Basis of Reincarnation Explained 

The theory of reincarnation forms the basis of the earliest beliefs of Man and of the ancient schools of philosophy, in both the West and the East.

Western Philosophy

In ancient Greece, Pherecydes taught the concept of reincarnation and Pythagoras, Empedocles, Plato, Virgil and Ovid embraced it in their philosophies. The belief is found in Jewish literature, in the Talmud, the writings of Philo, and proclaimed in the Kabbalah, the system of Jewish theosophy that permeated the Christian faith in the Middle Ages. It was accepted by Giordana Bruno, Goethe, Kent, Lessing, Hume, Schopenhauer and many others of the western school of science and philosophy. It reaches from the Wisdom of the Chaldeans to the Yogis of India, from the Magi of Persia to the Philosophers of the East.

Many of us have had many strange experiences that only the theory of reincarnation can explain. Many children remember their past lives. The birthmarks of a newborn correspond to injuries or trauma of a particular part of the body of a close relative who had died in a recent past. Even in adults, dreams of forgotten scenes, flashes of buried memories come at times like voices from a dim and curtained past. Among the many arguments advanced to sustain the claims of reincarnation the following may be cited: The theory of immortality demands it; analogy makes it most probable; science in many ways confirms it especially in the law of evolution. It explains many otherwise mysterious experiences in life; and, it alone solves the problem of apparent injustice and misery in the world.

Eastern Philosophy

The Yogi Philosophy of India has evolved the ancient belief in metempsychosis, or a philosophy of human endeavor, development and attainment. To this end it follows different paths; all leading to the same goal - the unfoldment of the highest principle in man, the soul. These paths comprise Hatha Yoga (the way of physical wellbeing), raja Yoga (the way of mental development), Karma Yoga (the path of action), Gnani Yoga (the way of wisdom) and Bhakti Yoga (the way of understanding the Creative Power of the universe).

The Yogi Philsophy teaches that man is composed of seven principles:

(1) The Physical Body – is the lowest and crudest manifestation of life. Yet it is the abiding place of the highest, the Spirit. Being so, the physical body should receive the most intelligent attention and care.

(2) The Astral Body - is the counterpart of the physical body, but of a finer grade of matter. It is the body in which the soul leaves the physical body at death. Both the physical body and the astral body return to the elements.

(3) Prana (or Vital Force) - is the life-force that we extract from the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. It is the life force of the body.

(4) Instinctive Mind - is the first and lowest manifestation of the mind, better known to us as the subconscious mind. This principle of mind controls the body’s visceral organs and carries on the processes of digestion, assimilation, elimination, blood circulation, regeneration and repair without the aid of the conscious mind.

(5) The Intellect – is the conscious mind, in which man forms a concept of the “I”. It is the mind that analyzes, classifies and draws conclusions and is unique to Man. The lower animals are only concerned with the physical life and satisfying of primitive wants, with very little intellect displayed. Plant life, on the other hand, lives only in the instinctive mind.

(6) Spiritual Mind – is also called the superconscious mind, and is the principle of the mind that exhibits kindness, love of humanity, love of justice and longing for a humane society. It is the source of inspiration to poets, painters, sculptors and musicians.

(7) The Spirit – this is the immortal soul, or the “seventh principle” of the mind according to Yogi philosophy. It is something within us which is the cause of our evolution through all the weary ages.

Man, the highest form of development of life on this planet, is a being of many experiences. He has passed through many lives. He is destined to pass through many more. In both body and mind he carries the evidence of these experiences, these past lives; and the evidence of now experiences and future lives is made manifest in his continually increasing aspirations and visions. The law of his life is the changeless and ceaseless Law of Change.

When the human race, in sufficient numbers, reaches spiritual consciousness, exploitation and war will no longer exist. Human brotherhood will begin to appear. Man, coming into his own, into a realization of his soul, will create a society benefiting his awakened perceptions. The longing for the higher, nobler life, does not come from the Instinctive Mind. Neither does it come from the Intellect. It comes from the messages sent by the soul to the awakened Spiritual Mind. Such is the teaching of the eastern philosophers of the principles of Man – the Instinctive Mind, the Intellect and the Spiritual Mind.

Let us then focus on the last known principle of Man – the Soul, or the Spirit itself; without which the long ages of evolutionary processes would end in utter defeat and in falling short of the only conceivable rational purpose of life. Together with the Law of Evolution, travelling with it, the philosophers of the East recognize the Law of Reincarnation. It must be admitted that this would solve many otherwise perplexing problems. It would account for the memories carried by the Instinctive Mind. Thus the evolutionary processes will go on until an order of Man appears vastly higher than what is now conceived. While this is a strange doctrine to many, it is as old as the human race itself, recognized in a crude way by primitive Man.

What then constitutes the Spirit, the Soul, or the seventh principle of Man? It is the Real Self. It is the “I”. It is the consciousness that comes at times. We have earlier talked about the Instinctive Mind, the Intellect and the Spiritual Mind, but the Real Self or the “I”, is the immortal soul of Man or the Spirit.

Many people are scarcely conscious of the “I”. They are but a little above the animal in point of consciousness. Their “I” is a matter of the body’s desires; the satisfaction of appetites; the gratification of passions; the securing of personal comfort; the expression of lust, or the crave for power, etc. In these people, the lower part of the Instinctive Mind is the seat of the “I”. To them their “I” is only their physical body coupled with feelings, wants and desires.

And yet the soul is there, awaiting its development. Without the soul the universe becomes meaningless, becomes unexplainable and becomes the riddle of the materialist. Without the soul, the Law of Evolution has wasted its prodigious process. No evidence of the immortality of the soul could be more conclusive than the evidences of the evolutionary processes in the Law of Life. The soul – the immortal life principle – alone answers the question that materialists cannot answer: What is Life?

To the other question of “How did life originate?” the Eastern philosophers would reply: Life has no origin. It is in some form, somewhere; it has always existed, and always will; it has neither beginning nor end, but undergoes constant change. They offer a solution to the problem of life, where the western materialists offer none.

Further Reading

Henry M Tichenor. The Theory of Reincarnation Explained. Praxis international Inc. Pennsylvania, 2003.