Fragmentary Aspects of Philosophy Occult and Academic In Which the Truth of Reincarnation is Ably Discussed
By Israel Regardie (1929), Edited (2009) by Sandra Tabatha Cicero
(NOTE: This article was published by the Societas Rosicruciana in America in the Order’s periodical Mercury: A Magazine of Mysticism, volume 14, Number 1, March 1929. Regardie became a member of the SRIA when he was only sixteen years old. He was initiated into the Neophyte grade of the Washington College on March 18, 1926, and advanced to the Zelator grade on June 2, 1927. The article presented here shows that the young Regardie had a deep working knowledge of esoteric philosophy well beyond his years. My edits of this work consist of correcting a number of antiquated spellings and adding an occasional footnote with helpful URLs. –STC)
HOWEVER, of all the objections forwarded against this doctrine, the most important is the lack of memory of former existences, but, as will be seen after a little memory, this is a very puerile objection, as a little examination will show. Because a man remembers nothing concerning his childhood days, surely it does not imply that he was never a baby; because he cannot remember anything concerning the intra-uterine existence, can not imply that he has not passed through that form of existence. Because he cannot recall what he did last night during his hours of sleep, does not imply that he never slept. This is a very poor objection; let us see what modern philosophy might have to say to this.
The question, first of all, to be asked is, Where does this sort of cosmic memory reside? In the pure spirit itself, not in the tissue of the brain, answers Bergson,(1) a modern spiritual philosopher, the author of “Creative Evolution.”(2) But why is it that we sometimes search in vain to recover a memory from the hidden depths of the spirit, which at other times comes to us unasked? Bergson gives the paradoxical answer that it is the mechanism of the brain which causes us to forget either on purpose or by not responding accurately in a given case. What is the meaning of this rather novel and interesting view that the brain is a “forgetter” rather than the instrument of memory? It bears out the theory that the brain is organized solely for action. If the one object in life were contemplation, or pure knowledge, it would be no disadvantage if all the data of our consciousness stood out together as against stationary background. People confronted by the prospect of sudden death have told, after surviving the danger, of some such experience, every detail of things long forgotten, reviving with perfect clarity. But life is for action rather than for contemplation. To act, we must center our attention on the present time and space. A vision of all our past memories would not only be useless for action, it would be a positive hindrance and distraction. So the organ of action must also be an organ for excluding all memories that would be irrelevant, admitting to our attention only such memories as would fit into and be of use in a present emergency. It follows that the destruction of the brain, while it would paralyze action, instead of causing the destruction of memories would open memory’s flood gates, admitting all the past to our waking consciousness. This suggests the probable effect of death. The organ for action in external space is lost, but the whole of the past life would be resurrected from oblivion. Thus death would be the state of pure memory, a postulate that is extremely interesting to students who have done a little thinking, and it is nothing but pure occultism; it is a matter of pleasure to note how the various discoveries and speculations of modern research and philosophy vindicate our ancient brethren and corroborate their occult investigations.
Thus reincarnation is seen to be the expression of a personal will, and a will of nature, and we will find this concept of a nature-will in all of the important philosophies. With the deeply religious Fichte—who rightly reserves the appellation of a “God-Intoxicated Philosopher”(3) —this will was a sublime will; a law, determined by no fancy or caprice, eternal, unchangeable, the spiritual bond of the entire universe; the one True and Imperishable Spirit of Goodness, for which the human soul yearns from its inmost depths, all else being mere appearance, ever vanishing, and ever returning in new semblances. But on the other side of the golden shield is the Will of Schopenhauer,(4) a mere blind impulsive desire; an overmastering instinct for the continuation of Life. “One Enormous Will, constantly rushing into life.” Taking each one of these conceptions separately we find that there is something lacking, but by a skillful blending, it is comparable to the theosophical Tanha, the thirst—the will to live; that will so deeply imbedded in the skandhas (seed) atoms of the personality cast off by the deceased ego, now in Devachan, in its mental heaven world, which draws it slowly and inexorably back to earth life.
