Collection of drawn faces from different times and cultures

Reincarnation — Its many Aspects

The restlessness of our times

The restlessness of our time is due largely to unanswered questions.  It is true that the barriers separating the known from the unknown have been pressed back some way, yet we are beginning to see that the size of the conquered territory is smaller than we thought.

To the casual person, science is practically Almighty but the trained observer is fully aware that he is surrounded by enigmas.  To the devout churchman, modern Christianity is an impregnable fortress, but the wiser eyes of many of its leaders are watching anxiously the ominous cracks appearing in its walls under the terrific fire of advancing criticism.

A century or so ago, when, at the outcome of the grapple between Science and Theology, with unthinking, unreasoning faith in tradition and dogma beginning to give way to research and reason, a furious questioning of life and of the world arose, nothing was exempt.  The current ideas of God and the Soul, of Revelation and Destiny, were torn to fragments as thoroughly as every conception of the phenomenal world.  It was a period of intellectual revolution, and the thinkers of the race, exulting in their freedom, determined to destroy utterly every falsehood which had weighed them down. Unfortunately, in the hurry of destruction, they cast aside many a truth.

Materialism was the inevitable outcome of such a reaction and at first it did seem able to answer satisfactorily the questions asked.  The human race hopefully persuaded itself that all things and all events in the Universe, including the workings of the mind, could easily and logically be explained in terms of matter.  It was believed that there was nothing in the Universe but force and matter and the laws governing them.  It was affirmed that the old beliefs, which had kept civilisations so long in confinement, were dead forever.  God was a myth; the Soul a fantasy; Destiny a grinding of a world machine; Religion a tissue of childish legends interwoven with some ethics; and so, at the dawn of this new intellectual day, science overthrew its ancient antagonist - Theology - and strode on to further conquests.

We have grown a little older since then, and though there is still enthusiasm, it is somewhat tempered by maturity.  The first rough and hasty methods of research are slowly being replaced by more refined and skillful procedures.  We are now engaged in turning over the wasteheaps of ideas, cast off during the last four centuries, with the same minute care that is being bestowed upon tailings once discarded as valueless by the refiners of precious ore, and in the midst of the rubbish much of value is being found.  It is also becoming evident that some of our most prized treasures are only fool's gold, glittering but worthless.  Science has had to throw away theory after theory; Religion dogma after dogma; Philosophy speculation after speculation; consequently there is an uneasiness, and anxious turning one to another asking what will be the outcome of it all.  It has become evident that many of the old theories and dogmas are untenable but what can be found to replace them? The search for knowledge has resolved itself into a complex series of questions which, remaining unanswered, have bred uncertainty and out of this uncertainty has sprung a great restlessness.  Materialism is about to be discarded - truly so - but the religious thought of the new age is still groping its way towards adequate expression.

Does God exist?

Does God exist and is there a Moral Law at the heart of the Universe? If so, why then is death everywhere, the weak overcome by the strong, the lesser preyed upon by the greater? If God exists, why is there so much misery in the world, so much undeserved suffering, so many unearned gifts and opportunities? Why are strong men suddenly struck blind, innocent children scourged by disease, people killed by drunken fools speeding in motor cars? Must we agree that if there is a God, either He does not care, or else He is so powerless that He cannot change conditions.  To speak of an inscrutable providence does not solve our problem, it only affirms our ignorance.

Religion tells us of a world to come and would have us understand that in the new world our wrongs will be recompensed, our sins forgiven, our ignorance dispelled. Through all the centuries Man's eyes have turned longingly to that world and they have endured the trials of this for what has been promised hereafter.  But if God created a world apparently so wretchedly arranged as this, what hope have we - in the name of logic - to expect anything better in Heaven? If there is little justice here, why more there? If all souls are equal at birth, why are human destinies so terribly unequal? Are we to fall back upon the hopeless doctrine of Predestination and the Elect? Why is not every soul given an equal chance to develop its strength? Is it all a matter of chance? Can we really conceive of a divinely ordered Universe in which such matters as human lives are left to the blind workings of chance?

