the enigma of the After Life
D. G. M. Jackson, M.A.
ISBN 85826 1715
A.C.T.S. No. 1717 (1979)
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The Author, Denys Jackson, carefully examines a number of theories of
Reincarnation and replies to each. The final section on "the Christian
belief in the after life" summarizes the basic doctrine used in giving
* * *
Nihil Obstat: Peter J. Kenny Diocesan Censor
Imprimatur: Peter J. Connors Vicar General
8 December 1978.
The latest period of Western history has been marked by considerable
reaction of modern thought against the "scientific" materialism
dominant at the turn of the century [i.e. the beginning of the 20th
century]. Recent discoveries in physics have undermined the confident
dogmatism of those who held that all that is observable, when
investigation has been pushed to its farthest limits, will prove to be
expressible in terms of matter, length and time. (i.e. of matter and
energy). As Koestler has shown in detail in his latest work, "Janus" the Darwinian theory of the origin of
species by natural selection which held the field for so long has been
shown by the latest research to be untenable as an explanation of
existing reality. It is no longer possible to wave away the large class
of phenomena inaccurately labelled supernatural (the correct term is
preternatural) which have been the field of psychical research, as mere
fantasy to be ignored.
A very large number of those who now reject materialism, however, and
have come to see that the methods of "science" can explain neither life
nor mind, and can answer none of the deepest questions which thoughtful
men have posed through the ages about the world order and its meaning,
have an ingrained prejudice against the Christian orthodox tradition of
our forefathers. Their acquaintance with it is commonly superficial.
In their adult life, all that they have read and heard assumes that the
basic propositions of "Church Christianity" are of an "outworn" kind
that no "modern man" can possibly accept. They prefer to seek
enlightenment from a new source, "The wisdom of the East" whose alien
character gives it the added appeal of novelty to those disillusioned
about all things western, while its abstruse complexities of myth and
symbol have an irresistible attraction for the sophisticated.
TRANSMIGRATION OF SOULS
Since the great religious systems of the East - apart from Islam, a
Judeo-Christian offshoot - are based on the idea of "reincarnation", it
is not surprising that this idea has come to be accepted by a very
large number of our contemporaries. Belief in the transmigration of the
soul from one body to another is very ancient, in the pre-Christian
Western world as well as in Asia. Appianus tells us it was strong among
the Teutonic people, and it was also a tenet of the pagan Celts.
Pythagoras taught it to the Greeks, and the later disciples of Plato -
especially the great Plotinus - gave it a wide currency in the Roman
The Latin mind, however, was not attuned to it, and it lost ground with
the triumph of Christianity, though recalled from oblivion for a time
by the Cathar heretics of Southern France and Italy in the high middle
ages. From the sixteenth century Renaissance on it was taken up by a
small number of 'intellectuals' and romantic poets; but its large
revival has only come in the de-Christianised West of our own [20th]
century. Speaking of this faith as the "hope of the world", Irving
Cooper, founder of the "Liberal Church" mentions a great and growing
multitude who have found in it "the most logical response to a great
number of problems of a religious, philosophic and social order".
The idea of reincarnation defended by modern Theosophists and
Occultists - and by some who regard themselves as Christians - is not
quite the same as the "metempsychosis" of the old pagan world. It has
been adapted to the theory of evolutionary progress. In its pilgrimage
through the ages, we are told, the soul of man may fall to the lowest human level, but never to animality, since this would imply
loss of conscious human personality, making further atonement and new
In India, the doctrine of reincarnation has deep roots, going back
beyond 1000 BC. The Hindu sacred books speak of it constantly. "As
spring is reborn from winter" we are told "so life must be born again
from death". Gautama Buddha, who built his system on Hindu foundations,
held that the reincarnation of beings has its origin in eternity, and
that gods as well as men are fixed on this "Wheel of Fate". By this
idea, it is claimed, the inequalities of life in the world are
accounted for. The present pain and ills of all men result from
misdeeds committed in an earlier life, while well-being, the fruit of
earlier virtue, if misused, will have to be paid for when the next life
comes round. So "The whirligig of time brings about its revenges".
Certain critics have rejected reincarnation simply because it relies on
Faith. For the Christian, this attitude is not possible. Faith is right
and necessary when it is based on reliable testimony. The faith of the
Christian in the "mysteries" of his religion is based on the proven
authority and truthfulness of Jesus Christ, as manifested in His life,
death and Resurrection. He came to teach truth, and He created an
"organ of truth" the church, so that His word might be a growing,
living voice through the ages.
