By Israel Regardie
(Published in Mercury – December 1926)
In consulting the works of the ancient Kabalists and Medieval Hermetic Philosophers, we find the phrase “The Microcosm of the Macrocosm” being applied continually to man. These spiritual scientists conceived man to be a smaller world, fashioned in miniature exactly along the lines of the greater world, the Universe, the Macrocosm. They further postulated that “That which is above is like unto that which is below.” Consequently the laws that are seen and known to operate in the Universe, correspondingly must work in man. Therefore, in first considering this subject of Reincarnation, let us examine the world around us and endeavor to place it on the basis of one law, observed to prevail in Cosmos – the Great Law of Periodicity. Occult Philosophy lays down the postulate of the Eternity of the Universe in toto as a boundless plane, that is, as space, periodically the playground of numberless universes incessantly manifesting and disappearing. The Absolute Universality of this Law of cycles, of flux and reflux, of ebb and flow, which physical science has recorded in all department of nature, and alterations such as those of day and night, life and death, sleeping and waking, summer and winter, are facts so common, so perfectly Universal and without exception, that it is easy to comprehend that in then we see one of the absolutely fundamental laws of the Universe, for these two are the world’s eternal ways.
Our earth in the spring discards its white blanket of snow and emerges forth from its period of rest – its winter sleep. All activities are exerted to bring forth new life everywhere. Time passes. The corn and vegetation are ripened and harvested, and again the busy summer fades gradually into the silence and inactivity of the winter; again the snowy coverlet enwraps the earth, but her sleep is not forever, for she will reawaken to the song of the new spring, which will mark for her a little further progress along the pathway of time. So with the life of man. Is it conceivable that this law, so perfectly universal, so cosmic in its scope should be inoperative in the life of Man? Shall the earth wake each year from its winter sleep; shall the tree and the flower live again; shall all these examples of this great law continue to be observed and man die? It is inconceivable and impossible. It cannot be. The same law that impels wakefulness in the plant, and stirs it to new growth will wake the human being to new experiences to the distant goal of perfection. Therefore under this same Universal and therefore Spiritual Law of Periodicity, operating on and through man, he faithfully follows the similar fluctuations of being, Birth, Youth, Maturity, Decadence, and Death, to enter Birth again, to be moulded to a better purpose, perhaps, than has been possible in the old one.
“If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time, will I wait until my change comes.” This appeal was uttered by the Prophet Job of the Old Dispensation, and his very cry “If a man dies, shall he live again” is indicative of the dissatisfaction of mankind, then, as well as now, with the biblical allotment of three score years and ten for the expression of consciousness. To all appearances, man flits like a firefly out of an eternal past, only to be extinguished for an eternal future, after a life of expression that in comparison, in these latter days of science, with even our materialistic concepts of space and time, is actually of shorter duration than the spark of an electrical discharge.
Nature requires millions of years to produce a grain of sand – when we review all the processes that have lead up to its present state as such. The California Redwoods are silent but eloquent symbols of nature’s creative handiwork, enduring for centuries and in the estimation of some of our modern biologists for even thousands of years. And yet Man, the epitome of all the creative forces in Nature is assumed in the cold estimate of materialistic science to be merely the evolution of a speck of protoplasm, growing like an artificial laboratory culture until after reaching maturity, it is annihilated – to be seen no more for ever. In the lifetime of a single man, thousands of animals, fowl and fish, hundreds of thousands of vegetables have given their lives in the support of his existence. Thousands of animals have given their lives in the work of experimental scientists in their endeavors to improve man’s physical condition. Multiply this in the case of one man by the countless myriads of individuals that have trod the surface of this earth since the dawn of the human races. What a prodigious waste of energy? What a crime against the lower kingdoms? – if 35 to 65 years is to be the average life of an individual and the only expression that he is to be permitted to have after the whole earth has given of its best to train and to equip him for constructive work. It is unthinkable to those who stop to think of it at all. There must be some compensatory condition, and since the beginning of the human kingdom, its thinking members have sought that compensation. It is found in Reincarnation.
From the Totem Pole our American Indians to the hideous effigies of Deity in Asia; from the Chinese Joss to the beautiful Altar in the Christian Cathedral, the same fact is in evidence, that from somewhere down through the remote and obscure ages, humanity has been invested with the truth – the truth that there is another life, and another opportunity beyond this present life, and those millions who have delved deepest into truth have found beyond doubt this truth of reincarnation.
