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REINCARNATION

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Are reincarnation and transmigration the same? Does reincarnation necessarily assume rebirth in a lower form? How dd the concept of reincarnation originate? What did the ancient Egyptians and Greeks believe about rebirth? Are there any proofs? Has there been any scientific investigation of the claims of reincarnated souls?

ESOTERIC ESSAYS consist of a simple presentation of particularly interesting subjects in the realm of metaphysics and mysticism. The essence of these age-old subjects is introduced for brevity, and yet they are prepared in a manner which, it is hoped, will stimulate the reader to a more extensive inquiry and study of such channels of knowledge.

Issued by Permission of the Department of Publications Supreme Grand Lodge A.M.O.R.C.


Copyright 1968 By Supreme Grand Lodge of A.M.O.R.C.

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REINCARNATION Fact or Fancy

throughout the world cherish a belief rebirth. This conception in its variations is perhaps one of the most universally held religious doctrines. It is undoubtedly as ancient as the belief in immortality. Certain religious sects demean reincarnation because it is not compatible with their own exegetical interpretation, or beca use it is condemned by their theologians.

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Yet reincarnation has postulations equally as plausible as other beliefs in the afterlife. Most religious doctrines are founded upon faith and personal experience. They are not in the same category as the empiricallaws of science, which are demonstrable. Consequently, two doctrines, even though diametrically opposed, may have equal claim upon the beliefs of men if each is to be accepted on faith alone and not upon objective evidence. The continuation of life after death has intrigued the imagination since the earliest known records. It has been the dominant mystery of life which has challenged the human mind. The instinctive impulse to survive has caused both afear of death and a hope of immortality. The early conception of the duality of man-the association of air and breath with an intangible spiritsuggested that an element of man survives the apparent 1

destruction of rus body. But where and how would this incorporeal, invisible entity of the duality of man survive, since the animating force related to breath departed with death? There was no evidence that it was destroyed, however. It was simple for the primitive mind to believe that perhaps this immanent entity soared on invisible wings like a bird to another realm high above the clouds. Or perhaps it entered a nether world beneath earth as the sun seemed to do each day in the west. What constituted this other IHe after death? What the experiences were assumed to be varied with the culture of different civilizations. Sorne adherents presumed the next life to be a virtual paradise as do some religious devotees today. Man's entrance into this paradise, of course, was to be determined by whether or not he had observed a certain moral code on earth. Most such beliefs required that the soul be first judged for its conduct. This paradise was usual!y a place of ecstatic pleasures similar to those on earth but more intense and within the moral restrictions of the religious sect. The tedious and mean labor and suffering of earth were excluded from this other world paradise. Conversely the sinner was condemned to a region where al! the tortures which the human mind could imagine would be imposed upon him. In the Koran, the devout Moslem was promised in the afterlife a world where he might recline on a silken couch and be surrounded by surpassingly beautful maidens whose eyes were like "hidden pearls." Though the Moslem was forbidden stimulating drinks in this mortal IHe, in this afterlife he was to have wines that 2

would neither cause his head to ache nor confuse his mind. Along with the conception of the continuation of life after death was the belief in rebirth in some form on earth. How this notion aros e among primitive people, even anthropologists, ethnologists, and philosophers can only speculate. In plant life, there is every indication of ressurection or rebirth. Perhaps man, too, is reborn to live again among mortals in some other living formo At least, nature would seem to suggest it. Psychologically, the desire to live again among one's friends and family and continue the familiar ways of life one has enjoyed would certainly have as strong an appeal as a promise of life in another world which has never been experienced personally. A cursory examination of the history of this subject reveals that the belief in reembodiment again on earth has been accepted by millions for centuries. Today, the words reincarnation, transmigration, and metamorphosis are commonly and erroneously interchanged. There is, in fact, quite a technical difference between their meanings. The doctrines of transmigration suppose the possibility of the soul of man, after death, entering a plant, a bird, a reptile, or a bull, in fact, anything that is animate. Transmigration Wherever it has been a religious doctrine, transmigration has been governed by certain assumed supernatural laws; the form in which the soul incarnated being dependent upon its personal development, and the 3

