The Reincarnationists Paradise
Amid luxuriant vegetation, in an enchanting position overlooking the
Pacific Ocean, flourishes the religion of reincarnation "without
beginning and without end." Its followers, gathered there from all
parts of the world, steep themselves in the atmosphere of fraternal
love and general benevolence which is exhaled by this doctrine of the
evolution of souls, leading to ultimate perfection.
The scenes which
greet the dazzled eyes of the visitor are of such
extreme beauty that he might well believe himself to have been
miraculously transported to ancient Hellas. Greek theatres and temples
gleam whitely in the shade of majestic palm-trees, and groups of young
people dressed like the youths and maidens of ancient Athens may be
seen taking part in rhythmic dances and elaborate processions.
Amid the dirt and chaos of our modern world this Grecian city seems to
have sprung up as by a miracle, fully reconstituted not only in its
outer appearance but also in its inner life of harmony and peace.
Theosophists of every degree, who in other lands seem so often to lose
themselves in a mist of vague dreams and metaphysical speculations,
have here succeeded in expressing their ideals in concrete form.
Why postpone the paradise promised by Karma, the fundamental law of
life? Why not seek to enjoy it now, without delay? So a number of the
scattered disciples of Madame Blavatsky, following their new guide,
Catherine Tingley, set to work to construct their holy city in
California, on the shores of the Pacific, like the Jews who followed
Moses to the Promised Land.
These teachings, handed down through untold ages, rejoice to-day in a
setting that would surely have astonished their Hindu or Egyptian
progenitors; and the revelations which came to Madame Blavatsky after
her discovery of the forgotten truths of a dim and distant past bid
fair to revivify our time-worn planet. Since the war there has been a
tremendous revival of theosophical propaganda in allied and neutral
countries, in the Old World and in the New, and without doubt
Theosophy, together with Christian Science--to which it is in many ways
opposed--is destined to undergo striking developments.
The new theory of metempsychosis saw the light about fifty years ago.
It was brought to the United States by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, a
Russian lady of noble birth and high educational attainments, whose
thought had been influenced partly by the esoteric wisdom of the past
and partly by the religious unrest of her native land.
The doctrine of reincarnation has been accepted in India and Egypt for
at least three thousand years. It was taught secretly in the
Eleusinian mysteries. The philosophy of Pythagoras and of Plato is
deeply impregnated with it. The Early Christian Church, as well as the
Gnostics, admitted it tacitly, but in the fourth century it was
condemned by the Fathers of the Church and banished from orthodox
Christianity. Nevertheless it has always had an irresistible
attraction for thoughtful minds, and many of the greatest thinkers,
artists and poets of all ages have been firmly convinced of its truth.
Once installed in New York the Russian prophetess sowed far and wide
the seeds of her new faith, whose consolatory doctrine attracted many
who were saddened by the phenomenon of death, while at the same time it
brought her many enemies.
After a time she departed for India, where her teachings became
considerably enriched and widened by local and historical influences.
She died in London in 1891.
We will pass in silence over the calumnious and dishonourable
accusations which poisoned her years of triumph, and with which it has
been sought to tarnish her memory. In these days we slander our
prophets instead of killing them--a procedure which may cause them
greater suffering, but has no effect upon the spread of their doctrines.
Madame Blavatsky's philosophy is set forth in a series of elaborate
works of which the chief are _The Secret Doctrine_, the _Key to
Theosophy_, and _Isis Unveiled_, constituting, according to the author,
a key to the mysteries of ancient and modern science and theology. To
this medley of thoughts and facts drawn from the mystical wisdom of all
countries and all ages, the magic of the writer's style gives a
peculiar force and flavour, and though she may not always convince, she
certainly offers food for thought and speculation--which is, perhaps,
even more essential.
Her frequent lack of precision and clearness seems only to enhance the
effect of her affirmations and revelations. A prophet who could easily
be understood by intelligences of all grades would soon come to grief,
for religious teachers, like philosophers and metaphysicians, seem to
be esteemed and admired largely in proportion to the vagueness of their
doctrines. The works of Madame Blavatsky are worthy of being classed
among the most obscure, and for that very reason have every chance of
In spite of the differences that arose among the principal Theosophists
(who included Colonel Olcott, William Q. Judge, and Annie Besant) after
their leader's death, Catherine Tingley succeeded in rallying large
numbers of the American believers to her banner, and founded a colony
at Point Loma, California, under the name of "the universal and
theosophical brotherhood," which was approved by the Theosophical
conferences held in New York and Chicago in 1898.
Theosophy is in fact a philosophy of altruism, whose main tenets are
brotherly love and justice. By following truth the soul becomes
purified, and after a life consecrated to others and guided by the laws
of justice, the individual may hope to reincarnate in some higher form.
As the poet of Sakuntala has said--"In other existences we all have
loved and wept"--but the divine Kalidasa teaches that past lives should
not be spoken of, "for the mystery of rebirth is sacred."
The duality of our being is shown, on the one hand, in our earthly sins
and failures, and on the other in the spiritual aspirations which ever
urge us on to greater heights. The law of Karma affirms the
relationship between cause and effect, and teaches that "as a man sows,
so shall he also reap"--and consequently, the better our thoughts and
actions now, the greater our advancement in the next life.