The full freedom of the Spirit of man is the ideal of his development. We cannot ask “Is man free or not.” Philosophers who thus state this question of freedom can never arrive at a clear conception of the truth. For man in his present condition is neither free nor in bondage, but is on the way to freedom; he is partly free, partly bound. He is free to the degree in which he has acquired knowledge and consciousness of the connections of the Cosmos. That our fate, our Kama, comes to us in the shape of an unconditional necessity, is no hindrance to our freedom, for when we act, we approach our fate with the measure of independence that we have acquired. Fate, does not, and cannot act, but we act in conformity with the laws of our fate.
Kant(5) has discussed the problems of time and the problems of free will, but it seems never to have occurred to him that there is any connection between the two problems. Kant had recognized that reason can argue with almost equal cogency on both sides of this question; the determinist denies that there is any measure of freedom whatever open to the human will; the libertarian goes as far in the opposite direction, maintaining that the freedom of the will is always and everywhere absolute; therefore Kant classes it among the four great antimonies, or self contradictions of the reason. Bergson, on the contrary, assumes that every one of us has two selves—the “fundamental self and its spatial representation” and he adds “only the former is free.” The spatial representation of the self is spread out in space and is a member of an artificial social order, more or less congenial or uncongenial. We think when we get to know this representation of the self, which others know, that we know our real self. Now and then, we come to a realization with Matthew Arnold(6) that underneath the surface there is a buried self. We realize that once we could get the knowledge of this fundamental self, such self knowledge would carry with it an insight into the meaning of life as a whole. Even our incomplete apprehensions of this deeper self make us realize that between it and its representation there is a lack of harmony. So long as this lack of adjustment continues we are hampered and not free. And this is the issue of occult philosophy in a nutshell. “Although we are free whenever we are willing to get back into ourselves, it seldom happens that we are willing.” The price of freedom is willingness to be our fundamental self. Only the man of the utmost daring is a free man. Freedom then, is not a complete fact, but an ideal toward which the individual must strive in opposition to all his natural interests and impulses. It can never be fully realized in the world of space and time. It can be approached and become fully attainable in the future supersensible world, outside both time and space. Bergson does not prove that we are just naturally free. He does prove, however, that it is possible for us to attain an increasing measure of freedom. Our everyday actions are mainly automatic and determined, obeying the laws of association, etc. But in crises our decisions may become really free by expressing our fundamental self. Freedom is real, but indefinable. If it could be defined it would not be free.
The whole system of the spiritual philosophy of the Rosicrucian Fraternity revolves, so to speak, around the doctrine of the Virgin Spirits or Monads; we shall endeavor to make this doctrine comparable with that held by a few of the recognized philosophers of the academic world.
“Call, it by what name you will, it is a voice that speaks where there is none to speak—it is a messenger that comes, a messenger without form or substance; or it is the flower of the soul that has opened. It cannot be described by a metaphor. But it can be felt after, looked for, and desired, even amid the raging of the storm.” (Light on the Path—M. C.)(7)
“Have perseverance as one who doth for evermore endure. The shadows live and vanish; that which in thee knows, for it is knowledge, is not of fleeting life, it is Man that was, that is, and will be, for whom the hour shall never strike.” (Voice of the Silence—Blavatsky)(8)
The Monad, is the name given by Leibnitz,(9) to simple unextended substance, (R.C. Cosmic Root Substance) that is, substance which has the power of action; active force is the essence of substance; the monads being simply substances are therefore the only real substances and that material things are phenomenal, but phenomena having their good and proper foundation and connected with each other—this is the conception of Leibnitz. The monads of Leibnitz are quantitatively differentiated by their ideas. Every Soul is a Monad; plants and minerals, are, as it were, sleeping monads with unconscious ideas. In plants these ideas are formative vital forces, in animals they take the form of sensation and memory; in human souls they disclose themselves in the acquisition of self consciousness, reason; in a word they approach though they do not attain to the clearness of the adequate ideas possessed by God.
