THEOSOPHY, Vol. 19, No. 5, March, 1931
(Pages 197-200; Size: 12K)
(Number 1 of a 10-part series)
STUDIES IN REINCARNATION
WHEN a Theosophical book or speaker says that a man can "prove" Reincarnation for himself, it may to some smack of the wandering charlatan who for a sufficient price promises open gates to any weirdly impossible accomplishment. But, in the case of reincarnation, it happens to be true as a possibility to any man, though not often one realized. The inquirer must therefore proceed under his own power with the compass-guidance given by the Predecessors and such navigation points as may be given him from the books by those of wider study.
To such an one, it is suggested that he begin an attempt to understand the nature and structure of knowledge itself, aided by the widest reach of general learning and experience in his possession. Success in this will show the disconcerting fact that he knows only three things as an inseparable function of existence: first, that he is; second, that he undergoes certain internal experiences; third, that he undergoes apparent impacts from without. All else than these are but tricky tales of the undependable senses.
If he will then apply these criteria of knowledge to all the classes of things that he thinks he knows, he will find that nearly all his mental store is logical, inferential, or testimonial -- not direct. Then he is in a position to compare that logic, inference, and testimony with the logic, inference, and testimony bearing on reincarnation. If he is philosophical and honestly self-analytic, he may at this point find a sudden fluidic transformation of his skepticism set in; he may see the whole universe of knowledge from a new angle of vision permitting him to pick and choose as though all things were new, seen for the first time. In homely words, he can now take an unprejudiced view, relatively speaking, of that which at first may have raised the hackles of his skepticism -- a skepticism in all probability to find its last stronghold in his first objection to reincarnation -- why doesn't he remember past lives? The knowledge consisting of memory seems to him more intimate, definite, and conclusive, than that brought by any other perception save "I-am-ness." Our conception of individuality is based upon memory. The perception that that conception is itself an illusion will be the beginning of wisdom on reincarnation, and the gate to knowledge of what memory really is.
Now immediately under his eye is at all times the neglected fact of two totally distinct forms of memory. If he will strip his consciousness of all memories, he will see Self as a self existent and self-supporting binder stretching unchanged through all that he has known. He may have had a multitude of faded memories, may have been through delirium, amnesia, hypnosis and what-not. But wherever he looks along that past, he will find that fathomless self-existence to have preceded every experience and to have run through every experience without alteration. He may with much difficulty bring up some tattered half-forgotten circumstance of childhood, and gaze upon the rents in it made by the tooth of time. But when he turns to that which stood darkly in the midst thereof as Perceiver, he will find no rents. He will find self-existence, as it was upon that occasion, as clear and bright as at the current moment. Nor does it in any way differ from his present perception of self.
Then let him look ahead along the ways of his life. He will see a multitude of happenings envisioned, pleasant or unpleasant, based upon desire, fear, and past experience. Tomorrow, relatively clear; day after clouding a bit, and the years toward the grave fading out in perspective even as the years of the past fade toward the cradle. Where the images of the past fade by the overlay of subsequent experience, the previsions of the future fade under an accumulation of ramifying uncertainties. But there is one central perception of the future which is subject to no uncertainties. However broken and wavering the images of the future are seen, the image of Self as the Perceiver stands through the future as clear, as unevadable as it is in the present moment and as it was through all the past. He cannot see when That began; so far as he is concerned It never existed. He cannot see change in all the time that he has known It; he cannot see It change through all, including death, that is to come. He can make no distinction in the face of his present perception of It, as he perceived It in the past, and as he perceives It in the future. Gazing upon the very basis of his being, he gazes upon Eternity! Its future is as clear as Its past!
Will he not now be open to the possibility that this mysterious black wall of Self, once pierced, would reveal the past of whatsoever eternities It has undergone? Ah, there's the rub! Also would be revealed the eternities of the future and the whole anatomy of Time! It is veritably so; behind that wall "pass-not" move the gigantic events of a planetary evolution; nearer than near; but alas, for most, farther than far!
