather that aspects of God may appear,
there must be manifested in Him a special mode of being, to call
forth what we designate as multiplicity.

That multiplicity[16] may be manifest, differences must be produced in
Unity; these differences in the world are the "pairs of
opposites"--the contraries. These contraries are everywhere.

Matter is the fulcrum of force--both of these terms being "aspects" of
God--and without a fulcrum no force can manifest itself; there is no
heat without cold, and when it is summer in the northern hemisphere it
is winter in the southern. There is no movement that does not depend
upon a state of rest, no light without shadow, no pleasure without the
faculty of pain, no freedom that is not founded upon necessity, no
good that does not betoken an evil.

The following are a few examples of duality taken from nature. The
current of electricity is polarised into a positive and a negative
current. It is the same with the magnet; though you break a bar into a
hundred pieces, you bring into being a hundred small magnets, each
possessing its positive and negative side; you will not have destroyed
the "duality," the opposites.

Like the magnet, the solar spectrum forms two series, separated by a
neutral point, the blue series and the red one, united by the


Indigo.                Yellow.
Blue.                  Orange.
Green.                 Red.

The terms of the two series are respectively complimentary to each
other; the violet dominates the two groups of opposites and is a
visible member of the axis formed by the colours that might be called

Duality appears in every shape and form.

Symbolically, we may say with the Hindus that the Universe begins and
ends with two opposite movements: an emanation from Brahmâ, it is born
when the breast of God sends forth the heavenly outbreathing, it dies,
reabsorbed, when the universal inbreathing takes place. These
movements produce attraction and repulsion, the aggregation and
dissolution to be found everywhere. It is the attraction of a
force-centre, the "laya centre" of Theosophy, which permits of the
atomic condensation that gives it the envelope whose soul it is; when
its cycle of activity ends, attraction gives place to repulsion, the
envelope is destroyed by the return of its constituent elements to the
source from which they were drawn, and the soul is liberated until a
future cycle of activity begins.

Even the rhythm of pulmonary respiration, the contraction and dilation
(systole and diastole) of the heart, the ebb and flow of the tides, as
also day and night, sleeping and waking, summer and winter, life and
death, are all products of that law of contraries which rules

These "opposites" are the very essence of cosmic life, the twin
pillars of universal equilibrium; they have been represented in
Solomon's symbolical temple--here, the Universe--by Jakin and Boaz,
the white and the black columns; they are also the interlaced
triangles of "Solomon's Seal," the six-pointed star, the two Old Men
of the Kabbalah, the white Jehovah and the black Jehovah; Eros and
Anteros, the serpents of Mercury's caduceus, the two Sphinxes of the
car of Osiris, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, the
Chinese "Yang" and "Yin," the goblet and staff of Tarot, man and
woman. All these images represent the same law.

Multiplicity, the fruit of the contraries, makes its appearance in the
forms born in infinite, homogeneous Being; its goal is the goal of
creation; the production, in infinite Being, of centres which are
developed by evolution and finally become gods in God. These centres,
or "souls," these points in the supreme Point, are divine in essence,
though, so far, they have no share at all in the perfection
"manifested" by God; they are all "centres," for God is a sphere,
whose centre is everywhere and circumference nowhere, but they have
not developed consciousness which is as yet only potential in them.
Like cuttings of willow which reproduce the mother-tree, these points,
veritable portions of God, are capable of germinating, growing up, and
becoming "I's," self-conscious beings, intelligent and endowed with
will-power, and finally gods, having developed the entire
potentialities of the All by their repeated imprisonment in the series
of forms that make up the visible and invisible kingdoms of nature.

Every form, _i.e._ aggregate of substance-force, reflects within
itself one of these points of Divinity. This point is its Monad, its
centre of consciousness, or soul; it is the cause which is manifested
as qualities in the envelopes, and these give it the illusion of
separateness for a certain period,[18] just as a soap-bubble
momentarily acquires a fictitious individuality and appears separate
from the atmosphere--of which it forms part--so long as its illusory
envelope endures.

Thus do men imagine themselves separate from one another, when all the
time their soul is nothing more than a drop of the divine Ocean,
hidden momentarily in a perishable body.

The "contraries" are the anvil and the hammer which slowly forge souls
by producing what might be called sensation in general, and sensation
is a fertile cause of suffering each time the vehicles of
consciousness receive vibrations that greatly exceed their fundamental
capacity of sensation. Without sensation however--consequently without
suffering--the body could neither walk,[19] nor see, nor hear, nor
show any disturbance brought to bear upon it; there would exist no
possible relation between the Universe and the "I," between the All
and the parts, between bodies and souls; there would be no
consciousness, or sensation of being, since no vibration from without
would find an echo in the incarnated "centres" of life; no knowledge
would be possible; man would be, as it were, in a state of
nothingness; and, without suspecting it, his body might at any moment
be crushed to the ground by the forces of Nature.

But these material necessities are not by any means the only ones that
demand sensation; without it, one of the principal objects of
evolution--the development of "Egos"--would be impossible. As an
example borrowed from the domain of physical sensation, we need only
call to memory a well-known experience in childhood.

All who have been at a boarding school know how heavy and fetid is the
atmosphere of a dormitory in the early winter morning, when fifty boys
have been breathing the same air again and again during the whole of
the night. And yet, who suspected this until he had gone out for a few
minutes and then returned to the bed-room? It needed the "contrary,"
the pure outside air, to make known the state of the atmosphere
inside. The contrast produced sensation--that nauseous, suffocating
impression of foul, mephitic air; suffering[20] generated knowledge of
the vitiated air; as the result of this influence, the "centre of
consciousness" felt itself an "I" distinct from its surroundings, and
its "self-consciousness" received a slight increase.

What might be called passional sensibility--desire, emotion,
impulse--is, like physical sensation, another indispensable factor in
evolution; it is the special element in the development of the animal
kingdom as well as of the less evolved portion of the human kingdom.

The young souls of mankind must receive the comparatively simple lessons
of sensation, desire, and passion, before beginning the far more
complicated study of mentality. But for desire, a host of needs could
not be manifested, numberless functions would remain inactive; the body
would not feed itself, and would die, were it not for hunger; danger
would not be fled from, but for the instinct of self-preservation; nor
without this would there be any propagation of the species. None the
less is this life of sensation the source of many evils; desire and
passion amongst human beings create terrible misery, fill prisons and
hospitals, and are at the root of all kinds of moral suffering. In its
turn, intelligence--that sensation so characteristic of the human
state--is both an indispensable necessity and the most fertile source of
evil, so long as it has not experienced a yearning for that inner
"divinity," deep in the heart of man, which calls to it. A powerful
lever of progress, it might convert this earth into a paradise, whereas
it is the weapon which the strong, in their egoism, use to crush the
feeble, a terrible weapon which either creates or intensifies all the
evils under which the people writhe in despair. Once it becomes the
instrument of a regenerate humanity, that is to say, when men have
become compassionate, loving, and devoted, then the social question will
cease to exist, and the old instrument of torture will become a pledge
of general happiness.

Even spiritual sensibility is a cause of suffering to some noble souls
who have developed it, for however deep the joy of loving and giving
oneself, intense too is the pain of witnessing the cruel drama of
life, that fratricidal struggle in which passion strikes without
mercy, whilst illusion and ignorance deal blows even more terrible,
for into the wounds they make they instil the poison of revolt and

The action of multiplicity, and of its creators, the "contraries,"
engenders still other causes of suffering. Every being lives both for
others and at their expense. For instance, physical bodies are obliged
to replace with food and nourishment those particles which the various
functions of life cause them to lose. The vegetable kingdom takes its
constituent elements from the mineral kingdom, and itself serves as
food for large portions of the animal kingdom; up to this point
physical pain has not manifested itself, though there is a momentary
arrest of evolution for the animistic essence which represents the
individual in the destroyed vegetable. A portion of the animal kingdom
feeds on its own members; man, too, extorts from this same kingdom a
very heavy tribute; here, the arrested evolution of the victims is all
the more important, inasmuch as their stage of evolution is higher,
and the existence of a nervous system brings the possibility of
suffering, suffering which certain influences[21] either diminish or
suppress altogether, when caused by animal destructiveness, but which
may become intense when it is man who is the sacrificer.

Among the causes of pain, arising from multiplicity there is also the
physical, mental, and moral action exercised by the solidarity of all
beings. By exchanging, with those that come into contact with us, the
products thrown off by our visible and invisible bodies, we are the
dispensers of good or ill-health. Everyone, for instance, is aware of
the far-reaching effects of an evil intellectual and moral example;
physical contagion, in spite of the torture it inflicts, is far less
to be dreaded than moral contagion. The spiritual qualities alone do
not form a leaven of evil; they are not the double-edged instruments
we meet with elsewhere. The reason of this is that they belong to the
plane of Unity. But it is none the less true that, though the
presence of a highly developed soul is a help to younger souls within
its reach and influence, its powerful vibrations may, from certain
points of view, prove fatiguing to those still at the foot of the
ladder of evolution. This is one of the many reasons that have given
rise to the saying that it is dangerous prematurely to enter the
"circle of the ascetics."

But the most powerful causes of pain, due to multiplicity, are the
ignorance and the will of beings who have reached the human stage. Man
can employ his mental faculties for good or evil, and so long as he
does not know definitely that he is the brother of all beings, _i.e._,
until his divine faculties have been developed, and love and the
spirit of sacrifice have taken possession of his heart, he remains a
terrible egoist, more to be dreaded than the criminal dominated by a
momentary burst of passion, for he acts in cold blood, he evades or
refuses to recognise the law of humanity, he dominates and destroys.
This man is at the stage of ingratitude; he no longer possesses the
harmlessness of childhood, nor has he yet acquired the wisdom of
advanced age. Our Western race has reached this critical stage,
whereof the menacing demands of the suffering masses are a striking
testimony. Here, too, God could not do otherwise; He might create
bodies blindly obedient to his law, mere automata, but it would be
impossible for Him to cause divine germs to evolve into "gods" without
pulling them through the school of evolution which teaches them,
first, of the "ego," the root of all egoism, then knowledge by
ignorance, liberty by necessity, good by evil, and the perfect by the

It may at this point just be mentioned that though human egoism
appears to have free play and to be unrestrained in its cruelty,
divine Law never allows innocence to suffer for the errors of evolving
souls, it punishes only the guilty, whether their faults or misdeeds
be known or unknown, belonging to the present life or to past ones.

Such, briefly, is the cause of pain and suffering in evolution; in the
following pages we will set forth the causes of the unequal
distribution of this suffering.


If suffering in general is the child of Necessity--since it is born of
multiplicity and the limitation of the Infinite, without which the
Universe could not exist--it would seem that we ought to find it
falling upon all beings without distinction, in uniform, regular, and
impartial fashion. Instead of this, it is every moment losing its
character of impersonality; it respects those who are guilty on a
large scale; and, without any visible cause, strikes fiercely the most
innocent of persons; noble souls are born in the families of
criminals, whilst criminals have fathers of the utmost respectability;
we find parricides, and brothers hostile to each other; millionaires
die of surfeiting alongside of paupers dying of hunger; we find giants
by the side of dwarfs; the healthy and well-formed near the crippled
or those wasted away by terrible diseases; Apollos contrast with
Quasimodos; men of genius are met with, cheek by jowl with idiots;
some children are stillborn, others blind or deaf and dumb from birth.
Extremely different races people the earth--on the one hand,
unintelligent and cannibal negroes; on the other, the proud, handsome,
and intelligent, though selfish and cruel white race. Again, from a
moral standpoint, who can explain congenital tendencies to crime, the
vicious by birth, the wicked by nature, the persons with
uncontrollable passions? Wherefore are thrift and foresight lacking in
so many men, who are consequently condemned to lifelong poverty and
wretchedness? Why this excess of intelligence, used mainly for the
exploiting of folly? It is useless to multiply examples, one has only
to look around at hospitals and prisons, night-shelters, palaces and
garrets; everywhere suffering has taken up its abode. Can no reply be
given to this terrible charge brought against Divinity? Is man to
remain in a state of dejection and discouragement, as though some
irreparable catastrophe had befallen him?

According to the Church, all this is the work of the soul which God
gives at the birth of a man--a soul that is good or bad, prudent or
foolish, one which damns or saves itself according as its will can, or
cannot, dominate its passions, its intelligence discover the way to
heaven or not; according as grace or rejection predestine it to heaven
or to hell.

Is it not the depth of profanity to represent God as watching over
conceptions in order to create souls so unfairly endowed, most of whom
will never hear the Gospel message, and consequently cannot be saved,
whilst the rest are destined to animate the bodies of savages and
cannibals, devoid of moral consciousness? Is it not an act of
sacrilege thus to convert God, Who is all Wisdom and Love, into a kind
of accomplice of adulterers and lewd persons or the sport of
Malthusian insults. Unconscious blasphemers are they who would offer
this Dead Sea fruit as the true manna of Life!

There is also another theory, often advanced in certain quarters, on
which we must say a few words, for though it contains only a minimum
of truth, and consequently cannot withstand serious examination, it
has led astray more than one earnest thinker. Inequalities of
suffering, it has been said, arise from inequalities of social
conditions. Intelligence, morality, will, in fact all human faculties,
develop more or less according to their environment; men are born
equal; they become unequal as the result of different environment; pay
the same care and attention to all and they will remain equal, and if
they are equal, the theory seems to imply, evil will disappear from
the face of the earth.

This is not so.

Inequality of suffering does not result from inequality of condition.
Many a poor tiller of the fields enjoys a degree of peace and
happiness that those favoured by birth or fortune would envy. Disease
visits poor and rich alike; moral suffering is more especially the
appanage of the so-called higher classes, and if obscurity and poverty
render certain troubles specially severe, wealth and rank play the
same _rôle_ in afflictions of another kind; there is a dark side to
every picture. More than this, inequality of condition is one of the
fundamental factors of social equilibrium; without it, many urgent and
even indispensable functions would be neglected, numerous general
needs would remain unsatisfied; so-called menial work, which, in a
state of society that is still imperfect and consequently selfish, is
performed only in the hope of remuneration, would never be done at
all; every man would have to provide for the whole of his necessities;
no one could find time for self-improvement or for flinging himself
entirely into those divers branches of activity which, if personal
interest were absent, would make life infinitely better and progress
extremely rapid. The partisans of this theory rely on diversity of
tastes to fill the diversity of functions that are necessary in social
life: another illusion. The inferior, painful, or difficult tasks will
never find sufficient workers, whilst easy or honourable posts will
always be overcrowded. To believe the contrary would be to shut one's
eyes to the present imperfection of men; it would mean the belief that
they were noble and lofty beings, eager for self-sacrifice, demanding
only to work for the happiness of all, without a single thought of
their personal preferences; it would mean seeing, in present-day
humanity, that of the future in which each individual has attained to
such a degree of perfection that not a single idle, ill-disposed, or
stupid person is to be found amongst them, for each one would regard
himself as the brother and helper of all, and the universal standard
of life would be: Each for all and all for each! How ardently we
desire that this were so; how eagerly we pray for that future, so far
away, when we shall have grown to this nobler stature, and the
present fratricidal struggle shall have given place to a lasting
peace, the offspring of a higher, spiritual, universal love. Anxiously
do we await it; like lost travellers, we fix our eyes on the dark
horizon to catch the first faint streaks of light, harbingers of the
dawn. We greet with joy and gratitude all such as believe in that
blessed future and endeavour to hasten its coming, all who
impersonally and in sincerity aim at the social Unity towards which
the heart aspires, and especially those whose aim it is to advance in
accordance with that continuous, progressive evolution based on the
physical, moral, mental, and spiritual amelioration of men, for it is
they who have learned the secret of Nature. Indeed, evolution shows us
that, the more souls grow, the nearer they approach that perfection to
which progress destines them, and happiness exists only in perfection.

To return to other aspects of the subject.

Men are born equal, we are told.

A single glance at the differences in the moral and intellectual
qualities of races and individuals, at the differences between young
children, even at the differences in the instincts of infants at the
breast, is sufficient to prove the contrary.

There are savages in whom no trace whatever of the moral sense can be
discovered. Charles Darwin in one of his works relates a fact, which
Mrs. Besant has quoted, in illustration of this. An English missionary
reproached a Tasmanian with having killed his wife in order to eat
her. In that rudimentary intellect, the reproach aroused an idea quite
different from that of a crime; the cannibal thought the missionary
imagined that human flesh was of an unpleasant flavour, and so he
replied: "But she was very good!"

Is it possible to attribute to the influence of surroundings alone a
degree of moral poverty so profound as this?

Many a mother has been able to find out that souls are not equal, in
other words, that they are of different ages, by the discovery of
diametrically opposite qualities and tendencies in two children born
under the same conditions; in twins, for instance.

Every schoolmaster has noticed the same fact in the pupils under his
charge. Mrs. Besant says that amongst the 80,000 children who came
under her inspection in the London schools she would often find side
by side with gentle, affectionate little beings others who showed
criminal tendencies from birth.

Looking at the question from another point of view, are we not
continually finding in schools and educational establishments pupils
who, for no explicable reason, show a disposition for one branch of
instruction only? They shine in this, but are dunces in every other

As a final example, do not infant prodigies prove that men are not
born equal? Young, who discovered the undulatory theory of light,
could read with wonderful rapidity at the age of two, whilst at eight
he had a thorough knowledge of six languages.

Sir W. R. Hamilton began to learn Hebrew when he was three, and knew
it perfectly four years later. At the age of thirteen he knew thirteen

Gauss, of Brunswick--the greatest mathematician in Europe, according
to Laplace--solved problems in arithmetic when only three.

No, men are not born equal. Nor does environment cause the
inequalities we find; it favours or checks the development of
qualities, but has no part in their creation. Still, its influence is
sufficiently important for us to give it due consideration.

We are linked to one another by the closest bonds of solidarity,
whether we wish it and are conscious thereof or not. Everything
absorbs and throws off, breathes in and breathes out, and this
universal exchange, if at times bad, is none the less a powerful
factor in evolution. The atom of carbon, on entering into the
combinations of the human body, is endowed with a far higher power of
combining than the one which has just left the lump of ore; to obtain
its new properties, this atom has had to pass through millions of
vegetable, animal, and human molecules. Animals brought into close
contact with man develop mentally to a degree that is sometimes
incredible, by reason of the intellectual food with which our thoughts
supply them. The man who lives alone is, other things being equal,
weaker physically, morally, and mentally than he who lives in a large
social environment; it is for this reason that the mind develops far
more rapidly in large centres of life than in the country. And what is
true of good is, unfortunately, true also of evil qualities.

Consequently, environment has an undeniable influence, and it is
perfectly true to say that the social conditions under which
individuals are born favour or impede the development of their
faculties. There its influence stops; it can intensify inequality, but
does not create it.

Inequality of condition arises, above all else, from the continuity of
what might be called creation. Atoms are incessantly being formed in
the womb of the Virgin Mother,[22] by the might of the divine vortex
perceived by seers in ecstatic vision, and which theosophy has named
the Great Breath; ceaselessly are these atoms entering into multitudes
of organisms, ceaselessly is the plan of evolution being worked--some
ending, others beginning the great Pilgrimage. It is the existence of
this circuit which creates and keeps complete the hierarchy of beings,
brings into existence and perpetuates the known and the unknown
kingdoms of Nature; souls ascend slowly from one kingdom to another,
whilst the places they leave are filled by new-comers, by younger

A second cause of human inequality is the difference in effort and
deed accomplished by the will of human beings who have reached a
certain point in evolution. As soon as this will is guided by
intelligence and the moral sense, it hastens or delays individual
evolution, makes it easy when it acts in harmony with divine Law--by
doing what is called "good"--or disturbs evolution by pain, when it
opposes this Law, by doing "evil." By modifying the direction of the
Law, the Soul engenders beneficent or maleficent forces, which, after
having played in the universe within the limit the law has imposed on
them, return to their starting point--man. From that time, one
understands that the balance of the scales in different individuals
becomes unequal. These effects of the will influence to a noticeable
degree the life during which they have originated; they are preserved
in a latent condition after death, and appear again in future returns
to earth.

Thus are men born laden with the results of their past and in
possession of the capacities they have developed in the course of
their evolution. Those whom the difficulties of life have filled with
energy in the past return to existence on earth possessed of that
might which the world admires; now it is perseverance or courage; now
patient calm or violence, which is the stronger, according to the
aspect of the energy developed. Others, again, are born feeble and
devoid of energy; their former lives have been too easy. Men are
philosophers or mathematicians, artists or _savants_, from the very

Objections have been brought against the doctrine of Rebirth by
opponents who have looked only on one side of the individual life, and
so have been unable to explain apparent anomalies, especially in those
cases where it is seen that the effect does not immediately follow the
cause. In reality, every force that emerges from a centre of will[23]
describes an ellipse, so to speak, which travels through a net-work of
other ellipses generated by thousands of other centres of energy, and
is accelerated or retarded in its course, according to the direction
and nature of the forces with which it is connected. It is for this
reason that certain actions meet with their reward or their punishment
almost immediately. Then the people say: "It is the finger of God!" In
other cases, again, and these are the most numerous, the reaction is
postponed; the noble-hearted man, who has made sacrifices the whole of
his life, seems to receive in exchange nothing but misfortune and
pain, whilst close by the wicked, selfish man prospers and thrives
exceedingly. Thereupon the ignorant say: "There is no God, for there
is no justice."

Not so! It is impossible to defeat Justice; though, in the interests
of evolving beings, it may allow the forces around to accelerate or
retard its progress. Nothing is ever lost; causes that have not
fructified remain potential; and, like the grain of corn gathered
thousands of years ago, grow and develop as soon as favourable soil
and environment are offered them. Debts are still recorded, when the
perishable sheaths of our physical bodies have been cast off; they
come up for future payment, often in the next life. But this next life
may not wipe off the whole of the liabilities, so the process is
continued for several successive existences, and this has given rise
to the saying that the sins of the parents[24] are visited upon the
children[25] unto the seventh generation.[26]

Such is the truth.

Souls, equal in potentialities whilst dormant as germs in the womb of
Being, become unequal, as soon as they are born into existence in the
manifested Universe, for they find predecessors, elder souls in front
of them; inequality is intensified when they have reached the human
stage, where intelligence and will come into play, for henceforth,
inequality in the actions of individuals, variations of what might be
called merit and demerit, set up a second factor in the inequality of
conditions. Evolution treasures up the causes that have not been able
to germinate in one existence, and, by successive returns to earth,
realises the aims and ends of that Justice which governs the Universe,
the designs of that Love which makes for progress and leads to


An apparently serious objection to the doctrine of Rebirth is
constantly being made. It is unjust and useless, people say, to be
punished for misdeeds that are forgotten. As this objection has
reference to moral proofs, we must deal with it here.

Does forgetfulness efface faults or destroy their consequences? Could
the assassin, who has lost all memory of the crime committed the
previous evening, change his deed or its results in the slightest
degree? Rebirths are nothing more than the morrows of former lives,
and though the merciful waters of Lethe have effaced their memory, the
forces stored up in the soul, during the ages, perform their work all
the same in the future.

On the other hand, injustice would exist, and that under a very cruel
aspect, were memory to continue; for the painful vision of a past
always full of weaknesses, even when free from the stain of crime,
would be a continual one. And if, too--as our opponents would
prefer--man knew why he was punished, _i.e._, if he knew that each of
these past errors and faults, ever present before his eyes, would
carry with it a particular fruit, and that strict payment would be
exacted at every step in his new life, would not the punishment be far
greater than the sin? Would there not rise from every human heart an
outcry of blasphemy against a God who, by means of memory, transformed
life into an endless torment, destroying all activity or initiative
in the anxiety of expectancy, in a word, stifling the present beneath
the heavy nightmare of the past?

Men, though so unjust and little disposed to pity, have always refused
to inflict on a man condemned to death the torture of anticipation;
only at the last moment is he informed of the rejection of his appeal
for mercy. Could divine Law be less compassionate than human law?

Is it not rash for us, in our profound ignorance, to criticise the
workings of a boundless Wisdom? He who takes only a few steps along
the pathway of Knowledge, or enters, however slightly, into the secret
of the works of God, obtains the proof that Providence leaves no part
of the Cosmos, no being anywhere, deprived of its fatherly care and
protection. When, in our blindness, we imagine injustice, a void or an
imperfection of any kind, a radiant beam of light shows us the
omnipresent Life, bestowing love on all its children without
distinction, from the slumbering atom to the glorious planetary
Spirit, whose consciousness is so vast as to enfold the Universe.

It is more especially after death that the soul, set free from its
illusory sheaths, makes an impartial review of its recent incarnation,
attentively following its actions and their consequences, noting its
errors and failures, along with their motives and causes. In this
school it grows in knowledge and power; and when, in a future
incarnation, the same difficulties present themselves anew, it is
better equipped for the struggle; what has been learned, is retained
within the soul; it knows, where formerly it was ignorant, and by the
"voice of conscience," tells the personality[27] what its duty is.
This wisdom, sifted from the panorama of a thousand past images, is
the best of all memories, for on those numerous occasions when a
decision must be arrived at on the spur of the moment it would not be
possible to summon forth from the depths of the past such groups of
memories as refer to the decision to be reached, to see the events
over again, and deduce therefrom a line of conduct. The lesson must
have been learnt and thoroughly assimilated during the enlightened
peace and calm of the Hereafter; then only is the soul ready to
respond without delay, and its command is distinct; its judgment,
sure; do this, avoid that.

When a soul, in the course of evolution, has succeeded in impressing
its vibration--its thought--on a brain which it has refined and made
responsive by a training which purifies the entire nature of the man,
it is able to transmit to the incarnated consciousness the memory of
its past lives; but this memory then ceases to be painful or
dangerous, for the soul has not only exhausted the greater part of its
karma of suffering, it also possesses the strength necessary to
sustain its personality, whenever a foreboding of what we call
misfortune comes upon it.

In the divine work everything comes in its own time, and we recognise
the perfection of the Creator by the perfect concatenation of all

Reincarnation is so intimately bound up with the Law of Causality, and
receives from it such powerful support, that this chapter would be
left in a very incomplete form were we not to say a few words on


Karma is the Law of the Universe, the expression of divine Will. Its
seemingly essential attributes are Justice and Love; it neither
punishes nor rewards, but adjusts things, restores disturbed balance
and harmony, brings back evolving souls to the right path and teaches
them Law.

When a man acts against the Law, he is like a swimmer, struggling
against the current of a rapid river; his strength fails, and he is
borne away.

So does God bear away, in spite of all their efforts, those who,
whether ignorantly or consciously, fight against the Law, for it is
His love that wills evolution, _i.e._, the making human beings divine;
so he brings them back to the path, in spite of themselves, every time
they wander astray.

"God is patient because He is eternal," it has been said. The sentence
is incomplete and must be changed, since it attributes to Divinity a
vindictive nature. The Law is patient because it is perfect in Wisdom,
Power, and Love.

This Law is the divine Will which moves all things and vibrates
everywhere; it is the music of the spheres, the song of glory and
harmony, which murmurs in the heart like the rippling of a waterfall,
the chant of life and joy that eternally triumphs in its never-ending
creation of beings, who, after revolving for a moment in the universe,
have become perfect.

Its glorious strains resound in the heart of man, when the soul has
found peace in the Law, and we are told that, when once heard, its
divine accents continue for ever, like an ineffable whisper which
brings us back to hope and faith, when we are sunk in the depths of

God limited himself in order to become incarnate in the Universe: He
is the Soul of the world. His will is exerted everywhere, it finds its
reflection in every creature; and man, a portion of divinity in
course of evolution, possesses a germ of will that is infinite in its
essence, and consequently capable of limitless development; God
respects this will in His creatures, and submits to violence, in order
to teach them His will, which is supreme Love. Like a stone that falls
into a tranquil lake, a human action creates, all round, concentric
ripples which continue to the very shores or limits of the Universe;
then the wave is thrown back upon itself, returns to its
starting-point, and the man who began the first movement receives a
recoil exactly equivalent to the original impetus. Reaction is equal
to action; obstacles on the way may delay its return or break up its
energy, but the time comes when the fractions return to the centre
that generates the disturbance, which thus receives from the Law a
perfectly just retribution.

The principal element in actions is thought. Every thought is a form
in a state of vibration--a ray of intelligence which unites itself
with subtle matter[29] and forms a being, of which this matter is the
body, and thought, the soul. This being, often called a
"thought-form," possesses form, duration, and strength that bear a
strict relation to the energy of the thought that created it; if it
embodies a soul of hatred, it will react on the man who harbours this
thought, and on all who come into contact with him, as a leaven of
destruction, but if it is guided by love it will be, as it were, the
incarnation of some beneficent power.

In certain cases its action is expressed visibly and rapidly; for
instance, a venomous thought may[30] cause the death of the person
against whom it is directed--this is one aspect of the "evil eye"--as
also it may[31] return to its starting-point and kill the one who
generated it, by the recoil. Every mental projection of a criminal
nature, however, by no means necessarily reaches the object aimed at;
a sorcerer, for instance, could no more injure one who was positive,
consciously and willingly good, than he could cause a grain of corn to
sprout on a block of granite; favourable soil is needed to enable the
seed of evil to take root in a man's heart; otherwise, the evil
recoils with its full force upon the one who sent it forth and who is
an irresistible magnet, for he is its very "life-centre."

Thoughts cling to their creator and attract towards this latter those
of a similar nature floating about in the invisible world, for they
instinctively come to vitalise and invigorate themselves by contact
with him; they radiate around him a contagious atmosphere of good or
evil, and when they have left him, hover about, at the caprice of the
various currents, impelling those they touch towards the goal to which
they are making. They even recoil on the visible form of their
generator; it is for this reason that physical is closely connected
with moral well-being, and most of our diseases are nothing else than
the outer expression of the hidden leaven of passion. When the action
of this latter is sudden and powerful, diseases may be the immediate
consequence thereof; blinded by materialism, certain doctors seldom
acknowledge their real cause; and yet instances of hair turning white
in a single night are too numerous to be refuted, congestion of the
brain brought on by a fit of anger, jaundice and other grave maladies
caused by grief and trouble, are to be met with continually.

When the mental forces which disturb the physical organs meet with
obstacles which prevent their immediate outlet, they accumulate, like
the electric fluid in a condenser, until an unexpected contact
produces a discharge; this condensation often persists for a whole
life in a latent condition, and is preserved intact for a future
incarnation; this is the cause of original vices, which, incorporated
in the etheric double, react upon the organic texture of the body.
This also explains why each individual possesses an _ensemble_ of
pathological predispositions often radically different from those
heredity should have bequeathed to him; it is also, to some extent,
the key to physiognomy, for every single feature bears either the
stamp of our passions or the halo of our virtues.

Thought creates lasting bonds between human beings; love and hatred
enchain certain individuals to one another for a whole series of
incarnations; many a victim of the past is to be found again in those
unnatural sons who send a thrill of horror through society when it
hears of some heinous crime--they have become the torturers of their
former oppressors. In other cases, it is love which attracts and
unites in renewed affection those who formerly loved one another--they
return to earth as brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, husbands or

But if we are the slaves of the past, if fate compels us to reap what
we have sown, we yet have the future in our hands, for we can tear up
the weeds, and in their place sow useful plants. Just as, by means of
physical hygiene, we can change within a few years the nature of the
constituents that make up our bodies, so also, by a process of moral
hygiene, we can purify our passions and then turn their strength in
the direction of good. According as we will, so do we actually become,
good or bad; every man who has taken his evolution in hand notices
this rapid transformation of his personality, and sees his successive
"egos" rise step by step, so to speak, throughout his whole life.
Speaking generally, the first part of life is the expression of the
distant past--of former lives--the second is a mixture of the past and
of the energies of the present incarnation; the end of life is nothing
but a sinking into an ever-deepening rut for those who crystallise in
only one direction; the force of habit sets up its reign, and man
finds himself bound by the chains he himself has forged. This is the
reason an old man does not like the present times; he has stopped
whilst time has advanced, and he is now being carried along like the
flotsam and jetsam of a wreck; the very tastes and habits of his
contemporaries violently clashing with his beloved past. Speak not to
him of progress or evolution, he has brought himself into a state of
complete immobility, and he will discover no favourable field of
action nor will he acquire real energy until he has drunk of the
waters of Lethe in a rest-giving Hereafter and a new body supplies his
will with an instrument having the obedient suppleness of youth.

H. P. Blavatsky, in the _Secret Doctrine_, has well described this
progressive enmeshing of man in the net he himself is weaving.

"Those who believe in Karma have to believe in destiny, which, from
birth to death, every man is weaving, thread by thread, around
himself, as a spider his web; and this destiny is guided either by the
heavenly voice of the invisible prototype outside of us, or by our
more intimate _astral_ or inner man, who is but too often the evil
genius of the embodied entity called man. Both these lead on the
outward man, but one of them must prevail; and from the very beginning
of the invisible affray the stern and implacable _Law of Compensation_
steps in and takes its course, faithfully following the fluctuations
of the fight. When the last strand is woven, the man is seemingly
enwrapped in the net-work of his own doing, then he finds himself
completely under the empire of this _self-made_ destiny...."

She adds shortly afterwards:

"An Occultist or a philosopher will not speak of the goodness or
cruelty of Providence; but, identifying it with Karma-Nemesis, he will
teach that nevertheless it guards the good and watches over them in
this as in future lives; and that it punishes the evil-doer, aye, even
to his seventh rebirth, so long, in short, as the effect of his having
thrown into perturbation even the smallest atom in the Infinite World
of harmony, has not been finally readjusted. For the only decree of
Karma--an eternal and immutable decree--is absolute Harmony in the
world of matter as it is in the world of Spirit. It is not, therefore,
Karma that rewards or punishes, but it is we who reward or punish
ourselves, according to whether we work with, through, and along with
nature, abiding by the laws on which that Harmony depends, or--break

"Nor would the ways of Karma be inscrutable, were men to work in union
and harmony instead of disunion and strife. For our ignorance of those
ways--which one portion of mankind calls the ways of Providence, dark
and intricate, while another sees in them the action of blind
Fatalism, and a third, simple chance, with neither gods nor devils to
guide them--would surely disappear, if we would but attribute all
these to their correct cause....

