Arguments on reincarnation


THEOSOPHY, Vol. 33, No. 11, September, 1945
(Pages 426-427; Size: 7K)
(Number 6 of a 14-part series)
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THE active opponents of reincarnation divide into two classes: materialists who deny the existence of a surviving principle at all, and religionists for whom it is contrary to their tenets. With the latter we do not choose to debate; these arguments are based on ascertainable facts and upon logic, while religion is based primarily on faith, which is not a debatable matter to those who have it. We leave to them and their various sects the solution to their own satisfaction of the numerous puzzles to which they are heir.

But we say to the skeptic that there is a world of difference between regarding an answer as "not proven," and definitely denying its possibility -- especially without hearing all that the other side has to say. The dogmatic denial is merely religious fanaticism in reverse. In view of the evidence heretofore given, the skeptic can legitimately hold that the case for a "soul" may not be "proven" as far as he is concerned; but one who denies the possibility is merely exhibiting blind unbelief. If, then, "soul" is to be admitted as a possibility in nature, the reincarnation theory is thrown wide open so far as the logician is concerned. He cannot accept creation of a sudden out of nothing; and if not this, then "soul" must have come about in the same way that everything else in the Universe has come about -- by evolution of some kind.

Anything which exhibits characteristics of whatever sort in the present moment, must necessarily have acquired them in a previous state. Nothing can be clearer than that. Nor can that which is now able to operate an organism have acquired the power to operate it in anything but a graded series of other organisms. Anything else violates the whole law of evolution.

Also, as the powers of mind are infinitely more complex than the powers of body, the anatomy of mind -- or "soul" -- must be correspondingly more complex, and the various forms of power which it possesses must have all come about by evolution along varied lines. The points thus far established are:

(a) In the light of present knowledge, there is unlimited room for the postulate of an invisible operative power behind the physical body.

(b) There are strong indications that such power exists.

(c) There are no indications that it does not exist.

(d) Since it influences matter, it has some of the qualities of substance.

(e) If it exists, it must have acquired its functions through evolution.

(f) Each different function must have been acquired through appropriate exercise.

(g) The power postulated must have a definite organism.

(h) The power to operate a physical organism necessarily had to be acquired in other such organisms -- logically graded from the simplest to the most complex. Matter suddenly leaping from stone to man, and forming at once the brain of an Einstein, is an absurdity, a miracle. Substance which has once been matter, working its way slowly from stone to man, and acquiring intelligence on the way, is strictly logical and in accordance with everything we know of nature. Who once admits the possibility, therefore, of "soul" -- an invisible operative power -- is also admitting the possibility of its assuming connection with substance and matter in successive bodies -- or reincarnation. He can escape from it only on one religious hypothesis or other; such hypotheses we are not debating, as our only important opponents in this argument are not religious.

As a matter of fact, many perfectly competent scientists -- one book gives the expressions of fourteen of them on the subject -- admit religious convictions of one kind or another; a design and intelligence in nature.

Those who are fond of stigmatizing reincarnation as a superstitious relic of the childhood of the race must, to be logical, place all religion under the same heading, because all religion depends upon a surviving principle in man. But if we, with the majority of respectable mankind, are to admit truth in religion, and if with science we also admit truth in evolution, the sum of the two spells reincarnation as absolutely as two plus two make four.

If soul exists, and if all things come about by evolution, then it is unavoidably the fact that the qualities of soul had to come about also by gradual development. And there is no field for such evolution except that afforded by reincarnation, a progress from simple to complex experiences in organisms also running from the simple to the complex. It is impossible to accept both religion and science without accepting reincarnation. But it is possible for one to stop thinking before he is forced to that conclusion, and that is what most people do. Only reincarnationists can profit fully by the underlying truths of both science and religion; others have to reject one or the other, or keep them in separate mental compartments.