What of Buddhism? The features of its holy founder are distorted by
legend, while it is very difficult to know what he really taught, even
about reincarnation. He left no "organ of truth" that we know of, and
there are a wild variety of Buddhisms in the world today. Jesus Christ
appealed to "The testimony of His Father" as validating His claim to be
a bearer of truth - and the language of this testimony is the
unmistakable one of miracles, culminating in His own return to life
after a frightful public execution. "If
you all do not believe Me, believe the works". Buddha could not
appeal to this kind of testimony, because for him, men and gods were
alike subject to the same fatality, and needed the same deliverance. He
never presented his doctrine as "the word of God", since he could not
go beyond the structure of nature to a Supreme Being possessing
personality. He simply took his system from Brahmanism - it was, in
origin, a Brahmanic heresy.
The origins of Brahman Hinduism remain obscure. In early Vedic India,
there was no more faith in transmigration than in the Greek
polytheistic cults. The destiny of a man was settled in one life, for
weal or woe - either the kingdom of Yama or Hell. The doctrine of
reincarnation may perhaps have been transmitted to the Aryans by other
people, - and it was grafted into the social pattern to sanctify the
priestly and warrior castes above all others. In a word, reincarnation
is a faith with no rational basis.
Buddha diverged from Hinduism because he held, like the Greek
philosopher Epicurus, that the gods were not the concern of man: his
problem was to get off the wheel of Fate, with its unending births and
deaths. This could only be achieved by eliminating desire, which engendered the
wretched illusion of self-existence. His "Noble Eightfold Path" showed
how this was to be done, by a life of utter self abnegation, merging
the self with the rest of nature by compassion. At the end, with
complete enlightenment, came absorption into "The All" - the dewdrop of
the self being lost in this shining sea: this was Nirvana.
and CHRISTIAN FAITH
This depressingly negative concept of "salvation" is not held by all
modern Buddhists, however, still less all western believers in
reincarnation. Some of these have claimed that it is not incompatible
with the teaching of Christ. No doubt, they say, an extension of the
purification process indefinitely would practically suppress heaven and
hell. But what if reincarnation takes the place of purgatory? Is not
this in conformity with Catholic teaching, merely giving it a new
Let us start by pointing out that no
Christian community of today professes reincarnation. To establish this
requires no deep research - simply visit any Christian church, listen
to the sermon and observe the way of worship and read the catechism or
statement of doctrine. The message is that we must work for our
salvation in fear and trembling in this one life - for after that will
come the judgement, and our eternal destiny will be decided once and
for all. The self will live on in eternal happiness or woe. This is the
doctrine taught by Christ in the gospels, and Christians know no other
way of salvation.
The "Reincarnationist Christian" holds that the anger of God, pursuing
the Christian beyond the grave, will make him live again and again till
he learns to live well. This kind of penalty however, can scarcely be
considered a very strong deterrent to sin. Who is going to be worried
unduly by coming back to life in an endless succession of chances to
For the rest, the reincarnationists' idea that the doctrine of
reincarnation was originally taught by Christ, but has been suppressed
by Church authorities in the interests of a policy of moralization by
fear of Hell, has not a scintilla of evidence to support it in the
whole of Christian history. It cannot be found in the Gospels, in the
writings of St. Paul and the other Apostles, or in those of the
Fathers. Those who treat of the theory at all do so only to condemn it.
WITNESS OF THE CHRISTIAN FATHERS
For St. Jerome, the great
translator of the Bible, the theory of reincarnation is an invention of
"stupid philosophers and heretics", Lactantius
dismisses it as childish fable. St. John
Chrysostom finds it of all theories the vilest. St. Cyril points out that if the union
of the soul with the body is intended to punish the soul for its
faults, then death is in itself good, and Resurrection, the reunion of
soul and body, evil. The righteous should be put to death so that their
souls may attain fulfilment, while the wicked should be preserved as
long as possible to make atonement for their sins!
St. Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria both point
out that the human consciousness provides no foundation for the idea of
reincarnation. There remains in our memory no vestige of these supposed
former lives. Origen, who was
given to bold speculation, seems to have had the idea of the pre-existence of souls before human
birth - an idea which seems to be reflected in Wordsworth's "Intimations of Immortality".
"Our birth is but a sleep and a
The soul that rises with us, our life's star
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar
Not in entire forgetfulness
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home".