Mertz,(10) in his very thoughtful synopsis of the speculations of Leibnitz, states in regard to the monadic conception: “As a cone stands on its point or a perpendicular straight line cuts a horizontal plane only in one depth, so the essences of things really have only a punctual existence in this physical world of space, but have an infinite depth of inner life in the metaphysical world of thought.” This is good occultism, for this is the spirit, the very root of occult doctrine and thought; “Spirit-Matter” and “Matter-Spirit” extend infinitely in depth and like the “essence-of-things” of Leibnitz, our essence of things real is at the seventh depth; while the unreal and gross matter of our Science and the external world is at the lowest end of our perceptive senses. It is interesting to note that were Leibnitz’ and Spinoza’s systems reconciled, the essence and spirit of esoteric philosophy would be made to appear. Leibnitz made of the two substances of Descartes two attributes of one Universal Unity, in which he saw God. Spinoza recognized but one Universal indivisible substance and Absolute All, like Parabrahmam, the Absolute. Leibnitz, on the contrary, perceived the existence of a plurality of substances. There was but ONE for Spinoza; for Leibnitz an infinitude of Beings, from and in the ONE. Hence, though both admitted but one real Entity, while Spinoza made it impersonal and indivisible, Leibnitz divided his personal Deity into a number of divine and semi-divine Beings. Now, if these two teachings were blended together and each corrected by the other—and, foremost of all, the One Reality weeded of its personality—there would remain a sum total—a true spirit of esoteric philosophy in them; the impersonal attributeless, Divine Essence, which is NO “Being” but the root and cause of all being.
Draw a deep mental line between that ever-incognizable-essence, and the invisible yet comprehensible Presence, (Prima Materia), the Kabalistic Shekinah, in one aspect, from beyond and through which vibrates the Sound of the Verbum and from which evolve the numberless hierarchies of intelligent Egos, of conscious and of semi-conscious perceptive and apperceptive Beings, whose essence is spiritual Force, whose substance is the Elements and whose bodies are the atoms —and our esoteric doctrine is there. That which was to Leibnitz the primordial and ultimate element in every body and object was thus not the material atoms, or molecules, necessarily more or less extended, as were those of Epicurus and Gassendi,(11) but as Mertz has shown, immaterial and metaphysical atoms, mathematical points; or real souls, for in the words of this great philosopher Leibnitz, “that which exists outside of us in an absolute manner, are souls whose essence is Force.”
It will be apparent then, that to Leibnitz, atoms and elements are centers of force, or rather “spiritual beings whose very nature is to act” for the elementary particles are not acting mechanically but from an internal principle. The monads are incorporeal spiritual units and differ from atoms in some particulars which are very important. Atoms are not distinguished from each other; they are qualitatively alike, but one monad differs from every other monad qualitatively, and every one is a peculiar world to itself. Not so with atoms, they are absolutely alike quantitatively and qualitatively and possess no individuality of their own. But the monads of Leibnitz closely resemble the elementals of mystical philosophy—these monads are presentative Beings. Every monad reflects every other, and it is a living mirror of the Universe within its own sphere, for upon it depends the power possessed by these monads, and upon this depends the work they can do for us; in mirroring the world, the monads are not mere passive reflective agents, but are spontaneously active; they produce the images spontaneously as does the soul in a dream.
But unfortunately it is at this point that Leibnitz’ philosophy breaks down. No provision is made, nor any distinction established, between the “elemental” monad and that of a high planetary Spirit, or a creative Hierarch, or even the human monads or virgin spirit. He even goes so far as to sometimes doubt whether “God has ever made anything but Monads or substances without extension.” But what does Occultism say to this. It states that what is called collectively, “Monads,” by Leibnitz, roughly viewed, and leaving every subdivision out of calculation for the present, may be separated into three distinct groups, which, counted from the highest and most spiritual planes, are firstly “gods,” or conscious spiritual Egos, the Intelligent Architects, who work after the plan in the Divine Mind. Then come the elementals, or Monads, who form collectively and unconsciously the grand Universal Mirrors of everything connected with their respective realms. Lastly the atoms of material molecules, which are informed in their turn by their apperceptive monads, just as every cell in the human body is so informed. There are shoals of such informed atoms, which, in their turn, inform the molecules; an infinitude of monads, or elementals proper, and countless spiritual forces—Monadless, for they are pure incorporealities, except under certain laws when they assume a form—(not necessarily human).
