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While reading the extract from Pere Labat in the article “Varieties of African Magic,” in the October publication of the Theosophist, I was reminded of certain passages in two other writers who describe feats of diablerie of the same nature as those said to have been performed by the African negress on board the French vessel, and thus show that these practices are by no means peculiar to Africans.

1) Pietro della Valle, the Italian traveler who visited Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Persia and India, in the course of his peregrinations in the 17th century, writes:

« An Arabian woman, by name Meluk, was thrown in prison of a charge of having bewitched, or as they call it, eaten the heart of a young native of Ormuz, who had lately from being a Christian, turned Mahomedan.

The cause of the offence was that the young man, after keeping company some time with one of her daughters, had forsaken her. He himself who was in a pitiable condition, and in danger of his life, was one of her accusers.

This sort of witchcraft, which the Indians call eating the heart, and which is what we call bewitching, as sorcerers do by their venomous and deadly looks, is not a new thing nor unheard of elsewhere; for many persons practised it formerly in Sclavonia, and the country of the Triballes, as we learn from Ortelius, who took the account from Pliny, who upon the report of lsigones testifies that this species of enchantment was much in use among these people, and many others whom he mentions, as it is at present here, especially among the Arabians who inhabit the western coast of the Persian Gulf, where this art is common.

The way in which they do it is only by the eyes and mouth, keeping the eyes fixed steadily upon the person whose heart they design to eat, and pronouncing between their teeth, I know not what diabolical words, by virtue of which and by the operation of the devil, the person, how hale and strong so ever, falls immediately into an unknown and inevitable disease, which makes him appear phthisical, consumes him little by little, and at last destroys him.

And this takes place faster or slower as the heart is eaten, as they say; for these sorcerers can either cut the whole or a part only; that is can consume it entirely and at once, or bit by bit, as they please.

The vulgar give it this name, because they believe that the devil, acting upon the imagination of the witch when she mutters her wicked words, represents invisibly to her the heart and entrails of the patient, taken out of his body and makes her devour them.

In which these wretches find so delightful a task, that very often to satisfy their appetite, without any impulse of resentment or enmity, they will destroy innocent persons, and even their nearest relatives, as there is a report that our prisoner killed one of her own daughters in this manner.

This was confirmed to me by a similar story, which I heard at Ispahan, from the mouth of P. Schostian de Jesus, a Portuguese Augustinian, a man to be believed, and of singular virtue, who was prior of their convent when I departed.

He assured me, that in one of the places dependent upon Portugal, on the confines of Arabia Felix (Yemen), I know not whether it was at Mascate or at Omuz, an Arab having been taken up for a similar crime, and convicted of it, for he confessed the fact, the Captain or Governor of the place, who was a Portuguese that he might better understand the truth of these black and devilish actions of which there is no doubt in this country, ordered the sorcerer to be brought before him before he was led to his punishment, and asked him, if he could cat the inside of a cucumber without opening it, as well as the heart of a man.

The sorcerer said “yes” and in order to prove it, a cucumber was brought: he looked at it, never touching it, steadily for sometime, with his usual enchantments, and then told the Captain he had eaten the whole inside; and accordingly when it was opened, nothing was found but the rind.

This is not impossible; for the devil of whom they make use in these operations, having in the order of nature, greater power than all inferior creatures, can with God s permission, produce these effects and others more marvelous»

For the comfort, however, of his Christian readers, the pious and prolix Pietro adds:

« The same father told me, that one of these sorcerers, whether it was the same or not I do not know, having been taken for a similar offence, was asked if he could eat the heart of the Portuguese Captain, and he replied no; for the Franks had a certain thing upon the breast, which covered them like a cuirasse, and was so impenetrable, that it was proof against all his charms.

This can be nothing else than the virtue of baptism, the armour of the faith, and the privileges of the sons of the Church against which the gates of hell cannot prevail»

To return, however, to my first subject:

« This witch made some difficulty at first to confess her guilt; but seeing herself pressed with threats of death and being led in fact to the public square, where I saw her with the sick young man, she said that though she had not been the cause of his complaint, perhaps she could cure it, if they would let her remain alone with him, in the house, without interruption; by which she tacitly confessed her witchcraft.

For it is held certain in these countries that these wicked women can remove the malady which they have caused, if it be not come to the last extremity.

And of many remedies which they use to restore health to the sufferers, there is one very extraordinary, which is that the witch casts something out of her mouth, like the grain of a pomegranate, which is believed to be a part of the heart that she has eaten.