Now in this lies the implication of a constant osmosis of experience from daily life through that wall and into the mysterious sanctuary of eternal records. Why then cannot daily experience draw upon the stores of the past, as well as contribute to them? Because of its attachment to time-bound conceptions of self! Note well, then, that the passage through the walls of Self is made only when all hold on the finite conception of self is loosed utterly. In this lies the whole key.
As we are in daily life we cannot remember the real past, except as we remember the experience of deep sleep; that is to say, in formless impressions, subtle urgings which tantalize more than they impel. But that which we are in daily life is based upon our conception of ourselves as a body and brain having beginning, and as a chain of experience and recollection beginning therewith. This brain is able to remember what has happened to it; it is unable to remember what happened before it existed. For real memory, therefore, we have to look to That which stands unchanging beyond the changeable brain.
Yet we know that even the brain in its processes copies that which lies above -- namely in its one-way osmosis of recollection. We know that the experience of many decades ago may lie dormant in the brain until struck into clear and fresh life by some mnemonic happening, by accident, disease, or hypnosis. But until that moment the experience might as well not have been lived so far as the normal memory is concerned. The annals of psychic research abound with those cases where there is unconscious memory of events which the conscious self was never aware of noting. Why then any difficulty in conceiving that beyond the dark wall of Selfhood lies the memory of the ages, needing only the proper sort of mnemonics to strike it into life? No memory of any kind resides in the mechanical arrangement of a set of electrons; every man, save the brain-sick materialist, must admit that wherever the seat of memory may be, it is in forms of substance, modes of action, not yet trapped in a test-tube or measured on a dynamometer. With these we shall deal in part, later on.
Meanwhile in brief, then, the memory-sense of Being is as distinct in quality from the memory-sense of events as seeing is from hearing. Whereas the latter is subject to fluctuations of vividness, the former is not so subject. Where the memory of events is qualitatively cut into parts by Past, Present, and Future, the memory of Self is not so divided. Where the memory of events is conditioned by efforts of recollection and inner and outer reminders, the memory of Self needs no reminders, is not augmented by recollective efforts nor diminished by negligence. Where memory of events goes by parts and relationships, memory of Self is impartite and unrelated to any happening.
From this we may arrive at an inferential understanding of the condition in which the events of past lives are emplaced behind the walls of oblivion. First, then, all events there, whether of yesterday or a million years gone, are equally bright and unfaded. Second, events of the future are as clear as events of the past, and a different order of time rules there -- second-degree time, so to say. Third, the scope of vision is infinite and all events there lie spread at once before the spiritual eye; hence none of the relativities of recollective associations. And memories unconditioned must necessarily be memories not of things as they seem to us at the time of happening, but of their spiritual self-being.
That man is capable of developing such a super-mnemonic sense, is shown not merely by the testimony of the ages; it is shown by the unceasing exercise of it in each one of us in the act of self-perception. And the considerations above given throw a dazzling, even though terrifying light upon the sort of being a man must become in order so to remember. The nature of such a man contains implicit revelation of the course of self-evolution which produced him.
COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:
Mankind never received anything from higher sources except through some human being; every so-called "revelation" was voiced by some living man among men. There have been prophets and false prophets; the truth or falsity is not determined by the claims of the prophet, but by the nature of the "revelation." Some person or persons brought Theosophy to the Western World, and in bringing it one of them said and wrote, "it is not a treatise, nor a series of vague theories, but contains all that can be given out to the world in this century. It will be centuries before much more is given." Another said and wrote, "Promulgate; do not speculate." Find the right persons and you have the presentation of Theosophy pure and simple. Then, and then only, is one in the position to know whether any claim or statement affirmed to be Theosophical, is so or not.
STUDIES IN REINCARNATION
MEMORY AND JUSTICE
(Part 2 of a 10-part series)
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