Why is one infant condemned by the very condition of its birth to a life of misery and deprivation, and another to good fortune and endless opportunity? Is God's love, mercy or justice made manifest in this? Is there no law or purpose in our respective destinies?

Turn where we will the world is full of inequalities and startling contrasts which are not understandable in the light of current religious teachings.  We feel that there must be a Divinity at the back of all things and all events but we are unable to prove it by pointing at the conditions of the world.  It is true that Christianity has endeavoured to solve some of these problems, usually along two lines: Original Sin and the Will of God.  But neither answer satisfies the modern mind.  The first answer fails because we have become convinced that Adam never existed and that therefore there could have been no Original Sin; and the second answer fails because it makes God directly responsible for all the suffering in the world, especially that which arises from birth conditions, and we would rather shrink from worshipping such a Being as that.

The Master Key

These problems of Religion are the great despair of our age.  They seem impossible to answer and yet unanswered they make ineffective the teachings of Religion and materialise the hopes of men.  A master key is needed to solve the riddle, to make real again the life of the Spirit, to make strong the faltering trust in the goodness of God and the purpose of life - and, my friends, in Reincarnation that master key is found.

Few people ever take the trouble to think out just what views they hold about the world.  If they did they would be very astounded to find how much is taken for granted as being true without any real thought about the matter at all.

When a child is born we take for granted that its consciousness was created with its body.  The reason for this is easily seen, for in the child we see the development of the consciousness with the growth of the body, and in old age the disappearance of consciousness with the death of the body.  From these changes we receive the impression that the brain produces the consciousness but this is not by any means the only explanation of the facts.  The brain of an infant has little power of response because it is too plastic and unorganised and so the mind using it can impress but little upon it.  As the child grows and the brain becomes more organised the mind of the child is much more in evidence; not so much because of the growth of consciousness but because of the improvement in the instrument transmitting the consciousness.  In old age the brain becomes less responsive and hence the physical expression of the mind is dimmed.

The human consciousness exists before birth and even before conception.  This is the first fundamental fact of Reincarnation.  The infant is young in body only, for using that body and seeking even more and more to manifest itself through the agency of the brain and nervous system, is a mature consciousness which has had much human experience in the past during other lives on Earth.

The second great fact of Reincarnation is that the Soul, or the conscious self of Man, is a growing thing and that its development from its first awakening to the gaining of its splendid maturity, is extended over an enormous period of time measured in tens and tens and tens of thousands of years.  The Soul is perfect, or near, at the beginning of its human experience only in the same sense that a seed is perfect, for there is just as much difference relatively between a young and old Soul as there is between an acorn and an oak.  It is permissible to speak of this growth of the Soul as an evolution of consciousness but we ought to be careful in our thinking not to confuse such growth with the evolution of physical bodies.

The physical evolution is carried on by means of birth, cell growth, parenthood, death - new bodies ever being reproduced by the old, thus giving rise to a continuity of physical forms.  The whole tendency of physical evolution is through simple to complex : at one end of the organic series being the single cell without organs or structure, and at the other the extra-ordinarily complex body of Man with its millions of cells grouped into organs and tissues.  For the gaining of experience it is obvious that the evolution of the consciousness must match the evolution of the form, and through the automatic process of nature this is always the case.

The Natural Law

Is it not significant that all other events in the physical Universe are guided by Natural Law? Is it not evident from a study of nature that, in the great plan of things, little attention is paid to the preservation of forms? Death is universal; everywhere physical bodies are being sacrificed to keep other physical bodies alive. Mineral forms are broken up to furnish food for plants; plants are sacrificed to animals; and animals to Man. From the physical point of view, nature is a house of death, and this very fact has been not only the despair of philosophy but the chief argument of science against the religious belief in God.  In the light of Reincarnation it is recognised that the reason nature cares so little for physical bodies is that they are really of minor importance.  Their one function is to serve the growing consciousness as a means for gaining experience.  Consciousness, with its power of memory, is the important thing and consciousness is carefully preserved.  Nature destroys form lavishly because the consciousness using these forms cannot die, and as all memories and faculties are retained by the consciousness after the death of the physical bodies, nothing of value is in reality lost.  We may define Reincarnation then by saying that it is "The plan whereby imperishable conscious Beings are supplied with physical bodies appropriate to their stage of growth, and through which they can come into contact with the lessons of physical life."