experience to be gained dependent upon the form in which it is placed or the punishments imposed upon it. Usually, transmigration into an animal has been accepted as an act of regression. Primitive peoples are keen observers of animal life and behavior and see a certain similarity between the characteristics of animals and the behavior of humans. There was a bond or relationship between animals and the human personality. Consequently, such people assume a particular species of living things possesses souls of humans that have passed into them at death. Theoretically, Buddhism teaches neither the existence of reincarnation nor, in fact, the soul of mano However, it does refer to a "stream of existence." There can be a continual renewal of births. This "turning of the wheel," or rebirth, is dependent upon man's deeds on earth. Rebirth is a retributive act of karma, the consequence of certain human deeds. Therefore in effect, Buddhism conforms to the doctrine of reincarnation. Some Buddhist literature indicates that certain persons remember their former lives. Buddha, it is related, said that this recalling was one of the supernormal attainments of Buddhist sainthood. The ancient Celts had a defmite belief in reincarnation, but not transmigration in the true meaning of that word. The soul after death was thought to await its reincarnation, continuing to live but in a manner unlike that on earth. Then the soul passed into another human body. The Druids so firmly believed that man reincarnated in human form that their burial rites required that they burn and bury with the dead the things that the deceased could use in this new life. 4

There is a Jewish esoteric mysticism that includes references that can be construed as pertaining to reincarnation. It is believed these ideas are syncretic or borrowed from early Egyptian and Indian teachings. In this system, God does not create new souls. He ceased creation at the end of the sixth day. Souls of the dead after being in paradise return again to the lower world. However, there would appear to be, in addition, a reservoir of unborn souls. This paradise is a kind of world in which there is a realization of the glory of the Divine. There the souls of the dead rema in with the souls who are created but have not yet been born. Herodotus says that the Greeks (Pythagoras, for example) gained their ideas of reincarnation and transmigration from the Egyptians. The Orphic school of Greece taught that the soul is imprisoned in the body as in a dungeon. It continues to return to earthly imprisonment until it finally attains perfection. Plato in his dialogues makes reference to this notion. Myth of Persephone The myth of Persephone, the daughter of Demeter, related that she sent souls back to earth from the underworld when they were purfied. Afterthree such incarnations, they continued an immortal existence "in the island of the blest." Heraclides Ponticus says that Pythagoras retained the memory of his previous incarnations. On his visit to the Heraeum at Argolis he indentified as his own the shield of Euphorbus before seeing the inscription upon it, implying that he had been Euphorbus, who was killed at Troy. 5

Pythagoras also apparently believed in transmigration. Once he took pity on a dog being beaten. He said, "Beat him no more; for his soul is my friend's, as 1 recognized when 1 heard his voice." Plato proclaims that those who fail to emancipate themselves from the burden of corporeal things cannot rise to the pure elements above but live in the underworld as apparitions. Later, their souls are again imprisoned in some formo Those who lack philosophical virtue but live respectable lives become bees or even men. Only those who devote themselves to philosophy and exalted reason-which in man is considered divineare entirely exempt from further incarnations.

Did Egyptians Believe Reincarnation?

