Copyright © 1996 by Theosophical University Press. All rights reserved.
I know I am deathless.
I know this orbit of mine cannot be swept by a carpenter's compass, . . .
And whether I come to my own today or in ten thousand or ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait. . . .
And as to you Life I reckon you are the leavings of many deaths,
(No doubt I have died myself ten thousand times before).
Births have brought us richness and variety,
And other births have brought us richness and variety. — Walt Whitman
There is something higher than reason. There is a conviction that will come to the soul of every man, if he seeks the light, through his intuitive knowledge of the great spiritual truths — a conviction based on the eternal verities, something that will never leave him, something that will never desert him. No matter how poor he may be, no matter how much he may have suffered or what he may have to endure, this conviction will stay with him all along life's journey to illuminate his path for greater effort towards spiritual progress.
Man is essentially immortal; for though he lives in this world and adapts himself as best he can to the outward conditions of life, yet there is within him a great inspirational breathing force which comes from the central source of life. No limitations, no yardstick ideas or intellectual criticisms, can touch it. It is the love of the Supreme — that great, royal compassion which we know so little about — that we need. And more than this, it is the breathing essence of life.
When the body is tired and one has to lay it aside, that spiritual breathing life ceases in the body. And then according to the accepted standards of modern times, death follows. But it is only the mortal body that dies, the tabernacle in which the soul lived. But that eternal, living, breathing, spiritual force out of the Supreme, out of the ages, lives on and on, carries the divine soul, the ego, through different schools of experience in different earth-lives to higher states of consciousness and service.
Reincarnation is the key to new hopes and new ideas of life. It is the brain-mind, the merely lower intellectual part of us, that holds us down in ignorance. We have fettered ourselves, we have bound ourselves, we have shut ourselves in. We are in the clouds of thought, we are in the shadows of doubt; we have not the great vision that we should have — the highest expression of life — consequently human life is distressingly disappointing.
Reincarnation gives a true view of the greatness of human life. We go to school in different earth-lives — indeed, we are still children, and some of us are very blind and very stupid. Some of us may be endowed with intellectual attributes and scholarship of a high order, we may stand out before the world as literary lights, or we may shine in the scientific world. But what do these things alone count for in the evolution of the soul?
Yet of course right education means growth. If one is rightly educated, his mind becomes more receptive. He has a different view of life. His whole nature goes through processes of refinement and growth. But these are so temporary unless there is something deeper and more permanent behind them, above them, and in them, of a spiritual quality. There must be this knowledge of human life, of eternal life — this knowledge that every man has within himself a ray of that great compassionate and infinite love centered in the Supreme, no matter how unrecognized it may be. None are forgotten; all are within the fold.
We are here to grow and live and work in consonance with the infinite laws. But if we know not these laws, we live in ignorance. No matter what we may think or how we plan or how much we may aspire or how great our ideals, we cannot change these infinite laws. A man may die tomorrow believing in just one life, he may have led a conscientious life as far as he knew, but when he awakens in the new life, finding himself released from the worn-out body in which he was held for necessary experience, he will know that he is out in the great broad vision of endless life.
In the divine economy, at some time between living in the body and the spiritual man moving on to this other new and higher life, our souls shall have a larger growth in a state that is similar to the condition we are in when we go to sleep at night — just as the flowers and the trees bloom at one season of the year and then at another they too go to sleep, and then in the springtime they come forth again. The same essence is there all the time, but not the same aspect. And so it is with the soul of man. It springs up and goes out and then finds its place in consonance with the infinite law, for all is harmony on the inner or spiritual plane. And it gravitates not through ordinary will power, not through desire, but according to the mercy and justice of the divine law.
No one is ever lost. This is the mantram that is with me, sounding in my ears all the time, when I talk to the prisoner in jail or in the penitentiary, when I meet the unfortunate woman on the street, the drunkard, and all those who are discouraged and tending to despair. This is the beautiful message that theosophy brings to them: another chance, another chance! For all men are of God's great family. They may have erred, but they are still protected by the infinite laws. There is always another chance of moving towards the true, clean, and trusting life — in conceiving or insouling a promise of better things until the better things come — until finally man has earned the right to happiness, even though obliged to work hard in the objective world.
One may falter today, one may fail, but tomorrow there is another chance. Again one may falter, but there is still another chance. The higher law is like a great loving mother-heart. Remember, a mother is never discouraged with the weaknesses of her own. She is forgiving and loving and serving. Now if a human mother or a human father is so, can we not conceive it possible that our Eternal Father has within its compassionate, loving law something more than this one pitiful, discouraging life for man on earth?