"We stand bewildered before the mystery of our own making, and the
riddle of life that we will not solve, and then accuse the great
Sphinx of devouring us. But verily, there is not an accident in our
lives, not a mis-shapen day or a misfortune, that could not be traced
back to our own doings in this or in another life...."

On the same subject, Mrs. Sinnett says in _The Purpose of Theosophy_:

"Every individual is making Karma either good or bad in every action
and thought of his daily round, and is at the same time working out in
this life the Karma brought about by the acts and desires of the last.
When we see people afflicted by congenital ailments, it may be safely
assumed that these ailments are the inevitable results of causes
started by the same in a previous birth. It may be argued that, as
these afflictions are hereditary, they can have nothing to do with a
past incarnation; but it must be remembered that the ego, the real
man, the individuality, has no spiritual origin in the parentage by
which it is re-embodied, but is drawn by the affinities which its
previous mode of life attracted round it into the current that carries
it, when the time comes for re-birth, to the home best fitted for the
development of those tendencies....

"This doctrine of Karma, when properly understood, is well calculated
to guide and assist those who realise its truth to a higher and better
mode of life; for it must not be forgotten that not only our actions,
but our thoughts also, are most assuredly followed by a crowd of
circumstances that will influence for good or for evil our own future;
and, what is still more important, the future of many of our
fellow-creatures. If sins of omission and commission could in any case
be only self-regarding, the effect on the sinner's Karma would be a
matter of minor consequence. The fact that every thought and act
through life carries with it, for good or evil, a corresponding
influence on the members of the human family renders a strict sense of
justice, morality, and unselfishness so necessary to future happiness
and progress. A crime once committed, an evil thought sent out from
the mind, are past recall--no amount of repentance can wipe out their
results on the future....

"Repentance, if sincere, will deter a man from repeating errors; it
cannot save him or others from the effects of those already produced,
which will most unerringly overtake him either in this life or in the
next rebirth."

We will also quote a few lines from E. D. Walker in _Reincarnation_:

"Briefly, the doctrine of Karma is that we have made ourselves what we
are by former actions, and are building our future eternity by present
actions. There is no destiny but what we ourselves determine. There is
no salvation or condemnation except what we ourselves bring about....
Because it offers no shelter for culpable actions and necessitates a
sterling manliness, it is less welcome to weak natures than the easy
religious tenets of vicarious atonement, intercessions, forgiveness,
and death-bed conversions....

"In the domain of eternal justice, the offence and the punishment are
inseparably connected as the same event, because there is no real
distinction between the action and its outcome.

"It is Karma, or our old acts, that bring us back into earthly life.
The spirit's abode changes according to its Karma, and this Karma
forbids any long continuance in one condition, because it is always
changing. So long as action is governed by material and selfish
motives, just so long must the effect of that action be manifested in
physical rebirths. Only the perfectly selfless man can elude the
gravitation of material life. Few have attained this, but it is the
goal of mankind."

The danger of a too brief explanation of the law of Causality consists
in the possibility of being imperfectly understood, and consequently
of favouring the doctrine of fatalism.

"Why act at all, the objection will be urged, if everything is
foreseen by the Law? Why stretch out a hand to the man who falls into
the water before our very eyes? Is not the Law strong enough to save
him, if he is not to die; and if he is, have we any right to

"Such reasoning arises from ignorance and egoism.

"Yes, the law is powerful enough to prevent the man from drowning, and
also to prevent the possibility of his being saved by some passer-by,
who has been moved to pity by the sight; to doubt this were to doubt
the power of God. In the work of evolution, however, God does more
than supply man with means of developing his intelligence; in order to
enrich his heart, he offers him opportunities of sacrificing himself.
Again, the innumerable problems set by duty are far from being solved
for us; with difficulty can we distinguish a crime from a noble
action; very often we do wrong, thinking we are doing right, and it
not unfrequently happens that good results from our evil deeds; this
is why God sends us experiences which are to teach us our duty.

"The soul learns not only during its incarnations, but even more after
leaving the body,[32] for life after death is largely spent in
examining the consequences of deeds performed during life on earth.

"Whenever, then, an opportunity for action offers itself, let us
follow the impulse of the heart, the cry of duty, and not the sophisms
of the lower nature, the selfish "ego," the cold brain, which knows
neither compassion nor devotion. Do your duty, whatever happens, says
the Law, _i.e._, do not allege, as your excuse for being selfish, that
God, if He thinks it best, will help your brother in his trouble; why
do you not fling yourself into the fire, with the thought that, if
your hour has not yet come, God will prevent the flames from burning
you? Does not the man, who commits suicide, himself push forward the
hand on the dial of life, setting it at the fatal hour?

"The threads of karmic action are so wonderfully interwoven, and God,
in order to hasten evolution, makes such marvellous use of human
forces, both good and bad, that the first few glances cast at the
_mêlée_ of events are calculated to trouble the mind rather than
reveal to it the marvels of adjustment effected by divine Wisdom, but
no sooner does one succeed in unravelling some of the entanglements of
the karmic forces, and catching a glimpse of the harmony resulting
from their surprising co-operation, than the mind is lost in amaze.
Then, one understands how the murderer is only an instrument whose
passions are used by God in carrying out the karmic decree which
condemned the victim long before the crime was committed; then, too,
one knows that capital punishment is a legal crime of which divine
Justice makes use--yes, a crime, for none but God can judge; every
being has a right to live, and does live, until God condemns him.

"But man, by making himself, even ignorantly, the instrument of Karma,
acts against the universal law, and is preparing for himself that
future suffering which results from every attack made on the harmony
of the whole."[33]

On the other hand, Destiny is not an immutable mass of forces; will
can destroy what it has created, that is a question of time or energy;
and when these are unable, within a given period, to bring about the
total destruction of a barrier belonging to the past, none the less
does this barrier lessen day by day, for the "resultant" of this
system of opposing forces changes its direction every moment, and the
final shock, when it cannot be avoided, is always diminished to a
greater or less degree.

In the case of those who have attained to a perfect reading of the
past, their knowledge of the hostile forces is complete, and the
neutralisation of these forces immensely facilitated. They can seek
out, in this world or in the next, those they wronged in the past, and
thus repair the harm done; they can see the source of those thoughts
of hatred that are sent against them, and destroy them by the
intervention of love;[34] they can find out the weak points of their
personal armour and strengthen them: it is this that in theosophical
language is called the burning of Karma in the fire of "Wisdom."

None the less, there are two points in the law of Causality, which
appear to favour the idea of fatalism, though in reality, they are
merely corollaries of Karma. According to the first, every force is
fatal, in the sense that, if left to itself, it is indestructible.
This is not fatality, for the force can be modified by meeting with
forces differing in character, and if no such encounter takes place,
it finally unites with the cosmic Law, or else is broken to pieces
upon it, according as it moves with evolution or against it.[35] Only
in one sense, then, is it fatal; it cannot be destroyed save by an
opposing force of the same momentum. For instance, in order to
annihilate an obstructive force, created in the past, the soul must
expend an amount of energy that is equal and opposite to that force;
it meanwhile cannot devote itself to any other work, thus causing, in
one sense, a useless production of energy; in other words, evolution
will suffer delay,[36] but, we must repeat, that is not fatality.

Now to the second point.

Thought, by repetition, gains ever-increasing energy, and when the
forces which thoughts accumulate have become as powerful as those of
the will of the Ego which created them, a final addition of
energy--another thought--alone is needed for the will to be overcome
and the heavier scale of the balance to incline; then the thought is
fatally realised in the action. But so long as dynamic equilibrium has
not been reached, the will remains master, although its power is ever
diminishing, in proportion as the difference in the forces becomes
smaller. When equilibrium is reached, the will is neutralised; it
becomes powerless, and feels that a fall is only a question of
moments, and, with a fresh call of energy, the thought is fatally
realised on the physical plane; the hour of freedom has gone and the
fatal moment arrived. Like some solution that has reached saturation
point, obedient to the last impulse, this thought crystallises into an

Many a criminal thus meets, in a single moment, the fatality he has
created in the course of several incarnations; he no longer sees
anything, his reason disappears; in a condition of mental darkness
his arm is raised, and, impelled by a blind force, he strikes
automatically. "What have I done?" he immediately exclaims in horror.
"What demon is this that has taken possession of me?"

Then only is the crime perpetrated, without there being time for the
will to be consulted, without the "voice of conscience" having been
invited to speak. The whole fatality of automatism is in the deed,
which has been carried through without the man suspecting or being
conscious of it; his physical machine has been the blind instrument of
the force of evil he has himself slowly accumulated throughout the
ages. But let there be no mistake; every time a man, who is tempted,
has time to think, even in fleeting fashion, of the moral value of the
impulse which is driving him onward, he has power to resist; and if he
yields to this impulse, the entire responsibility of this final lapse
is added on to that incurred by past thoughts.

Among the victims of these actions that have become fatal are often to
be found those who are near the stage of initiation, for before being
exposed to the dangers of the bewildering "Path," which bridges the
abyss--the abyss which separates the worlds of unity from the illusory
and transitory regions of the Universe--they are submitted to the most
careful tests.

There may even be found souls that tread this path,[37] bearing within
themselves[38] some old surviving residue which has not yet been
finally thrown into the physical plane, and must consequently appear
for the last time before falling away and disappearing for ever.[39]
Mankind, incapable of seeing the man--the divine fragment gloriously
blossoming forth in these beings--often halts before these dark spots
in the vesture of the great soul, these _excreta_ flung off from the
"centre," belonging to the refuse of the vehicle, not to the soul, and
in its blindness pretends to see, in its folly to judge, loftily
condemning the sins of a brother more evolved than itself!

The future will bring men greater wisdom, and teach them the greatness
of their error.[40]

At the conclusion of this important chapter, let us repeat that
Karma--divine Will in action--is Love as well as justice, Wisdom as
well as Power, and no one ought to dread it. If at times it uses us
roughly and always brings us back to the strait way when folly leads
us astray, it is only measuring its strength against our weakness, its
delicate scales balance the load according to our strength, and when,
in times of great anguish or terrible crisis, man is on the point of
giving way, it suddenly lifts the weight, leaves the soul a moment's
respite, and only when it has recovered breath is the burden replaced.
The righteous Will of God is always upon us, filling our hearts with
its might; His Love is ever about us, enabling us to grow and expand,
even through the suffering he sends, for it is ourselves who have
created this suffering.


[Footnote 10: Fortunately, this is a fact only in the imagination of
those who are blinded by faith.]

[Footnote 11: Before men had sinned individually on earth.]

[Footnote 12: _De corruptione et gratia_, chap. 7, No. 19; _Cont. Jul.
Pelag._, Book 4, chap. 3, No. 16, et _De Peccat. merit. et remiss._,
Book 3, chap. 4, No. 7.]

[Footnote 13: "Omnes illae unus homo fuerunt." _De Peccat. merit. et
remiss._, Book 1, chap. 10, No. 11.

Theologians pass over St. Augustine's adoption of this theory, giving
one to understand that he abandoned his error shortly before his
death. (_Dictionnaire de Théol._, by Abbé Berger; volume viii.,
article x., "_Traduciens._")]

[Footnote 14: See also, on this subject, his letter to Sixtus, before
the latter became Pope. Chap. vii., No. 31, and chap. vi., No. 27.]

[Footnote 15: The movements of "creation" and "absorption," which are
called in Hindu symbolism the outbreathing and the inbreathing of

[Footnote 16: Creation.]

[Footnote 17: After violet and red there stretches quite another
spectrum, invisible to the human eye; it is because violet is at the
beginning of our known spectrum, that one might think it was not the
neutral point thereof.]

[Footnote 18: The soul believes itself distinct from the All, because
it is subjected to the illusion engendered by its body.]

[Footnote 19: Without the aid of the eyes, walking is impossible to
those suffering from plantar anæsthesia.]

[Footnote 20: Pleasure, like every other form of sensation, produces
the same results, though perhaps with less force.]

[Footnote 21: A magnetic effect or an emotion. All travellers who have
escaped from the attacks of wild beasts mention this effect of
inhibition, manifested by the absence of fear and pain at the moment
of attack.]

[Footnote 22: Primordial matter which has not yet entered into any
combination and is not differentiated.]

[Footnote 23: A soul.]

[Footnote 24: In these cases, the soul.]

[Footnote 25: The personalities or new bodies created by the soul, on
each return to earth.]

[Footnote 26: That is to say, the seventh incarnation.]

[Footnote 27: Waking consciousness.]

[Footnote 28: See _Karma_, by A. Besant.]

[Footnote 29: Those who have studied thought know that it is capable
of being incorporated in diverse states of astral and mental matter.]

[Footnote 30: If the divine law allows it.]

[Footnote 31: If the divine law has not allowed the action to take

[Footnote 32: Man, after death, loses in succession his astral and
mental bodies.]

[Footnote 33: _La Théosophie en quelques chapitres_, by the author,
pages 31 to 34.]

[Footnote 34: "Hatred is destroyed only by love," said the Buddha.
"Return good for evil," said Jesus.]

[Footnote 35: It is this that causes the universal force of
opposition--_the Enemy_ or _demon_--to become evil only when ignorance
or the human will make use of it to oppose evolution: apart from such
cases, it is only the second pillar necessary for the support of the
Temple, the stepping-stone of the good.]

[Footnote 36: Perhaps this is only an apparent delay, for, on every
plane, force is correlative, and knowledge is the fruit of many
different kinds of energy. The only real cases in which there is delay
of individual evolution are probably those in which _evil is done in
return for evil_. Of course, we are speaking in relative terms and
from a relative standpoint.]

[Footnote 37: When human evolution is completed, man passes the
"strait gate" leading to superhuman evolution, to the spiritual life,
which develops the next higher principle, _Buddhi_; this is _the
Path_. Human evolution develops the mental principle, _Manas_;
Super-human evolution develops the spiritual body, _Buddhi._]

[Footnote 38: Here we are dealing with faults of a more or less venial

[Footnote 39: For ever, in this case, for the soul is above these
residues, and, so to speak, has given them no vitality for ages past.]

[Footnote 40: In completion of this chapter on the Law of Causality,
we refer the reader to A. Besant's book: _Karma._]



The secret of the Universe lies in observation; it is for man to
develop his senses and patiently to search into the hidden things of

All science proceeds thus, and the reason that savants have not
unearthed the precious object for which they seek with such wonderful
perseverance is that the physical senses, even when aided by the most
delicate instruments, are able to cognise only a portion of the
physical Universe--the denser portion. This is proved by the fact that
when man has succeeded in directing into a channel some subtle force,
he remains as ignorant of its essence as he was before chaining it
down, so to speak; he has not the slightest knowledge of it. He can
utilise but he cannot dominate it, for he has not discovered its
source. This source is not in the physical world, but on the finer
planes of being, which will remain unknown to us, so long as our
senses are incapable of responding to their vibrations.

Because physical observation reveals only the bark, the outer crust of
the Cosmos, man sees nothing but the surface of the world, and remains
in ignorance of the heart and vital plexus that give it life;
consequently, he calls the disintegration following upon
disincarnation by the senseless name of "death."

He who has lifted the veil of Isis sees divine Life everywhere, the
Life that animates forms, builds them up, uses them, and finally
breaks them to pieces when they have ceased to be of use; and this
Life--God--thus spread about in numberless forms, by means of its many
rays, develops in itself centres--souls--which gradually grow and
awaken their infinite potentialities[41] in the course of these
successive incarnations.

Still, though the eye of the god-man alone can penetrate this
wonderful mechanism and study it in all its astonishing details, the
savant whose mind is unprejudiced can judge of the concealed mechanism
by examining its outer manifestations, and it is on this ground we now
place ourselves with the object of setting forth another series of
proofs of reincarnation.


If we look attentively at the totality of beings we perceive a
progressive series of forms expressing a parallel series of qualities
and states of consciousness. The portion of this scale we are able to
compass extends from the amorphous state[42]--which represents the
minimum of consciousness--up to those organic complexities which have
allowed of a terrestrial expression being given to the soul of the
Saviours of the world. In this glorious hierarchy each step forms so
delicate a transition between the one preceding and the one following
that on the borders of the different kingdoms it becomes impossible to
trace a line of demarcation between different beings; thus one does
not know whether such or such a family should be classed among
minerals, or vegetables or animals. It is this that science has called
the evolutionary series.[43]


Another fact strikes the observer: the cyclic march of evolution.
After action comes reaction; after activity, rest; after winter,
summer; after day, night; after inspiration--the breath of life during
which universal Movement works in a molecular aggregate and there
condenses in the form of vitality--expiration--the breath of death,
which causes the individualised life to flow back into the ocean of
cosmic energy; after the systole, which drives the blood into every
part of the body, comes the diastole, which breathes back the vital
liquid into the central reservoir; after the waking state comes sleep;
life here and life hereafter; the leaves sprout and fall away
periodically, with the rising and descending of the sap; annual plants
die at the end of the season, persisting in germinal state within a
bulb, a rhizome, or a root before coming again to the light; in
"metamorphoses," we find that the germ (_the egg_) becomes a larva (_a
worm_), and then dies as a chrysalis, to be reborn as a butterfly.

Ideas also have their successive cycles of glory and decadence; is not
the present theosophical movement the renaissance of the Neoplatonic
movement which brought the light to Greece and Egypt fifteen hundred
years ago? In 1875 H. P. Blavatsky restored it to life, whilst its
previous birth look place in the time of Ammonius Saccas, the
theosophist, in the Schools of Alexandria. Those who have acquired the
power to read the cosmic records[44] will easily recognise amongst the
present pioneers of theosophy many a champion who in a former age
struggled and fought in the same sublime cause.

Races are born and grow up, die and are born again; pass through a
state of childhood, of youth, of maturity, and of old age. They
flourish in all their splendour when the vital movement which animates
them is at its height; when it leaves them and passes to other
portions of the globe, they gradually fall into old age; then the more
developed Egos--those incarnated in these races during their
maturity--come down into the advanced nations, living on the
continents animated by the "life-wave," whilst the less evolved go to
form the so-called degenerate races vegetating in obscure parts of the
world. Look now at the adolescence of Russia, the youth of America,
the old age of France, and the decrepitude of Turkey. Look backwards
at the glorious Egypt of bygone ages; nothing remains but deserts of
sand on which imperishable structures still testify to the greatness
of her past; the race that witnessed the majesty of the Hierophants
and the divine Dynasties is now inhabiting other lands.

Continents submit to the same law; history and science show how they
pass through a series of immersions and emersions; after Lemuria,
which bore the third race, came Atlantis, the mother of the fourth;
Europe and America now hold the various branches of the fifth; and
later on, when this old land of ours is again sunk beneath the waters,
new lands will have emerged from the ocean depths to bear the future
race, the sixth.

The very planets, too, come under this law; issuing as nebulæ from the
great womb of the Universe at the beginning of the evolution of a
solar system they are absorbed back again when the hour of their
dissolution strikes. Finally, the very Universes go forth from the
breast of Brahmâ when he out-breathes, and return to him when he
in-breathes again.

Everything, then, in appearance is born and dies. In reality, each
thing springs from its germ, makes an effort--the effort of the divine
Will incarnated in this germ--develops its potentialities up to a
certain step in the ladder of evolution, then garners the acquired
qualities and again returns to activity in continuous cycles of life
until its full development is reached.


The observer of Nature makes a third discovery. Every fresh cycle of
life is characterised by an advance on the preceding cycle; every
stage brings the end nearer. This represents progress, and it is seen
everywhere; when it does not appear, it is because our limited vision
cannot pierce its veil. Minerals slowly develop in the bowels of the
earth, and miners well know when the ore is more or less "ripe,"[45]
and that certain portions, now in a transition stage, will in a
certain number of centuries have become pure gold; experiments[46]
have proved that metals are liable to "fatigue" from excessive
tension; and that, after a rest, they acquire greater power of
resistance than before; magnets "are fed," _i.e._, they increase their
power of attraction, by exercise; cultivation improves and sometimes
altogether transforms certain species of vegetables; the rapid mental
development of domestic animals by contact with man is a striking
instance of the heights to which progress may attain when it is aided,
whilst the influence of teaching and education on the development of
individuals as well as of races is even more striking.[47]


_The Formation of Centres of Consciousness that become "Egos."_

Through innumerable wanderings this general progress traces a clear,
unwavering line. Those capable of following evolution on the planes of
finer matter at once perceive, as it were, wide-spreading centres
forming in the sea of divine Essence, which is projected by the Logos
into the Universe. As the ages pass, these centres are sub-divided
into more restricted centres, into clearer and clearer "blocks" in
which consciousness, that is, the faculty of receiving vibrations from
without, is gradually developed, and when this consciousness within
them reaches its limit, they begin to differentiate from their
surroundings, to feel the idea of the "I" spring up within them. From
that time, there is added to the power of receiving vibrations
consciously, that of generating them voluntarily; no longer are they
passive centres, but rather beings that have become capable of
receiving and giving freely, individualities recognising and affirming
themselves more day by day; "I's," who henceforth regard themselves as
separated from the rest of the Universe; this stage is that of the
Heresy of Separateness. Regarding this heresy, however, one may well
say: _Felix culpa._

Fortunate error, indeed, for it is the condition, _sine quâ non_ of
future divinity, of salvation. It is self-consciousness; man is born;
man, the centre of evolution, set midway between the divine fragment
which is beginning and that which is ending its unfoldment, at the
turning point of the arc which leads the most elementary of the
various kingdoms of Nature to the most divine of Hierarchies. This
stage is a terrible one, because it is that which represents egoism,
_i.e._ combat, the cause of every evil that afflicts the world, but it
is a necessary evil, for there can be no _individual_ wisdom, power,
and immortality without the formation of an "I." This ego is nothing
but the first shoot, or bud, of the individual soul; it is only one of
its first faculties; the finest show themselves subsequently. This bud
is to blossom into a sweet-smelling flower; love and compassion,
devotion, and self-sacrifice will come into manifestation, and the
"centre of consciousness," after passing through the primitive
stages--often called the elemental kingdoms--after being sheathed in
mineral, vegetable, and animal forms, after having thought, reasoned,
and willed in human forms and looked upon itself as separated from its
fellow-creatures, comes finally to understand that it is only a breath
of the spirit, momentarily clad in a frail garment of matter,
recognises its oneness with all and everything, passes into the
angelic state, is born as Christ and so ends as a finished, perfected
soul--a World-Saviour.

Such is the Goal of life, the wherefore of the Universes, the
explanation of these startling evolutions of souls in the various
worlds, the solution of the problem regarding the diversity in the
development of beings, the justification of Providence before the
blasphemy of the inequality of conditions.


_The Germ._

From the facts established in the course of this comprehensive view of
the Universe, we are enabled to draw important deductions.

For instance, as the basis of every "cycle of life" is found the egg
or germ, that strange microcosm which appears to contain within itself
the entire organism from which it proceeds and which seems capable of
manifesting it in its entirety. The first embryologic discovery we
make as the result of this study--a discovery of the utmost
importance--is that germs are one in essence, and are all endowed with
the same possibilities and potentialities. The only difference that
can be found in them is that the more evolved have acquired the power
of developing, in the same cycle, a greater number of links, so to
speak, in the chain of forms that proceeds from the atom to the
sheath, or envelope, of the Gods-Men. Thus, the highest germ which the
microscope enables us to follow--the human ovule--is first a kind of
mineral represented by the nucleus (the point, unity) of its germinal
cell; then it takes the vegetable form--a radicle, crowned by two
cotyledons (duality); afterwards it becomes a fish (multiplicity),
which is successively transformed into a batrachian, then a bird,
afterwards assuming more and more complex animal forms, until, about
the third month of foetal life, it appears in the human form.

The process of transformation is more rapid when Nature has repeated
it a certain number of times; it then represents a more extensive
portion of the ladder of evolution, but, be it noted, the process is
the same for all, and for all the ladder is composed of the same
number of steps; beings start from the same point, follow the same
path and halt at the same stages; nothing but their age causes their
inequalities. They are more than brothers, they are all
representatives of the One, that which is at the root of the Universe,
Divinity, supreme Being.

We also see that progress, the result of the conservation of
qualities, offers us repeated instances of these stages in the
reappearance, at each step of the ladder, of the forms preceding it in
the natural series. In the course of its evolution, the germ of an
animal passes through the mineral and vegetable forms; if the animal
is a bird, its final embryological form will be preceded by the animal
forms, which, in the evolutionary series, make their appearance before
the avian type; if we are dealing with a mammifer, the animal will be
the summit of all the lower types; when it is the human germ that we
are following in its development, we see that it also has contained
within itself and is successively reproducing the potentialities of
the whole preceding series. The microscope is able to show only
clearly marked stages and the most characteristic types, for evolution
runs through its initial stages with a rapidity defying the closest
physical observation. If only Nature would slacken her pace in order
to humour our incapacity, we should see in an even more striking
fashion that she preserves everything she has attained and develops
the power of reconstruction with ever-increasing rapidity and

True, each cycle of incarnation realises only an infinitesimal
fraction of the total progress made, each being advances only one step
at a time along this interminable series; but then, are not these
minor "cycles" in the course of which brings grow and advance towards
the final Goal, the visible, material expression, the tangible and
indisputable proof of the strict, the inexorable Law of Rebirths?

_What the Germ contains._

Now let us examine a little more carefully this process of physical
germination and attempt to discover an important secret from it; let
us see whether the material germ contains the whole being, or whether,
as the ancient wisdom teaches, the vehicles of the divine Spark in
evolution are as numerous as the germs which respectively effect their
development and preservation.

Although here, too, the doctrine of the Christian churches is
inadequate, we cannot altogether pass it by in silence. We will,
therefore, state it, recommending the reader to compare it with the
theory of science and the teachings of theosophy.

The Churches deny evolution. They say: one single body, one single
state of development for each human being. For the lower kingdoms a
state of nothingness before birth and after death, whatever may have
been the fate of these beings during the short life imposed upon them;
for man a single body for which God creates a single soul and to which
He gives a single incarnation on a single planet,[48] the Earth.

It is our ardent wish that the signs of the growing acceptance of the
idea of evolution now manifesting themselves in Christian teaching may
increase, and that the Church, whatever be the influence that induces
her to take the step, will in the end loyally hold out her hand to
Science. Instead of remaining hostile, the two will then help each
other to mount the ladder of Truth; and divine Life, the light of all
sciences, philosophies, and religions, will illumine the dark path
they are treading, and guide their steps towards that One Truth which
is both without and within them.

Scientific materialism says:

Yes, everything is born again from its germ--thus is progress made,
but that is the limit of my concessions. Everything is matter; the
soul has no existence. There is evolution of matter, for matter, and
by matter. When a form is destroyed, its qualities, like its power of
rebirth, are stored away in a latent condition, within the germs it
has produced during its period of activity. Along with the
disappearance of matter, everything disappears--qualities, thoughts,
"ego"--and passes into a latent slate within the germ; along with the
return of the form, qualities and attributes gradually reappear
without any hypothetical soul whatever having any concern in the
matter. So long as the form is in its germ stage, the being is nothing
more than a mass of potentialities; when fully developed its faculties
reappear, but they remain strictly attached to the form, and if the
latter changes, the faculties echo the change, so to speak, with the
utmost fidelity. Matter is the parent of intelligence, the brain
manufactures thought, and the heart distills love, just as the liver
secretes bile; such is the language of present-day science.

This theory accepts the idea of universal injustice in its entirety;
we shall shortly prove that, notwithstanding its apparent logic, it
explains only one side of evolution, and that if matter is the
condition _sine quâ non_ of the manifestation of spirit, it is at
least curious that the latter acts so powerfully upon it, and is,
beyond the possibility of a doubt, its real master.[49]

Modern Theosophy, as well as the Wisdom of old, says in its turn:

Spirit is the All, the one Being, the only Being that exists.

Force-matter[50] is nothing but the product of the spirit's activity;
in it we find many and divers properties--density, weight,
temperature, volume, elasticity, cohesion, &c., because we judge it
from our sense perceptions; but in reality, we know it so little, that
the greatest thinkers have called it "a state of consciousness,"
_i.e._, an impression produced by it within ourselves.[51] It is the
result of the will of the supreme Spirit, which creates "differences"
(forms) in unfathomable homogeneous Unity, which is incarnated in them
and produces the modifications necessary for the development of its
powers, in other words, for the accomplishment of their evolution. As
this evolution takes place in the finite--for the Infinite can effect
its "sacrifice," _i.e._ its incarnation,[52] only by limiting
itself--it is progressive, proceeding from the simple to the complex.
Each incarnate, divine "fragment"[53] at first develops the simpler
qualities and acquires the higher ones only by degrees; these
qualities can appear only by means of a vehicle of matter, just as the
colour-producing properties of a ray of light only become manifest
with the aid of a prism. Form plays the part of the revealer of the
qualities latent in the divine germ (the soul); the more complex this
form becomes, the more atomic divisions it has in a state of activity;
the greater the number of senses it has awake, the greater the number
of qualities it expresses.

In this process, we see at work, three main factors; _Spirit_,[54]
awakening within itself _vibrations_,[55] which assume _divers
appearances_.[56] These three factors are one; force-matter and form
cannot exist without the all-powerful, divine Will (Spirit), for this
is the supreme Being, who, by his Will, creates force matter, by his
Intelligence gives it a form, and animates it with his Love.

Force-matter is the blind giant, who, in the Sankhya philosophy,
carries on his shoulders the lame man who can see--a giant, for it is
activity itself; and blind, because this activity is directed only by
the intelligent Will of the Spirit. The latter is lame, because when
it has not at its disposal an instrument of form-matter, it cannot
act, it cannot appear, it is no longer manifested, having disappeared
with the great periodical dissolution of things which the poetical
East calls the inbreathing of Brahmâ.

Form--all form--creates a germ which reproduces it. The germ is an
aggregate containing, in a very high state of vitalisation, all the
atomic types that will enter into the tissues of the form it has to
build up. These types serve as centres of attraction for the atoms
which are to collect round them when, under the influence of the
"vital fire,"[57] creative activity has been roused in the germ. Each
atomic type now attracts from the immediate surroundings the atoms
that resemble it, the process of segmentation which constitutes
germination begins, and the particular tissues represented by the
different atomic types are formed; in this way the fibrous, osseous,
muscular, nervous, epithelial, and other tissues are reproduced.

The creative activity that builds up tissues, if left to itself, could
create nothing but formless masses; it must have the help of the
intelligence to organise the atoms into molecules, the molecules into
tissues, and these again into organs capable of a corporate life as a
single organism, supplied with centres of sensation and action. This
intelligence cannot proceed from the mind bodies of the various
beings, for the latter manifest their qualities only when they possess
a fully-developed form--which is not the case with the germs;
moreover, the lower kingdoms show nothing but instinct, and even the
superior animals possess only a rudimentary form of mentality. The
most skilful human anatomist knows nothing more than the eye can teach
him regarding the forms he dissects, though even if he were acquainted
with their whole structure, he would none the less be quite incapable
of creating the simplest sense organ. The Form is the expression of
cosmic intelligence, of God incarnated in the Universe, the Soul of
the world, which, after creating matter, aggregates it into divers
types, to which it assigns a certain duration. The type of the form
varies with the stage of development of the being (_the soul_)
incarnated therein, for the instrument must be adapted to the artist's
capacity; the latter could not use an instrument either too imperfect
or too perfect for his degree of skill. What could the rudimentary
musician of a savage tribe do if seated before the complex organ of
one of our cathedrals; whilst, on the other hand, what kind of
harmony could a Wagner produce from a shepherd's pipe? The Cosmic
intelligence would appear to have created a single, radical form-type,
which gradually develops and at each step produces an apparently new
form, until its series has reached the finished type of evolution. It
stops the evolutionary process of each germ at the requisite point in
the scale; in the case of the most rudimentary souls it allows a
single step to be taken, thus supplying an instrument that possesses
the requisite simplicity; the process is continued longer for the more
advanced souls, but stops just when the form has become a suitable
instrument. When it does not furnish the fecundated germ with the
"model" which is to serve as a ground-plan for atomic deposits,
segmentation takes place in a formless mass, and in this the tissues
are shown without organisation; it is then a môle, a false conception.

It is the same cosmic Intelligence that derides the period during
which the form shall remain in a state of activity in the world. Until
a soul has learnt the lesson that incarnation in a form must teach it,
this form is necessary, and is given to it again and again until the
soul has assimilated the experience that form had to supply; when it
has nothing more to learn from the form, on returning to incarnation
it passes into one that is more complex. The soul learns only by
degrees, beginning with the letters of the alphabet of Wisdom, and
gradually passing to more complex matter; thus the stages of evolution
are innumerable and the transition from one to the other
imperceptible; modern science states this fact, though without
explaining it, when she says that "Nature makes no leaps."

The building up of forms is effected by numerous Beings, forming an
uninterrupted chain that descends from the mighty Architect, God, to
the humblest, tiniest, least conscious of the "builders."[58] God, the
universal Spirit, directs evolution, and could accomplish every detail
of it directly; but it is necessary, for their own development, that
the souls, whatever stage they have reached, should work in the whole
of creation, and therein play the part, whether consciously or
unconsciously, that they are fitted to play. Consequently they are
employed at every stage; and, in order to avoid mistakes, their
activity is guided by more advanced souls, themselves the agents of
higher cosmic Entities, right on up to God, the sovereign controller
of the hierarchies. Consequently there are no mistakes--if, indeed,
there are any real ones at all--in Nature, except those that are
compatible with evolution and of which the results are necessary for
the instruction of souls; but the Law is continually correcting them
in order to restore the balance. Such, in general outline, is the
reason for the intervention of beings in the evolutionary process.