Maurice Masterlinck expresses the same idea in his romance of "the Blue Bird". But this idea of
the pre-existence of souls - their existence for a period without any
union with matter - is clearly something different from belief in the
transmigration of souls through successive births and deaths. It seems
clear that Origen held the view expressed very beautifully by
Wordsworth, and not the one of which he was mistakenly accused by St.
Jerome. [Origen's speculation finds virtually no support in the
It is important to recall that certain Fathers received their faith
from direct disciples of the Apostles - St. Irenaeus from St. Polycarp, who was
taught by St. John. This gives their testimony an exceptional value;
their voice is, in effect, the voice of those who heard the Word of
Truth from Christ Himself.
OBLIVION OF FORMER LIVES
In the first centuries of the Christian Faith, its defenders challenged
the believers in reincarnation to explain man's oblivion of his former
lives. We can remember our dreams, often enough, and retrace quite
insignificant events of a distant youth when we are old: but before
this all is darkness with no shining star.
The believers in reincarnation are, of course, well aware of this. One
of them admits that "memories of reincarnation are extremely rare: this
is why they may be considered as individual illusions". Even the
Mystics, she concedes, "who have reached Being even to its essence",
are in general without this knowledge.
Plato accounts for the oblivion by supposing that the souls drink of
the "chalice of Lethe" (forgetfulness) before being reborn. But how,
asks St. Irenaeus, could the philosopher possibly know of this chalice,
if his memory had been expunged? What was held a more plausible
solution of this problem was presented by the neo-Platonists. The "cup
of Lethe", they said, was a mere symbol. It represents the new body
assumed, which has the intrinsic virtue of depriving the soul of its
memories. But how then, said the Christian apologists, has the body now
lost its power of expunging experiences of our present life?
A founding mother of modern Theosophy,
Madame Blavatsky, attempts a fresh development of the Platonic
notion. She distinguishes memory,
the reproduction in consciousness of perceptions of the past, by way of
"fantasy", as a function of the brain shared by man with the animal
world, from reminiscence, an
intuitive perception which is a function of the spiritual ego. It is the latter
which contains the visions usually held abnormal - the inspiration of
genuine feverish fancies and those associated with insanity.
Every time we die, says Madame B., our Ego lays down its physical
elements like worn clothing, putting on new raiment. So looking into
our present organism for memories of past times is as vain as looking
for bloodstains, to find traces of a crime, on a shirt which the
criminal has never worn. The same Ego remains - but its past secrets
are not hidden in its "clothes", (the three bodies, physical, astral
and mental, which it is now wearing).
OF BODY AND SOUL.
If this theory were based on the firm "facts of psychic science"
claimed by theosophists as supporting it, its explanation would carry
conviction. But is it? As to the existence of an aura, or atmosphere surrounding
each person's body, there can be no question. Its character depends on
the state of his health, the kind of food he eats and his sexual
development. The human body also exudes particles scattered in the
surrounding atmosphere, and emits electric fluids and radio-active
waves. This "aura" may sometimes be perceived by persons whose
sensitive faculties are exceptionally acute or abnormally stimulated.
But what evidence have we that it can be detached from the physical
body? How can we verify scientifically that three bodies actually occupy the
same space, one expressing "feelings" another "concepts" and the third
"abstract thought"? How can they be differentiated?
How can the "aura" be detached from the body and examined individually?
And whence comes the demonstration of the "organ of the future" of
which another theosophic prophet, Mrs. Besant, speaks, capable of
perceiving the phenomena of the "astral world"? How has she attained
the knowledge that the brain is united to the mental world by way of
the pineal gland?
We are told by theosophists of the years which the soul, after death,
is to spend in each of the different super-terrestrial spheres. How
have these been worked out, and how has the intimate life of the soul
undergoing "purification" in an elaborate fashion been observed?
Such are the "experimental facts" offered us on the testimony of
hypnotized personal mediums, or so called "initiates". Can they
possibly be held seriously to be in any sense proven or reliable?
The feats we perform in dreams, the intuitions which some have received
of future events, are said by theosophists to show that the "astral
body" then leaves the physical body, serving as its conscious organ in
the higher world. It would take too long, here, to elaborate a complete
theory of sleep, and would take us far from our subject. But when the
chaotic and unstable world of the dreamer is critically analysed, the
"prophecies" are apt to disappear in smoke, and for what remains, the
theosophical theory is really not needed as an explanation. Normal and
abnormal psychology will suffice.