There is a potency in human life for good and for evil. The potency for good belongs to the divine ego, to the divine soul, the eternal man. The other belongs to the physical, to the vehicle, with its passions, weaknesses, greeds, and vices. These things die when the body dies, and the divine soul arises and, in the language of the Christian Bible, "goes to its Father" — in the truest sense to the environment, the atmosphere, and the touch of divine love. Oh the glory and the joy of this view of death to everyone who feels that he has lost his dear ones! Death of the body is rebirth to the divine soul. When the soul leaves the body, it is only the physical body that dies. Then the glory and justice of the higher law — the eternal truths — is manifest.
Here is one of the best illustrations of the teachings of reincarnation that I have ever found. Let us take the great oak tree. We see it growing. It comes out with its glorious foliage in the springtime, and in the winter season it rests. It is a masterly sort of thing, grand, inspiring. It carries the marks of all the years that it has grown. But every season it goes through a change, a reincarnation, so to speak. It has apparently the same foliage as it had the previous year — the same form; but it is not the same, though the essence, the root of the tree is the same. The essence works its growth in its silent and majestic way — sleeping, waking, sleeping, waking. So does the higher soul of man.
Study all the wonderful aspects of nature: study the great ocean with its limitless power, study the tiniest flowers that come up in the spring to greet us in their simplicity, exquisite beauty, fragrance, and inner life. What a mystery! Can we not find in nature the heart of the wondrous mysteries of life?
The great, superb, majestic law of the universe and of many universes has furnished the message; and if there were no lips to speak, if we all could not utter a word, the helpful lessons for the larger view of spiritual life could be found in silent nature.
How are we ever to go out onto the great broad pathway of life in hope and optimism when we do not understand ourselves — who we are, whence we came, or whither we go? Think of the man or woman who today loves and feels the divine touch in everything that is beautiful, who can write, who can teach, who can sing and bring out these things, and yet who may, during the dark half of the life, spend hours and days with the lowest thoughts, the most merciless and cruel expressions of the lower nature. It is the contradictions in human nature that must teach us. We must study them, we must think more of them; and the more we think, the clearer we shall see and understand and gain the knowledge needed. And the broader the picture, the greater will be our conviction.
We must grow as the flowers grow — not attempt to reach the top of the mountains in one lifetime. Step by step we climb: this is an old occult law. The ancient teachers taught it, and the people of ancient days believed and applied it. It is full of meaning. Step by step we climb to a grander vision of life and to a nobler service. As soon as the veil is lifted and the light shines through and we can see our way, if only for a day, let us follow the path of knowledge. Let us push on! Let us have confidence in ourselves, in our higher selves, in our immortal selves. Let us realize that there is a warrior within us, a presence, an indescribable something, though not seen by us in the ordinary sense; it is the presence of the divine soul within man, which exists. It speaks through the conscience and through the heart.
The greatness and the mystery of life come to us so clearly and convincingly when we study the great mystery of impersonal love. Think how many definitions there are of it. Think how the word love is misused, how it is dragged into court and into so-called marriage. But when we do realize just what it is, we who have loved, can we explain it? Where does it come from? Is it possible for man to measure it with his intellectual yardsticks? No! But in the depth of his nature, in the chamber of his soul, he feels it and he knows it. It is there but one cannot describe it.
That love is the voice of God speaking through man's higher nature. That is the immortal self. Man may err in his application of it, but the real man — all that is imperishable and eternal — belongs to the higher nature. It is not to be found on the shelf of one's library or in one's memory crammed with mere scholarship; one has not to pay a fortune to get it. All one must do is to challenge himself and find it — this superb mystery of man's divine nature!
Love is eternal: the essence of love and truth lives on and on and perpetuates itself in human life, as it lives in the trees and in every living thing. We cannot limit it. The divine soul of man lives on and on; so does true love. Anything that was true in the lives of those who have gone before, anything that was noble and uplifting, that held them to us, still lives, because it was the divine soul-attributes that made the permanent beauty and charm of their character. And although we may not hear their voices, though we may not see them, yet they themselves live.
The moment I reach out for them to comfort me, I am selfish. But sometimes, out in glorious and beautiful nature, it seems to me that the flowers talk to me and yield their secrets. And I say to myself, if these flowers can come again each year, the real essential life the same as last year, if I will open my heart and mind and believe that I am a part of the eternal life, all that belongs to me is mine forever!
This may not satisfy the reason, but it is above reason. Mere cold reasoning has its place, but it belongs only to the earth-life — to the objective life. But this conviction comes, and we find consolation in it after the loved ones have passed on. We ourselves carry something away with us so that we can meet the future with a consciousness of our ability to understand at least something of the infinite laws even in one lifetime. Their absence hurts, and it must hurt very much where one feels the limitation of just the one life; but one who has the broader vision and believes in another life and another life for humanity, knows that there is no break in the eternity of things since love is eternal. There is a grandeur and a unity and a sublime peace in touch with these greater thoughts.