So far as man is concerned, the highest of these Beings supply the
ideal type of the form which is to give the soul, when reincarnated,
the best means of expression; others take charge of these models and
entrust them to entities whose sole mission is to keep them before
their mental eyes and guide the thousands of "builders" who build
round them the atoms which are to form the tabernacle of flesh in its
minutest details; these Liliputian builders may be seen at work by the
inner eye; they are as real as the workmen who construct material
edifices in accordance with an architect's plans.

That everything may be faithfully reproduced in form the entity that
controls the building must not lose sight of the model for a single
moment. Nor does it do so, generally speaking, for one may say that
this being is, as it were, the soul of the model, being one with it
and conscious only of the work it has to perform. In many cases,
however, it receives certain impressions before birth from the
mother's thoughts: an influence capable either of forwarding or
hindering its work. The ancient Greeks were well acquainted with this
fact when they assisted Nature to create beautiful forms by placing in
the mother's room statues of rare plastic perfection, and removing
from her sight every suggestion of ugliness. More than this; certain
intense emotions of the pregnant woman are capable of momentarily
effacing the image of the model which the builder has to reproduce,
and replacing certain of its details with images arising from the
mother's imagination. If these images are sufficiently vivid, the
being follows them; and if they endure for a certain length of time
they are definitely incorporated in the building of the body. In this
fashion, many birth marks (_naevi materni_) are produced; strawberries
or other fruit, eagerly desired at times when they cannot be procured,
have appeared on the child's skin; divers objects that have left a
vivid impression on the imagination may have the same effect. The
clearness and perfection of the impression depend on the intensity and
continuance of the mental image; the part where it is to appear
depends on the sense impressions of the mother coinciding with the
desire which forms the image--for instance, a spot on the body touched
rather sharply at the moment. This has given rise to the idea that
the "longing" is impressed on that part of the body which the mother
is touching during her desire. When the image is particularly strong
and persistent considerable modifications of the body have been
obtained; in such cases, children are born with animal-like heads, and
treatises on teratology relate the case of a foetus born with the
head detached from the trunk, because the mother, after witnessing an
execution, had been horribly impressed by the sight of the separated
heads of the victims. Malebranche, in his _Recherche de la Vérité_,
tells of a child that was born with broken limbs because his mother
had seen the torture of the wheel. In this case, the image must have
been of enormous vibratory power and of considerable persistence.[59]

A general or even a local arrest of development is almost always due
to the phenomenon of mental inhibition experienced by the same being;
it definitely ceases to see the plan, evolution stops, and the
embryo, expelled before the time takes on the form of the evolutionary
stage it had reached at that moment; if it ceases to deal with a
single detail only that detail remains in _statu quo_, and is often
embedded in portions of the organism quite away from the point where
it would have been found had it continued to evolve; certain cysts
belong to this class.

The third factor, the Spirit, the Soul--or, to be more exact, the
incarnated divine ray--follows a line of evolution parallel to that of
the matter which constitutes its form, its instrument; this
parallelism is so complete that it has deceived observers
insufficiently acquainted with the wonders of evolution. It is thus
that scientific materialism has taken root. We will endeavour to set
forth the mistake that has been made, and call to mind the correctness
of the Vedantin symbol, which represents the soul as lame, incapable
of acting without the giant, force-matter; though the latter, without
the guidance of the former, could not advance along the path of

This soul is a "no-thing," which, in reality, is everything; a ray of
the spiritual sun (_God_), a divine spark incarnated in the vibration
(_matter_) produced by the supreme Being, it is a "centre," capable
of all its Father's potentialities. These potentialities, which may be
grouped together under three general heads--power, love, and
wisdom--we may sum up in the one word: consciousness. It is, indeed, a
"centre of consciousness" in the germinal state, that is about to
blossom forth, realising all its possibilities and becoming a being
fully aware of its unity with the Being from which it comes and which
it will then have become.

In this development the vibrations of outer matter play the part of
the steel, which, on striking flint, causes the life latent within the
latter to dart forth. Each vibration which strikes the soul arouses
therein a dormant faculty, and when all the vibrations of the universe
have touched it, this soul will have developed as many faculties as
that universe admits of, until, in the course of successive worlds, it
becomes increasingly divine in the one Divine Being. In order that all
the vibrations of which a universe is capable may reach the soul the
latter must surround itself with all the different types of atoms that
exist in the world, for every vibration is an atomic movement, and the
nature of the vibration depends on the quality of the atoms in motion.
Now, the first part of evolution consists in condensing round vital
centres[60] (_souls_) atoms aggregated in combinations of a
progressively increasing density, on to those that make up the
physical plane; when the soul has thus clothed itself with the
elements of all the planes, the resulting form is called a
"microcosm"--a small Cosmos--for it contains, in reality, all the
elements contained in the Universe. During this progressive
development, the soul, which thus effects its "fall" into matter,
receives from all the planes through which it passes and from all the
forms in which it incarnates, varied vibrations which awake within it
correspondingly responsive powers and develop a non-centred, diffused,
non-individualised consciousness.

In the second phase of evolution, the forms are limited, the
vibrations they receive are transmitted by specialised sensorial
groups, and the soul, hitherto endowed with a diffused consciousness,
begins to feel varieties of vibrations that grow ever more numerous,
to be distinguished from the surrounding world, to separate itself, so
to speak, from everything around; in a word, to develop
self-consciousness. This separation first takes place on the physical
plane; it is made easier by hard, violent contacts, and the forms, in
their turn, become more complex, varied, and specialised in proportion
as the soul is the more perfectly individualised. When it has
developed all the self-conscious responsive powers in the physical
body, it begins to develop those faculties which have as their organs
of transmission the finer bodies, and as planes of vibration the
invisible worlds.

In our planetary system the number of the invisible planes is
seven.[61] Each of them in turn supplies the soul with a form; thus,
when evolution--which in its second phase successively dematerialises
matter, _i.e._, disassociates the atoms from their combinations,
beginning with the denser ones--has dissolved the physical plane, the
human soul will utilise, as its normal body, a finer one which it is
at present using as a link between the mental and the physical
bodies. Before this dissolution is effected, however, human beings
will have developed, to some extent, several finer bodies, already
existing, though hitherto not completely organised.

The first of these bodies, the astral--a very inappropriate name,
though here used because it is so well known--is a copy, more or less,
of the physical form in its general aspect; the resemblance and
clearness of the features are pronounced in proportion to the
intellectual development of the person, for thought-vibration has
great influence over the building up of the centres of force and of
sensation in this body.[62]

The second is an even finer aggregate, composed of mental substance
and assuming, during incarnation, the form of a smaller or larger
ovoid--the causal body--surrounding the physical form.[63] At its
centre, and plunged in the astral body during incarnation, is another
kind of ovoid not so large and composed of denser substance--the
mental body.[64]

Above these states of matter, at the present stage there appears no
form to the consciousness of human beings, though perfect seers can
perceive, within the causal body, still higher grades of matter, which
will only subsequently become centres of self-consciousness.

During incarnation, the soul, in the majority of men, is clearly
conscious of itself and of its surroundings only when it is
functioning through the nervous system (the brain); when it leaves the
denser body, during sleep, its consciousness is in the astral body,
and there it thinks,[65] but without being conscious of what is taking
place around it. After disincarnation, it generally becomes highly
conscious in its astral body, where it passes its purgatorial life;
and this latter endures until the soul leaves the astral body. As soon
as the latter is thrown off, consciousness centres in the mental body;
this is the period of _Devachan_ or Heaven. When the mental body is
put off, paradise is at an end, and the soul, sheathed only in the
causal body, finds itself on a very lofty plane, but here,
consciousness is vague, when we are dealing with a man of average
development. Instead of laying aside this garment, as so far it has
done with the rest, it recommences, after the lapse of a certain
time, another descent into the matter of the lower planes and a new
incarnation begins.

To the centre of the causal body are drawn atoms from the inner mental
plane; these represent a new mental body.[66] When this latter has
been formed, there are attracted to it atoms of the astral plane, and
these form a new astral body; the soul, clothed in these two sheaths,
if one may so express it, is brought into conscious or unconscious
relation, according to its degree of development, with the two
corresponding planes, lives there generally for a short time, and is
directed to a mother's womb, in which is created the visible body of
flesh within the centre of its astral body.

This force of atomic attraction has its centre in the causal body, a
kind of sensitive plate on which are registered all those vibrations
which disturb or affect human vehicles during incarnation. This body is,
in effect, the present abode of the soul, it represents the terminal
point of human consciousness,[67] the real centre of man.[68] It
receives all the impressions of the plane on which it finds itself, as
well as those which come to it from the lower planes, and responds to
them the more readily as it has now attained a fuller development. It
possesses the power to attract and to repel; a microcosm, it has its
outbreathing and inbreathing, as has the Macrocosm; like Brahmâ, it
creates its bodies and destroys them, although in the vast majority of
mankind it exercises this power more or less unconsciously and under the
irresistible impulsion of the force of evolution--the divine Will. When
it attracts, it causes to recur within itself the vibrations it has
received and registered--like a phonographic roll--during the past
incarnations; these vibrations reverberate in the outer world, and
certain of them attract from this world[69]--in this case the mental
world--the atoms capable of responding to them. When they have created
the mental body, other vibrations can be transmitted through this body
to the astral world and attract atoms which will form the body bearing
the same name--the astral--and finally other vibrations, making use of
these two bodies as a means of transmission, will affect the physical
plane and attract atoms which will assist in the building up of the
denser body.

Everywhere the formative power of vibration is guided by cosmic
intelligence, but it is effected far more easily in the reconstruction
of the higher bodies, that precedes incarnation properly so-called,
than in the creation of the now physical body. Indeed, in the astral
and mental bodies, nothing is produced but an atomic mass, the many
elements of which will be aggregated into complete organisms only
during incarnation properly so-called, whilst the construction of the
visible body admits of a mass of extremely delicate and important
details. It is for this reason that we have seen this work of
construction entrusted to special Beings who prepare, control and
watch over it unceasingly.

It is because the causal body registers every vibration the
personality[70] has generated or received in the course of its series
of incarnations, that the vices and virtues are preserved, as is the
case with the faults or the good qualities of the physical body. The
man who has created for himself a coarse astral body by feeding the
passions and thoughts which specially vivify the coarser matter of
this body will on returning to earth find a new astral body composed
of the same elements, though then in a dormant state. He who, by the
cultivation of a lofty intellect, has built up a refined mental body,
will return to incarnation with a like mental body, whilst the one
who, by meditation and the practice of devotion which bring into being
the noblest qualities of the heart, has set vibrating the purest
portions of the causal body and of the divine essence (Âtmâ-Buddhi, as
it is named in Sanskrit), with which it is filled, will return to
birth endowed with those qualities which make apostles and saints, the
Saviours of the world.

In other words:

Matter has more remote boundaries than science recognises; the
numberless grades of atoms of which it consists, their powers of
aggregation, the multiplicity and duration of the bodies they form,
are not even suspected by materialism.

Materialism sees nothing but the part played by matter; it denies that
intelligence plays any part, and will by no means admit--in spite of
evolution and progress--that above man there exists an almost endless
chain of higher and higher Beings, whilst below him are kingdoms of an
increasingly restricted range of consciousness. By refusing to believe
in the multiplicity of the vehicles which the human soul uses, it is
unable to understand individual survival or to solve the problem of
heredity. Indeed, evolution is only partially explained by the
physical germ; the latter, in order to act alone and of itself in the
development of the human embryo should possess a degree of
intelligence considerably superior to that of man. This is the
opposite of what we find, however, and we are brought face to face
with the absurd fact of a cause vastly inferior to its effect. Indeed,
the intelligence shown by the germ is not its own; it is that of the
cosmic Mind reflected by mighty Beings, its willing servants. Besides,
this germ contains only the qualities that belong to physical matter,
and, as we shall show, the moral, mental, and spiritual qualities are
preserved by the finer--the causal--body, which represents the real
man at the present time.


If materialism were the whole truth, it ought to explain the whole of
heredity; instead of that it clashes with almost all the problems of
life. Physical substance offers for analysis none but physical
phenomena: attraction, repulsion, heat, electricity, magnetism, vital
movement; the anatomical constitution of the highest--the
nerve--tissue, presents only the slightest differences in the animal
series, if these differences are compared with the enormous
distinctions in the qualities it expresses. Differences of form,
visible to the microscope, are at times important, we shall be told,
and those that affect the atomic activity and groupings[71] are
perhaps even more important. That is true, especially in whatever
concerns man.

Intelligence cannot always be explained by the complexity of the
brain--though this complexity is the condition of faculty, as a
rule--insects such as ants, bees, and spiders, whose brains are
nothing but simple nerve ganglia, display prodigies of foresight,
architectural ability and social qualities; whilst along with these
dwarfs of the animal kingdom, we see giants that manifest only a
rudimentary mind, in spite of their large, convoluted brains. Among
the higher animals, there is not one that could imitate the
beaver--which, all the same, is far from being at the head of the
animal series--in building for itself a house in a river and storing
provisions therein.

There is a vast gulf, in the zoological series, before and after these
insects, as there is before and after the beaver; whilst an even wider
gulf separates the highest specimens of the animal world from man

Nor do the weight and volume of the brain afford any better
explanation of the difference in intellect than does its structural

The weight relations between the brain and the body of different
animals have been estimated as follows by Debierre (_La Moëlle et l'

Rabbit    1 of brain for 140 of body.
Cat       1      "       156   "
Fox       1      "       205   "
Dog       1      "       351   "
Horse     1      "       800   "

If matter were the only condition _sine quâ non_ of intelligence, we
should have to admit that the rabbit was more intelligent than the
cat, the fox, the dog, and even than the horse.

In the same work the following figures express the average size of the
brain in different races of men.

Pariahs of India      1332 cubic centimetres.
Australians           1338         "
Polynesians           1500         "
Ancient Egyptians     1500         "
Merovingians          1537         "
Modern Parisians      1559         "

This would prove that the people who built Karnac and the Pyramids,
who raised to an elevation of about 500 feet blocks of granite, one of
which would require fifteen horses to drag it along a level road, who
placed these enormous stones side by side without mortar or cement of
any kind and with almost invisible joints, who possessed the secret of
malleable glass and of painting in colours that have not faded even
after the lapse of centuries ... that such a race of men were inferior
to the rude, uncultured Merovingians, and scarcely the equals of the

Science also tells us that in a child five years of age the human
brain weighs, on an average, 1250 grammes--this, too, would bear no
relation whatever with the intellectual and moral development of a
child of that age and that of an adult man.

Though Cuvier's brain weighed 1830 grammes, and Cromwell's 2230, that
of Tiedemann, the great anatomist, when placed on the scales, weighed
no more than 1254, and that of Gambetta only 1246.

The physical body of itself can give no reason for a host of
psychological phenomena on which, however, a flood of light is shed if
one recognises the existence of other vehicles of consciousness
possessing more far-reaching vibrations, and consequently capable of
expressing higher faculties. During sleep, for instance, which is
characterised by the Ego having left his physical body, reason is
absent, and what we call dreams are generally nothing but a tissue of
nonsense, at which the dreamer feels astonishment only when returning
to his body on awaking. On the other hand, as we have seen in Chapter
I., when the Ego succeeds in imprinting on the brain the vibrations of
the higher consciousness, it is able to regain the memory of facts
long forgotten and to solve problems that could not be solved during
the waking state. There are madmen who have ceased to be mad during
somnambulism; persons of rudimentary intelligence have proved
themselves to be profound thinkers during the mesmeric trance; when
under somnambulism vision is possible to those born blind and certain
people can see things that are happening a great distance away, and
their reports have been proved correct; certain phenomena of
double-consciousness cannot be explained without the plurality--the
duality, at all events--of the vehicles of consciousness.

To return to the _rôle_ played by the germ in the question of
heredity, we repeat that the physical germ, of itself alone, explains
only a portion of man; it throws light on the physical side of
heredity, but leaves in as great darkness as ever the problem of
intellectual and moral faculty. If it represented the whole man, one
would expect to find in any individual the qualities manifested in his
progenitors or parents--never any other; these qualities could not
exceed the amount possessed by the parents, whereas we find criminals
from birth in the most respectable families and saints born to parents
who are the very scum of society. You may come across twins, _i.e._,
beings born from the same germs, under the same conditions of time
and environment, one of whom is an angel and the other a demon,
though their physical forms closely resemble each other.

Child prodigies are sufficiently numerous to frequently trouble the
thinker with the problem of heredity. Whence came that irresistible
impulse towards poetry in Ovid which showed itself from his earliest
youth and in the end overcame the vigorous opposition of his parents?

Pascal in his youth met with keen opposition from his parents, who
forbade him to think of mathematics and geometry. He besought his
father to tell him, at all events, "what was that science of which he
was forbidden to think, and what it treated of." The answer was given
to him that "it is the method of making correct figures and finding
out the proportions they bear to each other." With nothing more than
this information and the aid of reflection, he discovered for himself
the first thirty-two propositions of Euclid by means of "circles and
lines" traced in secret.

Mozart, at the age of three, learnt the clavecin by watching his
sister play; a year afterwards he composed admirably, at the age of
seven he played the violin at first sight without having had any
teacher, and proved himself a composer of genius before he reached his
twelfth birthday.

Pepito Ariola, the little Spaniard, was only three years of age when,
about ten years ago, he filled with astonishment the Court of Madrid
by his wonderful playing on the piano.

In the lineage of these prodigies has there been found a single
ancestor capable of explaining these faculties, as astonishing as they
are premature? If to the absence of a cause in their progenitors is
added the fact that genius is not hereditary, that Mozarts,
Beethovens, and Dantes have left no children stamped from birth as
prodigies of genius, we shall be forced to the conclusion that, within
the limits it has taken up, materialism is unable to explain heredity.

A few more words must be said on physical heredity to explain why
moral qualities in men of average development are often on a par with
the same in their parents.

In reality, the physical germs only multiply the organic elements of
the ovule, and as this latter contains the cell-types of all the
tissues, it follows that these cell-types will possess the qualities
of the tissues that exist in the parents. For instance, germs of
sufferers from arterio-sclerosis will supply a vascular apparatus
predisposed to arterio-sclerosis; tuberculous subjects will supply
germs in which the vital vibrations and cellular solidity will be
below the normal, and bring about those degenerate tendencies which
characterise the tuberculous subject; those of sanguine constitution
will transmit a faculty for vital assimilation and considerable
corpuscular production, and so on.[72]

In this transmission there are two main factors: the male and the
female germs. The former represents force, it imprints on the ovule
the initial vital vibration which is to be that of each of the cells
of the organism in course of construction. The function of this germ
may be studied more easily in animals, because their heredity is not
complicated by the individual differences due to the mental vehicle.
The stallion supplies the vital qualities--the blood, _i.e._, the
vivacity, _brio_, pace; physical resistance comes from the mare. To
sum up, the modalities of matter are supplied by the feminine germ.

Peculiarities of form proceed from several causes. Phrenology and
physiognomy are sciences, though the studies hitherto known by these
names are almost valueless because they have not been carried on with
the necessary scientific precision. Doubtless Gall and Lavater
possessed the gift of penetrating both mind and heart, as was also the
case with Mlle. Lenormand Desbarolles and the genuine graphologists;
but this gift was not the result of mathematical deduction, but
rather a psychometric or prophetic faculty; for this reason neither
they nor their books have produced pupils worthy of the name. The main
features and lines only of the human form have a known meaning--and
not always a very precise one--for every physical, passional, mental,
or spiritual force possesses an organ of expression in the visible
body, and the varieties of form of this organ enable one to judge of
the degrees of force they express on the earth plane. On this basis,
peculiarities of form mainly stand; and the intensity of certain
defects or qualities is at times expressed so strongly that it
completely modifies the tendencies it would seem that heredity ought
to pass on. The similarity of form between parent and child is not
exact, because it proceeds from the peculiarities of the individual in
incarnation far more than from the collective tendencies of the
embryonic cells in process of proliferation.

The being charged with building the body can, in turn, considerably
modify its form, copying specially striking features found in the
mother's thought; certain characteristic family traits, the Bourbon
nose, for instance; those belonging to strangers in continual
relationship with the mother, and those that a babe, fed and brought
up away from home, takes from his nurse or from the surroundings amid
which he lives; all these probably leave their impress in the same
way. In this case, indeed, the "builder"--who, it must be added,
ceases the work of construction only when it is on its way to
completion, which happens about the age of seven--is influenced by the
forms of the new surroundings, and at times copies them, more or less,
and we may ask ourselves if the unexplained fact of negro children
being born to a white woman--the widow of a negro--remarried to a
white man is in no way connected with the reproduction of a mental
image of the coloured children of a former marriage.

Another fact: observers have noticed that almost all great men have
had as their mother a woman of lofty character. This preponderance of
the maternal influence will be understood if we remember that the
cellular mass that composes the child's body belongs to the mother,
not only because this mass originates from the proliferation of the
ovule, and, consequently, is only the multiplication of the maternal
substance, but also because the materials that have formed it and have
been transmuted into flesh have been supplied by her; indeed,
everything comes from this cellular mass, the elements drawn from the
amniotic fluid and the blood, the milk, which, after birth, continues
for long months to build up the child's body and the magnetic fluid,
the "atoms of life," which are continually escaping from it and which
the babe absorbs whilst receiving incessant attention from his mother.

This exchange of atoms is of the utmost importance, for these
ultra-microscopic particles are charged with our mental and moral
tendencies as well as with the physical qualities; personally, I have
had many direct proofs of this, but the most striking came at a
critical period of my life. One day, when nervous exhaustion, steadily
increased by overwork, had reached an extreme stage, a great
Being--not a Mahatma, but a Soul at a very lofty stage of
evolution--sent to me by destiny at the time, poured into my shattered
body a portion of his physical life. Shortly afterwards a real
transformation took place, far more of a moral than of a physical
nature, and for a few hours I felt myself the "copy" or counterpart of
that great Soul, and the divine influence lasted twenty-four hours
before it gradually died away.

I then understood, better than by any other demonstration, the
influence of the physical upon the moral nature and the method of the
subtle contagion often effected by mesmerism. _A man is known by the
friends he keeps_ is an old proverb.

If atoms of life can have so marked an influence upon a man nearly
forty years of age, _i.e._, at a period when he is in full possession
of himself, how much more powerful is this influence when exercised
upon the child--a delicate, sensitive body, almost entirely lacking
the control of the soul? This is the reason hired nurses often
transmit to the child their own physical features and countless moral
tendencies which last some time after weaning; orphans, too, morally,
often resemble the strangers who have brought them up. Like physical
tendencies these moral propensities disappear only by degrees,
according to change of environment, and especially to the degree in
which the body is controlled by the reincarnated soul.[73]

The most important, however, of the moral influences at work on the
being again brought into touch with earth-life is connected with the
emotions, the passions and thoughts of those around. The child--and
under this name must be included the embryo and the foetus--possesses
bodies the subtle elements of which are in a dormant state; his mental
and sense organisms are scarcely more than masses of substance that have
not yet been vitalised--a sort of collection of germs of good or of
evil, which will yield fruit when they awake. The passional and mental
vibrations of the parents play on the matter capable of responding to
them in the invisible bodies of the child; they vivify it, attract atoms
of the same nature taken from the finer atmosphere around, and awake in
it passional and mental centres which, but for them, might have remained
latent, or, at all events, would only have developed at a later stage,
when the Ego, master of its vehicles, would be in a position to struggle
against the outer evil influences and not permit them to have effect
save within the limits imposed by will. In this way, it is possible to
bring to birth evil instincts in a child, and intensify them to a
considerable extent, before a single virtue has succeeded in expressing
itself on the new instrument in course of development. This mental
action is so strong that it colours vividly, if not altogether, the
morality of the little ones living beneath its influence, and even older
children are still so sensitive to it that whole classes are seen to
reflect the moral character of the teacher who has charge of them. This
influence, too, does not cease with childhood, it weighs--though far
less heavily--on the man during the whole of his life; and families,
nations, nay, even races, each see through the prism of their own
special atmosphere. Mighty and subtle is this illusion which man, in the
course of his pilgrimage towards divine Unity, must succeed in piercing
and finally entirely dissipating.

Our responsibility towards children is all the more serious in that,
to the deep impression which thought makes on the subtle, plastic, and
defenceless mental bodies of the little ones, is added the fact that,
could one prevent the development of the germs of evil in the course
of one incarnation, these germs, not having fructified, would transmit
nothing to the _causal body_ after death, and would disappear[74] with
the disintegration of the matter of which they were composed.
Consequently, with regard to children especially, we should cultivate
none but noble emotions and lofty thoughts, so as to create centres of
pure and worthy activity within their vehicles in course of
reconstruction, and to turn their early impulses in the direction of
good, their first actions towards duty and their first aspirations
towards the lofty and luminous heights of spirituality.

One may see from this rapid sketch how numerous and important are the
influences added to and blended with those of physical heredity. This
group of influences, some maleficent, some beneficent, is chosen by
the Beings who control destiny and give to each Ego, on reincarnation,
the body and environment it has merited, or rather that are needed,
for the harmonious development of its faculties. A young soul[75]
still at the mercy of the animal impulses--necessary impulses at the
outset of human development--of its kâmic, _i.e._, desire, vehicle, is
sent to parents who will be able to supply its body with material
elements of a particular density without which these impulses could
not manifest themselves. An Ego that is approaching maturity will be
drawn to a family that is physically and morally pure, in which it
will receive both the finer physical vehicle it needs and that lofty
environment which, when it enters upon earth life, will develop the
centres of expression for its nobler faculties. Those who are named in
the mystic phraseology of the East, the "Lords of Karma," in their
choice of the race, the family, and the environment in which the
reincarnated soul is to appear, seek to give this latter the most
favourable conditions for its evolution. An Ego whose artistic side
needs to be developed will often be born in a family which will supply
it with a nervous system accustomed to the kind of vibrations
required, and an environment favourable to the early development of
the physical centres of these faculties; to assist a being whose
scientific, mystical, or metaphysical side needs to be developed,
other environment and parentage will be chosen, and it is this
relative parallelism existing between the moral qualities of the
parents and those of the children which has deceived observers
insufficiently instructed in the mystery of heredity, and made them
believe in the influence of the physical germ alone.

It is an easy matter to supply an Ego of average development with a
vehicle; an ordinary body is all that is needed. There may be extreme
difficulty, however, when a new instrument has to be found for a lofty
soul, and when we think that, in pressing instances when the fortune
of humanity is at stake and the hour of destiny has struck, certain
great Souls accept very imperfect bodies for want of better ones, we
shall no longer be astonished at finding that any particular
Messenger, in his compassion for the humanity he has to enlighten and
to direct to the ancient, eternal Source of Truth, has clothed himself
with a body of flesh the ancestry of which was far from being adapted
to the expression of his lofty faculties; courageous Souls are well
able to put on the robe of pain and to submit to slander and calumny
when the world's salvation can only be achieved at such a cost. We
know scarcely anything of the conditions that control the return to
earth of the Avataras, the "Sons of God," except that sometimes great
Initiates, after purifying their bodies, voluntarily hand them over to
the "gods," who come down to earth--a sublime sacrifice which, like
that of the Saviours who consent to come amongst us, shows forth that
supreme characteristic of divinity; the gift of oneself.

Nor is heredity always realised; many a physical characteristic is not
reproduced; in families tainted with dangerous physiological defects,
many children escape the evil, and the diseased tendencies of the
tissues remain latent in them, although they often afflict their
descendants. On the other hand, as already stated, extremely divergent
mental types are often met with in the same family, and many a
virtuous parent is torn with grief on seeing the vicious tendencies of
his child. Here, as elsewhere, the hand of Providence, as Christianity
calls it--the Intelligence that brings about evolution, the Justice
that controls and the Love that animates it--the hand of God or of
those who, having become divine, collaborate in the divine plan, comes
to make up for the imperfection of the vehicles, and they permit only
what is necessary to come to each one--only what he has deserved, as
is generally said: this hand can create a physical or a psychic malady
even where heredity and environment could not supply it, just as it
can preserve a pure soul from the moral infection of the surroundings
into which it is thrown.[76] This is the reason we find that heredity
and environment either fail to fulfil their promise or else give what
was not their's to give.


Reincarnation is not necessary, it has been alleged; the soul's
evolution is continued after death in the invisible worlds in finer
bodies; consequently it is needless to return to the denser bodies of

In our opinion, the trials of life, so exhausting to the will, must
have given rise to this theory, for not only have those who advance it
never given the slightest proof of its truth, but it is utterly
opposed to the law of evolution.

In a world which prefers the flights of imagination to logical
reasoning we are too accustomed to regard man as a being apart in
Nature; we are only too prone to make exceptions on his behalf. The
patient scientific researches of all ages have laid down this
universally accepted axiom: _Nature does not proceed by leaps_. It has
not so far entered anyone's mind--we think not at all events--to teach
that the development of the mineral, the vegetable, and even of the
animal kingdom, comes to a sudden halt on this planet, once the forms
in these kingdoms are dispersed, to be completed in finer worlds; but
regarding man other thoughts have prevailed, as though his
intelligence and his heart had learnt all the lessons this earth is
capable of teaching! From the most undeveloped of savages up to those
glorious Spirits that have been the Manu, the Buddha, and the Christ,
we find every step occupied on the long ladder of humanity. In the
lower kingdoms all the stages exist also and are utilised, each link
receiving something from its neighbours and giving them something in
return, thus expressing on the visible plane that gracious unity which
is divine Love: love that is instinctive and imperative in beings of a
low degree of evolution; obeyed by those who, without loving it,
understand its good services, and actually lived by such souls as have
entered upon the path of sacrifice--souls that comprehend the Unity of
beings. If this earth has been capable of teaching the Saviours of the
world, why should divine Wisdom send thereon only for one short life
this mass of imperfect men, to hurl them afterwards on to other
worlds, like careless butterflies flitting from flower to flower?

Can the evolutionary effort be so easy and simple; is divine energy of
such slight value that it can thus be squandered to no purpose; is the
process of creation the sport of an infant God; is the Logos,
sacrificing himself in order to give life to the Universe, a prodigal,
working without rhyme or reason, sending forth His intelligence and
might in aimless sport and leaving evolution at the mercy of His
caprice; did not Brahmâ, by means of meditation, which, as the
Oriental scriptures tell us, preceded creation, practise the gentlest,
the most rapid, and the easiest method of guiding beings to the Goal?
Is it not sheer blasphemy to attribute such folly to the Soul of the
world? Does not the study of Nature, at each step, belie this
insensate waste, of which no human being would be guilty? Everywhere
with the minimum of force, Nature produces the maximum of effect;
everywhere energy is consolidated with one end in view; and yet, amid
the general order around, is the evolution of man to form a solitary,
an incomprehensible exception?

No, we cannot believe it for a moment. American spiritists,[77]
however--for it is they who have given out this hypothesis--are not in
agreement with the school of Allan Kardec on this fundamental point,
and this fact is by no means calculated to strengthen, the authority
for this doctrine. Did we not know that disincarnate beings are as
ignorant in the life beyond as they were on earth; that they tend to
group themselves, as they did here below, with those who think as they
do, whilst remaining aloof from such as profess hostile opinions; that
the Hindu remains a Hindu, the Christian a Christian, and the
Mussulman a Mussulman; that sceptics are still sceptics; and atheists,
atheists; we should think that spirit "communications" with their
incessant contradictions were unparalleled nonsense, since the
"spirits" are by no means agreed on the very things regarding which
they pretend to pronounce a judgment from which there is no appeal.

Fortunately, there is a reason for these divergences. Death neither
lifts the veil of Isis nor brings the soul into the presence of
omniscient Light; man remains what he was, with all his former
beliefs, opinions, passions, qualities, sympathies, and antipathies.
True, he knows a little more than he did upon earth; no more has he
doubts as to the after-life, he regains a precise memory of the whole
of his life here, and the recollection of many a forgotten fact comes
back to him; he understands better, for his intelligence is being
served by a much finer body--but that is all. Therefore "spirits"
reflect both the morality and the mentality of the nation to which
they belonged on earth, and in the other life are to be found friends
and enemies, believers and unbelievers, reincarnationists and

Rebirths can be established only by personal proof, by memory; now,
the soul that has entered the life beyond, after disincarnation, has
not reached the end of its pilgrimage; it is learning that it must, by
self-purification, pass from world to world until it attains to a
state of supreme and final rest; but when this latter has been
reached, it has lost its lower sheaths and the memory they gave it,
and when the Law brings it back to earth, it puts on new bodies,
which, having had no participation in preceding events, are ignorant
of the past.

Remembrance, we shall see later on, is preserved in the cosmic Memory,
but until the soul has readied a sufficient development, it cannot
summon it forth, and even could it do so, it would succeed in leaving
its impress on the brain only when the physical, the astral, and the
mental bodies have submitted to a process of purification which
harmonises[78] them and binds them closely together. Then only does
man know that Reincarnation is true, and takes place on earth until
this latter passes into a slate of obscuration,[79] or, at all events,
until the development of the soul enables it to utilise for its
evolution some environment on the planet, other than the physical

We shall be told that we are now proving what we before denied. No, we
are simply stating an exception which happens in very few cases and
only then to the pioneers of the race--an exception which is nothing
but an apparent one and finds its place in the progressive order which
unifies all the beings in the planetary chain to which we belong.


[Footnote 41: Each part possesses in a potential state the properties
of the whole.]

[Footnote 42: The kingdoms that are invisible to physical sight are as
interesting as those we see, but we have no occasion to speak of them
here. Logic compels us to acknowledge them until the time comes when
human development enables them to be discovered and affords direct
proof of their existence.]

[Footnote 43: We do not mean to affirm that evolutionists have not
committed serious errors in their theory of development. But the law
they have set prominently forth is one of the fundamental expressions
of the working of God in the Universe.]