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almost a11 peoples have had a belief in immortality, the earliest religious doctrine of the survival of life after death was fonnulated by the Egyptians. This religious belief in survival after death contributed greatly to the architecture, arts, and industries of the Egyptians. It inspired great tombs of a monumental nature, as the pyramids and the splendid mortuary temples such as that of Queen Hatshepsut. The tombs of the feudal nobles became depositories of artifacts, and the elabora te designs on their wa11s revealed the life and customs of that ancient periodo The building of the pyramids was an evolvement from the mastaba, or mud-brick, flat, oblong coverings over a
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shallow pit grave in which the body of the departed was placed. In the Egyptian religion the survival was not thought to be merely a shadowy kind of being. The body was reborn in physical substance. The soul reentered a resurrected body. The surviving personality retained all the sensations of its earthly existence provided it passed the judgment of the gods, the weighing of the soul or psychostasia. In such a sta te, the deceased experienced no adversity or suffering, but an intensification of the enjoyments of this IHe. The soul of man was depicted by the Egyptians as a human-headed bird called Ba. On tombs this bird was shown fluttering from the mouth at death. Ba, as a bird, was associated with breath and wind, a common association among ancient peoples. Accompanying Ba was the Ka, a miniature replica of the deceased. It is, however, generally conceded to be a symbol of the self, the inner being or conscience. It was thus distinguished from the soul. In the chapel adjoining the sepulchral chamber of the tomb, the family of the deceased would leave actual quantities of food, or symbols of it, for the departed. Likewise, in the tombs were placed the treasured possessions of the embalmed bady. The favorite weapons, musical instruments, furniture and even timepieces were placed therein. These were to be used in the physical sense by the deceased in his afterlife. The Egyptians had three ideas regarding the human personality after death. One was the mystical un ion with God; the second, transmigration into an animal; and third, metamorphosis, or the voluntary entering of 7

the soul into another formo In mystical union, the soul was returned to merge with God. This is an ancient expression of the highest form of mystical pantheism present in many esoteric teachings today. In the Book of the Dead there are such sta tements as "1 am Ra (a god)" or, "1 am Thoth." It was believed that when the soul had union with God it was complete apotheosis conferring on the soul adivine power equal to that of God. Egyptologists are in doubt as to what extent the Egyptians believed in transmigration. Some inscriptions seem to imply transmigration, yet there are examples of a metamorphosis. They apparently also believed that in anima te objects could be transformed into living ones, as the metamorphosis of a' wax model in to a crocodile. Prevailing religious conceptions during the long period of Egyptian civilization were both primitive and representative of advanced abstraction. If this practice seems elementary and primitive, we must realize that in civilized lands today many religionists have an idea of the afterlife approaching this notion. They may not place objects in the crypts for the dead to use in the next world, but they imagine that the deceased lives in a quite material realm doing and using things similar to those on earth. The other world, to the Egyptians, was where Osiris dwelt. Os iris, a highly venerated god, was murdered by his brother Seth. From this it is conceived the story of Cain and Abel originated. The body of Osiris was dismembered and cast into the Nile. His sister-wife lsis recovered the pieces of his body and put them together. He was resurrected and was then eternal in 8