Now, being forced to admit that reincarnation is a necessity in nature, and granting we admit of the existence, and immortality of the human soul, we find that this doctrine of pre-existence and rebirth is the only one yielding a logical and self satisfying explanation of the phenomena of life. This doctrine, which is an extremely simple doctrine, rooted in the assurance of the soul’s indestructibility and immortality, implies a persisting and expanding intelligence, through all changes of embodiment, the latter being but a means towards the great aim and purpose of the Intelligent man within, the gaining of what the ancients called All-Knowledge. It teaches that the soul enters this life, not as a flesh creation, but after a long course of previous existences on this earth, in which it acquired its present inhering peculiarities, and that it is on the way to future transformations, now being shaped by the soul. It claims that infancy brings to this earth, not a blank scroll for the beginning of an earthly record – nor a mere cohesion of atomic forces into a brief personality that is destined by its own nature to dissolve again into the elements – but a definite immortal character that is its own, due to long experiences, acquired through self induced and self devised efforts throughout long series of incarnations.
What is the Universe for, and for what final purpose is Man, the Immortal Thinker here in evolution? Centuries ago, the Fraters Rosae Crucis stated that it is all for the experience and emancipation of the Spirit, for the growth of the soul, as well as for the purpose of raising the entire mass of manifested matter up to the stature, dignity, and position of conscious godhood. The aim for present man, and also the three kingdoms below him, in his evolution and initiation into complete knowledge, and in this Rosicrucian concept is evolution carried to its highest power, and to its logical conclusion. It makes of man a God, and gives to every part of nature the possibility of being the same one day; there is strength and nobility in it, for by this scheme, no man is so originally sinful that he can not rise above all sin and attain to the highest.
Men, in general, accept evolution as a proven law of growth, the evidence being drawn solely from observed changes in physical forms and species, but this general view considers only external evidence of the operation without any understanding of the inner and actuating cause. The word “Evolution” really means an unfolding from within outwards, and had not our scientists been so materially inclined they might long ago have arrived at a knowledge of the truth. The Rosicrucian doctrines make clear the operation of evolution and carry it to its highest point of logic by showing that the impelling force is Intelligence, which itself at the same time is evolving to greater and greater heights by means of temporary forms of expression. Thus we find that Rosicrucianism postulates a dual evolution, a physical line – that of the evolution of form – and a spiritual line, that of the evolution of Intelligence and Consciousness, and from this, we have to admit that this double line of evolution can only be carried on through reincarnation, for what happens to the spiritual element in Man after death. To dwell in a monotonous heaven – as postulated by Theology – is illogical, therefore after a period of rest, in accordance with that law of Periodicity or Rhythm – previously mentioned – the Spirit returns to earth to resume its further progress.
The object of life, then, is the gaining of all knowledge, and the acquirement of experience, the scale of which we find to be enormous. Knowledge infinite in scope and diversity lies before us, and we have much more than a mere suspicion that the extent of the field of truth is vastly greater than the narrow circle in which we are confined. We also perceive that we have high aspirations with little or no time to reach up to their measure while the great troop of passions, desires and selfish motives war with us and even among themselves. All these have to be conquered, and subdued, and as we know that one life expression is insufficient to do this, and to acquire all that we know we must acquire, we must conclude then that a series of lives has led to our present condition, and that the process of coming here again and again must go on for the purpose of affording us the opportunities needed.
Through some process of reasoning, some persons have arrived at the conclusion that reincarnation is injust because we suffer for the wrong deeds performed by another in some previous incarnation. But this is based on the incorrect notion that the person in the other life was someone else, but in every life, it is the same person. When we return to earth life, we do not take up the body of someone else, nor another’s deeds, but are like an actor who plays many parts, the same actor inside, though all the costumes and lines differ in each play. Shakespeare was correct in asserting that Life is a Play, for the great life of each Ego is an Immense Drama in the Scheme of Things, and Nature is the great stage on which this drama is played, and thus each new life and each new rebirth is but another act in which we assume our part and put on another dress, but through it all, we are still the self same, Immortal Ego.
While this doctrine – coupled with its twin – Karma – may seem stern and implacable to some, they are not really so, for they are essentially optimistic, and give us a great deal of encouragement. Reincarnation gives man an opportunity to try, try again with the assurance that each sincere and earnest attempt brings its reward in time. So those who sit despairing in the dark places may take courage. Those who are perplexed and filled with doubt may know that there is a solution to all their troubles and difficulties. The mother bereft of her child; the husband or wife left desolately alone, may find consolation for they will meet again to take up the broken threats of affection and weave them into new and fairer looms of progress. Thus the heart finds complete satisfaction and the intellect more than its fullest scope in these teachings of the Ancient Fraters of the Rosae Rubeae et Aureae Crucis.