The University of Life

From the standpoint of reincarnation, the Earth, and indeed almost the whole of the Universe, is a great school.  It was brought into existence for educational purposes, and the whole plan of evolution is designed to give just the amount and kind of experience which is needed to stimulate the growth of an almost infinite series of living beings, of which the known physical kingdom forms only a small part.  Just as, when a child, we go to school day after day, learning our lessons, gathering experiences and passing from grade to grade, so do we, in our great Soul Life, come here to Earth many times, learning lessons, gathering experience and passing from one source of grade to another.  We perhaps commenced our human evolution as savages because our moral and intellectual powers had hardly begun to stir.  After a few lives amidst primitive conditions we may have developed some slight trace of mental faculty and moral response and we were then born into some rude form of civilisation.

Much suffering may have marked our various Incarnations because we were wilful, passionate, perhaps cruel; but as the centuries advanced and we reaped many an evil harvest grown from evil seed of our own sowing, the voice of conscience - which is only the summarised memory of past experience - became more insistent and we began to refrain, in a way, from wrong-doing.

Here we have come to learn of a higher standard of living and slowly we have begun to think instead of being constantly swayed by unreasoned feelings and prejudice. Gradually, as the lives on Earth follow one another (for human evolution is really painfully slow my friends) we spend a longer time between incarnations away from Earth in the different conditions of the unseen world.  As a result, our mental faculties are formed more rapidly, our moral perceptions increase, our spirituality starts to awake.  Many of us are past this level of evolution now and because of the enormous amount of experience we have gained during other lives on Earth, we are developing into thinkers and occupy what might be considered a relatively important position.  Some of our fellow pupils are more advanced than we and they are acknowledged by the world as the leaders of civilisation, either by the splendour of their intellectual powers, the ability they display as statesmen, the beauty of their moral character, or by the keeness of their spiritual insight. In this there is no favouritism - it is only a matter of growth.  The level they have reached we ourselves shall some day attain, if only we take advantage of our opportunities.

Spiritual Progression

So, in the light of Reincarnation, picture please humanity as marching up a giant stairway, the lower part of which can be seen emerging from the twilight of the beginning of things, the upper part vanishing into the glory of Divinity.  How long is the stairway? We do not know, but this is really not important.  The important thing is to realise that we are standing now upon one of the steps and that the position we hold in the procession marks definitely our stage in growth.

In each incarnation we have a different physical body, a different name and may have different souls acting as parents.  But these changes do not in the slightest way imperil our individuality.  Our minds are not drawn at birth from a great ocean of consciousness as some philosophers think, nor at death do we lose the sense of personal existence.  If this were so the case for Incarnation would be meaningless and Evolution the cruel sport of some transcendent Being.

As Souls we are sexless but our physical bodies are given sex by the Plan of Evolution in order that there may be social groups, homes, family responsibilities, dependent children, sacrifices of personal pleasure, joys of affectionate relationships, contacts of different temperaments - for all these have enormous spiritual education value.  We have been given physical bodies needing food, clothing and shelter because through the efforts put forth to secure these things for ourselves and for others, the whole complex fabric of civilisation has been woven and the physical, moral and mental powers of humanity have been stimulated by activity.

A difficult concept to accept

Reincarnation does not mean that the human Soul can be reborn in an animal body.  This belief is only to be found in the midst of primitive peoples, in popular Hinduism and Buddhism, and even in the writings of Plato; but it is a superstition, my friends, and not a fact.