the next world. This is the earliest evidence of the doctrine of resurrection. The whole tale of Os iris became a religio-drama of the mystery schools, the first passion play. This idea of resurrection greatly influenced all later concepts concerning it, including that of Christianity. The Book of the Dead states that, if the body decays, the soul may settle in one of the deceased's portrait statues. The soul was also thought to again enter the mummfied body in the tomb, returning from the other world for a brief sojourn. In the next world the personality would sit on the thrones "in the circumpolar region of the sky," where the "higher divinities dwell." The souls in the next world are also depicted as perching like birds "on branches of a celestial tree." The stars were thought to be the souls of the deceased perching on the tree of the heavens. Prayers in the Book of the Dead indica te that the deceased might leave the tomb not just by night, "when all spirits are free to haunt the earth," but by day in any form they choose. Forms in which the deceased could incarnate were animals, birds, and flowers. On many sarcophagi are painted small ladders in tended to help the soul ascend to heaven. Little faience ladders, blue or green in color, some not over two inches in length, were placed as symbols on the mummified figures. In the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, in Roscrucian Park, the collections of human mummies and sarcophagi include originals of these fascinating faience ladders.
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Among the funereal appurtenances were what are termed ushabtiu, or respondent gods. These are small figures representing the deceased who were in the next world and assuming for them all the unpleasant tasks which the deceased had to perform here. This, then, left the deceased free for the enjoyment of his exalted existence. A most interesting collecton of these is also to be seen in the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. One division of the next world, the "field of rushes," was a fertile area where agriculture was carried on with ease, resulting in tremendous crops. The Egyptians conceived the other world to be the habitat of those whose souls were weighed against the feather of Truth and found moralIy good. "The deceased is like the gods who abide there." Animals were worshipped as early as the beginning of the feudal period of Egypt, beca use they symbolized some virtue or power which men revered. In living creatures men saw objectified the qualities which they desired for themselves. Later, however, it was believed that these animals were "the abode of spirits of divine and other beings." The bull Apis was worshipped at Memphis. It was thought to be an incarnatiori of the god Osiris, and the second life of Ptah. We have noted that, according to Egyptian religion, the popular belief was that the dead could assume different shapes at will. This is the doctrine of transmigration often confused with reincarnation. Transmigration is the belief that the soul resides in animal form instead of passing only into ahuman shape. This must be distinguished from the later beliefs of the Vedic
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teachings of India. The soul, according to the Egyptian concept, was not made to reside in animal forms (as the Indians taught) to expiate its sins. It would seem that the Egyptians were intoxicated with a belief in the afterlife, and that their earthly existence was one of joyous anticipation of this next life. However, a spirit of skepticism and pessimism entered a period of their history. It is referred to as the "Era of Pessimism." The Egyptians beca me somewhat dubious of the claims of their priesthood. After all, there was no tangible evidence of the existence of an afterlife. In spite of this pessimism, the belief in transmigration and reincarnation prevailed. Herodotus, the Greek historian who spent some time in Egypt, says: "The Egyptians were the first who asserted that the soul of man is immortal, and that when the body perishes it enters into some other animal, constantly springing into existence; and when it has passed through the different kinds of terrestrial, marine, and aerial beings, it again enters into the body of aman that is born; and that this revolution is made in three thousand years." The soul was thought after death to incarnate upward in successive states through lower forms, eventually after three thousand years to again function in human formo There are other indications of a doctrine of reincarnation. The ritualistic names of the first two kings of the XIIth Dynasty seem to bear this out. Amonemhat I's name was "He who repeats birth." Senusert I's name was "He whose births live." The Ka name of Setekhy I of the XIXth Dynasty was "Repeater of births." The 11

XVIIlth Dynasty left records that indicate reincarnation includes lesser folk. Orthodox Christians often abhor the belief in reincarnation, either because of their unfamiliarity with the subject or because of religious dogma tic prejudice. They willfully or otherwise identify it with transmigration and metamorphosis. There are numerous references in the Bible, however, that can only be properly understood in terms of reincarnation. Such quotations are too numerous to consider here; however, in his excellent book Mansions of the Soul, a treatise on reincarnation, Dr. H. Spencer Lewis has cited many of them. T many intelligent persons, the doctrine of reincarnation seems to be more in accord with what they consider divine justice. To them, rebirth affords the opportunity for man properly to expiate his mistakesor sins, if you wish to call them that. To such thinkers, reincarnation is a compassionate principle which allows man more than just one short span of mortal life in which to learn how to achieve a harmony with cosmic and divine laws. It is con tended that, if spiritual truths are more profound and more vital than mortal knowledge, souls should be allowed a greater span for learning than that provided the mortal mind. Certainly a belief in reincarnation cannot detract from the development of the moral sense or an appreciation of spiritual values; nor does it lessen man's mystical unity with whatever he considers to be the initial and infinite cause. The charge that it cannot be substantiated could likewise be laid by perverted personalities against the belief that the soul exists in a paradise or heavenly state for eternity. There are traditional and
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sacerdotal authorities for and against all of the dfferent human conceptions of the immortality of the soul.