The patient picks it up immediately, as part of his own intestines and greedily swallows it; and by this means, as if his heart was replaced in his body, he recovers by degrees his health.

I dare not assure you of these things as certainly true, not having myself seen them, surpassing as they do the course of nature.

If they are as is said, it can only be in appearance, by the illusions of the devil; and if the afflicted recover actually their health, it is because the same devil ceases to torment them without dwelling longer upon their curious speculations.

The witch having given hopes that she would cure the patient, the officer promised that she should receive no injury, and they were both sent home; but an archer was set over her as a guard that she might not escape»

2) In the “Ayeeni-Akliari” of Abul Fazal, who writes about the same time as the Italian traveler, occurs the following passage:

« One of the wonders of this country is the “Jiggerkhar” (or liver-eater). One of this class can steal away the liver of another by looks and incantations. Other accounts say that by looking at a person, he deprives him of his senses, and then he steals from him something resembling the seed of a pomegranate, which he hides in the call; of his leg.

The Jiggerkhar throws on the fire the grain before described, which spreads to the size of a dish, and he distributes it amongst his fellows, to be eaten; which ceremony concludes the life of the fascinated person.

A Jiggerkhar is able to communicate his art to another, which he does by learning him the incantations, and by making him eat a bit of the liver cake. If any one cuts open the calf of the magician’s leg, extracts the grain, and gives it to the afflicted person to eat, he immediately recovers.

These Jiggerkhars are mostly women. It is said, moreover, that they can bring intelligence from a great distance in a short space of time; and if they are thrown into a river, with a stone tied to them, they nevertheless will not sink»

The Torquemadas of that time dealt with them thus:

« In order to deprive any one of this wicked power, they brand his temples, and every joint in his body, cram his eyes with salt, suspend him for forty days in a subterraneous cavern, and repeat over him certain incantations.

In this state he is called “Detchereh.” Although, after having undergone this discipline, he is not able to destroy the liver of any one, yet he retains the power of being able to discover another Jiggerkhar, and is used for detecting those disturbers of mankind.

They can also cure many diseases, by administering a potion, or by repeating an incantation. Many other marvelous stories are told of these people»


These feats, whether attributable to suggestion, glamour or the cult of the elementals, appear to have been performed quite as often by Asiatics as by Africans.

Thus “Kongo Brown’s” feat of making the plantain tree spring up in a few minutes has been witnessed by people, in India.

A contemporary of della Valle says he saw it done in a factory yard at Broach.

The sorcerer, he says, planted a peg of wood in the ground and offered to make it grow into a tree. He then improvised a sort of tent out of a shirt over the peg, and entering it, began his incantations.

From time to time he removed the shirt and showed the company that a young tree had been produced and was rapidly growing. This went on until the spectators saw before them a tree several feet high and laden with fruit.

During the operation one of the spectators, observing a rent in the shirt, looked in and saw the sorcerer cut his arm and moisten the peg with his blood.

Further phenomena were interdicted by the chaplain of the factory who strongly expressed his disapproval of Christians witnessing and encouraging such performances, and having threatened to refuse the communion to such as persisted in remaining, the proceedings came to a close.

The modus operandi in this instance appears to point to the help of elementals.

The existence of occult knowledge amongst tribus so little advanced as in Africa is difficult to account for, except on hypothesis that it arose out of remnants of the science of old Atlantis; and possibly the old Arabic legend of the destruction of the Domdaniel school of occultism near Tunis, said to have been founded by Halil Magliraby, on which Southey based his poem of “Thalaba,” may be a traditional version of the story of the Atlantean deluge.

P. J. G.

(The Theosophist, December, 1892, p.158-160, “Some further cases of black magic”)


Obviously these stories of witchcraft must be taken with great caution due to all the fantasy, imagination, superstition and ignorance that was had in those times, but when it is known that witchcraft does exist, there may be some truth in them.


Blavatsky makes in this article a clarification of what represent certain symbols mentioned in the Book of the Dead of the Ancient Egyptians, and in particular in the region where virtuous souls go after their death, that is to say to paradise, known as the Elysian Fields in Greek mythology, and the Aanrou fields in Egyptian mythology.