The idea that memories of a former life can be elicited by way of
hypnosis is very flimsily based. A large number of people can be
hypnotized - and some have claimed to have such memories, including
mediums of Allan Kardec's
school. But other mediums reject the idea of reincarnation, and can
discover nothing of memories of past lives in themselves. For the rest,
it is important to remember that the will of a hypnotized person is
grafted on to the will of the hypnotiser - and where the latter is an
advocate of reincarnation, and suggests this in his questioning, the
subject will not fail to give him the answers he wants - especially if
he or she is already a believer in reincarnation.
From the fact that a subject hypnotized by a reincarnationist relates
details of a former life as though they were present to him, we should
not conclude that his real
memory has returned to remote past worlds. For a law well known in
psychology is that of the "matricity of ideas". These are energies of
the spirit, stirring up immanent tendencies which develop into external
If we suggest to one under hypnosis that he is a soldier a king or a
beggar, he will act accordingly: if we implant the idea that he is
living in one of his former incarnations, he will respond by assuming
the attitudes required of him. According to the Victorian Government's
Inquiry Board of 1965 into "Scientology"
witnesses, under treatment by the cult's experts, recalled visiting
Heaven 11,767 years before, working on the planet Mars, and suffering
execution by firing squad in Nazi Germany in 1936, before being
"reborn" in 1937! There can be no proof whatever that these supposed
"experiences" were more than fantasies.
CASE OF BRIDEY MURPHY
More impressive is the case of Mrs. Tighe, of California, who, under
hypnotism, described in close detail her life in Ireland as "Bridey
Murphy", born in Cork in 1798, who died in 1864 in Belfast. This story
received world-wide publicity, and was related on radio and TV. It was
held by many as a convincing demonstration of the truth of
reincarnation. But investigation failed to discover any Bridey Murphy
whose birth and death had been recorded in the dates and places named,
and a number of other details given out by Mrs. Tighe were found to be
Finally, an investigation in Chicago in 1956 seemed to demonstrate what
Dr. Dollard, a professor of psychology in Yale had suspected, that
hypnosis had elicited from Mrs. Tighe unconscious memories stored up in
childhood. At that time she had visited constantly the home of a
certain Mrs. Corkell, whose maiden name had been Bridey Murphy, and had
shown much interest in her family's Irish background. Mrs. Tighe
herself agreed that, under hypnosis, she had probably recalled memories
of names and incidents told to her.
Dreamers, those under hypnosis, and children below the "age of reason"
whose sense of the difference between reality and fiction is weak, and
who accept easily the invasion of other people's ideas, make poor
witnesses in the cause of reincarnation. Is it really surprising that
in countries like India, where reincarnation is generally accepted, one
finds especially frequent instances of children's "reminiscences"?
This being the case, the advocates of reincarnation are eager to prove
that some people have real memories of their past lives when they are
in full command of their faculties. They refer to Pythagoras,
Empedocles and Buddha, as well as Madame Blavatsky and Mrs. Besant.
What are these cases worth?
The stories of Pythagoras' reminiscences, told by remote hearsay, has
too many obviously mythological elements to be regarded as more than
legendary. It is not necessary to believe that he was a conscious liar:
St. Augustine's suggestion that he was the victim of an illusion
induced by an experience in sleep is more charitable, and could be true.
Of Empedocles we know little enough - but he seems to have been a
strange person, who claimed at one time to be a god, demanding
sacrifice. His life is said to have been ended by suicide - he threw
himself into the crater of Etna. Aristotle considered him to be an
We know far too little about Buddha's personal life and even his
original teaching, to place much value on his legendary testimony. In Isis Unveiled Madame Blavatsky
declares that "a child cried out that he was Buddha's reincarnation". I
recall my own small youngest brother parading as a tram conductor with
convincing fervour. What is the value of this sort of thing as "evidence"?
It is said that Julian the Apostate, who invaded Persia at the end of
his short reign, thought he had been Alexander the Great; and Ovid is
supposed to have had an idea that he had taken part in the Trojan War.
I myself have lately read a novel by an author who seems to be
convinced that she lived before as James IV of Scotland, and gives as
"memory" details of his actual death in battle at Flodden! Well, well!
BLAVATSKY AND MRS. BESANT
To form a judgement about Madame Blavatsky's testimony to past life
memories, one has only to look at her life - her admissions of a
violent and 'unbearable' disposition, her talk of a 'split personality'
after training as a medium, her account of a trip to Tibet which she
had never made, and her proven frauds in Egypt and in America. That she
was subject to hallucinations is known. What else can we believe about
her stories of previous incarnations but that, if they were not frauds,
they were the product of her unbalanced mind?