Prooj 01 Reincarnation
of immortality after death or of reincarnation P has been considered beyond the real m of physical science. It either scofIed at the notion of rebirth in
ROOF

another physical body or declared there was no empirical foundation by which science could either accept or reject the age-old belief. In the last few decades the subject of reincarnation has been placed under the category of a new science termed parapsychology. This science itself was at first under question as to the reliability of its method. Now, it enters into a serious investigation of all so-called psychic phenomena, or phenomena which appear to be perceived by human senses but are over and beyond those perceived by ordinary receptor senses. The popular term for such phenomena is Extrasensory Perception. Parapsychology is now an established department of several outstanding universities in the world and of priva te research institutions. Its phenomena have also evoked the serious interest of research departments of governments and their military bureaus, including those of the United States, Russia, and England. No longer is reincarnation to be looked upon by parapsychology as just a religious topic or conjecture. It is to be thoroughly analyzed and approached in an empirical manner. However, since reincarnation is concerned with immaterial factors, the scientific approach is obviously extremely difficult. How and where do you begin to look 13

for facts, for realities in the objective sense with such a subject as reincarnation? The belief of the individual in reincarnation, the emotional or inner experience which he has had is not sufficient proof from a scientific point of view. A basis must be found, naturallaws discovered or revealed that establish a uniformity of phenomena regardless of personal beliefs. Reincarnation must be established as a natural phenomenon Irom the scientific viewpoint and not just as an abstract conclusion. Case Histories Certain so-called case histories relating proof of a past life form the basis for a parapsychological investigation of reincarnation. Some of the case histories, as related, are amazing and sensational in their detailsbut are they true? Are they, perhaps, just a consequence of hallucinations? Are they an example of mental telepathy by which such information was merely received by the individual from the mind of another living person? Or, were the facts gained by consulting public records and memorizing certain Iacts for publicity purposes to attract attention and perhaps acquire financial gain from them? Finally, will such case histories actually prove to be true and thus establish a scientific graund or at least a hypothesis for reincarnation? Professor H. N. Banerjee, head of Rajasthan University's Parapsychology Department in India, travelled to America and England to investigate the most puzzling of such reported cases of recollection of past life. A few of the cases that received the attention of Dr. Banerjee were related in the Sunday lndian Express.
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Gopal Gupta, an eleven-year-old boy at Delhi, "recalls his previous life very vividly." He relates that he was born in London into an Indian family. He recalls his father's name: a Mr. Raj Coomar. He had two sisters named Prema and Veena. Young Gupta states that his death occurred due to "vomiting of blood." At that time he was studying in the First Standard of a school in London. He recalls another incident when he fell from a roof and fractured his lego "Professor Banerjee also narrated the story of Vishola, a Bhopal girl." The girl at the age of thirteen began recalling incidents of her past life, especially when she was in a semi-awake state. She identified herself in her previous life as a woman physician, a Dr. J aimini, in a London hospital. At that time she was nearly twenty-three years of age. Her transition occurred in "an accident on a stormy night." She stated her "father had left for Africa on the day of the accident." She recalled the name of a friend (Niani) and a lover (Mr. Abraham). The father at the time, according to the girl, was a judge and about sixty years of age. She too recalled "a friend of her mother named Sairiya." Vishola will journey to London to meet the people she claimed to be members of her family in her past life. Professor Banerjee cited two other interesting cases. One was of an uneducated weaver "who speaks pure Sanskrit in his sleep." The utterances have been recorded in four consecutive volumes. It is admitted, however, that they are different from any previous Sanskrit work. 15

The other case cited is of a Korean boy who speaks excellent English and who is qualified to be admitted into a very high grade in a school in America. But he is only three years of age! Professor Banerjee has been in communication with an AMORC member in India. He expressed a desire to visit AMORC on his return from England to discuss with its officers the studies and research the Rosicrucian Order has carried on in the realm of parapsychology. Technically, parapsychology does not refer to the phenomenon of the recall of past lives as reincamation, but rather as Extracerebral Memory.

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