With Spinoza(12) neither intellect nor will pertains to the nature of God, in the usual sense in which these human qualities are attributed to the Deity, but rather the will of God is the sum of all causes and all laws, and the intellect of God is the sum of all mind. Or, as conceived by Santayana, the immaculate materialist, “The mind of God is all the mentality that is scattered over space and time, the diffused consciousness that animates the world.” Life or mind is one phase or aspect of everything that we know, as material extension or body is another; these are two aspects through which we perceive the operation of substance, or God; in this sense, —God, the universal process and external reality behind the flux of things, may be said to have both a mind and body. Neither mind nor matter is God; but the mental processes and the molecular processes which constitute the double history- the word, these, and their causes and their Laws are God. All things in however diverse degree are animated.
“Mind,” says Spinoza, in opposition to Malebranche, “is not matter, neither is matter mental, neither are mind and matter wholly independent and unrelated; neither is the molecular process the cause of mind, nor is it the effect of thought, the two processes are dependent and parallel. There is but one process, seen now internally as thought, and now externally as motion. The decision of the mind and the desire and determination of the body are all one and the same thing.” And all the world is double in this way, wherever there is an external material process, it is but one side or aspect of the real process, which a fuller view would show to include as well an internal process, correlative in however different a degree, with the mental process which we see within ourselves. The inward and mental process corresponds at each stage with the external and material process. Thinking substances and extended substances are one and the same thing, comprehended now through this and now that attribute.
Spinoza said, “Our mind insofar as it understands, is an eternal mode of thinking, which is determined by another mode of thinking and this one again by another and so on to infinity, so that they all constitute at the same time the eternal and infinite intellect of God.” In this pantheistic merging of the individual with the All, the Orient speaks again; we hear the echo of Omar, the tent- maker, who “never called the ONE two” and of the old Hindu poem “Know in thyself and all oneself, the same soul; banish the dream that sunders part from whole;” or of the cry of the Vedantin ecstatic “Brahman is true, the world is false, the soul is Brahman—and is nothing else.” “Sometimes” said Thoreau, “as I drift idly, I cease to live and begin to be.”
Hume(13) thought he had shown that there was no soul, and no science; that our minds are but ideas in procession and association, and that our certainties but probabilities in perpetual danger of violation. These false conclusions are the result of false premises; he assures that all knowledge comes from separate and distinct sensations ; naturally these cannot give us necessity, or invariable sequences of which we may be forever certain; and naturally we must not expect to see our souls, even with the eyes of the internal sense. Let us grant that absolute knowledge comes from sensation, from an independent external world which owes us no promise of behavior. But what if we have knowledge that is independent of sense-experience, knowledge whose truth is certain to us even before experience, á priori. Then absolute truth and absolute science would become possible, would it not? Let us then call to our aid the philosopher Kant, who says in the Critique of Pure Reason: “Experience is by no means the only field to which our understanding can be confined. Experience tells us what is, but not that it must be necessarily what it is and not otherwise. It therefore can never give us any really general truths; and our reason, which is particularly anxious for that class of knowledge is aroused by it rather than satisfied. General truths, which at the same time bear the character of an inward necessity, must be independent of experience, clear and certain in themselves.” That is to say, they must be true no matter what our latest experience may be; true before experience and true á posteriori. “How far we can advance independently of all experience, in á priori knowledge, is shown by the brilliant example of mathematics.” For mathematical knowledge is necessary and certain; we cannot conceive of future experience violating it, as we cannot for the life of us conceive that two by two will ever make anything else than four. Such truths are true before experience; they do not depend on experience, past, present or future. Therefore they are absolute and necessary truths; it is inconceivable that they should ever become untrue. But whence do we get this character of absoluteness and necessity. Not from Experience; for experience gives us nothing but separate sensations and events, which may alter their sequence in the future. These truths derive their necessary character from the inherent structure of our minds, from the natural and inevitable manner in which our minds must operate. For the mind of man is not passive wax, upon which experience and sensation write their absolute and yet whimsical will, nor is it a mere abstract name for the series or group of mental states; it is an active organ, so to speak, which moulds and coordinates sensations into ideas; an organ which transforms the chaotic multiplicity of experience into the ordered unity of thought.