In No. 14 of Le Lotus (May, 1888, p.105) an article will be found by Franz Lambert 1 translated from the Sphinx containing the following passage, a transcription of a tablet representing the arrival of the deceased:

-      “Here we see the deceased working in the Elysian Fields, sowing and reaping them. The barley therein is 7 ells high, the ears 3, and the straw 4. From the harvest he sets aside an offering for Hapi, the god of abundance, etc.”

I have underlined the errors, and for this reason: in the Book of the Dead, Chap. CIX, verses 4 and 5, the deceased expresses himself as follows:

-      “I know this field of Aanru with an iron enclosure; its barley is seven cubits high: its ear is three cubits, its stalk is four, etc.2

The Aanru fields in the Papyrus of Ani

Here Hapi is not the god of abundance. When he is found in a ceremony where the mummy plays the chief part he is one of the funerary Genii. Hapi personifies the terrestrial water, or the Nile in its primordial aspect, as Nun personifies the celestial water. He is one of the “Seven Luminous Ones” (The Seven Planetary Spirits) who accompany Osiris-Sun. In Chap. XVII, verses 38 and 39, of the Book of the Dead, it says:

-      “The Seven Luminous Ones are Amset, Hapi, Tiaumautef, Kebhsennouf, Maa-tef-f, Ker-bek-f, Harkhent-an-mer-ti; Anubis placed them as protectors of the sarcophagus of Osiris [the Sun during eclipse and at night].”

The Seven Luminous Ones in the Papyrus of Ani

Hapi, like Amset who precedes him, is a psychopompic 3 genius (Mercury), who receives seven gifts from Osiris-Sun, perhaps really because Mercury receives seven times more light from the Sun than does the Earth.

In the celestial hierarchy of the Archangels of the presence, or “the Seven Eyes of the Lord,” Hapi and Amset correspond to Gabriel, the Messenger, and to Michael, the patron of all gulfs and promontories, who both like Hapi, personify the terrestrial water.

Some of our pious friends will protest at this. They will say: Gabriel and Michael are not psychopompic gods; the latter is the Archistrategus, the commander-in-chief of the army of the Lord, the Victor diabolic, the Conqueror of the Dragon-Satan; while Gabriel is the Fortitudo Dei (the fortress of God) and his Messenger.

Precisely. I will even add that Michael is the Quis ut Deus (similar to god) if that makes them happy. That does not prevent them both from being our Egyptian Hapi and Amset in turn. Because this Hapi, this “Eye of the Sun,” its flame, is the chief “of the divine chiefs” who with six others accompanies Osiris-Sun “to burn the souls of his enemies” 4 and who kills the great Enemy, the shadow of Typhon-Set; in other words, the Dragon.

The Catholic Church calls this septenary vigilant guardian (Φυλαχιτης in Greek) because that is precisely its name in the Book of the Dead, the “Seven Luminous Ones” being the guardians of the Sarcophagus of Osiris. Look for yourself in the Marquis de Mirville’s Mémoire à l’Académie, where he boasts of it.

But the point at issue is not exactly Amset or Hapi, and we may leave Gabriel and Michael on their respective planets for a moment. The real question bears on some interesting notes by Charles Barlet.

He draws the attention of the reader to “the innumerable concordances” which the aforesaid article presents with the doctrines of the Theosophists. He gives some examples but he leaves out one of the most remarkable ones. I have in mind the verses quoted from the Book of the Dead, concerning the deceased in the field of Aanru.

This chapter is the most brilliant corroboration of the seven principles of man that can be found in the esoteric religion of ancient Egypt.

The reader is warned not to seek these analogies or concordances between the two systems, esoteric and exoteric, in the translations of our Orientalists. For these gentlemen are accustomed to put more fancy than truth into their interpretations.

Let us rather refer to the Kabala. The septenary system in it offers us the following table:

The Seven worlds or planes of the visible kosmos

The rest is useless. I give only the first three worlds with their Angels and their Planets corresponding to the seven divine letters. The names of the Angels, aside from the first two, are substitutes; they are, moreover, interchangeable among themselves and with the planets. Gabriel alone has remained faithful to his Mercury, although for very well-known reasons 5 the Church gives Jupiter to Gabriel for his planet today.

Michael balances between the Sun and the Moon. But as these two planets were, in Egyptian esotericism, the Eyes of the Lord (the Sun being the eye of Osiris by day, and the Moon the eye of Osiris by night) they are interchangeable.

