Arguments on reincarnation

THEOSOPHY, Vol. 33, No.
6, April, 1945
(Pages 212-214; Size: 7K)
(Number 1 of a 14-part series)
Theosophy Magazine site (

[Experience has shown that the most direct point of contact between Theosophy and the public mind is the subject of reincarnation; and that in this connection a limited number of definite questions arise.
The following series of "Arguments on Reincarnation" is designed to be as complete a treatment as is possible within space limits, of the questions which experience has shown to be most frequent.

In one sense it is a "popular" treatment; in another sense, nothing requiring serious and profound study will ever be "popular." Like all knowledge worth while, any knowledge derived from this series will have to be worked for. -- Editors THEOSOPHY]

I: The Single Source

IT IS a very shallow knowledge that can be grasped in a few words or a few books. The beginning of a study may not seem pertinent to a tyro, just as a boy learning 2x2 cannot see how his future capacity to build a bridge will depend upon these preliminaries. Thus to those ignorant of reincarnation the first argument may not seem connected, though it is essential:
(a) If reincarnation is a fact, then it is a fact under natural law, and its own laws have to be in accordance with all other natural laws.

(b) The instinct for a single source of all manifested existence is powerful both in the breast of scientist and philosopher; in a less intellectual form, in the religionist as well.

(c) That the instinct is well founded is evidenced by the law of evolution, now admitted to apply to inorganic as well as organic forms.

(d) Tracing back any line of evolution, taking apart in successive steps any form of existence, leads, first, toward community of origin; second, toward simplicity of form as opposed to growing diversity and growing complexity in the other direction. The lines of evolution projected backwards hypothetically locate a point of common origin, and hence of course a universal law behind evolution, in which the processes of reincarnation must be found, if they exist.

If this law is indeed universal, then we must come to the widely accepted scientific doctrine of Monism; i.e., the doctrine that matter and consciousness, substance and the states summed up under thought, will and feeling, are not separate, but are manifestations of the basic mode of existence, the objective and subjective sides of substance. "Spirit" and "Matter" are simply opposite phases of one single root; we vainly endeavor to separate them. What is overlooked by materialism is the very obvious fact in nature that "substance" of one kind or another exists in forms not yet analyzable by the microscope or test-tube; known as yet only by effects in the material world.

To understand reincarnation, the above must first be grasped.

The source of things can be neither matter nor consciousness as we understand them. In our ordinary experience both continue seemingly different. It is instead THAT (to use the translation of the Sanscrit term) which differs as much from both matter and consciousness -- themselves known only by contrast with each other -- as oxygen and hydrogen differ from the water which they form when in complete union.

To be traced back to such a source, matter and consciousness have, therefore, to be analyzed into far simpler and more primitive forms.

Matter has been analyzed successively into molecule, atom, electron, proton, neutron and others; but no scientist concludes that the ultimate particle of matter has necessarily been discovered. Moreover, with the increasing simplification of matter, there has been a continuous approach to its unity with other forms of existence.

The dividing line between electricity and substance is nebulous; it shifts constantly back and forth in the scientific books, and no conclusion is yet reached as to whether the quantum is matter or energy; or, for that matter, which the proton is. What has been concluded (by Einstein and his followers) is that some matter is converted into energy by every chemical reaction, in the proportion of about one part in six billion. In the stars it is suspected that the transformation is great. Necessarily it follows that energy under some conditions is convertible into matter. This is now generally accepted.

Dr. Albert Mathews contends -- with mathematical demonstrations -- that matter is in fact imprisoned or crystallized light; a very old doctrine locked up with the doctrine of reincarnation, although Dr. Mathews does not know that.

On the other hand, Einstein has brought magnetism and gravitation under one formula in his "unified field theory"; has converted space into time, and in turn converted spacetime into a form of energy; i.e., gravitation.

Thus at the hands of various scientists we have a unification, a mutual convertibility, of energy, matter, space, and time; that is to say, the entirety of physical existence is a unity variously manifesting under different powers. What is so far left out? Thought, Will, and Feeling. Are these in turn mutually convertible, with the above modes of existence? We shall see.