Now, just what is meant by sensations and perceptions, and how does the mind change the former into the latter? By itself a sensation is merely the awareness of a stimulus, we have a taste on the tongue, an odor in the nostrils, a sound in the ears, a temperature on the skin, a flash of light on the retina, a pressure on the fingers; it is the crude, raw be- ginning of experience; it is what the infant has in the early days of its groping mental life; it is not yet knowledge. But, let these various sensations group themselves about an object in space and time—say, an apple; let the odor in the nostrils and the taste on the tongue, the light on the retina, and the shape revealing pressure on the fingers and the hand, unite and group themselves about this “something;” and there is now a consciousness not so much of a stimulus as of a specific object, there is perception. Sensation has passed into knowledge. But was this passage, this grouping automatic? Did the sensations of themselves spontaneously and naturally fall into a cluster and an order, and so become perceptions. Our modern so-called psychologists, echo with Locke and Hume—”Yes.” “Not at all”—states the esoteric philosophy. For these various sensations come to us through the varied channels of senses, through a thousand different nerves that pass from skin and eye and ear and tongue into the brain. What a medley of messengers they must be, as they crowd into the chambers of the mind, calling for attention. And left to themselves they remain a rabble, a chaotic “manifold” pitifully impotent, waiting to be ordered into meaning and purpose and power. As readily might the message brought to a general from a thousand sections of the battle line weave themselves unaided into comprehension and command. No; there is a lawgiver for this mob; a directing and coordinating power that does not merely receive, but takes these atoms of sensation and moulds them into sense; it is the real man, the Theosophical Manas, the Rosicrucian Human Spirit, the inner spiritual Ego in action.
Again, reverting to the subject of life and reincarnation, although we cannot prove it, in the ordinary concept of the word, we feel intuitively that we are deathless. We perceive that life is not one of those dreams so beloved by the people in which every villain is punished and every act of virtue meets with its reward; we learn anew the gentleness of the dove, and that any thief can triumph if he steals enough. If mere worldly utility and expediency were the justification of virtue and morality, it would not be wise to be too good, and yet, knowing all this, having it flung into our faces with brutal repetition, we still feel the command to righteousness, we know that we ought to do the inexpedient good. How could this sense of right survive if it were not that in our hearts we feel that this life is only a part of life, this earthly dream only an embryonic prelude to a new birth, a new awakening; if we did not vaguely know that in that latter existence the balance will be redressed and not one cup of water given generously but shall be returned a hundred fold.
All nature is built on a plan of ebb and flow. As day succeeds day, with intervening nights, so season succeeds season, and the trees die and bloom again. The tides ebb and flow; the moon waxes and wanes. There is not a corner of the earth into which we may not look and find these successive alternations. The life of man, as imagined by conventional belief, exhibits a glaring contrast with all its surroundings and stands out as the monumental instance of fatuity and incapacity on the part of the caricature of a Deity who is supposed irreverently to have designed it. No truly scientific brain would look at a single earth life and not pronounce with certainty that it is but a fragment of a whole; so unmistakably are the missing parts forthshadowed in the part that is seen.
Finally and by the same token there IS a Deity. If the sense of Duty involves and justifies belief in rewards to come, the postulate of immortality must lead to the supposition of the existence of a cause adequate to the effect; (Kant) ; in other words to postulate the existence of Deity. Our reason leaves us free to believe that behind the thing-in-itself there is a just Law; our moral sense commands us to believe it. Rousseau(14) was right—above the logic of the head is the feeling in the heart. Pascal(15) was right—the heart has reason of its own, which the head can never, never understand.
As to the denial of atheists that there is such a being as God, we answer that atheism is refutable on the very face of it. For atheism may be termed materialism in its naked and not in its transcendental sense. If then, as they say, Man—the highest form of matter is unable to create or annihilate his component parts, how is it likely that any lower form of matter should have this marvelous power. Materialism in its transcendental sense states that under this phenomenal matter, there is a more subtle state, which is real; matter in its zero state; but then this may be imagined to be Universal Existence, without beginning and without ending, and it is really then a sublime Pantheism, for it declares that all matter is but the external manifestation, an illusion, if you please, of the Reality, that underlies ALL.
For as Tyndal(16) states, “When I attempt to give the power which I see manifested in the Universe, an objective form, personal or otherwise, it slips away from me, declining all intellectual manipulations. I dare not, save poetically, use the pronoun “He” regarding it ; I dare not call it a Mind; I refuse to call it even a Cause. Its mystery overshadows me, but it remains a mystery, while the objective frames which my neighbors try to make it fit, simply distort and desecrate it.”