Starting from this, the rest will be easy to understand. The field of Aanru is Devachan. The wheat sown and reaped by the defunct, and which is seven cubits tall, represents the karma sown and reaped by the seven principles of the dead during his life. The ear of three cubits is the upper triad (Âtman, Buddhi, and the aroma of Manas) or the upper triangle 6:

The four cubits (the stalk or straw) are the four lower principles (kâma-rûpa, the astral body, the vital principle, the vital man), represented by the square.

For man has always been shown thus in geometrical symbols:

In Egypt it was the symbolic tau, the ansated cross:

This is the representation of man. The circle or handle which surmounts the tau is a human head. It is the man crucified in space of Plato, or the Wittoba of the Hindus (see:  Edward Moor’s Hindoo Pantheon).

In Hebrew the word man is rendered by Anosh, and, as Seyffarth says:

« It represents, as I now believe, the skull with the brains, the seat of the soul, and with the nerves extending to the spine, back, and eyes or ears. For the Tanis stone translates it repeatedly by anthropos (man), and this very word is alphabetically written (Egyptian) ank.

Hence we have the Coptic ank, vita, properly anima, which corresponds with the Hebrew שונא, anosh properly meaning anima. This שונא is the primitive דונא for יבנא (the personal pronoun I). The Egyptian Anki signifies my soul. »

It is curious that this Hebrew equivalent, Anosh, for “man,” by Mr. Seyffarth, reads numerically 7 365—1, which could be intended to mean either 365+1=366, or 365-1=364, or the time phases of the solar year, thus shadowing forth the astronomical connection. 8

We see, then, that the solar year, or rather the number of its days, is found to correspond with the septenary man, or twice septenary, for we have the psychic man of seven principles or etheric planes, and the physical man whose division is the same. This makes 14 and corresponds to the three digits 3, 6, 5=14.

Let us see if the nocturnal eye of Osiris, the Moon or the symbol of the Hebrew Jehovah, corresponds to that. It is said in an unpublished and very Kabalistic manuscript:

« The Ancients have always made mysterious use of the numbers 3 and 4, composing the number 7. One of the chief properties of this number thus divided, is that, if we multiply 20612 (9) by 4/3 the product will give us a base for the determination of the mean revolution of the Moon, and if we multiply this product again by J we shall have a base to find the exact period of the mean solar year. 10 »

Now, examine well the esoteric ansated cross of the Egyptians. The cross is the unfolded cube whose six faces give us the septenary, for we have 4 on a vertical and 3 on a horizontal line, which makes 7, the middle space being common to both lines.

The 4 and the 3 are the most esoteric numbers, because 7 is the number of life, the number of nature herself, as it is easy to prove in relation to the vegetable and animal kingdoms. 3 is spirit; 4 is matter.

But in the symbol in question which is purely phallic, since it represents living and septenary man, it is the 4 which corresponds to the male line; it is, in fact, the Tetragrammaton, the Tetraktys on the lower plane, “the heavenly Man” or Adam-Kadmon, the male-female (i.e., Jah-vah or Jehovah); or again Chochma and Binah (wisdom and intelligence, the divine Hermaphrodite), on our cosmic and terrestrial plane.

The horizontal line of the three faces of the cube is the feminine principle. It is Jehovah-Eve of the pre-Adamic race, which, like Brahmâ-Vâch, is separated into two sexes. This Eve which was the Sophia or Holy Ghost 11 of the Gnostics, gave birth to Cain-Abel, the male and the female on earth of the race of Adam (see my notes on Cain and Abel in The Secret Doctrine 12).

Once in the other world, the principles constituting the defunct separate thus:

1, the vital principle leaves the body; 2, the body dissolves; the astral spirit evaporates with the last physical atom. Of the lower quaternary, there remains the Kâma-rûpa, i.e., the périsprit of the human animal.

As for the upper triad, it leaves the lower quaternary; and the Spirit with its vehicle, the divine Soul, accompanied by the Spiritual aroma of manas, reunited in the Unity of the immortal Ego, are found in the happy state of Devachan. Of the inferior part of the manas (human soul).

The périsprit (animal soul) preserves just enough instinct to seek out and vampirize mediums. Its destiny is to evaporate later on. Until then, it exists merely on the life and intelligence of the living (mediums and believers) who are weak enough to allow themselves to be possessed; it is thus but a miserable borrowed life.

And this is what is meant by the three cubits of the ear and the four cubits of the stalk of the wheat that grows in the Fields of Aanru.