[Footnote 44: The vibratory impressions that constitute the memory of
the Universe. See in Chapter 4, the final _Objection._]

[Footnote 45: See _L'or et la Transmutation des métaux_, by

[Footnote 46: Such as the one with the magnet which, if too great a
weight is suspended to its armature, loses strength, and this it only
regains by degrees when "fed" with successively stronger charges. A
steel spring that has borne too great a weight loses strength, and may
break if subjected anew to the same weight that "fatigued" it. Pieces
of iron break after being "fatigued" by a weight they easily carried
before. Professor Kennedy made very useful experiments regarding the
"fatigue" of metals at the time when metallic bridges were continually
breaking, thus causing great perplexity in the engineering world.]

[Footnote 47: There has been much discussion as to the causes of

In his _Progress and Poverty_, Henry George endeavours to show that
Evolution is in no way brought about by individual or collective
heredity. He says that the factors of Progress are: First, the mind,
which causes the advance of civilisation when not exercised solely in
the "struggle for life," or in frequent conflicts between nation and
nation; second, association or combination, which ensures all the
benefits to be derived from division of work; third, justice, which
harmonises the units of the social body, and without which
civilisation decays and dies.

H. George saw only these elements in evolution; consequently, he could
neither solve the problem of progress nor explain the rise and fall of
empires. Indeed, egoism and war are in no way, as he says they are,
the sole causes of the fall of races: the soil cannot feed a great
nation for an indefinite period even if the country is prevented by
emigration from becoming over-populated; the very nature itself of the
civilisation of the time prevents it from continuing for ever. Modern
western races, for instance, have for centuries past been developing
energy and intelligence; a limit must be fixed to that particular line
of progress, under penalty of destroying equilibrium both in the
individual and the race.

If, indeed, man is to learn strength and intelligence, he must also
develop love, or he will fail. The Elder Brothers behind Evolution
control the advance of the races in accordance with the plan of God,
whose servants they are.

The real cause of evolution does not lie in environment, as H. George
and his school would have it: it is in the divine Will, incarnate in
the Universe. It is God who creates the world, God who fills it with
life, guides it and permits its development. All the laws of Nature
are the expression of the supreme Intelligence; all progress is
nothing but the realisation of the possibilities of the divine Will.

The evolutionary edifice is based on solidarity, and here environment
is undoubtedly an indispensable factor in development; still, it only
acts as the field or soil, and soil without seed remains barren.

The mind is also a powerful lever in evolution, but it affects only
one side of the matter. Association or co-operation facilitates only
the growth of certain faculties whilst checking the development of
others. Justice calls forth only certain individual and social forces,
and leaves many of them in a state of stagnation.

In a word, H. George forgets that there is no useless force in the
whole of Nature; that they all collaborate in the general task, and
finally that there would be no progress, were it not for the existence
of opposing forces. If, _e.g._, egoism were non-existent, those still
incapable of working without the hope of personal gain would lack a
powerful incentive to action. True is the saying that evil is the
stepping-stone to good.

Were the Law of Rebirths known, it would prove to be an explanation of
the problems of evolution.]

[Footnote 48: A few theologians have feebly affirmed the possibility
of human life on other planets than the Earth, but their voices have
either been stifled or have met with no echo.

At the Congress of Fribourg, in Switzerland, August, 1897, evolution
was adopted by an assembly of 700 eminent Catholics--laymen and
clergy. Dr. Zahn said that _although creation is possible a priori, it
is a posteriori so very improbable that it ought to be rejected; that
those who believe in this creation rely upon the literal
interpretation of Genesis, whilst the contemporary students of the
Bible affirm that the book is allegorical, that God, in the beginning
created the elements and gave them power to evolve in all the forms
that characterise the organic and inorganic worlds_. One voice alone
was raised in protest, but it was drowned beneath the refutations of
the rest. The question, however, might be asked: How is the transition
made from one kingdom to another? What is the missing link? Who is to
interpret the Bible if it is an allegorical book? Is it the Church
which has always imposed _the letter_ of the Bible and condemned all
who have attempted to set forth _its spirit_?]

[Footnote 49: In hypnosis, indeed, the thought suggested is strong
enough to modify organic life and bring about hematic extravasion
(stigmata), burnings, vomiting, etc.... In certain ecstatic cases,
fixity of thought produces analogous effects. No one who has studied
these questions can have the slightest doubt that mind dominates

[Footnote 50: We say force-matter, for there is no force without
matter, they are the two poles of the same thing. Moreover, what is
considered force in relation to dense matter plays the _rôle_ of
matter to subtler forces; electricity, _e.g._, is force-matter,
probably capable of serving as a vehicle for subtler force-matter,
just as it plays the _rôle_ of force in relation to its conductors.
Force is born and dies with matter and _vice versâ_; both alike arise
from the activity of God.]

[Footnote 51: The sensations it calls forth vary with the forms. That
which burns us, gives life to other beings; water, which suffocates
us, enables fishes to live; whilst air suffocates creatures that live
in the water, etc.]

[Footnote 52: All this must be taken figuratively. God does not
incarnate Himself. He is the All. To our limited conceptions, He seems
to limit Himself, in order to be the Life of a Universe.]

[Footnote 53: Here, too, we are speaking relatively; in reality, there
are no fragments of the Absolute. We describe the process as it seems
to us in the world of illusion.]

[Footnote 54: Being: Divinity.]

[Footnote 55: Force-matter.]

[Footnote 56: Forms.]

[Footnote 57: The movement given to the germ by the union of its
positive and negative forces.]

[Footnote 58: The "builders" are inferior beings utilised by Nature in
every process of germination and development. To certain readers, this
will perhaps appear to be an aberration of the theosophic imagination,
in which case we recommend them to supply us with a better theory and
to believe in that, until the time comes when the functioning of the
"inner senses" takes place in them, and enables them to perceive these
beings in action.]

[Footnote 59: Teratological phenomena attributable to the imagination
of the mother are so numerous that they cannot be refuted. The case
mentioned here is taken from Van Helmont's _De Injectis Materialibus_.
The woman in question had been present at the decapitation of thirteen
soldiers, condemned to death by the Duc d'Alva. In the same work are
two other instances which occurred under similar circumstances: in the
first, the foetus at birth was lacking a hand; and in the second, it
was the whole arm that was missing; whilst, what is perhaps even
stranger than this, neither arm, nor hand, nor head were found, they
had been absorbed by the body of the mother.]

[Footnote 60: To be strictly logical, one should say round the only
centre, the one Being, but looked upon from the side of manifestation,
evolution appears as stated.]

[Footnote 61: Hellenbach, in his book, _Magie der Zahlen_, says
regarding the number seven.

"_The law governing the phenomena on which our knowledge is based
decrees that the vibrations of sound and light regularly increase in
number, that they are grouped in seven columns, and that the vibratory
elements of each column have so close a relation to one another that
not only can it be expressed in figures, but it is even confirmed by
practice in music and chemistry._

"_The fact that this variation and periodicity are governed by the
number seven cannot be disputed; it is not a matter of chance: there
is a cause and we ought to discover it._"

In his table of the elements grouped according to atomic weight,
Mendelejef also acknowledges that the number seven controls what he
calls the _Law of periodical function_. He reaches conclusions similar
to those of Hellenbach.

Dr. Laycock, in his Articles on the _Periodicity of Vital Phenomena_
(_Lancet_) 1842, sums up as follows:--

"_It is, I think, impossible to come to any less general conclusion
than this, that, in animals, changes occur every 3-1/2, 7, 14, 21 or
28 days, or at some definite period of weeks._"]

[Footnote 62: See _Man and his Bodies_, by A. Besant.]

[Footnote 63: The size of the causal body varies according to its
development. It has been named _causal_, because it contains within
itself the causes or germs of all the other bodies, with the exception
of the denser part of the physical. We say denser because the physical
body is double: its etheric part belongs to the causal body, its
visible part comes from the parents.]

[Footnote 64: The mental body, which is, as it were, an ephemeral
flower of the causal, is born and developed in each incarnation,
disintegrating after the _devachanic_ (heavenly) life.]

[Footnote 65: It moves more or less freely on the astral plane,
according to the development of the astral body. In men of low
development, this body cannot be separated from the physical, under
penalty of a nightmare which brings about a waking condition.]

[Footnote 66: The atoms interpenetrate in consequence of their
differences of tenuity.]

[Footnote 67: Later on, the centre of consciousness passes from the
human to the superhuman state and ascends unceasingly until it reaches
the centre of the Divinity incarnate in the world.]

[Footnote 68: When this centre is fixed in one of the higher bodies,
the buddhic for instance, the man has passed into the superhuman

[Footnote 69: As sand, placed on a plate in a state of vibration,
assumes varying forms.]

[Footnote 70: The soul acting in the mental, the astral, and more
especially--in the average man--the physical body. The Individuality
is the soul acting in the causal body.]

[Footnote 71: See the diagram in the chapter on the Atom in _The
Ancient Wisdom_, by A. Besant.]

[Footnote 72: We have seen that the organs formed by these tissues are
the special work of a particular being controlled by lofty

[Footnote 73: As the building of the body is reaching completion, the
Ego (the Soul) begins to make use of the new instrument. It is at
about the age of seven years that the development of the nerve centres
becomes sufficiently advanced to allow of the brain receiving the
vibrations of the soul; up to this point, the real man has scarcely
had any influence upon the body, although the mental projection (the
mental body) which he has formed can express itself to a certain
extent much earlier, from the seventh month of foetal life; up to
this time, the instinctive energies of the astral body alone affect
the embryo.]

[Footnote 74: In Kâmaloka (Purgatory). The desires, in purgatory,
cannot be satisfied, because there is no physical body to express
them, and this causes a state of suffering which has been compared to
a burning fire. This fire burns up the passions and leaves behind only
the "germs," which the causal body takes up and bequeaths to the
future astral body. But for this providential burning away, the
passions would exist from early childhood in the future incarnation,
_i.e._, at a time when the Ego has no hold whatever upon the new
personality, and when the latter would be terribly affected by this
influx of the forces of evil.]

[Footnote 75: Souls are of different ages: the savage is not so old as
the civilised man, while the latter is the younger brother of those
strong and wise Souls who compose the vanguard of humanity.]

[Footnote 76: It is impossible for heredity and environment to supply
_all_ the conditions that a soul's evolution calls for, and _nothing
but these conditions_; that is the reason Providence intervenes in the
interests of justice.]

[Footnote 77: It is in this great body, with which we are in sympathy,
though we claim the right to dispute their theories when we regard
them as erroneous, that this hypothesis is met with more especially.
True, certain schools of lower occultism teach it also, but they form
a minority, and are of no importance.]

[Footnote 78: Harmony is established when there is vibratory
synchronism of all the states of matter of the different bodies
_i.e._, when each slate of matter in a body vibrates in unison with
the analogous states of matter of all the other bodies.]

[Footnote 79: When the "life wave" has ended its cycle on this earth,
it passes in succession over the other planets of our chain and leaves
the earth in a state of slumber. This slumber ceases with the return
of the "life wave"; it becomes death when the evolution of the chain
is accomplished. See A. P. Sinnett's _Esoteric Buddhism._]

[Footnote 80: At a certain stage on the _Path_, return to earth is no
longer obligatory.]



In the rapid review we are now about to make of the religion and
philosophy of the past, we shall find that, under many and divers
names and veils, the doctrine of Rebirths has been taught from the
farthest antiquity right up to the present time. There is not a nation
that has not preserved clear traces of this doctrine; not a religion
that has not taught it, either openly or in secret, or, at all events,
retained the germ of the teaching; and if we count only those peoples
of whose national religion it forms part, _i.e._, Hindus and
Buddhists, the number of believers in Reincarnation may be summed up
in round figures at 540 millions of the present population of 1400
millions throughout the world. The greatest of philosophers, both
ancient and modern, have regarded palingenesis as the basis of life,
but whereas in the past the pledge of initiation prevented its
details from being promulgated, in our days, along with the flood of
light which this cycle has brought us, the veil of secrecy has been
partially lifted, and theosophy has been privileged to set forth this
glorious teaching in its main outlines and its most important details.


Northern India was the cradle of the present race--the fifth--the Eden
of our humanity, our physical, moral, mental, and spiritual
mother.[81] From her womb issued the emigrant hordes that peopled
Europe after spreading over Egypt, Asia Minor, and Siberia; it was her
code of ethics that civilised Chaldæa, Greece, Rome, and the whole of
the East; our own code is full of traces of the Laws of Manu, whilst
both the Old and New Testament are, in many respects, an abridged and
often almost a literal copy of the sacred Books of ancient Aryavarta.

The presence of the doctrine of reincarnation in the Vedic hymns has
been disputed; this proves nothing more than the present fragmentary
condition of the Vedas. Nothing, indeed, could be more absurd than to
find that the sacred Scriptures of India had maintained silence on a
doctrine which, along with that of Karma, form the two main columns of
the Hindu temple; for the Brâhman as well as for the Buddhist--who is
only a member of a powerful offshoot of Hinduism--these two laws rule
throughout the whole Universe, from the primordial kingdoms up to the
gods, including man; and the principal, nay, the only goal of human
life is Moksha--salvation, in Christian terminology--liberation from
the chain of rebirths.

In this land, in which, along with strict obedience to the rules of
conduct set forth by its great Teachers, there existed the most
complete freedom of opinion, and where the most divergent and numerous
philosophic sects consequently developed, there has always been
perfect unanimity regarding the doctrine of rebirth, and in that
inextricable forest of metaphysical speculations two giant trees have
always overtopped the rest: the tree of Karma and the tree of

In spite of the intentional obscurity in which we are left as to the
teachings regarding rebirth from the time of the decadence of India,
it is no difficult matter, with the aid of theosophy, to discover its
main points. Thus we find in them the return of the "life-atoms"[82]
and animal souls[83] to existence in new physical bodies; the rebirths
of the human Egos are indicated in their main phases; but here, the
deliberate omission of certain points which had long to remain
incomprehensible--and consequently dangerous--to the masses, makes
obscure, and at times absurd, certain aspects of transmigration. I
have heard a great Teacher clearly explain these points to some of the
most enlightened of the Hindu members of the Theosophical Society, but
I do not feel authorised to repeat these explanations, and so will
leave this portion of the subject under a veil, which the reader will,
with the aid of intuition, be able to lift after reflecting on the
following pages.

The Sages of ancient India, then, teach three distinct phases in the
return-to-birth process: Resurrection, Transmigration or
Metempsychosis and Reincarnation properly so-called.


The human body is a species of polyp colony, a kind of coral island
like those that emerge above the waves of the Pacific, by reason of
the collective efforts of lower organisms.

The most numerous of the compounds of the human aggregate are known to
physiology as microbes, bacteria, and bacilli; but amongst them our
microscopes discover only comparative monsters, "those that are to the
ordinary infinitesimal organisms as the elephant is to the invisible

Each cell is a complete being; its soul is a vital ray of the general
life of our planet; its body consists of molecules that are attracted
and then repelled, whilst the cellular soul remains immutable in the
ceaseless fluctuations of its corporeal elements.

The molecules, too, are animated by a vital soul, connected with the
cellular soul, which, in turn, is subordinate to a higher[85] unit of
the collective life of the human body.

The most infinitesimal of these beings--often called
"lives"--penetrate the body freely; they circulate in the aura[86] and
in each plexus of the organism; there they are subjected to the
incessant impact of the moral, menial, and spiritual forces, and
become impregnated with a spirit of good or of evil, as the case may
be. They enter the cells and leave them with intense rapidity, for
their cycles of activity as well as of passivity are being incessantly

We are all the time emanating millions of "lives," which are at once
drawn into the different kingdoms of Nature to which they carry the
energies they have gathered in us; they impress on their new organisms
the tendencies we have given them, and in this way become ferments of
regeneration or of decay; they aid or retard, pollute or purify, and
it is for this reason that it is not a matter of indifference whether
one lives in town or country, with men or animals, the temperate or
the intemperate, the wicked or the good. The animal gains from
association with human beings, man loses from association with
animals; the disciples of the great schools of initiation, at a
certain stage of their discipline, are carefully isolated from any
inferior contact.

It is these subtle forces that are at play in the physical
accomplishment of an action.[87] "For material sins," says Manu,
"one[88] passes into mineral and vegetable forms." When, at death,
the outer sheath of man disintegrates, these "life atoms" are thrown
back into the general surroundings of the earth, where they are
subjected to the magnetic currents around; these currents either
attract or repel them, and thus bring about that wise selection, which
directs them to organisms in affinity with them.

The doctrine of metempsychosis[89] is true only for the atoms or
emanations sent out by man after death or during the whole course of
life. The hidden meaning of the passage from Manu, where we read that
"he who slays a Brâhman enters into the body of a dog, a bear, an ass,
a camel, &c.," does not apply to the human Ego, but only to the atoms
of his body, _i.e._, to the lower triad[90] and its fluidic
emanations, as H. P. Blavatsky says, and she adds:

"The Hîna-yana, the lowest form of transmigration of the Buddhist, is
as little comprehended as the Mahâ-yâna, its highest form, and,
because Sâkya Muni--the Buddha--is shown to have once remarked to his
Bhikkus--Buddhist monks--while pointing out to them a broom, that it
had formerly been a novice who neglected to sweep out the Council
room, hence was reborn as a broom,(!) therefore the wisest of all the
world's sages stands accused of idiotic superstition. Why not try and
understand the true meaning of the figurative statement before
criticising? Is or is not that which is called magnetic effluvia a
something, a stuff or a substance, invisible and imponderable though
it be?... The mesmeric or magnetic fluid which emanates from man to
man, or even from man to what is termed an inanimate object, is far
greater. Indeed, it is 'life atoms' that a man in a blind passion
throws off unconsciously. Let any man give way to any intense feeling
such as anger, grief, &c., under or near a tree, or in direct contact
with a stone, and many thousands of years after that any tolerable
psychometrist will see the man and sense his feelings from one single
fragment of that tree or stone that he has touched. Why then should
not a broom, made of a shrub, which grew most likely in the vicinity
of the building where the lazy novice lived--a shrub, perhaps,
repeatedly touched by him while in a state of anger, provoked by his
laziness and distaste of his duty--why should not a quantity of his
life atoms have passed into the materials of the future broom, and
therein have been recognised by Buddha owing to his superhuman (not
supernatural) powers?"[91]

Such is the meaning of the Resurrection of the body, taught in the
Christian church in a form that is repellent to reason, for it kills
the spirit of the doctrine and leaves this latter like a corpse from
which the life has gone.


After the disintegration of the body, the kâmic[92] elements continue
for some time, us a "shade"[93] or a "phantom,"[94] in the finer and
invisible atmosphere;[95] then they, in turn, become disintegrated by
the various forces of this environment,[96] and are lost in the strata
of matter from which they have been taken. Like the physical elements
(_life-atoms_), they whirl about in their environment and there submit
to the same law of attraction and repulsion as that which controls
universal selection; they are drawn towards the kâmic elements of men
and animals, and it is here that we ought to place the list of those
misdeeds, by reason of which these elements pass into bodies of
animals or men of inferior development. "A drunken priest becomes a
worm," says Manu, "a stealer of corn, a rat; the murderer of a
Brâhman, a dog, a tiger, or a serpent"--and this means that those
elements which, in man, serve as a basis for the passions, at death,
pass over into the bodies of animals that possess the same passions or
experience the same needs.

The transmigration of human souls into the bodies of animals is still
generally accepted amongst the less intelligent Hindus; it has
contributed, perhaps more than anything else, to that wonderful
respect for life one meets with all over India. The thought that some
ancestor or other might happen to be in the body of an animal prevents
its destruction; even the sacrifice of his life offered by a man to
one of his brothers in the animal world is regarded as a sublime
virtue, and legend tells us of the Buddha, the Lord of Compassion,
giving himself up as food for a famishing tigress, that she and her
cubs might not perish of hunger.


The process of disintegration[97] which, after disincarnation,
destroys the physical, astral, and mental bodies of the man leaves
the Soul--or, to be more exact, the causal body, for the soul is not
the causal body any more than it is any of the other human
vehicles--intact. Indeed, the causal body is at present the only
vehicle that resists the cyclic dissolution of the human compound;
this it will be subjected to only when the divine spark which
constitutes the Soul--an eternal spark in its essence, since it is a
fragment of God, and immortal as an "ego," once it has attained to
individualisation, the goal of evolution--has formed for itself a new
and superior body with the substance of the finer planes above the
mental; but ages will pass before the masses of mankind reach this

After thus throwing off, one after the other, all its sheaths, the Ego
finds that it has ended a "life-cycle," and is preparing to put on new
bodies, to return to reincarnation on earth. On Reincarnation properly
so called, the Hindu scriptures are so precise and complete, so
generally accepted, than it is unnecessary to quote from them in
detail. A few extracts will suffice.

These we will take from the _Bhagavad Gîtâ_, that glorious episode in
the mighty civil war which shattered India, and left her defenceless
against the successive invaders who were to complete her fall. This
great epic poem introduces to us Arjuna, a noble prince, about to take
part in the strife. The two armies, arrayed for battle, are on the
point of engaging, arrows have already begun to pierce the air. In the
opposing ranks Arjuna sees cherished relatives, dear friends, and
revered teachers, whom destiny has placed in hostile array, thus
giving to the battle all the horrors of parricide and fratricide.
Overwhelmed with grief and pity, his heart moved to its inmost depths,
Arjuna drops his bow on the ground and thus addresses his Teacher, the
divine Krishna:

"Seeing these my kinsmen arrayed, O Krishna, eager to fight,

"My limbs fail and my mouth is parched, my body quivers and my hair
stands on end.

"Gândîva (Arjuna's bow) slips from my hand, and my skin burns all
over; I am not able to stand, and my mind is whirling.

"And I see adverse omens, O Keshava (hairy one). Nor do I foresee
advantage by slaying kinsmen in battle.

"For I desire not victory, O Krishna, nor kingship nor pleasures; what
is kingship to us, O Govinda (Thou who knowest all that is done by our
senses and organs), what enjoyment or even life?

"Those for whose sake we desire kingship, enjoyments, and pleasures,
they stand here in battle, abandoning life and riches.

"Teachers, fathers, sons, as well as grandfathers, mothers' brothers,
fathers-in-law, grandsons, brothers-in-law, and other relatives.

"These I do not wish to kill, though (myself) slain, O Madhusûdana
(slayer of Madhu, a demon), even for the sake of the kingship of the
three worlds (the habitations of men, gods, and semi-divine beings);
how then for earth?

... "I will not do battle."

The divine Krishna then smiled upon his well-beloved disciple, and
said to him:

"Thou grievest for those that should not be grieved for, and speakest
words of wisdom (words that sound wise but miss the deeper sense of
wisdom). The wise grieve neither for the living nor for the dead.

"Nor at any time verily was I not, nor thou, nor these princes of men,
nor verily shall we ever cease to be hereafter.

"As the Dweller in the body seeketh in the body childhood, youth, and
old age, so passeth he on to another body; the well-balanced grieve
not thereat....

"These bodies of the Embodied One, who is eternal, indestructible, and
boundless, are known as finite. Therefore fight, O Bhârata.

"He who regardeth This (the Dweller in the body) as a slayer, and he
who thinketh it is slain, both of them are ignorant. It slayeth not,
nor is it slain....

"Who knoweth It indestructible, perpetual, unborn, undiminishing; how
can that man slay, O Pârtha, or cause to be slain?

"As a man casting off worn-out garments, taketh new ones, so the
Dweller in the body, casting off worn-out bodies, entereth into others
that are new.

"Weapons cleave It not, nor fire burneth It, nor waters wet It, nor
wind drieth It away....

"Further, looking upon thine own Dharma,[98] thou shouldst not
tremble, for there is nothing more welcome to a Kshattriya than
righteous war."

Here are other extracts of this wonderful teaching:

"Many births have been left behind by Me and by thee, O Arjuna. I know
them all, but thou knowest not thine, Parantapa."

"He who thus knoweth My divine birth and action, in its essence, is
not born again, having abandoned the body, but he cometh unto Me, O

"Having attained to the worlds of the pure-doing, and having dwelt
there for eternal years, he who fell from Yoga is reborn in a pure and
blessed house.... There he obtaineth the complete yogic wisdom
belonging to his former body, and then again laboureth for perfection,
O joy of the Kurus!"

"But the Yogî, verily, labouring with assiduity, purified from sin,
fully perfected through manifold births, he treadeth the supreme
Path.... He who cometh unto Me, O Kaunteya, verily he knoweth birth no

The daily life of Hindu and Buddhist is so entirely based on
Reincarnation and on its foundation, the law of Causality, that this
faith gives them patience in the present and hope for the future; for
it teaches that man, every moment he lives, is subject to the
circumstances he has created, and that, though bound by the past, he
is yet master of the future.

Why cannot we, in this troubled Europe of ours, accept this belief as
the solution of the distressing problem of the inequality of
conditions, for to the weak in rebellion against oppression it would
come as a soothing balm, whilst the strong would find in it a stimulus
to devoted pity such as wealth owes to poverty and happiness to
misfortune? Herein lies the solution of the whole social problem.


If we pass from India to Egypt, the land of mystery, we again find the
world-wide doctrine of palingenesis hidden beneath the same veil.

According to Egyptian teaching, the theory of the "fall of the angels"
was accepted; the fallen angels were human souls[99] who had to become
reincarnated till they reached a state of purification; fallen into
the flesh, subjected to its vicissitudes and passions, these souls had
to evolve, in successive rebirths, until they had developed all their
faculties, obtained complete control over the lower nature, and won
back their original purity; then this latter would no longer be the
unconscious purity of youthful innocence, but the conscious purity of
mature age, _i.e._, of the soul that has known both good and evil in
the course of its experiences, has overcome the serpent of matter, the
tempter, and voluntarily chosen the life of virtue.

The "Judgment" of the after-life is determined by the degree of
purity that has been attained; if insufficient, the soul returns to
earth, there to inhabit a human, an animal, or a vegetable form, in
accordance with its merits or demerits.

These lines prove that Egyptian teaching has come down to us, covered
with gross dross and slag, as it were, which must be subjected to
careful sifting; when this is done, we see that it also sets forth the
transmigrations to which the elements of the various vehicles are
subjected,[100] the physical ternary[101] rises from the dead, the
animal man[102] transmigrates; and man, properly so-called,[103]
reincarnates, but the details of these processes have been so confused
in such fragments of Egyptian palingenesis as we possess that it is no
easy matter to find the traces of this classification.

For instance. Herodotus tells us:

"The Egyptians were the first to hold the opinion that the soul of man
is immortal and that when the body dies it enters into the form of an
animal which is born at the moment, thence, passing on from one animal
into another until it has circled through the forms of all the
creatures which tenant the earth, the water, and the air, after which
it enters again into a human form and is born anew. The whole period
of the transmigration is (they say) three thousand years."[104]

This passage evidently refers to the resurrection of the "life atoms."
H. P. Blavatsky, in the _Theosophist_, vol. 4, pages 244, 286,
confirms this in the following words:

"We are taught that for 3000 years, at least, the 'mummy,'
notwithstanding all the chemical preparations, goes on throwing off to
the last invisible atoms, which, from the hour of death, re-entering
the various vortices of being, go indeed 'through every variety of
organised life forms.' But it is not the soul, the fifth,[105] least
of all, the sixth[106] principle, but the life atoms of the Jiva,[107]
the second principle. At the end of the three thousand years,
sometimes more, sometimes less, after endless transmigrations, all
these atoms are once more drawn together, and are made to form the new
outer clothing or the body of the same monad (the real soul) which
they had already been clothed with two or three thousands of years
before. Even in the worst case, that of the annihilation of the
conscious personal principle,[108] the monad, or individual
soul,[109] is ever the same, as are also the atoms of the lower
principles,[110] which, regenerated and renewed in this ever-flowing
river of being, are magnetically drawn together owing to their
affinity and are once more reincarnated together...."

Certain authors have stated that belief in Resurrection was the origin
of embalming, because it was thought that after three thousand years
the soul returned to the same body, that it immediately rose again,
when the body had been preserved, whereas if such had not been the
case, it entered wherever it could, sometimes even into the body of a
lower creature. Herodotus, however, says that after the cycle of three
thousand years the soul enters a new body, not the mummified
one,[111] and this would lead one to imagine that there were other
reasons for the process of embalming. Indeed, it became general only
during the decline of Egypt; at the beginning, it was reserved for the
hierophants alone, with the object of allowing their physical
molecular elements to pass into the still coarse bodies of the masses
and help forward ordinary souls by the powerful influence of the
magnetic potency with which they were charged. It is also for this
reason that the body of a Yogî, in India, is interred, whilst in the
case of other men cremation is the rule.

On the other hand, among the multitude of beliefs left in Egypt by
degenerate traditions, there were found some which hinted, more or
less clearly, at occult truths, and which might have perpetuated or
generalised this practice. It was supposed, according to Servius, that
the transmigrations[112] began only when the magnetic bond between the
soul and its remains had been broken by the complete disintegration of
the corpse; consequently they did all in their power to preserve this

This belief may readily be connected with theosophic teaching which
says that the affinity existing between the visible corpse and the
soul clad in its kâmic (astral) body, the animal soul in Kâmaloka
(Purgatory), is capable, in certain cases, of detaining this soul on
earth, after its disincarnation, and thus delaying, for a longer or
shorter period, the disintegration of the elements of the passional
body. It is these elements, not the soul, that pass over into animal
bodies, and, contrary to the opinions set forth in Egyptian
exotericism, it is to the interest of the soul to free itself from
terrestrial attraction and from its kâmic (astral) vehicle, and not to
remain bound down to earth. Consequently, embalming was a mistaken
action, the result of an error of doctrine, or at all events of
teachings that were incomplete, imperfectly transmitted, and

Egypt multiplied her symbols of palingenesis. Resurrection--in the
sense of re-birth in general--was symbolised by the toad which then
became the goddess Hiquet. This animal was chosen because it lives in
air and in water,[113] because it can remain imprisoned a very great
number of years without either air or food[114] and afterwards come
back to life. G. Maspero, in his _Guide du Visiteur au Musée de
Boulac_, tells us that the early Christians in Egypt had adopted this
symbolism, and that the lamps in their churches were formed in the
shape of a toad, and bore the inscription, "I am the Resurrection," in
the Greek language. This goddess-toad may still be seen in the museum
of Boulac.

The Scarabeus, or beetle,[115] symbolised the "personality," the
expansion of the mental substance, projected, so to speak, by the
higher mental body, at each incarnation, into the new kâmic (astral)
body; a certain number of them were always deposited with the mummies,
and the beetle was represented standing on an ear of corn, a symbol of
the attainments acquired during the past earth life. Indeed, the
development of the Ego is effected by that of the personality it sends
on to the earth each incarnation; it is the new mental body which
controls the new astral and physical bodies of each incarnation, and
which is, in very truth, the flower and the fruit of the labour of

Sacred Egyptology tells us that the scarabeus requires to be
"osirified," united to its "living soul," or Ego, which sent it forth.
I will now give the reason for this emanation.

When, after disincarnation, the purgatorial life begins, the Ego
endeavours to throw off the kâmic (astral) body, to pass into the
higher world--the mental plane--which is its home, there to enjoy the
delights of heaven. Thereupon a veritable battle begins. On the one
hand, the Ego endeavours to withdraw the mental body, which, at the
beginning of the incarnation, it sent into the kâmic body, and to take
it to itself; on the other hand, the passional body[116]--which
instinctively feels its life bound to that of the mental element,
which gives it its strength, vital activity, and personal
characteristics--tries to keep back this centre of individual life,
and generally succeeds in doing so up to a certain point. When desire,
during incarnation, has regularly gained the victory over the will,
the passional body, or Kâma, maintains the supremacy beyond the grave,
and the Ego, in endeavouring to rescue its mental projection from the
kâmic bonds, yields up a more or less considerable fragment thereof,
and this fragment is restored to liberty only when the passional body
of the deceased has become disintegrated by the forces of the astral
world. This has been called the _fire_ of purgatory.

On the other hand, when the Ego, during life, has always refused the
appeals of the lower nature, it easily withdraws, after death, from
the net of passion, the substance it has infused therein, and passes
with this substance into that part of the mental plane which is called

Such is the struggle that Egypt committed to her annals when she
inscribed upon papyrus or engraved upon stone the journeyings of the
soul into the world of shades. The soul--the mental personality--which
demands "osirification," and invokes the Ego, its god and projector,
beseeching him to draw it to himself that it may live with him, is the
lower "I." This "I" has not exhausted the "desire to live" on earth;
its desire is impressed on the germs it has left in the causal body,
and brings the Ego back to incarnation; this is the reason it prays
and desires the resurrection[117] of its "living soul," the Ego.
Denon, in his _Journeyings in Egypt_, has made known to us the Sha-En
(the book of metamorphoses), written in hieratic signs and republished
in Berlin, by Brugsch, in the year 1851. Explicit mention is here made
of reincarnations, and it is stated that they are very numerous.

The third part of the _Book of the Dead_ sets forth a detailed account
of the resurrection of an Osiris; the identification of the departed
one with Osiris, God of Light, and his sharing in the life, deeds, and
power of the God; in a word, it is the final reintegration of the
human soul with God.