So why should we despair? Why can we not take up life even more conscientiously than ever before? Why can we not fall back on our higher consciousness? Let us feel the force of it, let us apply it to the smallest as well as to the largest duty; and let us recognize this wonderful surging power of divine life. Let us look upon death as the releasing of the soul from the worn-out body that it may rest and then find new life, new hope, and larger experiences in other earth-lives.
No matter how one thinks or what one believes, the truth will always be the truth. And that which is freed from the mortal body, the great living power, the higher ego, the higher soul, that which receives its benediction through the spiritual force of the eternal divine laws, that stays, that works, that is yours and that is mine forever.
To have an open mind is the first requisite for the earnest inquirer after spiritual knowledge and happiness — to be ready to receive something more than one has had before and to realize that in order to reach the depths of one's own nature and to find there the answers to some of the many perplexing questions one meets every day, one must have more knowledge, and if he cannot have full knowledge, a belief that there is more and higher knowledge for man. And when one reaches that point, he becomes quite receptive to any teachings that have truth in them.
I think it was Gladstone who said that to make great discoveries in truth, one must have authority and inquiry — and the spirit of inquiry must be very deep. But of course in things spiritual as in the material sciences, one has to be very careful what he accepts as authority. For instance, the scientists, those who seek to bring to the recognition of people only the materialistic phase of their discoveries or their researches, have left out the keynote. True scientists must be imbued with the real spirit of inquiry, which means not merely an intellectual effort, but a religious longing for the truth and a determination to branch out, to step forward, and to have the courage to declare their experiences and their knowledge in the face of all opposition.
Think how differently we should look at life if we unburdened our minds, set aside all the preconceived notions that are fluttering around in the hall of memory which should have no place there, for there is no real authority for them. Sometimes they are the mere whims of the one whom they control, sometimes they are the psychological influences of another mind, sometimes they come from the books we read, sometimes from the environment we live in, sometimes again there is a touch of heredity that brings the shadows into life.
So the human mind must find independence, and it cannot find it in the truest sense until it finds itself. And how is it going to find itself until it has clearly defined the meaning of life, why we are here, whence we came, and whither we go? All the best thoughts that we cling to and love will grow in the sunshine of this knowledge. When we can meet life understandingly, with a courage born of the divine nature, then we can understand death — and rebirth, which is the real meaning of death.
Every day the newspapers are full of the descriptions of vices and crimes and horrors of human life. The causes of these things are an enigma to nearly everybody. Of course the church will tell you that it was the work of the devil. But don't you believe it! Let me assure you that one of the greatest keys to the solution of life's problems is the fact that man is dual in nature. Take this idea home with you and apply it to your daily life. If there is anything in your life that is undoing you, so that you are losing faith in yourself and your fellowmen, study the duality of your own nature. Find out your weaknesses and then challenge the better side of yourself. If you have anyone in your family who is disappointing you and your heart is aching to see that one make a change for the better, study the duality of man.
The fact of the duality of human nature enters into every department of life. Nine-tenths of the people in the insane asylums today would never have been there and would have been in the state of normal human beings if they had understood from childhood the duality of their own natures, or if those who cared for them had understood it. I believe that our prisons would hold but few if the inmates had been taught from childhood the duality of human nature. And those in the insane asylums and in the prisons whom I do not include are marked by heredity. Instead of being confined and restrained as they are in the asylums and the prisons, they should have had in the very beginning of their deterioration all that nature will give to bring home to them the realization of their condition, that they may understandingly overcome.
Our dear ones who have become so abnormal that they seem unsafe, who have lost their balance or their control, would come back to a normal state, because that which sets the mind wrong is the lower nature. It is that which puts the boy to making the very first mistake in his life — perhaps only stealing a few pennies, after a while an automobile, then robbing, then killing — and then we allow him to be hanged!
We have within ourselves the consciousness of our essential divinity and of the power that will set in motion self-directed evolution. Then with the mind clear of the preconceptions, prejudices, dislikes, opinions, and fugitive ideas, and all the useless mental luggage that burdens the brain of man, we would have man at twenty and forty and sixty as pure and clean as when he was born because he would be living in the light of his own divine nature. He will find the balance that will come to him from this — the power to dethrone the weak, undeveloped, animal, selfish, and earthly part of his nature. We must remember that the only devil that there is in existence is the undeveloped animal in man — not outside of him.