1) This passage is quoted from the second instalment of an essay by Franz Lambert on the “Psychology of Ancient Egypt,” which originally appeared in German in the pages of the Sphinx, a magazine published in Leipzig, Germany, by Dr. William Hübbe-Schleiden.

Its original title was “Die altägyptische Seelenlehre,” and a French translation thereof appeared in Le Lotus, the monthly Journal of the “Isis” Branch of the T.S. in Paris, and may be found in Vol. III, April, May and June, 1888.

It contains, among other subjects of great interest, a comparison of the Egyptian and the Kabalistic divisions of man’s constitution.

Most valuable information, not otherwise easily accessible, concerning occult sciences in ancient Egypt, may be found in two other essays from the pen of Franz Lambert: “Hypnotismus und Electrizität im alten Ägypten” (Sphinx, Vol. V, January, 1888; trans. into English in The Theosophist, Vol. XIV, December, 1892, pp. 161-171, with interesting drawings), and “Weisheit der Ägypter” (ibid., Vol. VII, Jan., Feb., April and June, 1889).

The article of Georgia Louise Leonard, in the Open Court (September and October, 1887), on “The Occult Sciences in the Temples of Ancient Egypt,” is also full of interesting data. (Zircoff)

2) There seems to be some uncertainty about the verses of Chapter CIX which H.P.B. refers to in making her quotation. In Sir E. A. Wallis Budge’s English translation of the Theban Recension of The Book of the Dead (2nd ed., rev. and enl., 3rd impression, London, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., and New York, E.P. Dutton & Co., 1928), this subject is treated of in verses 7 and 8 of Chapter CIX (page 318 of the work).

We quote Budge’s text, for the benefit of the students:

“. . . I, even I, know the Sekhet-Aarru of (7) Ra, the walls of which are of iron. The height of the wheat therein is five cubits, of the ears thereof two cubits, and of the stalks thereof three cubits. (8) The barley therein is [in height] seven cubits, the ears thereof are three cubits, and the stalks thereof are four cubits. . .”

There is no mention of Hapi in this Recension. It is therefore possible that another Recension, such as the Saitic, may have been meant. (Zircoff)

3) The word psychopompic is made up of two Greek words: psycho which means soul, and pompo which means to lead, it is therefore the one who leads souls.

4) The Book of the Dead, Chap. XVII, verse 37.

5) The little scandal produced in the VIIIth Century by the Sorcerer-Bishop Adalbert of Bavaria who compromised that poor Uriel. (HPB)

6) Readers who have carefully followed the teaching given in Le Lotus will easily comprehend all these things and those to follow; as for others we may advise them to read Le Lotus from the beginning (Editor, Le Lotus, HPB).

7) We remind our readers that in the Kabala we have to take notice of the numerical value of the letters, for example ש or sh equals 3, ד or o equals 6, etc. We ask pardon from Kabalists for this rather naïve note, but we are doing our best to make it clear to readers who are novices in such matters. (HPB)

8) J. R. Skinner, Source of Measures, p. 53.

9)  This number is the numerator of 20612/6561 which gives B, the relation of the diameter to the circumference. (HPB)

10) From an hitherto unpublished MS of J. Ralston Skinner in the Adyar Archives, comprehensive information about which may be found in CW, Vol. VIII, pp. 219-20, note 6. (Zircoff)

11) See “The Apocryphal (?) Gospel of the Hebrews,” where the author makes Jesus say: “My Mother, the Holy Ghost, took me by a hair of my head and transported me unto Mount Thabor.” I translate from the original. (HPB)

This passage is quoted by Origen in his Comm. in Evang. Joannis, tom. II, p. 64, thus: “Modo accepit me Mater mea Sanctus Spiritus, uno capillorum meorum, et me in montem magnum Thabor portavit.” (Zircoff)

12) It is somewhat uncertain what particular passages in her magnum opus H.P.B. had in mind in making this statement. It should be borne in mind that when this article was written, The Secret Doctrine had not yet been published, and it may well be that further changes were made in the MSS of this work after July, 1888.

However, the latter portion of page 127, in Volume II of The Secret Doctrine bears a close analogy to the subject under discussion. Consult the Index of this work for the many other references to Cain and Abel. (Zircoff)

(This article was first published in Le Lotus, Paris, Vol. III, No. 16, July, 1888, pp. 202-206, later in Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 10, pp. 55-62)

REINCARNATION by William Judge

(This is a report of a lecture delivered at Irving Hall, San Francisco, California, September 28, 1891, and printed in The New Californian, Vol. I, November 1891, pp. 177-83. The latter was published by Louise A. Off, a T.S. member in Los Angeles, California.)