The loftiest and most suggestive of Egyptian palingenetic symbols is
unquestionably that of the egg. The deceased is "resplendent in the egg
in the land of mysteries." In Kircher's _Oedipus Egyptiacus_[118] we
have an egg--the Ego freed from its vehicles--floating over the mummy;
this is the symbol of hope and the promise of a new birth to the soul,
after gestation in the egg of immortality.[119]

The "winged globe," so widely known in Egypt, is egg-shaped, and has
the same meaning; its wings indicate its divine nature and prevent it
from being confused with the physical germ. "Easter eggs" which are
offered in spring, at the rebirth of Nature, commemorate this ancient
symbol of eternal Life in its successive phases of disincarnation and


It is said that the Magi taught the immortality of the soul and its
reincarnations, but that they considerably limited the number of
these latter, in the belief that purification was effected after a
restricted number of existences on the soul returning to its heavenly

Unfortunately we know nothing definite on this special point in
Chaldæan teaching, for some of the most important sources of
information were destroyed when the library of Persepolis was burnt by
the Macedonian vandal, Alexander the Great, whilst Eusebius--whom
Bunsen criticises so harshly[120]--made such great alterations in the
manuscripts of Berosus, that we have nothing to proceed upon beyond a
few disfigured fragments.[121] And yet Chaldæism comprises a great
mass of teachings; he whom we know as "the divine Zoroaster" had been
preceded by twelve others, and esoteric doctrine was as well known in
Chaldæa as in Egypt.

The descendants of the Chaldæans--Fire-worshippers, Mazdeans, Magi,
Parsees--according to the names they received at different
periods--have preserved the main points of palingenetic instruction up
to the present, and, from time to time, have set them forth in the
most charming style of Oriental poetry. Book 4 of the great Persian
poem, _Masnavi i Ma'navi_, deals with evolution and its corollary,
reincarnation, stating that there is one way of remembering past
existences, and that is by attaining to spiritual illumination, which
is the crown of human evolution and brings the soul to the threshold
of divinity.

"If your purified soul succeeds in escaping from the sea of ignorance,
it will see, with eyes now opened, 'the beginning' and 'the end.' Man
first appeared in the order of inorganic things; next, he passed
therefrom into that of plants, for years he lived as one of the
plants, remembering naught of his inorganic state, so different from
this, and when he passed from the vegetable to the animal state he had
no remembrance of his state as a plant.... Again the great Creator, as
you know, drew man out of the animal into the human state. Thus man
passed from one order of nature to another, till he became wise and
intelligent and strong as he is now. Of his first soul he has now no
remembrance, and he will be again changed from his present soul. In
order to escape from his present soul, full of lusts, he must rise to
a thousand higher degrees of intelligence.

"Though man fell asleep and forgot his previous states, yet God will
not leave him in this self-forgetfulness; and then he will laugh at
his own former state, saying: 'What mattered my experiences when
asleep, when I had forgotten the real state of things, and knew not
that the grief and ills I experienced were the effect of sleep and
illusion and fancy?'"

These lines are concise, but they sum up the whole of evolution, and
render it unnecessary to quote at greater length from Chaldæan
tradition on this point. Still, those who desire other passages
relating to the same doctrine may find them in the "Desatir."[122]


Sacerdotal India--and perhaps also Atlantis--in early times sent
pioneers into the West to spread religious teachings amongst their
energetic inhabitants; those who settled in Gaul and the British Isles
were the Druids. "I am a serpent, a druid," they said. This sentence
proves that they were priests, and also the Atlantæan or Indian origin
of their doctrines; for the serpent was the symbol of initiation in
the sacred mysteries of India, as also on the continent of Atlantis.

We know little of their teaching, which was entirely oral, though it
covered so much ground that, according to Cæsar, not less than thirty
years of study were needed to become a druid. The Roman conquest
dispersed them by degrees; then it was that their disciples, the
bards, committed to writing more or less imperfect and mutilated
fragments of the teachings of their masters. Their "triads"[123] are
undoubtedly akin to Hindu teachings; Evolution results from the
manifestation of the Absolute, it culminates in man, who possesses a
maximum of individualisation, and terminates in the personal,
conscious union of the beings thus created with the ineffable All.

The Absolute is "Ceugant"; manifestation, or the Universe, is "Abred";
the divine state of freed souls is in "Gwynvyd"; these are in the
three circles.[124]

In "Ceugant" there is only the Unknowable, the rootless Root. Souls
are born and develop in "Abred," passing into the different kingdoms;
"Amwn" is the state through which beings pass only once, which means
that the "I," when once gained, continues for ever. "Gwynvyd" is the
world of perfect and liberated souls, eternal Heaven, great Nirvâna.

During this long pilgrimage, the Monad--the divine fragment in a state
of incarnation--undergoes an endless number of rebirths, in myriads of

"I have been a viper in the lake," said Taliesin, the bard[125]; "a
spotted adder on the mountain, a star, a priest. This was long, long
ago; since then, I have slept in a hundred worlds, revolved in a
hundred circles."

It was their faith in rebirth that gave the Gauls their indomitable
courage and extraordinary contempt of death:

"One of their principal teachings," said Cæsar,[126] "is that the soul
does not die, but passes at death into another body--and this they
regard as very favourable for the encouragement of valour and for
inculcating scorn of death."

Up to a few years ago, belief in the return of the soul to earth was
still prevalent in those parts of Brittany in which civilisation had
not yet exercised its sceptical, materialising influence; there even
existed druids--probably degenerate ones--in Great Britain and France;
in the Saône-et-Loire district, they seem to have been called the
"Adepts of the White Religion"[127]; both in them and in their
ancestors, belief in rebirth remained unshakable.

ANCIENT GREECE (_Magna Græcia_).

In Greece, the doctrine of Rebirths is met with in the Orphic
tradition, continued by Pythagoras and Plato. Up to the present time,
this tradition has probably found its best interpreter in Mr. G. R.

S. Mead, an eminent theosophist and a scholar of the first rank. We
recommend our readers to study his _Orpheus_, if they desire a
detailed account of this tradition.

Its origins are lost in antiquity, only a few obscure shreds
remaining; Pherecydes, however,[128] when speaking of the immortality
of the soul, refers to the doctrine of Rebirths; it is also presented
very clearly by both Pythagoras and Plato.

According to the Pythagorean teaching, the human soul emanates from
the Soul of the World, thus affirming, at the outset, the divine
nature of the former. It teaches subsequently that this soul assumes
successive bodies until it has fully evolved and completed the "Cycle
of Necessity."[129]

Pythagoras, according to Diogenes of Laertius,[130] was the first in
Greece to teach the doctrine of the return of souls to earth. He gave
his disciples various details of his past lives; he appears to have
been the initiate Oethalides, in the times of the Argonauts; then,
almost immediately afterwards, Euphorbus, who was slain by Menelaus at
the siege of Troy; again he was Hermotimus of Clazomenæ, who, in the
temple of Juno at Argos,[131] recognised the shield he was carrying
when his body was slain as Euphorbus, and which Menelaus had given as
an offering to the goddess[132]; at a later date he was Pyrrhus, a
fisherman of Delos, and, finally, Pythagoras.

In all likelihood this genealogy is not correct in every detail, it
comes to us from the disciples of the sage of Samos, who were not very
trustworthy in their reports.

Empedocles, one of the early disciples of Pythagoras, said that he
inhabited a female body in his preceding existence. Saint Clement of
Alexandria quotes a few lines of his, in which we find the philosopher
of Agrigentum teaching the general evolution of forms.

"I, too, have been a boy, a maiden, a star, a bird, a mute fish in the
depths of the sea."

Iarchas, the Brâhman chieftain, said to the great Apollonius:

"In bygone ages thou wert Ganga, the famous monarch, and, at a later
date, captain of an Egyptian vessel."[133]

The Emperor Julian said that he had been Alexander the Great.[134]
Proclus affirmed that he had been Nichomachus the Pythagorean.[135]

The works of Plato are full of the idea of rebirth, and if the
scattered fragments of the teaching are gathered together and
illumined with the torch of theosophy, a very satisfactory _ensemble_
will be the result.

Souls are older than bodies, he says in _Phædo_; they are ever being
born again from _Hades_ and returning to life on earth; each man has
his daimon,[136] who follows him throughout his existences, and at
death takes him to the lower world[137] for Judgment.[138] Many souls
enter Acheron,[139] and, after a longer or shorter period, return to
earth to be incarnated in new bodies. Unpardonable sins fling the soul
into Tartarus.[140]

"Know that if you become worse you will go to the worse souls, or if
better to the better, and in every succession of life and death you
will do and suffer what like may fitly suffer at the hands of

According to Plato, the period between two incarnations is about a
thousand years.[142] Man has reminiscences of his past lives that are
more or less distinct; they are manifested rather by an intuitive
impression than by a definite memory, but they form part of the
individual,[143] and at times influence him strongly. "Innate ideas"
are only one aspect of memory, often it is impossible to explain them
by heredity, education, or environment; they are attainments of the
past, the store which the soul takes with it through its incarnations,
which it adds to during each sojourn in heaven.

There can be no doubt that Plato would appear to have taught
metempsychosis, _i.e._, the possibility of a human soul passing into
the body of an animal:

"Men who have followed after gluttony and wantonness and drunkenness,
and have had no thought of avoiding them, would pass into asses and
animals of that sort. And those who have chosen the portion of
injustice and tyranny and violence will pass into wolves or hawks or
kites, and there is no difficulty in assigning to all of them places
according to their several natures and propensities."[144]

Under the heading of _Neoplatonism_, we shall show that, beneath these
coarse symbols, Plato concealed truths which it was then necessary to
keep profoundly secret; which, even nowadays, it is not permitted to
reveal to all.


H. P. Blavatsky tells us that the _Old Testament_ is not a homogeneous
composition; that _Genesis_ alone is of immense antiquity; that it is
prior to the time when the Libra of the Zodiac was invented by the
Greeks, for it has been noticed that the chapters containing the
genealogies have been touched up so as to adapt them to the new
zodiac, and this is the reason that the rabbis who compiled them twice
repeated the names of Enoch and Lamech in the Cain list. The other
parts seem to be of a comparatively recent date and to have been
completed about 150 B.C.

The first part of the _Book of God_--as the Scriptures were then
called--was written by Hilkiah, jointly with the prophetess Huldah; this
disappeared at a later date, and Ezra had to begin a new one which was
finished by Judas Maccabæus. This was recopied some time after, with the
object of changing the pointed letters into square ones, and in this way
was quite disfigured. The Masoretes ended by mutilating it completely.
The result is that the text we now possess is one not more than nine
hundred years old, bristling with premeditated omissions,
interpolations, and perverted interpretations.[145]

By the side of this initial difficulty we find another, quite as
important. Almost every page of the _Old Testament_ contains veiled
meanings and allegories, as is frankly confessed by the rabbis

"We ought not to take literally that which is written in the story of
the Creation, nor entertain the same ideas of it as are held by the
vulgar. If it were otherwise, our ancient sages would not have taken
so much pains to conceal the sense, and to keep before the eyes of the
uninstructed the veil of allegory which conceals the truth it

Does not Saint Paul, speaking of the hidden meaning of the Bible, say
that Agar is Mount Sinai?[147] Origen and Saint Augustine are of the
opinion that the _Old Testament_ must be regarded as symbolical, as
otherwise it would be immoral; the Jewish law forbade anyone to read
it who had not attained the age of thirty years; Fénelon would have
liked it to be thrust away in the recesses of the most secret
libraries; the Cardinal de Noailles says that Origen, so full of zeal
on behalf of the Holy Scriptures, would not allow anyone to read the
_Old Testament_, unless he were firmly anchored in the practice of a
virtuous life; he affirms too that Saint Basilius, in a letter to
Chilon, the monk, stated that the reading of it often had a harmful
influence; for the same reasons, the _Index expurgatorius_ forbids the
publication of the Bible in the vulgar tongue, and orders that no one
be allowed to read it without the written permission of his

A third difficulty arises from the fact that the Old Testament--its dead
"letter" and its commandments, at all events--is no longer suitable to
our own race. It was intended for a nation that was composed of young
souls, at a low stage of evolution, for whom nothing more than the
rudiments of instruction were necessary, and on whom stern rules of
morality, suitable for advanced souls, ought not to be imposed. This is
why divorce,[149] polygamy,[150] slavery,[151] retaliation, _lex
talionis_,[152] the blood of sacrifice[153] are instituted; it is the
reason God is represented as a being to be dreaded, punishing those who
do not obey him, wicked, jealous, bloodthirsty.[154] Bossuet understood
all this when he said that the primitive Hebrew race was not
sufficiently advanced to have the immortality of the soul taught to it.
This, too, is the only explanation we can find for the sensual
materialism of _Ecclesiastes_.[155]

Consequently one need not be astonished to find that the Old Testament
nowhere deals--directly, at all events--with the doctrine of Rebirth.

All the same, here and there we come across a few passages that point
in this direction. For instance, we read in _Genesis_, chapter 25,
regarding the birth of Jacob and Esau:

"And the children (of Rebecca) struggled together within her.

"And the Lord said unto her: Two nations are in thy womb, and two
manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels, and the one
people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall
serve the younger.

"And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold there were
twins in her womb."

This passage has been the occasion of lengthy commentaries on the part
of certain Fathers of the Church--more especially of Origen. Indeed,
either we must acknowledge divine injustice, creating, without any
cause, two hostile brothers, one of whom must submit to the rule of
the other, and who begin to strive together even before birth, or we
must hark back to the pre-existence of the human soul and to a past
Karma which had created inequality in condition.

David begins the ninetieth _Psalm_ with a verse which only a belief in
reincarnation can explain:

"Lord, thou hast been our dwelling-place in all generations...."

The dwelling-place of the soul, at death, is in heaven, whence it
returns to earth when the hour of rebirth has struck; thus, in all
generations, that is, from life to life, "the Lord is our

In Chapter 8 of the _Book of Wisdom_, Solomon says in more explicit

"For I was a witty child, and had a good spirit, yea, rather, being
good, I came into a body undefiled."

This clearly points to the pre-existence of the soul and the close
relation that exists between the conditions of its rebirth and the
merits or demerits of its past.

Verse 5 of the first chapter of _Jeremiah_ is similar to verse 23 of
the twenty-fifth chapter of _Genesis_:

"Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee, and before thou camest
forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a
prophet unto the nations...."

It is the deeds done in the past lives of Jeremiah that accompany him
on his return to earth; God could not, in an arbitrary fashion, have
conferred on him the gift of prophecy had he not acquired it by his
efforts in a past life; unless, here too, we altogether abandon reason
and go back to a capricious or unjust--consequently altogether


Contact with the Babylonians, during the Captivity, brought about a
rapid development in the Hebrews, who were at that time far more
advanced souls than those that animated the bodies of their
fathers,[156] and taught them many important details of religious
instruction. It was then that they learned the doctrine of rebirth and
that the Kabala came into being.[157]

In it the cycle of rebirths is called Gil'gool'em[158] or the
"revolving of the Incorporeal" in search of the "promised land." This
promised land, the Christian Paradise, or Buddhist Nirvâna, was
symbolised by Palestine; the soul in its pilgrimage was brought to
this abode of bliss,[159] and, according to the allegory, "the bodies
of Hebrews buried in a foreign land contained an animistic principle
which only found rest when, by the 'revolving of the Incorporeal,' the
immortal fragment had returned to the promised land."[160]

There are other aspects from which this "revolution of souls" may be
regarded. Certain Kabalists speak of it as a kind of purgatory in
which, by means of this "revolving," the purging of the soul is
brought about before it enters paradise.

In this connection, H. P. Blavatsky states that in the language of the
Initiates the words "soul" (_âme_) and "atom" were synonyms, and were
frequently used for each other. She says that the "revolution of
souls" was in reality only the revolving of the atoms of the bodies
which are continually transmigrating from one body to another
throughout the various kingdoms of nature. From this point of view, it
would seem that "Gil'gool'em" is more especially the cycle of atomic
transmigration: _Resurrection_.

The doctrine of the reincarnation of the human soul, however, is
clearly set forth in the _Zohar_:

"All souls are subjected to the tests of transmigration; men know not
the designs of the Most High with regard to them; they know not how
they are being at all times judged, both before coming into this world
and when they leave it; they have no knowledge of the mysterious
transformations and sufferings they must undergo, or how numerous are
the spirits who coming; into this world never return to the palace of
their divine King; they are ignorant of the revolutions to which they
are subjected, revolutions similar to those of a stone when it is
being hurled from a sling. And now the time has come when the veil
shall be removed from all these mysteries.... Souls must in the end be
plunged back into the substance from which they came. But before this
happens, they must have developed all the perfections the germs of
which are implanted within them; if these conditions are not realised
in one existence, they must be born again until they reach the stage
that makes possible their absorption in God."[161]

According to the Kabala, incarnations take place at long intervals;
souls completely forget their past, and, far from being a punishment,
rebirth is a blessing which enables men to develop and to attain to
their final goal.

The Essenes taught reincarnation and the immortality of the soul.
Ernst von Bunsen,[162] speaking of this sect, says:

"Another marked peculiarity of the doctrine of the Essenes was the
doctrine concerning the pre-existence of souls. They exist originally
in the purest ether, which is their celestial home. By a natural
attraction they are drawn towards the earth and are enclosed in human
bodies, as in a prison. The death of the body causes the return of the
soul to its heavenly abode. The Essenes can, therefore, not have
believed in the resurrection of the body, but of the soul only, or, as
Paul says, of the 'spiritual body.' This is positively asserted by


Although Rome, above all else, was a warlike republic, and religion
principally a State cult, that allowed but slight opportunity for the
outer expression of spirituality, none the less did it inherit the
beliefs of Egypt, Greece, and Persia; the Bacchic mysteries, previous
to their degradation, were a copy of the Orphic and Eleusinian
mysteries. In the reign of Pompey, Mithraism, a cult borrowed from
Persia, was spread throughout the empire. Consequently, we need not be
surprised at finding the doctrine of Rebirth mentioned by the great
Latin writers.

We will quote only from Virgil and Ovid.

In the speech addressed by Anchises to Æneas, his son, the Trojan
prince deals with the life beyond death, the tortures endured by souls
in expiation of their misdeeds, their purification, their passing into
Tartarus,[164] into the Elysian Fields,[165] then their return to
earth after having drunk of the river of forgetfulness. In Book VI. of
the _Æneid_, we find Æneas visiting the lower regions:

"After having for a thousand years turned the wheel (of existence),
these souls come forth in a mighty troop to the Lethean stream to
which God calls them that they may lose the memory of the past, see
the higher regions,[166] and begin to wish to return into bodies."

Ovid, in his _Metamorphoses_ also deals with the teaching of
Pythagoras, his master, on the subject of palingenesis:

    "Then Death, so-called, is but old matter drest
    In some new figure, and a varied vest;
    Thus all things are but alter'd, nothing dies,
    And here and there th' embodied spirit flies,
    By time, or force, or sickness dispossest,
    And lodges, when it lights, in man or beast.
    Th' immortal soul flies out in empty space
    To seek her fortune in some other place."


The _New Testament_ is far more explicit than the _Old_, even though
we find the teachings of reincarnation indicated in only a vague,
indirect fashion. All the same, it must not be forgotten that the
canonical Gospels have suffered numerous suppressions and
interpolations. On the other hand, there can be no doubt that the
early Fathers of the Church made use of gospels that are now either
lost or have become apocryphal.[167] It has been proved that neither
Jesus nor his disciples wrote a single word, and that no version of
the Gospels appeared earlier than the second century.[168] It was at
that time that religious quarrels gave birth to hundreds of gospels,
the writers of which signed them with the name of an apostle or even
with that of Jesus, after forging them in more or less intelligent

Celsus, Jortin, Gibbons, and others have shown that Christianity is
directly descended from Paganism; it was by combining the doctrines of
Egypt, Persia, and Greece with the teachings of Jesus that the
Christian doctrine was built up. Celsus silenced all the Christian
doctors of his time by supplying evidence of this plagiarism; Origen,
the most learned doctor of the age, was his opponent, but he was no
more fortunate than the rest, and Celsus came off victorious.
Thereupon recourse was had to the methods usual in those days; his
books were burnt.

And yet it is evident that the author of the _Revelation_ was a
Kabalist; and the writer of the _Gospel of Saint John_ a Gnostic or a
Neoplatonist. The _Gospel of Nicodemus_ is scarcely more than a copy
of the _Descent of Hercules into the Infernal Regions_; the _Epistle
to the Corinthians_ is a distinct reminiscence of the initiatory
Mysteries of Eleusis; and the Roman Ritual, according to H. P.
Blavatsky, is the reproduction of the Kabalistic Ritual.

One gospel only was authentic, the secret or Hebrew _Gospel of
Matthew_, which was used by the Nazareans, and at a later date by
Saint Justin and the Ebionites. It contained the esoterism of the
One-Religion, and Saint Jerome, who found this gospel in the library
of Cæsarea about the end of the fourth century, says that he "received
permission to translate it from the Nazareans of Beroea."

These considerations prove that interested and narrow-minded writers
selected from the mass of existing traditions whatever seemed to them
of a nature to support their spiritual views as well as their material
interests, and that they constructed therefrom not only what has come
down to us as the four canonical gospels, but also the whole edifice
of Christian dogma.

Consequently, we need not be surprised to find in the _New Testament_
only unimportant fragments dealing with reincarnation; but even these
are not to be despised, for they prove that the doctrine was, to a
certain extent at all events, known and accepted in Palestine.

_Reincarnation in the Gospels._

_Saint Mark_, Chapter 6.

v. 14. And King Herod heard of him; and he said, That John the Baptist
was risen from the dead....

v. 15. Others said, That it is Elias; and others said, That it is a
prophet, or as one of the prophets.

v. 16. But when Herod heard thereof, he said, It is John whom I
beheaded; he is risen from the dead.

_Saint Matthew_, Chapter 14.

v. 1. At that time, Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus.

v. 2. And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is
risen from the dead....

_Saint Luke_, Chapter 9.

v. 7. Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done by him; and he
was perplexed because it was said of some that John was risen from the

v. 8. And of some, that Elias had appeared; and of others, that one of
the old prophets was risen again.

v. 9. But Herod said, John have I beheaded; but who is this of whom I
hear such things?

The account here given proves that the people as well as Herod
believed in reincarnation, and that it applied, at all events, "to the
prophets" and to those like them.

_Saint Matthew_, Chapter 16.

v. 13. When Jesus came into the coasts of Cæsarea Philippi, he asked
his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I, the Son of man, am?

v. 14. And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist; some,
Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

The same account is given in _Saint Luke_, chapter 9, verses 18, 19.

_Saint Matthew_, Chapter 17.

v. 12. But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew
him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall
also the Son of man suffer of them.

v. 13. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John
the Baptist.

He continued in _Saint Matthew_, Chapter 11.

v. 7. Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What
went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?

v. 8. But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment?
Behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses.

v. 9. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you,
and more than a prophet.

v. 14. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias which was for to come.

Here we have a distinct declaration: Reincarnation is a fact; John is
the rebirth of Elias.[169]

Judging from these texts, one might be tempted to think that
reincarnation was confined to the prophets or to people of importance,
but Saint John shows us that the Jews, though perhaps ignorant that it
was a law of universal application, recognised, at any rate, that it
might happen in the case of any man.

_Saint John_, Chapter 9.

v. 1. And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his

v. 2. And his disciples asked him, saying: Master, who did sin, this
man or his parents, that he was born blind?

v. 3. Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned nor his parents;
but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

Here we are dealing with a man _blind from birth_, and the Jews ask
Jesus if he was blind because he sinned; this clearly indicates that
they were referring to sins committed in the course of a former
existence[170]; the thought is, therefore, quite a natural,
straightforward one, referring to something well known to everyone and
needing no explanation.

As one well acquainted with this doctrine of Rebirth, without
combating it as an error or as something doubtful which his disciples
ought not to believe, Jesus simply replies:

"Neither hath this man sinned nor his parents; but that the works of
God should be made manifest in him."

And yet it appears as though this answer must have been distorted, as
so many others have been, otherwise it would mean that the only reason
for this man's blindness was the caprice of the Deity.

_Reincarnation in the Apocalypse._

The _Apocalypse_, an esoteric book _par excellence_, confirms the
doctrine of Reincarnation, and throws considerable light on it:

"Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and
he shall go no more out...."[171]

In another verse it is stated that to him who overcometh "I will give
the morning star."[172] In the language of theosophy, this means: He
who has overcome the animal soul, shall, by mystic Communion, be
united to the divine soul, which, in the _Apocalypse_, is the symbol
of the Christ:

"I, Jesus, am the bright and morning star."[173]

Another verse clearly characterises the nature and the cost of

"To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and I
will give him a _white stone_, and in the stone a new _name_ written,
which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it."[174]

The hidden manna is the ambrosia of the Greeks, the _kyteon_ of the
mysteries of Eleusis, the _soma_ of the Hindus, the eucharist of the
Christians, the sacred drink offered to the disciples at Initiation,
which had the Moon as its symbol, conferred the gift of divine
clairvoyance and separated the soul from the body.

The "white stone" is none other than the _alba petra_, the white
cornelian, the chalcedony, or stone of Initiation. It was given to the
candidate who had successfully passed through all the preliminary
tests.[175] The "Word" written on the stone is the _sacred Word_, the
"lost Word" which Swedenborg said was to be sought for amongst the
hierophants of Tartary and Tibet, whom theosophists call the Masters.

"He who overcometh" is, therefore, the disciple ready for initiation;
it is of him that "a pillar in the temple of God" will be made. In
esoteric language, the column signifies Man redeemed, made divine and
free, who is no longer to revolve on the wheel of Rebirths, who "shall
no more go out," as the _Apocalypse_ says, _i.e._, shall not again
leave Heaven.

If we examine the text of both _Old_ and _New Testament_ by the light
of esoteric teaching, the dead letter, often absurd and at tunes
repellent and immoral, would receive unexpected illumination, and
would fully justify the words of the great rabbi, Maimonides, quoted a
few pages back.[176]

Origen, the most learned of the Fathers of the Church, adds in his

"If we had to limit ourselves to the letter, and understand after the
fashion of the Jews or the people, what is written in the Law, I
should be ashamed to proclaim aloud that it was God who gave us such
laws; I should find more dignity and reason in human laws, as, for
instance, in those of Athens, Rome, or Sparta...." (_Homil 7. in

Saint Jerome, in his _Epistle to Paulinus_, continues in similar

"Listen, brother, learn the path you must follow in studying the Holy
Scriptures. Everything you read in the divine books is shining and
light-giving without, but far sweeter is the heart thereof. He who
would eat the nut must first break the shell."

It is because they have lost the Spirit of their Scriptures that the
Christians--ever since their separation from the Gnostics--have
offered the world nothing more than the outer shell of the World


The great philosophic body that formed a bridge, as it were, between
the Old World and the New was the famous School of Alexandria, founded
about the second century of our era by Ammonius Saccas and closed in
the year 429 A.D. through the intolerance of Justinian. Theosophical
in its origin, this school had received from Plato the esoteric
teaching of Egypt and the East, and the dogma of Rebirth was secretly
taught in its entirety, though its meaning may have been travestied by
the ignorance of the masses to whom only the grosser aspects of the
teaching were given.

"It is a dogma recognised throughout antiquity," says Plotinus,[177]
"that the soul expiates its sins in the darkness of the infernal
regions, and that afterwards it passes into new bodies, there to
undergo new trials."

"When we have gone astray in multiplicity,[178] we are first punished
by our wandering away from the path, and afterwards by less favourable
conditions, when we take on new bodies."[179]

"The gods are ever looking down upon us in this world, no reproach we
bring against them can be justifiable, for their providence is
never-ending; they allot to each individual his appropriate destiny,
one that is in harmony with his past conduct, in conformity with his
successive existences."[180]

The following is a quotation from the same philosopher, dealing with
metempsychosis, and which, when compared with the foregoing sentences,
appears strangely absurd. We make no comment here, as this obscure
question will be dealt with a few pages farther on.

"Those who have exercised human faculties are reborn as men; those who
have lived only the life of the senses pass into animals' bodies,
especially into the bodies of wild beasts if they have given way to
excesses of anger ... those who have sought only to satisfy their lust
and gluttony, pass into the bodies of lascivious and gluttonous
animals ... those who have allowed their senses to become atrophied,
are sent to vegetate in trees ... those who have reigned tyranically
become eagles, if they have no other vice."[181]

Porphyry says:

"The souls that are not destined for the tortures of hell
(_Tartarus_), and those that have passed through this expiation, are
born again, and divine Justice gives them a new body, in accordance
with their merits and demerits."[182]

The following remarkable lines are from Iamblichus:

"What appears to us to be an accurate definition of justice does not
also appear to be so to the Gods. For we, looking at that which is
most brief, direct our attention to things present, and to this
momentary life, and the manner in which it subsists. But the powers
that are superior to us know the whole life of the Soul, and all its
former lives; and, in consequence of this, if they inflict a certain
punishment in obedience to the entreaties of those that invoke them,
they do not inflict it without justice, but looking at the offences
committed by souls in former lives: which men, not perceiving, think
that they unjustly fall into the calamities which they suffer."[183]

Proclus gave out the same teaching; he affirmed that he had been
incarnated in Nichomachus, the Pythagorean.

In his commentary on the _Golden Verses of Pythagoras_, Hierocles
expresses himself thus:

"The ways of the Lord can be justified only by metempsychosis."[184]

Damascius and Hermias, as also their masters, proclaimed their belief
in Rebirth.

Here a short explanation must be given of what has been said regarding
transmigration or metempsychosis, in order that all misunderstanding
may be removed.

Neither Pythagoras nor Plotinus nor any of the great Teachers of the
past believed in metempsychosis, as it has been described; all their
disciples have affirmed if, and these affirmations, set over against a
line of teaching which seems to contradict them, because it is
incomplete and intended for the less intelligent portion of society at
that time, ought to have reminded its opponents that there might be
hidden reasons capable of explaining the paradox.

We must first remember that a veil of strictest secrecy was flung over
the noblest and most sublime spiritual teachings of the day. According
to Bossuet, the teaching of the immortality of the soul seems not to
have been deemed suitable for the Hebrew race, and, indeed, it is easy
to understand that no double-edged truth should be taught except under
conditions that would safeguard it. Ptolemy Philadelphus exiled
Hegesias,[185] whose eloquent fanaticism had caused some of his
disciples to commit suicide, at Cyrene, after a lesson on immortality.
Ptolemy ordered those schools of philosophy to be closed which
continued teaching this doctrine, for in the case of a people
insufficiently developed, the instinct which binds to physical life,
and the dread of the torture that awaits guilty souls in the
Hereafter, are preferable to doctrines of immortality deprived of the
safeguards with which they should be surrounded.

The doctrine of Rebirths called for even stricter secrecy than that of
immortality, and this secrecy was accorded it in ancient times; after
the coming of the Christ, it grew less rigorous, and the
Neoplatonists, though obliged to keep the esoteric teaching to
themselves, were permitted to throw light on certain points.

Timæus of Locris, one of the masters of Plotinus, hinted at the
existence of a more profound doctrine in the following words:

"Just as by the threat of punishment imperfectly evolved souls are
prevented from sinning, so the transmigration of the souls of
murderers into the bodies of wild beasts, and of the souls of unchaste
persons into the bodies of swine, was taught; and the previous
punishment of these souls in the infernal regions was entrusted to
Nemesis (Karma)."

Certain modern commentators--though imperfectly instructed in the
teachings of palingenesis--have also seen that the masters of
philosophy in the past could not possibly have made a mistake which
less far-seeing minds would have avoided. Dacier[186] says:

"A sure token that Pythagoras never held the opinion attributed to him
lies in the fact that there is not the faintest trace of it in the
symbols we have left of him, or in the precepts his disciple, Lysis,
collected together and handed down as a summary of the master's

Jules Simon also speaks as follows regarding Plotinus:[187]

"Here we have the doctrine of metempsychosis which Plotinus found all
around, among the Egyptians, the Jews, the Neoplatonists, his
predecessors, and finally in Plato himself. Does Plato take
metempsychosis seriously, as one would be tempted to believe after
reading the _Republic_? Did he mention it only to ridicule the
superstitions of his contemporaries, as seems evident from the

"However important Plato may have considered metempsychosis, it can
scarcely be imagined that Plotinus took it seriously.... Even granting
that this doctrine were literally accepted by Plotinus, the question
would still have to be asked whether the human soul really does dwell
in the body of an animal, or simply enters a human body, which, in its
passions and vices, recalls the nature of that particular animal."

The reasons mentioned by Dacier and Jules Simon form only a trifling
portion of the whole explanation, but if they are added to the
constant protests raised by the disciples of the Masters of the
Pythagorean and Platonic traditions, against those who said that their
instructors taught metempsychosis in all its crudeness, they assume
considerable importance, and show that, although the restrictions of
esoteric teaching travestied by the ignorance of the masses may have
caused it to be believed that the contrary was the case, none the less
the Initiates, from the very beginning, denied that human
transmigration into the bodies of animals ever took place.

On this question many of them have frequently said that it is the soul
which, in such cases, changes its nature, and assumes the passions of
animals into which, as is said exoterically, it transmigrates, though
it does not enter into their bodies.

"He who believes that he transmigrates, after death, into the body of
a beast or a plant," says Hierocles,[189] "is grossly mistaken; he is
ignorant of the fact that the essential form of the soul cannot
change, that it is and it remains human, and only, metaphorically
speaking, does virtue make of it a god, and vice an animal."

"A human soul," adds Hermes, "cannot go back into the body of an
animal; it is preserved from such pollution, for all time, by the will
of the gods."[190]

Mrs. Besant says as follows in a letter dealing with Theosophy and
Reincarnation (_The Theosophist_, April, 1906):

"Even with the wealth of detail given in the Hindu Shâstras, thousands
of facts of the invisible world are omitted, because their statement
would hopelessly bewilder the public mind.

"If all the details are given, ere the main principles are grasped,
hopeless confusion is caused to the beginner.