Every process of nature has always been found to have a definite purpose and Reincarnation is no exception to the rule.  Nor does Reincarnation necessarily imply that we are reborn immediately after death, although it is true that in rare cases this may happen.

Many people, when their attention is first drawn to Reincarnation, dislike the idea immensely.  They have not the slightest desire to be reborn and so, without the least attempt to consider the matter, dismiss the idea as foolish.  Mere dislike, however, disproves nothing. Indeed, most new truths are disliked.  There is no opposition so intense as that which is aroused by new ideas.  A hasty reaction to Reincarnation, therefore, maybe thoroughly human but it does not disprove its truth.  I would say that the opposition to Reincarnation arises largely because existence on Earth is not easy.  We are not really opposed to Reincarnation merely as a process of return to Earth - although we think we are - but to the associated thoughts that if we are reborn we must go through again the trials of this life.  Our natural shrinking from this is the real cause of our opposition to Reincarnation.

If we will only remember, however, that the very experiences which are most difficult to bear teach us the greatest lessons of life, and that every pain we suffer, every hardship we endure, every failure which carried us downwards to defeat, means in the end more strength to achieve - we shall look upon Reincarnation, my friends, with different eyes.  If we think only of personal pleasures, Reincarnation may be as uncomfortable to contemplate as a number of years of hard study in a school.  However, if we think of our usefulness to the world and the happiness we can give to others, then the thought of Reincarnation fills us with enthusiasm and the will to attend that school.  Further, it should not be forgotten that much of the pain and suffering of human existence is due to our disregard of certain moral principles and that when we learn to co- operate with the Law of Action and Reaction the result will always bring happiness, whereas disregard of it entails suffering and misery.

The reason for reincarnation

The chief purpose of Reincarnation is education.  To this end we are born again and again on Earth, not because of any external pressure but because we are souls and as souls we desire to grow.  The driving power at the back of Reincarnation which brings us to Earth again is the thirst for experience, the desire for knowledge, the yearning to mingle in the throb and rush of physical existence.  To many people whose lives here have been difficult, these desires seem inconceivable.  The reason is that sate kills their desire.  A man who has just eaten a hearty dinner has no desire to think of other meals.  In the same way, at the end of an incarnation it is to be expected that we would have little desire for rebirth. Furthermore, our waking consciousness is only a portion of our actual consciousness, and our deeper selves often realise the need of that for which our outer selves do not care.

Within each soul Infinity lies hidden.  In a sense each human being is the centre of the Universe, for God lives equally in all.  If the character of our neighbour is adorned with a virtue which we have not, if he is equipped with the stirring quality which we admire, it is not that he has been given more than we, but that he is awakened into awareness of that particular virtue or quality sooner than we.  If we wish to become like him there is nothing to prevent our making the effort, which surely will bring our desire to fruition.  There is neither great nor small, old nor young, wise nor ignorant - from the Godward side of the Universe all is God.  But for the forward side God is expressed in different degrees of strength according to the capacity of the form.  If the form be dense and unresponsive, as in the body of a savage, then little of the indwelling Divinity can manifest.  If the form be pure, refined and far- evolved, then the inward God is able to shine forth with such blinding glory that we bow our heads in reverence and adoration.

We are a race of resplendent Spiritual Beings - such has ever been the message of the Seers of all ages who descended from a higher state of some period hidden in the mists of the past, in order to gain the mastery of matter as is taught in the material Solar System.  At the time we commenced our Evolution in the Universe of Matter, we found it impossible to interpret the meanings of its vibrations or to make the matter respond to the changes of our consciousness.  Thus while we possessed all the essence of our God, they merely reflected latent potential so far as outer existence was concerned.  As age after age swept on in unhurried flight we began slowly to force matter to obey our will until now, as human beings, we are progressed to the stage where we can understand physical vibrations (the slowest of all) and control the physical body; while we are able, partially at least, to understand the meaning of the vibrations of the Astral World and assume some control over our emotional body, where we know little, as yet, is of those regions in which dwells Mind and Soul.