Reincarnation is change. Whether in the domain of mind, of natural objects, or of human progress in civilization, the great law governing all is change. Everything is changing; the old into the new, the past into the present. This procession of change is evolution, and reincarnation and evolution are the same thing.

The doctrine of reincarnation is that each man is a living, immortal soul; that, as Walt Whitman, the poet, in Song of Myself (§49) says, he has “died ten thousand times before;” that being immortal he must have been always immortal; that he has lived before; and that he comes to earth again and again in new bodies, for the purpose of experience and development.

As an old Hindu poet, Vyasa quoting Kṛishṇa:

-      “I and thou, oh Arjuna, have had many births; we have been in many bodies, and we will be in many more.”  (Bhagavad-Gita, 4:5)

Now, although the doctrine of reincarnation applies to every atom in the universe, we will only consider it in respect to man himself. If man is the crowning glory, the aim and end of all evolutionary effort, as a conscious reasoning being his evolution must needs involve a changing series of lives.

First of all, he should know himself, because once that he knows that, he knows all. Reincarnation, then, as applied to man, means that we are not here for the first time; that we have previously inhabited bodies on this earth. This, according to the Theosophic theory, is the only way in which spirits return to the earth.

We do not hold, like some, that after a man dies, after his body is put away in the ground, he returns once more, without a body, to converse with his friends left behind. We say that he comes back and occupies another body; that he reincarnates.

This is not a new nor a strange doctrine. It is as old as any records of civilization. The ancient Egyptians believed it and taught it. The Jews believed it. The Chaldeans no doubt believed it, for their philosophy is similar to that of the Egyptians and the Hindus. The latter have always believed it, and today accept it almost to a man. They declare that either man is immortal or he is not. If he is immortal he must have always been so; if he is not, then this world of ours is a chaos of injustice and unmerited suffering.

Is one life adequate for any of the purposes which it would seem ought to be in view, in the perfecting of man in his nature, his character, and his powers?

I think that the answer will be that it is not enough if we desire to gain knowledge. The departments of knowledge are innumerable; they cannot be counted. In each the pursuit of knowledge is divided and again subdivided. Whether in history, the physical sciences, or the study of nature’s resources, of civilization, or, further yet, the study of the mind, the departments are so infinite that one faints with the idea of supposing it possible to acquire all that knowledge in a single lifetime. Now what is a lifetime?

As it is reckoned according to the Christian scheme, it is 70 years. The insurance standard is much shorter; it is not 60 years. Now, a person spends a great deal of time in childhood, when they learn nothing; before they understand how to use their own senses that they may acquire knowledge.

They will, it is true, acquire mere impressions, but these are indefinite and crude, so that the period of childhood has to be subtracted from this 60 years. One-third of the remainder is spent in sleep, and the greater part of the waking portion is wasted, so far as development is concerned, in the struggle for existence, for of our own civilization you will find that the major part are bound down to the wall in order to gain a scanty livelihood.

How much time is there left in which to do anything whatever, except to gain a thimbleful to eat and a place to sleep?

I take it that the object in view in having man upon earth is that he may develop his character up to the highest standard, and in order to do so he not only has to acquire knowledge in all its branches but he has also in addition to that to gain experience, for one can acquire knowledge in his room and yet have no experience. It is well-known that we must have experience with each other, personal contact in all the relations of life, in order to develop our character.

There is a story told in India, of the great sage Sankaracharya, bearing upon this point. He was a man who was celebrated all his life long as one possessed of the highest learning. He had studied and experienced almost everything, but one day the Goddess of Love came to him and said:

-      “Sankaracharya, what is the nature of love?”

He was obliged to reply, “I don’t know,” and in order to acquire experience as to its true nature he again, as the story goes, reincarnated in order that he might answer the question of the Goddess. So that even he, with all his wisdom from other experiences, had once more to reincarnate to gain actual experience in this.

In view then, of the amount of experience necessary to round out and develop human character, how much can be accomplished in one short life? Each one of us has a different trade or business. Take the man with a small store. He has nothing to do with large affairs; his whole life has been spent in making prices for the goods he sells.

What chance has he to gain anything but that one small experience in this life?