Mrs. Besant was from childhood subject to hallucinations: her abnormal
selfishness eventually induced a megalomania which inspired her with
the desire to found a "religion of the future" while she was a victim
of phantom terrors. The question about her is not whether she was
credible but what was the nature of her mental affliction.
D. D. Home found twelve women who believed that they were
reincarnations of Marie Antoinette: six or seven recalled their lives
as Mary Queen of Scots: twenty had memories of being Alexander the
Great. Nobody, it seems, recalled being John Smith or Jane the farmer's
wife! Other candidates claimed to be Our Lady and Saint John!
The experience of Deja Vu
(seen before) which certain people have undoubtedly had, is claimed to
be one which can only be accounted for by the theory of reincarnation.
This, however, is not so. M. Ribot recounts the case of a man who
'recalled' on approaching the gate of the Earl of Sussex's castle, that
he had seen it all before, along with donkeys in front of the entrance
and persons on the road. It turned out that, when sixteen months old,
he had been carried in a basket on a donkey's back and left there for a
time with other donkeys and three guides.
Other cases can be accounted for by resemblances between previous
thought and experience, by book reading, or by dreams. But some are
very puzzling indeed, like the experience of the two ladies who found
themselves on a visit to Versailles, 'transported' briefly to the
palace at the time of Louis XV. This, however, does not seem to have
anything to do with reincarnation! The impression of present and past
apparently coming together in the same instant of duration is called
paramenesia by psychologists. A number of hypotheses about this
mysterious kind of experience have been offered: but none of them have
any apparent relation to the idea of former lives.
"ASCENT OF MAN" THROUGH MANY LIVES
The reincarnation believer, if he is consistent, must reject the
eternal punishment of which Our Lord spoke so often as the lot of the
unrepentant, God-defying sinner. According to him, all human beings
will, by means of the mechanism of successive incarnations, attain
moral perfection. This inevitable "Ascent of Man", Gustave Geley holds,
is in accordance with the law of evolution, which is "always progressive" - a
proposition which modern biologists would certainly find highly
Well, the certainty that however ill one behaves in the life one is
actually living, an eternity of bliss (if Nirvana can be called that)
will be ultimately yours in the long run, weakens the moral sanction of
the reincarnationists considerably (if one believes in reincarnation).
And if one is addicted to self-indulgence and the satisfaction of every
desire and passion, what obstacle to this is presented by the thought
of death? It means a shedding of the polluted parts of one's humanity
and the renewal of youth through an indefinite number of lives. To be
sure, we are told that the sinner will come to hate his moral misdeeds
in the long run, because of the pain involved in desire and possession.
But will not many say to themselves "Let us make the most of this life
while the undesirable change in us is still far off?"
The guardian of reincarnationist sanctions, we are told, is Karma, a law which causes every
action, word and thought to be followed inexorably by an effect
adequate and proportionate to it. But, if Karma is able to evaluate so
precisely, we must attribute to it a super-human intelligence. Nor can
this intelligence which penetrates our inmost thoughts be "human
consciousness", since this is nothing but the sum total of recollected
past experiences, according to the Theosophists. It is awakened as we
gather the bitter fruits of our bad deeds, words and thoughts - that is
the effect of Karma. [Even
though our human intelligence and our human consciousness has NO memory
of these former misdeeds!]
The Hindu peasant does not ask who or what Karma is. He "feels" that
some justice must be diffused in the world, and he does not go further
than that. [The result, of course, is a terrible fatalism and apathy to
improve his circumstances.] A Jesuit Professor, R. F. M. Balam of the
Gregorian University in Rome - a convert of the Brahmin caste - has
explained that the idea of 'proof' as Westerners see it, has no meaning
for Brahmins. For instance, their classical thesis is that all
religions are equally good, as all rivers flow to one sea and many
paths lead to a mountain top. The idea of questioning whether these
analogies really justify the equalization they draw from them does not
occur. But unless they do this, they are only playing with metaphors
which have nothing to do with a real comparison.
The Theosophists understand well enough that Western critics cannot be
put off by the statement that Karma is an "unknown" and by refusals to
answer questions about why it should be held to exist. They fall back
on what they call the "Experience of thousands of ages" by which man
has become aware of the existence of unerring justice and wisdom.
But can "experience" alone reveal the existence of a dominion of
supreme justice for men without a clear knowledge of God the judge?
Certainly, Nature and the facts of human life as lived do not show it
forth! As for the "justice of Karma" it seems to be an extension of the
physical law of action and reaction into the moral world. Is this
application of a mechanical principle to the moral sphere justifiable?