It is in the teachings of the divine Krishna that we find the original
source of the greater part of modern Theosophy. His precepts are full
of consolation for restless minds, and have the power to reconcile us
not only to death, but to life.
In the vast store-house of the world's legends there is none more
beautiful than that of the immaculate maiden Devaki, who in a divine
ecstasy, amid strains of celestial music, brought forth the child of
Mahadeva, Sun of Suns, in perfect serenity and bliss; while the story
of Krishna's life, his dangers and temptations, his virtues and his
beauty, his wisdom and his final supreme initiation, has provided the
Hindu world with conceptions of a grandeur, originality and depth
rarely met with elsewhere. To this well of wisdom came Plato and
Pythagoras, and drew from it the chief ingredients of their
philosophies; and here, too, we receive from the lips of Krishna,
thirty centuries before the birth of Christ, the first faint
intimations of the immortality of the soul.
He taught his disciples that man, living upon earth, is triple in
essence, possessing spirit, mind and body. When he succeeds in
harmonising the two first, he attains the state of _Sattva_, and
rejoices in wisdom and peace. When he succeeds in harmonising mind and
body only, he is in the state of _Raja_, which is unstable and
dangerous. When the body preponderates, he is in the state of _Tamas_,
"that bindeth by heedlessness, indolence and sloth." Man's lot depends
therefore on the correlation of these three states. When he dies in
the state of _Sattva_, his soul rises to regions of the utmost purity
and bliss, and comprehends all mysteries, in close communion with the
Most High. This is true immortality. But those who have not escaped
from _Raja_ and _Tamas_ must return to earth and reincarnate in mortal
In later years Hermes Trismegistus, the Thrice-Greatest One, further
developed these principles, adding to them the mystical treasures of
Egyptian wisdom. It has been said by Lactance that "Hermes, one knows
not how, succeeded in discovering nearly all the truth." During the
first few centuries of the Christian era his works enjoyed a
considerable vogue, and he also had a very great influence on the
Renaissance period. The Hermetic books, with all their mysteries, have
become part of the theosophical gospel, as well as the doctrines of
Plato and of the Neo-Platonists, Plutarch's treatises on Isis and
Osiris, the philosophies of Plotinus and Iamblichus, the teachings of
Philo and of the Gnostics, and the works of innumerable others, who in
seeking to throw light on the super-physical realms seem often only to
have succeeded in plunging them into greater darkness. Augmented by
all these obscure products of philosophy and metaphysics, the new
Theosophy gives the impression of a gigantic and impenetrable maze, but
it must be admitted that its followers have drawn from it maxims whose
justice and high morality are beyond question.
The general trend of its teachings is indicated by the following
sublime passages from the Bhagavad Gita, or Lord's Song:--
"He attaineth Peace, into whom all desires flow as rivers flow into the
ocean, which is filled with water, but remaineth unmoved--not he who
desireth desires. Whoso forsaketh all desires and goeth onwards free
from yearnings, selfless and without egoism--he goeth to Peace. . . .
Freed from passion, fear and anger, filled with Me, taking refuge in
Me, purified in the fire of wisdom, many have entered into My Being.
However men approach Me, even so do I welcome them, for the path men
take from every side is Mine, O Pârtha."
But the many imitations and variations of this wonderful Song have
despoiled it of some of its freshness and beauty, so that in these days
it is rather like the airs played on barrel-organs whose original
tunefulness is forgotten through wearisome repetition.
Theosophists are also concerned, with studying the sevenfold nature of
man and of the universe, with the existence of invisible worlds, the
graduated stages of death and rebirth, and the attainment of divine
wisdom through perfect purity of life and thought. They are opposed to
racial prejudices, social classifications, and all distinctions that
separate and divide mankind, and they inculcate the greatest possible
respect for, the widest possible tolerance between, the world's
different religions. Like Christian Scientists they do not believe in
the practice of hypnotic suggestion, but they disagree with the
materialism of the Scientists, holding that, in the search for truth,
purity of life is the one essential, and worldly prosperity of small
In 1912 and 1913 Mrs. Tingley visited Europe and made numerous converts
in England, Italy, France, Germany and the Scandinavian countries,
while the Theosophical Conference held at Point Loma in 1915, in the
interests of peace and universal brotherhood, was an immense success.
The Theosophists have always been ardent workers in the cause of
international peace, and while awaiting the dawn of a New Age when war
shall be unknown, they strive to forestall its advent in their
Dramatic and musical performances are given in theatres built in the
Greek style; there is a college of Raja-Yoga, where thousands of pupils
of all races are initiated into the mysteries of Karma and
Reincarnation; a School of Antiquity, "temple of the living light,"
where the secret of living in harmony with nature is taught; frequent
lectures, conferences, sports and games; while animated conversations
concerning memories of past lives have an undying fascination for the
adherents of this doctrine which sends so many missionaries out into
the world every year.
Unlike other sects, the Theosophists do not seem anxious to publish
their numbers abroad--whether because they make too many converts, or
too few, it is impossible to say!--but there must certainly be hundreds
of thousands scattered throughout the United States, India, and the