THEOSOPHY, Vol. 49, No. 7, May, 1961
(Pages 306-308; Size: 10K)


[Article number (8) in this Department]

THE report in February Lookout concerning the two successive "reincarnations" of Swarnlata Misha again poses the question as to the means by which such memories -- whatever they signify -- may come about. The speculation attached to an earlier Lookout comment to the effect that the psycho-astral complex might be picked up and used by another soul coming to birth is interesting, but why should this happen only in such isolated instances? And if this happens, how?

Perhaps a few prefatory words are necessary to explain why the Theosophical student does not base any part of his "case for reincarnation" upon such evidence, spectacular though it may be. There is a sense in which every student of reincarnation comes to desire knowledge concerning previous lives -- but if the concern reaches beyond the personal prompting of curiosity, knowledge of previous lives would entail a genuine comprehension of the meaning of that life. If it is possible for a person to have stray glimpses of events pertaining to some of his existences in introduction to a hypnotic or trance state or in ordinary dreams, one can be reasonably sure that such glimpses are not accompanied by a true understanding of the significance of the events which are recalled. It is for this reason that William Q. Judge suggested that the remembering of past lives, so far as the average person is concerned, would be confusing and disturbing rather than helpful. When it is said that Buddha finally reached a point in evolution where his former existences were known to him, we are certainly meant to understand that this "knowing" was part of a synthesis attained in his own consciousness, and would have little to do with the incidental details recounted in most popular stories concerning memories of past lives.

Readers of Lookout may recall an interesting item (THEOSOPHY 48:142) concerning the discovery on the floor of the Egean Sea of a mechanical model of the solar system, evidently constructed by the early Greeks. By means of a clock mechanism the planets were made to move in appropriate orbits, and the discovery of this intricate and basically accurate mechanism made it incontrovertibly plain that the discoveries of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo were simply rediscoveries Now, when scientists cleaned and oiled this ingenious planetary clock, the parts could still be moved, and the motions of the planets were thoroughly understandable to the fascinated observers. But if the mechanism had been dredged up from the bottom of the sea during the Middle Ages, when even men of "scientific" bent were interpreting the solar system from a geocentric standpoint, rather than a heliocentric one, the motions of the marvellous clock would have been incomprehensible. An understanding of what the clock signified depended, in other words, upon a synthesizing knowledge which medieval man did not possess.

And so it may be with the motions revealed by the events of past lives, suddenly "dredged up" from a great depth; one may see the motion of the events but lack the sort of understanding which reveals the significance. Theosophical philosophy may serve to aid the development of the kind of wisdom which can establish connections with events in terms of an underlying destiny.

While the illustration of the Greek solar clock is helpful, it does not, of course, touch the other aspect of the question -- as to the means by which the isolated and often insignificant details of past lives are brought before the present consciousness. Yet the analogy does have a bearing, since it suggests the possibility that such bursts of memory are accidental -- accidental in the same sense, at least, as the finding of the Greek clock was incidental to the presence of a grappling hook at the right place and during favorable conditions in the ocean.

Mr. Crosbie is reported to have once commented on the strange "accidental" memories of such recall as being analogies to the processes which allow the tumblers of a combination lock to fall into place. Without adequate knowledge and self-control, we may yet, in the course of an infinitude of time, reach the "right combination," and the tumblers will fall into place. The specific memories of the past seem to be involved in some merging area between the fifth and fourth states of matter, since some aspect of the mind activates the process. It may be that we do frequently experience "memories of past lives" under certain conditions, but are unaware of what the impressions signify and their origin. A passage from W. Macneile Dixon's The Human Situation is here provocative:

By its mortal instruments, the soul's horizon is narrowed, its sight confined. They are there, the nerves and brain, and of necessity, to contract, not to widen its field at attention, to anchor, to preoccupy its gaze. They focus, you may say, a single wave-length of its ray on mundane and material things. For the truth is that "The ear, the eye doth make us deaf and blind."

So it is that our conscious lives are our surface lives, and upon our association with nature at the deeper levels, upon our wider and true selves, nature herself draws down the blind. She would have us, undistracted, attend only to this place and this moment, the events of here and now. By our bodily senses we are limited to the realm of Becoming, pre-engaged with a particular part of the universe, to the immediate surroundings of our daily lives, which are at this present our instant and direct concern. Our senses are our guides to action in a restricted field. For that field, and no other, nature has given us eyes and ears; and with it alone, that is with sensible things, the intellect and its servant the brain are qualified to deal.

Yet to conclude that field the beginning and the end of things were sheer delusion. Who is not aware that there are hours in which the soul sinks, as it were, beneath the threshold of its conscious and daily experiences, when its ties with the body are relaxed, when it stands at gaze within its spiritual environment. For we must admit the possibility of supersensible knowledge.

It is said that Buddha arrived at that point where all his former lives were known to him. But this "recovery" should not be thought to have come about in a trance condition -- rather through a refining and controlling of the living influences inherent in the various interpenetrating planes of matter. Between each plane of consciousness, as between each state of matter, there is an "antaskarana." Yet it must be discovered; it cannot be revealed.

It is not difficult to speculate on the reasons why this must be so, for, from one point of view, the whole of human evolution is concerned with the process of transforming -- or translating -- experience from one plane of consciousness to another. When H.P.B. speaks of "assimilating" the essence of the personality into a permanent individuality, this is to say that the meaning of physical and psychic experience is given new dimension when viewed from the egoic level of perception.

At the present time, in what is said to be the Fourth or Middle Round of humanity's pilgrimage, the translations of experience from plane to plane and from one state of consciousness to another are intermittent or garbled. The man of wisdom is at the forefront of human evolution because his "translations" are considerably more accurate than this norm; the borderlines between various states of consciousness, ordinarily a block to continuity of "knowing," are made porous so that the soul may pass between without loss of awareness.

Next article:
(June 1961)
[Article number (9) in this Department]

Back to the
complete list of articles.

Back to the full listing containing all of the
"Additional Categories of Articles".

Main Page | Introductory Brochure | Volume 1--> Setting the Stage
Karma and Reincarnation | Science | Education | Economics | Race Relations
The WISDOM WORLD | World Problems & Solutions | The People*s Voice | Misc.