"When an Ego, a human soul, by vicious appetite or otherwise, forms a
very strong link of attachment to any type of animal, the astral body
(Kâmarûpa) of such a person shows the corresponding animal
characteristics, and in the astral world, where thoughts and passions
are visible as forms, may take the animal shapes; thus, after death,
in _Pretaloka_, the soul would be embodied in an animal vesture,
resembling or approximating to the animal whose qualities had been
encouraged during earth-life. Either at this stage, or when the soul
is returning towards reincarnation, and is again in the astral world,
it may, in extreme cases, be linked by magnetic affinity to the astral
body of the animal it has approached in character, and will then,
through the animal's astral body, be chained as a prisoner to that
animal's physical body. Thus chained, it cannot go onwards to
_Svarga_, if the tie be set up while it is a _Preta_; nor go onwards
to human birth, if it be descending towards physical life. It is truly
undergoing penal servitude, chained to an animal; it is conscious in
the astral world, has its human faculties, but it cannot control the
brute body with which it is connected, nor express itself through
that body on the physical plane. The animal organisation does not
possess the mechanism needed by the human Ego for self-expression; it
can serve as a jailor, not as a vehicle. Further, the "animal soul" is
not ejected, but is the proper tenant and controller of its own body.
S'rî Shankarâchârya hints very clearly at the difference between this
penal imprisonment and becoming a stone, a tree, or an animal. Such an
imprisonment is not "reincarnation," ... the human Ego "cannot
reincarnate as an animal," cannot "become an animal."

"In cases where the Ego is not degraded enough for absolute
imprisonment, but in which the astral body has become very animal, it
may pass on normally to human re-birth, but the animal characteristic
will be largely reproduced in the physical body--as witness the
"monsters" who in face are sometimes repulsively animal, pig-faced,
dog-faced, &c. Men, by yielding to the most bestial vices, entail on
themselves penalties more terrible than they, for the most part,
realise; for Nature's laws work on unbrokenly and bring to every man
the harvest of the seed he sows. The suffering entailed on the
conscious human entity, thus cut off from progress and from
self-expression, is very great, and is, of course, reformatory in its
action; it is somewhat similar to that endured by other Egos, who are
linked to bodies human in form, but without normal brains--those we
call idiots, lunatics, &c. Idiocy and lunacy are the results of vices
different in kind from those that bring about the animal servitude
above explained, but the Ego in these cases also is attached to a form
through which he cannot express himself."

"True reason," says Proclus,[191] "affirms that the human soul may at
times find lodgment in brutes, but that it is possible for it to live
its own life and rise above the lower nature whilst bound to it by the
similarity of its tendencies and desires. We have never meant anything
else, as has often been proved by the reasoning in our commentaries on

There is a note in the _Vâhan_[192] on a passage from _Phædrus_ which
sheds all the light that can be shed on the question of
metempsychosis; in the space of a few lines everything is said that
may be publicly revealed, without trespassing on forbidden ground.

After stating that, on returning from the internal regions, the soul
passes into the "life" of a beast, and that if it were human
previously, it afterwards goes into another human body, the note

"We must not understand by this that the soul of a man becomes the
soul of a brute, but that by way of punishment it is bound to the soul
of a brute, or carried in it, just as dæmons used to reside in our
souls. Hence all the energies of the rational soul are absolutely
impeded, and its intellectual eye beholds nothing but the dark and
tumultuous phantasms of a brutal life."[193]

This passage contains the explanation of what might be called the
metempsychosis of certain human souls at the present time; we once
heard a great Teacher fully reveal this mystery to a chosen group of
Hindus, but it must for some time to come remain a mystery to the
western world. All that can be said on the matter is that it has
nothing to do with the incarnation of a human soul in the body of an
animal, but rather with a certain temporary karmic bond, in the life
Hereafter, between a human soul and an animal one, a bond intended to
teach many a hard lesson to the one who has brought upon himself so
unpleasant an experience.

Metempsychosis included many other facts in human evolution, facts
that were plainly taught to the disciples in the "inner circles" of
the ancient Schools and passed out to the confused medley of public

The astral body, for instance, of a man of an exceedingly passionate
nature, when the soul leaves the physical body, sometimes assumes
forms resembling those of the animals which represent these passions
on the physical plane, and so the disincarnate soul of an assassin has
been said to pass into the body of a wild beast.

Metempsychosis, properly so-called, that is to say, the passing of a
human soul into the body of a brute, did however exist during the
infancy of the human race, when highly developed animal souls were
becoming fit to enter the human kingdom. The bodies of these
newly-born human souls were coarse and rudimentary in their nature,
showing scarcely any difference in form and organic function from the
bodies of the higher animals of that period, for these instruments
were very similar to one another. The improvements subsequently
effected by human bodies did not then exist; the difference, or
distinction, which has now widened into a gulf, was scarcely
perceptible, and in the early incarnations of these rudimentary human
souls back-slidings and falls were so frequent that some of them, thus
enfeebled, might find it to their advantage[194] to become incarnate,
at times, in highly-developed animal bodies. But that was always an
exception, and the exception has long ago become an impossibility.

We think these explanations, along with those given in other portions
of this work, will throw as much light as is permitted publicly on the
subject of metempsychosis--a subject frequently discussed and one that
has hitherto been so obscure. Such illumination as is here given is
due to the teachings of theosophy.


The documents to which we have access, dealing with the philosophical
and religious history of Christianity in the first few centuries of
our era, are so questionable, that we can place but faint reliance
upon them, if we would really become acquainted with the thought of
that period. We have already seen that the number of spurious or
counterfeit productions was so great that a strange kind of sorting
out, or selection, took place at the first Council of Nicæa, resulting
in the choice of four so-called canonical Gospels. It is evident, too,
that the copyists, compilers, and translators of the period were
anxious, above all else, to make facts and opinions agree with their
preconceived ideas and personal sympathies or likings. Each author
worked _pro domo sua_, emphasising whatever fitted in with his
personal views and carefully concealing what was calculated to weaken
them; so that at the present time the only clues we have to guide us
out of the labyrinth consist of the brief opinions expressed by a few
historians, here and there, on whose honesty reliance may be placed.

In the present chapter, for instance, it is no easy matter to unravel
the Truth from out of these tangled threads of personal opinions. Some
believe that the early Christians and the Fathers of the Church were
reincarnationists; others say they were not; the texts, we are in
possession of, contradict one another. Thus, whereas Saint Jerome
brings against Origen the reproach of having in his book _De
Principiis_ taught that, in certain cases, the transmigration of human
souls into the bodies of animals, was possible--as, indeed, seems to
be the case--certain writers deny that he ever said anything on the
subject. These contradictory affirmations are easy to explain, once we
know that Ruffinus, when translating into Latin the Greek text of _De
Principiis_, omitted all that referred to this question, that the
conspiracy of silence might be preserved on the matter of Origenian

At the close of his article "_Origen on Reincarnation_," in the
_Theosophical Review_, February, 1906, G. R. S. Mead says:

"It therefore follows that those who have claimed Origen as a believer
in reincarnation--and many have done so, confounding reincarnation
with pre-existence--have been mistaken. Origen himself answers in no
uncertain tones, and stigmatises the belief as a false doctrine,
utterly opposed to Scripture and the teaching of the Church."

Others affirm that Saint Justin Martyr believed in rebirths and even
in the transmigration of human souls into animal bodies. In his book
_Against Heresies_, volume 2, chapter 33, the _Absurdity of the
Doctrine of the Transmigration of Souls_ is dealt with; and in the
following chapter, the pre-existence of the soul is denied! Is this
another instance, like the one just mentioned, of tampering with the
writings of this Father of the Church?[195]

At times an author gives two contradictory opinions on the same
subject. In Tertullian's _Apology for the Christians_, for instance,
we find the following:

"If you can find it reasonable to believe the transmigration of human
souls from body to body, why should you think it incredible for the
soul to return to the substance it first inhabited?[196] For this is
our notion of a resurrection, to be that again after death which we
were before, for according to the Pythagorean doctrine these souls now
are not the same they were, because they cannot be what they were not
without ceasing to be what they were.... I think it of more
consequence to establish this doctrine of the resurrection; and we
propose it as more consonant with reason and the dignity of human
nature to believe that man will be remade man, each person the person
he was, a human being a human being; in other words, that the soul
shall be habited with the same qualities it was invested with in its
former union, though the man may receive some alteration in his
form.... The light which daily departs rises again with its original
splendour, and darkness succeeds by equal turns; the stars which leave
the world, revive; the seasons, when they have finished their course,
renew it again; the fruits are consumed and bloom afresh; and that
which we sow is not quickened except it die, and by that dissolution
rises more fruitful. Thus you see how all things are renewed by
corruption and reformed by dying.... How, then, could you imagine that
man, the lord of all these dying and reviving things, should himself
die for ever?"

After such a clear and noble profession of faith, we may well wonder
if it were the same man who, in _De Anima_, could have both refuted
and pitilessly ridiculed the idea of rebirth, and denied the
separation of the soul from the body as well as the influence of the
former upon the latter. We prefer to believe that we are dealing with
two writers, or else that some literary forger, anxious to create a
diversion, deliberately made Tertullian responsible for this strange

Another reason for the difficulty in unravelling the tangled skein of
the religious and philosophical teachings prevalent in the early
centuries of Christianity is the lack of precision in the language of
the writers, the loss of the key to the special vocabulary they used,
and the veils which writers who possessed some degree of initiation,
deliberately threw over teachings which could only be given to the
masses in general terms.

There is one very important point to consider; and this is that in the
earlier centuries, outside the circles of initiation, there was not
that precision which the present-day teaching of theosophy has given
to the doctrine of Reincarnation; this latter, in the mind of the
people, became confused with the doctrine of Pre-existence, which
affirms that the soul exists before coming into the present body, and
will exist in other bodies after leaving this one. This confusion has
continued up to the present time, and we find schools of spiritualism
in England and America, as well as in other countries, teaching that
existence on earth has been preceded and will be followed by a great
number of existences on the invisible planes.

In reality, this is the doctrine of Rebirths, though there is nothing
precise about the teaching. Whether the soul has a single physical
body, or takes several in succession, it is none the less continually
evolving as it passes into material vehicles, however subtle the
matter be; the difference is, therefore, insignificant, unless we wish
to enter into details of the process involved, as was the case in the
West in the early centuries of Christianity.

Did the Fathers of the Church teach Pre-existence? There can be no
doubt on this point. In a letter to St. Anastasius, Rufinus said that
"this belief was common amongst the early Christian fathers."
Arnobius[197] shows his sympathy with this teaching, and adds that St.
Clement, of Alexandria, "wrote wonderful accounts of metempsychosis";
and afterwards, in other passages of the same book, he appears to
criticise the idea of the plurality of lives. St. Jerome affirms that
"the doctrine of transmigration has been secretly taught from ancient
times to small numbers of people, as a traditional truth which was not
to be divulged."[198] A. Franck quotes this passage on page 184 of his
_Kabbale_; Huet, too, gives it in _Origeniana_.[199] The same Father
proves himself to be a believer in Pre-existence, in his 94th _Letter
to Avitus_, where he agrees with Origen on the subject of the
interpretation of a passage from St. Paul,[200] and says that this
means "that a divine abode and true repose are to be found in Heaven,"
and "that there dwell creatures endowed with reason in a state of
bliss, before coming down to our visible world, before they fall into
the grosser bodies of earth...."

Lactantius, whom St. Jerome called the Christian Cicero, though he
opposed pagan doctrines, maintained that the soul was capable of
immortality and of bodily survival only on the hypothesis that it
existed before the body.[201]

Nemesius, Bishop of Emissa in Syria, stoutly affirmed the doctrine of
Pre-existence, declaring that every Greek who believed in immortality
believed also in the pre-existence of the soul.

St. Augustine said: "Did I not live in another body, or somewhere
else, before entering my mother's womb?"[202]

In his _Treatise, on Dreams_, Synesius states that "philosophy assures
us that our past lives are a direct preparation for future lives...."
When invited by the citizens of Ptolemais to become their bishop, he
at once refused, saying that "he cherished certain opinions of which
they might not approve, as, after mature reflection, they had struck
deep root in his mind. Foremost among these, he mentioned the doctrine
of Pre-existence."

Dr. Henry More, the famous Platonist of the seventeenth century,
quotes Synesius as one of the masters who taught this doctrine,[203]
and Beausobre reports a typical phrase of his,[204] "Father, grant
that my soul may merge into Light and be no more thrust back into the
illusion of earth."

St. Gregory of Nysa says it is absolutely necessary that the soul
should be healed and purified, and if this does not take place during
its life on earth, it must be accomplished in future lives.

St. Clement of Alexandria says that, although man was created after
other beings, "the human species is more ancient than all these
things."[205] In his _Exhortations to the Pagans_, he adds:

"We were in being long before the foundation of the world; we existed
in the eye of God, for it is our destiny to live in him. We are the
reasonable creatures of the divine Word; therefore, we have existed
from the beginning, for in the beginning was the Word.... Not for the
first time does He show pity on us in out wanderings. He pitied us
from the very beginning."

He also adds:[205]

"Philolaus, the Pythagorean, taught that the soul was flung into the
body as a punishment for the misdeeds it had committed, and his
opinion was confirmed by the most ancient of the prophets."

As regards Reincarnation, _i.e._, the descent of the human soul into
successive physical bodies, and even its temporary association with
the physical bodies of animals, more than one Christian writer
advocated this teaching.

Chalcidius, quoted by Beausobre in the book just mentioned, says:

"The souls, that are not able to unite with God, are destined to
return to life until they repent of their misdeeds."

In the _Pistis Sophia_, a Christian treatise on the mysteries of the
divine Hierarchies and the evolution of souls in the three worlds, we
find the doctrine of Rebirth frequently mentioned:

"If he is a man who (after passing out of his body)[206] shall have come
to the end of his cycles of transmigrations, without repenting, ... he
is cast into outer darkness."

A few pages earlier, in the same work, we find:

"The disincarnate soul which has not solved the mystery of the
breaking of the bonds and of the seals is brought before the virgin of
light, who, after judging it, hands it over to her agents
(_receivers_), who carry it into a new body."

Let us now see what Origen says on the matter[207]:

"Celsus, then, is altogether ignorant of the purpose of our writings,
and it is therefore upon his own acceptation of them that he casts
discredit and not upon their real meaning; whereas if he had reflected
on what is appropriate[208] to a soul which is to enjoy an everlasting
life, and on the idea which we are to form of its essence and
principles, he would not so have ridiculed the entrance of the
immortal into a mortal body, which took place, not according to the
metempsychosis of Plato, but agreeably to another and higher order of

The teaching of Origen is not easy to set forth clearly, for he is
very reticent about many things, and employs a language to which
present-day philosophy cannot always find the key; still, the teaching
seems full and complete. It comprises pre-existence and even those
special associations of certain human souls with animal souls, which
we have just spoken of and which form one of the chief mysteries of

In the following words he explains the existence of souls in previous

"The soul has neither beginning nor end....

"Rational creatures existed undoubtedly from the very beginning in
those (ages) which are invisible and eternal. And if this is so, then
there has been a descent from a higher to a lower condition on the
part not only of those souls who have deserved the change, by the
variety of their movements, but also on that of those who, in order to
serve the whole world, were brought down from those higher and
invisible spheres to these lower and visible ones, although against
their will. 'For the creature was made subject to vanity, not
willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope'
(_Rom._, chap. 8, v. 20); so that both sun and moon and stars and
angels might discharge their duly to the world, and to those souls
who, on account of their excessive mental defects, stood in need of
bodies of a grosser and more solid nature; and for the sake of those
for whom this arrangement was necessary, this visible world was also
called into being.

"This arrangement of things, then, which God afterwards appointed not
being understood by some, who failed to perceive that it was owing to
preceding causes originating in free will, that this variety of
arrangement had been instituted by God, they have concluded that all
things in this world are directed either by fortuitous movements or by
a necessary fate, and that nothing is in the power of our own

"Is it not rational that souls should be introduced into bodies, in
accordance with their merits and previous deeds, and that those who
have used their bodies in doing the utmost possible good should have a
right to bodies endowed with qualities superior to the bodies of

All souls will arrive at the same goal;[211] it is the will of souls
that makes of them angels, men or demons, and their fall can be of
such a nature that they may be chained down to the bodies of
animals.[212] Certain souls, on attaining to perfect peace, return to
new worlds; some remain faithful, others degenerate to such a degree
that they become demons.[213]

Concerning bodies, he says:

"The soul, which is immaterial and invisible in its nature, exists in
no material place, without having a body suited to the nature of that
place; accordingly, it at one time puts off one body which was
necessary before, but which is no longer adequate in its changed
state, and it exchanges it for a second."[214]

Although _metensomatosis_ (re-embodiment of the soul), _i.e._, the
true teaching of Origen, was not clearly expounded, it considerably
influenced the early Christian philosophers, and was favourably
received up to the time of its condemnation by the Synod of
Constantinople. It appeared in most of the sects of that time and in
those of the following centuries: Simonians, Basilidians,
Valentinians, Marcionites, Gnostics, Manichæans, Priscillianites,
Cathari, Patarins, Albigenses, Bogomiles, &c....

Chivalry, too, in these ages of darkness and persecution, was an
instrument for the dissemination of esoteric doctrines, including
Reincarnation. The heart of this noble institution consisted of
students of divine Wisdom, pure devoted souls who communicated with
one another by means of passwords.

The Troubadours were their messengers of the sacred Teaching, which
they skilfully concealed in their songs, carrying it from group to
group, from sect to sect, in their wanderings. "Sons of the teachings
of the Albigenses and of the Manichæan-Marcion tradition"[215] they
kept alive belief in the rebirths of the soul, "Izarn the Monk," in
his book _Historie d' un Hérétique_,[216] apostrophised an Albigensian
bishop in the following terms:

"Tell me what school it was in which you learnt that the spirit of
man, after losing his body, passes into an ox, an ass, a sheep, or a
fowl, and transmigrates from one animal to another, until a new human
body is born for it?"

Izarn was acquainted with only so much of the teachings of the
Troubadours as had got abroad and been distorted and misrepresented by
ignorant or evil-minded persons; still, his criticism plainly shows
traces of the teachings of palingenesis in the darkest and most
blood-stained periods of the Middle Ages.

The Inquisition put an end to the Troubadours, though certain of them,
Dante and St. Francis of Assisi, for instance, by reason of their
popularity or the special circumstances of the case, were left in
peace. In Europe the secret teaching was continued by the
Rosicrucians; the _Roman de la Rose_ is pure Hermetic esotericism. The
struggle of official Christianity--that of the letter--against those
who represented the spirit of the Scriptures, raged ever more
bitterly, and the idea of Rebirth disappeared more and more from the
Church; its sole representatives during the Middle Ages were St.
Francis of Assisi, the learned Irish monk, Johannes Scotus Erigena,
and St. Bonaventura, "the Seraphic Doctor." At the present time there
remains nothing more than a disfigured and misunderstood fragment of
this idea: the dogma of the _Resurrection of the Body_.


It has been said that the Arabs believed in Reincarnation before
Mohammed forbade it. Some, however, think that the Koran was written
only after the death of the Prophet, and that the latter committed
nothing to writing, but taught by word of mouth. Besides, it is clear
that Mohammedanism is an offshoot of Zoroastrianism and Christianity.
Like these, it teaches the Unity of the Whole, the divine Presence in
all creatures and things (_Ubiquity_), Predestination, which is only
one form of _Karma_, and Resurrection, which expresses one phase of

Mohammed, like all great mystics, had discovered or learnt many of the
truths of esotericism. The verses of the Koran that refer to the
"Companions of the Cave"[218] indicate that he knew more than he
taught in public, and that there may be some ground for certain
Asiatic nations holding the exaggerated belief that he was an
Avâtâr,[219] the tenth incarnation of the _Aum_--the Amed, the
Nations' Desire.[220] He was a Disciple.

Had there not been in the heart of Islamism a strong germ of esoteric
teaching, Sufism could never have sprung from it. The Sufis are the
saints of Mohammedanism, they are those who aspire after the union of
the individual "I" with the cosmic "I," of man with God; they are
frequently endowed with wonderful powers, and their chiefs have almost
always been thaumaturgists.

The _New Koran_, a modern exposition of part of the secret doctrine of
Islam, shows the correctness of this view. In it we find the following
passages on the subject of Palingenesis:

"And when his body falleth off altogether, as an old fish-shell, his
soul doeth welt by the releasing, and formeth a new one instead.

"The disembodied spirits of man and beast return as the clouds to
renew the young streamlets of infancy....

"When a man dieth or leaveth his body, he wendeth through the gate of
oblivion and goeth to God, and when he is born again he cometh from
God and in a new body maketh his dwelling; hence is this saying:

"The body to the tomb and the spirit to the womb....

"This doctrine is none other than what God hath taught openly from the
very beginning....

"For truly the soul of a man goeth not to the body of a beast, as some

"But the soul of the lower beast goeth to the body of the higher, and
the soul of the higher beast to the body of the savage, and the soul
of the savage to the man....

"And so a man shall be immortal in one body and one garment that
neither can fade nor decay.

"Ye who now lament to go out of this body, wept also when ye were born
into it...."[221]

"The person of man is only a mask which the soul putteth on for a
season; it weareth its proper time and then is cast off, and another
is worn in its stead....

"I tell you, of a truth, that the spirits which now have affinity
shall be kindred together, although they all meet in new persons and

In _Asiatic Researches_, Colebrooke states that the present Mohammedan
sect of the _Bohrahs_ believes in metempsychosis, as do the Hindus,
and, like the latter, abstains from flesh, for the same reason.

Thus we find the doctrine of Reincarnation at the heart of all the
great religions of antiquity. The reason it has remained in a germinal
state in recent religions--Christianity and Islamism--is that in the
latter Mohammed did not attain to the degree of a Hierophant, and in
all likelihood the race to which he brought light did not greatly need
to become acquainted with the law relating to the return to earth
life; whereas in the former the real teachings of the Christ were lost
when the Gnostics were exterminated, and Eusebius and Irenæus, the
founders of exoteric Christianity, unable to grasp the _spirit_,
imposed the _letter_ throughout the religion.


In antiquity, science and philosophy were scarcely anything else than
parts of religion[223]; the most eminent scientists and the greatest
philosophers alike were all supporters of the established form of
religion, whenever they did not happen to be its priests, for the
temples were the common cradle of science and philosophy. No wonder,
then, that we find these three great aspects of Truth always hand in
hand, never opposed to or in conflict with one another through the
whole of antiquity. Science was for the body, philosophy for the
intellect, and religion for that divine spark which is destined to
flash forth and finally become a "god" in the bosom of the World Soul.
Every intelligent man knew that on this tripod lay the life of the
individual, the life of society, and the life of the world. Divorce
between these took place only at a later date, when the divine
Teachers had disappeared, and mutilated traditions handed down to the
nations nothing but disfigured and incomplete teachings buried beneath
the ruins of temples that had been crumbling away ever since spiritual
Life had left them.

Then followed the era of separation; science and philosophy became
debased and went their own ways, whilst a degenerate religion
reflected nothing higher than the narrow mentality of fallen
ministers. As this degradation continued, there sprang into being
religious wars, monstrosities that were unknown in those times when
Divinity shed illumination and guidance on the nations by means of
those mighty souls, the Adept-Kings: gods, demi-gods, and heroes.

Nevertheless, Truth never remained without her guardians, and when
apostleship had been destroyed by persecutions the sacred treasure
which was to be handed down from age to age was secretly entrusted by
the sages to faithful disciples. Thus did Esoterism pass through fire
and bloodshed, and one of its greatest teachings, the doctrine of
Palingenesis, has left a stream of light in its wake. Now we will give
a rapid sketch of it in modern times, examining the philosophical
teachings of the greatest of recent thinkers. We will borrow mainly
from Walker's work on this subject, quoting only the writers most
deserving of mention, and making only short extracts, for all that is
needed is to plant a few sign-posts to guide the student along the

In the 128th verse of _Lalla Rookh_, Thomas Moore speaks of rebirths:

            "Stranger, though new the frame
    Thy soul inhabits now, I've traced its flame
    For many an age, in every chance and change
    Of that Existence, through whose varied range,--
    As through a torch-race, where, from hand to hand
    The flying youths transmit their shining brand,--
    From frame to frame the unextinguished soul
    Rapidly passes, till it reach the goal!"

Paracelsus, like every Initiate, was acquainted with it, and Jacob
Böhme, the "nursling of the Nirmânakâyas,"[224] knew that it was a law
of Nature.

Giordano Bruno--also a great Soul--quotes from Ovid's _Metamorphoses_,
Book 15, Line 156, &c., as follows:

    "O mortals! chilled by dreams of icy death,
    Whom air-blown bubbles of a poet's breath,
    Darkness and Styx in error's gulph have hurl'd,
    With fabled terrors of a fabled world;
    Think not, whene'er material forms expire,
    Consumed by wasting age or funeral fire,
    Aught else can die: souls, spurning death's decay,
    Freed from their old, new tenements of clay
    Forthwith assume, and wake to life again.
                            ... All is change,
    Nought perishes" ...

_Orger's translation_[225]

Campanella, the Dominican monk, was sent into exile on account of his
belief in the successive returns of the soul to earth.

The Younger Helmont, in his turn, was attacked by the inquisition for
leaching this doctrine in his _De Revolutione Animarum_, in which he
brings forward, in two hundred problems, all the arguments; that make
reincarnation necessary.

Cudworth and Dr. Henry More, the Platonists of Cambridge, were
faithful believers in Palingenesis; whilst Joseph Glanvill, in _Lux
Orientalis_, finds that there are "Seven Pillars" on which
Pre-existence rests.

Dr. Edward Beecher, in _The Conflict of Ages_ and _The Concord of
Ages_, as well as Julius Muller, the well-known German theologian, in
_The Christian Doctrine of Sin_, warmly uphold it.

Schelling acknowledges it in his _Dissertation on Metempsychosis_.

Leibnitz, in his _Monadology_, and more especially his _Theodicy_,
witnessed to his belief in this doctrine. Had he dared to speak out
his thoughts openly, he would more effectively have advocated his
"Optimism," by the teachings of evolution and rebirths, than by all
the other arguments he advanced.

Chevalier Ramsey, in _The Philosophical Principles of Natural and
Revealed Religion_, writes:

"The holy oracles always represent Paradise as our native country, and
our present life as an exile. How can we be said to have been banished
from a place in which we never were? This argument alone would suffice
to convince us of pre-existence, if the prejudice of infancy inspired
by the schoolmen had not accustomed us to look upon these expressions
as metaphorical, and to believe, contrary to Scripture and reason,
that we were exiled from a happy state, only for the fault and
personal disobedience of our first parents....

"Our Saviour seems to approve the doctrine of pre-existence in his
answer to the disciples, when they interrogate him thus about the man
born blind,[226] 'Master, who did sin, this man or his parents, that
he was born blind?' It is clear that this question would have been
ridiculous and impertinent if the disciples had not believed that the
man born blind had sinned before his corporal birth, and consequently
that he had existed in another state long ere he was born on earth.
Our Saviour's answer is remarkable, 'Neither hath this man sinned nor
his parents, but that the works of God might be manifested in him.'
Jesus Christ could not mean that neither this man nor his parents had
ever committed any sin, for this can be said of no mortal; but the
meaning is that it was neither for the sins committed by this man in a
state of pre-existence, nor for those of his parents, that he was born
blind; but that he was deprived of sight from his birth, by a
particular dispensation of Providence, in order to manifest, one day,
the power of God in our Saviour. Our Lord, therefore, far from blaming
and redressing this error in his disciples, as he did those concerning
his temporal kingdom, answers in a way that seems to suppose with
them, and confirm them in the doctrine of pre-existence. If he had
looked upon this opinion as a capital error, would it have been
consonant or compatible with his eternal wisdom to have passed it
over so lightly and thus tacitly authorised it by such silence? On the
contrary, does not his silence manifestly indicate that he looked upon
this doctrine, which was a received maxim of the Jewish Church, as the
true explanation of original sin?

"Since God says that he loved Jacob and detested Esau ere they were
born, and before they had done good or evil in this mortal life, since
God's love and hatred depend upon the moral dispositions of the
creature, ... it follows clearly that if God hated Esau, type of the
reprobate, and loved Jacob, type of the elect, before their natural
birth, they must have pre-existed in another state.

"If it be said that all these texts are obscure, that pre-existence is
largely drawn from them by induction, and that this belief is not
revealed in Scripture by express words, I answer that the doctrines of
the immortality of the soul are nowhere revealed, least of all in the
oracles of the _Old_ and _New Testament_. We may say the same of
pre-existence. This doctrine is nowhere expressly revealed as an
article of faith, but it is evidently implied in the _Wisdom of
Solomon_, by the author of _Ecclesiasticus_, by our Saviour's silence,
by St. Paul's comparisons, and by the sacred doctrine of original sin,
which becomes not only inexplicable, but absurd, repugnant, and
impossible, if that of pre-existence be not true.... The Fifth General
Council held at Constantinople pronounces anathema against all those
who maintain the fabulous doctrine of pre-existence in the Origenian
sense. It was not then the simple doctrine of pre-existence that was
condemned by the council, but the fictitious mixtures and erroneous
disguises by which this ancient tradition had been adulterated by the

Soame Jenyns writes:

"That mankind had existed in some state previous to the present was
the opinion of the wisest sages of the most remote antiquity. It was
held by the Gymnosophists of Egypt, the Brâhmans of India, the Magi of
Persia, and the greatest philosophers of Greece and Rome; it was
likewise adopted by the _Fathers of the Christian Church, and
frequently enforced by her early writers_; why it has been so little
noticed, so much overlooked rather than rejected, by the divines and
metaphysicians of latter ages, I am at a loss to account for, as it is
undoubtedly confirmed by reason, by all the appearances of nature and
the doctrines of revelation.

"In the first place, then, it is confirmed by reason, which teaches us
that it is impossible that the conjunction of a male and female can
create an immortal soul; they may prepare a material habitation for
it; but there cannot be an immortal, pre-existent inhabitant ready to
take possession. Reason assures us that an immortal soul, which will
exist eternally after the dissolution of the body, must have eternally
existed before the formation of it; _for whatever has no end can never
have had any beginning_....

"Reason likewise tells us that an omnipotent and benevolent Creator
would never have formed such a world as this, and filled it with such
inhabitants if the present was the only, or even the first, state of
their existence; for this state which, if unconnected with the past
and the future, would seem calculated for no purpose intelligible to
our understanding, neither of good or evil, of happiness or misery, of
virtue or vice, of reward or punishment; but a confused jumble of them
all together, proceeding from no visible cause and tending to no

"Pre-existence, although perhaps it is nowhere in the _New Testament_
explicitly enforced, yet throughout the whole tenour of these writings
is everywhere implied; in them, mankind is constantly represented as
coming into the world under a load of guilt; as condemned criminals,
the children of wrath and objects of divine indignation; placed in it
for a time by the mercies of God to give them an opportunity of
expiating this guilt by sufferings, and regaining, by a pious and
virtuous conduct, their lost state of happiness and innocence....

"Now if by all this a pre-existent state is not constantly supposed,
that is, that mankind has existed in some state previous to the
present, in which this guilt was incurred, and this depravity
contracted, there can be no meaning at all or such a meaning as
contradicts every principle of common sense, that guilt can be
contracted without acting, or that we can act without existing...."

The following is a quotation from Hume, the great positivist

"Reasoning from the common course of nature, what is incorruptible
must also be ingenerable. The soul, therefore, if immortal, existed
before our birth, and if the former existence in noway concerned us,
neither will the latter.... Metempsychosis is, therefore, the only
system of this kind that philosophy can hearken to." (_The Immortality
of the Soul_.)

Young, in his _Night Thoughts_ (Night the Sixth), has the following

    "Look nature through, 'tis revolution all;
    All change, no death. Day follows night; and night
    The dying day; stars rise, and set, and rise;
    Earth takes th' example ...

                   ... All, to reflourish, fades;
    As in a wheel, all sinks, to re-ascend.
    Emblems of man, who passes, not expires."

"It is not more surprising to be born twice than once; everything in
Nature is resurrection," said Voltaire.

Delormel, Descartes, and Lavater were struck with the tremendous
importance of the doctrine of Palingenesis.

_The Philosophy of the Universe_, of Dupont de Nemours, is full of the
idea of successive lives, as a necessary corollary of the law of
progress; whilst Fontenelle strongly advocates it in his _Entretiens
sur la Pluralité des Mondes_.

It is needless to state that these ideas formed part of the esoteric
teachings of Martinez Pasqualis, Claude Saint-Martin, and their

Saint-Martin lived in times that were too troubled for him to speak
freely. In his works, however, not a few passages are found in which
there can be no doubt that reincarnation is hinted at, to anyone able
to read between the lines. (_Tableau nat._, vol. I, p. 136; _L'homme
de Désir_, p. 312.)

In his _Oeuvres Posthumes_ (vol. I, p. 286) appears this remarkable

"Death ought to be looked upon only as one stage in our journey. We
reach this stage with tired, worn-out horses, and we start again with
horses that are fresh and able to take us farther on our road; all the
same, we must pay what we owe for the portion of the journey that has
been traversed, and until the account is settled, we are not allowed
to continue our way."

Goethe writes as follows to his friend Madame von Stein:

"Tell me what destiny has in store for us? Wherefore has it bound us
so closely to each other? Ah! in bygone times, thou must have been my
sister or my wife ... and there remains, from the whole of those past
ages, only one memory, hovering like a doubt above my heart, a memory
of that truth of old that is ever present in me."

Ballanche, an orthodox Christian mystic, says:

"Each one of us is a reincarnating being, ignorant both of his present
and of his former transformations." (_Pal. Sociale_, book III., p.

"Man is brought to perfection only by becoming a more perfect order of
things, and even then he does nothing more than bring back, as Plato
said, a confused memory of the state that preceded his fall." (_Essai
sur les Instit. Sociales_, vol. ii., p. 170.)

"This life we spend on earth, shut in between an apparent birth and an
equally apparent death, is, in reality, only a portion of our
existence, one manifestation of man in time." (_Orphée_, vol. iv., p.

"Our former lives belong to astronomical cycles lost in the mighty
bosom of previous ages; not yet has it been given to us to know them."
(_Orphée_, vol. iv., p. 432.)

