The published records of independent research, conducted by scores of truth-seeking men and women, in the past fifty years, have corroborated statements made in the various Theosophical teachings, to the effect that Reincarnation was a universal teaching in ancient times — not purposely studied by these ancients as a specific doctrine so much as taken for granted in their lives as a fact of such undoubted verity as to be unquestioned.
We, of the Western world, particularly of the various Christian sects, have a habit of dating religious thought and religious truths from the birth of the man called Jesus. What we forget to take into consideration is the fact that the teachings credited to Jesus, as presented to us in this day and age, have come from somewhere to Jesus, and have been colored by the attempts at interpretation made by the Christian Fathers, culminating about the sixth century, a.d. in the suppression and destruction of all recorded writings which did not agree with the ideas of these same Fathers and in vogue at that time. Reincarnation, as a doctrine, held too much dynamite, capable of developing individual powers of thought among the masses, and for that reason it was one of the teachings suppressed by the priesthood of that day. This suppression was so thorough that since that time there has been only slight record of its truths having been given out, and then only among isolated groups, mostly groups which taught the Mysteries.
If we go back beyond the teachings of Jesus, into the earliest days of recorded history, and work from there forward to the present day, we will find a long and impressive list of groups and tribes and nations to whom Reincarnation, in some form or other, was very well known, and was a part of the thought life of those days. Of the very earliest recorded history not a great deal can be authenticated and verified, since their recorded works were written down in the form of hieroglyphs and symbols, which depend for their interpretation now on the degree of wisdom attained by the scholars attempting to interpret. However, many of the symbols employed in the Aztec and Mayan records, in the records of Totems in the far North, among the many tribes of Africa and the South Seas, bear a general resemblance to each other and to the recorded hieroglyphs left by all races and prior civilizations of untold antiquity; so that it can be concluded that they, all, knew approximately the same teachings as the later Egyptians, Indians and Persians left on record.
Another very potent source of verification of the truth of this claim is the myths and folk stories handed down from generation to generation in all parts of the world by all races and tribes of man. All of them incorporate tales of the heaven worlds and after-death states, of giants and gods, of great world-floods; all of them teach a future life in some form or other, and many of them teach future lives of approximately human types.
From the Egyptians we developed our present practice of embalming our dead, and the success with which the human body was preserved in a state of perfection by these same Egyptians is a constant source of mystification to even those scientists who make a study of the mummies. There can be very little doubt but that the practice of mummifying their dead grew out of a teaching that the man would eventually return to earth, and a desire to keep their own life atoms intact and inviolate for their own use on return. Their hieroglyphs show the winged soul, the judgment, the resurrection, the body lying in state in its tomb — all teachings which go to make up our present religious training; yet they preserved this same body in a mummified state, an operation which would seem to have no sensible explanation unless they took for granted the necessity of returning to earth in another time and age, for another life here.
As hinted at before, the teachings presented by Jesus must have come from somewhere, and a study of the sources from which he is alleged to have received his training reveals the Mystery Schools of Egypt, India, China and Persia. Reincarnation was a definite although Esoteric teaching in all these source-Schools, as is witnessed by writings left by others who trained in one or the other of these Mystery Schools. In some of Jesus's words, as handed down to us, there is definite understanding of Reincarnation hinted at, as, for instance, "Who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"; "If ye will receive it, this is Elias. . . ."; "In my father's house are many mansions. . . ."; "And of some, that Elias had appeared; and of others, that one of the old prophets was risen again."
Contemporary with the Egyptian were the Tibetan teachings, the Chinese, the Persian, the Hindu, in all of which Reincarnation, Metempsychosis, or some other form of Reimbodiment was openly taught, and left to us as a golden thread in their poetry and other writings. The Jews, in the Qabbalah, the ancient Greeks and Romans, through Orpheus, Pythagoras, Empedocles, Plato, Ennius, Apollonius of Tyana, Seneca, a long, long list of impressive mental, psychological and spiritual giants, all have left impress on our present literature, and all have sung, in one form or other, of the indestructibility of the human soul and its life beyond the seventy years allotted to man. Many have spoken openly of reimbodiment; many have hidden its theme in allegory and myth, depending on how safely they could teach truth, openly. Philo, the Neo-Platonist, and Josephus, the historian, are two Jewish names which occur as knowing and definitely teaching a form of reimbodiment to their followers.
In the early Christian Church there were Bishop Synesius, Origen, Clement, all of Alexandria, who accepted and taught reimbodiment, in some form. There were isolated groups of mystical bent, about the 12th and 13th Centuries, who taught it — hidden from general knowledge, because by that time the acts of the Church Council, suppressing certain of the teachings of the Gnostic philosophy and Mithraic Mysteries, had become so drastic that death was one of the kindlier punishments for open teaching. Among these isolated groups were the Manicheans, a mystical sect of Hither Asia, the Albigenses, of Languedoc, and other smaller and less known groups.
Truly, all recorded religious and philosophical writings have had Reimbodiment, and an unlimited future as an inheritance of man, to be studied, investigated, and made a part of the individual's thought-life when so desired.
The Theosophical ForumTHEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE