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Ferry Over Jordan by Margery Lawrence 1944

 

VIII. ON REINCARNATION

I hesitated very considerably before I decided to include, in this book, a chapter upon this much-vexed question - and before I begin I should like to stress one thing very strongly.

It is not necessary to believe in reincarnation in order to accept and enjoy the truths of this science that we call Spiritualism !

Let me say, also, that if the idea of reincarnation alarms or annoys any of my readers, I suggest that they skip this chapter - it is not for them. Missing it will not spoil the usefulness or interest of the rest of the book, and refusal to accept the theory of reincarnation will not hinder them in their studies or experiments in Spiritualism. Many very fine souls on the Other Side as well as on this, do refuse to accept it - though, according to my experience, it is taught as a matter of course by most leading Guides, even when (as quite frequently happens) the medium herself dislikes and disbelieves in the doctrine! Still, it will be admitted by all commonsense people that if a thing is true, it remains true whether you like the idea of it or not-and so if reincarnation is true, it is true whether you accept it or not. But I repeat, this chapter can be skipped by those who are bored or alarmed by this ancient belief. But for those who are interested - though frequently, if I am to judge from my enquirers, somewhat puzzled! - I shall try to explain as simply as I can what is meant by reincarnation.

It is the theory that the soul of every human being returns to earth for experience, for training and education, life after life, just as a child returns term after term to school - occupying on each return a new and different body of flesh, as the child, as it grows needs, one term after another, enlarged or slightly different clothes.

This is not to say that the man himself - the essential ego, or the “ soul” if you prefer that word - is “ different” on each return to earth, except that (one hopes!) he progresses and gains knowledge and experience with each return. But each time he comes to earth he is provided with a new body, as the child going back to school is provided with a new outfit each time the old one wears out.

For some reason this idea depresses or alarms many people, who say, “ Dear me, I have not enjoyed this life so much that I want to come back! I am sure I should never want to come back, once I got on to the Other Side.”


 

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But you want to go to sleep every night, don't you? Yet you don't know in the least what has been happening to your released ego - your inner self - while your body lies tranced in sleep? Even when one night, you have had an unpleasant nightmare, when the time comes on the following night you feel the need for sleep and ultimately yield to it. And the Masters teach that after a while, no matter how happy the soul may be in its life on the Other Side, sooner or later it feels instinctively that the time has come for another term of life on earth to begin - and it “ goes to sleep” on the Other Side, to be born again into life on this. Yet when that soul is reborn, except in a few comparatively exceptional cases, it has not the remotest memory of his life on the Other Side, any more than you have of what you are doing during sleep . . . and believe me, you are doing plenty!

The belief in man's return to earth, again and again, but each time in a different body of flesh, is a very ancient one. Its roots go so deep into the past that it would be difficult to find out where it actually began. Like humanity's belief in God (or in “ gods”), in the Virgin Birth, in the arrival of a Saviour of Mankind, in the Fall of Man, in the Flood, this belief is worldwide; it goes back to the very birth of mankind, and as far as my limited knowledge goes at least, nobody has yet discovered where it actually began. It came, like so many other things, from the East, and in the West, especially within the last fifty years or so, belief in it is rapidly extending.

In proof of this I advise my readers to study Karma and Rebirth, an interesting and scholarly exposition of this. subject, by T. Christmas Humphreys, the well-known barrister, only recently published (1943).

The religio-philosophic system called Theosophy is the best-known organization teaching reincarnation in the Western world, and many brilliant and profound thinkers, men and women, are ardent Theosophists - but Theosophy is not a brand-new religion, invented by Madame Blavatsky, as many people think! Madame Blavatsky - who, even her detractors admit, was a greatly-gifted psychic as well as a profound and brilliant student, of Eastern Occultism - merely re-shaped and re-presented to the Western world certain ancient and splendid Eastern beliefs, chief among which figures the doctrine of reincarnation.

“ But what is the sense of it all?” I may be asked. My answer is this.

The theory of reincarnation offers the only sane, simple and logical explanation of the many injustices, cruelties, inequalities and the like,


 

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that exist on earth, that has yet been offered to the reasoning mind of man. These must be explained - for though great intelligence and extensive scientific knowledge may well act sometimes as a barrier to the understanding of things that cannot be encompassed within the limits of known science, yet as the mind of man develops it is of no use trying to put it off by ancient platitudes, such as the Churches are far too fond of using.

“ Have faith . . .” That is all very well! But the minds of men and women of to-day are no longer content with that convenient phrase, which essays to persuade them to cease thinking or questioning and sit back, leaving the thinking to their pastors and masters! The theory of reincarnation, considered soberly and without fear or prejudice, satisfies one's intelligence as well as one's spiritual aspirations.

According to the teaching of reincarnation, very literally “ as a man sows so shall he reap”. You see one man pass by in a splendid car, a man obviously wealthy and well placed, and next comes a ragged cripple with a face that speaks of misery and semi-starvation - and you say quite naturally: “ How horribly unfair!” And so it seems - on the surface. But reincarnation teaches that if you were able to look deep into the past lives of these two men, you would find that there was a reason, and a perfectly good and logical reason, for the difference between them. You might well see something like this.

The cripple was once, in an earlier life, a rich and successful man. But in that day of life, when he possessed wealth, he was selfish and overbearing, cared nothing for others, and so passed through that particular life-period learning nothing and caring less for the suffering of others, and most certainly not trying to do anything to help them! And when ultimately he “ died” and his soul went back to the Other Side, and his friends and Masters gathered round him and asked him what he had done with his time on earth, he began to realize that he had been so busy enjoying himself and spending his money on himself that he had entirely overlooked the vast opportunities for good that he had been given along with his wealth! So, as he had failed in making good use of those opportunities, in his next life on earth he was advised to choose a life of poverty and ill health, wherein he must needs learn the lessons he had ignored in his life of wealth.

And as regards the last earth-life of the man in the car. You might well see that it had been a life of humble work and sacrifice, in which he had occupied a very menial position, but discharged his duties with great


 

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honesty and faithfulness. And so, having shown himself worthy of trust in lesser things, in this new life he had been entrusted with management of great wealth and responsibility . . . he had “ graded upwards” as the other man had graded downwards. But fortunately the instinct in most of us is ultimately to reach upwards towards the Light, so if we sin and blunder and retrogress in some of our lives, as, of course, we all do, we retrace our steps and relearn our lessons painfully, if slowly, as our tale of lives goes on.

I personally know a man who in his past lives has been a wealthy Roman, the Governor of a Province, an Egyptian noble in the time of Rameses II and a Prince of Babylon, as well as occupying various other equally high positions. (I do not, of course, expect this statement of mine to be believed!) But in this life he is a hard-up and overworked Government official who, despite his many fine qualities, is unlikely ever to occupy a very great or powerful position. And the reason for this is that in his earlier lives, when he had great power over the life and death, wealth and happiness of others, he disregarded these opportunities for good many and many times over; his great fault was always the worship of pride and power, so much so that he knew little about love and cared less. But after misusing his chances in several lives in succession, at last he was forced to realize that only by accepting a humble and hard-working incarnation could he ever learn the law of service to humanity - and though he has suffered deeply in this day of life, and his proud and ruthless spirit has felt the yoke of servitude gall most bitterly at times, still he has advanced immeasurably in spiritual knowledge, thanks to his courage in accepting this incarnation of suffering. And to sweeten the suffering he has also learnt to know love - as he never knew it in his old, arrogant days. And I know that despite all he has had to endure and may have to endure yet, he feels it has been worth while.

It has always seemed to me to be a most absurd idea to assume that that complicated thing, the “ inner” man, heart and brain and soul and spirit, all that apart from his mere physical shell makes him real, can possibly be thoroughly developed, trained, tested and perfected (as the orthodox church-teaching argues) within the ridiculously short space of “ three­score years and ten”! It has taken millions of years to develop man from the shambling, half-human ape of the primeval forests into the tall, straight-bodied, free-striding physical creature of to-day. How utterly foolish it seems, then, to imagine that that far more detailed and


 

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intricate thing, the ego, the soul within that body, can come to its full fruition within a mere few years! And what about the thousands of young people, of babies, of children, who die after sometimes only a few months, or even days or hours, of life? Are they supposed, in some miraculous manner, to cram into those few days all the development of three-score years and ten?

Again, what about the souls who incarnate in a body whose brain is abnormal? Are they supposed to attain full development via a body with a twisted brain - as well expect a pilot to give a first-class performance in a 'plane with a wrongly-made engine!

I have never met any churchman who could ever begin to answer this - but the Teachers of reincarnation do so very thoroughly and sanely. They explain that if something goes wrong with the earthly body, the “ cloak” or “ envelope” that is the temporary habitation of the soul - if accident, war, illness, a thousand other things causes the death of that body, so that the soul has to leave it - then it is merely, as it were, a term cut short at school! And though it is a pity that that term has been lost, for in it had been planned certain lessons for that soul to learn, yet it makes no difference, ultimately, to the soul's education. There are other periods of training to be had on earth . . . and the soul whose “ term” has been cut short returns to the Other Side, to await another opportunity of rebirth. Equally as regards the imbecile, the lunatic, all the other pathetic creatures whose brains are not normal - the soul caged in one of these pitiful bodies cannot function freely (though none the less the contact with earth, even in such an imperfect fashion, serves some useful purpose for the incarnating soul), and on escaping from it, re­turns, after a rest on the Other Side, again to this world in a more favourable “ coat of flesh” .

The thought of being born again without those they love around them is, of course, another reason why the theory of reincarnation is unpopular with many people - and I can quite understand this fear. But I am taught that the answer to this is twofold. First, it often happens (and certainly it has happened to me) that certain souls who are very closely linked with each other, do incarnate side by side in many lives, perhaps in all of them, though by no means always in the same relationship. For instance, a pair of lovers may be reborn as father and daughter, brother and sister, or even two close friends, but that will make no difference. They will instinctively recognize each other when they meet, so that the old love-link revives between them, though this recognition is


 

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subconscious and the couple in question rarely remember their earlier lives together. Yet how many of us, on meeting someone, get that instant feeling “ I know you!” - a feeling that brings with it instant liking, or equally instant hate!

Second (to resume once again the “ school” simile, even at the risk of being boring - for it really is a good one!), often at school when you are moved up a form or two you are depressed and upset for a time. You miss your old friends, and are certain you will never like any of the strangers amongst whom you find yourself! And yet, within how short a time you find yourself quite at home and happy, making new friends, and sometimes better ones, than those you knew in your old form.

Another point that often seems to worry enquirers is well expressed in a question from a correspondent.

“ How” (she asks) is one to know that we shall not 'miss' our loved one, if, for instance, he is obliged to reincarnate in another body before we can join him on the Other Side? He might be reborn again before one went over, and how awful that would be!”

But I am told that this rarely, if ever, happens, and certainly not between those who truly love each other. A husband who dearly loved his wife and who died before her would wait until she joined him before even thinking of reincarnating. Then after their reunion they would talk the matter over together, consult their friends and advisers and then decide whether it would be best for both of them to reincarnate together, or separately, or maybe for one to return to earth while the other remained for a period on the Other Side, to receive special training or fulfil a special duty there. For instance, if the couple had had a child who had died young, the wife might elect to remain on the Other Side with the child, helping in its training and development, while the husband took up the burden of another day of life.

It may seem, to ardent young lovers, impossible for two who love deliberately to choose separation! But one must not forget that on the Other Side we are just a little wiser, just a little less swayed by our physical emotions, than we are over here. So, we find the strength to act more courageously than we do here.

Life must progress, on the Other Side as on this - otherwise there would be stagnation. Look back over your earth-life. Would you have been as happy, as successful in your life had you stayed always in the same rut where you began life - no matter how happy a rut it may have been?.


 

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How many of us marry our first callow young love - and how many, if we do, live to regret it most bitterly? And yet how unhappy we were when life or our parents parted us, and how convinced we were that all things were over for us both and that the future held nothing but darkness and despair!

We are veritable children yet, so many of us, and because a new idea means getting out of a comfortable mental armchair and walking out into the open where, unaccustomed to the fresh air, we may feel naked and chilly, how we hate it! To many people the idea that the book of life may consist of many chapters instead of one is so novel as to be alarming - but once used to the idea, my experience has been that in the vast majority of cases it ceases to alarm and becomes the sanest, most satisfying explanation conceivable of this puzzling world of ours, with its apparent injustices and unfairness.

“ Does one have to be reborn, whether one likes it or not?” “ How often is one reborn?” “ How long is there between one's lives?” are obvious questions.

The answer is that there is no force used on the other Side to make a soul return to earth; but as I have said earlier in this chapter, sooner or later every soul instinctively realizes that to progress at all he must return to school, the school of earth, and - he returns. As regards the frequency of these returns, this again depends, just as a child's progress in school depends, upon the individual soul's capacity, determination and desire to learn. And regarding the length of time of the periods spent between lives on the Other Side - these again vary greatly.

Souls who are anxious to progress quickly tend to return to earth quickly. Some people are lazy, or dislike earth-conditions and do not want to return, and on one pretext or another they will deliberately linger on the Other Side sometimes for as much as two hundred years of our earth-time, trying to put off the evil day when they must go back and take up the burden of earth-life once again - though by this I do not mean to suggest that life on the Other Side is one of constant lotus­eating! That is very far from the truth! It is one of constant progress, movement, study, interest, and even the lazy ones cannot but learn much over there. But life on earth has certain valuable lessons to teach that cannot be taught over there - and sooner or later, no matter how reluctant or how lazy, the waiting souls come back to school.


 

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How many times a soul incarnates, therefore, depends largely upon himself. The quick learners as a rule need fewer earthlives, because they cram so much profitable experience into each period of life on earth. These obviously get through “ school” faster than the slower scholars, and “ graduate” comparatively soon, beyond the need of earth and its lessons. But these advanced souls, even when the necessity for incarnation is over, often deliberately elect to maintain contact with the earth and mankind by acting as Guides and Teachers through chosen mediums; or sometimes they even decide to incarnate in a body of flesh once more, because they know that with their vast experience of earth behind them, and with the power and strength that they have gained through having passed through so many lives upon it, they can teach and help their struggling fellowmen who are yet in the early stages of incarnation. I have met several of these splendid, selfless souls who shine, like rare gems, here and there among the dust-heaps of the earth.

These are those who, having endured earth's sorrow and agonies, having known tears and loneliness, hunger and bitterness, deliberately turn their back upon the peace and beauty of life on the Other Side and return to earth to love and teach and comfort humanity as souls who have not shared humanity's sorrows could never do. These have passed through all anguish, all terror, all doubts and all despairs, and emerged at last strong and serene, above them at last, for these cannot touch a fully-developed soul! But the memory of old suffering remains, and makes the Great Ones what they are: tender, strong and wise, true Elder Brothers of the struggling human race.

The question is often asked: “ Why don't we remember our past lives, if we have lived so many?”

The answer is that some of us do - but since it is almost impossible to produce tangible evidence that these fragmentary visions that come to us sometimes in sleep, sometimes in waking thought, are memories, they are generally put down by the sceptical public at least, and often by the individual himself, as either dreams or figments of the imagination. (Though this is a poor explanation, since very little is known about imagination and still less about dreams! When this is given as an answer it is about as vague and unsatisfactory as the glib response “ telepathy” or “ electricity” which is so often used to try and explain anything that can't be explained in any other way.)

Here follows an interesting instance of a “ quick” return to earth.


 

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This story comes from India, and is especially interesting, as it was described in detail in several well-known Indian papers. (I think the Times of India was one.) Moreover, it does not rest on native evidence alone, but was investigated and reported on by two or three European witnesses.

A girl-child was born to a poor peasant couple living in a small native village. She was one of several children, and not notable in any way until she began to walk and talk, when to the astonishment of her parents she persisted in saying that she “ wanted her husband and her two sons” , that the little hut in which she had been born was not her home. Her home, she declared, was a house in a large city (she did not even know what a large city was like, never having left the native village where she was born) full of shops and streets, temples and people – and she wanted to go back there! Though this did not cause the consternation it would have aroused in an English village, since the natives of India, like most Eastern races, accept the theory of reincarnation as a matter of course, it troubled them considerably, and when as time wore on and the toddling baby became a little girl, and the “ delusion” not only did not wear off, but became more fixed than ever, they began to be seriously worried, fearing her persistent talk of a “ husband and sons” must react against her chances in the marriage-market.

Now one fine day there was a great religious festival at a large town many miles away (a town none of the family had ever visited) and the family decided to go, and naturally the child went with them, excited beyond measure at the idea of visiting a city.

But what was the amazement of her family when, on trundling slowly into the town at dawn-time, on the ox-wagon that was all the conveyance they could afford, the child became tremendously excited, declared that she knew the town, and that this was the place where she had her real home, where her husband and her sons lived . . . and finally (to cut a long story short) she led her bewildered parents and friends unerringly through the crowded streets of this strange and busy town, until she arrived at a dirty

little back-street in the purely native quarter, knocked on the door of a particular house, and on its being opened by a man of some forty years of age, threw herself sobbing at his feet and acclaimed him as her husband!


 

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The man's blank amazement can be imagined ! But when the child, on entering the house, obviously knew every nook and cranny, described the corner where his late wife had lain to sleep (she had died some ten years before this child was born), told what her name had been, and his special pet name for her, the colour of her favourite sari and the special dishes she had loved to cook for him, described their two sons and spoke of her grief that a third son had died in childbirth, his doubt and amazement gave way to loud thanksgiving, and he swore that the child could be none other than his adored young wife reborn once more, and besought her astounded parents to give her back to him!

Whether this was done I do not know - for here the story stops short. But I understand that it created tremendous interest in the locality. So much so that two or three prominent Europeans took the trouble to investigate the matter, and one and all: could not but admit that there was something very strange - something they could not understand - about the whole affair; though they were patently unwilling to admit the only logical explanation that fitted all the facts, which was to admit that the child's story was literally true! She had died and subsequently returned to earth (probably brought back by her intense love for her husband and sons) to be reborn as the little village child only a few years after her own death - and she had come back with her older memories so sharply defined that they were stronger even than the solid facts of her new existence!

The point is sometimes raised that reincarnation cannot be true, because Christ did not teach it. But - do we know He did not?

St. Paul preached the law of Karma and rebirth, and Christ, like St. Paul, belonged to the East, where the doctrine of reincarnation is taken for granted as a basic fact of life (not merely a religious theory), and has been for many thousands of years past. He was teaching Eastern people - and there was no need to make a central and important part of His teaching a doctrine that they already accepted as a matter of course. He had other, more important matters to teach, than something they all knew Moreover, we do not know that He did not teach it, taking it with many other things in His stride, as it were. It must not be forgotten that we do not possess, in any sense of the word, an accurate (and unprejudiced) record of the Master's life and sayings.

Comparatively few people know that nothing whatever was written down about the Christ, His words, His life or death, until forty years or so had passed - and then it was recorded piecemeal by very old men who


 

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wrote down what they had been told and what they remembered about Him. And though the main outline of the story they all tell may well be true - that it is, is proved by the similarity of the stories told in the four Gospels - who can seriously maintain that after a lapse of over forty years these old men could be certain of remembering word for word what the Nazarene said?

The main gist of His teachings, yes - but the precise words, no! Can you remember precisely what was said at an important interview about a month ago? Of course you can't, any more than you can remember what you had for dinner last Tuesday fortnight. Even though admittedly the Eastern mind and memory is more highly trained than ours, since the tales told by Eastern story-tellers are tales that have been handed down verbally from generation to generation, it is still obviously absurd to suppose that those stories are repeated word-for-word the same by every teller.

Moreover, it is generally accepted that Christ spoke and preached in Aramaic. But the earliest recorded writing of the Bible was written in Hebrew (Old Testament Canon, determined by the Jewish Synod of Jamnia, A.D. 90). And the New Testament, again, was written in Hellenistic Greek, which was the lingua franca of that period. The scattered collection of documents that was the original of the Bible were apparently gathered together and first formed into some sort of book (called the “ Canon of Scripture” ) at the gathering of the Synod or Council of Hippo A.D. 393 and Carthage A.D. 397. A Gothic version was made by Bishop Ulfilas in the fourth century; an Armenian version was made by Archbishop Mesrop in the sixth; a Slavonic in the ninth (by St. Cyril and St. Methodius), besides, of course, Greek and Latin translations; and coming nearer to our own day, the first “ Complete English Translation” was made by Miles Coverdale and appeared in 1535. There was an “ Authorised Version” in 1611, a “ Revised Version” in 1881, and so on, and so forth. After all these translations, how can we imagine we have Christ's actual words as He spoke them?

The documents concerning the life of Christ were not even regarded as sacred documents until some two hundred years after the decision of the Synod of Carthage - and it was not until 1611 that the pontiffs of the Church decided which of the books of the Bible were truly divinely inspired! It is plain fact that the Church discarded the “ Book of Enoch” and the “ Revelation of Peter”, the “ Book of Tobit” and certain other books (subsequently collected and published as the “ Apocrypha”) that


 

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were originally included in the Bible, either because they were doubtful of their “ authenticity” or else because they did not square with their own ideas on the subject! So how do we know that the translators - most of whom were priests or monks to whom the teaching of reincarnation was anathema - did not, in the course of translation, weed out and discard much that Christ said concerning reincarnation? Human nature is prone to gloss, over or even ignore statements that clash with preconceived andt well-established prejudices!

The Apostles' Creed comes from - where? Scholars cannot find its origin, and the Apostles knew nothing of it. And what of the Athanasian Creed (of which Athanasius is not the author!)L and the Nicene Creed - which is so little “ inspired” that it owes its origin to the Council of Nicaea under the Emperor Constantine (A.D. 325) when he decided to make Christianity the, State religion! After months of argument by over 2,048 priests, it was decided by a narrow majority that Jesus was the Son of God! All these people and many others like them have had a finger in the making of the Bible - and in the end, after two thousand years of translation and re-translation, of material added and material weeded out, of change, controversy, argument and rewriting, who on earth will have the courage to say that we have in the Bible a detailed verbatim report of Christ's actual words, exactly as He spoke them?

But even in the admittedly inexact records of His teachings that have come down to us, one finds many words and phrases that seem to imply acceptance of reincarnation as a natural and inevitable law of life. Christ nowhere repudiates the belief, and nowhere rebukes the disciples or the people for speaking as though reincarnation was a matter of course - that they frequently did so is plain fact, as any careful reading of the Gospels will prove. And Christ certainly says many things Himself that can only be interpreted as accepting that doctrine. He alludes constantly to a “ second life” , “ second death” , “ new birth”, and so on - and the fact that we have all been taught that His words mean one thing, does not alter the fact that they are capable of bearing quite another and a more essentially Oriental meaning. Take, for instance, the story of the seance on the mountain-top. (St. Mark ix, verse 2 onwards.) Then Christ took Peter, James and John up with Him, and there upon the mountain-top the dead Moses and Elias came and talked with Him.

(Incidentally, what a perfect description of a modern materialization seance! Peter, James and John, the sitters who obviously helped to


 

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provide the ectoplasm. Christ the Medium - He was, of course, as the miracles and the stories of His healing proved, the greatest medium who ever trod the earth, and used His mediumship consciously, needing no trance and no Guide. Even to the description of the luminous white appearance of the ectoplasm “ shining, exceeding white as snow” an effect which will be perfectly familiar to anybody versed in the phenomena of the seance room.) But the appearance of the dead sages was evidently a serious shock to the three disciples - for they were “ sore afraid”!

When, as at a materialization seance, the figures ultimately vanished, and “ they looked round about and saw no man, save Jesus only with themselves” , they were even more puzzled and afraid; and when they came down from the mountain they “ questioned one another what the rising from the dead should mean” .

And later on (when evidently the questioning amongst themselves had led to no very definite conclusion) they asked Christ “ Why the scribes said that Elias” (who was dead and whose etheric appearance they had just seen) “ must first come?”

And He said, “ Elias is indeed come and they have done unto him whatsoever they listed!”

I cannot see any explanation of this phrase other than that Elias had been incarnated on earth again - probably in the body of John the Baptist, which is earlier suggested in more than one passage - and in that incarnation had suffered, even as his karmic debts decreed that he must suffer, for his sins in an earlier life.

John had been beheaded by Herod at the request of Salome, as we know - and the fact that he was asked point-blank by the Jews, who “ sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to question him” (John i, verse 19 onwards), whether he was “ Elias come again” , or whether he was the Christ, proves that the population as a whole assumed that a man could be reborn in another body.

The fact that John denied that he was Elias means nothing. We do not know all our “ impersonations” in our past lives. But the question proves how generally accepted was the belief in the rebirth of a soul again and again on earth. Christ's query to the people (Mark ix, verse 27) proves the same thing.


 

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“ Whom do men say I am?” (He said). And they answered “ John the Baptist; but some say Elias” (who was, as we know, dead). And again, we get the query of the disciples about the blind man.

“ Did this man sin, or his parents, that he was born blind?” Obviously no new-born baby could sin - unless it had sinned in a previous life ! So the explanation of the man's affliction might well be that he had accepted a blind incarnation as expiation for a sin committed in a previous life - which is entirely in keeping with the teachings of reincarnation. And Christ's answer, though as usual rather ambiguous, certainly contains nothing that seems to repudiate the suggestion.

So I suggest we go warily when we declare that Christ's teaching was against this ancient doctrine accepted of His native people!

I have heard many people express regret that they cannot remember their past lives in detail - but believe me, speaking from the point of view of one who does remember a little of the past, they should be rather thankful!

In the see-saw of varied experiences and widely differentiated lives that we must all go through before we are released from the burden of having to return periodically to the training-ground of earth, we know glory and pain, ecstasy and anguish, wealth untold and grinding poverty! We handle immense powers - and are feeble and helpless and without hope. We know love in its fullness - and have to live without it, or “ make do” with feeble imitations. We are born gloriously handsome, with perfect minds and bodies - and we are born crippled and ugly or have to wend our way through life with our souls trying to function through a veiled and twisted mentality. Now, how could we possibly hope to face up to the daily trials and troubles of this day of life, if we were perpetually dreaming of past lives full of glitter and glamour, or of a love beside which the little loves of to-day would show pale and trivial? It takes a very strong soul indeed to face up to the cinema-show of its past incarnations - and it is only between lives that we are allowed to see this and to know fully what we are and have been!

To remember the mere “ bits and pieces” of past lives, as some of us do, makes it hard enough to live out one's days here. So it is wise of the Gods, when we have to leave the Other Side to descend again into flesh, to draw a kindly veil before our eyes, lest, remembering the early days of our glory, we give up the struggle in despair and shame.

Yet some of us do remember!


 

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I know several people who remember their past lives - not, of course, in detail, but in “ bits” more or less long and coherent.(*) Joan Grant wrote her brilliant books ‘Winged Pharaoh’ and ‘Eyes of Horus’ largely from her own inner memories of life in ancient Egypt (or so I am told). In Clare Sheridan's book ‘Without End’, she shows memories of earlier lives spent with her son, who died so tragically early in this day of life, and Shaw Desmond, in ‘Echo’, ‘Incarnate Isis’ and others, draws on memories of earlier lives for the background of his tales.

(*) See the end of this chapter for a series of incarnationary memories.

The description (in ‘Echo’) of the fight between the two gladiators “ Tauro” and the “ Red Shadow” has been spoken of as “ the most vividly­convincing description ever written of such a battle - written as it only could be by one of the fighters themselves” . Well, since the “ Red Shadow” was Shaw himself, he should know how to write it! This book - now unfortunately out of print, I fear - contains, like that old classic ‘Nyria’, by Mrs. Campbell Praed, one of the best pictures of Roman life I ever read, and tunes in exactly with many memories of my own of that period in the world's history. Personally, I remember most clearly life in Egypt and in Greece, in Persia, in ancient India and in China - these two last are amongst my very oldest “ memories” . I know I have lived in Italy during the Renaissance period and in France more than once - the last time, I think, being at the period of the Revolution. And I have certainly been incarnated in Scandinavia; Norway in particular is uncannily familiar to me, and also the Hebrides, which so many Norsemen knew.

I know very well that in saying this I shall be laughed at by most people, but that does not matter to me. Those who also remember echoes of earlier days will know that I am speaking the truth - and as regards the rest, it is unimportant whether I am believed or not. But I would rather like to hear the sceptic's explanation of the following adventure - which happened to me when I was only about fourteen.

I went one summer to stay with a school-friend, Olwen Evans (this is not her name, of course), at her people's house in a remote part of Wales. Now I must preface this story with the statement that while I was a dreamy, sensitive sort of child, passionately fond of music and pictures and books and with a marked psychic streak, I had certainly never heard or thought about reincarnation. My people were not interested in that sort of thing, and though there were plenty of books in the house, they were all of the, old-classic type, like Dickens and Thackeray,


 

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Tennyson and Wordsworth, Charles Kingsley, and so on. (I stress this apparently unimportant point so that it shall be quite clear that I had no sort of knowledge of any kind that might have influenced me, consciously or subconsciously, towards “ faking” the following very queer experience.)

We were a merry little house-party of half a score of youngsters - all of ages ranging from thirteen to sixteen, Olwen, who was sixteen, being the eldest of the lot; and there was staying in the house also an uncle of Olwen's, a pleasant, middle-aged man, known to us all as “ Uncle Harry”. One day a picnic was decided on, and so we all piled into the battered family car and set off, the car being driven by Uncle Harry, with Olwen at his side, myself squeezed down between them, and the others at the back.

It was a lovely sunny day and the scenery was green and beautiful, and we were running down a narrow road with oddly steep sides (an old Roman road, I subsequently discovered) when I suddenly felt the road was familiar - and said so.

Jokingly Uncle Harry said:

“ I thought you'd never been in Wales before?” (I had not.) “ All right, if you know the road, tell us what lies round the next bend?”

I answered at once - though without quite knowing what I was going to say until the words were out of my mouth.

“ We come to a shallow ford across a little river, and then we go uphill through the pinewoods to a road that runs along the top of a ridge, running alongside the sea - and a long way off there's a sort of mound like a hill that overlooks the sea, and that's where we are going.”

Uncle Harry and Olwen stared at me and then at each other - because the destination where we were going for our picnic, an old Roman camp on a hill overlooking the sea, had been guarded as a special secret, and nobody had been told our destination!

They plied me with interested questions, each of course accusing the other of having given the secret away - though I assured them nobody had told me anything - and as we emerged upon the road along the ridge and I saw, lying far ahead, a low green hill lying like a crouching monster overlooking the sea, I began to feel more and more queer and confused and frightened, and I knew that I would give anything not to be going to the top of that hill.


 

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The feeling grew so strong that as we halted the car at the sloping foot of the hill, I begged Olwen to let us have the picnic here at the foot of the hill, not at the top, as had originally been planned.

They agreed at once, but Uncle Harry, whose curiosity was now thoroughly aroused, made me promise, after the picnic was over, to go up to the camp with him and with Olwen - and with a rather sinking heart I agreed, and after the feast was over we started.

Now from here onwards my recollection becomes slowly more and more vague, so that I shall have to supplement it by quoting from my companion's report.

I remember that queer, confused, frightened feeling growing steadily upon me as I stumbled up the uneven slopes, and as we went higher and higher I ceased to be definitely conscious of my two companions and seemed to be walking by myself, back and back and farther back still, into a misty, dreamy state in which I was only conscious of fear and dread and hate – and when we reached the top of the mound at last, I knew it, every inch! But I was no longer quite conscious of what I said, nor of where I was. .

They told me afterwards that I walked round and about that Roman camp clinging to their hands, with my eyes wide and fixed as though I was in some sort of a trance (as indeed I suppose I was), and I said in a monotonous voice like that of a sleepwalker “ This was where the sentries walked up and down! And this was where the captains had their quarters. And this was where the food was cooked, and where the men slept, and this was where the spare arms were stored, and this was where they kept the prisoners. And this was the place where they whipped the prisoners”

And as I said this, it seems that I gave a sudden agonized shriek of “ My back, my back!” and collapsed in a faint. And as I lay on my face on the green turf they tore open the back of my frock, and there, clearly to be seen upon the skin, were five long red weals, precisely as though they had been made by a whip!

They lasted, they told me, only three or four minutes, and then faded away as though they had never been there at all; but Uncle Harry managed to take a snapshot of them with O1wen's camera before they faded, and subsequently sent up the story, plus the photograph, to some Society that interested itself in such matters, and there was a good deal of controversial discussion about it. But it was not until years


 

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afterwards that Olwen told me all this, as I was so shaky and ill when I came round from my faint that they took me home at once, and I was not told anything about what had happened on the mound until long afterwards, for fear of frightening me. But Uncle Harry was dead then, and goodness knows what happened to the report he sent to the Society, whatever it was - so, alas, there is only my word for it that all this happened. But I give it sincerely; and I feel the only sane explanation of this adventure is given by the doctrine of reincarnation.

I am convinced that I was once a prisoner in Roman hands, that I was dragged down that road and died under the lash in that camp. And that the shock of picking up the old vibrations of fear and hate and anguish that I had suffered there reproduced upon my body, as the stigmata of the wounds of Christ are produced by the force of concentrated thinking upon the bodies of some religieuses, the stigmata of the wounds under which I died. Anyway, if my theory is not correct, I have yet to hear a better!

Now here I append an interesting group of varied cases that seem to me to prove, like my own experience quoted above, that we have lived before - and leave my readers to draw their own conclusions!

CASE I

Story told me in 1942 by a Captain in the Eighth Army (written in his own words)

“ It was when we were retreating from Rommel in Egypt - we'd had a tough time, and I got separated, with a string of my fellows, from the main body of troops, which was making for the coast.

I and my men were lost in the desert and I was getting rather bothered, as we were short of water and I didn't know where to turn for the coast - country all round just waste and scrub and sand.

However, I ordered a halt and a rest, and actually went to sleep - and I had a very queer dream. I dreamt that somebody stood by me and said:

“ You have been here before. But you don't know it. When you wake follow your instinct, and you will find your old trail that will lead you rightly. Follow it till you see in the distance a high escarpment like a long wall. At one place you will see a cleft in it. Climb up to that cleft and you will see the sea below you and your comrades waiting for you. To prove what I say is right, dig in the rock on the right-hand side of the cleft, and you will find what remains of the body you wore when you last trod this path.”


 

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When I woke up I felt rather queer! But all my doubts as to which direction to take certainly seemed to have vanished. And though myself I wondered if I was leading the men into the German lines, still something seemed to have ‘taken charge’ of me, and we trekked across the desert all through a frightful day, with one or two halts for rest, and towards evening I saw the escarpment, stretching along far off, and I could see the cleft in it too! This encouraged me very much; and somehow when we scrambled up to the cleft and saw the sea on the Other Side, and our fellows down on the beach waving to us, I wasn't surprised.

But before we got down I made the men dig in the right-hand side of the cleft. They struck a hole almost at once, and inside it I found a few bones, a battered Roman helmet and breast-plate, and the hilt of a rusty sword.

I've kept them as souvenirs - and I'm quite satisfied in my own mind that the chap who talked to me in my dream was right. I'd been that Roman soldier in an earlier incarnation.”

CASE 2

In August 1922 the station-master at Haldwani went for a pilgrimage to Muttra (none of the party had visited Muttra before, nor had they any friends or relations connected with the place) with his wife, nursemaid and small daughter, Hira Koer, aged three or four years. At Muttra the party took a river-boat for the shrine at Gokul. On reaching this sacred spot, Hira Koer suddenly and unexpectedly struggled out of the arms of her nurse, who was carrying her, and ran towards a doorway at which an old lady was sitting. Her mother followed her and found her little daughter eagerly questioning the astonished old lady about “ her” slate and pencil, about the chair in which she used to sit, and about a pair of brass nutcrackers and a set of toy bells which she said were favourite toys of hers, and various other things about the house. She then took the little girl by the hand to the river that flowed at the foot of her garden. In the water amongst the reeds were some water-tortoises, and on seeing them Hira Koer cried out, “ You naughty tortoises! You drowned me last time, and now I believe you've come to do it again!”

Thereupon the old lady burst into tears - for her twelve-year-old son had been drowned at this very spot fourteen years ago, while trying to catch a water-tortoise!


 

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It transpired also that the bells, chain and all the other things that Hira Koer had “ remembered” as hers, had belonged to the boy himself; the case was regarded by the child's relatives and friends as a clear proof of reincarnationary memory.

CASE 3

Mr. Bhajrang Bahadur, now twenty-two years old, is the son of a Court Document Writer resident in Bareilly. His father and mother are of the usual swarthy native colour, but he has fair hair and hazel eyes, and two scars, like bullet wounds, one on the right side of his neck and the other on his skull. In 1928, when he was seven years old, he told Babu Shakambri Das Singhi of Bareilly that “ his real name was Arthur, and that he was a white soldier who had died in the German war” (1914-18).

The recorder of this story, one Mr. Sahai, states that though he had now - as these cases generally do - grown out of the memories of this earlier life, up till his eighth or ninth year he displayed such marked English characteristics that his family and friends were bewildered. He found difficulty in 'squatting' in the usual native fashion, and would climb up to a seat instead of sitting on the ground, try to eat his meals with a knife and fork instead of with his fingers, and used to play leapfrog and other un-Indian games. He used to walk up and down in military fashion and give salutes in the English manner, though he had never seen an English soldier in his life. He also spoke of the sea and ships, motor-cars and many-storied houses (which he had never seen) and many other essentially English matters. His mother and father are old­type people who firmly believe that such remembrances shorten life. They do not know English, and did not encourage the child to disclose his ancient memories, feeling it in some sense a disgrace, so that when the case began to be noticed the lad was growing out of his ancient memories that had been so clear, and much that might have been received was lost.”But as it stands it remains a remarkable and interesting case.

LETTERS FROM READERS PUBLISHED IN ‘DAILY MAIL’ From a ship's steward:

“ At school I felt strangely familiar with certain parts of Brazil, and had a vivid recurring dream about the country. I always dreamt I was an


 

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explorer, lost in a tropical forest, and a band of fierce, dark-skinned men would appear and gather about me. Suddenly their leader would strike at me with his spear, I felt an excruciating pain in my breast . . . and then awoke.

On growing up I became a ship's steward and visited Brazil. At Santos a passenger stared at me curiously and invited me to his cabin. He showed me a trophy taken from the head-hunters of the Amazon - the head of one of their victims preserved and shrunk. He said it was considered to be more than a hundred years old. I shuddered. I was looking at an exact counterpart of my own face!”

C. F. S. HILL, 10 Pendire Road, Ely, Cardiff. From an ex-soldier:

“ While I was with the Dragoon Guards in India I went out tent-pegging one morning, and riding a half-trained remount, was violently thrown. I was unconscious for thirty days.

When I recovered I was unable to remember a single detail of this present existence, and did not know my own name. I learned that preparations had been made for a speedy funeral, and that I had had a miraculous escape.

But in my delirium I had told an extraordinary story about being ‘Subahdar of the Guard’at the gates of Delhi. I had spoken in fluent Urdu to an Indian doctor.

Now I did not know Urdu. I had never visited Delhi. Yet a clear recollection of the incident I was said to have talked about had come to me while I was to all intents and purposes ‘dead’. I had seen two big white elephants of stone, and within the fort, a crowd of people, with native princes and soldiers in chain-mail. The emperor was arriving in state and the scene was brilliant.

About eighteen months later I went to Delhi, and in order to satisfy my curiosity I went to the fort. There at the gate were the two stone elephants exactly as I had visualized! A Punjabi officer, a Mussulman, showing me round, pointed out the old Emperor's Palace with its jewelled roofs, and told me of the wonderful scenes and tournaments of former days, a feature of life in the old fort.”

H. M. SuTroN, 294 Brixton Hill, S.W.2.


 

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From an old lady in the Midlands:

“ At the age of five I was taken with the rest of my family to live in Yorkshire, where our ancestors had lived for centuries.

The road to the school led past an old disused cottage situated in the middle of a semicircular road. This special little detour was a great favourite among all the children except me. No amount of persuasion or bullying would make me go there.

Many years later - I was talking to my father and told him of what I called a ‘silly childish fear’. He didn't speak for some moments, and then said, ‘You're sure no one has ever told you anything about what once happened there?'

I said, 'No, never.'

‘Well, your granny's only sister was killed just in front of that cottage by a runaway horse, and you are so like her that granny fainted when she first saw you.'

Granny's sister was five at her death.” R. A. W., Bristol.

From a lady in Surrey:

“ When I visit an aunt in D. - I always feel drawn to a spot on the river­side. It should be a restful place, but I invariably have a feeling of uneasiness, searching my memory for something, as when trying to remember a name one knows quite well and yet for the moment cannot recall.

On one occasion there I struck a match to light a cigarette, and as it flamed up I experienced a surge of wild terror. For an instant I felt myself enveloped in flames. The cigarette fell from my lips and I threw the match into the water.

Later I was talking to an old farmer there, and suddenly without any apparent reason I said, ‘Surely there used to be a mill here?’

'Yes, miss,' he replied, ‘there was one hereabouts, but it was before my father's time. I've heard him speak of it. It was burned down one night, and the miller's wife was burned with it.’

ON ANIMALS, FAIRIES, GHOSTS AND OTHER STRANGE MATTERS