So on, in every direction. There is no chance to gain the needed experience, in order that a soul or character may be developed up to the highest possible standard. Further than this, character has to be formed, and the short time we have, even if the period of sleep be added, is not enough to form character. Besides, men and women from birth to death have almost the same essential character.

The boy who was a trader in school, who swapped a knife for some marbles and the marbles for something else until he finally acquired money, is today a trader. Another boy who gave everything away is still the same; his essential character has not altered. It is rarely that man’s essential characteristics change from birth to death.

Nothing changes in one short life except in response to the quantity of experience gained and the amount of this is too small to even materially modify much less to form character.

When, then, will we have the opportunity to improve or evolve, if there is only one life and one death?


God designed that man should have a character, and that it should be developed on all sides, so that he may acquire a knowledge of all truth. This cannot be done in one short life. It is desired, I suppose, by nature and by God that mankind, as a whole, should be elevated up to the highest, in purity, wisdom, compassion and a host of other Godlike characteristics. This is impossible in one short life, with half of this slept away. Our life,

in addition, raises within us ideas with respect to the fact that there is more to be known; a consciousness that greater and grander truths exist than any we have yet encountered as the natural deduction from all that we have known.

This consciousness of but a partial development of our faculties fills us with unrest. The knowledge that life leaves unused certain faculties which might fill us with gratification or sorrow, or at any rate with increased experience and wisdom, haunts us.

Failure and disappointment are everywhere; rich and poor alike feel them grinding in their hearts. Those who move in high social circles are not happy because their schemes do not succeed; others are miserable merely for the reason that they know not what else to do, and they are unsatisfied with their idleness.

On the other hand are those who are discontented with their lot and the injustice surrounding them. Now this short life has raised these feelings and we must ask the question:

What is the way out?

Is there any solution to these and similar problems?

The answer is, there is in Reincarnation, and in this only.

Now, there are three hypotheses by which men have sought to surmount these difficulties.

1) The first is that all of them are removed by mere death, by the simple fact of dying, or passing away from the world. Mere death is to be accepted as the end of all only upon the materialistic basis. If man is immortal, simple death is no solution.

2) From religion basis, we have to imagine a wonderful change after death. But there is nothing in our whole experience to warrant such a conclusion, from the Christian or Spiritualistic standpoint. Furthermore, if it were true that mere dying and being translated to some other place or state will answer all these questions, then all souls would have to be alike.

It really has sometimes seemed to me that the idea of going to heaven where I should sing songs that I did not like, and see a number of people who did not like me when I was alive, and who could not sing a note properly under any circumstances, would not be at all desirable. This change after death is too sudden, too contrary to all nature’s methods.

3) The second hypothesis aims at removing the difficulties by a spiritual discipline after death. Now, this will not answer because numerous faculties are not at all developed during life. It premises just as sudden a change of character as the first plan. In order to develop faculties that we find ourselves in partial possession of here, we must undergo the experience which evolves those faculties.

The last hypothesis, however, is reincarnation, and that, as I have said, will overcome all difficulties. Reincarnation shows the meaning of Universal Brotherhood; that all of us being spiritual beings, according to the grand plan of nature in all worlds and in all kingdoms up to the highest possible limit, are unable to escape from each other until we are essentially changed.

To postulate as a truth that a whole family must die and go to heaven together because the mother or father wishes to see them is unphilosophical. Members of that family may become entirely alienated, and then be compelled to be in a company not like themselves, with whom they do not wish to associate. They can escape only by reincarnation. They only come back again and again in families together who are like in character. None escape from any family until they have altered their entire nature. In a similar manner to this method in families, reincarnation also insures advance in races. No advance can be possible without it.

The existence of savages, even at the present day, in America, in Borneo and in other places of the world, where there are hordes of them, can only be explained by reincarnation, as well as the further fact that they are melting away like the clouds of mist before the noonday sun. In the Sandwich Islands, the Indians there, now so closely connected with us by commerce, are disappearing; pushed out, it is declared, by civilization.

We say not. It is very true that the missionaries going there, and the trader following, does often bring about this result in part, but it is not wholly due to that. The egos in those bodies are reaching the limit of experience under this kind of mental environment and when this limit is reached, no more bodies are produced in sufficient number to keep up the race.

The reason why some savage nations are growing is that egos are there still gaining needed experience. Their essential character remains the same. When it shall have changed their life desires, no more such bodies will be produced.