Balzac's _Seraphita_ abounds with references to the idea of successive

"All human beings spend their first life in the sphere of instincts,
in which they endeavour to discover how useless are the treasures of

".... How often we live in this first world...."

"Then we have other existences to wear out before we reach the path on
which the light shines. Death is one stage on this journey."

Constant Savy[227] describes as follows the conditions of immortality
and a succession of lives by means of reincarnation:

"In proportion as its soul is developed by successive lives, the body
to which it is to be united will necessarily be superior to those it
has worn out; otherwise there would be no harmony between these two
elements of human existence; the means given to the soul would bear
no relation to the development of its power. This body, gifted with
more perfect and numerous senses, could not have an equal value for

"Besides, these natural inequalities are also advantageous for
individual progress in another way; the errors resulting therefrom
cause truths to be discovered; vices laid bare almost form a reason
for the practice of virtue by all men, or at all events they protect
one from vice by reason of the horror they inspire; the ignorance of
some arouses the love of science in others; the very idleness which
dishonours some men inspires others with a love for work.

"So that these inequalities, inevitable because they are necessary,
are present in the successive lives we pass through. There is nothing
in them contrary to universal harmony; rather, they are a means for
effecting this harmony, and are the inevitable result of the
difference in value that bodies possess. Besides, no man remains
stationary; all advance at a more or less rapid rate of progress....

"When faith is born, it is an illumination. Since man's immortality is
one progressive advance, and, to effect this, he prepares the life he
enters by the life he is leaving; since, in short, there are
necessarily two worlds, one material, the other intellectual, these
two worlds, which make up the life to come, must be in harmonious
relationship with our own.

"Man's work will, therefore, be a continuation of his past work....

"I would never believe that our intelligence, which begins to develop
in this life, comes to a halt after such an imperfect growth, and is
not exercised or perfected after death....

"... Nature always advances, always labours, because God is life and
he is eternal, and life is the progressive movement in the direction
of the supreme good, which is God himself. Could man alone in the
whole of nature, man so imperfect and full of faults, stop in his
onward course, either to be annihilated, or suddenly, without
participating in it, though he was created free, find that he was as
perfect as he could possibly be? This is more than I can understand.

"No, when the time comes, man will not find that his life has been
useless, a thing for mere contemplation; he will not find that he is
improved without personal participation therein, without effort and
toil on his part; above all, he will not be reduced to a state of
nothingness. He will again have a life of toil; he will participate,
to the extent God has permitted him, in the endless creations produced
by divine omnipotence; he will again love, he will never cease to
love; he will continue his eternal progress, because the distance
between himself and God is infinite."

Pierre Leroux says:

"If God, after creating the world and all creation, were then to
abandon them, instead of guiding them from life to life, from one
state of progress to another, to a goal of real happiness, he would be
an unjust God. It is unnecessary for St. Paul to say; 'Shall the thing
formed say to him that formed it. Why hast thou made me thus?'
(_Romans_, chap, 9, v. 20.) There is an inner voice, doubtless coming
to us from God himself, which tells us that God cannot bring about
evil, or create in order to cause suffering. Now this is what would
certainly happen were God to abandon his creatures after an imperfect,
a truly unhappy life.

"On the other hand, if we regard the world as a series of successive
lives for each creature, we see very well how it comes about that God,
to whom there is neither time nor space, and who perceives the final
goal of all things, permits evil and suffering as being necessary
phases through which creatures must pass, in order to reach a state of
happiness which the creature does not see, and, consequently, cannot
enjoy in so far as it is a creature, but which God sees, and which,
therefore, the creature virtually enjoys in him, for the time will
come when it will partake of that happiness."[228]

In Fourier we find the following lines[229]:

"Where is there an old man who would not like to feel certain that he
would be born again and bring back into another life the experience he
has gained in the present one? To affirm that this desire cannot be
realised is to confess that God is capable of deceiving us. We must,
therefore, recognise that we have already lived before being what we
now are, and that many another life awaits us, some in this world, and
the rest in a higher sphere, with a finer body and more delicate

Alphonse Esquiros expresses himself as follows[230]:

"The question may well be asked whether the talents, the good and the
evil tendencies man brings with him at birth may not be the fruit of
acquired intelligence, of qualities and vices gained in one or many
former existences. Is there a previous life the elements of which have
prepared the conditions of the life now being lived by each of us?
People in ancient times thought so. Inborn dispositions, so different
in children, caused them to believe in impressions left by previous
existences in the imperishable germ of man. From the time when
intelligence begins to show itself in children we faintly discern a
general attitude towards things, which is very like a memory thereof.
It would appear that, according to this system, no one is unconnected
with the elements he introduces into life at each birth.

"All the same, rebirth in humanity constitutes no more than an initial
circle of tests. When, after one or several incarnations, man has
attained to the degree of perfection necessary to cause a change, he
passes to another life, and, in another sphere, begins an existence of
which we know nothing, though it is possible for us to regard it as
linked to the present life by the closest of bonds....

"The limit to the progress man must have attained to, before entering
upon another circle of tests in another sphere, is at present unknown
to us; science and philosophy will doubtless succeed in determining
this limit later on.

"They alone are reborn to earthly flesh who have in no way raised the
immortal principle of their nature to a degree of perfection that will
enable them to be reborn in glory....

"I affirm the perpetual union of the soul to organic bodies; these
bodies succeed each other, being born from one another, and fitting
themselves for the constitutive forms of the worlds traversed by the
immortal ego in its successive existences. The principle of life,
extended to divers evolutions of rebirth, is ever for the Creator
nothing more than a continuation of one and the same state. God does
not regard the duration of a being as limited to the interval between
birth and death; he includes all possible segments of existence, the
succession of which, after many interruptions and renewals, forms the
real unity of life. Must souls, when they leave our globe, put on,
from sphere to sphere, an existence hidden from us, whose organic
elements would continually be fitting themselves for the characters
and natures of the different worlds? Reason can come to no decision on
this point. Only let us not forget that the soul always carries off a
material germ from one existence to the next, making itself anew, so
to speak, several times, in that endless ascent of lives through the
worlds, wherein it attains, heaven after heaven, a degree of
perfection increasingly linked with the eternal elements of our
growing personality.

"It may be seen, from what is here stated, how vain is the hypothesis
of perfect bliss following on the death of the righteous.

"It is useless for the Christian to soar beyond time, beyond some
limit that separates him from infinite good; he cannot do this by a
single effort. God proportions his intervention and aid to the
totality of the states man must pass through in the course of an
indefinitely long series of existences...."

M. d'Orient, an orthodox Catholic, writes as follows[231]:

"In this doctrine, so evidently based on reason, everything is linked
and held together: the foreknowledge of God and the agreement thereof
with man's free-will. This problem, hitherto impossible to solve, no
longer offers any difficulty, if by it is meant that God, knowing
before birth, by reason of his previous deeds, what there is in the
heart of man, brings man to life and removes him from it in
circumstances that best fit in with the accomplishment of his

"We see in this way how it is that God is the controller of all the
main events that take place in the world, for the knowledge he has of
souls in former lives, and his power to dispose of each and all in the
way he pleases, enable him to foresee events in his infinite knowledge
and arrange the whole sequence of things in conformity with his plans,
somewhat as an ingenious, skilful workman, by the aid of various
colours, conceives of and arranges the life-like reproduction of a
mosaic, a picture, or a piece of inlaid work. We understand all his
forecasts of the future, how it was that Daniel foretold so exactly
the greatness of Alexander and his conquests; how Isaiah called Cyrus
by name many centuries before these mighty conquerors appeared to
spread confusion and terror over the world; how God, in order to show
forth his might before the nations and spread abroad the glory of his
name, is said to have hardened Pharaoh's heart and roused his
obstinate will; for all that was needed in order to bring to pass
these various results was for God to call back into existence certain
souls he knew to be naturally suited to his purpose. This is
distinctly pointed out in the passage from the apostle St. Jude,
which, if we accept the meaning that first offers itself to the mind,
would seem positively to imply that certain souls had undergone a
sentence of eternal reprobation: 'For there are certain men crept in
unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation,
turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness....'

"And so there falls away and disappears the greatest difficulty in the
doctrine of grace, which consisted in explaining how it came about
that God made some men pitiful and others hard-hearted, without there
being in him either justice or acceptance of persons; showing pity,
says St. Augustine, only by grace that was unmerited, and hardening
hearts only by judgment that was always just; since evidently
according to this theory it is not (as Origen has already said) apart
from previous merit that some are formed for vessels of honour, and
others for vessels of shame and wrath. That harsh sentence pronounced
upon Judas by the Bishop of Hippon, which so grievously scandalised
most of the Catholic theologians, although only the confirmation of
the quotation from St. Jude, viz., that the wretched man had been
predestined to shed the Saviour's blood, will seem to be a very just
one in the sense that God causes that already lost soul to be born
again, that demon, as Jesus Christ called him, for the very purpose of
perpetrating the hateful crime.

"Consequently the most sublime mysteries of religion, the most
wonderful facts regarding the destiny of the soul, find their natural
explanation in a clear understanding of this doctrine of
metempsychosis, however strange and extraordinary it may at first
appear. What more striking proof can be asked for, what stronger and
more convincing reason than such agreement, concerning matter wherein
all positive proof will always, humanly speaking, be impossible? A
doctrine which meets all the facts of the case so accurately, which
explains, without difficulty, all the phenomena of our existence in
this world, can, of necessity, be nothing else than true."

Jean Reynaud expresses himself in these terms in _Terre el Ciel_:

"How glorious the light that would be cast on the present order of
things on earth by a knowledge of our former existences! And yet, not
only is our memory helpless regarding the times that preceded birth,
it is not even conscious of the whole of the intervening period, often
playing us false in the course of a lifetime. It retains absolutely
nothing of the period immediately preceding birth, and scarcely any
trace of our education as children; we might even be altogether
ignorant of the fact that we were children once, were there not around
us witnesses of that time. On every hand we are wrapped in a veil of
ignorance, as with a pall of darkness, we no more distinguish the
light beyond the cradle than that beyond the tomb. So far as memory is
concerned, it would seem that we might be compared with a rocket such
as we sometimes see flashing through the sky in the night-time,
leaving behind it a line of light, this light never shows anything
more than a limited portion of the way. Of like nature is memory, a
trail of light left behind on our journey; we die, and everything is
dark around us; we are born again, and the light begins to appear,
like a star through the mist; we live, and it develops and grows,
suddenly disappears again and reappears once more; from one eclipse to
another we continue our way, and this way, interrupted by periods of
darkness, is a continuous one, whose elements, only apparently
separated, are linked to each other by the closest of bonds; we always
bear within ourselves the principle of what we shall be later on, we
are always rising higher. Question us on our past, and, like the
rocket, we reply that we are going forward, but that our path is
illumined only in our immediate neighbourhood, and that the rest of
the road is lost in the blackness of night; we no more know from where
we came than we know our destination, but we do know that we came from
below and are rising higher, and that is all that is necessary to
interest us in ourselves and make us conscious of what we are. And who
knows but what our soul, in the unknown secret of its essence, has
power some day to throw light on its successive journeyings, like
those streaks of flame to which we are comparing it? There are strong
reasons for thinking that such is the case, since the entire
restoration of memory appears, with good reason, to be one of the main
conditions of our future happiness....

"In like manner the soul, passing from one abode to another, and
leaving its first body for a new one, ever changing its appearance and
its dwelling, guided by the Creator's beams, from transmigration to
transmigration, from metamorphosis to metamorphosis, pursues the
palingenesic course of its eternal destiny....

"... Let us, then, add the teachings of metempsychosis to those of the
Gospel, and place Pythagoras by the side of Jesus...."

André Pezzani concludes in the following words his remarkable book on
_The Plurality of the Soul's Lives_:

"Apart from the belief in previous lives, nothing can be explained,
neither the coming of a new soul into this evil world, the often
incurable bodily infirmities, the disproportionate division of wealth,
nor the inequality in intelligence and morality. The justice of God
lies behind the monstrous phantom of chance. We understand neither
what man is, whence he comes, nor whither he goes; original sin does
not account for the particular fate of individuals, as it is the same
for all. Roughly speaking, it clears up no difficulties, but rather
adds to them the most revolting injustice. Once accept the theory of
pre-existence, and a glorious light is thrown on the dogma of sin, for
it becomes the result of personal faults from which the guilty soul
must be purified.

"Pre-existence, once admitted as regards the past, logically implies a
succession of future existences for all souls that have not yet
attained to the goal and that have imperfections and defilements from
which to be cleansed. In order to enter _the circle of happiness_ and
leave _the circle of wanderings_, one must be pure.

"We have opposed error, and proclaimed truth, and we firmly believe
that the dogmas of pre-existence and the plurality of lives are true."

Thomas Browne, in _Religio Medici_, section 6, hints at Reincarnation:

"Heresies perish not with their authors, but, like the river Arethusa,
though they lose their currents in one place, they rise up again in
another ... revolution of time will restore it, when it will flourish
till it be condemned again. For as though there were a Metempsychosis,
and the soul of one man passed into another, opinions do find, after
certain Revolutions, men and minds like those that first begat
them.... Each man is not only himself, there hath been many Diogenes
and as many Timons, though but few of that name; men are lived over
again, the world is now as it was in ages past; there was none then
but there hath been someone since that parallels him, and is, as it
were, his revived self."

Lessing, in _The Divine Education of the Human Race_, vigorously
opposes a Lutheran divine who rejects reincarnation:

"The very same way by which the race reaches its perfection must every
individual man--one sooner, another later--have travelled over. Have
travelled over in one and the same life? Can he have been in one and
the self-same life a sensual Jew and a spiritual Christian?

"Surely not that! But why should not every individual man have existed
more than once in this world?

"Is this hypothesis so laughable merely because it is the oldest?
Because the human understanding, before the sophistries of the schools
had disciplined and debilitated it, lighted upon it at once? Why may
not even I have already performed those steps of my perfecting which
bring to men only temporal punishments and rewards? And once more, why
not another time all those steps, to perform which the views of
Eternal Rewards so powerfully assist us? Why should I not come back as
often as I am capable of acquiring fresh knowledge, fresh expertness?
Do I bring away so much from once that there is nothing to repay the
trouble of coming back?

"Is this a reason against it? Or because I forget that I have been
here already? Happy is it for me that I do forget. The recollection of
my former condition would permit me to make only a bad use of the
present. And that which even I must forget _now_, is that necessarily
forgotten for ever?"

Schlosser gives expression to similar thoughts in a fine work of his:
_Über die Seelenwanderung_.

Lichtemberg says in his _Seibstcharacteristik_:

"I cannot get rid of the thought that I died before I was born, and
that by this death I was led to this rebirth. I feel so many things
that, were I to write them down, the world would regard me as a
madman. Consequently, I prefer to hold my peace."

Charles Bonnet is the author of a splendid work, full of noble and
lofty thoughts, on this subject. It is entitled _Philosophic

Emmanuel Kant believes that our souls start imperfect from the sun,
and travel through planetary stages farther and farther away to a
paradise in the coldest and remotest star in our system. (_General
History of Nature_.)

In _The Destiny of Man_, J. G. Fichte says:

"These two systems, the purely spiritual and the sensuous--which last
may consist of an immeasurable series of particular lives--exist in me
from the moment when my active reason is developed and pursue their
parallel course....

"All death in nature is birth.... There is no death-bringing principle
in nature, for nature is only life throughout.... Even because Nature
puts me to death, she must quicken me anew...."

Herder, in his _Dialogues on Metempsychosis_, deals with this subject
more fully:

"Do you not know great and rare men who cannot have been what they are
in a single human existence; who must have often existed before in
order to have attained that purity of feeling, that instinctive
impulse for all that is true, beautiful, and good?... Have you never
had remembrances of a former state?... Pythagoras, Iarchas,
Apollonius, and others remembered distinctly what and how many times
they had been in the world before. If we are blind or can see but two
steps before our noses, ought we, therefore, to deny that others may
see a hundred or a thousand degrees farther, even to the bottom of
time ...?"

"He who has not become ripe in one form of humanity is put into the
experience again, and, some time or other, must be perfected."

"I am not ashamed of my half-brothers the brutes; on the contrary, so
far as I am concerned, I am a great advocate of metempsychosis. I
believe for a certainty that they will ascend to a higher grade of
being, and am unable to understand how anyone can object to this
hypothesis, which seems to have the analogy of the whole creation in
its favour."

Sir Walter Scott had such vivid memories of his past lives that they
compelled a belief in pre-existence. Instances of this belief may be
found in _The Life of Scott_, by Lockhart (vol. 7, p. 114, first

According to Schlegel:

"Nature is nothing less than the ladder of resurrection, which, step
by step, leads upward, or rather is carried from the abyss of eternal
death up to the apex of life." (_Æsthetic and Miscellaneous Works_;
and, _The Philosophy of History_.)

Shelley held a firm belief in Reincarnation:

"It is not the less certain, notwithstanding the cunning attempts to
conceal the truth, that all knowledge is reminiscence. The doctrine is
far more ancient than the times of Plato," (Dowden's _Life of
Shelley_, vol. 1, p. 82.)

Schopenhauer adopted the idea of Reincarnation which he had found in
the _Upanishads_; regarding this portion of his teaching, his
contemporaries and followers set up a kind of conspiracy of silence.
In _Parerga and Paralipomena_, vol. 2, chap. 15, _Essay on Religions_,
he says:

"I have said that the combination of the _Old Testament_ with the
_New_ gives rise to absurdities. As an example, I may cite the
Christian doctrine of Predestination and Grace as formulated by
Augustine and adopted from him by Luther, according to which one man
is endowed with grace and another is not. Grace thus comes to be a
privilege received at birth and brought ready into the world.... What
is obnoxious and absurd in this doctrine may be traced to the idea
contained in the _Old Testament_, that man is the creation of an
external will which called him into existence out of nothing. It is
quite true that genuine moral excellence is really innate; but the
meaning of the Christian doctrine is expressed in another and more
rational way by the theory of Metempsychosis, common to Brâhmans and
Buddhists. According to this theory, the qualities which distinguish
one man from another are received at birth, _i.e._, are brought from
another world and a former life; these qualities are not an external
gift of grace, but are the fruits of the acts committed in that other

"What is absurd and revolting in this dogma is, in the main, as I
said, the simple outcome of Jewish theism with its 'creation out of
nothing,' and the really foolish and paradoxical denial of the
doctrine of metempsychosis which is involved in that idea, a doctrine
which is natural to a certain extent, self-evident, and, with the
exception of the Jews, accepted by nearly the whole human race at all
times.... Were an Asiatic to ask me for a definition of Europe, I
should be forced to answer him: It is that part of the world which is
haunted by the incredible delusion that man was created out of
nothing, and that his present birth is his first entrance into life."

In _The World as Will and Idea_, he also says:

"What sleep is for the individual, death is for the Will (character).

"It flings off memory and individuality, and this is Lethe; and
through this sleep of death it reappears refreshed and fitted out with
another intellect, as a new being."

In _Parerga and Paralipomena_, vol. 2, chap. 10, he adds:

"Did we clearly understand the real nature of our inmost being, we
should see how absurd it is to desire that individuality should exist
eternally. This wish implies that we confuse real Being with one of
its innumerable manifestations. The individuality disappears at death,
but we lose nothing thereby, for it is only the manifestation of quite
a different Being--a Being ignorant of time, and, consequently,
knowing neither life nor death. The loss of intellect is the Lethe,
but for which the Will would remember the various manifestations it
has caused. When we die, we throw off our individuality, like a
worn-out garment, and rejoice because we are about to receive a new
and a better one."

Edgar Allen Poe, speaking of the dim memories of bygone lives, says:

"We walk about, amid the destinies of our world-existence, encompassed
by divine but ever present Memories of a Destiny more vast--very
distant in the bygone time and infinitely awful.

"We live out a Youth peculiarly haunted by such dreams, yet never
mistaking them for dreams. As Memories we _know_ them. During our
_Youth_ the distinction is too clear to deceive us even for a moment.

"But now comes the period at which a conventional World-Reason awakens
us from the truth of our dream ... a mis-shapen day or a misfortune
that could not be traced back to our own doings in this or in another
life...." (_Eureka._)

Georges Sand, in _Consuelo_, sets forth the logic of Reincarnation;
and G. Flammarion expounds this doctrine in most of his works:
_Uranie_; _Les Mondes Imaginaires et les Mondes Réels_; _La Pluralité
des Mondes Habités_, etc.

Professor William Knight wrote in the _Fortnightly Review_ for
September, 1878:

"It seems surprising that in the discussions of contemporary philosophy
on the origin and destiny of the soul there has been no explicit revival
of the doctrines of Pre-existence and Metempsychosis.... They offer
quite a remarkable solution of the mystery of Creation, Translation, and

"Stripped of all extravagances and expressed in the modest terms of
probability, the theory has immense speculative interest and great
ethical value. It is much to have the puzzle of the origin of evil
thrown back for an indefinite number of cycles of lives and to have a
workable explanation of Nemesis...."

Professor W. A. Butler, in his _Lectures on the History of Ancient
Philosophy_, says:

"There is internally no greater improbability that the present may be
the result of a former state now almost wholly forgotten than that the
present should be followed by a future form of existence in which,
perhaps, or in some departments of which, the oblivion may be as

The Rev. William R. Alger, a Unitarian minister, adds:

"Our present lack of recollection of past lives is no disproof of
their actuality.... The most striking fact about the doctrine of the
repeated incarnations of the soul ... is the constant reappearance of
that faith in all parts of the world and its permanent hold on certain
great nations....

"The advocates of the resurrection should not confine their attention
to the repellent or ludicrous aspects of metempsychosis, ... but do
justice to its claim and charm." (_A Critical History of the Doctrine
of a Future Life_.)

Professor Francis Bowen, of Harvard University, writes in the
_Princetown Review_ for May, 1881, when dealing with the subject of
_Christian Metempsychosis_:

"Our life upon earth is rightly held to be a discipline and a
preparation for a higher and eternal life hereafter. But if limited to
the duration of a single mortal body, it is so brief as to seem hardly
sufficient for so great a purpose.... Why may not the probation of the
soul be continued or repeated through a long series of successive
generations, the same personality animating, one after another, an
indefinite number of tenements of flesh, and carrying forward into
each the training it has received, the character it has formed, the
temper and dispositions it has indulged, in the stage of existence
immediately preceding?...

"Every human being thus dwells successively in many bodies, even
during one short life.[232] If every birth were an act of absolute
creation, the introduction to life of an entirely new creature, we
might reasonably ask why different souls are so variously constituted
at the outset.... One child seems a perverse goblin, while another has
the early promise of a Cowley or a Pascal.... The birthplace of one is
in Central Africa, and of another in the heart of civilised and
Christian Europe. Where lingers eternal justice then? How can such
frightful inequalities be made to appear consistent with the infinite
wisdom and goodness of God?...

"If metempsychosis is included in the scheme of the divine government
of the world, this difficulty disappears altogether. Considered from
this point of view, everyone is born into the state which he has
fairly earned by his own previous history.... We submit with enforced
resignation to the stern decree; ... that the iniquities of the
fathers shall be visited upon the children even to the third and
fourth generation. But no one can complain of the dispositions and
endowments which he has inherited, so to speak, from himself, that is,
from his former self in a previous stage of existence.

"And it matters not, so far as the justice of the sentence is
concerned, whether the former self from whom we receive this heritage
bore the same name with our present self, or bore a different

Professor F. H. Hedge, in _Ways of the Spirit, and other Essays_, p.
359, maintains that:

"Whatever had a beginning in time, it should seem, must end in time.
The eternal destination which faith ascribes to the soul presupposes
an eternal origin.... An obvious objection, and one often urged
against this hypothesis, is the absence of any recollection of a
previous life.... The new organisation with its new entries must
necessarily efface the record of the old. For memory depends on
continuity of association. When the thread of that continuity is
broken, the knowledge of the past is gone....

"And a happy thing, if the soul pre-existed, it is for us that we
remember nothing of its former life.... Of all the theories respecting
the origin of the soul this seems to me the most plausible, and
therefore the one most likely to throw light on the question of a life
to come."

The Spiritualists of Europe--those belonging to the school of Allan
Kardec, at all events--place reincarnation in the very forefront of
their teaching. We may add that those of America do not acknowledge
that the soul has more than one existence on earth, driven, however,
by the logic of things, which insists on progress, they state that
there are a series of lives passed in subtler bodies on invisible
planets and worlds.

All true philosophers have been attracted by the mystery of
palingenesis, and have found that its acceptance has thrown a flood of
light on the questions that perplexed them.

In Asia there are 400 millions of believers in reincarnation,
including the Chinese, Tartars, Thibetans, Hindus, Siamese,
Mongolians, Burmese, Cambodians, Koreans, and the people of Japan.

Tradition has handed down this teaching even to the most savage
tribes. In Madagascar, when a man is on the point of death, a hole is
made in the roof of his straw hut, through which his soul may pass out
and enter the body of a woman in labour. This may be looked upon as a
stupid superstition, still it is one which, in spite of its degenerate
form, sets forth the doctrine of the return of souls back to evolution
through earthly experiences. The Sontals, Somalis, and Zulus, the
Dyaks of Borneo and Sumatra, and the Powhatans of Mexico have similar
traditions. In Central Africa, slaves who are hunchbacked or maimed
forestall the hour of death by voluntary self-immolation, in the hope
of being reborn in the bodies of men who will be free and perfectly

To sum up: all tradition, whether popular, philosophical, or
religious, is instinct with the teaching of Rebirth.


_Reincarnation and Forgetfulness of the Past._

Sceptics are ever bringing forward against reincarnation the absence
of all memory of past lives, convinced that there can be no answer to
this argument.

They do not reflect that human ignorance is a bottomless abyss, whilst
the possibilities of Life are endless. The schools of the future will
smile at the claims made by those of the present, just as the latter
doubtless regard with pitying indulgence that school which, only a few
years ago, in the person of one of its most famous members, Dr.
Bouillaud, mercilessly condemned the exponent of Edison's invention,
because the _savant_, listening to a phonograph for the first time,
could not believe that it was anything else than ventriloquism!
Instances of this kind are sufficiently numerous and recent not to be
forgotten, in spite of the shortness of human memory.

In the present instance, there are many men of science who have not
yet been made sufficiently wise by experience to see that the very
mystery of memory itself might furnish an explanation of that general
absence of all power of recollection, which now seems to them
altogether incompatible with the doctrine of Rebirth.

So as not to appear to be running away from this objection, by dealing
with it only on the surface, we will endeavour to develop the question
somewhat, for we shall have to set forth to readers unacquainted with
theosophical teachings--which alone, up to the present, have thrown
light on these difficult subjects--certain doctrines which will be
well understood by none but theosophists, since they are incapable of
proof by a simple statement thereof, but form part, of a long chain of
teachings. We will offer them simply as theories--though they are
facts to us--theories that contain many an error, it may be, and are
imperfectly stated, though capable of widening the horizon of thought
and shedding a brilliant light upon many an obscure question. Earnest
seekers after truth, it is hoped, will not be disheartened by the
difficulties of the subject, but will endeavour to grasp the meaning
of the following pages, by reading them over again, if need be.

First, a few words must be said on memory in general, next we will
give a rapid sketch of what constitutes memory in atoms and molecules,
in the varied forms of the many kingdoms of nature and in human forms;
finally, we will speak of cosmic Memory, that veritable _Judgment
Book_ which takes account of all the vibrations of the Universe.

Amongst beings capable of memory, a distinction must be made between
those which have not reached the stage of self-consciousness, and
those which have done so, for memory, properly so-called, takes for
granted an "I." That which has not an "I" can only have a memory of
which it is not conscious[233]; the atom, for instance, of whose
memory we shall speak later on; that which has only a rudimentary "I"
possesses only a rudimentary memory from the point of view of its
bearing on the individual--such is that possessed by the souls of the
lower kingdoms, that which constitutes instinct; to the perfect "I"
alone belongs an individual memory--the human memory, and that of
beings who have attained to the superhuman stage. This memory may be
defined as the faculty possessed by an individualised "centre of
consciousness" voluntarily to reproduce the vibrations it has received
or generated.

A "centre of consciousness" is a form that serves, for the time being,
as the instrument of an individualised ray of that indefinable
principle called the soul. But for the presence of this individual
soul in a form, this latter would remain inactive as a centre of
consciousness--although active in its constituent parts[234]--and
could it not then, consciously, either generate or receive vibrations
on the plane from which the soul is momentarily absent--it could only
transmit them; for instance, when a man is in a brown study, he is not
conscious in his brain, of what is taking place on the physical

The vehicles of consciousness are often numerous in a being, and the
more numerous in proportion to the degree this latter has attained in
the scale of evolution. The present day man possesses four bodies: the
visible, the astral, the mental, and the causal. They are not all
equally developed, and therefore not equally conscious, for the
clearness and intensity of consciousness depend on the decree of
perfection of its vehicles, just as the beauty of electric light
depends on the perfection of the apparatus producing it.

The Ego--the man--is the consciousness that is called forth by the
soul in the causal body. This consciousness varies in power with the
development of the body that gives birth to it. At first it is dim and
uncertain,[236] and acquires some degree of intensity only when it
receives, through the mental and astral vehicles, the simple and
intense vibrations of the physical body.[237] In savage races, for
instance, man possesses a definite consciousness only in his waking
condition; as soon as the soul is attached to the astral body,
externalised by sleep, it experiences only a dim consciousness in this
undeveloped vehicle. In advanced races, the astral body, being far
more developed, brings about distinct consciousness during sleep. As
man evolves, consciousness begins to function in the mental and the
astral bodies, without the assistance of the vibrations of the lower
vehicles, and when all the grades[238] of matter which compose the
human constitution are thus vitalised, man has become perfect; he
knows the Universe because he feels it within himself--he echoes it,
so to speak, and possesses all its powers.[239]

In ordinary man, the memory of events that have taken place in his
waking state can be brought back by that special effort of will which
sets in motion the cerebral molecules that have previously been put
into vibration by these events.

Sometimes the will, of itself, is powerless to recall this vibration,
either because the brain is tired or in some unfavourable condition or
other; it is then aided by bringing its automatism into play, by
endeavouring, for instance, to call back one constituent element of
the fact desired, a place, sound, scent, person, &c, and often in this
way is brought about the vibration of the molecules that constituted
the rest of the circuit, and the fact sought for presents itself;
association of ideas is a phenomenon based on this mechanical process.

A third method--a far more difficult one--is also used; the bringing
of every mental effort, to a standstill. The suppression of thought,
when sufficiently complete, brings the brain into a state of calm,
allows of the soul concentrating on the astral body whose memory is
keen and only slightly subject to obstruction, and then it often
happens that the vibration of the astral memory repercusses on to the
physical apparatus which suddenly remembers the thing desired.

On the death of the physical, the soul acts in the astral body; there
it retains a complete memory of life on earth, but the vibrations of
the physical plane no longer reach it,[240] these memories soon cease
to occupy its attention, and it gives itself up wholly to the
impressions received from the new world into which it has entered. In
this first stage of the after-life, then, there is a kind of darkening
of the memory of the past earth life--darkening, not oblivion.

When the purgatorial life is at an end and the astral body
disintegrates in its turn, the soul functions in the mental body, in
the mental world.[241] On this new plane, the memory of the worlds
left behind continues, though far less clearly than the memory of the
physical existed in the astral world; this is owing to the fact that,
in ordinary man, the mental body is not sufficiently developed to
constitute a complete vehicle of consciousness, capable of registering
all the vibrations that come to it; everything in the past that has
been _purely_ the work of the astral or the physical plane then
disappears from his memory; there remain only memories that have been
caused either by the mental qualities or qualities superior to these,
all the highest elements concerned with affection, intelligence, or
art. The mental world, generally speaking, is seen only to a small
extent or not at all, because of the incomplete development of the
mental body. Besides, recollections assume a new character[242]; every
thought takes a concrete form--that of a friend, for instance, appears
as the friend himself, speaking and thinking, more vivid than on the
earth plane[243]; everything is dramatised in marvellous fashion, and
life is intense throughout the realms of paradise.

The mental body, after exhausting the forces that make it up, also
dies, and the soul is "centred" in the only vehicle it has left, the
causal body, a body that is immortal, one may say, up to a certain
point, since the soul retains it until the time comes when it can
function in a still higher and more lasting vehicle,[244] and this
happens only after millions of years.[245] Here, another diminution of
memory takes place, because the soul loses a large portion of its
consciousness when it comes into contact with none but the vibrations
of this body, which is even more incompletely developed than the
former ones, though holding within itself all the germs of these
latter. The Ego then remains apparently sunk in sleep for a varying
period, though never for very long; then the germs in the causal body
become active, build up a new series of bodies in succession--the
mental, the astral, and finally the physical--and the soul returns
once more to incarnation.

It will now be understood how it comes about that a soul of average
development--on entering a new cycle, with the memory of the last
cycle considerably obliterated by the loss of the physical, astral,
and mental bodies, sheathed in new bodies on these planes, bodies that
have nothing in common with the life of the past--is unable to impress
its dim memories on to the brain; but it will also be seen that, with
the progress of evolution, the soul acquires ever clearer
consciousness in the causal body, in which it finally preserves the
memory of the various life-cycles. Since, at this stage, it has become
capable of projecting its vibrations, voluntarily, through the lower
bodies, it is able to transmit this memory first to the mental body,
then to the astral, and lastly to the physical body; when this is
possible, man, in waking consciousness, remembers his former lives.

This transmission requires a purificatory process in the vehicles and
a special training of the will. The matter of all the bodies--that of
the brain in particular--must be refined, its constituent elements
must be subtler, and its atoms must be fully awakened to
activity[246]; whereupon the cerebral cell becomes capable of
responding to the thought of the Ego, _i.e._, of vibrating in harmony
with the higher matter.