No educational institution built by Man ever attempted such instruction in full.  The world is the only school which offers the entire curriculum.  It might be even more true to say that the world is a great university, exquisitely adapted down to its smallest detail to the education of the swarming millions of living creatures which dwell upon its surface, in its interior and within the atmospheres surrounding it.  Each experience which comes to us, great or small, is part of the teaching. Naturally we do not all attend the same classes or study the same lessons for we are not all of the same Soul age. But every living thing, atom, microbe, plant, bird, animal, man, superman, or great spirit receives just those experiences which are needed to ensure its next step forward in the evolution.

For some reason few of us really take advantage of the teachings of daily life unless forced to do so by some bitter experience.  It often takes many lives to learn a single lesson of right and wrong, which might easily have been grasped in a year if we had applied ourselves to the problem instead of thinking (as is usually our habit) that we have been injured or unhappily treated and, abusing fate for her roughness and treatment of us, we run hither and thither like children after bright butterflies, while generally our mercurial attention receives but vague impressions from the valuable lessons wihch are offered.

Widening our horizons

As the wheel of Life and Death turns on its unswerving way we learn, by bitter lessons, to extend the limits of our individual circle so as to draw within it personal relationships.  For them we labour because dimly we realise that they are in some way one with us, and we become selfish for the family.  As the days of schooling continue we begin to think of some certain friends as part of ourselves and learn to serve them with the same purpose as, heretofore, we served our families.  Much later still, this group selfishness expands to include the whole nation, and finally the entire world.  Our selfishness has been transmuted to Spirituality, for we look upon every being as ourselves and exclude none from our circle.  This is the level at which stand the saviours of your world.  Although we have not all as yet reached this marvellous level of Spirituality, nevertheless we as Souls are old, very old and in a deep hidden layer of our consciousness reside wonderful and beautiful memories of an age-long past spent in other lands and other bodies. We have loved many times before with blinding passion.  In stormy incarnations we have hated, fought and killed with anger in our hearts.  Grief has torn us again and again at the deaths of the bodies of those who were dear to us and yet again and again we have met, lived and worked with those same dear ones, when they and we have taken new bodies.

How utterly absurd to regard as heathen all the people who do not worship God in the same fashion as we, with the same ceremonies and under the same name, for in other lives and lands we have loved and reverenced the very manifestations of the Divine which we now refuse to recognise.  How foolish to stand aloof from those who are less developed, for they are our own younger brothers, learning the same lessons which we ourselves were taught only a little time before.  How shortsighted to despise those who wear physical bodies of a different colour to our own, for we have lived in that race before and may live in it again.  Besides, on Spiritual planes all Men are equal! If we would let the truth of Reincarnation sink deep into our hearts we could no longer envy others for the qualities they possess, nor lament our own limitations.  Envy and lamentation alike arise from ignorance of the law by which those strengths we admire may be made our own if we will; not by foolish envy or idle dreaming but by making an effort to develop them within ourselves.  There is no goal so high that we may not reach it by persistent effort, although many lives may be needed for the winning.  There is no real failure in life except the lack of courage to try again after each apparent failure.

The process of Reincarnation is not as simple, my friends, as might be supposed and in order to understand clearly just what takes place when a human soul is incarnated in a physical body, it is necessary to review some of the facts which are now known and have been discovered by psychical research.  But this I must leave for Part 2, for I think I have now given you enough to go on.  Surely I have proved to you that God, being within us all, we are Eternal.  For us there is no death, and if there is no death, what more natural than that we should revisit those spheres and places where we have been before.  No Man stands greater in the sight of God than another; no one is more lowly.  God, the Eternal, the Unnamed One, the Master Force of Power within the Universe - He lives, has always lived and always will in all of you.  So, my friends, accept that this life is Eternal, the life that is of the Spirit, and that this life you live is but a little part so soon begun, so soon ended.  Just another experience to keep within the book of memory that is your Mind.

God bless you all.

Paddina Cole. 1915-2003