Furthermore, not to postulate reincarnation is to sanction the greatest injustice. It is to accuse the God, in whom you believe, of injustice. Because, if Reincarnation is not a law of nature, then these savages are unjustly treated in being in existence at all. What is the use of simply inhabiting such bodies as theirs?

Why are they condemned to such a life?

Reincarnation restores justice to human existence in this, and in all the circumstances surrounding life and enables man to believe that the Universe is governed by law in every particular and in each department. Reincarnation provides also for exact justice to each individual in every civilization alike.

Each person set in motion the causes in his last life which have brought about what he is now experiencing, and is, therefore, undergoing a just punishment or reward because he is the person who did the thing, and the person who should be punished or rewarded.

Now, you may say:

-      “I am not the person. It was another person, who was called so and so in a previous life.”

To say that is to misconceive the doctrine. It does not mean that it was another individual, but the very same one reincarnated in a new body as one might be clothed with a different garment. The name is nothing. It is given to you by your parents, just as much without your consent as is your body. It does not represent you.

_ _ _

Now, the objections which are raised to this theory of reincarnation are few in number. They may be reduced to four heads.

1) The first objection is, “I do not remember my former lives, and therefore it is unjust that I should suffer or enjoy for what I do not remember having done.” You do not remember half of this life.

Who among you can bring back before him now the details of his childhood?

How much do those of you remember, who lived in the country, for instance?

You can remember the house on the farm, perhaps, and the most prominent objects, but you cannot remember more than a few particulars. Only the most important features are retained. The rest fades from the mind. Now, if the argument is good that you have never lived before because you do not remember it, then you have never lived these years of your life that you don’t remember, which illustrates the absurdity of such a position.

2) The second objection, contained in the first, is “that it is unjust.” This I have already explained. The theory that a man must remember a crime which he has committed, or the good he has done, in order to be justly punished or rewarded is violated, so far as nature is concerned, every moment in the day.

You go to sleep at night, forgetting the window is open and catch a violent cold while you are asleep. You reap the consequences in a day or two after and do not question nature’s justice. You take into your stomach during the day some deleterious substance.

Will the fact that you did not know it was poisonous enable you to escape the consequences?

Is it not true that many children are lamed for life and that no one can tell how the accident occurred?

I have known of a case where a nurse dropped a child in early youth, which afterwards developed a very distressing disease, one that often ruins a whole life. The child remembered nothing of it, yet the consequences fell upon its head.

Is it unjust because it does not remember it?

If there is no reincarnation it is unjust, because this child had not in its brief life done anything to warrant this accident.

3) The next objection is that reincarnation is contrary to heredity, that is, that heredity accounts for these things, accounts for everything, some say. But the best investigators are beginning to declare the contrary.

They admit that it does not account for but a few things of a physical nature. It does not explain the differences in character. From its earliest youth each child exhibits a character of its own. One shows entire selfishness, a grasping propensity; another the opposite or openheartedness; both being children of the same mother.

4) The last objection is a sentimental one and too often made. It has no force whatever, except that the world is largely governed by sentiment. People say:

-      “I don’t like it. I don’t want to be born again. I don’t wish to think of the idea that I won’t see my child, my husband and my friends again.”

The mere sentimental thought “I don’t like it” is no argument. Take, for instance, the case of the mother who said to me the other night on the train, “I do not like the idea, because I wish to see my son again.”

Now, which son does she wish to see?

The one born a babe, whom she loved as well as her own life, or the same son grown to be a man? Or if he chanced to become a low character, is this the vision to be remembered?

And the child, whom does he wish to remember and see, the parent in his beauty, strength and prime, or the old man, toothless, wrinkled and gray? Which of these?

None. The real man is not subject to these changes, but is ever living and ever reincarnating.

Christians will find that the Bible confirms this doctrine on almost every page. It is in Matthew in several places. Christianity without reincarnation is an unjust scheme, to say nothing of other defects. The early Christian Fathers, as well as those of the Middle Ages, and poets and writers of all sorts and conditions have believed in this doctrine.

Theosophists accept it because it sets man upon his feet; gives him a chance; allows him an opportunity to live a better life under better conditions, in new places and times.

With it, man is able to raise himself up to the standard and power of a God, which is the intention of nature, for with reincarnation he acquires experience in every kind of life, and all varieties of bodies. He is able to transmute and purify his lower nature. He is, in fact, a pilgrim winding his way up to the very highest point attainable.

(Echoes of the Orient III, p.178-184)