The second condition of the brain's receptivity is that this organ be
brought into a state of complete rest. So long as the waking
consciousness is active, the brain vibrates powerfully, and if, at
this time, the soul sends the brain its thought, this latter can no
more make an impression on the existing cerebral activity than a faint
note could be heard amid the clash of an orchestra. Consequently, man,
by the training of his will, must have acquired the power to stop the
thinking activity in the waking state, and to "centre" his attention
on the causal body, the only vehicle in which he can know the facts of
his past incarnations; this done he is able, at will, to project on to
his brain the scenes of his former lives and to imprint them thereon
with greater distinctness, in proportion to his development and

In order to avoid continued explanations, we will deal with another
side of the question, however incomprehensible it be to such as have
not studied theosophy.

A vehicle of consciousness is both a registering apparatus[247] and a
conductor of vibrations.[248] The kinds of matter of which forms are
made up are perfectly graduated; the finest atom of the physical body
is built up of the densest atoms of the astral plane, the finest atom
of the astral body is made of the densest atoms of the mental plane,
and so on. Each atom is linked to the one that precedes and to the one
that follows it in that immense chain which stretches from the densest
to the subtlest plane of the Cosmos. Every vibration follows this
path, passes in all directions--in the seven[249] dimensions of
space-and terminates in the very Centre of consciousness, the Logos,
God incarnate in the world.

It is then comprehensible, even logical, that God should be both
conscious, on his receptive side, of everything that takes place in
the world (_omniscient_), and should produce, on his active side, all
the forces of the world (_omnipotent_). It is likewise admissible that
the human soul, when fully developed, should find in the causal body
the memory of the facts that have echoed therein, from the time when
it could function consciously in it. But, it will be asked, how could
it find, in the causal body, memories of existences it has not been
able to register individually, of which it has not been conscious,
those, for instance, that form the early stages of its evolution at a
time when it was conscious only in the lower vehicles?

Memory possesses many store-houses. The vibrations of which it is
composed affect the whole Universe, there is not a single local shock
that is not felt throughout all the worlds. The eternal registering of
things takes place in the great centre of consciousness, God, or
rather, it exists in him, for to him there is neither future nor past,
only one eternal present; evolution is unceasingly accomplished[250];
but if we look upon ourselves as finite beings, living in the illusion
of time and space, we find that vibrating matter preserves for a
longer or a shorter period the movement imparted to it. The denser the
substance, which forms the medium in which vibration takes place, the
feebler the vibration; that is why it speedily ceases on the physical
plane; it continues long, however, in the higher conditions of matter,
and it is there we must look for it,[251] if we would recall certain
events at which we have not been present. When anything exciting, a
murder, a battle, for instance, has happened anywhere, the subtler
atoms of the surrounding objects receive a powerful shock and continue
to vibrate for centuries. Those who have developed their inner senses
can thus witness the scene which is continually repeating itself, or
rather, is happening all the time.[252] Thus, psychometrists,[253] in
presence of a portion of a fossil, are enabled to bring back scenes
that this fragment has witnessed millions of years ago.[254]

In these cases, the memory of the facts is connected with that of the
atoms which register it; this memory can only be recalled by coming
into contact with these atoms.[255]

There is also another memory, midway between the unconscious memory of
atoms and the conscious memory of the human soul; that of the forms of
the various sub-human kingdoms. It is only slightly conscious, for it
is not individualised; all the same, it is precise in its nature. It
dwells in the vital essence of the form, an essence taken from a
collective "block" which supplies a portion of its substance to the
individuals of the same species; this incarnate portion of essence,
when the form disintegrates at death, returns to the parent "block,"
to which it communicates the result of its experiences, and when the
latter sends out a portion of itself, into a new form, this tentacle,
which is, so to speak, the soul of the form, is in possession of the
whole of the experiences of the "block."[256] This explains how it is
that the individual members of certain hostile species know one
another from birth--the chicken, for instance, which, immediately it
has left the egg, trembles before the hawk hovering above in the air;
such is also the reason why a duckling plunges into water as soon as
it comes to a pond, and the same instinct impels a bird to leave its
nest and trust itself to the air when fully fledged.

In these collective souls, belonging to the mineral, vegetable, and
animal kingdoms, there can be recovered the past to which they bore
witness, when the atoms of their bodies have been dispersed and
entered into new combinations.

When the elemental Essence[257] has definitely split up, and the
"blocks" have become separate, individualised, human fragments,[258]
each of these fragments is a causal body, a definite, immortal
_centre_ in the total Centre. Consequently there are in man three
kinds of memory: atomic memory, that of the atoms of his bodies;
instinctive memory of the special elemental essences which are the
collective souls of his various vehicles; and finally, the individual
memory of the centre,[259] which is one with the total Centre from
which it comes.

This element of unity, this human "I" in the divine "I," when
sufficiently developed, is able to evoke the memory of all the events
in which it has participated in the causal body, and also the memory
of those it has witnessed as a collective soul (elemental "block") in
bygone ages when active in various mineral, vegetable, and animal
species. As a centre in the great Centre, it can also call forth the
memory of everything in the Universe that its consciousness can
grasp.[260] And when, in this long pilgrimage, it has developed to the
farthest limits of the Universe it knows all that has been, is now,
and is to be in this Universe, consequently it knows both what it has
and what it has not participated in, for everything in the Universe
has then become part of itself.

Thus it is seen that the memory of the past is everywhere registered,
and that the difficulty a man has in bringing it back is caused by
nothing more than his imperfect development. Once he has entered the
"Strait Gate,"[261] and his consciousness is awake on the first plane
of Unity,[262] he becomes able to read the Great Book of Nature, in
which all vibrations are kept in potentiality; he can revive them by
an effort of will, similar to that he makes in a waking state, when he
wishes to bring back past impressions to his brain. The difference
lies in the fact that, in the latter case, being in the physical body,
he calls up the memory retained in the astral body; whilst in the
former case, being in the causal body, he brings memory within the
influence of the buddhic body, or even at times of higher bodies
still. The more the Being grows, and becomes able to fix his
consciousness on the higher planes, the wider extends his sphere of
influence, approaching that of divine Consciousness.

It is ignorance that brings forward this objection regarding loss of
memory, ignorance of life and of death, ignorance of the phenomena
that follow the last breath of a dying man, as well as of those
preceding the first faint cry of a new-born child. Sceptics, however,
might have shown a little more indulgence, for, as they are well
aware, ordinary memory _is_ even now so unreliable that a man has
great difficulty in recalling the whole of the thoughts that have
entered his brain during the last few minutes; he has forgotten the
details of the various events of the week; the facts of the past year
have mostly vanished from his mind, and when he comes to the end of
the journey, mere fragments of the story of his life are all that is
left. For all that, he has all the time retained the notion of the
identity of his "I"; he has the same body, the same senses, and the
same brain; his environment is the same; everything is there to bring
about association of ideas, to awaken memory. On the other hand,
centuries have elapsed before Rebirth takes place; the human being has
undergone the most radical changes and modifications; everything in
him that was perishable has disappeared, and is preserved only in a
germinal state. The visible bodily sheath has had its atoms scattered
to the four elements; the etheric body[263] has become separated from
the physical molecules whose vital support it formed; the body of
passions and desires (_astral body_) has lived for a few years in what
Catholics call _Purgatory_, Greeks, _Hades_, and Hindus, _Kâmaloka_;
after which, only germs have been left behind; then the intelligence
(_mental body_) has been dispersed in turn and endures only in a
germinal state. Almost everything that made up the man of bygone times
has disappeared, and is now concentrated in a complex germ hidden away
in the causal body and destined to develop a new personality later
on,[264] heir to the former one, though it will not be capable of
remembering events in which it took no part.

This is the explanation of the myth of Lethe.

The soul, in the causal body, drinks of the river of Life, and from
its sleep-giving draught forms the sheaths of the new incarnation, the
new bodies that altogether blot out the memory of the past; it is, in
very truth, a new-born babe who appears on earth.

The Root-Being,[265] however, survives the successive wrecks of
fleeting personalities, remaining in the new man as a guide, as the
"Voice of Conscience." He is the Watcher who strings, as on a thread,
the numberless pearls (_personalities_) which form the inevitable
cycle of human evolution, and is able, when fully developed, to summon
up the distant panorama of past lives. For him, nothing is lost.

The pioneers of the race have obtained direct proof of successive
incarnations, but apart from these rare and special instances,
ordinary individuals frequently have reminiscences and distinct
memories which are not investigated, either because they are
fragmentary in their nature or are related by children. In India,
where the natives believe in Reincarnation, such cases are regarded
without astonishment, and efforts are made to prove their truth by
serious investigation, whenever possible. And such proof is often
possible. When a child dies in infancy, before he is able to use his
body intelligently and of his own free will--before being able to
generate karma--the higher sheaths (_the astral and mental bodies_)
are not separated into their component parts. Return to earth quickly
takes place, the memory of the past life exists in the astral
body--which has not changed--and, more especially during the first few
years of life, can be impressed on the new brain with tolerable ease,
if this latter is at all delicately constituted. Then if reincarnation
takes place in the same country and in the neighbourhood of the past
incarnation, it can be proved to be true. Such instances do exist; the
reason they are not mentioned here is that they would add nothing to
the general proofs on which stress has been laid in this work. These
proofs form part of universal Law; they cannot be separated therefrom.


[Footnote 81: The fifth, or Aryan race, in theosophic nomenclature;
the fourth was that of Atlantis; the third lived on the great southern
continent, Lemuria; the two preceding ones were, so to speak, only the
embryologic preparation for the following races.]

[Footnote 82: The "life-atoms," infinitesimal particles which by
aggregation form the human body. Certain of these atoms are preserved,
on the death of the body, as germs which will facilitate the
reconstruction of the physical body at the next rebirth.]

[Footnote 83: The divine Essence which animates animals, and so, in
another sense the astral bodies of men and animals, bodies whose
particles _transmigrate_ as do the physical atoms.]

[Footnote 84: H. P. Blavatsky, _Secret Doctrine._]

[Footnote 85: These words are relative; they express differences in
the evolution of souls.]

[Footnote 86: The atmosphere of subtle physical elements radiating
round the human body and acting in a defensive _rôle_ by preventing
the penetration of unhealthy elements from the immediate

[Footnote 87: The "material sin" of Manu.]

[Footnote 88: One, here means the "life atoms" of a man's body.]

[Footnote 89: The word is here used in a generic sense; in the present
work, it would be more precise to replace it by the word

[Footnote 90: This "triad" comprises the visible matter of the body,
the etheric substance, and the life (Prâna) which the human ether
absorbs and specialises for the vitalising of the body. See _Man and
his Bodies_, by A. Besant.]

[Footnote 91: H. P. Blavatsky, _The Theosophist_, Vol. 4, pages 287,

[Footnote 92: The finer elements invisible to physical eye. Their
function is sensation, and by their association with the human mental
body incarnated in them, they give birth to the emotions and passions,
in a word, to the animal in man.]

[Footnote 93: The _Umbra_ of the Latin races.]

[Footnote 94: The _Kâma Rûpa_ of the Hindus.]

[Footnote 95: The purgatory of Christians, the astral plane of
theosophists, and the _Kâmaloka_ of Hindus.]

[Footnote 96: By the _fire_ of purgatory, says the Catholic metaphor.]

[Footnote 97: See A. Besant's masterly work on _Reincarnation._]

[Footnote 98: Dharma is a wide word, primarily meaning the essential
nature of a thing; hence the laws of its being, its duty; and it
includes religious rites, appropriate to those laws. This definition,
as also the extracts quoted, are taken from A. Besant's translation of
the _Bhagavad Gîtâ._]

[Footnote 99: Human souls, not all of them, but only the pious ones,
are daimonic and divine. Once separated from the body, and after the
struggle to acquire piety, which consists in knowing God and injuring
none, such a soul becomes all intelligence. The impious soul, however,
remains in its own essence and punishes itself by seeking a human body
to enter into, for no other body can receive a human soul, it cannot
enter the body of an animal devoid of reason: divine law preserves the
human soul from such infamy. Hermes Trismegistus, Book I, _Laclé_:
Hermes to his son Tat.]

[Footnote 100: Bodies.]

[Footnote 101: The physical body with its etheric "double," and life

[Footnote 102: The kâmic body.]

[Footnote 103: The causal body.]

[Footnote 104: _History_. Book 2, chap. 123.]

[Footnote 105: The causal body.]

[Footnote 106: The buddhic body, which, in ordinary man, is only in an
embryonic stage.]

[Footnote 107: Generally called _Prâna_, in man. _Jiva_ is the solar
life which, on being transmuted by the physical body, becomes _Prâna_,
the human physical life. Both _Jiva_ and _Prâna_ differ from each
other in nature and in vibration.]

[Footnote 108: The mental body.]

[Footnote 109: The causal body. In annihilation--what has been called
the loss of the soul--the kâmic principle (astral body) in the course
of a rather long succession of lives, does not allow the mental body
to become separated from it in purgatory; it keeps it imprisoned up to
the time of its disintegration; the causal body reaps nothing from the
incarnations, at each re-birth it loses the forces it is putting forth
in order to form the new mental body. It gradually atrophies until the
time comes when it is no longer fit to make use of the ordinary bodies
of the race to which it belongs. Then it remains at rest, whilst the
mental body gradually disintegrates; afterwards it takes up once again
its series of incarnations in the imperfectly evolved bodies of
primitive races. This will be understood only by those who have
studied theosophy.]

[Footnote 110: In this passage, H. P. Blavatsky alludes to the few
etheric, astral, and mental atoms which, at each disincarnation, are
incorporated in the causal body and form the nuclei of the future
bodies corresponding to them.]

[Footnote 111: _History._ Vol. 2, book 2, chap. 123 (already quoted).]

[Footnote 112: Of the elements of the personality--of the astral body,
in all probability.]

[Footnote 113: The Ego (soul) also lives in the air (the symbol of
heaven) and on the earth (whose symbol is water, dense matter)--in
heaven, after disincarnation; on earth, during incarnation.]

[Footnote 114: The soul is immortal and needs no food.]

[Footnote 115: Its name, Khopiroo, comes from the root Koproo, to
become, to be born again (H. P. Blavatsky).

Hartley says: "At the centre of the solar disk appears the Scarabeus
as the symbol of the soul re-uniting itself with the body. The
Scarabeus is called by Pierret the synthesis of the Egyptian
religion--type of resurrection--of self-existence--of self-engendering
like the Gods. As Tori, or Chepi, the Sun is the Scarabeus, or
self-engenderer, and the mystery of God."]

[Footnote 116: Also called kâmic body, astral body, body of desire,

[Footnote 117: Reincarnation.]

[Footnote 118: Vol. 3, p. 124.]

[Footnote 119: The causal body illumined by the divine Essence, which
theosophy names Âtmâ-Buddhi.]

[Footnote 120: He calls him "the prince of lying fathers and dishonest
writers." (_Egypt_, vol. 1, p. 200).]

[Footnote 121: Eusebius even confesses this himself: "I have set forth
whatever is calculated to enhance the glory of our religion, and kept
back everything likely to cast a stain upon it." (_Proeparatio
Evangelica._ Book 12, chap. 31).]

[Footnote 122: _Namae-Sat Vakhshûr-i-Mahabad_, also in the fourth
"Journey" in chap. 4 of _Jam-i-Kaikhoshru_ (see _The Theosophist_, p.
333, vol. 21).]

[Footnote 123: See _Bardic Triads_, by E. Williams. Translated from
the original Welsh.]

[Footnote 124: "'Abred' is the circle of the migrations through which
every animated being proceeds from death: man has passed through it."
_Triad_ 13.

"Transmigration is in 'Abred.'" _Triad_ 14.

"There are three primitive calamities in 'Abred': the necessity of
evolution (of rebirths), the absence of memory (of past incarnations)
and death (followed by rebirth)." _Triad_ 18 (the words in parentheses
are our own).

"By reason of three things man is subjected to 'Abred' (or
transmigration): by the absence of the effort to attain knowledge, by
non-attachment to good, and by attachment to evil. As the result of
these, he descends into 'Abred,' to the stage corresponding to his
development, and begins his transmigrations anew." _Triad_ 25.

"The three foundations of science are: complete transmigration through
every state of being, the memory of the details of each
transmigration, the power to pass again at will through any state, to
acquire experience and judgment, (_a_) This comes to pass in the
circle of Gwynvyd." _Triad_ 36.

(_a_) The liberated being has power to call up the past, to tune his
consciousness with that of every being, to feel everything that being
feels, to be that being.]

[Footnote 125: In the poem _Cad-Godden_, quoted by Pezzani in _La
Pluralité des Existences de l'Âme_, p. 93. Taliesin is a generic name
indicating a function rather than the name of an individual.]

[Footnote 126: _Gallic War_ (Book 2, chap. 6). Valerius Maximus
relates that these nations lent one another money which was to be paid
back in the other world, and that at Marseilles a sweet-tasted poison
was given to anyone who, wishing to commit suicide, offered the judges
satisfactory reasons for leaving his body.]

[Footnote 127: _The Mystery of the Ages_, by the Duchesse de Pomar.]

[Footnote 128: In _Theologia_ or the _Seven Adyta._]

[Footnote 129: The "Cycle of Necessity" extends from the time when the
soul begins to evolve to the moment when it attains to liberation.]

[Footnote 130: _Life of Pythagoras._ Book 8, chap. 14.]

[Footnote 131: Ovid's _Metamorphoses_. Book 15.]

[Footnote 132: All that remained of the shield was the carved ivory
ornamentation, the iron had been eaten away by rust.]

[Footnote 133: Philostratus, _Life of Apollonius of Tyana._]

[Footnote 134: Philostratus, _Life of Apollonius of Tyana._]

[Footnote 135: Marinas, _Vita Procli._]

[Footnote 136: The Ego, the human soul properly so-called, what Egypt
named the liberated intelligence which resumes its sheath of light,
and again becomes a "daimon" (_Maspero_). In antiquity the name of
daimon was given to the human soul or to higher intelligences.]

[Footnote 137: _Hades_; the Purgatory of Catholics; the _Kâmalôka_ of

[Footnote 138: Allusion to the struggle which separates the mental
from the astral body in Purgatory.]

[Footnote 139: _Kâmalôka_; Purgatory.]

[Footnote 140: The subterranean hell, the lowest world in Purgatory.]

[Footnote 141: Plato's _Laws_, Book 10.]

[Footnote 142: Plato's _Republic_, Book 10.]

[Footnote 143: They are in the causal body.]

[Footnote 144: _Phædo._]

[Footnote 145: These considerations are taken from the writings of H.
P. Blavatsky, and are also confirmed by modern criticism of biblical

[Footnote 146: Maimonides. Quoted in _The Perfect Way_, by A.
Kingsford and E. Maitland.]

[Footnote 147: _Galatians_, chap. 4, verses 24, 25.]

[Footnote 148: _Starli_, part 4, p. 5.]

[Footnote 149: _Deuteronomy_, chap. 24, verses 1 to 4.]

[Footnote 150: _Deuteronomy_, chap. 17, verse 17.]

[Footnote 151: _Exodus_, chap. 21, verses 2 to 11.]

[Footnote 152: _Exodus_, chap. 21, verses 23, 24, 25.]

[Footnote 153: _Genesis_, chap. 9, verses 5, 6; also _Leviticus_,
chap. 7.]

[Footnote 154: _Exodus_, chapters 6, 12, 14, 22, 32,]

[Footnote 155: _Ecclesiastes_, chap. 3, verses 18, 19, 20, 22.]

[Footnote 156: The souls of a race in its maturity are of a more
advanced type than those of its infancy or old age.]

[Footnote 157: The Kabala is the secret teaching of the Jews; in it
lie hidden doctrines that are too profound to be taught in public.]

[Footnote 158: _Zohar_, 2, 99, quoted in Myer's _Qabbalah_, p. 198.]

[Footnote 159: Evolution develops the soul, enabling it to reach its
goal: the divine state.]

[Footnote 160: The force of evolution comes from God and ceases only
when the soul is fully developed, and has reached the "promised land"
at the end of its pilgrimage: the divine state.]

[Footnote 161: Franck, _La Kabbale_, p. 244, etc.]

[Footnote 162: _The Hidden Wisdom of Christ_, 1864, vol. 1, p. 39.]

[Footnote 163: _De Bell. jud._ 2, 11.]

[Footnote 164: One of the lowest sub-planes of _Kâmaloka_

[Footnote 165: The Christian Heaven (_Devachan_ of theosophy).]

[Footnote 166: The earth, which is above when compared with Tartarus,
but not so in relation to the Elysian Fields; versification imposes
such strict limits on expression, that it must have the benefit of
poetic licence.]

[Footnote 167: Fréret, _Examen crit. des apologistes de la relig.
chrét._, pages 12 and 13, Paris, 1823.]

[Footnote 168: Faustus.]

[Footnote 169: And yet the _Gospel of Saint John_ denies this (chap.
1, v. 21). The contradictions in the gospels are so numerous that they
alone have created thousands of infidels.]

[Footnote 170: Stolberg expresses himself as follows on this matter:
"This question was evidently based on the opinion that the disciples
of Jesus had formed, that this man, whose punishment dated from his
very birth, had sinned in a previous life." (_Histoire de N. S.
Jésus-Christ et de son siècle_, Book 3, chap. 43).]

[Footnote 171: _Revelation_, chap. 3, v. 12.]

[Footnote 172: _Revelation_, chap. 2, v. 28.]

[Footnote 173: _Revelation_, chap. 22, v. 16.]

[Footnote 174: _Revelation_, chap. 2, v. 17.]

[Footnote 175: H. P. Blavatsky.]

[Footnote 176: "Taken literally, the Book of the Creation gives us the
most absurd and extravagant ideas of Divinity."]

[Footnote 177: First _Ennead_, chap. I.]

[Footnote 178: The Universe, which can exist only through

[Footnote 179: Second _Ennead_, chap. 3.]

[Footnote 180: Second _Ennead_, chap. 8.]

[Footnote 181: Third _Ennead_, chap. 4.]

[Footnote 182: _Concerning Abstinence_; Book 2.]

[Footnote 183: _Egyptian Mysteries_, Book 4, chap. 4.]

[Footnote 184: Here, _reincarnation_ is meant.]

[Footnote 185: This philosopher was surnamed _Peisithanatos_ (the

[Footnote 186: _Vie de Pythagore_, vol. I, p. 28.]

[Footnote 187: _Hist. de l'Ec. a'Alex._, vol. I, p 588.]

[Footnote 188: In this work, he says:

"The winged tribe, that has feathers instead of hair, is formed of
innocent but superficial human beings, pompous and frivolous in
speech, who, in their simplicity, imagine that the sense of vision is
the best judge of the existence of things. Those who take no interest
whatever in philosophy become four-footed animals and wild

[Footnote 189: _Commentaries on the Golden Verses of Pythagoras._]

[Footnote 190: Hermes, _Commentaries of Chalcidius on the Timæus._]

[Footnote 191: _Procli Diadochi in Platonis Timæum Commentaria._]

[Footnote 192: September, 1898, p. 3.]

[Footnote 193: The life of the animal to which it is bound.]

[Footnote 194: The instrument must be suited to the development of the
artist; too highly developed a body would be bad for a man very low
down in the scale of humanity. This will, in some measure, explain the
paradoxical word here used; the _advantage_ there may sometimes be in
putting on a rudimentary body.]

[Footnote 195: G. R. S. Mead tells us that Justin believed in
Reincarnation only whilst he was a Platonist; he opposed this teaching
after his conversion to Christianity (See _Theosophical Review_,
April, 1906).]

[Footnote 196: Does this obscure passage refer to the resurrection of
the body?]

[Footnote 197: _Adversus Gentes_. "We die many times, and as often do
we rise again from the dead."]

[Footnote 198: Hyeronim., _Epistola ad Demetr...._]

[Footnote 199: Book 2, quest. 6, No. 17.]

[Footnote 200: _Ephesians_, ch. 1, v. 4 ... he hath chosen us in him
before the foundation of the world.]

[Footnote 201: _Instit. divin._, 3, 18.]

[Footnote 202: _Confessions_, I, ch. 6.]

[Footnote 203: _On the Immortality of the Soul_, chap. 12.]

[Footnote 204: _Hist. de Manichée et du Manichéisme_, vol. 2, p. 492.]

[Footnote 205: _Stromata._, vol. 3, p. 433. Edition des Bénédictins.]

[Footnote 206: The words in parenthesis are by the author.]

[Footnote 207: _Cont. Cels._ Book 4, chap. 17.]

[Footnote 208: [Greek: ti akolouthei].]

[Footnote 209: _De Principiis_, Book 3, chap. 5.]

[Footnote 210: _Contra Celsum_, Book 1.]

[Footnote 211: _Contra Celsum_, Book 1, chap. 6.]

[Footnote 212: _De Principiis_, Book 3, chap. 5.]

[Footnote 213: _De Principiis_, Book 4, chap. 5.]

[Footnote 214: _Contra Celsum_, Book 7, chap. 32.]

[Footnote 215: E. Aroux. _Les Mystères de la Chevalerie._]

[Footnote 216: Quoted by I. Cooper Oakley in _Traces of a Hidden
Tradition in Masonry and Mediæval Mysticism_, a very interesting work
on the sects which connect the early centuries with modern times.]

[Footnote 217: See _L'Islamisme et son Enseignement Ésotérique_, by
Ed. Bailly. _Publications théosophiques_, Paris, 1903.]

[Footnote 218: Chapter 18.]

[Footnote 219: Islam is now awaiting the coming of the Mahdi, its last
prophet; prophecy says that he will be the reincarnation of Mohammed
(_Borderland_, April, 1907).]

[Footnote 220: This is the reason Afghans still undertake pilgrimages
to Mecca.]

[Footnote 221: Chap. 22, verses 5, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20, 41. Quoted
by Lady Caithness in _Old Truths in a New Light._]

[Footnote 222: Chap. 23, verses 17, 26, 27, etc.]

[Footnote 223: By religion is here understood the devotional aspect
and the scientific side of the teaching of Truth, _i.e._, the science
of the divine Soul.]

[Footnote 224: _Nirmânakâyas_ are beings who have become perfect, and
who, instead of entering the Nirvâna their efforts have won, renounce
peace and bliss in order to help forward their human brothers in their

[Footnote 225:

    O! genus attonitum gelidæ formidine mortis,
    Quid Styga, quid tenebras, quid nomina vana timetis,
    Materiam vatum, falsique piacula mundi?
    Corpora sive rogus flammâ, seu tabe vetustas
    Abstulerit, mala posse pati non ulla putetis
    Morte carent animæ: semperque priore relictâ
    Sede, novis domibus habitant vivuntque receptæ
                   . . . . . . . . .
    Omnia mutantur, nihil interit ...


[Footnote 226: _S. John's Gospel_, chap. 9, verse 2.]

[Footnote 227: The following passages are taken from three of C.
Savy's works: _Comment. du Sermon sur la Montagne_ (1818); _Pensées et
Méditations_ (1829); _Dieu et l'Homme en cette Vie et Audelà_ (1838).]

[Footnote 228: _De l'Humanité_, vol. 1., p. 233.]

[Footnote 229: _Théorie de l'Unité Universelle_, vol. 2, p. 304-348.]

[Footnote 230: _Vie Future au Point de Vue Socialiste_, and
_Confession d'un Curé de Village._]

[Footnote 231: _Destinées de l'Âme._]

[Footnote 232: Alluding to the complete renewing of the material
molecules of the body, every seven years.]

[Footnote 233: Whose consciousness, however (along with memory), is at
the summit of the hierarchy which is its origin.]

[Footnote 234: Molecules and atoms have a particular consciousness of
their own which does not cease to function when, on the departure of
the individual soul, the body, as such, ceases to function.]

[Footnote 235: If sufficiently developed, however, he can be made
conscious of this in a higher vehicle.]

[Footnote 236: When man has barely entered the human stage--in
primitive man.]

[Footnote 237: Consciousness begins in the physical body, its simplest

[Footnote 238: There are other vehicles above the causal body.]

[Footnote 239: All the powers of the Universe are in the divine germ,
as the tree is in its seed.]

[Footnote 240: Because it no longer has a dense physical body. There
are exceptions to this rule, but there is no necessity to mention them

[Footnote 241: The Christian Heaven, the _Devachan_ of Theosophy.]

[Footnote 242: This character has already appeared on the astral
plane, though not in so striking a fashion.]

[Footnote 243: Unity exists on the plane of the Ego, and the latter
sends his thought into the forms made out of his vehicles; this will
be understood only by the few, but an explanation cannot be given at
this point, without writing a volume on the whole of theosophy.]

[Footnote 244: We are still dealing with the ordinary man.]

[Footnote 245: When liberation is attained. This can be effected
rapidly by those who _will_ to attain it.]

[Footnote 246: Only four of the seven atomic _spirillæ_ are active in
this our fourth planetary Round (one for each Round). They can be
rapidly vitalised by the will.]

[Footnote 247: When the soul is "centred" in it.]

[Footnote 248: The vibrations, whether registered as they pass or not
registered, continue their course through the substance of the

[Footnote 249: Science even now recognises four of these dimensions.]

[Footnote 250: This is said in order to satisfy such as are of a
metaphysical turn of mind, and frequently prone to criticism.]

[Footnote 251: When the inner senses are developed.]

[Footnote 252: A question will doubtless at once rise to the minds of
many readers; how can the same atoms produce, at once and almost
eternally, millions of different facts? We will reply briefly. Science
has been able to conceive of an explanation of a fact apparently quite
as absurd--the phenomenon of the balls of Russian platinum mentioned
by Zöllner (_Transcendental Physics_, ch. 9) which pass through
hermetically sealed glass tubes, and that of the German copper coins
dropping through the bottom of a sealed box on to a slate--by
accepting a fourth dimension of space. Who would affirm that the
dimensions of space are limited to four? Or that the science of the
immediate future will not be brought face to face with facts, and
find, in a fifth or sixth dimension of space, a possible explanation
of the phenomenon here mentioned, one which initiated seers can test
whenever they please, because it is a real fact?

Still, as these seers say, the coarsest atoms generally register only
one image, others register fresh images, so that in many cases there
is quite a superposition of images which must be carefully examined to
avoid errors.]

[Footnote 253: A psychometrist is a person endowed with a very fine
nervous system, capable of repeating the delicate vibrations which act
upon the inmost atoms of a body. In this way, by placing himself in
presence of an object that has been in contact with some individual,
he can clearly describe the latter's physical, moral, and mental
characteristics. Hitherto, Buchanan and Professor Denton have been the
most remarkable psychometrists; the experiments related in their works
have been made before witnesses and permit of no doubt whatever as to
the reality of this strange faculty.]

[Footnote 254: Instances of this are numerous in Professor Denton's
_The Soul of Things._]

[Footnote 255: This memory is preserved in the first "life-wave."]

[Footnote 256: This is _instinct_, _i.e._, a semi-conscious memory,
located in the "life-wave" of the second Logos.]

[Footnote 257: The divine Essence incarnated in the matter of the
lower planes of the Universe.]

[Footnote 258: When the "essence," after the destruction of the form
to which it gives life, no more returns to the parent-block from which
it came, it has become individualised, ready to enter into the _human

[Footnote 259: The memory of the third life-wave, of the first Logos.]

[Footnote 260: Everything, for instance, that concerns the planes of
the planetary system, on which it has finished its evolution.]

[Footnote 261: The passing of consciousness from the causal body to
the nascent buddhic body.]

[Footnote 262: The buddhic plane (the one immediately above the
mental) is one in which the forms are so subtle that they no longer
_limit_ the Life (_the Soul of the World_) animating them. This Life
comes directly into contact with the Life which causes all forms to
live; it then sees Unity: it sees itself everywhere and in everything,
the joys and sorrows of forms other than its own are its joys and
sorrows, for it is universal Life.]

[Footnote 263: This body is composed of physical matter, and therefore
belongs to the physical plane. It has been given a special name, not
only because it is made of ether, but because it can be separated from
the physical body.]

[Footnote 264: The whole of the bodies: mental, astral, and physical.]

[Footnote 265: The Ego (soul) in the causal body.]


We have now come to the end of our study: a task to which we have
certainly not been equal, so far is it beyond our powers. As, however,
we have drawn inspiration from our predecessors, so have we also, in
our turn, endeavoured to shed a few more rays of light on certain
points of this important subject, and indicate fresh paths that may be
followed by such as enter upon this line of investigation in the

It is our most ardent desire to see this fertile soil well tilled, for
it will yield an abundant harvest. Mankind is dying in strife and
despair; the torrent of human activity is everywhere seething and
foaming. Here ignorance buries its victims in a noisome den of slime
and filth; there, the strong and ruthless, veritable vampires, batten
on the labour and drain away the very life of the weak and helpless;
farther away, science stumbles against the wall of the Unknown;
philosophy takes up its stand on the cold barren glacier of
intellectualism; religions are stifled and struggle for existence
beneath the age-long accumulations of the "letter that killeth." More
now than ever before do we need to find a reason for morality, a guide
for science, an Ariadne's thread for philosophy, a torch to throw
light on religion, and Love over all, for if mankind continues to
devote the whole of its strength to the pursuit of material benefits,
if its most glorious conquests become instruments to advance
selfishness, if its progress merely increases physical wretchedness
and makes moral decadence more terrible than before, if the head
continues to silence the appeals of the heart, then divine Compassion
will have no alternative but to destroy beneath the waters of another
flood this cruel, implacable civilisation, which has transformed earth
into an inferno.

Amongst the most pressing and urgent truths, the most fruitful
teachings, the most illuminating doctrines, the most comforting
promises, we have no hesitation in placing the Law of Rebirths in the
very front. It is supported by ethics, by reason, and by science; it
offers an explanation of the enigma of life, it alone solves almost
all the problems that have harassed the mind of man throughout the
ages; and so we hope that, in spite of its many imperfections, this
work of ours will induce many a reader to say: _Reincarnation must be
true, if could not be otherwise!_


       *       *       *       *       *

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