There is no need to carry burdens through life. If one has a worry, let him put it aside. Let him make a mental picture of success and win out! How? By doing the duty at hand, doing the right thing at the right time. And if success cannot be reached in a day or even a month or a year, suffer if necessary, for you will ultimately find the key. No matter how many times one may falter or fail, we can stand up again and push on. If the motive is pure, if his brain is free from the limitations and fears and dreads, prejudices and hatreds, one can work on and on with confidence of another chance and another chance along the path of self-directed evolution. The karmic law will become your teacher, sometimes through suffering and the past mistakes of ignorance. So we leave all humanity in the hands of the higher law but work constantly, as far as our knowledge will permit us, to give people a picture of true life to live by.
One cannot take up any subject in earnest until he puts his mental house in order, bringing to the front only the best and ignoring the weaknesses of his nature, dethroning all those limitations that make man appear small and puny and wrong. One begins to die before he has really begun to live under the ordinary regime, with his lack of knowledge, with no spirit of inquiry, with no desire to make the world better, with no wish to find the great secrets of life that he may do justice to himself and to his God. As soon as one reaches the consciousness of being an individual human being, then comes responsibility, whether he realizes it or not. And if one goes through life carrying the burdens of unnecessary mental luggage and limited ideas of life and its purposes, he is only half living — perhaps less than that. Yet many hold that this is the design of God!
Having learned how to live at least to a degree in this one life, realizing that however much knowledge we may have gained, it is little in comparison with what is to come, and believing in evolution and in the essential divinity of man, we can at least acquire in one life ideas that give us hope of eternal progress in successive incarnations. Reincarnation and karma fit together rather admirably to help us, to give us optimism and hope, and they explain so many of the apparent injustices of life. When death comes, it really means only the death of the body in which the soul has lived. For the interior man it is merely a change, for the soul of man is immortal. It is reborn.
If we understood life as we should, even in this short school time in the primary class of life, we would understand something about our physical natures. We would have the knowledge to keep ourselves adjusted and to put us in harmony with the divine law, for no man can be truly happy who is ill. Why are so many people unhealthy? Sometimes heredity is the cause, often it is ignorance, carelessness, and indifference.
What a preparation it would be during the life to believe in these eternal verities, the soul and mind filled with a sense of absolute justice — no sadness, no regrets at thought of death, only the joy and the promise of another life and release for the soul. Of course the body should be precious to us, because it housed the soul, but it will go back to the earth just as it is said in the Bible.
It is most comforting to believe that often when we see the one who is to pass away apparently in agonies and pain, the soul — the immortal part — has already passed on and, sad as it is, it is only the body that is struggling and suffering, and the agony and the pain that we see are not felt by the one we love. Then comes the idea, where does the soul go? The soul moves on in the power of its own inner divinity, working in consonance with these divine laws which we cannot yet explain in full; and it goes to what we might call rest for a time.
Real love is immortal; and if the love of those who are left behind is the love of unselfishness and devotion, there is no separation in the deeper sense. We are much closer than we realize to the unseen forces that make up the soul-life after the release of the soul from the body. There is no separation save that of the physical body and the breaking up of the associations that were dear to us. We should be so unselfish, so desirous of sending the soul out into the spiritual life in the right way, that only hope and trust and knowledge and immortal love will go with it and sustain it.
Let us picture the soul coming back to reincarnate on earth. We cannot with our puny minds try to fasten that soul to a position where we wish to have it. It is unjust to do this. So we must be prepared to accept that this soul will return to the place and to the associations where it will best evolve in the next life — where it can work out the heart-yearnings that were not met in a former life. Just because we cannot see these processes, we cannot say that they do not exist.
The best simile that I have for this process is in the process of gestation in the inner nature of the child that is preparing to be born. No one can explain what takes place in the deeper sense — that is a great mystery. And so are life and death the great mysteries until we find our way spiritually to a higher discernment. Until we put ourselves in harmony with the divine laws, we cannot understand them. We must put the contents of our puny minds aside; we must place reason where it should be and intuition where it should be; we must set aside our limitations, our ignorance, our prejudices, and everything that clogs the mind, that we may truly live.
In life and in death we are as one, except that the change which the world calls death, and which is really rebirth, is a higher state in evolution than the state of the former earth-life. This doctrine is very comforting. If the trees and the flowers, which have not the consciousness that man has, can become and advance and grow under the changes of the seasons, don't you believe that the divine laws in their potency are sufficiently helpful to give man his opportunity also? Let us remember that if we are to know the truth we must seek it; and if we are to gain the knowledge for our souls' advancement, we must earn it; and if we are to prove the truth of theosophy, we must find it and live it.
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