Even the materialistic Haeckel,(17) in his History of Creation,(18) makes the statement: “The low dualistic conception of God corresponds with a low animal stage of development of the human organism. The more development of mind the present day is capable of; and is justified in conceiving that infinitely nobler and sublimer idea of God which alone is compatible with the monistic conception of the Universe, and which recognizes God’s spirit and power in all phenomena and without exception. This monistic idea of God, which belongs to the future has already been expressed by Giordano Bruno in the following words: `A spirit exists in all things, and no body is so small but contains a part of the Divine Substance within itself, by which it is animated.’ It is of this noble idea of God that Goethe says, ‘Certainly there does not exist a more beautiful worship of God than that which needs no image, but which arises in our heart from converse with nature.’ By it we arrive at the Sublime idea of the UNITY OF GOD AND NATURE.”
We must therefore negate all attempts to anthropomorphise this Incomprehensible Reality, which in Fichte’s time, drew the ire of this Great Philosopher in the following words: “You attribute personality and consciousness to God, but what do you call personality and consciousness ? That, no doubt which you have found in yourselves, becomes cognizant of you in yourselves and is distinguished by that name. But if you will give only the slightest attention to the nature of your conception, you will see that you do not and cannot conceive of this without limitation and finality. By attributing that predicate to this Being, you in consequence make it a finite one, a creature like unto yourselves; you have not, as was your wish, conceived God, but merely the multiplied representative of yourselves. Even consciousness, personality, and even substance, attributed to Deity, carry with them the idea of necessary limitations and are as attributes of relative and limited beings; to affirm this of God is to bring him down to the rank of relative and limited beings.”
But, we might add, in spite of the foregoing, it is better for us to maintain a somewhat neutral position, for some definitions contain nothing but conceptions of our minds, which may conceive many things that have no existence in fact and are extremely prolific in multiplying conceptions of things once formed, and it is sometimes impossible to infer from the conception one has of God, that God exists at all. The proof of the existence of Deity must spring from a loftier source than the mind, from the Deific font in man, the source of his higher inspirations; from the Spiritual Monad, which being God itself, can alone prove that the existence of Deity is a surety.
 Henri Bergson (1859-1941) was one of the most influential French philosophers of the late 19th century-early 20th century. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/bergson/ He was also the brother of Moina Mathers.
 Johann Gottlieb Fichte: a major figure in German philosophy who developed a system of transcendental philosophy called Wissenschaftslehre. http://www.iep.utm.edu/fichtejg/
 Often considered a pessimist, Arthur Schopenhauer contended that at its core, the universe is not a rational place. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/schopenhauer/
 German philosopher Immanuel Kant is considered one of the most influential thinkers of modern times. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-development/
 Matthew Arnold: a Victorian poet who is now better known for his critical essays. http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/88
 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz: a German philosopher and mathematician whose theory of monads stand as his best known contribution to esoteric thought. http://www.iep.utm.edu/leib-met/
 John Theodore Merz (without the “t”): an industrial chemist and philosopher who sought to bridge the gap between science and the arts. http://infomotions.com/etexts/archive/ia311537.us.archive.org/1/items/leibnizm00merzuoft/leibnizm00merzuoft_djvu.htm
 Pierre Gassendi: French priest, mathematician, and astronomer. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/gassendi/
 Baruch Spinoza: Dutch rationalist philosopher and religious thinker, and foremost proponent of pantheism. http://www.iep.utm.edu/spinoza/
 Scottish empiricist philosopher David Hume is a key figure in western philosophy. Empiricists maintain that all knowledge arises from experience. http://www.iep.utm.edu/humelife/
 Jean Jacques Rousseau: an important 18th- century writer, thinker, and composer whose works influenced the romantic movement. http://www.iep.utm.edu/rousseau/
 French mathematician and religious philosopher Blaise Pascal, laid the foundations for the theory of probability. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pascal/
 John Tyndall: British physicist who studied the behavior of light beams passing through various substances. http://www.answers.com/topic/john-tyndall
 Ernst Haeckel: German biologist, physician, artist, and philosopher. http://www.slate.com/id/2124625/