SANCTION OF KARMA
The truth is that the "Sanction of Karma" is devoid of logical
foundation, and the fashion of its application to real life has led to
controversies among intelligent believers. Thus, the Hindu Palhumanay
cites the case of a man of good fortune and virtuous upbringing and
life who contracts a horrid, incurable disease or is exposed to
undeserved disgrace. If the first state is the reward of a virtuous
previous incarnation, it would seem that the disaster is the fruit of
another kind of incarnation! Madame Blavatsky's answer to this kind of
difficulty was another evasion. Only the "Lords of Karma" can know its
mysteries, we are told. But who are these "Lords"? How can they know
the secrets of human life, and how do they direct the workings of Karma?
ISSUE OF RETRIBUTION
The reduction of the idea of retribution for evil done to a mechanical
process spanning a number of lives would result in grave consequences
if it were actually applied in human life. The criminal taken before a
Court of Justice would simply say, I acted according to the impulse of
my "Dharma", which is determined by the evolutionary level I have
attained. If you are now superior to me morally it is because you have
gone through more reincarnations since you were a brutal savage. How
can you presume to punish me, then, for what I have done? Give me time,
and all will be redressed. For the rest, it was my victim's Karma to be
murdered, doubtless for a crime committed by him in a former life.
So much for the reincarnationists' help to life. It may be added that
if the logic of Karma is accepted, to free a human being from suffering
is to delay his expiation, and the fulfilment of his moral evolution -
though it may serve yours, since compassion is always commendable.
Finally, as Mrs. Besant points out, there is no forgiveness of even involuntary or
accidental deeds which would be sinful if done deliberately. The man
who kills unintentionally must suffer the consequence by being killed
after his rebirth - and so on.
How, one wonders, can anybody seriously regard a pattern of
'retribution' of this kind as a serious solution of the problem of the
differences of human fortune and the impunity of human misconduct?
We have no notion of who we were or what we did in our supposed
previous existence. How then, can we "repent" of them: and what justice
is there in an infliction of penalty for sins of which we know nothing,
committed by someone of whose identity with ourselves we are wholly
Faced with these problems, modern reincarnationalists are prone to fall
back on the magic word "evolution". Let us give up the antiquated
concepts of sin and retribution, they say, and see our lives, and the
lives of all mankind, as moving in successive, slow stages towards a
final perfection fulfilling our highest aspirations. But this still
leaves the problem of our ignorance
of previous existence unexplained - while, for the rest, if the
universe is gradually growing better and better, how are we to explain
such lovely characters as Hitler and Stalin, and the general mass of iniquity and horror in
today's world, exemplified by such things as the mass genocide
in Cambodia during these last years? Technical achievement is visible
enough, but can we seriously believe in the emergence of a higher man
by way of moral evolution, in these last two millennia?
Another serious difficulty about reincarnation is the problem of how
the process began. It cannot
have been preceded by one
whose misdeeds deserved punishment, or good deeds reward, since he was
launched on his first life!
Then there is a matter of statistics. Three hundred years ago, the
world's population was around 500 millions, the demographic experts
calculate. In 1970 it was something like 35,000 millions - seven times
as large! If we are all reincarnated souls, it would seem that each
soul of the period of Charles II would have a sevenfold spiritual
representation today - and the increase is still continuing. This
enormously complicates the Karma process, doesn't it?
THE CHRISTIAN BELIEF IN
There are compelling rational arguments for the view that the human
soul is not extinguished by the death of the body - and this has been
the general belief of man since the first primitive ages of his
history. But as to the after-life, mere reason and human science can
tell us nothing. Christian belief, based on what is held to be Divine
Revelation, leaves many problems unsolved, and is full of mysteries.
But, by linking eternal destiny to the accumulation of heavenly
treasure by way of the love of God and active love of our neighbour in a single life on earth, it has the
effect of creating a sense of urgency
in well doing.
On the contrary, the evil of the doctrine of reincarnation is that the
lazy and self-indulgent can postpone the practice of virtue all too
easily, with the thought of the indefinite series of lives in which he
will have time to 'catch up' in the long journey towards Nirvana. For
the rest, the notion that existing evils are the result of an
unchangeable pattern of fated development, in whose meshes we are all
irrevocably involved, is not one favourable to any kind of social
progress. One of the historic evils of India has been the passive
acquiescence of Hindus of low caste in their inferiority and
degradation as the effect of Karma, and the arrogance of Brahmins who
hold their higher status to be due to the operation of some sacred
decree of fate.
* * *